More excerpts from Too Much Fun - A Life of Music and Mayhem by Billy C. Farlow
By Billy C. Farlow
I hadn't sung more'n two or three songs that night at the Lion's Den before some idiot nailed me with a half empty bottle of warm beer. I didn't take it personal, though, the high spirited patrons and matrons of that small river road-house near Magnolia Bend, Alabama are known for expressing their likes and dislikes in strange and violent ways: "Leroy, we ain't said hi to Billy C yet". Wham!-he glances a Bud bottle off the side of my head, waves and hollers "Hey Billy C!" at me while I'm trying to struggle my way through a tender love ballad. Actually, I took it as a good omen. It was still early in the evenings and already the natives had achieved a warm sense of well-being and fellowship.
I liked this gig and always looked forward to the next one. The Den had been a notorious Madison County den of vice and corruption and good times for several decades. It had gone through several incarnations. When I was a teenager it was called The Blue Room and before that, The J & J Tap Room. Back in the 20's and 30's it was the scene of a brutal beating by a bunch of boys full of corn liquor and a strong dislike of strangers. The joint closed after that but came back years later with a new owner, a new paint job and a new name.
My wife had just two weeks before, had thrown me out after thirteen years of marriage. I'd gone out and got drunk and stayed that way. In just one week I was busted twice for drunk driving, once up in Nashville 'cause they pulled me over for no muffler on my truck and smelled whiskey on my breath and again the following week in Huntsville for weaving down the street while I was trying to drive, get intimate with my date and wipe off a fogged up windshield at the same time. What the hell did they expect me to do? I was losing my wife, my kids and my farm all in one stroke.
The band and I had hit the road for a short tour up through towns in Tennessee, Kentucky, and Indiana, and headed back south for two big nights at the fabulous Lion's Den. It was a hot little group, one of the best I ever had. Besides my own bad self, there was Roger Younger on lead guitar, Catfish on bass and normally J.T. Thompson on drums. J.T.'d had his drivers license yanked for the same reason I'd lost mine and couldn't leave Atlanta, so for this tour we had a drummer from Nashville, a friend of Catfish's - I forget his name.
We rocked our way through the first show with on one getting hurt and took a break. I knocked back a couple of shots and a beer and looked over the crowd. The place was nearly full and lots of folks were hanging around outside the front door talking trash, and checking out some of the tough looking bikes in the parking lot.
I saw Johnzo, from Lick Skillet, one of the survivors of the infamous Jerry's Playhouse incident. The scars on his arm had healed but he'd always miss the last three fingers on his left hand. We talked for a few minutes and he told me about his brother's funeral and some local gossip about Lincoln County's most grizzly homicide in years. Then we went out back of the club and smoked a joint. A nearly-full yellow moon was oozin' up through the tall hackberries and sycamores by the river and brought a smooth, mellow light to the warm spring evening.
Then I saw her. She was standing about thirty feet away by an old scrub-lined fence and looking straight at me. Damn, she was pretty! She kept looking right a me with a sweet, but witchy little half-smile that she had probably practiced for hours in front of a mirror.
Well, it worked. I took the bait. I flipped the roach off somewhere, got rid of Johnzo and swaggered over to her smiling, "hey", I said, with appropriate enthusiasm and sauve-ness. "Hi, Billy C. Don't you remember me?" I'd heard that one before. But a man would be crazy to forget this girl and I started to believe what people had been telling me for years. She smiled again and this time I saw the face of one of my old teenage loves.
"Brenda Sue Corman! I don't believe it! How long has it been? Summer of '64 wasn't it?" We laughed and made small talk about old times and old friends. My eyes were on her but my mind was off somewhere, twenty-somethin' years ago, remembering a quick flaming romance, my first electric guitar, and hot summer nights serenading Brenda Sue on her front porch swing.
I'd met her on a church hayride and started seeing her regularly, walking to the other side of Decatur, always carrying my trusty Hofner archtop. She loved to hear me sing and play and so did I. After her mama would go to sleep, we'd slip outside and sit on the old porch swing and smooch. Once my cousins snuck up in the bushes and watched us. They said it was like an Elvis movie.
Things were goin' good until one day something happened. Something usually does doesn't it? I dropped over uninvited one day and found Brenda Sue sitting on the swing with this big, mean looking older dude. He ran me off in nuthin' flat and that was that! It turned out that they were engaged and he was on leave from the Army. I was so tore up I didn't play my guitar for a week and went off fishin'. She later married the big ape and they'd lived around Decatur all these years, had kids, and divorced just last year, or so she said. Women are always saying stuff like that to me.
I was just about to ask her inside for a beer when Zeke, the owner, stuck his head out the back door and hollered "Show time, Billy!" I went back in the club, pounded a couple of shots to clear my head and then hit the stage. We launched into "Shake It Down", a tune I'd been doing for years but never recorded. I mean to tell you every soul in the damn place got up and started shakin' it! They turned it loose! They shook it up, down, sideways, over yonder, down the alley, 'round the world and to hell and back! They shook it fast, they shook it slow, they shook it up-side the wall, in the kitchen-they shook it till they damn near broke it and I am here to testify, brothers and sisters, that they shook it every way it could be shook!
There were skinny little rednecks in overalls with no front teeth, dancing with large breasted, big-butted mamas, and a tall biker with a log chain around his neck dancing with a gal who had an eye patch and about a hundred tattoos on her. one dude could hardly stand but wanted to dance anyway and had four women holding him up. They careened across the dance floor crashing into practically everyone. There were big burly men dancing with each other and some folks tried to get a line going but got crashed into by the previously mentioned drunken dude. And through it all there was Brenda Sue, dancing by herself, looking at me with that smile, and shakin' her goodies so as not to leave a single doubt as to what was on her mind.
When we finished there wasn't a dry body in the room and I was glad the building hadn't fell in on all of us. I decided I'd better cool 'em down a little so we eased into a low blues, "You're lookin' at a lonely, lonely man..." Well, it sure didn't cool Brenda Sue down very much. She took that slow groove and just ground it until it was find meal and I was the catfish about to be rolled in it and fried up for supper. Whatever this girl had, she sure had lots of it!
We rocked on through the night until about 2:30 a.m.,past last call. It was a hell of a crowd and they didn't want to let us go. I don't think we wore 'em down much, though they were pretty much numbed by oceans of beer and whiskey. Finally Zeke flicked the lights as a signal to disperse and everyone began to wander off to screw or fight or just sleep it off. Zeke paid me and we did a shot together. Seems like there was something on his mind. He acted a bit pre-occupied or maybe he was just drunk. I didn't think much about it as the time and forgot it. They guys were loading up or have one for the road. I motioned to Brenda Sue and we walked out back of the club.
The moon had traveled a ways since we were here earlier and had risen high and full, lighting up the whole night and casting big, deep shadows underneath the trees. We walked off a short distance from the club to a small clearing. The night was still and except for an occasional sound of a car door slamming at the club, only the bullfrogs and night birds could be heard.
She turned to me and the moonlight fell across her face and hair. She looked up at me with a smile that made my ears pound. I wanted to skinny up a tree and howl like a demon possessed but I didn't, thank goodness. Instead I took her in my arms and we fell into a love-lock and went at it like there was no tomorrow, which as it turned out there wasn't. So were ere like the sale at Wal-Mart: ladies and men's underwear half off. If I tell anymore they won't print this! Let's just say the frogs and the owls had shut up and were watching intently. I was starting to wonder where we could go to do this right when realization hit me that it would never happen. "Harold!" Brenda Sue screamed and let go of me like I had Rabies. Behind me three figures materialized out of the dark and swooped down on us like night owls.
Harold grabbed her and slapped here hard across the face. "You little whore. You think you can get away with.." Bam! I hit him with everything I had across the nose drawing blood. I can't stand to see a woman get mauled around by a man, even her husband. Besides, I'd had more than a few drinks and was feeling pretty brave. If I'd a had any sense I'd run right then. The other two grabbed me by the arms and Harold came at me with blood in his eyes and mayhem in his heart.
He got me good several times in the gut and on the side of my head as I tried to dodge his huge fists. He was out of his head and swinging wild and that was all that saved my pretty face from looking like pulled pork.
Then he swung and nearly fell down. I wrenched one arm free and bent down and pulled out a hunting knife I always carry in my right boot. Acting on instinct, I slashed once or twice at the bodies around me and one dude let go with a mighty howl of pain. I broke free but didn't have time to glory in it. I saw Brenda Sue running out of the clearing back toward the Lion's Den screaming hysterically. I bolted the other way out of there, into the woods and ran for all I was worth. I had my knife in one hand and I was holding up my pants with the other. My nice gig shirt with pretty roses on it had been ripped off and part of a sleeve was still on my arm.
I stopped for a few seconds and got my pants buttoned and zipped and
put the blade back in my boot. Then I listened. They were after me
and not very far behind. I could hear the three of 'em breathing hard
and crashing through the brush like elephants, cussin' and hollerin'.
With my arms free I could make better time and believe me, I did. The
low limbs crashing in my face lashed and trapped me a few times and
had to tear my way through thorns or Harold would be on top of me.
I plunged into the muddy creek head first, boots, pants, open cuts and all. I went deep, swam a ways toward the other shore and glided silently to the surface. They didn't follow me into the water. I went back under and quietly swam to the far shore and hid beneath some over-hanging button bush barely fifty feet away.
The men talked about what to do next. Harold's friends wanted to end the chase and I was sure one of them was cut good. None of 'em were anxious to go into the water and look for me. They'd get quiet awhile like they were listening for me, then go back to arguing whether to stay or not. After an hour or so, they finally left. I didn't know what to do so I stayed put. Bugs and worms and salamanders and leeches were climbing all over me and any second I expected a big water moccasin to come along and put me out of my misery. At the same time I wondered what old happen to the band when the three marauders returned unfulfilled. I didn't care what happened to Brenda Sue. I realized I was once again a pawn in her sleazy little soap opera and whatever Harold did to her she probably had coming.
I waited until sunrise and climbed out and went back to the club. My head and ribs ached something terrible. I had lost my boots and knife in the river and I was wet and shivering like a dying calf in a hailstorm. On the way I walked by the crime scene and saw pieces of my shirt and Brenda Sue's panties. I walked to the highway, found a pay phone and called Roger. He came and got me and told me the whole story. He and the boys had gotten run off by Harold and his friends, and strangely enough, Zeke the club owner. Only it wasn't so strange. It turned out that Zeke was friends with Harold's cousin and tipped him off about Brenda Sue and me. I couldn't imagine why he would do a thing like that anyway, but I found out later that he had it in for Johnzo over the Jerry's Playhouse incident. Zeke's brother had been bartender there, the same bartender that hacked up Johnzo and his brother and the Lick Skillet bunch, who in turn retaliated and burnt down the Playhouse.
I was wore out. In the space of one night I'd gotten drunk, played a gig, got took by the same woman twice, got the shit beat out of me and spent the night suckin' swamp water like a damn carp. But I had one more thing to do. I went to Decatur General and got a tetanus shot. I figured if I was gonna run into women like Brenda Sue, I better get vaccinated
From Too Much Fun-A Life of Music and Mayhem by Billy C. Farlow
Contact Glenn Herskoswitz 415-924-1133 for booking information.
Copyright © 2001 Billy C. Farlow