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Leaving out on faith for nothing had been confirmed, and no contracts had been signed. We headed towards Boston. This was on our itinerary as our first show, but we had not heard from anyone concerning the tour for two weeks. All we knew is we had to make the first show, and then we would give the rest to the Lord. Eighteen hours ahead of us from Louisville, we pulled out and hit the road.
Bride's tour bus would be a Dodge Caravan. The four of us, along with amps, drums and merchandise, would all have to be carried in one vehicle if we were going to be able to afford this tour. We were guaranteed $500.00 a night, and Star Song pitched in CD's and tapes for tour support. Troy would end up the principle driver, with me second, and Jerry if we were desperate. None of us had ever seen Rik drive, and we were not sure if he even had his license, so we did not think about asking him to drive right away. We left in faith for Boston. Neither Moseley or Scott had heard from Huey in two weeks.
Beaten and exhausted, we arrived at Derringers in Boston. It was a relief to see Stryper's tour bus sitting in front of the club when we arrived. "I guess the tour is on," I said. "I hope we are on the bill." We had a topper on the van that we kept the merchandise in. While unloading the topper, Troy dropped the lid on the bridge of his nose, resultng in a huge gash. It bled for a long time. Troy was very upset. Our first show of the tour, and he looked like he had been punched in the nose. He went and bought make up to try to cover the wound, which worked fine.
Seeing Stryper for the first time in person was like seeing real rock stars. They made everyone leave the room for their sound check, and consumed the evening trying to get their backing tracks to work. Of course, we got no sound check. Even though we had been on the road for 18 hours with little sleep squashed in this tiny van, we played the show full throttle to a packed house. When the show was over we realized the tour was on, and it wasn't a dream. We had really just opened for Christian rock's premier band! The next date was in Canton, Ohio at the Canton Palace.
It was Thanksgiving, so we stopped at a truck stop on the way to the show and had some turkey sandwiches. At the Canton Palace we actually got to meet Robert Sweet, Stryper's drummer. He was holding a compact and applying makeup to his face. He talked very soft and seemed as though he liked our company. That night we played a heavy show and, once again, we were feeling very confident with our performance.
We were on a limited budget, but by this time in the tour we realized that one hotel room was not big enough for the four of us and our different personalities, so we splurged and forked out the bucks for two. The next show was in Pittsburgh at the Metropol. We arrived at the hotel and it's maze like parking garage, which seemed to worm itself deep down under the city. We were unsure if the van with the toper could fit. We ended up taking the topper off to park the van. Trying to find the hotel from the parking garage was no easy chore. We stepped onto an escalator which we thought would take us to the hotel lobby, but somehow ended up in a closed bank where armed security guards directed us in a different direction toward the hotel.
This club looked like something out of Mad Max and was along the part of the city called the Strip District. Before the show, we were asked to join Stryper in an adjoining restaurant for dinner. There we became familiar with Oz Fox, their guitarist. (He had a strong personality and seemed
hungry.) I consider this show as one of the finest we ever played.
Stryper stood on the side of the stage and watched the blistering set, realizing that we were not your normal opening act. We were authentic and commanding. That night, Pat, Stryper's road manager, was ordered by Michael Sweet to give us their hotel rooms after they had showered. (Stryper were only using their rooms to shower before and after the show; then they would retire to the tour bus.) They pitched us the rooms, which would save us a lot of money. Pat wanted to originally sell us the rooms, which would have put money in his own pocket. He wasn't happy with this arrangement, but Michael was the boss.
The following show was in Washington D.C. We were very excited about this show because I wanted to see Washington. The club was called The Bayou, and it turned out to be the worst show attendance wise, as well as in merchandise sells of all the shows. Michael Sweet, Stryper's vocalist, seemed to really like the band, and approached us in the dressing room before the show to let us know that he would love to produce our next record. We began to consider this move.
Our next trip was home for a couple of days. Troy had to return home to work because Stryper had added an unscheduled date, and we were not able to work around Troy's schedule. Our next Stryper show was in Omaha, NE at the Ranch Bowl. The Ranch Bowl was a 'bowling alley via club.' Stryper had been there for a day hanging out with the locals, and they had made a lot of friends.
The night of the show the club was packed. If the Fire Marshall would have showed up we would have been shut down. We were using the clubs' own soundmen everywhere we went, and we were getting great mixes. Stryper's soundman had grown considerably deaf in the last couple of shows, and he had the sound blazing. I thought we were loud during our set, but when Stryper took the stage, I could not even stay in the room. People were leaving holding their ears.
The next show was Sioux falls. It too was sold out. We did notice that Pat (Stryper's road manger) was wearing bowling shoes. He had forgotten his regular shoes at the bowling alley, and would continue to wear the comical bowling shoes for the remainder of the tour. We went next to do two shows at The New Union, where Stryper and Bride broke all attendance records there both nights. The folks in MN had been very supportive of us throughout our career, and they did not let us down these two nights. We got an encore both nights, and Stryper was kind enough and encouraged us to go out and play an extra song each night.
This was also the show where Stryper came out for the first time after a show and spoke directly with the audience. I think the rumor that we were selling almost as much merchandise as they were motivated them. I did not know it at the time, but this would be Stryper's last tour, and I believe they knew it. I really admire them; the way they came out and rocked the house each night when deep down they were ready to throw in the towel. The next show was in Tulsa, Ok at Canes Ball Room.
Troy had to fly back home to work, and we had two days to drive to Tulsa. I, for some reason, was in a hurry, so we did not take our time. While driving through Iowa, I was growing tired behind the wheel. I mentioned to a sleeping Rik and Jerry that, at the next stop, Jerry was going to have to take over the wheel. I was dozing in and out of a light sleep. Then, like a brick wall, I noticed that I was about to rear end a moving police car. The lights on top of his car began to flash. I knew what that meant, so I pulled to the side of the road.
The officer walked back to the van and said that he had seen me coming up behind him. He had sped up to 95, but I was still gaining on him. I explained that I was asleep at the wheel. He asked for my license and the rental papers for the van. I opened the glove box, and, being half-asleep, I wasn't thinking. I had a 380-cal. pistol in the box. (Going out on the road I always carried a pistol.)
I immediately tried to throw my shoulder forward to cover the view of the officer, but I must have been obvious. He asked what was in the box. Finding a loaded handgun within reach of the driver was a violation, which turned into everyone exiting the van and a physical search by the officer on the side of the road. I admitted the gun was mine. I merely had to unload the gun, tuck it away in a garment bag and ride down the road with the officer to a post office to take care of the fine for having a concealed weapon.
Jerry and Rik waited patiently on the side of the road since I took the keys with me. The crazy thing is that neither of them knew where the policeman was taking me, so they thought I must have said something rude and I was going to jail. I returned shortly, thanks to the Iowa Highway Patrol taxi service, and we were on the road again.
Troy rejoined us at Canes Ballroom, bringing the wives out for the show. This was another one of our greatest performances. I think this night we wanted to look like real rockers in front of our wives. My wife Sharon did not get to go because she was pregnant with our second child at the time. She would not get to see any of our shows with Stryper except on video.
Canes Ballroom is a room where everybody who is anybody had played, and we sold it out. We were really feeling good. The next show was in Oklahoma City. This show was an odd one. Pat did not get along with Christian promoters. He and Steve Baker from the New Union had run into some problems, and this show would be no different for this promoter. Pat was like the Tasmanian Devil who loved to dish out abuse, and he was very obnoxious. The bowling shoes made him less serious to us.
Before the show, Stryper had refused to go on because they had not been paid yet. There were rumors that Pat had hit the promoter's wife and two of Stryper's rodies who were trying to get onto their tour bus. Eventually, though going on late, we were given the go ahead, and we took the stage. This was one of those shows that the crowd was twenty feet away from the stage. I have a habit of being right at the edge of the stage with one-foot resting on a monitor.
Stryper had two huge road cases at the front of the stage where my monitors were located. I did not know that these road cases were on wheels. In the past shows, the crowd had held these together with the force of their bodies. With no one up front, these two road cases separated on a chorus of Young Love. I took a five foot fall straight down onto the concrete floor. However, I did not miss a word of the song.
My mic stand was now in the shape of a horseshoe, and I had been banged up a little. The band told me later that when I turned to climb back onto the stage I had the look of a madman in my eyes. They said they had never seen me so crazy looking. I felt like a cowboy who had just been tossed by his horse, but I immediately was back in the saddle, and we finished the show.
The next show we ended up in the Lone Star State at Dallas City Limits. Another sell out. There was no dressing room, so we had to share a broom
closet with an all girl band. We took turns in the room. The next show
put us in Houston at the Back Door. We had become good friends with Stryper at this point, and we were all hanging out with one another and having a great time.
I thought opening bands were supposed to be treated bad by the main act, and we had expected the worst, but Stryper went out of their way to make us comfortable. Each night Michael would ask if we were o.k., if we had been paid, how were the rooms? At the show in Houston, Robert spoke to me openly about the possibility of this being their last tour, and that maybe one day he and I would hook up to work together. I did not think much about it, though. I did notice that Robert was really taking a listen to my vocals through the last few shows.
The Houston show was a sell out, and once again the encore came. We were asked by Stryper to play two songs during our encore at this show. After the show, we hung out on the Stryper tour bus and rapped with Oz and Robert for a couple of hours. Then came the last and most memorable show of the tour. Freeman Hall in San Antonio, TX. This place held over ten thousand people, but had been sectioned off to hold around four thousand for the show. It would be the biggest place we had ever played.
Stryper had started spreading rumors a few shows back how they liked to play jokes on the opening acts, and that they had a surprise for us at this show. Not to be outdone, we formed a plan. We had the promoter's wife buy some silly string and a blow up doll. Doug Van Pelt, the editor of the Christian metal magazine Heavens Metal, was there taking notes and enjoying the atmosphere. Doug had not always been a strong supporter of the band, but I think we were winning his respect with what we were about to do.
We hid all the goodies in our huge dressing room. We came out to play the show. We were only a few bars into the first cut when I felt something damp on my head. It was the Stryper boys with our silly string, blasting us from all sides. We kept playing, trying to get out of the web of string. We finished our set knowing that we played pretty loose because of the fear of another attack that never came.
Stryper had not found all the silly string or the blow up doll, which we had hidden in the shower. We put a Stryper shirt on the doll and waited for our chance. Stryper took the stage full force. They were more accustomed to these big stadiums than us, so they were right at home. During the song Lady, which was a ballad, we went out front with the doll in hand and made our way to the front of the stage.
Taped to the hands of the doll were two signs. One read, "hi mike," the other, "hi Robert." We hoisted the doll high into the air directly in front of Michael, who lost it during the solo. He tried to sing with passion and meaning, but with this puckered doll staring him in the face he had to smile. I ended up tossing the doll on stage during the solo, and Mike kicked the doll a couple of times until it was to the side.
Then we went for the rear attack. We fired the silly string at Robert at first, because he was the closest. He retaliated with food from a deli tray. Their show turned into a food fight with us. Biscuits, celery, carrots, dip ... it all was being thrown. Robert never missed a beat as he was dodging our attack and firing back.
Stryper's rodies even joined in, taking our side. I wished the tour would have been longer. It was the best fellowship and fun we had ever had playing music. But their set drew to an end, and they ended the tour. We said our goodbyes and expected to probably never see them again.
We started our 15-hour drive home and back to reality. Rik, who had not driven the entire tour, took the wheel, and like a man possessed, he drove relentlessly. We all were impressed with Rik's endurance, since none of us knew that he could drive. We had done very well on this tour. I was now able to focus on the band full time.
We began writing heavily for the next record and doing a lot of press about the Stryper tour. Most of the press was not treating the tour like it was anything monstrous. It had been gigantic for us, and would give us a push that no record company could match.
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