At Brent’s Music & Sound in Ft Myers, Florida, where I spent my youth in the 1980s, you could always find used amplifiers and instrument cases stenciled with the evil lightning letters, AC/DC. Most of the members had bought then-cheap property along Ft. Myers Beach, and we’d spot Brian Johnson tooling around the redneck Riviera in this or that convertible sports car — enjoying the same sun fun as Randy Savage, Hulk Hogan, and a dozen other ultra-famous wrestlers, all living double lives as rich beach bums. Florida, and especially its beach culture, is a whole trip.
The first rocker I ever admired came from Ft. Myers: Dave Jessup, an older teen who worked at the video rental store near our condo. He wore a great brown spiky mullet down his neck, like a skinny Brutus “the Barber” Beefcake. An aspiring standup comedian, Dave also played bass. Prior to meeting Dave, I didn’t know what a bass was, didn’t understand its function, or that it was like real guitar, but boring. Dave recorded music with a drum machine set to “rock,” and a nerdy guitarist friend who possessed real, impressive 80s chops. Their instrumental music played loudly over the video store’s speakers when the bosses weren’t around, soaring like the soundtrack of an imaginary Top Gun II. I was totally into it.
One day as I hounded Dave and fed his ego, professional bassist Cliff Williams (who joined AC/DC in 1977, and had the sense to quit in 2016 when Axl Rose took over vocal duty from Brian Johnson) whistled into the video rental shop with robust hair, tank top, and the tan of a real Floridian. Dave immediately clammed up about his band and turned off Top Gun II and put the Dirty Dancing soundtrack back on.
Cliff and Dave had clearly spoken before. It was fun watching confident Dave nervously try talking bass with his superior. Cliff didn’t mind though. The Aussie seemed happy-go-lucky, content, prolly stoned.
Bassist Cliff was also very kind to me, despite that I mostly knew AC/DC only from its recent stint as Stephen King’s Maximum Overdrive backing band. I think we just talked about fishing. In the end, I was less AC/DC’s fan than Dave’s.
Cliff Williams was, like most bassists, not particularly memorable.
(NOTE: Joking, bassists!)
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