**Road Manager for The Doors,
December 26 1967-January 19 1972**
1968, MARCH– FIRST MAJOR TOUR- TERRY POHL
©2006 Vincent Treanor III
The first major road trip of 1968 came in March, with the first performance in Rochester, New York on March 16 th . The first part of any road trip is preparation and Terry Pohl was to help me on this trip. It is strange (People are strange) how things just happened in those days. It would not be possible now with all the fear, suspicion, abuse and liabilities of this Modern world, You know, the one that was better than the in which our parents lived - Isn’t that a cruel joke.
I was driving home one evening and I saw this guy hitching a ride. I stopped and he hopped in. I learned that Terry was one of those guys who was supported by his family and would probably never have to work. His father was a producer or director in the movie industry and his grandmother doted on him and kept him in enough money to make life easy. When I met him, he was going to meet a friend who lived in Hollywoodland, the same area where Durand Drive was.
When he found out who I was he was ecstatic. He, like about everyone in those days, was a Doors fan, so it was exciting to meet someone really connected with the group. We arranged to meet shortly thereafter and began an association that lasted for several months.
I was preparing for a trip to New York and Terry definitely wanted in on that. I got permission from Bob Greene to take an assistant and the Golden Wand touched Terry.
We had a tour of three locations. The first was on 1968.03.16 at the Eastman Theatre in Rochester. Considering that it was to be a long trip, there was a lot of preparation. It was not just a matter of packing everything and making sure that every piece of equipment was in perfect condition. I had done most of the shopping for spare parts.
We were to leave for New York on the 15 th . I met Terry in the morning and we spent most of the day checking all the equipment and supply boxes to make sure we had all the tools and spares we needed. We got everything packed up and took it to the Modern Music warehouse.
We were to take a night flight to New York. Modern was to deliver the equipment to the Airport at about 21:00. Terry and I would ride down with the truck and arrange to get the equipment on the plane. When that was accomplished, we could then check in and relax for a time before the flight.
Bill had worked out quite a scheme for getting the equipment on the planes. One must remember that in those days people did not have to submit to body searches and radiation prior to getting on the plane. In fact, in those days, when greeting someone, you could actually go to the gate where the plane was unloading. For the average person the boarding process was simple. You brought your bags to the SkyCap on the sidewalk and showed him your ticket. He would tag the luggage, hand you the stubs, and everything was taken care of - except when you had 35 pieces of baggage that weighted 3,000 pounds. Not only is 35 pieces “excess”, (each one with a $5.00 price tag,) but it was also slightly overweight by a few thousand pounds. What to do?
Bill carefully instructed me in the art of “Excess Baggage.” When you got to the proper terminal you would find the biggest, meanest looking skycap on the sidewalk. You took a $50.00 bill and wrapped it, ends out, around your middle finger so the bill was clearly visible. While explaining that you wanted these “bags,” then piled high on the sidewalk, on the plane, you waved your hand as closely as possible under this guy’s nose, making sure he understood that what his eyes were closely following, was to be his if he took care of the situation.
You can imagine that it was a rare occasion that this fellow would not agree to “take care” of the “excess baggage. So with a pocket full of baggage stubs, which we would help to attach, and the “bags” stacked on several baggage carts, we were comforted in knowing that all would be well when we arrived at our destination. By paying a “fee” of $50.00, we quite often saved more than $100.00. I believe I had only one bad experience. I don’t remember exactly where it was, but some young fellow wanting to prove to upper management that he was looking out for their best interest, questioned the number of bags we had. He had spotted us loading out front. That taught us a valuable lesson: always do it away from the sight line of the ticket counter. In any case, I pulled another $50.00 from my pocket and laid it on the counter with one corner sticking out where only he could see it. I explained that I was fairly certain that he had seen the luggage for a tour group, and I was fairly sure I saw them pay all the appropriate fees.
This poor guy could not take his eyes off my hand. He reconsidered the facts of the case and agreed that he may have been mistaken. He then gave Terry and I our boarding pass and we walked away. I don’t know what happened to that $50.00 bill, but the equipment arrived on the plane without trouble.
We went to the lounge near the boarding gate and waited for an hour or so before the plane was to load passengers. We always arrived as early as we could. First, it was easier for the Cappies to get the equipment loaded on the plane without attracting a lot of notice. It was first on and, yes, last off, but it didn’t get thrown on top of the regular baggage. Second, by loading early, we made sure that it would all be loaded on our flight and not split because there was no room. We really didn’t care about what happened to the rest of the passengers’ baggage. You can see that even in the mundane conduct of travel you had to have a vicious streak. One thing we could not do was have the equipment delayed.
It was an eight-hour flight and at that time, the venerable Boeing 707 was the biggest boy in the block. (Planes are not the best place to sleep.) When we got to New York we had to pick up the rented truck, load all the equipment and start the journey to Rochester.
Somehow we missed the way to the New York Thruway. It took us all day to get there and by the time we arrived, we were absolutely exhausted. We unloaded and got all the equipment set up and tested. We left the hall and went to the motel to rest for a bit and shower to try to be more alert. We had about 3 hours before the performance.
I showered first. When finished I got dressed for the show and Terry went in to shower. I sat on the end of the bed. That is about the last thing I can recall. When I woke up, Terry was stretched out on the other bed and the time was 20:30. The performance had already begun. I was still so tired it did not immediately come to me that we were severely late.
I jumped up and yelled for Terry to get up. We were out the door as fast as we could move. We jumped into the truck and drove like a race team to the hall. As we walked in, the Doors were playing what would be the next-to-last song. The organ was in place, everything was going well and we had not been there. But Paul Rothschild was.
The show ended and we came forward to the stage. I was shocked that everyone was actually happy. All Bill had done was move Ray’s organ and get Robbie plugged in. The show went on, for the first time in a year, without any trouble for any reason. The boys considered it something of a miracle. In fact, they were so happy, we did not have to immediately explain where we were when the show started.
This show was incredible - at least the part that we heard. It was alive, vibrant. Jim was in a good mood and delivered the last two pieces with dynamics, drama and quality that was outstanding, even compared to the shows at Winterland. I cannot tell you what made that show so good. It was just another hall and the audience was little different than all of them in that time. But, there was something that gave the performance a most incredible brilliance. Jim was at his best. He acted out the pieces, flopping on the floor or writhing and gyrating around the stage and mike stand. The music just clicked into place behind him. The guys were excited and that was transmitted directly to the audience.
The performance ended, as always, all too soon. The crowd went absolutely wild and the guys came back for one more piece. When it was over, everyone left and Terry and I had the task of packing and loading everything back into the truck for the next show. I can tell you that it was pure joy to get back to the motel and find much needed sleep. But with the excitement of the show, sleep was slow to come.
It was our good fortune that we had a fairly early wake up call for the morning. A horrifying sight - thick, damp, cold fog, greeted us. We grabbed a hasty breakfast and headed for the highway. I can tell you that this trip, when on good highway, should have taken about five hours. We had planned to leave at 08:00 to arrive in Boston at about 13:00. That was definitely not to be.
We could hardly see the road. Basically we had to follow the white lines to be sure of where we were. With the white line in the center of the truck we could not see the side of the road only eight feet or so away. This fog covered the land from Rochester nearly all the way into Boston. I assume, considering that the distance was about 250 miles, the air mass that caused the fog, was traveling with us, moving east as we did.
What was bad for us was worse for The Doors. We were booked to play with the Stone Ponies for each of the performances of the tour. The plan was for both groups to get to the Rochester airport and fly from there to Boston. It was only a 45 minute trip from the Airport to the Donnelly theatre. Of course you know about the best-laid plans of mice and men.
We crept along the highway, eventually arriving at the theatre about thirty minutes before the first of two performances, originally scheduled for 15:30. The Doors and the Stone Ponies were grounded in Rochester. We arrived at the theatre at about already late, and pulled up to The Doors at the rear of the stage to unload. I had long ago told all the guys in the Organ Factory, as well as my parents, that we were coming. Fortunately, they were all there and the truck was unloaded in record time. My mother and father were there, as well. I was a bit surprised, but very happy that they had come.
We got everything set up, and the experience in New Haven, (as well as training before I had left Andover,) had the guy fairly adept at putting all the plugs in place. Though we were ready, it was already late for the scheduled first performance. And where was the performing troupe? Still in Rochester.
The promoter asked Terry and I where they were. I assume he thought that The Doors, their manager, producer and the eight or so people traveling with the Stone Ponies had all packed into the truck to get to Boston. We had a surprise for them. Phone calls began to fly, and soon we knew there was going to be trouble. We learned that both groups were stuck in Rochester because the fog had caused all flights out to be cancelled.
Well, that would not have been so bad, except that the theatre was now full of paying people who wanted a show. But, there was no one to do it…except the Organ Factory. When we were made aware that the groups had finally chartered a private flight in to Boston, we also discovered they would not get there for about three hours. Some hard decisions had to be made.
The first show was already late. The audience was becoming quite restive and the promoter was wondering what to do. He did not want to cancel the first show because he would either have to refund all the ticket prices, or set the timing of the first show back and delay the start of the second show. Both shows were complete sell-out.
I made the suggestion that the Organ Factory put on a show until The Doors could get there. At least that would keep the people in the audience quiet and prevent a situation mildly restive from turning into the worst nightmare of every promoter and hall manager - a riot.
We had John’s drums, but we needed all the other equipment. They guys jumped in their car and rushed back to Andover to get the guitars and then make the return trip. In the mean time, the audience grew more restless. The promoter tried to give progress reports, and announced that they were calling in another group. That got them settled down for a bit.
While this was going on I could talk to my parents, and that was nice. My father, of course, wanted to know how things were in California, whether I had seen his long lost cousin, and whether I was getting paid without problem. One or two occasions I went out front and spoke to the crowd, introducing myself, which held more authority than the promoters empty promises.
The guys made that trip in record time. Finally, breathless with excitement, they donned the instruments. Brian Gidley sat down to John Densmore’s drums and the show was on the road. Being a Copycat band, naturally they played some Doors songs, an were well-received. They played other pieces as well, which, though very well done, was not so well received. The audience wanted The Doors and no one else would do.
They played for more than an hour. As time, went on the audience became restless, then rude, and finally a lot of whistling, shouting and rowdy behavior ensued. Just as the promoter was close to panic, aThe Doors walked through the doors. John, for the moment, was quite upset when he saw Brian using his drums. A hasty explanation took care of that. John was temperamental at times, but in the end, he was fair.
The guys finished playing while the Stone Ponies got ready to go on. I walked out and asked the crowd to give them applause for the effort. I must say, in all fairness, that restless and disappointed as the crowd was, they gave a really good applause for the Factory’s effort. Then I made the most important announcement that both groups had arrived.
At this point, my parents were standing back stage. The manager of the Stone Ponies decided to take over. He walked up to my father and told him to get out. He immediately regretted it. Though he could be angry, my father was not a violent man; he never swore for shouted. It was his eyes and the tone of his voice that made his mood very clear.
I can remember that for a moment he just stood there and stared at this guy, who was about 6 inches shorter than my father. He did not move for about ten seconds. He then spoke in a voice that would have frozen an iceberg. Without moving and piercing that guy with his stare he said “ I suggest you speak to my son. He is the Road Manager for The Doors. I am an invited guest. I suggest that you clear the stage.” Then, without another word, he turned his back on that guy. The Ponies manager just stood there. I don’t think anyone had ever spoken to him like that before. In any case, my parents watched the show from the wings as did Terry and the boys from the Factory, who lined up behind the amps.
Outside the building, the audience for the sold-out second show was lining up in anticipation of the ending of the first performance. They were not as well informed as those inside the theatre had been. It was cold, damp and getting colder as the evening came. There was a lot of trouble. Fights broke out and people bunched into the street causing traffic problems. There was a growing demand for ticket refunds. Fortunately, things did not get ugly. They saw the two groups arrive and everyone calmed down. I can say one thing, I don’t think I ever saw a big theatre empty and fill again as fast as I did that night.
Naturally, everyone from the Factory stayed for the second show. My parents went back to Andover. Terry and I were to go there to stay that night before going to New York. The audience was very restless. They were wet and cold and no one could blame them. For every ticket that was refunded there were 4 people waiting to buy, so even the promoter suffered no loss.
On this night, the wonder of the performances was there. Somehow the guys outdid themselves again. They were exhausted from the trip, the waiting and frustrated over the delay in leaving Rochester. Despite all the travel problems and the pressure of the situation, those two performances were spectacular. There was lightness, energy, and a dynamic in every piece they played. Jim was brilliant. All the emotion, the drama and the physical effects were in place. The whole show was absolutely brilliant. The audience, though tired and wet, was responsive, alert and excited. The applause for every piece was overwhelming. The sheer delight and mood of that performance reached new highs. Truly incredible when you consider what everyone had been through, and the energy required of sequential performances with only ninety minutes rest.
The show ended and the audience wanted more, but the guys were tired. I know one thing: it was a really wonderful performance. Though we were tired, a result of the tension as much as the long hours spent there, we could not help but feel that this was one of their best shows. Nearly 40 years later, I still hold that opinion. The guys from the Factory pitched in, and in short time we had everything put away and were on our way to Andover.
My parents were still up and had prepared a dinner of sorts. We had not eaten since we got to the theatre. We had a pleasant time talking about the show, what was next and what the life in California was like. But good things have to end. The boys went home and we went to bed…and what a welcome sleep that was!
Edited by psychic Linda Lauren