- part 2
So, it was still 1968 and Rod started a new band which would be the beginning of Bacon Fat. One night, Richard Innes and Rod went to see who they thought was Big Walter Horton at the Ash Grove in Hollywood. After a 60 mile drive, it was actually Big Walter Smith, as the club owner informed them, who actually was George Harmonica Smith. He was dumping his harmonicas out on the stage from a paper sack. Some guy in the back yelled out, "Can I play some guitar Mr. Smith?" George said "yeah" without even looking up. So, Rod was feeling a little cocky and said, "I'd like to blow some harp." By the time the show started the club had filled up. Rod and Richard were crowded in right to the front of the stage. When George started wailing, Rod looked at Richard and said, "Man, I don't want to sit in!" They both laughed in agreement but when they looked up, here came George with the harp and mic, shoving it towards Rod face like he was saying, "You wanted to blow. Now let's see what you can do!" He gave one of those fierce looks that he was famous for and shoved the harp and mic at him one more time. Rod had no choice but to take them both and start playing.
The crowd started screaming like they do when anybody sits in. George Smith backed up on the stage and looked at Rod like...Where did this guy come from? Pee Wee Crayton was on guitar and he started ribbing him like George was getting cut. Those two were always giving each other a hard time, just like brothers. George then grabbed the cord while Rod played, gently forcing Rod up out of his seat, around the side of the stage, and up the stairs. He finished the song onstage with Pee Wee and the audience yelling for him. Rod handed the mic and harp back to George, shook his hand, and said thank you. George just shook his head, "Ok". Pee Wee kept at George saying, "That young boy cut you, George." So he says, "Ok, let's see what he can do with Big Mama", which was his chromatic harp. He started another shuffle and came to the edge of the stage and tried, once again, to hand Rod the mic and the harp. Rod's really saying no this time but George insists. Rod starts playing but George sees he can barely get around on the big harp, so he takes it back, to Rod's great relief, and tells the audience to give him a hand. George finishes his show. Afterwards, Rod said to George, "Thank you for letting me play." George simply said, "You're welcome."
A few months later, still in 1968, The Dirty Blues Band opened for Howling Wolf at the Ash Grove for a full week. On the first night, Rod was playing his first set. He had his eyes closed while he played and all of a sudden hears the audience start screaming. When he opens his eyes he sees George onstage, looking down at him (George was way taller than Rod's six feet) as if saying, "Now it's my turn to sit in with
you." So Rod doesn't hesitate and hands George his harp and mic and George proceeds to upset the club. He ends up sitting in with Rod every night and together they tear up the place. Wolf is pissed off at George for playing with Rod and making their set go over so good. This didn't make Wolf feel too comfortable for one reason or another. But George didn't pay him any attention and on the last night he tells Rod that he'd like to get a band together with him. Rod was surprised and says, "Two harps?" George says, "Yeah, that's what I want to do." Rod said, "Great" and gave George his phone number, not expecting to hear from him again.
About one month later, Rod was laying in the bed and his phone started ringing. It was George. Rod said, "Hey George, what's happening?" George asks, "Are you ready to work this Friday at the Sassy Kitten? Can you get a drummer?" He already had Pee Wee Crayton on guitar and Lee Skalar, a long-haired hippy dude, on bass, who also had a friend sitting in on second guitar. Richard Innes had only been playing a few months but he was in. Together with Rod they head out from Riverside to Los Angeles to find the club. Since they don't know where it is, and this was way before MapQuest, they are hoping that a miracle would happen and they would be lead to the club. Well, the miracle happened. They were on the 110 Freeway and right ahead of them was an old van with a poster in the back window. The poster had a picture of George Smith on it. So Rod and Richard decide to follow this van, which, of course they didn't realize, was being driven by Lee Skalar. And he leads them right to the club. Now what are the odds of that?
Their first gig together didn't go very well. The black audience wouldn't warm up to Rod even though George kept telling them to give him a chance. But, finally, after a few weeks, they slowly started to accept Rod. One night Steve Small, from Small's Paradise, came into the club. George introduces him to Rod and says, "Rod, this is Steve. We're going to be working for him now."
to part 1 of the history
In the next chapter, we'll tell
you more about the
development of Bacon Fat.
Come back soon to
check it out!!