Whether it’s Neil Young singing about his roadie and friend Bruce Berry in his landmark tune, “Tonight’s the Night” or Charlie Parker naming a classic Bebop tune after his drug dealer, “Moose the Mooche,” musicians have realized that it’s the people in the background that are often the ones with the interesting lives. Professionals who not only drive the buses, make the costumes, or run the soundboards, but also help give context and life lessons to the artist’s work. Aside from making stuff happen behind the scenes, these over-looked workers sometimes take centre stage. Take for example Lemmy; did you know that before he got famous as the lead singer of Motorhead that he was a roadie for Jimi Hendrix? He is not the only one either. David Gilmour was a roadie for Pink Floyd before they asked him to join them as lead guitarist. In fact, Noel Gallagher(Oasis), Jello Biafra (Dead Kennedy’s), Krist Novoselic (Nirvana) and even Henry Rollins (Black Flag) all got their start as roadies. 1
There are guys like Owsley Stanley (nicknamed “Bear”) who are so creative and important as backstage “employees” (for lack of a better word) that they created whole new landscapes and ways of approaching the industry. Stanley was the Manager/Sound Engineer/Entrepreneur of the Grateful Dead back in the early days. He was the brain child of the Dead’s now famous “Wall of Sound2.” The Wall of Sound was a cutting edge sound system that brought a new audiophile experience to Deadheads; changing what is possible sonically for a large scale and outdoor venue. Some may say that this was the turning point of when large stadium concerts went from distorted muffled sounding concerts (think about what the Beatles or Stones said about the sound of their early shows) to the clear crisp sounds that we expect today. If that weren’t important enough Owsley Stanley was also the guy who started off the now famous and groundbreaking idea of taping and exchanging Grateful Dead’s shows for free. Being a Napster 40 years ahead of the curve he proved that there can be a market and profits in giving the stuff away for free; a concept that we are still trying to wrap our heads around today.
In this podcast we are talking to a Bartender/Hair Stylist who in his day stirred up more than just drinks, to tell us what it was like to be in the hot seat for a star of the sixties. Bob Croutchman was a Bartender at a Casino in Canada as well as a private hair stylist for many of the leading stars of the day. He opens up in this interview to tell us a fascinating tale of what it was like cutting Liberace’s hair and partying with the Rat Pack. He tells stories that both entertain and enlighten. Sit back and enjoy my interview with Bob Croutchman.
Note: a bit of a back story- This interview came out of another interview that I was trying to set up with a leading Elvis Tribute Artist (Patrick McGuire – episode 3). Bob as it turns out is also a leading Elvis Tribute Artist Trainer/Manager and has helped hundreds of aspiring Elvis hopefuls. For this podcast Patrick McGuire joins me on a roller coaster ride of conversation to help me dig deep into the life of Bob Croutchman.
- The Wall of Sound consisted of 89 300-watt solid-state and three 350-watt vacuum tube amplifiers generating a total of 26,400 watts of audio power. As Stanley described it,
“The Wall of Sound is the name some people gave to a super powerful, extremely accurate PA system that I designed and supervised the building of in 1973 for the Grateful Dead. It was a massive wall of speaker arrays set behind the musicians, which they themselves controlled without a front of house mixer. It did not need any delay towers to reach a distance of half a mile from the stage without degradation."