“But, that was Ozzy.”
That was the phrase that rung out several times as Billboard’s Executive Director of Content & Programming for Touring & Live Entertainment Ray Waddell held court while some of the veterans of the live music industry spilled their war stories from life on the road. Stories on Ozzy Osbourne, Guns N Roses and Motley Crue dominated amidst tales of trashed hotel rooms, run-ins with the cops and the odd stick up or two that have gone down over the years.
Taking part in the discussion were Ron Delsener, Chairman of Live Nation Music NY; Alex Hodges, CEO of promoter Nederlander Concerts; Doc McGhee, CEO of McGhee Entertainment Inc.; Louis Messina, President/CEO of Messina Touring Group; and Danny Zelisko, President of Danny Zelisko Presents.
As the panel kicked off, it seemed like everyone wanted to talk about the Black Sabbath singer. “Ozzy is the craziest guy I’ve known in all my years,” said McGhee before recalling a time when the legendary rocker donned a green chiffon dress — without anything underneath — and ran onto the stage with everything hanging out to yell, “I’m fucking crazy!” as the police turned on the house lights and ended the show, which McGhee deemed a “milder story.” Delsener remembered driving Ozzy back to New York after a performance in New Jersey only to have to pull over in the Lincoln Tunnel — no small feat — just to have the singer relieve himself all over Delsener’s new Porsche. And Messina shared an anecdote that included Ozzy and his wife/manager Sharon, a Hanson concert and 20 tables of room service food while dogs ran around the suite.
Along the way, Hodges spoke about driving Otis Redding to a show in Birmingham, Ala. and driving back to Macon, Ga., only to find out the next day that Redding was paid, signed the receipt for the show and then was held up at gunpoint for half the amount he’d just been paid (Redding started bring a security guard with him after that). Zelisko told of booking Journey‘s first-ever show outside of California, paying them $500 to open for the Mahavishnu Orchestra, a bizarre decision that “cost me Journey for 20 years.” McGhee told of a particular night when Axl Rose jumped off the stage during Guns N Roses’ Appetite For Destruction era and punched a cop in the face; after convincing the cop to let Rose finish the show to avoid a riot, Rose told the cop to “f— off” as the rest of the band played the Rolling Stones‘ “Honky Tonk Woman” on repeat since it was one of the only songs the drum tech could sing.
The panel also spoke about what’s been keeping them in the game after such a long time putting in grueling hours and dealing with the various idiosyncrasies of artists over the years. “I think that’s the key, is making a commitment to a band or artist,” Messina said. “Without the artist, we don’t have a job. It’s every day fulfilling the commitment you made to them. That to me, is the secret to my longevity.”
Of course, it’s hard to count out the Prince of Darkness when it comes to entertainment, as McGhee noted when relaying a story of being sprayed by a firehose backstage one night. “But, that was Ozzy. As he said, every show he ever did, ‘Let’s go crazy.’ And he did.”