The industries I’ve been involved with for a significant part of my life—music, the performing arts, publishing, entertainment, radio, writing—all have common threads. One of these is the tendency to run into famous people.

The classic “six degrees of separation” is more like one or two, especially in the music industry. Cliches like “stars are just like us” and “they put their pants on one leg at a time” are mostly true. But most “normal” people don’t get cheered by thousands of fans for weeks, months, years or decades. That can put a certain kink in your normal-hood, and it’s not always necessarily a good one.

Having said that, I have been amazed how, for the most part, famous people have a certain grace about them, and handle unreasonable situations with poise. Here are some of my favorite famous people that I’ve interviewed, played music with, or just happened to have met:

Jerry Jeff Walker: He is no longer with us, but in the days of Amarillo’s Funfest, it was my privilege to open the show for some great musicians brought in by the Amarillo Junior League. I had been a Jerry Jeff fan just about my whole life. When my great friend Kathy Brown called and said, “Would you consider opening for Jerry Jeff Walker at Funfest?” I almost interrupted her with my “YES!” She laughed at me. The show was on a sunny morning. It was an amazing day. I tried to be casual, but when Jerry held out his hand and said, “Hi, I’m Jerry Jeff,” I laughed—probably too loudly—and said, “I know!” His hands were like first baseman’s mitts. He said, “Are you gonna play us some songs?” All I could manage was, “You bet!” He was a little cranky the other times I ran into him (he wasn’t crazy about the road in his later years), but that day at Funfest was golden. 

Foghat: Foghat toured for decades. They loved to play rock and roll. I got to play shows with them, and when KATP radio brought the band in, we all hung out. Foghat’s front man, Dave Peverett, was a friend. They called him “Lonesome Dave” because he was shy. He was probably the quietest member of the band, but onstage he was the loudest human being I ever met (with the possible exception of my son, Isaac). Dave played crazy slide guitar, and sang rock classics like, “Slow Ride,” and “Fool for the City.” He and I sat in the corner at restaurants and drew pictures of everybody. Fun fact: Dave designed the immortal Foghat logo. If you’ve seen it, you know what I’m talking about.

Norman Petty Nor-Va-Jak Studio Greats: During the initial Clovis, New Mexico, music festivals, I got to play with legends like Carl Perkins, The Crickets (post-Buddy Holly), The Fireballs, Joe Ely, Bobby Vee, and a lot of the performers that had connections to the legendary studio. All were exceptionally gracious people. Some even seemed surprised that everyone remembered them. The studio is still there on Seventh Street in Clovis. I highly recommend a visit there.

Gene Simmons: I got to hang with Gene Simmons of KISS before everybody “got to know him” on Gene Simmons Family Jewels. He was pretty much as advertised: highly intelligent and looking to shock someone. If memory serves, he insulted one of our people at the radio station, but I always thought he did that so someone like me would still be writing about it. It worked!

John Goodman: Among the coolest show biz folks I have met is John Goodman, who stopped to talk with me at the old B.B. King’s in Universal City where my band used to play. I asked him if he’d brought a harp (harmonica) and he laughed and said, “No, I only play those in the movies.” He is a genuinely funny person. 

Freddy Fender: He was one of my favorites. I got to play with his band in front of 2,000 women who lost their collective minds. I had not realized up to that point how many female fans Freddy had. He was incredible onstage. He could light a crowd up. He was also friendly, gracious, and kind-hearted. I truly miss that cat.

Van Halen: This band was a lot of fun to hang with. Back when they were just being propelled into rock superstardom, they loved Amarillo! David Lee Roth was charming and funny, Alex was a little quiet, and Eddie was truly amazing. Generally, people don’t get how fundamentally Eddie Van Halen changed rock guitar, but that’s a story for another day. 

America, Leon Russell, ZZ Top, Chicago, April Wine: These were all fun bands to open for and get to know. 

I thought I might close by mentioning the ones I wish I hadn’t met, but I’m out of space. Oh, well. Score one for positivity. 

Author

  • Andy Chase Cundiff

    Artist, singer-songwriter, music producer and humorist Andy Chase Cundiff spent many years traveling the U.S. and abroad, but calls Amarillo his home. A longtime resident, Andy’s house is on a red brick street in Oliver-Eakle that is lined with elm trees.