We said our last goodbyes to Seattle…getting in one last lunch at Shuckers. I think that made 5 times we ate there…but it was convenient and we just didn’t feel like going out of the hotel. Then we met everyone in the lobby at the appointed time, 2:30 to load up and make our way to the airport. Wheels up was by 4pm and we were winging our way to El Paso, Texas. It’s been 12 years since we played there…on the Voodoo Lounge tour. And then it was a hit and run show, so we didn’t have a chance to see anything. While this will be a quick trip, at least we’ll be able to explore a little bit tomorrow (show day) and before we leave on the 21st. We landed in the early evening, about 7:30.
Our hotel was the Camino Real in the downtown area. There were a good many folks there that were obviously coming to the show, and we were greeted to lots of hellos and good wishes for the concert. Rosie and I made our way to the room and unloaded our carryon bags…hooked up the computers and checked emails for about 45 minutes and then went down to decide on dinner. We were not really up for going out, so we wound up at the casual restaurant of the hotel. There was a more upscale restaurant there that might have been better, but it was right next to the bar which was teeming over with people and had a band playing…and we were in search of more peace and quiet. We both went for the chicken fajitas, which were fine, if not fantastic. Then back to the room we went to ease on down for the night.
The next morning I did a little workout in the gym, trying out some light weights to see if my shoulder was ready to go or not. It still felt sore, so I backed off the weights and did an hour on the treadmill. Rose Lane had read up on a few of the shops around…one in particular that made custom boots called Rocketbuster Boots (www.rocketbuster.com) sounded interesting to me, so I called them. They were open and told me how to get there. Luckily they were within walking distance. But before we went there, I wanted to see if there was a western wear place nearby. The concierge directed us to a place just two blocks away called Starr Western Wear. So we hoofed it over there first.
I loved it right away…a typical cowboy type place that had lots and lots of denim clothes, western shirts, western belts and the like. I went straight to the Wrangler section to look for some new jeans and bought three pair of slim cuts. These jeans always fit me well, and I was due for some new ones. They were certainly reasonably priced at $25.95, which made me happy! I also bought a black denim Levi jacket in a small, which was something else I had been looking for. Rosie also bought some jeans and found a couple of really cute western children’s shirts for Miles. We looked around for a while, but that was the total of our purchases. Then we headed to Rocketbuster Boots.
It was about 8 blocks away and it took us a phone call to them to make sure we were going in the right direction, but we found it ok. A girl named Nevena greeted us and invited us inside. The place was just one big room…. on one side was a showroom area, and the rest of the building was taken up with the tables where the craftsmen worked and an office on the far side.
Nevena was very nice and showed us some of their work…and some of the historic boots that they had from famous people like Roy Rogers.
She explained the process…that they take an outline of each foot and several measurements of the feet, ankle and calves. Then you decide on what type of material (they had tons of choices) and a design.
The design is usually something personal to each individual…for instance, she showed us a pair being made for a Wall Street broker that had a bull on one boot and a bear on the other. There were more similar examples she showed us as we soaked it all in. But we were both pretty hungry…we had not eaten yet…so we told her we’d like to go get a bite and then come back to look and talk some more. She directed us to a place called La Nortena, a little Mexican cafe not far away. We thanked her and walked over there for lunch. It was a neat place…very simple but with an air of authenticity. One fellow recognized me and said he was coming to the concert, saying how excited he and all his friends were that the Stones were in town. We ordered our lunch, some burritos, rice, beans…typical fare. It was all very good. Feeling better, we walked back to Rocketbuster and started looking in earnest. We were both measured and Rose Lane ordered a pair of boots in black with inlayed and outlaid roses on them…mostly in red. She had seen a pair on the shelves that she used for a sort of model. But she put in her own touches…. with her name on the sides and some other details. I saw a pair of stingray boots that I inquired about, and Nevena asked me if I had ever seen polished stingray. I had not, so she went and fetched some material to show me. It was really interesting and unusual and I liked it straight away. We talked about what to do for the uppers…I told her probably a tree or two, bird dogs, horses, music notes and probably the Stones tongue logo…but I didn’t have a definite idea as to how to tie it all together, so she suggested I think about it and email her later with some pictures and further details. She also gave me a drawing of a boot that I could make copies of and play around with ideas…and then fax to her later. So we left it at that and thanked her…. and headed back to the hotel.
I went down to the show with most everyone else on the regular van instead of the early one. There I wrote up the set list and had a bite to eat at the Rattlesnake. I didn’t have any guests, so I just relaxed in our dressing room for a while until Keith wanted to do our usual little rehearsal/warm up in his room. We went through Shattered, She’s So Cold and Mick had suggested we do a few lines of the Marty Robins song “El Paso”, so we went through that. Soon it was time to suit up and hit the stage.
The gig was fun and the crowed loved it…we got a big response for the four short lines of “El Paso”. The Sun Bowl is a nice stadium to play…and is in a neat setting nestled in the side of a hill overlooking part of the city. After the show we chose to stay in..besides, we knew that the bar would be packed and crazy…and we didn’t want to deal with all of that. So we surfed the tube for a while and called it a day.
Before heading out I wanted to make one more trip to Starr. I had looked at a couple of belts there and wanted to go back for a second look. On the way there we ducked into a few other stores…one was a pawn shop that had some musical instruments strewn about. There was nothing all that interesting in terms of the guitars and such, but in a counter I noticed they had a few of the Leatherman “Juice” tools. These are multi-functional tools that have knives, screwdrivers, pliers, corkscrews, awls and the like all in one instrument. What I like about the Juice models is that they are pretty small and don’t feel like you have a hammer in your pocket when you carry them around. I have a model that is about worn out…and have not been able to find a place that carries them, so I was pleased to see these. I looked a the models he had and picked one out that suited me, making me a happy camper. We left there and walked around some more, taking in the flavor of old El Paso and it’s citizens.
It was Saturday, and a lot of folks had come across from Juarez, which is just across the Mexican border, to do some shopping…so the streets were buzzing with trade. One other pawnshop we went in was really bizarre…with these weird models of human heads in glass boxes, mini human skeletons and other unusual fare.
It also seemed to be a place where people could cash their paychecks or get advances…there were two teller type windows where people were lined up. We enjoyed looking around and being in this wacky scene.
Finally we made our way back to Starr. Rose Lane helped me to pick out two belts and while I was tempted to buy some more jeans, our bags are about to burst at the seams…so that was all I bought. When we get to NY and have some time, we’ll be sending some more things back home to lighten our load.
By then it was time to get back to the hotel and get ready to leave. We settled the bill and pack up the carry-on bags and met everyone downstairs. Then it was on to Austin. I had made arrangements to meet Joel Babett, a friend from Atlanta that is the US CEO of Gray Communications International (GCI) and some of his friends. Jeff Hunt, the International CEO lives in Austin and was hosting a party of some of his clients and GCI staff. Joel and Jeff had kindly made a donation to AFF recently…$5,000…and I was anxious to thank them in person and spend some time with them. We were also to get together with Brenda Elliott (our good friend from the Temple-Inland Co.) and her daughter Alison. So after we arrived and checked in to the Four Seasons we met Joel, Bren and Alison and Jeff’s wife Ann in the bar.
We had a cocktail and talked for a bit, then headed to Matt’s El Ranchero (one of the largest and best known Mexican restaurants in Austin) to meet up with the crowd. Matt’s was a pretty loud and lively place, and we were put in a large room with very long tables. I had never met Jeff, and he arrived shortly after we did, and he found me and introduced himself. We talked with him and met several other of the invited guests as we mingled with the group. Finally we were seated and served. Food was ok, but typical of one of these really large restaurants that serve big crowds. But we enjoyed meeting the GCI folks and chatting with them. After dinner Jeff had suggested we all go to a historic club not far away called “The Broken Spoke”.
So Joel, Ann, Brenda, Alison and Rose Lane and me rode together to the famous Honky Tonk. This place has been in business since 1964 under the same owner. As we walked in, we were greeted by Jack White…the owner.
There was a band playing…Alvin Crow, a fiddle player and singer with a sort of western swing/rock sound. We talked to Jack for a while about all the folks that have played there through the years. He talked about Bob Wills, Waylon Jennings, Willie Nelson and more. He said that Willie used to play there way back before he had long hair and the beard…when he was just breaking on the scene…clean shaven, hair slicked back. The place looks like it hasn’t changed since those days…there is a generous dance floor and it was getting some good use.
There was a pretty good crowd there…not totally packed, but a respectable number of folks there. Lots were dressed in typical attire of jeans, western shirts and string ties…ladies in their Saturday night party dresses. We loved the whole scene and vibe. Soon Allan called me up to the bandstand and we did a couple of Stones numbers…Under My Thumb and Its All Over Now. Good fun.
After my little sit in with the band I pulled Rosie aside and said let’s head back. So we got Ann to take us back…Brenda, Alison and Joel with us. Goodnights were said and we headed up to the room for some rest.
Time to make the doughnuts (ha) yet again. Tonight will be show number 107 on the Bigger Bang tour. Eleven to go. Austin was all excited about the Stones playing there for the first time ever. Interesting that somehow the band has never played here, but that’s a fact. Ian MacLagan will open up…which is great. Los Lonely Boys will follow his band, then us. I did my treadmill thing and then went to lay out by the pool for a while. Tim Ries was there hanging out and I pulled up a lounge chair next to him. It was slightly “airish”, but the sun warmed us up. We talked about what we would be doing after the tour was over…and if the band might go back to Europe next summer. We talked about our homes and families and how it was good that we were coming to the end…we all need some time at home. One more month and we’re there. But of course the thing is that after about a month at home, we’re wishing we were back on the tour! That’s just the way it is with musicians. Still, it will be great to deal with some different challenges for a bit, and if we do go back to Europe that would be perfect. We’ll see.
No need to rush to the gig, so I took the regular van again. Mick and I had already written the set list because of the filming. Still, we went over it one last time making a slight change to put in Bitch in place of Midnight Rambler. I think we put together a nice set that will be different from the Rio show and will work well with the DVD package.
There were some guests for us to see in the Rattlesnake…the GCI folks that we had hung out with the night before, and of course Brenda and her friends. Among them were David and Barbara Hill. David is a really creative and talent land developer and is working on a huge project a little outside of San Antonio. The Hills visited us at Charlane a few years ago with Brenda…. we had a great time…. hunted some, rode around, and talked by the fireplace. It was good to see them again. John Lynsky was there as well as Gary Giller. It was a pretty crowded room, and I didn’t get to spend much time with all of them, but did my best to be as social as possible. Bobby Keys introduced me to Richard King, who is one of the famous King family of the King Ranch in Texas. This is one of the largest ranches in the world (www.kingranch.com) and certainly Richard and I share a love of the outdoors, conservation and so forth. He was a very nice guy and I was grateful Bobby introduced me.
Chris Jagger, Mick’s brother, was also there. He was working on some radio/TV program about Texas blues and had brought Pinetop Perkins to the gig. Pinetop is one of the pioneers of the blues piano. Born in 1913, he is now 93 years old. I got to meet him, talk to him for a while and even sit at a keyboard and play with him some. A great honor and pleasure! He was really sweet, and in spite of his years he still has a special touch on the keys.
I went out to catch some of Mac’s (Ian’s) set. He was tearing it up, and the crowd was loving him. Mac is a hell of a player and singer and had a tight band, which included Mark Andes on bass. Mark was one of the few players that auditioned for Berry Oakley’s position with the Allman Brothers after Berry’s death. We had all really liked him and he was on the short list at the time…but Lamar Williams proved to be the right choice for us back then. It was great to see him after all these years.
We had a short rehearsal in Keith’s room, mainly to run over two songs that we’ve never done. One was a song that Mick found and wanted to do for this gig…a Waylon Jennings song called “Bob Wills Is Still The King” and the other was a Buddy Holly song that Keith wanted to do called “Learning The Game”. By then it was time to get ready for the show and after one last quick Rattlesnake visit I went to dress.
I thought the show was pretty good…although I had some challenges of my own that didn’t make things easy. I’ve been having some difficulty lately with my rig…and unfortunately tonight was no exception. There were no total disasters, but I couldn’t hear like I wanted, and I had some trouble with the Leslies that amplify my Hammond B-3. But I grit my teeth and tried not to let it bother me too much. However, I have to say it’s disheartening that the technicians can’t seem to get things right of late. Also, there were some flubs here and there that shouldn’t have occurred which frustrated me. Nevertheless, the show came off fine. There will certainly have to be some editing done for the DVD, though. The Austin audience was fantastic and they loved the two special songs…hooting and hollering their approval to the Texas references.
Back at the hotel we joined Brenda and the Hills for a few glasses of wine. This gave us an opportunity to talk to them some more…as the Rattlesnake had been so crowded and crazy. We had a wonderful time catching up, and David said he was going to try and bring a group to hunt at Charlane this season. The bar was very full and festive…and there was a piano player that was playing lots of rock songs…Beatle tunes, Elton John, Bruce Hornsby and other stuff. I was sort of listening to him out of the “corner of my ear”, and judged that he was a good player. Towards the end of the evening he started playing a boogie tune, and I couldn’t help myself any longer and had to go join him. We did a fun fourhanded blast…both of us grinning through it the whole time. That made for a nice closure of the night and we bid our friends adieu and retired. All in all a great stay in a great State over the last few days!