“How about Steel Wagon?”
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Title: Renée’s Rock Reviews

Address: reneesrockreviews.blogspot.com

Author: Renée Westbrook

From: San Diego

Blogging since: May 2011

From the blog’s Profile Info:

Renée Westbrook began her career specializing in the coverage of indie artists and female guitar players for webzines.  She went on to cover theater, dance, comedy, travel, and music for Curve magazine, San Diego Union-Tribune (now the U-T), The Record, the defunct Rockrgrl magazine, and Examiner.com.

Post Date: March 22, 2013

Because I was my father’s only daughter and had learned years before how to work him, I used my sweetest daddy’s girl voice to explain how famous I was going to be, and he eventually gave in to my request to let our newly founded band practice in the playroom — on the following conditions: (1) we would enter and exit using the outside door, and (2) the guys were not allowed to come in the house or use the restroom.

     Come rehearsal day, Chubb showed up first. As ordered, he entered from the outside gate. Slink and No Hand followed shortly after. My body was present, but thanks to the booze and pills, the overall package was a steaming hot mess.

     Unsteady and full of ego, my onstage accoutrements consisted of a grungy T-shirt and raggedy goldenrod colored gym trunks that dangled from my hips because they were so tattered and torn.  I even did the Steven Tyler scarf-on-the-microphone thing.

     We spent the first 15 minutes arguing over what to play, until I slurred yet another reminder about the rehearsal space. “Hit Me With Your Best Shot” won out, of course.  The next 15 to 20 minutes were spent figuring out the arrangement. I already knew the words, so I played Miss Bossypants until they got so irritated they had to shut me up.

Finally, the axe players were set. I tried very hard to focus and No Hand counted us in.  After about ten bars of something so horrific that a deaf person wouldn’t want to feel the vibrations, No Hand waved us to a stop.

Never in the history of American wannabe garage bands has a group of so-called musicians single-handedly massacred a tune the way we did Benatar’s. Maybe it was the drummer. Oh yeah, we didn’t have one. (We had figured we’d eventually work him in when the time was right.)

Remember what I said about my singing? Dousing a lack of talent with alcohol and painkillers does not a singer make. I slurred my way through less than 15 bars of the song and was already more than half a beat off. Don’t ask about my pitch. It was my best shot, but I couldn’t have hit the right notes if I stood 12 inches away.

     Like I said, I could carry a tune. That’s different from singing with a band. I knew the lyrics and the melody when Benatar sang it. It was a whole different story when I stepped up to the mic.

No Hand complained about how bad we sucked and Slink joined in. “Hey, why don’t we come up with a name,” I offered. 

“Yeah,” Slink said.

Rock divas first: “How about Steel Wagon?”

“Sounds great if you’re Dolly Parton’s backup band,” Chubb deadpanned. 

“We should call ourselves Rock of Ages,” Mr. Santana said.

“How about Black Stone Band,” Slink pitched.

“That sucks,” I mumbled. And so it went.  With each round, every member of our nameless band came up with a name more wrong than the one before. No Hand finally got so pissed off he quit. Then Slink.

They loaded out and split. Me and Chubb stayed and tried to hit the tune with our best shot, but we didn’t get far. 

Rock and roll music changed my life and continues to do so. But my first and only band broke up before we could agree on a name, and I never became a famous rock icon. Still, for one or two hours, through alcohol addiction, a serious lack of singing talent, and sheer delusion, I was a rock star.

I was Mick Jagger in his purse-lipped prime. I was Benatar. No matter how delusional, no matter how drunk, I was a rock star, living the dream.

Man was it worth it.

[Post edited for length and content.]

Read "I Was a Rock Star, Part One"

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