The Rolling Stones Go South - Rolling Stone
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The Rolling Stones Go South

Scenes from the Playboy Mansion all the way down to Alabama

Keith Richards, Charlie Watts, Mick Jagger, Bill Wyman, Mick Taylor, Rolling StonesKeith Richards, Charlie Watts, Mick Jagger, Bill Wyman, Mick Taylor, Rolling Stones

Rock and roll band 'The Rolling Stones' pose for a portrait circa 1972.

Michael Ochs Archives/Getty

In Chicago, in the house that Playboy built, an anonymous brown-stone on a quiet leafy street that Hugh Hefner calls home, the scene is a party in the great room of the mansion, or the “Palace Museum” as it has come to be known on the Rolling Stones tour.

Past the security heavies in black suits at the front door, walkie talkies in their hands and pistols under their shoulders, is a camera that screens all prospective entrants, up the wide sweeping stairs to the door that says, “If you don’t swing, don’t ring” in Latin script.

Push through down three steps and you’re in the great hall. Two suits of armor flank the stairs, deep plush couches are arranged to form sitting areas on either side. It all runs into a huge stone fireplace over which hangs a Picasso of a reclining nude woman.

Photos: Rare and Intimate Pictures of the Rolling Stones

Keith Richards is lying flat on his ass in a deep plush sofa. Keith’s scarecrow frame is sporting brass studded jeans, leopardskin boots, mixmaster avocado hair, and red sunglasses. Five years ago he would have been stopped outside the front door and never even allowed to state his name or stand in front of the camera. Today he is lying flat on his ass digging Hugh Hefner.

“Look at him,” Keith says, laughing into his Tequila Sunrise. “Doin’ well, ain’t he? Makin’ conversation, bridgin’ the generation gap. He’s my father’s dream, he is. I been thinkin’ about doin’ a Black and Decker job on my room. Yeah, you know . . . sprayin’ it all black vinyl or somethin’ . . . Maybe writin’ Holiday Inn on the walls . . . somethin’ to remember us by.”

* * *

As the Rolling Stones continue to mamba along, seeing America on $15 per diem, it has become apparent that their music is finishing second to the party that swirls along with them.

“Have you noticed?” says Peter Rudge, tour manager, and always quick with a quote when the chips are down. “The music’s almost a byproduct. It goes on for an hour and a half and then it’s not talked about. Fewer and fewer people seem able to get out of the dressing room to watch the show either. Makes me wonder what’s goin’ on here. Not rock and roll, surely.”

Days begin at five in the afternoon and end at ten in the morning. The boredom of being adrift in the Hyatt Houses and Ramada Inns of America is unending. Nothing can relieve it but to get knock-down loaded, dismantle a toilet or sometimes tear a TV set off its hinges and send it to its cathode ray-death some ten floors below (the entire incident is on film), then turn up the tape cassette and go looking for another party in another room.

Mr. Robert Frank, a street philosopher who is the tour film maker, sat grizzled and unshaven in a dining room in New Orleans, great bags developing under his eyes. A waitress dropped a dishcover just in back of his ear. He winced like a muscatel-soaked skid row refugee and sighed. “I have never been on anything like this,” he said quietly. “I have been on trips with extraordinary people before but they were always directed outward . . . this totally excludes the outside world. To never get out, to never know what city you are in . . . I cannot get used to it.”

Indeed. If you were to ask about Dallas, you would be told that the air-conditioning in the coffee shop on Sunday morning is lousy but not much else. As Charlie Watts said late one night, staring into a Texas pizza, “It’s not much of a way to see the country, is it? All you care about is how good the bed is, and can ya get somethin’ to eat after the show . . . “

The Rolling Stones tour party moves across the nation like the League in Hesse’s The Journey to the East. The limousines are ready at any hour to whisk the entire party to private hangers where the chartered plane is ready to take off. Jo Bergman puts out a daily newsletter and it’s off again, into the night, en route to uh, ah . . . hell, turn up the cassette and pour another drink.

* * *

Ostensibly the reason the Stones are stashed at Mr. Hefner’s house in Chicago is security. “They might not like it here,” says Leroy, their personal bodyguard, “but the security is super tight. This is the kinda town you can get yourself mugged right on the street in the daylight.”

Chicago is toddling the week the Stones pass through. The downtown hotels are filled with a furniture convention (big dealers from Grand Rapids), and a hardware convention (nuts and bolts). Thus, the tour’s back-up crew are given rooms in a hotel, whose architecture is much like the Kinney Parking lot on 54th Street in Manhattan. In the very same establishment, which is located only a convenient $15 cab ride from the city, are eight hundred McDonald’s hamburger executives. The boys from McDonald’s crowd the lobby, jam into the crystal Art Deco elevators and shout to each other from the balconies. They carry identical briefcases, wear the kind of outfit that’s perfect for a yacht when you don’t own one, and bear lapel stickers that say Be All You Can Be.

Things with the boys themselves are not much better at the PM (the Playboy Mansion/Palace Museum). When the Stones first arrived in the wee hours of the morning Is There Sex After Death is being screened. The couches are awash with ladies who are there to watch and the vibes are formal.

To alleviate that, Keith Richards invites most of Stevie Wonder‘s band and anyone else he can to a party the next evening . . .

Hugh Hefner is sitting on a polished leather hassock just under the Picasso, folding Cherry Blend into his black briar pipe with the white rabbit emblem on the stem. There is a circle of pneumatic ladies revolving around him, in his blue corduroy pants and a dark shirt. He looks just as he did during the TV days of Playboy After Dark. There’s a bit of hanging back going on . . . God, rock and rollers get nervous too, in the presence of legends. Peter Rudge, who had had the benefit of a Cambridge education and is a master of the social graces, makes the first move. It’s a great moment, this meeting between two dynamos, as Peter asks Hugh, “Who runs your record company?”

“Uh,” Hef says, “John, John, uh . . . No, that’s not right. It’s uh . . . Geez, I’m just hell on names. Uh, Sal . . . “

“Sal Iannuci?” Peter says, trying to help.

“Uh . . . ” Hef reloads his pipe, runs as absent-minded hand through the blonde hair of the girl by his knee. She smiles back at him, absent-mindedly. “Uh,” Hef says finally, “damned if I know. I’ve been in a meeting that went on until 1:30 this morning. First chance I’ve had to relax all day. I guess I’m a little punchy.” He smiles and puffs away at his pipe.

Around Hef the couches throb with long-legged suntanned American femininity. None of your faintly European-looking East Coast ladies, or wholewheat West Coast surfer girls. These are American dream ladies, the real thing, from the heartland, Rockport, and Omaha, and Columbus, Ohio. Bunnies mostly, with a sprinkling of Playmates and Bunny Plane stewardesses.

The Rolling Stones on the Cover of Rolling Stone

“Do you come from this planet?” one asks me.

“How do you mean?”

“Well the way you were sitting there, it’s like this party has nothing to do with you. Aren’t you having fun?”

One Bunny leads to another. Soon there’s a throng of them, chattering away. One says she’s a Libra. “Are there any more ‘beans’ around?” she asks her friends. It finally has gotten down to beans and carrots and peas. What are “beans”?

“Oh you know,” she says, beaming brightly, “Quaaludes. Quacks. Seconals too. Beans are my second favorite drug.”

And your first?

She smiles and holds up a dear, tiny coke spoon that hangs from a chain around her neck.

The conversation quickens, filled with information that makes it sound like a seminar on drug abuse. “Soapers are really nice . . . “

“. . . a lot of coke but not anymore . . . “

“A couple of half-trips of acid . . . after the Stones finished I leaned back and my whole row of chairs fell to the floor . . . “

“It’s fifty bucks a month to live in the mansion, and you have to pay for all your food. But weird things are always happening . . . “

“. . . I came back feeling good and this chick had OD’ed on pills and booze. Let me tell you. It really brought my head down . . . “

Galliano and Courvoisier are flowing over the bar like water. Servants are cruising and they’ll bring you anything you’d like.

“Say, waiter, I’m hungry.”

“Very good, sir, what would you like?”

“Well, nothing special. What have you got?”

“Sir, we have everything . . . what do you prefer?”

“How about some fish?”

“Baked, broiled, fried, cold? Lobster tails, perhaps. Would lobster tails suffice?”

Like that. The gameroom is down a curving stairway, past the pool and the sun-and-sauna room and through the beaded curtains. There’s a pool table in the middle and a collection of neon flashing pinball machines, a computer quiz, table football, The Red Baron, Test-Your-Skill driving games, electro-dart boards. It’s all for free. No dime needed. You push the button and you get a replay.

Willie, the baggage man, is shooting pool one-handed, Charlie Watts watches and mumbles, “Fantastic, Willie is . . . ” Jim Price is sighting down a pool cue saying “Sasssssss-katchewan,” a phrase which has meaning only in pool halls. The sound system has been captured and plugged into a portable tape recorder. Jerry Lee Lewis is pounding piano, Smokey and the Miracles whirling “More Love,” Aretha follows the Temptations who follow the Coasters who cause Bobby Keys to shout, “You know who that is? The greatest gawdam sax player of all time, that’s who . . . King Curtis.”

Four in the morning and people are careening room to room, from the bar through the living room down to the game room. Stevie Wonder’s playing some incredible funky piano. A Playboy waiter has been treated to the very first amyl nitrate rush out of his life, and he spills an entire tray of drinks on the floor of a roomful of sympathetic tour folks.

“I’ve got to leave right away,” a Bunny says. “They’re organizing a Roman bath in the pool. I mean, I was like ordered to come but I don’t think it includes that.”

The next day a lady by the name of Mercy, in town to pose for her Playmate pictures, with her cascades of platinum blonde hair, wide eyes and what is usually described in toothpaste ads as a “winning smile” says, “Oh goodness. Usually, I’m the straightest of them all. But last night . . . oh Lawd. I’ve got bumps and bruises and bites all over my ass. Ooh. And tomorrow’s my birthday too. I feel just like Cinderella.”

The reason the Stones are actually in Chicago is to do three shows at the International Amphitheater, said by some to be the world’s largest building, in terms of total area. “The world’s ugliest,” Mick Taylor says, in terms of aesthetics.

Chicago karma arrives as soon as they begin setting up the stage. Unions: Chip Monck has been blacklisted in Chicago ever since someone dropped his light truss there on the last tour and Chip took it upon himself to straighten the man out. He sits edgily, watching them set up his stage.

The Rolling Stones Live, 1964-2007

“The name,” he says wryly, “is Harry Pine. I cue lights and I’m from Newark, New Jersey.” For ten percenters: Five minutes before showtime a process server in a porkpie hat and South Side grey suit arrives in the dressing room accompanied by two police officers. He’s after Peter Rudge with a writ that attaches all the instruments and the sequins on Mick’s face.

* * *

“The audiences cheer but they do not smile . . . No joy, no love. You walk out of the Amphitheater after watching the Rolling Stones perform and suddenly the Chicago stockyards smell clean and good by comparison.” – Tom Fitzpatrick, Chicago Sun-Times

You always play the same licks more or less,” Charlie Watts says. “So it kinda depends on the crowd as to how good the show is gonna be.” The crowd in Chicago is insane. Out of its head. Strange bodies come hurtling into the amplifiers. Hash pipes are being sucked, then waved in the air. Mick’s jumpsuit is torn all down the side. A sweating horde, pushing and dancing in front of the stage.

Chip Monck is the Albert Speer of rock, manipulating crowds to hysteria, as he bathes Mick in red laser beams, shades Mick Taylor in purple as he plays “Love In Vain,” rolls the huge reflecting mirror back so that it spreads a soft angelic beam from above on the upturned faces of the crowd.

Chip Monck is at work, teasing the crowd, making them wait, delaying the climax. It all builds slowly through the set until the Stones get to tearing it apart and then, “Hit It!” Chip says and the Stones stand revealed for the first time in white light. “Hit It!” and the house lights come on and the crowd can see itself for the first time and feel its great numbers. “Hit It!” and the light truss rolls down. The red and blue gels are pulled quickly off and they litter the back of the stage as the truss rides back up to pour more white light downon the band as they womp and kick into “Street Fighting Man.”

Mick shaking his fist and putting the evil on Mick Taylor as he plays the blues, Keith the nightstalker taking three zombie steps to the very edge of the stage to lay down the graveyard riff in “Midnight Rambler,” Charlie whipping crossrhythms in back of everybody as they tear no shit into “Bye-Bye Johnny B. Goode.” All of it.

Chip Monck works his own show, building a metaphysical progression that ends with Mick Jagger in white light.

* * *

Every show in Chicago is followed by a party at the Playboy Mansion. At the second of these, Mick Jagger is hiding inside Keith Richards’ room. “There’s too many strange women out there tonight. Too many I don’t know.”

The Mansion is filled with tourists who have heard the Stones are there. They belly up to the bar to order the most difficult and expensive combination of exotic drinks they can think of.

Mick is in good shape though. He has the latest Rolling Stone, open to his review. He also has dear Mercy hanging on every word and a waiter bringing him Lafite-Rothschild ’61.

“I don’t know what they want,” Mick says tiredly, meaning record reviewers in general. “We put together a side you can listen to in the mornin’ or fall asleep to late at night and it says, ‘Side two is the only one without a barrelhouse rocker.’ Well, I mean, ya can’t please everyone, can ya? . . . “

He sighs and turns the page. “Actually there’s several nice things in it. It’s only that they’re always waitin’ for another Let It Bleed . . . . God, when that one came out, the critical reaction was no better than lukewarm. It’s only recently I’ve realized how good an album it is . . . what with us still doin’ so many songs from it on stage . . . “

After ten years at it, Mick Jagger still finds things to do on stage he’s never thought of before: a vampire scream in “Midnight Rambler,” hanging on to the microphone with one leg extended like Nureyev, sticking the silver rose-petal bowl on his head and bowing gallantly. When Mick is on stage one spotlight follows him wherever he goes, even behind the amps, at his bottle of Jack Daniels.

“Did ya see men leapin’ on stage the other night?” Mick asks, still thinking of other things. “Great big men they were too. With clenched fists . . . shoutin’. I’ve had to stop doin’ that one . . . the clenched fist . . . I still like to point though. That’s a gospel thing . . . like signifyin’ . . . it’s puttin’ the power right on ’em . . .

“I see weird things out front some nights. The guy beggin’ me to whip him durin’ ‘Midnight Rambler.’ Pleadin’ for it and grabbin’ at the belt. His eyes . . .

“Another held up a burnin’ cigarette to catch my attention, then crushed it in his palm and held it up, all black with ash and fucked up. Weird, eh?”

“Oh Mick,” Mercy sighs, “I was standing next to this guy with a shaven head and when he saw you cut your lip on the mike he bit his until blood came in the same spot.”

“See what I mean,” Mick says. “You know I was goin’ to do this tour goin’ on stage in my street clothes, whatever I had on at the time. But it’s not what they want, is it? So I designed the outfits I’m wearin’ . . . God, The Monck’s got a load of ideas about things we could do. If we were only in the theater,’ Mick sighs, “these things would be simple. We could fly in backdrops and sets . . .

“It’s the fact of people jus’ standin’ on a bare stage playin’ that makes it funky. But there’s so much more that could be done, with stages and ramps and balloons . . . God, one would like to be able to do somethin’ conceptual as well . . .”

* * *

It’s the very last night of three and it looks as though Chicago is going to withstand the Stones. Of course, there have been a few incidents. They did their bit for Hyatt House ecology, taking the little squirt nozzles that water the ivy on the balconies and pointing them over the side so that they’ll rain down on the heads of the boys from McDonalds in the lobby.

The Playboy Mansion is holding up very best of all. Hef and Bill Wyman have struck up a relationship based on the game of backgammon and they sit at a long wooden table like barons playing contest after contest. There’s loose talk of a jam session happening sometime later on in the evening and Hef graciously says, “Sure, be fine if you want to do it. Why, we’ve even had Buddy Rich here once with his 20-piece band.”

Keith and Bobby Keys have ambushed a girl at the top of the stairs that lead to the pool and they’re asking, “Well . . . how sick are you really?” The number of ladies afloat in the great room has stabilized. It looks as if most of them are checking to see if they’ve let anyone slip by.

Don Heckman has gotten Keith to hold still for an interview and he is sunk once again into one of those deep plush sofas saying, “America’s looser this time . . . I’ve been telling everyone that. Last time they sat and stared, real stone freaks. They’re more stoned this time but . . . maybe it’s just that school is out . . . we only ever see this country in November and December . . .

“But it is different. I can remember every tour and each one’s unique. Some things though don’t change I guess . . . last time we were here that guy climbed on to the tower in Texas and today, what, six killed in Cherry Hills . . . some people worry about tourin’ here but I guess you might just as well get it crossin’ the street . . . “

Unlike Mick, who seems to have an unending reserve of stagecraft and magic to draw on, Keith on stage seems always to be at the brink of disaster, about to fall into the crowd or off the back steps, about to knock over an amp or tear his voice to shreds once and forever while singing “Happy.”

“I tell you though,” he says, over the rim of another Tequila Sunrise, “I’d dig to meet Wallace. The Governor. Yeah, I bet he’s a gas, man, behind his game.” Don Heckman says something about Angela Davis and Keith says, “Yeah, man . . . we sent her flowers and telegrams when she got off. I wonder if she saw ’em . . .

“What never changes is how wired you get after a concert. Two concerts and you’re twice as wired. Didn’t get to sleep until ten this morning. Of course, this,” he waves a glass out at the living room, “is all kinda disorientin’ too.”

“Got any pithy things to say for the readers of the New York Times?” Don Heckman asks Mick Taylor as he drops into a couch.

“Mick-eee,” Mercy squeals softly next to him. “About this place?” Mick inquires, “Tell ’em to read Playboy.”

“No, man,” Keith says, running a hand through his hair and ruffling it, “it’s not always like this. A few weird things have come down here I’m sure but nothin’ like this. Ten different chicks have told me . . . it’s us, man.” He rocks back, ruffles his hair, and laughs.

Let It Bleed: The Rolling Stones’ 1969 U.S. Tour: Photos

Dear People, Jo Bergman’s newsletter reads, “tomorrow we leave for Kansas City and Dallas. For those who are staying at the hotel, baggage must be ready in the lobby by 2 PM. Departure from hotel to airport at 4 PM. Plane leaves for Kansas City at 5 PM.”

Another one of those three-cities-in-a-day days, with Kansas City but a three-hour break between Chicago and Dallas. As the Stones trudged up the steps of their chartered McCulloch turbo jet, Truman Capote is already checking into the Mihlenback Hotel in Kansas City, ready to join the tour on assignment for Rolling Stone.

The tour is a small, closed community in motion. Rumors move with the. speed of the train. En route from Chicago, the hot story is that waiting along with Mr. Capote in Kansas City is Jacqueline Kennedy Onassis. The exact etiquette of addressing the former First Lady is discussed, as is the nature of the party someone is sure to throw after the show.

Better to be prepared than caught unawares. Danny Seymour, Robert Frank’s second cameraman and soundman, is sounding people about the possibilities of laying a joint on Jackie, within camera range. “Right in the middle of her palm,” he says, “and I can zoom right in on it.”

The plane lands and the Stones pile into their traveling mobile home, a house trailer with carpets, air conditioning and a full kitchen, that the Stones use to travel in from hotel to arena and back again. Mick Jagger climbs into the front seat, turns on his camera, and lets it run for the duration of the ride, adding yet another straight-ahead Andy Warhol-type record of the ride from the airport to the gig, to his collection.


There is a girl standing by the side of the road. It is pitch black and she stands waiting for a ride. Cars woosh by on their way somewhere else. Finally a Mack Truck pulls up. “Where you headed, girlie?”

“To the next gig, sir.”

Cynthia Sagittarius, a freckled-faced 21-year-old has seen all but four concerts on this tour. She had tickets to none. She hitchhiked from New York to Vancouver, British Columbia and waited for someone with an extra ticket. She then hitched to Seattle, San Francisco, L.A., Long Beach, San Diego, Albuquerque, to each one of the 16 cities the tour has stopped in so far.

“It’s really not hard,” Cynthia says, standing with bedroll and knapsack under arm in Minneapolis. “I get to sleep in the cars . . . and when I get there, there are always nice people outside the hall with extra tickets to take me in. I hitched through the South last year so Mobile and Tuscaloosa won’t be a problem . . . . If you don’t worry about something, it’s not a hassle.”

What about money?

“Krishna provides.”

Word about Cynthia soon gets around. A little note appears about her in the newsletter and superstardom is about to reach out for her. Gary Stromberg tries to lay some cash on her in Chicago. “Take it,” he says. “What are you eating?” She shakes her head. “For vitamins,” Gary says desperately.

“I can’t,” Cynthia tells Gary. “It’s a rule. I don’t take money from friends or people I know.”

Willie the baggage man makes her sandwiches. Thanks, she says, but no. She doesn’t eat meat. Jo Bergman arranges for her to ride from city to city in the mobile home that the Stones use to get to the gigs. Gee, she says, she’d rather hitch.

The Stones entourage is instructed to let her in to see the show anytime they spot her; but she never asks. She is just there . . . waiting. “I’d like to meet her,” Charlie Watts says, “Remarkable thing she’s doin’, innit?”

“Gee,” Cynthia says, “I really wouldn’t want to meet them. I just like to see them play.”

Mick Taylor sits quietly as the party revolves around him. “Quietly” always appears with his name when he is written about. He is introduced mainly by Jagger as “Oh-so-young-and-fragile Mick Taylor on guitar.”

“Didja go to any of those Hollywood parties?” he asks, “those people with that LA pallor . . . almost like Satyricon, not quite the decadence and perversity though . . . I reckon you’ll see it soon, in Los Angeles, at least . . .

“This country, though, there’s still so much land, unlike England. We had a day off up in the mountains outside of Denver, with the sun setting through the trees’ and all . . . God . . . breathtakin’, really.”

Across the room, Bill Wyman is concentrating on his next move on the backgammon board. He and Hugh Hefner have been locked into it for hours now. Bill is the most settled of the Stones, and his wife and son have been traveling with him. “Bill and Hef get on well, don’t they?” one partygoer asks, as they begin yet another game. “He’s the only one of the Stones he can really relate to. Must be their similar interests, or something . . . “

It all seems unlikely in Kansas City, where things aren’t up to date, and kids prowl around the outside of the hall looking to sneak, rather than break in.

Mr. Capote arrives backstage in Kansas City. He is very small and very dignified like a United States Senator. With him is the Princess Lee Radziwill, Jacqueline’s sister. The hall in Kansas City is like a movie theater, and it smells of melted butter. Mr. Capote and the Princess stand under the Tychobrahe speakers to watch the show.

Despite three days of partying at the Playboy Mansion, the band is still on its feet. “Tomorrow we rehearse,” Keith says after they come off.

The plane leaves that night for Dallas and the difficulties begin. It is 87 degrees at 1:00 in the morning.

Terry Southern wanders into the Tarrant County Convention Center dressing room. He is a rumple-bearded man with long hair, his clothes the worse for his long flight. “Hello, big bopper,” he says to Keith Richards whom he knows since the days of Barbarella in Rome and Brian Jones in London. Also present is Richard Elman, a novelist reporting for Esquire. And Truman Capote, who is on assignment from Rolling Stone, with the Princess. The green tile dressing room feels like Manhattan on Friday night.

The Princess, in a black scoop top with an Access guest badge pasted to the back, chain link bag with shoes to match, is looking very summery. “Peter,” she says, in her whiskey and cigarette smoke voice, “Oh, Peter . . . come look, we’ve found a good comer.” From around the tile enclosure comes a voice:

“They give you 25 years for this in Texas.”

The Princess takes three steps into the throng of people clutching drinks and greasy hors d’oeuvres and makes contact with Mick Jagger. She has Mick by one bare arm and she whispers, “What about Tony?” in his ear.

“Who’s Tony?” Chris O’Dell asks, puzzled.

“Slim Pickens had nevah been out of the sticks until Stanley brought him over to England for ‘Strangelove,'” Terry Southern tells his fellow ex-Texan, Bobby Keys. “A good ole boy. He arrives with his pants tucked into his boots, cowboy hat, the whole thing. ‘Snort-snort, ah nevah says no to a drank, Terry’ . . . ‘Are you settled okay?’ I ask him. ‘What you know me. Gimme loose fittin’ shoes, a taght pussy, and a warm place to shit and I’m fahn . . . ‘”

Capote is at the buffet table looking for something to drink. Apple juice won’t do, he decides. The little black bag he carries with him is at his side. “The sound,” he says, “it’s too loud. I’ve been told it causes ear damage. Is that true?”

“You evah been to Crystal City, Texas, the spinach capitol of the world?” Terry asks Bobby. “They got a statue right in the middle of the town square . . . Pop-eye.”

Four AM again. Keith is propped up against a wall, trying to take some rest as Terry Southern bangs away trying to sell him some kind of movie deal. “The whole thing depends on you,” he says. “See, what we do is open up on the two of you, then we cut right away . . . .”

* * *

Stevie Wonder and his band fail to appear for either show in Houston. They travel by commercial airliner and stay in different hotels than the Stones. For a gig in Tuscaloosa, some 300 miles from Mobile, Stevie’s band takes a seven AM flight the morning after a show, and a party. They arrive in Atlanta at 8:58, then sit around until 12:10 when they catch a flight that brings them into Tuscaloosa at 12:42. A three-hour wait for a 30-minute flight. On the same night, the Stones fly back to New Orleans, spend the night there, then go on to Tuscaloosalate the next day and to Nashville right after the concert.


The hair in Mobile is shorter than in any other tour city. There are too many policemen outside the hall. Four of them refused to work inside when told they would not be allowed to carry their ivory-handled Magnum .38s which hang obscenely from their belts. They’re in riot gear right from the start. Brother officers crack their long black billies one against another, or whip them into lamp posts, just to keep loose.

The Stones are standing in a line inside the dressing room, shuffling and being polite as Assistant Mayor and Chief of Police Robert (“Call Me Bob”) Doyle (“It’s A Good Irish Name”) presents them with gold keys to the city.

“Some of mah conservuhtive friends,” the Assistant Mayor says, “said to me, ‘What are you doin’ Bob? Have you gone crazy?’ But Ah say we got 11,000 people here tonite and we gotta keep ’em happy too.” Bulbs of the local newspaper photographers flash quickly. “With that and a dahm,” the Assistant Mayor tells Bill Wyman, “you can get a cup of coffee.”

Across from the arena is a row of rickety wooden houses, peeling and cracking with age. At 224 Lawrence St., a man in a suit and tie sits rocking on his porch. Three little girls with bare legs sit on the curb. At 220 Lawrence Street, three ladies sit on the porch. Two have babies in their laps.

Before them flows the unending river of white children from all over the South–as far as Virginia and North Carolina, Mississippi and Louisiana – turned out in their best summer shirts and cottons.

“Do you know who’s playing here tonight?” I asked the younger of the three women. She has a baby and pink pincurlers in her hair.

She shakes her head, and shifts in her chair.

“Shoah,” the next woman down says. “It’s that Little Stevie Wonder.”

“Oh dear,” the young one sighs. “Ah knew it was someone good. Ah wish Ah could go, shoahly do. But it’s been sold out. Ain’t that right?”

The Sno-Cone man in the parking lot is white. He has reasonable hair and a beard and he is tripping on THC a kid from Louisiana laid on him. “It’s not lahk you think down hyeah,” he said, “it ain’t lahk when Wallace stood in the doah at the university. That shit is ovah.”

On stage, the Stones kick into “Jumpin’ Jack Flash” and someone explodes a smoke bomb down in front. A cloud of green smoke comes floating towards the amps. An old Alabam’ stage hand looks out at the cloud, scratches an ear and drawls, “Biggest goddahm mess o’ marijuana smoke Ah evah seen.”

* * *

An Army guy who’d flown a cargo plane cross-country from Vancouver, then hitched the rest of the way to get to the only two gigs the Stones are playing during his week of leave, comes backstage. “When I was shot up in Nam,” he says, “I kept it together by singing Stones songs to myself. I guess you could say I’m the only Rolling Stones freak in the Army . . . who’s a Captain.”

“Chawlie’s good tonight, isn’t he?” a kid yells at Charlie Watts as he stands spinning his drumsticks in the tunnel that leads to the stage. “It’s bullshit that,” Charlie says, as the Stones go on for the 27th show of the tour, before the 300,000th person, for their usual 70 per cent of the gate ($63,000 tonight) against a guarantee, whichever is higher.

Ten days later on a hot Sunday in St. Louis, Mick Jagger is resting between shows in his hotel room with the TV set turned on and the sound turned off, and news reports about the Democratic Convention flickering across the screen.

“It’s un-be-liev-able,” Mick says, referring to the jousting and challenging going down in Miami Beach. “It’s unreal.” He is just back from spending the tour break in the Virgin Islands where it was “fuckin’ boilin’,” 110 in the shade. . . .

“I’ve a terrible memory you know,” he says, “and I can’t remember at all what the last tour here was like. There’s a few I can recall, Madison Square Garden, Altamont, a little of L.A., Chicago vaguely, but not much else. On this one though . . . the audiences have been good, haven’t they? In Knoxville and such it might be a bit quiet, but they have listened and gotten up at the end and responded when we wanted them to . . . what can you say . . . good audiences.

“A bit of cryin’ now and then for ‘Sympathy For the Devil,’ which I can’t remember anymore.” He points to the TV set. “Of course, we might do a long version of it for Nixon. . . .

“Chicago was quite somethin’, stayin’ at the Mansion and all, which I liked. Hefner was nice to us . . . it would take hours for me to tell you all of the craziness that went on there. Just such craziness and a bit loony underneath, which I like sometimes. After all, it’s a part of America, isn’t it? Couldn’t find a place like that anywhere else, could you?

“The South was alright too. . . . Seein’ long hairs in places like Tuscaloosa, where there weren’t any at all last time we played there. The best drive we’ve had so far has been through the Smokeys – Charlotte down to Knoxville, very pretty goin’ down these country roads, seeing little Baptist churches, revival tents, and chain gangs. . . . The Washington concert was pretty frightenin’ and a bit weird. It’s difficult for me to say what it was like for the people who were there, but I guess it sounded alright to the people who were there, if you were no further than halfway back. There was trouble in front, people sittin’ on the stage, grabbin’ at your legs, gettin’ tangled in the mike cables. . . .

“It was a lot like Paris, where the stage got so covered with people for four nights runnin’ that you got used to it, but as this was the first time it happened here, it was a bit of unpleasantness. Just a few loons, really, among the 40,000, but still, I couldn’t do my thing. . . .

“I would have liked video blowups or somethin’ because there was no way for me to reach all them people, it bein’ night and me unable to see ’em. It felt even bigger than Hyde Park, where there were more people, but at least it was daylight. . . .

“I wanted to go on earlier, before everyone got too tired and drunk and nasty. As it was, we got on at nine and the papers said some very nice things, but for us, you understan’, it was a pretty bad show.

“I’m trying to bring the one concert in the Rubber Bowl, God forbid, who knows what that one will be, earlier on? Right now, we’re in the gritty part of the tour where we’re all gettin’ tired and you got to pull yourself together.

“Madison Square Garden, the big one’s still comin’ up. After it’s over I’ll be goin’ somewhere to write songs for a month. But I expect we’ll pull a few tricks on stage in New York. Maybe I’ll stand on my head, pull off all my clothin’, and just go crazy.

“Hopefully, by that time, I’ll be completely mad.”

This story is from the August 3rd, 1972 issue of Rolling Stone.


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