Rock Legends Disappoint in Times Square

Hi everyone,

We're very lucky in New York to have a large variety of concerts to attend and/or collect autographs at on any given day. We are equally lucky to have such an amazing variety of venues to do so at. One popular venue is BB King's Blues Grill in Times Square. The club is often a venue for tribute bands, but, on occasion, some of rock and roll's true legends perform there. In fact, in the past year, just by waiting at the stage door there, I have gotten in-person glimpses of the three surviving members of the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame's inaugural class. That's the good news. Unfortunately, I was unable to obtain autographs from any of them for various reasons. Last June, Little Richard came to BB King's for a show. The Architect of Rock and Roll arrived 3 1/2 hours before his performance was scheduled to begin. When his car pulled up, I was surprised to see the legendary pianist in a wheelchair. Therefore, when I asked for an autograph, I really wasn't surprised when Little Richard's handlers just wheeled him backstage. In September, Chuck Berry was in town. I had heard many nasty things about the "Johnny B. Goode" performer, including the fact that he hires backup bands on the assumption that they know his music, and that he demands to be paid IN FULL by promoters well in advance of his concert. Mr. Berry arrived about an hour before he was scheduled to go on. There were about four other collectors there waiting. There's actually an alternate entrance backstage at the club-but one has to pass through a neighboring restaurant to do so. That being said, as Mr. Berry completely ignored us on his way to the "secret" entry, we followed him into the restaurant. He kept ignoring us until, when he finally went into the private areas, a female companion of his snapped at us, demanding that we leave him alone. Mr. Berry's shows are notoriously short, lasting only 45 minutes even with an opening act like there was that night. However, Mr. Berry stayed backstage for almost an hour after the concert had ended. When he finally came out, he walked briskly into his car and ignored us again. Just yesterday, Jerry Lee Lewis performed at the venue. He arrived about two hours before his show. "The Killer" seemed quite frail as he entered the building, but he did acknowledge us and wave. No autographs though. Mr. Lewis's performance are also quite short-this one lasted 75 minutes. As the crowds were still letting out, he immediately left the venue. He motioned as if he was about to sign, but security whisked him into his waiting car. As I mentioned, of the three performers that I met, Mr. Lewis was by far the friendliest. But the security at the venue probably just wanted him to leave so their job would be done. I'm trying to look on the bright side here: I got to meet three of the originators of rock, legends who are still so dedicated to their fans that they still tour. While brief, the encounters are three that I will always remember.

Bye for now,


Views: 248

Comment by Robert Babb on February 28, 2010 at 5:26pm
Our town has classic rock concert series in the summer and Mickey Thomas of Starship walked right past me and others with security. Last summer was better when i got autographs from the little river band at the same concert series. But like you said it was cool none the less to to be close to someone of that stature!
Comment by Josh Board on March 1, 2010 at 4:35pm
I don't know if you can say these three encounters were good, simply because they were legends. If I were you, I'd be ticked.
Chuck Berry used to be amazingly gracious at signing autographs. He's gotten tough over the years. Little Richard NEVER signed autographs. EVER. I'm going to do a column on meeting him somewhere when I was at a hotel for something else (no, no...not that). He just happened to be there, too. And with nobody else around, he still refused to sign.
At least you were able to share a cool story with us. I've seen that venue when in New York, and always wondered what it was like for signatures.
Comment by mike2359 on April 8, 2010 at 6:13pm
big fan of all three and their music, but on stage Chuck is horrible, saw him at BB's in New York and he tuned up on stage and played half songs and didn't remember lyrics, and to top it off, he walked to the kitchen while still playing a song and didn't come back for close to 5-10 minutes. Written to them for years and they never sign, but like I said, I love their music and will always be a fan
Comment by Sidney Fields on June 6, 2010 at 3:12pm

He may not be up there with Richard & Jerry Lee & Chuck Berry, but I consider Gary U.S. Bonds to be one of the MOST under-appreciated rock stars ever. He had some huge hits in the 60's...a truly great album courtesy of Steve Van Zandt & Bruce Springsteen in the 80's and is still terrific today.

Also very friendly guy, he signed for me last night at BB's after being the special guest for Southside Johnny & the Asbury Jukes cd release show. Gary is doing his annual birthday show at BB's this week. He told me it will be even better than last year. And last year had a ton of special guests.
Comment by Sidney Fields on June 6, 2010 at 3:25pm
Your assessments of Chuck Berry & Jerry Lee are on the money.
But I once got Little Richard's autograph.
It was Easter Sunday 1981 during his religious phase.
He did a talk show at a dumpy shack of a station in the swamps of Syracuse.
I was a TV reporter there and did a piece on him.
It is the ONLY time in all the year's I've worked in television that I've ever asked someone I was covering for an autograph.
But I consider Richard the greatest rock star ever and he graciously signed.
He was also fairly forthcoming in the interview, except for declining to give me his real feelings about rock & roll.

And the last shot of my story was a classic. Richard's escorts (two religious fellows) drove him away...up a roughly paved small road and out of the swamp... in the backseat of their pale blue Pacer!
The architect of rock & roll reduced to riding in the back of a Pacer.


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