The first time
Bo and the band performed together was with drummer Greg Shuck on the
old proscenium stage known then as the Extempore at the Cedar Theater
during Cedarfest. Bo appeared out of nowhere a few minutes before showtime
dressed in what looked like a bus driver's uniform. He greeted the band
softly, grabbed a wad of bills from the promoter, led us onstage and
began to play, leaving us to listen, catch on and join in. In between
shows Bo regaled us with stories from the "old days." I've
since found out he has a vast collection of Chuck Berry narratives but
we steered him from Rock & Roll to personal questions.
gave a great account of growing up on the South Side and told us his
first instrument was the violin(!?) and that at one point his mother
had said he'd never amount to nothing but a purse-snatcher. He mentioned
he'd done a lot of things in his life but he was extremely proud to
have never snatched a purse! Both shows went very well and after the
final song the crowd refused to leave chanting BO...BO...BO...The
promoter came backstage, told
us Bo's contract specifically stated no encore, and asked if
the Butanes would go back out as it seemed there was no other way the
crowd was going to leave. As we were walking onto the stage Bo joined
us asking: "Do
you mind if I play too?" I told him he wasn't allowed to play with
us unless we could play Crackin Up. I started playing
the song, the band came in and Bo walked over and told me he had forgotten
how the song started. I gave him the first line and away we went. I
even sang the vocal group backing part much to Bo's amusement. We sat
backstage afterward and he laughingly told me I "wasn't no Jerome!"
He poured me a few drinks from his bottle of Grand Marnier and slipped
away with a newfound date.
The second time the Butanes backed Bo Diddley it was with drummer Robb
Stupka at the Cabooze. Larry Sahagian (former frontman with the Urban
Guerrillas) had just taken over the booking of the Cabooze from St.
Croixs newest resident, Charlie Campbell, and this was one of
his first major shows. Larry picked Bo up at the airport and Bo immediately
said he needed to pick up a few things and then eat some liver and onions.
Larry drove him over to make his purchases and then took him to the
Uptown bar/Keys restaurant where Bo ate a satisfying meal of - you guessed
it - liver and onions. Bo also ended up with a large quantity of some
of something which, I believe, explains why he had so much more fun
on stage with us than usual that night.
fine versions of a shuffle ("That Woman Is Crazy,") a Bo classic
("Diddley Daddy") and a slow Blues (Christmas Is Cancelled,")
it was the fourth song of this set (a jam the band named Bo Diddley
Is A Rum Drinker) that stunned longtime fan Tad Selzer. The
Butanes playing Reggae he was heard to exclaim! This started his
quest to buy the band Piña Coladas - no easy feat in a dive like
the Cabooze. A few songs later Tad proudly deposited Michael Howlands
version of an island classic at the edge of the stage. Containing things
like cheap white liquor, very little fruit juice and peach schnapps
(!?) the cocktails were barely palatable but enjoyed by the band nonetheless.
constant tuning allowed him time to figure out what he should
play next and allowed the band to consume mass quantities. Bo played
long after closing time and that almost killed Larry. He kept pointing
to his wrist and pointing offstage while Bo proceeded to play chorus
after chorus of a fifteen minute medley of doo-wop songs. As the song
finally came to an end Larry looked relieved and quit pointing. Bo took
that to mean he should/could start up again, regaling the crowd with
an almost twenty minute version of "Bo Diddley Put The Rock In
Rock & Roll." Keyboard player Steve Kilbride thought we were
playing two sets so he did not imbibe accordingly and was last seen
running off the bandstand to the mens room as the final notes
rang out. Soundman Mike Ronkainen managed to quickly clear the bar at
the end of the overlong night by the crafty use of a Dwight Yoakam CD.
(It worked on me!)