In September, l999, I sat Cooker down in front of a tape recorder and I said, "Ok, start talking." Hereís what I got:
Wish I could remember who was playing that night, but I walked into the Troupadour with this girl, Cathy Rollins, a Playboy centerfold. When we got inside the club, I noticed Neil Young sitting at a table that was loaded with Heineken bottles. I knew him well enough to go over and say Hi and he invited us over to his house after the show. We got to his house, parked the car and started walking down this driveway and all of a sudden this huge guy comes up to us and says where ya going? I said, Neil told us we could come over. He goes, No, just the girl.
This pissed me off because I knew Neil, but he just wanted the girl. Cathy said, no, man, weíre with Cooker and we all just left. After that, after I saw Neil on TV doing all that Farm Aid shit, Iíd think, "you, cocksucker."
Joe Cocker tape:
We were living in Cherry Lodge in Bremerton, Washington and all of a sudden I get the phone call I had been waiting for--that the record company had just given us the money to make an album. We had to fly to L.A., so they sent us money and the plane tickets would be in the Seatle airport. The money part was exciting, but we had been eating oysters off the beach. Nancy went to the library and got a book on oysters, so she could learn a lot of different ways to prepare oysters, because we were eating them every day. We had about two hundred feet of beach front and when the tide went out, there was nothing but oysters. Plus, I used to go up to this little bar up the road about a mile or so and shoot pool. We had no real income, but Iíd bring home twenty or thirty dollars almost every night from shooting pool, so when we finally got the call, we were happy that we would have some money and something else to eat.
But the record compnay had sent us $300 in cash. I remember just looking at that money several times that day and counting it. We had to take every form of transportation available that day to get to L.A. except a train. We were drinking all the way to the ferry right from the beginning. We drove to the ferry, we took the boat, got off the boat, took a car to the airport. To this day, I donít know what happened to the car, but we got on the airplane. We flew from Seattle to Burbank and Dick Monda met us at the airport. We were gone when Dick met us, drunk as skunks. We had to be helped off the plane, but we had $300 on us and we were celebrating like crazy, but it was only a three hour trip.
But Dick was there to meet us and he took us into Hollywood where we checked into the Landmark. We went upstairs and checked into the room and I called my friend, Ron, immediately. Ron Davies. The TV didnít work, so we made them bring us a new TV. While we were waiting on the TV, I decided to meet Ron across the street. Nancy was gonna stay in the room, so i went over to Toskoís to wait for Ron and I drank Marguritas the size of fish bowls--had to use two hands to drink out of one--until ron finally showed up. Ron and I went back across the street to the Lankmark. Ron had some coke with him and as soon as we walked back in the door of the motel, thereís Joe Cocker wandering around the lobby. Since Ron had known him through A&M Records, Ron went over and asked him how he was doing, but he was a little spaced out, so Ron said, well come on, come with us. My buddy just got into town. Come up and celebrate with us, so the three of us went back up to the room.
We started jammin, but the manager had it out for Joe. He was staying there at the Landmark, too. Heíd been living there. Stevie Wonderís Band was staying in the same motel, and they were out in the halls blowing horns, so the manager must have had a big bone to pick with Joe. We were sitting there playing acoustic guitars. We werenít that loud as opposed to some of the other tenants. Joe must have pissed the manager off at some point--some where along the way. The manager was just looking for a good excuse to kick him out. We just happened to be the excuse he used. And we all got thrown out.
So we all decided to go out to the Palomino Club. It was raining that night. Cocker had on green satin pants, one sandal on when we walked into the Palomino and all we wanted to do was sit down and drink right. We were sitting there and then the next thing I know, an announcer gets on the mike and says that there is a celebrity in the house and he pointed back to our table and while the spotlights were pointing to us he said, "Joe Cocker."
At one point Roger Miller, was on stage singing a very, very quiet song, just him and his guitar, and just about the time that you could have heard a pin drop, Cocker yells with a frog in his throat very deeply. SING THE BLUUUEEESSSSS, dragging it out like Howlin Wolf would have. So everybody knew, there was no mistaken, that Joe Cocker was in the house. When they finally invited Joe to get up on stage, he got on the drum set. Ron went up and got him off the drum set.
There were two guys in Cockerís band that followed us all over town that night in a little Volkswagon. I believe one of them was Jim Price, but Joe was smashing things up in those days and somebody was wanting him to get thrown out of the country, so those guys were trying to keep an eye out on him and keep him out of trouble.
He talks about prison:
Roger Tillotson had my guitar while I was in prison. Nancy lent it to him--a Gibson L-7, beautiful guitar. He was a road guy for The Band, and when I got out, Roger was back in Woodstock with my guitar, so I didnít have a guitar anymore. When my birthday rolled around, Nancy bought me a guitar. There was something wrong with it. Actually, no, I just didnít like the guitar and she had spent a couple hundred dollars on it which was a lot of money back then, but I wanted to take it back to the store in the Valley and have the guy take a look at the bridge or something. We parked right in front of the store in the black Lincoln and went in. We told the guy that we wanted to talk to him about the guitar and Nancy held it up with two hands, one wrapped around the neck, but the salesman was busy and said heíd be right with us. While we were waiting for him, I looked at some other guitars and I picked up this Gibson Hummingbird and just fell in love with that guitar! The sound, man the sound was beautiful. That was the guitar I wanted, but this guitar was like $450. Nancy said her heart just went out to me, because she knew how much I loved that guitar. She took it out of my hands, wrapped the price around the neck of the guitar and put her hand around that part of the neck over the tag. Then she took the guitar back over to the salesman, said I know you are really busy, so we will be back to talk to you about this guitar and held it up for him to see, and the guy goes, oh, ok, and she walked out of the store with the Gibson Hummingbird guitar. We got in the Lincoln and hauled ass, but I just kept looking in the back seat at that guitar, because I couldnít believe what I was seeing. I couldnít believe what she had done. She had put my old guitar back on the rack where the Hummingbird had been and walked out of the store with the saleman apologizing to us, with the Gibson in her hand. I still donít believe she had the nerve to do that. But I have had this guitar almost thirty years now and itís worth over $2000 even though itís a beat-up and scratched up old guitar now. We never went in to do that sort of thing. It was just a rare opportunity, and she took it.
Paul Revere and the Raiders were really pissed off at us one time. The Groupies walked into a studio one time out there to do a song I walked up to one of the keyboards that was sitting there and there was an ID bracelet sitting on top of the piano that said "Fang" who was the keyboard player for them and I took the bracelet and threw it out the door.
Shootout on the Plantation:
I was living at the Plantation when the guy came in there and started shooting. Thatís where that song came from. I donít know who he was--maybe one of Francineís old flames. Francine and Chuck were upstairs that night.
Denny had big dogs and a swimming pool. He had inner tubes in the pool with six packs of beer and and wine bottles tied to them and floating around the pool.
The Doud Brothers
There were these two brothers named Michael and David Doud. Their father wrote all the radio shows for, The Shadow Knows--that old radio show. Their father also wrote some of the first television screenplays and that Burt Lancaster movie. Anyway, their parents were both killed in a plane crash in Europe, so the two brothers were left with all their money and a great big old house to share with their grandmother. David died in a car wreck. Michael was shot. Michael was a real good guy, good writer, too. We used to sit around and write for days with no sleep. One time when I did wake up one morning, I heard this noise and I walked down the stairs and thereís Michael and Jimmy Greenspoon, keyboard player for Three Dog Night. Michael and Jimmy were sitting on the couch with three bottles sitting in front of them. This must have been six o'clock in the morning. Jimmy had just flown in from Puerto Rico and he had brought back these bottles of rum called Oxsine--5000 proof or some shit. One shot of this stuff would put you on your ass and they were sitting there with these oxsine bottles at that hour of the morning.
There was this guy that Michael used to mess with in the mind. It was like Michael wanted to die, because he wouldnít leave this guy alone--just kept taunting him as though he knew that eventually the guy would hurt him, or kill him, but he didnít care. Thatís ultimately what Michael wanted, because he was never the same after he flipped out on some acid one time. He wanted to die and he knew this guy would do it if he messed with him long enough and he did and I think he is still in jail for it. David went on to live several years, but he finally trashed out--got himself killed in a car.
I was at Ericís house, that big A-frame, I think then he moved to Bel-Aire. He and I were out on the terrace fucked up on acid. .We were standing out on the terrace looking over the canyon and we were staring up at the full moon. The moonlanding, the "First step for mankind"-- we had watched earlier that day on his TV, and we were thinking somebody actually walked on that thing today, and while we were staring at the moon, some guy down in the canyon turned on some giant stereo system with Space Odyssey playing full blast and it blew us away. He used to call me Kookar.
He steals a girlís song--sorta:
There was this girl one time. We always had girls hanging around the band, but this one girl, sat down next to me crossed legged on the floor and she was into me, I guess, because she just kept staring. I gave her the guitar and she played a song that I just loved and then she just left. I have been playing this song ever since. I just call it , Robinís song.
Iíve got nothing, but Iíve got someone
To talk to when my heart is blue.
I donít know you, but I know Iíll know you
Till my time is through
Save me softly of the blue
Move me, sway me with your tune
Time and again I will see through your eyes
That love is there for me to follow
I want to love you
And you are the one, dear
That I know will give me
Love from my hear to grow
And I donít know you
But I know I love you
Love me when the lights are low
Time and again I will see through your eyes
That love....is there
for me to follow.
Cooker plays Corrina. Then he starts flipping through his songbook--finds a bunch of old phone numbers--
David Bracci, Eric Krogh, Bill Carter... Bill Carter?! He was the nephew to June Carter and he used to play with Doug Kershaw. He called me up one night man. I met him in Seattle. He used to play bass with Gail--Gail Davies. He remembered us from New York. He called me up one night and he said "Cooker, youíll never guess where I am. I remember it was late at night. He said Iím at Madison Square Garden. Weíre playing here. I made it. I said, Billy, Goodnight.
He decides to play another song and he explains the song by saying:
I was at a point, Man, when I wanted company, but that was it. No relationships. I mean donít tell me you love me in one breath and then Iíll see ya later. Iíve been through two marriages so donít say you love me, because I donít love you and he plays the song....
Do you remember meeting Craig Nuttycombe?
I was staying with him and Mark. Mark is dead now now. Markís father played cello in the LA Philharmonic.
Plays song he wrote for his girls.
"God, it still brings tears to my eyes."
The he goes on to explain another song he wrote for me called, Nowhere At All.
I talked to Nancy right before her birthday and asked her what she wanted. She said she wanted a song, so Ron and I sat down and started working on a song for her. I got up to leave and he said, No, youíre not going anywhere until you write this song. We called her back two hours later and played the song for her on the phone.
The Paul McCartney-is-dead-story...
There is a place in Sunset Strip where there is a curve, if you can picture that in your mind...and Head East, the clothing store that we worked at was right on the corner. Before you got to Head East, there was this huge billboard which was the billboard for Abbey Road with the four Beatles walking across the road, right? Their heads were above the billboard and all these stories were coming out about "Paul is dead" because he doesnít have any shoes on, he has a black rose--all the rest have red roses. Everybody was predicting that he would be dead. One day when we were all working there, I had driven to work that morning and when I got to that curve in Sunset, I looked up and noticed PAULíS HEAD IS GONE! Then everybody started freaking out. Holy Shit, Man! He really IS dead. I mean all of a sudden out of nowhere, the whole community of freaks is mourning over the death of McCartney. When the word got out to the rest of the world, they tried to contact him and he was nowhere to be found, but of course several days later, he was located out on the sea in his yacht.
Well, Me and Byrd were stalking shelves one time. "Yeah, we need more 28-30ís"on the second floor, and we were upstairs searching for more jeans for stock and all of the sudden, there was Paulís head, Man!-- and we thought, "HOLY SHIT! How can somebody scale the billboard, unbolt the son-of-a-bitch, get it down and get it into the building without anybody noticing. I mean it was on Sunset Boulevard, the busiest spot in the universe at that time. That place was lit up like Vegas! Frankie threw a party and took Nancy upstairs that night to check it out.
She still has the invitation to that party. And this is wierd. Frankie died just two days later from an overdose--aka/heart attack. He was making a lot of money, doing a lot of dope.
JIMI HENDRIX STORIES--
I was working there when Hendrix came in and tried on a purple velvet jacket that Nancy had made. She never wanted to be seen in anything twice, so she would sew up a new outfit, wear it once, and then she took it into Frankieís store to sell. Hendrix loved that jacket and it fit except for the sleeves--they were way too short. When I told her, about it, she said, next time you go up to his house, take me with you and I will measure him for a new jacket.
I had been to Hendrixís house a couple of times before. The first time, me and Roger went up. We went up there to take him some pot. We drove up to his house in Benedict Canyon. Noel Redding answered the door and and we walked in. The first thing I remember seeing that struck me kinda wierd is that they had signs everywhere. I mean like on the refrigerator it said, "keep out" and "donít fucking touch this" shit like that. Then Noel told us to have a seat and I sat down on the couch and BAM! I had sat down on Mitch! It was fuckin Mitch Mitchell layin there and I had sat down on him and so ok, kool, "excuse me, oh Iím so sorry man." What could ya say?
Well, we ended up playin a game of Monopoly. Yeah, we were drinkin beer and smokin and passing the shit around playing Monopoly. My back was turned, but all of a sudden, I heard the fuckin door open and I turned around, man, and there was Jimi. Ya know? It was like fucking God had just walked in the room. He had a guitar case in his hand. He walked in and said, "Hi, guys, how ya doing? Whatís goin on?" Iím in shock just hearing his voice. "HHHHi, KKKKooolll" Iím trying so hard to act kool. He opened up the guitar case to show us his new guitar that he had just bought, I donít know, on his way home or something. Then he took the guitar and went down a hallway, I remember. I can remember that house. I could take you there, I bet. Well...Itís been a long time and a few years and a few cases of beer between me and that canyon, but I think I could still take you there.
...But Jimi went down this hallway and we were still into our game and then not too long after that, I hear this extraordinary ecchhheeeeee, Whaaa, whaa, (Cooker is trying to use his voice for sound effects here) owwwwwweeeeechhhhh--louder than shit--thought the roof was getting sucked off--I mean this fucking sound was coming from down the hall. Noel said, "Come on, man. Letsís check this out." We walked down the hallway into the room where Jimi was. There must have been a dozen giant Marshall amps stacked up against the wall and Jimi was just standing there with his new guitar going Whaaaa, whaaaa, wooooo and Iím thinking "geez, this is Jimi Hendrix, man. This is great! and heís at home!" but he was just checking out his new guitar. I thought, "Fuck, man, do you know who you are?" I was so struck with awe and mesmerized at the man standing right in front of me for real. Unbelievable, man.
We stayed there for a few more hours, but after we left, we were driving down out of the canyon, and Roger was acting like, "no big deal" and Iím sitting there thinking he must be crazy. The next time we went up, Jimi wasnít home. It was just Noel and Mitch. They were getting ready to go the Thee Experience down on Sunset Boulevard and invited us to go along.
We walked in the club and my ego inflated because "Iím kool...I"m walkin in with Noel Redding and Mitch Mitchell. Check me out, folks." We sat down with Noel and Mitch and Mickey Dolenz and an old friend Iíd known back in New York. I had some THC capsules and me and Mickey went into the bathroom and did some THC. Then it was really wierd, cause a band called the McCoys are playing which I also knew from New York--especially Rick Derringer. I hadnít seen them since they had become famous, but we all remembered each other. The McCoys announced that the last set would be open stage, because that was one of those places where everybody went. Whoever was in town made a stop there--open stage, so Buddy Miles got up and grabbed a guitar, John Bonham on drums, Noel Redding on bass. It was Nuts! My friends started insisting that I get up on stage, too, and I did have a harmonica in my pocket. I was just stoned enough. I thought, shit, why not? I went up there and stood next to Noel who I felt comfortable with--Iíd just been up to his house--and those guys started playing and I joined in and man, that was heaven. I will take that moment to my grave.
Here he talks about the days in New York City before he went to LA....
Oh, I ran into Bob Dylan many times back in New York--Bob Dylan, John Hammond, The Lovin Spoonful, were just local guys around New York. That New York scene was full of guys like that--The Left Bank, my band, the Groupies, we all knew each other. And the Rascals--we were the second biggest draw in New York under the Rascals.
I asked him what he remembered about me and Jim Morrison...
When the Groupies got to LA, we were kind of big because we were from New York, and there were about four bands in Hollywood that were making all the noise. Buffalo Springfield, The Doors, a band called Sparrow which later became Steppenwolf and there was Love, well Love wasnít all that. Then there were about five clubs that everybody went to and then we came in and we started invading their turf. Well, they were playing all that beach shit and we come in, five drug addicts playin blues.
We were stayin at the St. Regis with Dixie and Nancy. I walked in one day and Jim was in there with Nancy and they were on the couch and I just thought, "fuck it." All I know is I walked in and there they were. Weíd been getting kinda tight, me and Nancy, and so fuck it, and I left. I will admit that I didnít like it. I told her later, she had to choose between me and Morrison. I wouldnít put up with him hangin around where I was hangin. He hated me, anyway, because he hated the Groupies. As far as I know, he never came around again. She chose me.
That was pretty much what I got taped that night. It was about three hours worth.
Cooker is now a professional chef. The last I heard, he had switched jobs--from the Urbana Country Club to a new Holiday Inn also in Urbana. He still writes songs. He played me a couple that night and he is still such a great writer--never lost his touch. His music and words always moved me--always left me wanting more, even after all these years. I think heís one of the greatest artists that ever lived.