Sunday, July 02, 2006

Tattoo Chalie and the Hired Guns

Tatoozala was a BAD man - a gun carrying coke dealing criminal type of person.

He was also one hell of a harmonica player.

A big redhead with tats everywhere, he dressed sharp onstage and his personality pushed the whole band to a kind of recklessness that audiences loved.

Our outfit was the "Hired Guns Blues Band", and he, Tim Pikunas and I formed a nucleus around which we hired bassists and drummers (sometimes a keyboard player). We played in Philly and in the outlying areas.

The band formed after we'd met up at the Jam Sessions at the Barbary Coast, hosted by Blues legend Sonny Rhodes.

We were playing out 3 nights a week and more. After rehearsals, we barnstormed the local open mics and jams - a typical tactic was to show up in the middle of the evening and strongarm our way onstage - no one was ever quite sure whether we were kidding or not. We'd play a few high energy numbers, tell the audience that the host was a great guy and a good pal of ours, and then take off for the next joint.

For a while, we hosted a late night session at an after hours club on Saturday nights - Sunday mornings. We'd tear ass to the "Palmer Social Club" after a gig somewhere else and plug in, hosting players from other local bands that still had the urge to play. The clientele was mostly restaurant folk and off duty bar staff, and off duty cops. It was a rowdy, boozy scene - and a lot of fun.

After a while, things started to pale - Chalie was getting more erratic, less reliable.

One night, I couldn't get his attention onstage at J. C. Dobbs - I tried to signal him to take a solo, and then to play the song out, but he was faced away from me, silent in the amp. I later found out from someone in the audience that he was pulling on a Vics Inhaler - obviously doing a "toot" - at the time.

Tim and I discussed the best way to "shoot the dog" - Tim's concern was that if he and Chalie got into it, there could be a fight, which seemed like a BAD idea.

It was assumed that I was the more diplomatic choice. I laid it out to Chalie - that we needed coherence onstage, that while a tough guy image was cool and went over well, we didn't want to get arrested off the stage, that some of the crowd he attracted was scaring off other paying customers.

He took it with aplomb - joking that instead of a Hired Gun, he was now a Fired Gun.

Not long after, he was arrested - after bar closing, running a red light, he was pulled over. There was a bag of powder and a handgun on the passenger seat. I shit you not.

We visited him in the Fishtank while he was waiting for his arraingment - Tim, a Drummer named Ian, and I. He was sent back to what he'd called "The Harmonica Academy". Within a few months, Chalie caught a cold and we all found out that he was allergic to penicillin - his heart just stopped.

Funny old world.

4 comments:

tim said...

yo dan, tatoozel actually croaked from sudafed. also he was on his way to a gig we had at the ski club in port richmond when some old geezer t-boned him at castor & frankford . by the way eye-ball knocked up some yoko looking chick. you know his jewish mom is proud.

Anonymous said...

Well, Well, Well!!!

I wanted to know whatever became of the Hired Guns and things have not changed. Dan, nice to see your alive and well. Tim has not changed a bit. I caught him in South Philly a couple of years back at the street fest with my wife who was pregnant at the time. He looked like he was about to die. I guess he is still thinking and looking like a piece of Port Richmond white trash. However, he is still a good guitar player and good guy when he is straight. Keep the peace. Live and learn.

Eye-balls

DanLange said...

Hell yea Eye-balls! Great to see you're still around!

Anonymous said...

The Hired Guns are still alive and well. We're doin' Fergies' Pub every first Friday. Been there for quite a few years. By the way, Shakey's a hairdresser. No shittin'. Tim