February 12th 1980. The Flying Machine was the name of the club.
It sat on a two lane that stretched through farm land in the most southern
part of North Eastern Ohio. The buzz was, "Eric, oh my, Clapton "Is In
The house." They didn't say it like that in 1980 but I know your down with
that. Eric Clapton was at least a zillion miles away from the middle of
nowhere. Which is where everybody, in my band, knew we were. The crowd
wouldn't let it die.
This particular house had been a road house for a long long time.
It was a farm house that had been added onto over the years by one drunken
hillbilly after another. That night the most sought after English
harmonica player of the late sixties, John Mayall, was in this house. I was
16 when I heard "Turning Point", his breakaway acustic album of the early
70's. I had missed the "Blues Breakers", the band he was in with Clapton
"Turning Point" had caught my ear. I was looking forward to hearing him
He's a legend, right?
It was time to open, the band was pumped, the pump was primed, we
knew the crowd, and they knew what we could do, so we did it. Scene Magazine
said we "riveted the audience to their seats." That sounds painful, but
it must be a good thing. Now before I bring the big guy out you need to be
reminded that it was February, a COLD February and it was North Pole Cold
on February 12th, 1980. The wind in the parking lot cut through my corduroys.
The room was packed, the lights went down. Then as a throw back to
Blues tradition, John's back-up band took the stage without him. Their
job was to warm up the crowd, it was going to take some work. The place was
freezing. His band was a power trio... OK... it was a warped Blues tradition.
After a couple tunes it was time. STAR-TIME LADIES AND GENTLEMEN.
John jumps on stage and I mean JUMPS on stage. He looked like the wildman
from SomewhereIdontknow, Borneo. He was wearing a pair of cut offs and
nothing else. The legs had been cut off above the crotch, short shorts.
No shirt, no shoes, just good ole bare-chested John. I got empathetic goose
bumps just looking at him. It was unbelievable! I thought maybe he was
trying to be funny, it was funny alright, funny like Bozo. I found it de-
pressing. Guess he was all fired up, but none of it was making it's way to
It was my 26th birthday, I left before he got down. I heard he never
did Get Down,... now there's some vernacular from the time. Oh... I didn't
get to meet him either, but I had a nice long talk with Eric on my way
out, I hadn't seen him since high school. Schmidt, it was good to see you.