Smoking Pot With Willie
By Mike Greenblatt
So I’m on the road with The Kentucky Headhunters in the Deep South hearing about the culinary pleasures of eating possum meat (tastes like chicken) and squirrel meat (a little rubbery and tough). I bet these boys never had a real-life smart-ass New York Jew on their bus. I think they got as big a kick out of me as I got out of them. Formerly known as Itchy Brother, The Kentucky Headhunters kicked Nashville in the ass with their 1989 rock’n’roll debut—aptly called Pickin’ On Nashville—disguised as a country album. Although personally, they were country as dirt, musically, they kicked out the jams.
My bunk was like a rolling coffin on the open road. I must have bumped my head five times forgetting there wasn’t any room to actually get up. I had to roll in and roll out but the whir of the motor and the moving white line of the road outside my little window lulled me to sleep. I kept thinking of that old Merle Haggard song. “White Line Fever/a sickness born down deep inside my soul/the wrinkles in my forehead show the miles I’ve put behind me/They continue to remind me how fast I’m growing old.”
Now I knew what he meant.
Morning meant a truck stop in the middle of Bum-Fuck Nowhere, USA. Geographically, I knew we were somewhere between Austin and Irving in Texas. Our time the previous night at The Broken Spoke in Austin was transcendent. It felt like a scene out of Urban Cowboy minus the mechanical bull, especially when a pretty young thing, seeing I was with the band, asked me to two-step. I politely declined but asked her if she wanted to see the inside of the tour bus…she said no.
Then it was on to Irving, a Dallas suburb where the Cowboys played football. Texas, man, it’s like its own country. Johnny Winter once wrote, “Goin’ back to Texas/Take my razor and my gun/So much shit in Texas/Bound to step in some.” The now-defunct Texas Stadium, closed since 2008, hosted the NFL for 38 seasons before being demolished by a controlled implosion in 2010. It was known for its hole in the roof, the result of poor planning, or, as they like to say down there, “so God can watch his favorite team.” In 1992, it hosted the fifth Farm Aid. That’s where we were heading.
As we were disembarking, a hostess gave each member of the band laminated artist backstage passes, I walked out into the blazing sunshine and she put one around my neck as well. I immediately realized that she made a mistake. I was obviously supposed to get a press pass, not an artist pass. I said nothing.
There was a room off to the left which said “ARTISTS ONLY” on the door. I walked right in. Sat right down. Within minutes, Willie Nelson and Neil Young sat down on the same couch. Bonnie Raitt was tuning her guitar in a corner of the room. Paul Simon was reading. Kinky Friedman & The Texas Jewboys were on the bill and The Kinkster was smelling up the whole place with cigar smoke. I asked him if he was going to do either of my two favorite songs of his—“They Don’t Make Jews Like Jesus Anymore” and “Ride ‘Em Jewboy”—to which he blew a big plume of smoke in my face and said, “nah, but I will be doing “Get Your Biscuits In The Oven And Your Buns In The Bed” (the next line of which is “women’s liberation has gone to your head.”) As politically incorrect as that may be, it’s also funny, as is Kinky, a true Renaissance Man: detective novelist, poet, prophet, picker and, as Kristofferson once wrote, “a problem when he’s stoned.” He also ran for Governor of Texas once.
That’s when Willie Nelson rolled the biggest joint I’d ever seen, took a hit, coughed a few times, and passed it to me! I’m sitting there knowing I don’t belong, feeling very self-conscious, figuring that any minute they’re going to kick me out.
Then I politely declined.
In my lifetime of great stories, I always include the time I smoked pot with Willie Nelson. The truth is, when faced with the opportunity of a lifetime, I blew it.
That’s when Joe Walsh walked in the room and promptly fell face-first into the food buffet. This totally cracked up Willie, Neil, Kinky and Mellencamp. Walsh got up rather sheepishly, with cake smeared all over his face, staggered to the mirror, but needed help cleaning up. I’ve heard wild stories of how stoned Joe Walsh used to get but this was beyond beyond. He was simultaneously laughing, cleaning, yelling about his soundcheck and telling Willie to move him back in the show so he could have time to properly prepare.
At that exact moment, a producer of the concert stuck his head into the room and shouted, “JOE WALSH FIVE MINUTES.” This apparently cracked up Willie and the boys so hard, they were laughing fit to burst. Neil Young leans over to Willie and I can plainly hear him whisper, “this is going to be a train wreck.”
Now Walsh can’t find his guitar. (It was onstage waiting for him.) I’m thinking, “how the hell is he ever going to play? He can’t even stand!” Kinky is chatting up Lorrie Morgan, a gorgeous blonde country singer, a widow whose brilliantly talented-but-tortured husband, Keith Whitley, had drank himself to death a few years earlier.
Joe Walsh staggers over to the stage door which connects to the Green Room where us artists wait to go on. I follow him to stand on the lip of the stage. The crowd is primed, ready to pop like a firecracker on Independence Day. Joe Walsh then commences to put on one of the best damn sets of hard rock all night. After three encores, he walks back in the room and promptly falls asleep on the couch.