WILDER'S WHOLE WORLD: I got to be a roadie

By Dwayne Wilder
Special to the Herald Democrat

It was the spring of 1979 and I was a freshman at the University on the Great South Plains in Lubbock. That day, I got to do something I never thought possible much less never thought of: I got to be a roadie.

Back in those days – said in ‘Old Man Voice’ – colleges got a discount for concert tickets from just about any act including popular acts filling stadiums in big cities. At Tech, it was $10 for a ticket and I had heard this new band I liked: Boston. They were coming to the campus of 20,000 (40,000 now) to do a concert on their way out west. Sadly, it would be my first concert – EVER. I was 19 years old- yeah, a late bloomer!

It was a great concert; and I will never forget their first hit as they played it live to me (and thousands of my friends), “More than a Feeling.” I still recall the motions of the band members as they went through the instrumental portion of the song. Every time I hear it now, I will remember just what each player did that night. It was very cool…

NOTE: The opening act that night was a little-known band, “Huey Lewis and the News,” who you might have heard of since the 1980s…

The next day – still aglow with the live music of Boston – I strode into the office of my work-study job on campus. My boss stopped me first thing; and said I needed to report to the Coliseum – the same place the concert had been held the night before. He quickly explained that the band needed help getting packed up and they had asked his office to supply someone for the afternoon. I was to stay and help all afternoon and leave at my usual time.

I couldn’t believe it! I had had the privilege of going to a ‘big-time’ concert at my college and now I was getting to work with the band! No way!!! Once I got there, I quickly learned that I would not be ‘working with the band’ as they had left earlier that morning; all that was left were the crew who set up and tore down the stage/sets for the concerts—in other words, the ‘roadies.’

I didn’t know that much about music much less the logistics of Live Music; I just enjoyed listening to it. So, here I was, this naïve college freshman learning the ins-and-outs of getting bands from one place to another and being set up to do their craft. And boy, did I learn! Did you know that each concert uses miles – yes, as in it is 330 MILES from here to Lubbock – of electrical cords --- and this is 1979; I can only imagine what it is now!

After about an hour of rolling up wire and moving risers, a song came on the Public Announcement system, “The Loadout/Stay,” by Jackson Browne. This is a song about the unsung heroes of the live concert world and what they had to do so the musical act can play their music to the thousands of adoring fans worldwide. The ‘Stay’ part of the song is a remake, but it also is a tribute – to those fans – who make concerts something special to the musicians. Today, it is a classic song, but in 1979 it was relatively new; and perfectly appropriate for what was happening at the Coliseum in Lubbock, Texas.

I was tired from ‘roll them cases out and lift them amps’ – as the song says, but the playing of that song was so perfectly timed that I was renewed with energy and effort. I guess that’s why they played it; it got the guys fired up to keep going. By the time I knew it I was ‘hauling them trusses down and getting them up them ramps.’

I was working with an older guy – classic long beard and hair, jeans and t-shirt – who I swear I would have believed if he had told me he started as a roadie with Buddy Holly! He knew his stuff and was a great guy to work with. He told me some of the ends and outs of the business just in case I was stupid enough to quit college and join up. I took the hint as I worked hard for the new band, Boston, that day.

I left at my appointed time; I had spent four hours ‘slamming doors and folding chairs’ with the guys who would be on the road soon, hence the name. My guy told me they would be done within an hour or so; and head west to meet up with the band at the next city on the tour. It was a heck of a life, but it was a life; one he loved.

I waved to him as I left; and I waved my days as a ‘roadie’ good-bye as well…but I’ve never forgotten that load-out because it was more than a feeling.

Dwayne Wilder

Dwayne Wilder is a Sherman native who currently lives in Denison. Wilder’s Whole World is his commentary about life in Texoma and the world. Wilder can be reached at cmandad17@gmail.com. The views and opinions expressed here are the author’s own and do not necessarily reflect those of Texoma Marketing and Media Group.