This is my fi-i-i-rst job. I love that number! Mine was working at the carwash. I thought it was cool. But at 16, I thought a lot of stuff was cool. Vic Orsini often let us work even when it was pouring rain. We’d stand in the doorway looking out at Norris Drive and brag. My next job was stockboy at the drugstore owned by my dad’s golf bud. Mostly I organized the record albums…LP’s. I’m fairly certain I was supposed to be organizing the entire store, though, in my defense, on one occasion I did chase a shoplifter several blocks before giving up. I worked briefly for the Illinois Highway Dep’t, but really, you ought to have a little simple math if you think you’re gonna be a civil engineer. Next I worked at Dickson’s clothing, mostly in the upstairs “jeans shop.” It was called Minas Tirith. If I have to explain that one, you wouldn’t get it anyway. It was sort of a big deal back in the day when it was hard to find hip clothing, bell bottoms and other req’d gear for the 60’s. Then I got a job at Northstates Gas Station, the cheapest gas in town. I was working the late night shift and some of my buds, former bandmates came in and we started shooting the breeze, and blah blah, “where’s Roger these days?” Roger was our local guitar hero who’d played with the very famous Nomads. They had matching Fender guitars painted coral metalflake, and chorography; step touch and sometimes with a quarter turn. He was working at The Lamplighter! Seriously cool.
I went home and put on my high school graduation suit and tie, and drove out to The Lamplighter, a …”joint” is the only word for it… about an inch outside the city limits with a gravel parking lot. In addition to the band, a small dance floor and bar, they had two girls who alternated the jobs of topless waitress and topless dancer. Back then, topless just about anything was verrrry popular. The bouncer/doorman was something beyond skeptical when I presented myself at the entrance. I probably looked all of 14. I asked him politely if he’d tell Roger I was here. He returned and told me to sit at the end of the bar. Roger came over between sets and asked me to sit in for their bass player, whom Roger deemed a “hillbilly.” I played the rest of the night. The next day they fired the bass player, and at age 17, I was working in a joint with two topless employees. It still ranks as one of my top three jobs ever and not just because my dad and Mr. Kuzmich had finally started to appreciate our music.
We worked three nights a week all winter and I raced Roger, in his ‘Vette to the truckstop for 3:00 a.m.breakfasts. We even played that really cold night when the pipes burst and there was no heat or running water. I kept my gloves on and my musicianship was almost totally unaffected.