Viewing: Tour stops - View all posts

Getting Me to the Gate on Time 

When we were on tour, there were three days of the week: show day, travel day, and day off. Oh, occasionally there were hyphenate days. A day off might double as a fluff ’n’ fold day, when our hard-working security dudes would take our dirty laundry to be fluffed and folded and returned the next day. A couple of times, we had travel/show days, which were just as they sound. 

We very occasionally had multiple days off in a row, one such being in March of 2011, when we were in Melbourne, Australia. Our vocalist had to fly off to the states to be inducted into the Rock ’n’ Roll Hall of Fame, leaving us alone to amuse ourselves in the quite fancy Langham Hotel on the Southbank Promenade of the Yarra River. A lot of people had a lot of fun during that stretch of days.

But in our retirement, which we’re all still getting used to, every day is now a day off—unless we come up with something really important to do, such as a Zoom meeting, or a trip to the grocery. or walking the dogs.

This leaves a lot of time to read and write and remember, which is why more blog posts have been appearing on the Hensley Farms site, and why you’ll just have to put up with it. 

Recently, I started posting about memorable people we’d encountered on the road, and wondering what had become of them. I’ve now begun hearing some responses to that, and I’ll share some of them with you in the next few days.

But there’s one person I haven’t heard about, and I’m thankful for that. The young woman in the picture at top worked at the Brussels airpot when we passed through there on our way from Munich to Antwerp on June 20, 2015. By that time, the mobility issues I had from neuropathy dictated that I get help making it through large airports, and Brussels is a large airport. 

In the US, we were on a charter jet, and hardly saw the inside of an airport. But in Europe, we were just normal people, although a bit abnormal. Because I was so gimpy, I was usually issued a wheelchair upon arrival at the airport. Sometimes a crew member would be assigned push me around, and I found that the crew guys were actually anxious to take on that responsibility, because it enabled them to get through the security line quicker. 

In Brussels, the airport sent the young woman in my photograph, to get me from check in to the gate. She was delightful company, funny and helpful. 

I thought of her the following March, when 32 people were killed and many more injured in attacks at Brussels airport and Maelbeek metro station. I didn’t know her name, but I searched press reports to see if any of the victims could have been her. Fortunately, I didn’t see any likely matches, and that's what I'm thankful for. But if by any chance you know her, please tell her I asked after her and hope she was well and happy. It seemed to me that her location at the airport would have been a dangerous one.

Next time, I’ll talk about some of people I have heard from since I first brought this up.

And Then I Wrote.... 

I really enjoy seeing comments about my little blog entries. Somebody mentioned the other day that they didn’t know I was a writer. While some might argue, I would point out that I’ve been a writer for a long time. 

At my high school, in Bloomington, Indiana, the student newspaper was called The Univee Quad. I occasionally wrote a record review, but mainly devoted my efforts to what would later be called an underground newspaper, which I called the Univee Qrud (logo, left). It was mimeographed and contained lots of parodies of what the Quad took seriously. I got a few issues out and despite this, I eventually graduated. 

In college, at Indiana University, there was a humor magazine called the Crimson Bull. Just before I started at IU, the Crimson Bull editor, a fellow named Clint Major. was fired for including too much dirty content. Mr. Major then started an underground humor magazine called The Renegade. I became the editor of, and published a few issues of the Renegade, and despite this, I eventually graduated. 

Footnote: When I went to a high school class reunion in the 1980s, I put out a 30-year anniversary issue of the Qrud, which drew acclaim from just a few people (my graduating class was around 90 people strong). It included a revised version of the school fight song (University School closed in 1977, so the new song was called “Alma Mater Mortis.” As I write this, I’m thinking I should make a video for Alma Mater Mortis, so don’t be surprised it it happens. 

In California, I began writing some pieces for the Los Angeles Times, back in its glory years, when real writers were on staff there. I contributed to a jokey section called Laugh Lines, and the editor of Laugh Lines was a guy name Charlie Waters, and it was my first experience with having my writing edited. Every time Charlie suggested a change, I noticed it made the final product better. 

Of course, Charlie left the Times when their infernal cost-cutting schemes took hold, and he turned up in Fresno, as the editor of the Bee, my favorite newspaper named after an insect. Charlie and I played golf during my visit on out 2005 tour, and he and his boss came to our show. More about that below. 

My longest-lasting publishing folly began in 1986. It was an on-tour newsletter called The Arch Angel Post-Bugle Intelligencer, known to its friends as the PBI. It came out on every showday, at first hot off a copy machine, later as an emailed PDF file, until we knocked off at the end of 2017.  The PBI’s swan song was a thick issue with many pages of contributions from those who had passed Through Diamondville over the years. 

My favorite item from the final issue was a contribution from the pianist in Neil’s earliest band, whose prior gig had been with Country Joe and the Fish. I asked him was it was like to go from Country Joe to City Neil, and he said the first difference he noticed was that the women in Neil’s audiences were wearing bras. 

The archives from the PBI are a rich source of tour history which I dig into often, especially when compiling my blog. I dug into it just now, and checked up on Charlie Waters, who passed away a few years ago. I found this item, from Las Vegas, where Charlie lived out his last years. 

I am writing to you to see if your fine publication can help me. Some years ago -- probably 2005 or 2006 -- my former boss and I had the pleasure of enjoying an afternoon of golf and lunch in Fresno with two musicians in Neil Diamond's band. I remember that one guy's name was King and I think the other's was Tom. We later took our wives to the concert and afterwards met them and Catgut girl Catherine back stage. All in all, it was a wonderful day. 
I see in my Las Vegas newspaper that Neil Diamond is playing the MGM Grand in Las Vegas this Saturday evening. And since your outstanding journal has received international acclaim for its insightful, trenchant, behind-the-scenes coverage of Neil Diamond tours, I am hoping you can find the answer to a question that has nagged both me and my ex-boss since we played golf that day with King and Tom. 

Our question is this: Was that day in Fresno the first time Tom had ever played golf ? 

I look forward to your answer in the next issue of PBI. I have $50 riding on the answer. 

Charlie Waters 

I replied:

I get that question every time I play. For the last fifteen years I’ve been asked that question. The answer, then and now, is: “Not necessarily. You probably got that idea from the fact that when we played, I spent more time in the bunker than Eva Braun.” 

Okay, that’s enough for today. Back to my quarantine party.

Welcome Home 

My fellow musicians and other tour personnel are used to the give-and-take of the travling life, and this must seem to them to be not unlike a normal break from the tour. A few years ago, I constructed this note for them to put next to their bed, to make it seem like the more normal tourstop situation.

Joy in a Time of Woe 

We played Madison Square Garden on 10/11/01, just a month after the attack. 

We flew in from Chicago on the 10th,  and I set out to visit an exhibition of Fluxus movement works at Art in General (79 Walker Street, near Canal and Lafayette). As it turned out, Canal St. was the demarcation point for the area of lower Manhattan which was still closed to vehicle traffic, so I found myself passing a military-style barricade into an area where there were almost no cars on the street. It couldn’t have been Mr. Happy Feet, so it must have been Mr. Unhappy Feet who led me to walk past City Hall (closed off, white house-style), and the courts buildings, and other places I’d never visited before. 

It was clear that this was to be a day of milling and mulling rather than malling and mealing, so I toughed it out despite the still-acrid smell which seemed to come from every direction. 

At the Jacob Javits Federal Building, an immense line-up began at the front door and continued to the street and as far as I could see around the corner. It was a queue for the Immigration and Naturalization Service. Nearby, a large crowd had gathered on the street. It turned out that a building had been evacuated for unknown reasons, which its workers seemed to regard as a typical day at the office. They chatted with one another and made calls on their mobile phones and waited to be told to return to work. 

Soon I began to encounter a lot of citizens wearing face masks, which made the scratchiness in our throat burn a little more. Fortunately, there was a Starbucks nearby, so we figured a cup o’ Joe would help. I walked in and asked for a grande nonfat latte and the barista said loudly, “I WANT TO GO HOME.” I told him that I’d be happy to write a note for him if it would help and he replied, “Do you think it would?” 

Outside, I viewed a command post and staging area and lots more military folks on duty. Several police cars raced by with lights and sirens on full. Then I noticed a bomb squad truck with the door open, so I thought it was about time to skedaddle. 

I still hadn’t really seen anything major to write about, mainly because I didn’t know exactly where the World Trade Center used to be. How do you find a landmark when the landmark you use to find things is gone? 

I walked on rather aimlessly back to Canal Street, which is always a carnival of pushcart merchants, and was so again today. Of course there were America-themed garments aplenty, but in surprisingly good taste. There were no “My parents visited the site of an unprecedented tragedy and all I got was this lousy T-shirt”-type souvenirs available, thankfully. 

I continued into Little Italy, viewed the ruins of the Grotta Azzurra, the now-abandoned site of several happy tour dinners, and continued past the firehouse of Engine Co. 55. Outside was a massive display of flower, candles and other offerings from the neighborhood to a station where many were lost. On the outside wall was a poster for the Fireman’s Ball that very evening. If our show wouldn’t be emotional enough for you, I thought, perhaps you should head over there and try to maintain that cynical and ironic demeanor. 

I had emerged from the combat zone sufficiently that when I smelled something burning, it turned out to be the food on a street vendor’s cart. I was now in Soho, which seemed about as normal as usual, i.e. not very. Still, one storefront on Prince Street was jammed, with a line extending out into the street, so I had to investigate. 

It turned out to be a place called Here Is New York, offering “images from the frontline of history: a democracy of photographs.” Inside were photos taken by residents of the area, amateur and professional, some of them so gripping that the viewers could only stare transfixed. Along one wall was a bank of IMacs, and one could purchase copies of any of the images, which were printed on the spot using several high-end printers. All pictures were the same price ($25) and all proceeds went to the Children’s Aid Society 911 Fund. If you want to know more, visit their website: The site is still up now, if you wondered.

After this final catharsis, I was ready to poke around in the shops and have lunch. 

The next day was our showday, and it was an emotional roller-coaster, but ultimately a joyous experience, with an especially intense audience reaction. 

A few days later, I got an email from a woman who said she had attended the show with her husband. It was his first night out after weeks of working every day at ground zero, and she said it was the first time she’d see him smile in a month. 

Her description of the joy our show had brought them made me reconsider my concept of our occupation, its importance, and what it meant to people. 

Musicians become so involved in the nuts and bolts of what is expected from them that they can become blind to the emotions of those who attend performances. This was a wake-up call for me, one which has endured since. 

I can’t find the email she sent—it's in my hopelessly scattershot email archive, but if I could, I would send her a lengthy thank you note. I hope she and her husband are thriving in the midst of our latest tragedy. 

And I wish the same for all of our audience members over the last 40 years, who helped all of us, on stage and off, to enjoy our own experience in a deeper way.

Unfortunately, we're no longer out there to send out cheer-up vibes, so you'll have to find your own way to deal with the current situation. I would suggest that we acquire a competent leader, 

Time to Read a Book 

In today’s LA Times we read that Powell’s Books in Portland has had to close all its locations and lay off its employees due to the effects of the Trumpvirus which is destroying everything everywhere. 

When I read about Powell’s, I recalled an incident that had occurred when we played Portland during our 2015 tour. Or so I thought.

When I jumped into my archives, I found that I my less-agile-than-previously brain had gotten it all wrong. It was 2015 all right, but it happened in Denver, not Portland. And it wasn’t Powell’s Books at all, it was the Tattered Cover. The Tattered Cover is another distinguished bookstore, one which is also forced to become an online vendor for the nonce, and could probably use a little mention here. 

And since the story was pretty good, I’ll decided to tell it anyway, even though the reason for telling it is no longer valid. 

While I was looking around in an aisle of the Tattered Cover, a woman on an adjoining aisle was attempting to return a book she had been browsing to its proper place on a shelf. In the process of doing that, she somehow pushed the book into place in s way that created a domino effect, resulting in a lot of books tumbling, in a minor literary avalanche, into the aisle where I was standing. As it fell, one book hit me on its way down, not painfully but certainly noticeably.  As I picked up the book up to return it to its former location. I noticed that its title was Assholes. This triggered enough curiosity for me to warrant further examination. 

Assholes turned out to be a philosophy book by Mr. Aaron James, one which deals with exactly what you might think: it’s about what causes certain people to become the way they turn out to be, and how the rest of us can deal with them, when we have to. 

I wondered if my being bonked by such a book was some kind of omen, sending me a message. I decided I should buy that book. 

Being a Hollywood kind of guy, my way of considering a book purchase is first to open the back cover and turn to the index, to see whether my name is mentioned. Surprisingly, it wasn’t.  But Assholes turned out to be quite a great read. There was a particularly fascinating chapter about Kanye West, as you might expect. His chapter included the following: 

It is instructive to compare West to asshole artists such as Pablo Picasso or Ernest Hemingway or Miles Davis. None were mistaken about their greatness. All were wrong about what their greatness entitled them to by way of special treatment from others. 

In a footnote, he adds, A particularly stark example is Buddy Rich, whose greatness as a drummer is nearly matched by his rudeness, justified in the name of his own artistic perfection. Observe his rancid eloquence in addressing those not quite up to snuff here(This is a link to the famous bus tape of Mr. Rich, and if you haven’t heard it, you should give it a listen.) 

Assholes’ final chapter is titled Letter to an asshole, and is written "in the spirit of Horace's epistles." Hopefully, studying the rest of the book enabled me to be a bit less of an asshole by the time we moved on to Germany, a land which has a history of producing a few assholes of its own. 

If you decide seek out the book under discussion—online, of course, since both Tattered Cover and Powell’s (and many other book vendors) are strictly online right now—make sure to read the chapter about Phil Spector, a gentleman I worked for now and then, and stories about whom I’ve dined on for many years since. 

Sadly, dining on old stories is not such a fruitful endeavor at the moment, so I’m telling them to you instead. Hey, are you going to finish those fries?