In the modern era, nothing is more legendary than a musician in their prime. Even the most charismatic president bows before the gods of rock and roll, the angels of R&B, and the princes of pop. Movie stars come close to their charismatic eminence, but what Hollywood idol can compete with the electric power of Jimi Hendrix? What celeb couple can equal the enchanting harmony of Crosby, Stills & Nash?
Across the decades, over mountains of narcotics, and through scores of star-making tours, these larger-than-life personas have gathered a number of rock and roll stories - many of which are exaggerated or simply false. But a fair number of urban legends about musicians - such as Aerosmith, Lynyrd Skynyrd, Michael Jackson, and even Ozzy Osbourne - are totally true. Vote up the rock stories you can't believe actually happened.
In a 2014 interview with Billboard, Billy Joel says that "good morale" is important to him, his band, and his crew - and that's why he now reserves the front row for fans that can't afford better seats. As he explains:
We never sell front rows, we hold those tickets at just about every concert. For years, the scalpers got the tickets and would scalp the front row for ridiculous amounts of money. Our tickets are cheap, under $100, some in the $80s, the highest is about $150. I'd look down and see rich people sitting there, I call 'em "gold chainers." Sitting there puffing on a cigar, "entertain me, piano man." They don't stand up, make noise, sit there with their bouffant haired girlfriend lookin' like a big shot. I kinda got sick of that, who the hell are these people, where are the real fans?
It turns out the real fans were always in the back of the room in the worst seats. We now hold those tickets, and I send my road crew out to the back of the room when the audience comes in and they get people from the worst seats and bring 'em in to the front rows. This way you've got people in the front row that are really happy to be there, real fans.
Released in 1977, "Just a Song Before I Go" was Crosby, Stills & Nash's biggest hit - and Graham Nash never would have written it if not for an off-the-cuff remark by his weed-slinging friend. The musician told the Daily Press:
I was in Maui, and I had an hour to kill before I had to catch my plane. I was staying with a friend who was a low-level drug dealer - marijuana, nothing too dark - and he said to me, "You’re supposed to be a big shot songwriter. Bet you can’t write a song just before you go." I asked him how much he wanted to bet. He said, "Five hundred dollars."
Nash wrote the two-minute song in a stream-of-consciousness style and allegedly "[d]idn't change a note" when he and his band finally recorded it. As to whether or not his friend paid up?
“I still have his $500,” Nash told the paper.
On October 20, 1977, a Convair 240 crashed outside Gillsburg, MS, after failing to make an emergency landing. Twenty of the passengers survived, but among the dead were the plane's two pilots, three members of the band Lynyrd Skynyrd - Ronnie Van Zant, Steve Gaines, and Cassie Gaines - and the band's assistant road manager Dean Kilpatrick.
A few months earlier, Aerosmith had hired someone to inspect the same plane and were talked out of using it. In an interview with Crave Online, Aerosmith guitarist Joe Perry mentions this incident, but doesn't give details on why they refused to fly the plane, saying only, "Fortunately we had someone looking at the plane that we would be taking, and he put his foot down."
History offers only slightly more insight, reporting that "[c]oncerns over the flight crew led Aerosmith to look elsewhere."
Waylon Jennings respected Buddy Holly and once said the '50s idol believed in him when he "had as much star quality as an old shoe."
Jennings was a member of Holly's band, the Crickets, on that fateful day "the music died": February 3, 1959. Jennings was actually meant to join Holly on his flight from Mason City, IA, to Fargo, ND, but gave up his seat to J.P. Richardson (AKA the Big Bopper).
Jennings would take the bus with the rest of Holly's band to Fargo, something he and Holly joked about before his plane departed. As Jennings later recalled:
[Holly] said, "So, you're not going with us tonight on the plane, huh? Well, I hope your ol' bus freezes up. It's 40 below out there and you're gonna get awful cold."
So, I said, "Well, I hope your ol' plane crashes."
The words haunted Jennings for the rest of his life.
Since the 1970s, the unnamed subject of Carly Simon's "You're So Vain" has tickled the curiosity of her fans. The leading contenders are generally agreed to be James Taylor, Kris Kristofferson, Warren Beatty, and Mick Jagger, who provided backing vocals for the song.
For decades, Simon was adamant she'd never reveal whom the song was about. That changed in 2003, when the singer agreed to let the secret slip as part of a charity benefit for Martha's Vineyard, where she lives.
The identity of the song's subject was auctioned for $50,000 to NBC Sports president Dick Ebersol - on the condition that he tell no one else.
In the mid-1960s, Jimi Hendrix transitioned from playing for the Isley Brothers to playing for various soul and R&B acts like B.B. King, Jackie Wilson, and Sam Cooke.
For a brief time, Hendrix toured with Little Richard as part of his backing bands, both the Royal Company and the Upsetters. Robert Penniman, Little Richard's brother, said that, despite Hendrix's obvious talent with the guitar, he "had a habit of being late and upstaging the main act, two things that no session guitarist should ever do."
In an episode of VH1's Legends, Richard said of Hendrix:
On the stage he would actually take the show. People would scream and I thought they were screaming for me. I look over and they’re screaming for Jimi!
According to Penniman, it wasn't the showboating that made them ultimately fire Hendrix but his perpetual lateness:
He was a damn good guitar player, but the guy was never on time. He was always late for the bus and flirting with the girls and stuff like that. It came to a head in New York, where we had been playing the Apollo and Hendrix missed the bus for Washington, DC. I finally got Richard to cut him loose.