Growing up in Detroit, guitarist Jack Rigg was exposed to all different kinds of music, including everything from rhythm and blues to hard rock. But Rigg soon discovered he was drawn to the sound of many bands coming out of New York City in the 1970s.
So, he packed his bags and headed for the East Coast.
“I was a big fan of the New York Dolls,” Rigg said, adding that the Dolls were one of the first bands of the early punk rock scene in New York. “So, I decided to move to New York and, two years later, I was playing in (vocalist) David Johansen’s band after the Dolls broke up. It was unbelievable.”
Johansen was the lead singer of the New York Dolls, a group once known for their blatant vulgarity, cross-dressing and wild live performances.
“My favorite Dolls’ song was ‘Personality Crisis,’” Rigg said. “And when I joined David Johansen’s band, I got to play (guitarist) Johnny Thunders’ part on the song. I was a giant fan of Thunders, so it was an honor. And I got to play with him a few times because he would occasionally sit in with us.” Unfortunately, Thunders had a long history of drug abuse and died when he was only 38 in New Orleans in 1991.
“But it was incredible that I got to hang out with him because Johnny Thunders was a great sloppy guitar player, very much in the lineage of Chuck Berry and Keith Richards,” Rigg said. “And I got to kind of partake in that. I copped some of Johnny’s parts and made up some of my own stuff, but I loved what he did on ‘Personality Crisis.’ There are a lot of cool little parts that are kind of buried in the mix that I was a big guitar nerd fan of. It was just fun to play.”
Rigg, who still plays with the local band The Bonaventures, is one of several Augustans who have a passion for and deep connection to the music industry.
Performing on stage with David Johansen was always an adventure, Rigg said.
“Every night when we would come to the guitar solo, David would go, ‘Come on, Jack, take it back across the track,’ in his raw, tobacco and booze-stained voice,” Rigg said, laughing. “That would always just bring a smile to my face.”
Rigg toured as part of David Johansen’s band in 1981, and they were the opening act for Pat Benatar’s “Precious Time” Tour.
“I actually just found my Pat Benatar backstage pass the other day,” he said, adding that he lived in New York City for about 25 years and recorded, toured and wrote songs for a number of bands including Blue Öyster Cult.
“I was in some pretty cool New York bands, and some of the characters that were fans that I got to meet and hang out with include Andy Warhol, Madonna, David Byrne and JFK Jr. And when I was on tour in Japan, I spent an evening in Tokyo singing karaoke with Queen Latifah.”
Blue Öyster Cult was known for several heavy metal hit singles such as “(Don’t Fear) The Reaper,” that was featured in the classic John Carpenter horror film “Halloween,” as well as hit songs such as “Godzilla” and “Burnin’ for You.”
Blue Öyster Cult sold more than 24 million records worldwide, including 7 million records in the United States alone.
“Albert Bouchard was the original drummer and founding member of the band, and I had produced and played on four or five CD/records for a New York singer and songwriter named David Roter,” Rigg explained. “For instance, David and I wrote a song called ‘Il Duce.’ It is a very humorous song about Mussolini. In fact, it’s more of a sarcastic song about Mussolini being ridiculed and going to pieces after his woman left him.”
Rigg said he had previously played with Bouchard in a side project and that’s how he got involved in Blue Öyster Cult.
“So Albert had this beautiful studio up in his home in Connecticut that he bought with money from ‘The Reaper’ when that was hit,” Rigg said. “He called us up and said, ‘I think the Cult would love to record, ‘Il Duce.’ So David and I drive up from the city to Albert’s house in Connecticut and we are in his garage where his studio was.”
The three were working on recording a demo for “Il Duce’ when Bouchard’s wife kept interrupting them.
“Albert and his wife had a kid at the time. I think the child was about 5 years old or so. Well, she kept coming in the room saying, ‘You guys are making too much noise! He is trying to take a nap!’” Rigg said, chuckling. “And at one point, she came in the room, really angry and said, ‘Here! You take him!’”
Rigg said the trio was stunned.
“I leaned over and said to David, ‘Did you see the look on her face?’ And he says, ‘Yeah. She looks like Joan Crawford risen from the grave,’” Rigg said, laughing. “All of a sudden, David goes, ‘Wow. Wait a minute. That is a cool song title.’”
And so, Blue Öyster Cult’s song, “Joan Crawford Has Risen From the Grave,” was born.
The song is filled with lyrics envisioning an apocalyptic scene where anarchy rules and Joan Crawford returns from the dead.
“So, while Albert is doing engineering and bouncing tracks and I’m playing guitar and bass on the demo of ‘Il Duce,’ David and I are sitting in the corner writing, ‘Joan Crawford Has Risen From the Grave,’ about his wife who is pissed off in the other room,” Rigg said, laughing. “We drive back to New York in the van and we are tweaking it the whole way.”
Once they were done writing the song, Rigg and Roter recorded it on a cassette and sent it to Bouchard.
“He loved it and said, ‘Come on up,’” Rigg said. “So we go up to Albert’s studio again and we record ‘Joan Crawford.’ The band loved it, and they put it on the ‘Fire of Unknown Origin‘ record and I played on that.”
Rigg actually earned a Gold Album for his work with Blue Öyster Cult.
“But the funny thing is, Albert never knew it was about his wife. And about five years later, we finally told him,” Rigg said, chuckling. “At first, his wife was pissed off, but then she realized she got a song written about her. So she kind of resolved her anger and was able to appreciate the fact that she was the inspiration for a song, although it might not have been her best moment.”
These days, Rigg is a doctor and program director of the Traumatic Brain Injury Clinic at Dwight D. Eisenhower Army Medical Center at Fort Gordon. The clinic offers an intensive outpatient approach where service members with mild brain injuries learn skills to help with their PTSD.
It’s quite different from his former life as a touring musician living in New York City, but he finds both careers fascinating.
“I love it,” Rigg said. “I have been a science nerd all my life. I had a degree in chemistry, but I didn’t go to med school when I was 21 because I had been a musician since I was 11 and I just kind of pursued that. I got my first job in a hospital when I was 16 years old to make enough money to buy an electric guitar to play in a band.”
While Rigg always enjoyed music, he also had dreams of becoming a doctor.
“I went to pre-med and put up good numbers, but I just didn’t want to go to med school at 21. And I never thought I would go back,” Rigg said. “It wasn’t until I was 42 or so and I met my wife and we talked about getting married and having kids that I started thinking about med school again.” Rigg said he knew he couldn’t enjoy raising a family if he was constantly on the road.
“I was doing 250 gigs a year, traveling around,” Rigg said. “When I met my wife, I had an apartment in New York. One room was a studio, the other room was the studio apartment. I had a kitchen and a motorcycle, a guitar and amps. What more does a man need? But, with my wife, a whole new realm started. I began looking into med school because I didn’t want to have my kids sleeping on top of my amps.”
At the young age of 20, local guitarist Keith Jenkins earned a spot touring the world with the legendary “Godfather of Soul” James Brown as part of his band.
By 1999, Jenkins was leading the band in rehearsals, as well as recording sessions and live performances. He was even asked to accompany Brown on special engagements with other top artists such as the Dave Matthews Band, Lenny Kravitz and Usher.
But Jenkins is extremely modest and private when it comes to his time with the “Hardest Working Man in Show Business.”
“If you walk in my house, you see his face as much as you see anybody else on the walls and in photos,” Jenkins said, chuckling. “It’s like my kids and James Brown.”
However, while touring with Brown, Jenkins was a huge collector of posters and badges that he has kept over the years.
“I was a big poster grabber,” Jenkins said. “I would roll them up and stick them in my guitar bag. And I tried to get as many as I could. Sometimes you are peeling them off the wall. Sometimes they are pristine, but I would get as many as I could.”
By the end of a tour, Jenkins said his guitar bag was full of posters.
“I would come home and have a big fat roll of posters that I stuffed in my guitar bag,” he said. “We would do two or three big tours every year. We would go to Europe like twice a year and somewhere else overseas. So I have a ton of posters. In fact, a lot of my posters are in The Soul Bar.”
The truth is that his house isn’t big enough for all the James Brown tour posters he has, Jenkins said.
“I have a few hanging up and I’ve given some away,” he said. “I also kept all my badges and laminates. And I had them in a zipper cellophane thing, but you know what? I cannot find them. It is driving me crazy. I’m really upset about that because I know I had them. But I just moved a couple of years ago, and I can’t find them.”
Jenkins said it is crushing to think how many badges he saved over the years.
“I had so many backstage passes that if you spread them out, they would cover the entire floor,” Jenkins said. “There were so many of them, and now I cannot find them. And I’m a nerd for things like that because they are a part of my past and it’s also a souvenir of something I did.”
Ironically, while Jenkins thoroughly enjoyed touring with Brown, he actually doesn’t like going to any big concerts or shows these days.
“I cannot stand going to concerts. I’m terrible at it,” Jenkins said, laughing. “Now, I love to stumble into bars and listen to lounge bands. I can watch that all night long, but not big concerts or shows.”
The last big show that he attended that wasn’t job related was a B.B. King concert, he said.
“Whenever B.B. King would come to Augusta, I would buy a ticket, walk in and go in and watch B.B. by myself,” Jenkins said. “B.B. was my concert passion and now that he’s gone, I doubt anything else will come along that I will want to go see.”
Jenkins acknowledges that people probably find that really odd.
“I know it’s strange,” Jenkins said, laughing, “But, like I remember playing festivals with James Brown and walking around before we played in the mud and the heat and going, ‘God, if I wasn’t playing at this, I would never come to a place like this.’ I mean, don’t get me wrong, I’m glad that the people were there to see the bands, but I was thinking, ‘Why would anybody come to this?’ Everybody looks miserable and dirty and thirsty.”
Jenkins couldn’t help but laugh at himself.
“Obviously, I’m not a big one for the festivals,” he said. “Like someone will tell me, ‘I’m going to Bonnaroo. It’s going to be sick!’ And I’ll say, ‘Yeah, you are going to be sick. Sitting out in the hot Tennessee sun for three days.’”
However, Jenkins admits he didn’t always feel that way about concerts and shows.
“When I was younger, I was just enamored with going to concerts. I loved it,” he said. “When I was young, everything about it was magic.”
Jenkins said he was fascinated with attending concerts even when he was still in elementary school.
“When I was 9, Van Halen came to town and I really wanted to go to that concert, but I was 9. It was 1984, and it was the last tour with David Lee Roth and I couldn’t go,” Jenkins said, chuckling. “I just laid on the floor and cried. I remember we were listening to WBBQ and they said, ‘There are still tickets left for the Van Halen show.’ And I was like, ‘Momma! Momma! Please!’ And she just said, ‘I can’t. You’re 9.’”
The young 9-year-old Jenkins was beside himself. However, his mother soon began allowing him to attend shows not long after.
“The first concert I did get to go to was Halloween night in 1985 and it was Ratt with Bon Jovi opening,” Jenkins said. “In fact, Bon Jovi was the opening band because it was before they got huge. And it was Oct. 31, 1985. I was 11.”
Jenkins said he was automatically hooked.
“A month later, I got to see Mötley Crüe and me and my friend met Tommy Lee at the Augusta Hilton, which is now the Ramada,” Jenkins said. “The band was staying down there and my friend’s parents were down there and they were having a furniture sale. And they called us and said, ‘Some of these Mötley Crüe people are walking around here.”
Jenkins and his friend desperately wanted to meet them.
“So my friend’s mom came and got us and took us to the Hilton and me and my buddy sat there and waited in the lobby,” Jenkins. “Finally, Tommy Lee came out of the elevator and we got to meet him and we got free tickets to the show. And it was incredible. And, I’ll be honest with you, we had no business being at that show.”
From there, his fascination grew and he began getting into shows held in smaller clubs featuring Southern rock bands like The Outlaws.
“I used to go to clubs when I was 14,” he said. “In the beginning, everything was fascinating. I remember being backstage at The Outlaws show and they had a deli tray and I was like, ‘This is what I want to do for the rest of my life. Look at all of these cold cuts! We can just eat all their turkey while they are on stage!”
Cold cuts were the way to Jenkins’ teenage heart.
“It wasn’t about the drugs or women,” Jenkins said, laughing. “For me, it was about, ‘Look at all this turkey and ham! They have ranch dressing! I’m never leaving!’”
At 77, George Croft is proud of the fact that he is still “rocking and rolling.”
“I think I was about 4 when I had my first stage appearance,” said Croft, a former member of the group, The Pallbearers, whose hit single “Getting Fired Up” reached No. 4 on the national charts. “My mother used to take me all over the place, especially in the 1940s and 1950s. In fact, the first show I did was at The Miller back in its heyday.”
Croft explained The Miller used to host a talent show called the “Sankens Youth Review.”
“That’s where I started singing,” Croft said. “After that, my mom helped me get on shows like Arthur Godfrey, the original ‘Amateur Hour’ and Ed Sullivan and the Paul Whiteman Show. I was young and in my early teens, which was before rock ’n’ roll.”
Croft didn’t actually start performing rock ’n’ roll until around 1954, he said.
“Then in 1958, I was 18, I got a job at The Imperial and we had a thing called ‘Teen Time,’” Croft said, explaining that he emceed the live radio show for local rock bands. “But by the 1960s, we started a band called The Pallbearers. We were probably together for eight years or so. We had a contract with Fontana Records, which was a part of Mercury Records. And in 1968, one of our tunes, ‘Getting Fired Up,’ went to No. 4 in the country and the song was played on the show, ‘American Bandstand.’”
Croft toured on the road until about 1971, but he eventually made his way back to his hometown and took a job with the Augusta-Richmond County Civic Center where he served as the arena operations manager for many years.
In that position, he met a lot of musicians who had a wide range of personalities, Croft said.
“I guess we all have egos, but some of them are definitely over the top,” Croft said, laughing. “Like, I hate to say it, but Diana Ross’ ego was unbelievable. But we also had a lot of incredible people who treated everyone so nice. Like Patti LaBelle was just out-of-this-world nice, and so was Vince Gill.”
Ironically, Croft, who now plays in the local band The Bonaventures, also has an extremely memorable Mötley Crüe story.
“I remember we were getting ready for the Mötley Crüe show, and I’m at my desk and I get a call on the radio asking me to come around to the dressing rooms,” Croft said. “So I go over and Tommy Lee is there. And this was before we painted the dressing rooms. They were still sort of bare concrete walls. And Tommy Lee asked, ‘Can I get an 8-foot ladder and a Sharpie?’”
Confused, Croft simply replied, “Yeah.”
He called his crew for a ladder and a Sharpie marker.
“Well, Tommy Lee set the eight foot ladder up and went up the ladder with that Sharpie to one of the load bearing columns and at the top of the load bearing column on the ceiling he wrote, ‘I, Tommy Lee, went to jail in the name of rock ’n’ roll.’ And he wrote the date.”
Croft was totally baffled by Lee, but he didn’t object.
“I’m looking at that thinking, ‘What the hell? What is that about?’” Croft said. “But I had work to do, so we put all that stuff away, I go back to my desk and I get a call from one of the officers doing my uniform security at the show.”
Croft said he couldn’t believe the warning that came out of the officer’s mouth.
“He says, ‘Hey George, I just want to let you know we are going to arrest Tommy Lee tonight,’” Croft said. “And I said, ‘Do what? For what?’ And the officer goes, ‘Indecent exposure.’”
He couldn’t believe his ears.
“I said, ‘What? You are joking, right?’” Croft said. “And he said, ‘No. We are really going to do it.’”
Croft said he had no other choice but to prepare for the worst.
“So during the show, Tommy Lee gets in this cage with his drum kit inside the cage,” Croft said, explaining the cage was then lifted into the air. “Then, all of a sudden, half way through the song, Tommy Lee pulled his britches down and mooned the crowd.”
Two officers standing next to the stage immediately approached the rig once it was lowered and they gently grabbed Tommy Lee underneath his arms and hauled him away.
“There is a police car waiting out back and they escort him over to 401 Walton Way and book him,” Croft said. “And the crowd goes crazy. Fortunately, it didn’t take long. Maybe about 15 minutes and then he came back on stage and the crowd went wild. We later found out, it was all part of the show. He did it everywhere he went. It was crazy.”
The thrill of live shows
Matt Flynn of Stillwater Taproom on Broad Street said he also had an interesting experience working at the Augusta-Richmond County Civic Center in the 1980s.
“Back in 1983, I was 19 years old and I was a security guy at the civic center,” Flynn said, chuckling. “Actually, I was an usher more than anything. But they had me work a Kiss concert, and this band called Axe was opening for them.”
Well, Flynn was put in charge of the security for Axe’s dressing room.
“They had me guarding Axe’s dressing room, like everybody was going to try to get in there, which, of course, nobody did,” Flynn said. “But it was pretty cool because the band pulled me in there and let me hang out with them.”
At 19, it was fun to see what was going on behind the scenes, Flynn said.
“They had me answering fan mail from Europe or somewhere,” Flynn said, laughing. “They said, ‘Just write whatever you want. Just butter them up and sign our name to it.’”
So, that’s exactly what Flynn did. But a few minutes later, he couldn’t help but get a little starstruck.
“Gene Simmons from Kiss came in just to say hello and he had one of those little wind-up buzzers that kids have that buzz when you shake somebody’s hand,” Flynn said. “He had one of those and really got the first guy that he saw. It was a big gag. And then he went around and did it to everybody. I was the last guy in the room and he said, ‘Hey,’ and he shook my hand with the joy buzzer. It was a silly experience, but it was cool to meet him.”
Over the years, Flynn has collected so many concert T-shirts that he has considered making a quilt out of the ones that are completely worn out.
“But, lately, I am kind of into collecting set lists,” Flynn said. “I’ve got a fairly nice and growing set list. And, of course I have all of my tickets stubs, too.”
Flynn said he enjoys collecting the playlists because it is something out of the ordinary.
“I guess because I’m up close, up against the stage where after the show, it is right there in front of me,” Flynn said. “It’s a nice little memory. I probably have about 40 or so now. I framed most of the better ones and put them up on my office wall.”
Coco Rubio, one of the owners of both The Soul Bar and Sky City on Broad Street, said it is extremely difficult to choose some of his favorite concerts or shows that he’s attended over the years.
“It’s fun to think about them because there have been so many great shows and when I think of these shows, I also think about what I was doing in my life then,” Rubio said. “And, being an Army brat, we were all over the place so I remember everything by those years and where I was living and the things I was doing.”
Rubio said he will never forget the very first concert that he was allowed to attend without parental supervision.
“My first concert ever, which was a real concert that I didn’t go to with my parents and my dad dropped us off, was at a concert venue in Frankfurt, Germany in 1982,” Rubio said. “I was like in the ninth grade and we got to go see Earth, Wind & Fire. My brother and I and a couple of friends from school went. My dad dropped us off and then, like three hours later, he came back and picked us up.”
The big hit at the time was “Let’s Groove,” but Rubio said the entire performance blew him away.
“It was a great first show. It was larger than life,” he said. “We thought it was awesome.”
One of his all-time favorite shows was in Athens at the old Georgia Theatre back in 1991.
“We went to go see The Replacements,” Rubio said. “I had just finished college and I remember a bunch of us going up there, like my brother, Jayson was there, Barry Blackston was there and Matt Flynn went. We all went up there. And I love The Replacements. They are one of my favorites, if not my favorite rock ‘n’ roll band, from the early 1980s. (Singer) Paul Westerberg is still to me one of the best song writers in rock ‘n’ roll.”
When The Replacements hit the stage, Rubio said he was prepared for anything, but then something totally unexpected happened.
“They come out at the Georgia Theatre and Paul says, ‘Hey Athens! What’s up? How are you doing?’” Rubio said. “And you see this beer in a cup get thrown from the crowd, and you see it go up and you see it hit him right in the chest.”
Rubio couldn’t believe what happened next.
“Paul takes off his guitar, points to the crowd and then jumps into the crowd,” Rubio said, laughing. “And we are all like, ‘Oh, man. This is not going to be good. They are not even going to play. We’re about to head home. They are going to cancel the show.’”
Finally, Westerberg climbed back on stage.
“He got up and he said something like, ‘OK, now let’s rock ‘n’ roll!’” Rubio said. “He laughed it off and just turned it around and made it fun. The crowd totally got into it. And then they broke up within the next year, so it was kind of nice to see them before they broke up. They are one of the best rock ‘n’ roll bands of all time, in my opinion.”
Another unforgettable show was going to Stevie Wonder in concert in Atlanta’s Philips Arena in 2014 for his “Songs in the Key of Life” tour.
“That show was a bucket list right there,” Rubio said. “That is one of our favorite albums.”
Holly, his wife, is a huge Stevie Wonder fan, and because it was such an important show, they also wanted to invite their teen daughter, Maya.
“We were able to say, ‘Maya, you are going to come with us because this album and Stevie Wonder is too important for you not to go,’” Coco Rubio said. “We told her, ‘We listened to this album a lot before you were born and while Holly was pregnant, so it was always an important album for us.’”
The entire family was blown away by Wonder’s performance.
“It was one of the best shows I have ever seen,” Coco Rubio said. “Stevie Wonder was perfect and incredible. In fact, it was so good that Holly was crying when he first came out. It just meant that much.”
Other shows that Rubio thought were incredible over the years have been Beyoncé, Paul McCartney and Prince.
But there will always be a special place in his heart for one show that happened right here in Augusta at The Soul bar.
“When Sharon Jones & The Dap-Kings came to play at The Soul Bar, it was the very first time they came to Augusta and played,” Coco Rubio recalled. “I remember Sharon Jones walked in and said, ‘Where’s the stage?’ And I said, ‘Right there.’”
Coco Rubio was pointing at the small stage located at the front of the bar.
“And she looked at me and said, ‘Coco. Your name is Coco, right? Hey, Coco. Where’s the stage?’” Coco Rubio said, laughing. “And I was like, ‘That’s the stage.’” When the reality of the situation sunk in, Jones didn’t skip a beat, Coco Rubio said.
“She kind of looked at all of her guys in the band and said, ‘OK, guys. This is the stage. We are going to do the show right here,’” Coco Rubio said. “And they killed it when they started performing. They all squeezed onto the small stage somehow, but when they played, it was like a full-on soul revue. She killed it. She was so good and she went all out.”
Coco Rubio said he was floored by the performance.
“After the show, she hung out and we kind of laughed about the whole thing,” Coco Rubio said. “And we just kind of became friends after that. And after that first show, we watched her and the band get bigger and bigger and bigger and bigger and doing more things. It was really cool. I miss her.”