Before there was a Beat Farmers, a Jacks or a Buddy Blue Band, there was THE ROCKIN' ROULETTES! Everybody gots to start somewhere, and this was my first club band.
ROCKIN' ROULETTES: Mark Williams, Rolle Love, and an amazingly youthful Buddy Blue
It was 1981. I was 23, going to community college, getting bad grades, working for minimum wage as a clerk at a record store and was married to my high school sweetheart, who had grown exquisitely fat 'n' surly. Suffering a very premature midlife crisis, I deciced to put a rockabilly band together with a drummer friend named Jim Poole. I'd played in high school garage bands before, done a little work backing bluesman Tomcat Courtney and even played briefly in a country Top 40 band (June Bohl & the East County Boys!), but it'd been a while since I'd done any gigging. All Jim and I lacked was a bassist, so we put an ad in the local paper.
Some nut named Tim McCarthy answered the ad. He seemed drunk and almost incoherent when he called, but what I discerned was that he and a drummer named Mark Williams had recently split from a punk band called the Products and were looking for a guitarist. I already had a drummer, I hated punk rock and I wasn't interested in working with demented alcoholics (that would come later in the Beat Farmers!), so I blew Tim off.
Later, Mark called sober. As it turned out, he seemed like a nice, normal guy and the bonus was that he was roomates with Chris Sullivan, bassist with the Penetrators, which was then the hottest band in San Diego. Mark said that we could get gigs opening for the Penetrators. That was the selling point to me. I ruthlessly dumped Jim to jump on this Penetrators-opening-act bandwagon thing.
Someone or other intruduced us to a sax player named Dana Garrett, who resembled Howdy Doody; we hired him and christened our band the Rockin' Roulettes. Everyone wound up with nicknames, too: Dana became "Kid Tater" because he looked like that's what his name should be. Mark became "Willie" because he looked like he should be a Willie. Tim became "Snake" because he liked to do this little thing he called his "snake-dance" where he'd flick out a switchblade and lick the thing like a lollipop as he swiveled his hips. I later became Buddy Blue, shortened from "Big Bladder Buddy Blue." Country Dick (then just known as "Dan McLain") gave me that name because I frequently would drop trou and take a leak in the parking lots of clubs. Are we all clear on this now???
The Roulettes' first gigs were at the Home Of Guiding Hands, a home for the retarded and mentally ill where Willy and Snake worked as attendents. To this day, these were the best audiences I've played for. You see, the inmates were so fucked up they couldn't tell the difference between the Roulettes and the Rolling Stones to them, we were some big-time rock stars. The 'tards got themselves worked up into such a frenzy when we played that they'd literally shit their pants, bang their heads against the wall or faint dead away.
After a few of these shows to hone our chops, the Roulettes graduated to playing San Diego dives like the Zebra Club, All The Way Inn, My Rich Uncle's and The Spirit of course, we opened many shows for the Penetrators too, as promised. I don't think anyone was real impressed with us though, because, quite honestly, we weren't very good at all in these days. At least we were unique: The Roulettes mixed blues and R&B in with the rockabilly material, our limited chops gave us a nice garage sensibility and the sound, if nothing else, was different than anyone else's around. Anyway, we were having a blast and that was the important thing. Emboldened by all the poon-tang presenting itself, I even left my fat 'n' surly wife and moved into the house with Willy and Sully, where we debauched lustily on a nightly basis. What fun!
There was trouble brewing though: Snake's propensity for imbibing booze 'n' drugs coupled with his already limited skills as bassist made him somewhat, ummm, unreliable. Once, we even found him passed out in a puddle of his own piss on our bathroom floor, unconscious but still holding his weenus in his hand. While this was highly entertaining, when he stopped showing up for gigs we decided he had to go. While we searched for a new bass player, Chris ("Sully," we called him) graciously consented to fill in on bass. Eventually we found a guy from Chicago named Randy Ross to join the band. Randy was problematic so problematic that he never even stuck around long enough to acquire a nickname. First of all, he was the first person ever to sport a mullet. Second, he was almost as surly as my ex-wife and punched me in the mouth during a gig one night. After a few months, he, too, had to go. Once again, Sully became a Rockin' Roulette.
We eventually hooked up with young Rolle Love. Rolle wasn't even old enough to get in clubs and had never been in a real band before but he was a sweet-natured kid, he was real purty, little girls liked him a whole lot and he was eager to learn. Rolle never got a nickname because when your name is already Rolle Love and you're real purty, you don't need a nickname. We also added a lead singer named Tony Harrison (who became A.C. Carter). Tony sang real swell and was black, which we figured made us way bitchen.
Buddy, Willie and Rolle
Soon after re-vamping the band, Kid Tater decided to take a powder he started a cheesy lounge act called The Fabulous Spud Brothers who were wrenchingly annoying and so of course gots zillions of gigs and made a ton of money. A.C. walked on us shortly thereafter as well. That left me, Willie and Rolle. Somehow or other, probably because it was just the three of us and the personnel changes were finally behind us, we actually got pretty good in the Roulettes' last year of existence. But it would soon end.
Country Dick was booking a nightclub called Bodie's, which became the Roulette's main gig. One night, he approached me and said that the manager of the Rockin' Rebels (a happening L.A. rockabilly band) was there to check us out and might be interested in taking us on as clients. He said we should do a set of all originals and play our asses off to impress him.
Turned out that wasn't the case. It was actually Jerry Raney he had watching us, and after the gig, they came up and asked me to join a band they were forming which, of course, became the Beat Farmers. Dick and Jerry were leagues above me in the local pecking order, being in a band with them meant making enough dough to be able to quit my crappy record store job, and so I jumped at the chance. The Rockin Roulettes' run ended early in 1983.
Willie was not pleased and didn't speak to me for a long time after that but finally came around and decided I was pleasant fellow after all. And I guess you all know the rest of the story. So Willie approached me a couple months ago wanting to do a Roulettes reunion for our 20th Anniversary. Well, why not? We were former bandmates and roomies and had a great time together back in the days when our prostates were still fully functioning. We decided to go with Sully instead of Rolle, Randy or Snake on bass because he, too, was a former roomie and all three of us still live within a few blocks of one another in luverly Le Mezza. Kid Tater joined us as well.
EPILOGUE FOR THE CAST, IN ORDER OF APPEARANCE:
MY FAT, SURLY EX-WIFE remarried and moved to Alaska after we divorced, where I'm sure she got even fatter and surlier.
JIM POOLE died in 1983, of causes I was never clear on. Poor bastid.
TIM MCCARTHY/SNAKE currently manages a bar in Erie, Pennsylvania. Scary thought!
MARK WILLIAMS/WILLIE was in a San Diego roots rock band called The Border Angels in the late '80s, but hasn't played in any working bands in quite some time. He currently works in the record distribution biz.
CHRIS SULLIVAN/SULLY formed the Jacks with Buddy in 1986, played for a while with Bruce Joyner after the Jacks broke up in '90 and then retired from da music biz. He currently works in marketing.
DANA GARRETT/KID TATER was a founding member of the Jacks with Buddy and Sully, before we kicked him out because he looked too much like Howdy Doody. Since then, he's played with a buncha bands in the west and midwest, including Li'l Elmo and Hot Monkey Love. Tater is still a working musician and currently lives in Vegas.
DAN MCLAIN/COUNTRY DICK passed away in 1995, as I'm sure everyone knows. Poor bastid.
RANDY ROSS seems to have disappeared, no one knows his whereabouts, but his 1982 proto-mullet inspired a hair-do sensation that endures to this day.
TONY HARRISON/A.C. CARTER was another founding member of the Jacks but only played a few gigs with the group. His current whereabouts are unknown.
ROLLE LOVE went on to join the Beat Farmers after the first bass player whose name I can't even recall now quit before the group ever played a gig. He stayed with the group till Dick passed away, played with the Paladins for a while, toured as roadie for Ratt (true!) then retired from music. He currently works as a janitor for the San Diego school district and somehow over the years turned from being a pretty boy into being Henry Rollins.
JERRY RANEY stayed with Farmers till the bitter end, briefly played with Buddy in the short-lived Raney-Blue in '96 and currently plays in Powerthud.
Why do I tell you all this? BECAUSE IT WAS FUN! YA BASTIDS!
LOOV & KEESUM,
Butt E Blew