Item: 2014 Gibson Custom Shop Explorer, '58 RI VOS
Whenever Lee and I get a guitar that we both really like, one of us will immediately claim "the story" on it. We picked this Explorer up at the Fall Philly show last month and the Tall One immediately exclaimed, "Man, I got the story for this one," but I just had to protest. "Dude, I got the best story ever for this one," I said. "Let me have it," and I guess it was either my intense conviction or the fact that a bass player could get so excited about something with six strings that made him concede. "Okay, 'Lil Bit, " he said. "Go on and getcha some," and with those words, my noodle began to recall that fateful evening in the Winter of '89...
Back in the late 80's, I lived in an apartment complex called Moonraker Apartments in Marietta, Ga. I won't go into the sordid history of that property and the things that we did there, just Google it sometimes and read what people wrote about the hijinks and shenanigans that went on there "back in the day". It was a crazy time indeed. My neighbor at the time was a guy named Clay Kremer and he worked for a security firm that handled all the big concerts and sporting events in Atlanta. As I recall, Clay came home after work one evening and of course, me and my crew were on the deck with a keg. I asked him over for a beer and after pouring himself a tall, frosty one, he looked at me and said, "Hey, you're one of those Metallica kids, aren't you"? (I can't begin to tell you all how much that irked me) I gave him the stink eye and nodded. He continued, "Well they are playing at the Omni and we need some extra security for the show. Pays $10.00 an hour- you interested"? Now, folks, that was like asking a fat baby if it wanted a gallon of chocolate ice cream with whipped cream and sprinkles on top, so after giving him about ten "Hell yes, I'm interested's," he told me what to wear (red shirt with khaki pants) and what time he would be leaving to go down to the show. Looked like I had a ride to and from, so it just couldn't get any better. Now I had to get ready for what was going to be the greatest nights of my life.
It should be mentioned that during this period of my life, I played in a Heavy Metal band called Terrafyre. You all have probably heard me talk about it before, so I'll just get to the point; My plans that night were to put one of our band promo packs and a t- shirt into Jason Newstead's hands. In my mind, he would think the shirt was so cool, he would listen to the cassette tape with our four demo songs, think that we were the next big thing, have his manager call ours and we would be opening for the mighty Metallica within a couple of months. That was my train of thought back then, so on the night of the show, I tucked the t- shirt and promo pack under my shirt and rode down to the Omni with Clay.
We got there and lined up to receive our instructions. They were as follows: Do exactly what the supervisors tell you to do, stay at the station you are assigned and under no circumstances were we to APPROACH ANY OF THE BAND MEMBERS FOR ANY REASON. That dude might as well have been talking to the dead because I was bound and determined to get my band's promo pack into Newstead's hands and under penalty of death, I was going to accomplish my mission. We were told to hang out backstage until the supervisors placed us for the show and as I was standing in a hallway, a door pops open and out stalks Jason Newstead himself. "If I don't get a basketball goal set up now, I'm not playing tonight," he screamed and I will testify to that in court tomorrow morning with my hand on a stack of bibles. He stood there and waited as some Omni Arena staffers pulled over one of the Atlanta Hawk's practice goals and a couple of racks of balls. They got it all set up and he began shooting hoops. I just stood there with my mouth open. Surely this was not the metal god bassist for Metallica- hell, he was shorter than I was, so you could literally see my heavy metal dreams being dashed before my very eyes. Anyway, Jason shot a couple of racks of balls and then turned to go back into his dressing room, but as fate would have it, he had to walk right by my skinny behind to get there. This was going to be my only chance, so I swallowed hard and got ready. As he passed by, I pulled the now very wrinkled t-shirt and somewhat crumpled promo pack out of the back of my pants. "Mr. Newstead," I stammered. "My name's Ray Mauldin and I play bass in a band called Terrafyre we play locally here and I just wanted to give you one of our promo packs I hope you like the shirt and I hope you'll listen to the cassette I love you music and I'm really sorry about Cliff and we'd love to open for you ban... It was at that moment a huge paw reached out and grabbed what I was holding out to Jason. "I'll have that," the big guy said in what sounded like a very pissed-off British accent. He looked at me with a death stare. "You supposed to be working here? Then get your fuc*#^ng ass back out front," and ladies and gentlemen, I scampered out of there like a spanked rabbit, highly mortified and sure that I was going to be reported to the "that guy didn't listen to the instructions" police and then be summarily escorted out of the back of the auditorium at any second.
Maybe fortune smiled upon me that night because, not only did I not get into any trouble, I was placed center stage in the pit, right in front of James Hetfield. My job was to catch the people that were crowd surfing and ease them down to the floor, where they could be sent over to the side of the stage and back into the crowd. I want you all to know that I took this job very, very seriously because I was usually on the other side of the barrier, crowd surfing myself. Folks, I was so in my groove that night, I want you all to know that I did three things of note: I escorted Hetfield across the front of the stage when he came down into the pit to let the fans in the front row sing on "Seek and Destroy", I successfully dodged about a hundred lugies from Hetfield's face (that guy spat more than anybody I had ever seen- ever.), and I caught more kids that I could count that came over the barrier that night. Everybody from teenage girls to mid-40's, 200+ lbs guys- anybody that I caught over the top of that barrier made it safely to the concrete and was let back into the crowd. I took this part of the job as my life's purpose and at the end of the night, when the show was over and we all went backstage to get paid, the entire front of my left leg below the knee and into the top of my shoe was soaked in blood. I couldn't have told you how I got that gash in my shin, but I was so amped and pumped up, I didn't even notice it during the concert. Let's just say that I well remember that one hell of a rock-n-roll night...
Elks, that was a long, but pleasant (for me) way of describing the feeling one look at a guitar can give you. If just one glance at a certain instrument can bring back a memory like that, then the value now becomes not about money, but about reminiscence and the revisiting of one's youth. I will swear again on that same stack of bibles that you just cannot put a price on that and to be honest, I wouldn't ever want to...