Joe Cocker -- You Can Leave Your Halo On

Well, Joe Cocker is up where he belongs – at that big rock stage in the sky. I have to admit, I’m only lukewarm on him as a performer, but as a rock star he was always a class act with the fans.

When I was in my early 20’s working at my first radio station, I brought some contest winners backstage to meet him. It was my first time being backstage at a concert, and Cocker couldn’t have been nicer. He took photos, signed my ticket stub, signed albums for the winners. Of course, when a rock star is backstage meeting fans, especially part of a promotion, they’re usually nice.

On that same bill was Stevie Ray Vaughn. I’ve told this story before but, the promoter told our winners they’d only be allowed to meet one of them in the dressing room/backstage area. Since they didn’t have a preference, they asked me if I did. I said, “Yeah, Joe Cocker.”

I loved Vaughn as a guitarist, but wasn’t fond of his voice. Yet when SRV died in a helicopter crash not long after, I regretted the choice; especially since I’d meet Cocker a few more times.

The first time I had gotten his autograph was as a teenager. Autograph Magazine (remember when we used to be in the newsstands?) had addresses on the back pages. It was always hit-and-miss trying to get people to sign in the mail, but I had a few things signed from the cast of “An Officer and a Gentleman” and wanted him to sign the album in which he did the theme song (and won a Grammy for). It came back 4 months later signed, but I didn’t do the best job with the self-addressed stamped envelope. It was a record album, and the cardboard of it wasn’t strong enough to handle the postal workers, and it was a wrinkled mess when it was returned. But hey…it had his signature on it.

I had planned to frame all the various photos from “An Officer and a Gentleman” but when the album, which had a few of the signatures, was in such bad shape…I just shelved the idea.

With the autographed ticket, I decided to frame it with a nice photo I had of Cocker at Woodstock, wearing his tie-dye shirt, and flailing about the stage like a whirling diverish.

It’s funny, I remember when I first heard Cocker, I hated him. I was a kid and his version of The Beatles “A Little Help From My Friend” was terrible. It was #1 in 1968, and hey…I was a kid. I liked hearing Ringo sing the tune. He sang “Yellow Submarine” and “Octopuss’ Garden.”

My older brother was watching a rerun of Saturday Night Live when I walked in the room, and saw John Belushi (who looked a lot like him in the face), doing the hysterical impersonation (I’d find out later, Paul McCartney offered him $30,000 to do it at a party, and he declined).

It wasn’t until I was going to SDSU, and watched The Wonder Years. That TV show used his version of “A Little Help From My Friends” as their theme song. It was perfect. It encapsulated the ‘60s, and it wasn’t Iron Butterfly or Steppenwolf classics. I was a fan.

The third and final time I met him was at a venue called Humphrey’s. It’s hard to meet the artists there, because it’s a nice resort on the water. They give the artists a room, and they’re not usually walking out to their tour buses and there’s lots of security. One time, the legendary Dion walked right up to some autograph collectors, and didn’t sign a thing. Robert Plant walked by me there, surrounded by 8 security guards. Yet, if the artist was nice (and not so obsessed with why you wanted an autograph), it was an easy score.

We almost didn’t recognize him as he casually walked over. There were four of us, and he started signing and talking. I told him my friend Kevin had gotten married and danced to his song. He laughed and said, “So many people over the years have told me they’ve had their first dance to ‘You Are So Beautiful’.”

I replied, “Yeah, yeah, it’s usually that song…but they did ‘When the Night Comes’ which is as good a ballad. It’s a beautiful tune.”

I was tempted to say, “As much as I love ‘You Are So Beautiful’…it’s a bit odd that you add, ‘…to me.’ That’s almost like saying, “You’re ugly and disgusting to everyone else, but you’re so beautiful, to me.”

After chatting us up for 15 minutes, he thanked us for supporting him and hanging out. I was pleasantly surprised to see one of the autograph collectors snapped a photo of us chatting, and he gave it to me a few months later. I don’t usually ask the artists to take photos with me, so it was kind of cool to have one.

It wasn’t that long ago that I saw Leon Russell, and wrote about that experience here. He was part of Cocker’s Mad Dogs and Englishmen tour in 1970. And since Cocker had been battling lung cancer for a few years now, I have to think Russell knew this when he shared stories about Cocker that night.

It’s a very sad day in the music world…but a groovy day in heaven.

Views: 436

Tags: An Officer and a Gentleman, Jennifer Warnes, Joe Cocker, Leon Russell, Ringo, Saturday Night Live, The Beatles, The Wonder Years, Woodstock

Comment by Paul on December 22, 2014 at 11:27pm
Great blog Josh. Where losing them all. I'm very disappointed I never seen him live my older friends would rave about his live shows playing with hot jazz musicians.
The wonder years we remember, the letter, unchained my heart, so many songs.
How long will McCartney be here for?
Lost the Cock, a little cocker in us all. Take our hats off.
Comment by Coachgd on December 23, 2014 at 7:19am

Another good article.  A few years ago, my wife and I were in New York City.  I saw on the marquee that Joe Cocker and the Steve Miller Band were playing Radio City Music Hall.  I had never seen either one so I was interested, my wife had seen Steve Miller and she was not a huge fan of Joe.  So we decided not to go and instead saw a play with Morgan Freeman.  Although it was awesome to see Morgan Freeman in person, the play wasn't that good.  I now wish I had seen the concert instead.

This is why I am seeing as many classic rock acts that I can.  I went to 18 shows this year- which is the most I've ever gone to.  I'm usually good for 5-10.  I am also trying to meet as many artists as I can.  My success rate has been pretty good.  I can say I saw Nirvana, Stevie Ray Vaughn, and Alice in Chains in their prime.  I could have seen Elvis but I didn't want to go (I was 6).

I got my ticket to the Rock Hall induction ceremony in April and I'm looking forward to hearing Bill Withers, Ringo, Joan Jett, Green Day and Double Trouble. I'm hoping to meet some of these guys too!  They aren't going to be around forever, so see them now while you have the chance!

Comment by Johnathan Roro on December 28, 2014 at 1:24pm

Josh, what is your opinion on obtaining autographs at hotels and/or airports?

Comment by Josh Board on December 28, 2014 at 5:33pm

J.R....I am SOOO glad you asked that. I've never been asked that, yet I have strong feelings on the subject. I feel the collectors get screwed by the ebay and dealers. They THRIVE at airports and hotels, so I try to refrain. Well, not "try" I do refrain. I got an inside scoop once about Carlos Santana at a hotel. I went, with an album. The weirdest thing is, I'm not even much of a Santana fan. I waited 15 minutes, decided...since he's not the best autograph signer anyway, why bother him here. I left. He showed up an hour later, and I found out later, 3 dealers were there. He turned everyone down. Here's the problem. EVERY CELEBRITY, knows that hotel and airport personal get paid off by paparazzi and autograph dealers, so...it does two things negative. It makes you think you're there for financial benefit, not that you're a fan. And, it makes them think they can never have any peace anywhere. So, if you run into somebody at an airport, tell them you're a fan, and have them sign a scrap of paper or business card -- they're fine with that, and you're happy. Otherwise, I think it's a big no-no. And here's a way to think about it. Imagine you're the biggest actor on the planet. You go for a weekend away with your wife, and there's a guy in the lobby that has 10 different 8x10s of you. You'd be pissed. Or, even if the person just had a DVD of their favorite movie of yours. You'd wonder...how did this guy know I was there?

Now, my friend that works at a nice hotel in San Diego, told me a great story. Eric Estrada (CHiPs), showed up. He wanted to be checked in under a different name so nobody bothered him. She thought that was a decent request, but was shocked to see he was driving a yellow Rolls-Royce!!!!

Comment by Johnathan Roro on December 29, 2014 at 10:31am

Josh- I disagree.  Honestly, I think if most of us made the millions that these people do we wouldn't mind being bothered for a few minutes a day to sign or take pictures.  It comes with the territory.  These people are never going to have to worry about where their next meal comes from or how they are going to pay rent and in exchange they lose a little bit of their privacy.  Also, some people don't sign anywhere besides the hotel.  For example, the Red Hot Chili Peppers are decent signers at the hotel.  If you put in time you should be able to get all 4 of them.  However, I have never ever heard of them signing at a venue.  

Comment by Johnathan Roro on December 29, 2014 at 11:53pm

Josh- you there still?

Comment by Jeffery Kite on December 30, 2014 at 10:42pm

"You Are So Beautiful" is in my opinion, one of the greatest love songs of all-time. Joe was one of the very best.

Comment by Josh Board on January 4, 2015 at 11:42pm

Johnathon -- you couldn't be more wrong. Believe me, I'll be the first one to say -- SIGN AUTOGRAPHS!!! You're rich, you're famous, and the fans made you that way. The least you could do is sign. But using your logic -- if you spot one of them at dinner with their family, you should be able to approach the table and ask for an autograph. After all, you might not see them anywhere else. You should be able to approach them in a bathroom. Seriously, where does it end? Well, I'll tell you. IF YOU PAY SOMEBODY FOR INSIDE INFORMATION....meaning, so you can find out WHEN they are at the airport or a restaurant, I think they should refuse. Unless you just happen to spot them, and they can tell you're a fan (ie you don't have 20 8x10s of them ready), yes, in those cases, they should sign.

Comment by Johnathan Roro on January 7, 2015 at 7:36pm

Josh- I respectfully disagree.  For me, if they are doing something that I would not want to be bothered at (eating dinner, with family, in the bathroom, in the hospital, funeral) I do not bother them and try and tell others not to.  But I think that airport, hotel, outside a restraunt (after they are done eating), after a concert, etc. are all fair game.  They make their living off the public.  It is pretty much the same as customer service.  The person at a restaraunt doesn't HAVE to smile while they are serving you, but it is generally expected.  Waiters and waitresses make at least 100X less than these celebs.  Why do we put people like Paris Hilton or The Kardashians on a pedestool?  Well that's really a question for a sociologist.  Nobody would care if I went up to Josh Board and asked him for an autograph at the airport.  I'm guessing you might think it is kind of cool.  Why, then, is it unacceptable for one to wait for Britney Spears at an airport?  Is she any better a person than Josh Board?  

Comment by Johnathan Roro on January 8, 2015 at 5:29pm

The thing that really p***** me off is when the presidents or people running for presidents (*cough cough Mitt Romney, Bill Clinton, and Obama*) complain about Ebay or their staff complains about Ebay.  SELLING AUTOGRAPHS HELPS THE ECONOMY AND CREATES JOBS!  That is what they want, right?

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