S&R Fiction

Scholars and Rogues fiction: Slick by Alan Swyer

The first time Slick Taylor told me I’d been sent to him by God, I should have known enough to bolt.  But instead, seated with a musician who was legendary for all the wrong reasons, plus his abrasive manager, in an only-in-LA-setting, a Westside Mexican restaurant helmed by a French chef and catering to an upscale, almost entirely gringo crowd, I continued to speak — or should I say pontificate — about what could, or should, be done to rehabilitate a shattered image and thereby increase the ability to bring in revenue.

The Slickster, as I took to calling him, was at that point an international icon but a financial disaster, embraced as a player by the hip-hop world, but demonized as the personification of wife-beater and crack-addled ex-con almost everywhere else (though both characterizations, I had reason to believe, were not merely exaggerations, but also, according to all reports, ancient history).  He had paid his debt to society, sworn off booze and drugs, and was ostensibly both wiser and chastened — or as chastened as anyone wearing a bright yellow suit that couldn’t be found on any street in L.A. west of Crenshaw, and driving a bright yellow Mercedes convertible, could be.  More importantly, Slick swore to me, he wanted desperately to be known for his musical contributions rather than the more sordid or questionable aspects of his past.

Our paths had crossed repeatedly thanks to mutual friends in the music business, among them Ray Charles and Solomon Burke.  But it was really a couple of backup singers — women who were the unsung heroes of many a hit record — who, I later learned, had pushed Slick to reach out to me.

“America loves tales of redemption,” I told Slick, which seemed to appeal to him, while clearly irritating his manager, who billed himself as Nate the Great.  “People who come clean and apologize are not only given a second chance — they become more human in scale, which allows for them to be embraced in a way that’s more personal and, strangely enough, more profound.”  Citing examples as diverse as Bill Clinton, Kobe Bryant, George W. Bush, and, gulp, David Hasselhoff, I talked about the public’s willingness to forgive and, if not forget, at least to allow for a fresh start.

“So what do I need to do?” Slick asked, much to his manager’s chagrin.

Off the top of my head, I rattled off a sequence that not only made sense, but seemed fairly possible.  First step would be to do what’s known as a PSA — a Public Service Announcement — in which Slick would be seen on TV screens denouncing domestic violence.  That, if things went as planned, would be followed by talk show appearances, hopefully including “Oprah,” where Slick would have the opportunity to demonstrate his contrition and talk about a proposed foundation for battered women.

“There goes his goddamn street cred!” Nate the Great interjected angrily.

“Fuck my street cred!” Slick responded, silencing his manager with a glare, then turning to me.  “What about a record deal?”

“It’s not a record deal you need right away, it’s a fresh beginning.  And after that, it should be a matter not of a deal, but the right deal.”

“You mean my kind of terms?”

“I mean a company with the appropriate image.”

“Image my ass!” Nate the Great bellowed.

“Who asked you?” the Slickster snapped dismissively before again facing me.  “What kind of image?”

“Preferably a place run by a woman of a certain age — and with a strong feminist reputation.”

“Why not make it a diesel dyke while you’re at it!” Nate the Great shrieked, causing other diners to grimace, and Slick to wince.

“Shut the fuck up!” Slick said softly but forcefully.  “What company you thinking?” he asked me.

When I mentioned the name of a Boston-based label, Nate the Great roared with laughter.

“What’s so goddamn funny?” Slick demanded to know.

“They do folkie shit.  And old-time shitkicker country.”

“That true?” Slick asked me.

“Absolutely.”

“So why the hell them?”

“Because their list also includes Aaron Neville, Irma Thomas, James Booker –”

“The best of New Orleans –”

“Plus people like John Lee Hooker, the Persuasions, and our buddy Solomon Burke.”

Ever the showman, Slick allowed a moment to pass for dramatic effect, then slowly turned and glared at his manager.  “You’re calling friends of mine folkies and shitkickers?”

“Give me the keys so I can wait in the car,” Nate muttered.

“There’s a bench at the goddamn bus stop,” Slick answered softly but firmly.  “Go sit there.”

Slick watched as Nate the Not-So-Great stood and walked angrily slowly toward the door.  Only when the no longer Great One had exited did he turn toward me.

“Know anybody at that company?”

“The woman who runs it is a friend.”

“I love it.”

“But that’s not all.”

“I’m listening –”

“I think there’s got to be a duet or two.”

“Like I used to do with Lita?” he asked, referring for the first time that evening to the most famous of his ex-wives, together with whom he made the rise from the Chitlin’ Circuit to stardom.

“With people who can endorse, or even strengthen, the new image.”

“Like?”

“Bonnie Raitt.  Maybe Alison Krauss.”

Slick looked at me blankly.

“They any good?” the Slickster asked, making it clear he had not the foggiest idea who they were.

Unlike a lot of people who discovered Blues, Gospel, and what used to be known as R&B (before it morphed into black pop) in high school, college, or even later in life, for me that music — and the comedy that often accompanied it — was never a discovery.  It was simply always there.  Spending my early years in what was considered a rough area, though as a kid it never seemed the least bit rough to me, those sounds were everywhere.  Morning, noon, and night, to my parents’ dismay, the kind of music I still love poured forth from apartment windows, car radios, storefront churches, and especially the soul food place across from the local playground, where aside from treats that, in contrast to what I was served at home, actually had taste, there was a jukebox that provided a never-ending source of wonderment and joy.

In those days before over-zealousness, soccer moms, and the advent of play dates, I didn’t need plans, phone calls, emails, texts, or even a ride in order to have companionship.  Thanks to the population density from which my parents were desperate to escape, I had the privilege of spontaneity.  Simply by walking out the door I could find anything and everything I wanted:  basketball, baseball, football, stickball, ringolevio, smothered chicken with dumplings and sweet potato pie on the rare days when I had money in my pocket, and, above all, music, music, music.

Artists about whom I would later have lengthy conversations with Ray Charles — Wynonie Harris, Guitar Slim, Big Maybelle, and above all Archie Brownlee — became part of me because of what was playing in the neighborhood.  As did songs by the Clovers, Big Joe Turner, and Clyde McPhatter, thanks to the radio I snuck under my covers every night.  And the same was true of the comedy routines I would later reminisce about and even recreate with Solomon Burke, especially the ones performed by Pigmeat Markham and Moms Mabley.

Though my parents were convinced that what I was listening to, together with my increasing obsession with sports, was leading me astray, it was not until we moved into a house of our own — in a largely white area — that I fully began to appreciate just how much the things I learn to cherish — whether the Drifters, Big Momma Thornton, and Frankie Lymon, or baseball, basketball, and boxing — really meant to me.

Still, there was no way for me to expect — or even dream — that one day, three thousand miles away from urban New Jersey, I would befriend, and on many occasions work with, so many of the people who had unknowingly given me hope.

Nor in my wildest flights of fancy could I have ever imagined the call I got from Slick the morning after our heart-to-heart conversation.

“I did it,” he announced.

“Did what?”

“Dumped Nate.”

“Can’t say I blame you, but now what?”

“Now it’s you and me.”

“W-what are you talking about?”

“You’re the one who should be my manager,” the Slickster stated.

Instead of laughing, or telling him he was nuts, I didn’t utter a word.  So it was left to Slick to break the silence.

“You’re in, right?” Slick asked.

“Let me think about it.”

By not saying no immediately, I knew — and I suspect Slick did as well — that my fate was likely sealed.  That, needless to say, begs a key question:  Why?  The answer, like so much in life, is both incredibly complicated and ridiculously simple.  On the complicated side was the fact that, despite my parents’ pleas, I had always deliberately avoided a plan for my life, which meant that almost all key decisions were made ad hoc.  While that meant little stability and even less security, it also allowed for happenstance and serendipity, which together enabled me to delve into all sorts of interests and pursuits, most of which proved to be fun.  I’d taught French and later screenwriting; written travel guides; been a film critic and a newspaper columnist; written for the screen; directed documentaries, instructional films, music videos, commercials, and a thriller; produced albums and penned countless liner notes.  I’d traveled the globe and met fascinating people from a million realms, all the while accepting challenges galore, often simply because I’d never done them before.

And, in part because I’d never repped anyone, but also because of who he was — musically and otherwise — I knew that the prospect of managing Slick was sorely tempting.

If there’s a Rosebud to my story, it’s probably that despite all my experiences, I still love thumbing my nose at authority.  Despite having heard over and over, from my parents, from teachers, from cops, and so forth that one is judged by the company he keeps,  I’m the one who nonetheless — or better yet, willfully — made a baseball instructional video with Pete Rose.  And interviewed mobsters.  And gang members.  And was on the verge of doing business with Slick Taylor.

“Let’s get something straight,” I said when Slick and I met at a coffee house later that day.  “This is not something I in any way need.”

“That’s why I want you.  Everybody else I ever worked with, it’s what they did, and all they did.  Meaning they cared more about the labels and bookers they dealt with on a regular basis than they ever cared about me.  Plus –”

“Yeah?”

“They were churning commissions every way they could, even on shit I shouldn’t have been doing.”

“And how do you know I won’t do the same?”

“Because you’ve got lots of other stuff going on.  And, like I told you before –”

“Yeah?

“God sent you to me.”

Once again those words should have been my cue to run for the hills.  But instead I made no effort to leave.

“If we go forward,” I said after studying Slick for a couple of moments.

“Still if?”

“There’s one thing I insist on.”

“Name it.”

“Trust.”

“I trust you with my life.”

“Your life is one thing.  How about your money?”

Slick laughed heartily, then nodded.  Only then did I go on.

“I need some promises.  Once we agree on something, no second-guessing.”

“Fine.”

“And no sniping if something goes south.”

“It won’t.”

“Time will tell.  And more important than all the rest, no going around my back or doing anything that shows me up.”

“I promise from the bottom of my heart.”

I studied Slick as I took a sip of green tea, watching him tap a funky rhythm on the table with his left hand.

“Slick, listen to me,” I said after letting him wait for a while.  “Though it may well be for the first time in your life, there’s got to be loyalty — and I mean loyalty across the board.”

“When was I ever not loyal?”

“What happened every single time you had a hit record?”

Clearly uncomfortable, Slick shrugged.  “You tell me.”

“You jumped companies.”

“To get a better deal,” the Slickster said proudly.

“Which meant short-term gains, but long-term losses.”

“Losses how?”

“What was the result of Muddy staying with Chess for so many years?  Or Miles staying with Columbia instead of hopscotching from label to label?

“Go ahead –”

“Compilation CDs.  Best Ofs.  And ultimately Boxed Sets.  All of which brought in a whole lot more than the little windfalls you made from label-jumping.  Which means what?”

“I’m listening –”

“Loyalty re-paid.”

“You really know how to hurt a guy,” Slick said, feigning sadness.

“Except that I’m trying to help.  How exactly did you get your nickname?”

“Not by being stupid.”

“By being slick.”

“Damn right.”

“And in a lifetime of slick moves, what’s the slickest one of all?”

Slick leaned back in his chair, thought for a moment, then smiled.  “I had a deal once to buy songs  for a hundred bucks apiece.”

“And?”

“Instead of paying other people, I wrote most of ’em myself.”

“And signed, if what I heard is correct, names like D. Duck and M. Mouse.”

“Slick, huh?”

“Except for one thing –”

“Yeah?”

“The publishing on some of ’em is now worth tens of thousands, not a penny of which you see.”

Slick frowned.  “What point you making?”

“If we work together — and it’s still if — we’re gonna play it smart, not slick.”

Slick took a deep breath, then nodded.

“With me?” I asked.

“Through thick and thin,” was his answer.

Though my plan had been to focus first on funding for a PSA, as luck would have it, something came up that caused me to fly to France.  But instead of going non-stop, I booked the trip via Boston, then set up a pre-flight office meeting with Slick, asking him to bring someone along with him, which elicited the response I expected.

“Why?”

“Because when we talk shop, I want witnesses.”

“Which means you’ll have one, too?”

“Exactly.”

“I thought you were insisting on trust.”

“Insisting?  Yes.  Taking chances?  No.”

“You’re tough.”

“Nope,” I said.  “Just careful.”

In case I needed proof that I was dealing with a universe totally different than my own, it was with a singer named Arlene, who was soon to be not the second, third, or even fifth Mrs. Slick Taylor (and whom I soon referred to as Lita Lite, as opposed to the recently divorced but still often seen Mrs. Taylor #13, a blonde named Darlene, whom I dubbed Lita White), that Slick arrived.

With an assistant of mine recording the session, I outlined my plans for Boston.  First I would meet with a top booking agent, Joe Rollins, since based upon the financial records I’d seen, the guy Slick had been using was not merely missing opportunities, but also blatantly stealing.  Though Rollins had spurned Slick’s overtures on several occasions, based upon a plan I outlined for him over the phone, plus our years of shared history, he was willing to reconsider, which pleased Slick immensely.

“That’s a move up,” he announced to Arlene.

“If I can make it happen,” I said.

“You will.  You’re coming through, and I like it!”

But what he didn’t like was hearing the concept I’d proposed to my friend at the record company, who, I learned, had also rejected several inquiries about Slick since his release from prison.  The notion was a journey of sorts, thanks to songs I selected, in which Slick would trace the evolution of black music from Blues through R&B and on into Rock & Roll, Soul, and Funk.

With Arlene whispering in his ear to goad him, Slick pondered for a moment, then started to pace, unnerving my assistant, a young Brit named Sam.

“If you’ve got a problem, let’s hear it,” I said to put an end to the melodramatics.

“D-damn right, I’ve got a p-problem,” Slick grumbled, stuttering the way he did when he was agitated or nervous.  “When I was with Lita, I-I picked the songs.”

“Then go get Lita,” I answered, knowing full well that the chances were greater of my playing for the Lakers or Slick becoming a ballerina than of his ever getting her back.

“W-what do you expect me to say?” Slick muttered.

“There are two choices.  Do right by saying thanks –”

“Or?”

“Stop wasting my time.”

To Arlene’s dismay, Slick burst into laughter.

“I love this motherfucker!” he announced to one and all.

My plans to sleep on the red-eye to Boston were disrupted by thoughts about Slick.  While it was indisputable, to me at least, that he was a giant in the world of popular music, the more I thought about his life and work, the more I noticed a strange pattern:  an asterisk next to many, if not most, of his major accomplishments.  Though he was thought to have made the first rock & roll record, due to what was billed as a marketing move by the distributor, it was released not under his name, but with an otherwise completely forgotten singer’s name on the label.  On the biggest-selling Slick & Lita song, one from which the signature guitar licks are imitated to this day, it’s actually a hired gun, not Slick, who’s playing.  And on another of their great cuts — one on which a legendary producer ran the session — Slick was actually paid a bonus not to show up for the recording session.

Worse still, because of his ego and his insecurities — both of which became even more pronounced during his coke sprees – the Slickster had effectively alienated nearly everyone who mattered in the music biz, to the point where, on a day when Slick muttered something about being his own worst enemy, I hushed him with a “Shhh!”

“Why Shhh?” Slick asked.

“Because if you say it too loud, five hundred guys might come running up screaming, Don’t be so goddamn sure!

The truth about Slick was simple:  he was a study in contradictions.  Though known as a guitarist, he was actually a far better keyboard player.  As he once explained to me, “On guitar, I’m a guy with a handful of tricks.”  Yet despite his self-deprecating remark, an instrumental track he cut called “Doodlin’” was not merely astonishing, but also monumentally influential among even the greatest players.  And though unable to read or write music, Slick was also, in my judgment, one of the three greatest band leaders of the history of R&B, Rock, and Soul, along with Ray Charles and James Brown.

Plus, he was remarkably perceptive and astute, often in surprising ways.  It was Slick who taught me that, sight unseen, one could differentiate a white audience from a black one simply by listening for a moment.  A white audience, he pointed out correctly, taps its feet on the first beat, whereas with blacks the foot-tapping is always on the second.  And it was he who explained to me that Ray Charles’ band sounds distinctive because  the arrangements use the instruments like a vocal choir, whereas in the great James Brown band, the foundation is a percussive drive deriving from African drumming.

As for his own band, starting with a belief that a black audience is always in search of something new, while whites clamor for favorite hits from the past, Slick consciously created a hybrid that allowed for the best of both worlds — especially during the days when out in front, microphone in hand, was the one-and-only Lita (as opposed to Lita-Lite, Lita-White, or any of the other singers who, to me at least, were little more than X-Marks-The-Spot).

But with the real Lita long gone, Slick’s belief about what was expected of the band almost caused our professional relationship to be stillborn.  The conversation in question began, as so many did with Slick, with his demand that I be completely open and frank about what we were to discuss — which meant, I came to realize, that he simply wanted to be told that he was right, brilliant, and great.  In this case what he wanted to know was simple:  “What did you think of my current live act?”

My answer, to Slick’s chagrin, was not that it was wonderful, marvelous, and perfect.  Instead, I stated that the word that came to mind was misguided.

“What the fuck does that mean?” Slick screamed.

“For one thing, why is there so much Slick & Lita?”

“Because that’s what they want, goddamnit!”

“Oh yeah?  Then tell me who’s they.”

Slick looked at me like I was from another planet.  “The audience, for Chrissake.”

“But you’re not giving ’em Slick & Lita” I responded.   “They’re getting Slick & Lita-Lite or Slick & Lita-White.”

“S-so you’re saying I should j-junk it?” he asked, starting to stutter as he did when confronted.

“Not junk it.  Give ’em a nice little medley, then move on to the new Slick we’re trying to create.”

Like a child after a scolding, Slick glared, then hung his head.  But to my surprise, a moment later he looked me in the eye and nodded.

“Do me a favor?” he asked.

“What’s that?”

“Keep standing up to me.”

I almost told him he had no reason to worry, but instead I bit my tongue.

For three different reasons, I dawdled before calling Slick after my meetings in Boston, then proceeded to downplay my successes there.  First, I didn’t want him in on one of my prime selling points, which was that he, largely for all the wrong reasons, had name recognition throughout the world.  Nor did I want to stress that a key condition, with both the booking agent and the label, was that I would have an active involvement both with live dates and with the record deal.  But  most important of all was that I didn’t want to create the expectation that I would be reporting in — or soliciting responses from him — on a day-to-day  basis or whenever something happened.

With that in mind, I chose not check in with him while in France, or even to return his many messages when I first returned to California.  Nor did I accept any of the weekly invitations to drop by his place on Sundays, or take his calls when he was simply checking in, or coming up with ideas, or just looking for someone to confirm his existence.  And I flatly refused to be the one to make the decision as to who was to accompany him  as the Lita surrogate (and bed mate) —  Arlene or Darlene — on the European tour we were putting together.

Other than when Slick would drop by on what he claimed was an impromptu basis, almost always with one of the women in tow, our time together, much to his chagrin, was reserved for when there was something very specific that I — not he — wanted to discuss, be it the forthcoming trip, the sequencing of his new act, the choice or a road manager, or something else.

That, not surprisingly, didn’t stop the barrage of calls, most of which I chose not to take, whether from Slick, of from Darlene, who always wanted info of some sort or other, or worse, from Arlene, who was infinitely more Machiavellian.  She was the one who reached me in the car one Saturday afternoon as I was driving back from Santa Barbara, and spoke in hush-hush tones.

“I don’t know if you know this,” she whispered to start the conversation, “but Slick is getting worked up.”

“About what?”

“You and me.”

“Why?”

“I guess he thinks we’re diggin’ on each other,” Arlene said  coyly.  “You do think I’m cute, don’t you?”

“Of course, you’re cute.”

“And I think you are, too, baby.  So what do you think?”

“What do I think about what?”

“If he’s gonna get all jealous and shit, what do you say we at least give him something to be jealous about?”

Since that was the last thing in the world I wanted or needed, I graciously declined.

In all fairness to Slick, there were times when he could be warm, funny, and even charming.  Often, he brought me presents for my kids, which was sweet even though they were usually his own CDs, videos, or even vinyl albums.  And he never failed to be courtly and gracious toward my wife.  But the incident that stands out the most was when I took him to a screening of a documentary about the Blues at the Getty Museum.  Hardly inconspicuous given that he was the only black present for a film about black music — and wore a lime green suit and hat that would have stood out in any crowd — it was only a matter of time until a museum official recognized him, then approached in the most unctuous way imaginable.  Treating me as though I were invisible as he reached across me to introduce himself to Slick, the fopish curator fawned relentlessly, then asked how he could possibly reach the living legend so as to invite him for a meal at some point and perhaps even induce him to speak at a gathering.

“Best way is always through my manager,” Slick said.

“And who is that?”

“The guy you’re leaning over and ignoring,” Slick informed him, ending the conversation by adding, “Now if you’ll excuse us…”

Aware that Slick’s finances desperately needed replenishing, it was to Europe that the booking agent and I turned to find some dates, since there, like many black musicians of his vintage, Slick had a significantly larger audience — and one, parenthetically, that was far less judgmental about his personal reputation.

But even as the forthcoming tour began to move from idea to reality, Slick approached me with a dilemma:  he needed to find money to pay for band rehearsals.

My response was that instead of scheduling rehearsals, we should solicit some local gigs that could bring in sufficient revenue to pay the musicians and, potentially, put some money into Slick’s own pocket as well.  The key would be to do it on a sliding scale, so that if the band were to play alone, the payment would be at one level.  But if Slick gave the club one week’s notice that he would join them on-stage, the payment would increase significantly.

Slick was delighted by the idea, and became even more thrilled when I mentioned that, if it proved successful at one club, we could consider adding other venues up and down the Southern California coast.  But I cautioned him that first we would have to demonstrate two things:  that the band — and he, when he chose to join them on-stage — could draw; and even more importantly that he was indeed the new man he claimed to be, and no longer the one who tried to take advantage in ways that often backfired.

“God sent you to me,” Slick said.  “Why would I do something like that?”

Despite the hurt feelings he manifested, I explained that the place I had in mind was not merely owned by someone I knew, but more importantly was located near to where I lived, which meant that I wanted zero chance of embarrassment.

“You’ve got my word,” Slick stated clearly, only to make a demand for renegotiation once the first date was announced, claiming, “That’s the way the game is played.”

To Slick’s dismay, I not only killed the gig, but also informed him that I was pulling the plug on the by then imminent European tour.

Instantly calls started pouring in, not just from Slick, but also from Lita-Lite, Lita-White, band members, back-up singers, and even a lawyer who was a fringe member of his crew, all of them begging and pleading for me to reconsider.  Then came emails galore plus all sorts of “make amends” gifts, including roses and candy for my wife.

For reasons I’ll probably never fully understand, I agreed to a meeting with Slick, who showed up filled with contrition.  “I b-blew it, I’m s-sorry, and I promise I’ll n-never do it again,” he stuttered.  “Old habits die hard, but that’s n-no excuse, and I know it.  P-please, please.  I’ll do anything you say.”

Against my better judgment, I yielded.

To Slick’s surprise — though consternation is probably a more appropriate word — instead of going along on the swing through France, Italy, Holland, and Germany, or even making a cameo appearance at one of the venues, I sent my British assistant, Sam.  Fortunately, or perhaps because Slick was careful to be on his best behavior, despite the lost luggage, missed connections, and other screw-ups that are part of life on the road, the only serious complications were of the female variety.  Arlene, aka Lita-Lite, started the trip, lasting only through four festival dates in France.  Then she was dropped in favor of Lita-White, Darlene, who was flown in to share the stage —  and Slick’s bedroom — in Italy and most of Holland.  But by the time the band reached Germany, it was she who was on a plane headed home, while Lita-Lite, Arlene, made a triumphant return to Europe.

With both his confidence and his bank account in far better shape, Slick returned to California eager to meet so that we could discuss the forthcoming album.  Assuming everything was peachy, he was surprised when I told him to bring someone with him.

“Again with the witnesses?” he asked.  “Don’t you trust me?”

“More to the point, can I be certain you trust me?”

The Slickster laughed.  “I’m the most trusting guy I know.”

“And the luckiest in love,” I added, setting a time and date.

It was with Arlene, who was wearing a see-through blouse and a mini-skirt that looked suspiciously like a belt, that Slick showed up at my office.

“We’re ready to talk business,” he announced.

“I can tell.”

Leading them into the conference room, where Sam was waiting, I watched the three of them exchange hugs, then encouraged them to settle into seats.

“So I’ve got some ideas about what we should be doing,” the Slickster said to kick things off.

“What kind of ideas?” I asked.

“About material.  Where we should record.  What kind of budget.”

“That’s all been established,” I stated.

“When?”

“Before I went to Boston.”

“Then how come I don’t know about it?”

“Don’t know?  Or don’t want to know?”

I watched Slick squirm for a moment, then spoke again.  “Slick,” I said softly but distinctly, “don’t do this.”

“Do what?”

“Start playing your Slickster games.”

Slick glared at me, then turned to Arlene.  “You ever heard about any of this shit he’s talkin’?

“Nope.”

“See?” Slick said to me triumphantly.

“Slick, listen to me carefully.” I said, “I’m giving you one last chance if you want this record deal.  But it’s got to be the way we agreed.”

“I didn’t agree to shit.”

I shook my head, then smiled.  “You know, you’re setting me up to say something I’ve been wanting to say forever.”

“What the fuck you talking about?”

To Slick’s surprise, it was to my assistant that I turned.  “Play it, Sam.”

“P-play what?” the Slickster asked warily.

Instead of answering, Sam hit the Play button on the tape recorder in front of him.

Slick and Arlene started fidgeting as my voice could be heard on tape from the meeting in which the Boston deal was discussed.  Then both of them turned nauseous when finally Slick’s recorded voice said, “I love this motherfucker!”

“What do you say now?” I asked Slick.

“H-how do I know it’s m-me?” he mumbled weakly.

With Slick’s departure from both my office and my life went what turned out to be his last chance for a record deal, with the exception of some unpromoted releases on the internet.

Ironically, I did go on to produce a CD by someone named Taylor, for several months later I got a request from Lita-Lite, Darlene, who had somehow acquired the funds to record an album.  I picked the songs, put together the band, and brought in people to guest on a few cuts.  Happily, the result was surprisingly good.

But from what I gather, the Slickster, who died about a year later, was anything but pleased.

3 replies »

  1. Very compelling piece, wonderful characters, but a little like the mark twain story that he just ends because he doesnt know how to wrap it up.

  2. Herr Swyer: Your fine post was a reminder of the days (mid1950’s) when i would listen to John R the dj on WLAC radio whose signal would reach all the way to Wisconsin and into my room introducing me to a culture quite different from the farming community where I was raised. I would purchase records from Ernie’s record mart (COD) and today still listen to the artists of that era.Thank you for sharing what is a most interesting life and I wish you all the best in your practice of proper mental hygiene.