#39. I met Ronnie James Dio (Tampa, 1998)

The best to ever do it.

Ronnie James Dio, arguably the greatest heavy metal vocalist who ever lived, helped bring Black Sabbath back to respect after Ozzy’s exit. Dio then went on to a platinum solo career. His non-ironic influence resonates through today’s minor-key metal; without Dio, there’d be no Chris Cornell. In 2000, Dio visited Tampa to perform with opening act Yngwei Malmsteen (whom I also met).

When Dio called my desk at the newspaper from his tour bus in Cleveland, Ohio, I happened to be in the bathroom, and so my colleagues put him on hold! The tape, which I still own, starts with me scolding my co-worker, “You don’t put Dio on hold!” I then pick up the phone and tell Dio what an honor it was to speak with him:

Michael Patrick Welch: So, you have been on the road a lot lately?

Ronnie James Dio: Yes, I just finished eight weeks on the road with Deep Purple and a 90 piece orchestra… It went so well they wanted to take it to South America for three weeks, then five weeks in Europe, and we finished in Poland three weeks ago. Now Dio is about to do Russia, England, South America, etc.

MPW: Did the Deep Purple gig make you want a string section? Seems like the orchestra would lend itself to a certain heaviness.

RJD: No. No. It was wonderful, magnificent and I especially enjoyed meeting the orchestra as people. They were actually the Transylvanian Orchestra. So there was a little consternation after 12 o’clock, everyone would lock their doors and put garlic around their necks. A wonderful orchestra. But for the kind of music I’ve always made I can do without the orchestra. We do that kind of thing with synthesizers. I think you can also get trapped in it. Metallica did it recently, I think the Scorpions are attempting to do it now. It’s like, have you forgotten how to write songs so now you’re putting strings to your old stuff? I think everything I have been involved in, Dio and Rainbow and Sabbath, they were done right the first time, without strings, and that’s how they should remain.

Tell me about the visuals for the upcoming shows.

It would be nice if it were the old days where we could bring dragons and pyramids and knights in shining armor and lasers and everything else, but unfortunately bands in the genre we play haven’t been given a lot of attention lately, and you have to earn a lot of money to spend a lot of money, so we aren’t bringing any stage props this time. But we will have great lighting which in some ways circumvents the need for dragons…

I read somewhere you said you prefer small venues because people don’t like to go to big venues anymore.

I think that might have been misquoted. I’d rather play at a big venue because you get to bring the props. And when you play a bigger place, people have the feeling that it’s a bigger event. What I might have said was that I love playing the smaller places because that’s where you prove how good you are, where you can’t hide behind anything and you have to look ’em in the eye. I take great pride that my bands were all great live bands, and in the small venues we proved what we were really worth.

Do you have any other artistic habits or hobbies aside from music?

Well, not to encroach upon your field Michael, but I’ve started quite a bit of writing. In the university I was a history major but actually minored in English so I have a little bit of expertise in that field, though I haven’t done it since college. I am going back to my roots — writing the novella for Magica made me realize I could still write, so I have begun an autobiography. I am about a third of the way through. But you have to focus to write at the level of what you consider real art. You can’t be watching a hockey game and think you’re going to write the next Jurassic Park or 2001… I’m also an extremely avid sports fan… So I feel a kinship to athletes, and actually had wanted to be an athlete more than a musician but unfortunately my stature didn’t get big enough for me to be what I wanted to be, which was a basketball player. But I was lucky I had music to complete my life.

Is anyone helping you write your biography?

No. I am the kind of person who never asks anyone for help. I haven’t even taken any vocal lessons. I started when I was five years old as a trumpet player and was lucky enough to play a lot of classical music, which is more my love than anything outside the genre that I am in. But I have always avoided lessons because what a vocal teacher teaches you is how to sound like they want to sound, and in the end that’s taking all your naturalness away — especially when you’re talking about rock-n-roll. It’s not the same when you’re talking about operatic movement, where you have to learn technique and you must have an instructor. But rock-n-roll is such a natural medium, and once you’ve got it too polished that takes away what you really have to offer. The same goes for writing with me: I feel that I am good enough at it that someone else would dilute [my story].

Good answer. I read you chose your stage name. What does “Dio” mean to you?

Well, literally it means God, which I had no idea when I chose it. I took it from a famous Floridian, a man named Johnny Dio who was a…I guess you’d have to say a mafia man… He wasn’t one of my heroes or anything but I am proud to be of Italian extraction, and I didn’t want to lose that in my stage name. I was reading something at the time about “underground figures” and the Italian name “Dio” popped out at me, and it seemed very concise. I just loved the name. And the number of coincidences that have followed, and when I was in Black Sabbath people really started playing with it as a word game, and and then other people assumed that I thought I was God or something, which of course I don’t.

Another great coincidence was when we picked the font style for “Dio” which has become very well known. Someone came to me one time and said, “It was very clever of you…” and I’m like, “I have no idea what you’re talking about.” “You know, if you turn Dio logo upside down it says, “devil.” I wish I could take credit for that. But that was purely a coincidence. People construe what they want to construe. When we were in Black Sabbath if people thought we were sacrificing children and sheep on stage, then we couldn’t change their mind.

Are people less caught up in religion nowadays?

I do believe that. You have ends of the spectrum: there are people who need to cling to religion because of the life that been put in front of us, and then there are those who, because of the life in front of us, believe there could be a God letting such cruelty happen — and I think more people are gravitating toward that end. And a lot of people are just saying they don’t have to go church because [god is] inside of them. I am actually a Taoist in that I believe that God and the Devil are both inside us and we have the choice to be evil or good.

Wouldn’t a loss of religion — or the loss of the crazy religious groups who’ve given heavy metal such great free advertising over the years– be bad for the heavy metal business?

I don’t think so. The “good” people — meaning, the religious people — read too much into it. They point and our music and say ‘Look what these people are saying!’ But what have we ever said? I have never said anything in praise of the devil. A great example is Black Sabbath; that name conjures up images of real demonic presence. And never ever did we defend ourselves and say, ‘No we’re actually good Catholic boys who grew up in good families,’ which was true [laughs]. Our music is not about evil, it’s about warning about evil. When we talk about the devil it’s saying, ‘There is a bad presence there, a…a devil if you want to think of it that way. And just beware of it because it’s gonna put you down the wrong path. But it’s being taken out of context…

Well your new greatest hits record is called “The Very Beast of Dio.” What is the “beast” that you’re referring to?

You’ll have to ask someone else about that because it’s nothing to do with me. I didn’t put this together, it wasn’t my idea to do it, it was done by people who thought it would be nice at this time to put out a greatest hits CD. It was just a play on words because, as you suggested, I’ve been associated more with the darker side. I am happy they put it out but it wasn’t for me to say how they did it.

Musicians from your generation of metal talk about how they’re winning new fans and I read something about how that’s not a concern of yours, that you realize your fans are just people who grew up with you. Your attitude is almost refreshing.

I just don’t think it can happen. Rock-n-roll is such a generational thing, and each generation has to embrace its own music. For my generation it was rock-n-roll, it was rebellious and it was ours to wave in the face of parents and the establishment. Of course you’re going to have some young people who like the music you make, because good music transcends all age boundaries. But I don’t see how anyone could delude themselves into thinking they’re out there changing the world where they are older than these people’s brothers and sisters and in some case older than their folks. We’ve never tried to do anything but make great music and be progressive and not get caught up in generational issues. Kids don’t want to see their moms and dads leaping about on stage, they want someone of their own ilk. I remember Bing Crosby said in 1857, “It looks like this rock-n-roll stuff has run its course.” And I am sure people in the Glenn Miller Band said it, and all those dissatisfied old farts who thought only big band music was the coolest — and I never wanted to be one of them. The reality is that if you’re good at what you do, you’ll have a fanbase, but don’t fool yourself that you’re out there winning new fans.

You get to meet your younger fans? What do they say?

I just ask them if they liked what they heard and they say “Wow, we love it,” and I ask where they heard our music and they say, “My brother played it for me I thought, ‘Wow, I love it, this is really opening up something for me.’” Of course there are a lot of classic rock stations now too that will turn kids on to old music. Good product is good product.

Do your younger fans talk to you about the other bands they like?

They sometimes ask me if I like Disturbed, or Pantera. They respect me and want to know what my perspective of their music is, and they hope I don’t say, ‘Well I think this rock-n-roll stuff has run its course” [laughs]. I don’t. And they are really pleased that I understand where they come from. We talked about “play” before, and we must stay very young inside of us, as artists. The body gets older but I’ve never gotten older than 18 or 21 inside of me, and young people equate with that, and feel that I understand that. I’ve always been more of a champion of younger people than people my own age, because they’re who we’re leaving our legacy to, and there is a hell of a broader scope of problems out there now that I didn’t have to deal with as a kid. So I feel strongly for them.

Michael Patrick Welch’s “132 Famous People I Have Met” series is FREE, but please consider donating to his VENMO (michael-welch-42), or to his PayPal account (paypal.me/michaelpatrickwelch2), so he can feed his kids, pay his mortgage, etc.

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# — /100. Dear Mr. Roth (Tampa, late 90s)

This doesn’t count toward my 100 total, still it’s a fun story worth retelling.

photo by Helmut Newton

After reading David Lee Roth’s autobiography Crazy from the Heat, I chased him for like three years. I spoke to so, SO many assistants and representatives, some of whom sent me killer swag, like a VHS copy of Roth’s cocaine-fueled home movie video/money pit, No Holds BarBQ, which featured as its soundtrack some Roth-created EDM tracks where he sampled his own voice — shit was pretty good!

By now I’ve come to adore Roth-era Van Halen. But it was really his book, that I loved so much. I wrote so many letters to DLR, addressing him as a Mark Twain-like literary figure, that I thought to release a chapbook of all my emails, titled Dear Mr. Roth. The joke would be that, a few pages in, you’d realize these weren’t fan letters to Philip Roth, but to Diamond Dave.

During the fresh bloom of my late-life love affair with DLR, I wrote the following review of his 1999 concert, which I attended on mushrooms. Most of the following appeared in Ink 19. The review features spandex, DLR’s crazy manager Louie, lots of Florida mullets, and a gun:

Earlier in the month, when the David Lee Roth concert was announced, I tried to arrange an interview with the man. When I called Roth’s manager, Louie, he was very short with me. Louie had a gruff voice and sounded large and Italian. “I’d like to arrange an interview with David Lee Roth,” I’d said to him on the phone.

“You and about 15 million other people,” he responded.

The newspaper I worked for wouldn’t pay my way in without a Roth interview. So I paid the $30 ticket price, with little doubt that I’d be stimulated.

In the week before the show, I read everything I could find about or by David Lee Roth, including his autobiography, Crazy from the Heat. The thought process and voice I heard in his book and his interviews were fast and loose but also rich and pointed. David Lee remains tangential but brilliant and insightful and hilarious. Sometimes Roth’s flow didn’t make sense, but then neither does William Faulkner’s.

Roth cares about art. I assumed that his Crispen Glover-like awkwardness was the real reason he never rejoined the mainstream after Van Halen. I believed Roth to be pure of intent.

Jannus Landing is an outdoor venue that holds about 1000 people. While DLR could have drawn 800 people, it rained mildly and intermittently the entire night, so there were only about 600 people in attendance. 300 of these attendees had mullet haircuts. I have never seen more, or a wider variety of, mullets. Every genotype. Mullets to the waist. Mullet couples. I saw two men who had recently cut off their mullets, leaving unnatural stubby nubs on their necks that looked exposed and tender. The mullets distracted from how expensive the alcohol was and made sure my friends and I weren’t bored for the two and a half-hours it took Roth to commence rocking.

David Lee Roth eventually strutted on stage to the guitar tapping intro of “Hot for Teacher.” He greeted the crowd with a scripted rock and roll hello, and was immediately hit in the eye with a projectile. Dave stopped the song, made a fuss and started on song two, “Panama.”

Still holding his eye, he stopped the song a bar in, and retreated backstage.

A large Italian man in a clear rain slicker rolled out onto the stage. He had the gruff voice of Louie the manager, “Anyone who knows who hit Dave, you point em out and we’ll give you $500 cash! Just hand ’em over to us!” Near the front of the stage, blaming hands and fingers pointed in every direction. The promoter for Jannus Landing stood near, visibly upset and concerned over the prospect of a public beatdown on his stage. Louie the manager got the bounty up to $600, but then left the stage.

There are those who think the crew lied about David being hit, that they were trying to create a false tension. A false excitement. Is Dave gonna play!? Some fans laughed it off as a scam. Either way, I believe his point was to get us thinking, feeling.

20 minutes later Dave came back out to the tapping intro of “Hot for Teacher,” gave the same exact rock and roll hello, and proceeded to do what I never wanted him to do: he made me feel sorry for him by trying to conjure up the past.

D.L.R. had wedged his tight bod into a silver spandex outfit. Though famous for his thinning hairline, he looked amazing. Still despite his youthful physique, his concert harped on the past: Roth had borrowed his “new” guitarist from world famous LA based Van Halen tribute band, “Atomic Punx.” Dude was a carbon copy of Eddie Van Halen circa 1982, right down to the fluffy hair. Of 14 songs Roth performed, Van Halen wrote 11. Roth’s band played them very well.

I left the weird performance still believing David Lee Roth cares about art, but he seems to not understand rock and roll as an artform. Who cares though? It was freakishly interesting.

I peed in the stall with the door shut as the others in the restroom discussed the philosophies and conflicts of Roth and Van Halen — topics that, like religion, never get old or die. A female friend later told me the conversations in the ladies room were similar, with the girlfriends wondering aloud if David Lee’s extroverted, surreal, sexual displays (pouring Jack Daniel’s down his spandex, masturbating with the microphone, licking his fingers) were meant to excite them. “Cause I think it’s gross,” said these girls who found Dave’s act homoerotic. “My boyfriend is just too excited by it!”

It seemed true that David Lee Roth, aging diva, would go over well with gay audiences.

At one point I recognized beside me in the venue’s crowded bathroom, Louie the manager, drunk, another lite beer in hand. “Louie,” I said, “I’m Michael from the newspaper. I spoke with…”

He was much nicer this time as he interrupted, “Oh hey, I’m sorry we couldn’t do anything for you as far as interviews·”

“Yes, I’d still like to interview him. I’d like to keep in touch over the next few weeks and when you guys get off tour·” I gave him my card.

Then Louie, in his clear rain slicker, handed down the definitive statement regarding David Lee Roth, his career, his motives, his life: “I’ll tell you what,” Louie said as “Pretty Woman” blasted from the stage outside, “When we come back with Van Halen, you get first shot.”

As if it were news to anyone: Dave was merely auditioning every night in hopes of re-joining his toothless bandmates in Van Halen. I was still stunned that Louie’d reveal the motives so bluntly. But if there’s a snowflake’s chance in Florida that it does happen, I hope he was telling me the truth about giving me the scoop. It seems like such a far away notion that that reunion would ever happen, but we’d all pay $30 (maybe $50) to see it. And in the meantime we’ll all dog Dave as he travels the demeaning road, trying to get us what we want.

After the show, in search of journalistic opportunity, I tried to get on the tour bus. A professional looking lady in a mini-skirted powersuit stood outside the door. “Hi, have you seen Louie?” I asked her, “He wanted me to meet him here after the show.” I figured if Louie saw me he’d remember me, and it would turn into a meeting with David Lee Roth.

“No, they left,” she said as a gray-haired man came down the stairs of the bus carrying the kind of metal suitcase often associated with ransom money. As she put me off very professionally, man reached the bottom of the bus’s stairs, stumbled, and a gun fell out of his pocket onto the ground in front of us! The serious lady looked at me, worried.

“I’m not gonna say nothin,” I assured her, touching her shoulder. “Have you seen Louie?” I laughed.

It may not have been the artistic validation of the author David Lee Roth that I’d come looking for, but in pondering the artistic ideals and philosophies in question at this Van Halen tribute concert, I knew I’d see few concerts as weird and interesting at Dave’s.

Michael Patrick Welch’s “132 Famous People I Have Met” series is FREE, but please consider donating to his VENMO (michael-welch-42), or to his PayPal account (paypal.me/michaelpatrickwelch2), so he can feed his kids, pay his mortgage, etc.

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#38. I met David Simon, creator of ‘The Wire’ and ‘Treme’ (New Orleans, 2011, 2019)

David Simon is awesome, and I am to blame.

David Simon’s The Wire remains a masterpiece. His follow-up HBO show, the Katrina drama Treme is, for me, a beautifully-filmed recreation of the worst event I ever hope to experience. The show is perfect for revisiting memories that I wish I did not have. It’s just one long trigger (featuring a lot of my friends). I also think that while Simon’s overflowing love and sympathy for New Orleans did not kill Treme, it reinforced my belief that you shouldn’t write about any place until you also hate it a little.

For instance, Treme early on sets up New Orleans trumpeter Kermit Ruffins as a saintly figure who will not leave his beloved New Orleans no matter how wet it gets — when in reality Kermit lived in Houston during that time, rightfully trying to build a new life because, he told me for Houston Press, New Orleans “won’t be coming back for years.”

To be fair, Kermit returned about a year later. And Treme’s still a better show than any other about New Orleans. And the project did put literally millions of dollars directly into the pockets of local musicians. I just add my feelings about the show here, to put into context the Treme reality we lived in at the time, when I briefly met and shaded David Simon.

Biking home one sunset, I spotted the genius writer and director’s bald head among the music clubs on Frenchmen St., and so I quick ran into FAB bookstore, where Otis lent me a copy of my guidebook to New Orleans’s music scene. I ran the book down Chartres St. to Simon, and explained that mine was the only guidebook made for tourists who visit New Orleans specifically to hear live music. Simon thanked me and shook my hand and began reading the book right there.

As I rode away on my bike I said, “It’s full of bands you might not know about yet.”

He shouted back, “We’re gonna have Hurray for the Riff Raff on the show soon!”

“They’re pretty good,” I begrudged, and then because I sometimes can’t stop the wrong asshole thing from falling out of my mouth, added, “But that book goes a little deeper.”

Almost a decade later, a couple weeks after Simon retweeted an article I wrote for Columbia Journalism Review about wild-ass OffBeat magazine publisher, Jan Ramsey, I sat at an outdoor taco restaurant on Magazine St., reeling from the effects of two very strong margaritas, when Simon walked by our bench with some people who looked to be his family. I reflexively stuck out my hand to him in passing, as if we’d just spoken yesterday.

To my surprise he stopped. Responding to my self-assuredness, he sort of stooped down to listen what I had to say. When I said nothing, he asked, “Do I know you?”

“I’m just a journalist, we’ve uh met before…” I didn’t remember the book I’d given him, and didn’t want to explain how he’d just retweeted my article. And so I drunkenly said, “I’m nobody.”

He kind of grimaced at me like Why’d you fucking stop me then? and kept walking.

Michael Patrick Welch’s “132 Famous People I Have Met” series is FREE, but please consider donating to his VENMO (michael-welch-42), or to his PayPal account (paypal.me/michaelpatrickwelch2), so he can feed his kids, pay his mortgage, etc.

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#33–37: Buncha quick ones: Carrot Top, DJ Paul Oakenfold, DJ Shadow, Earl Sweatshirt, Ernie K-Doe (FLA, NOLA, 1998–2013)

the worst photo ever taken

33. Carrot Top (Tampa, 1998): The first person I ever interviewed at my job at The St. Petersburg Times, was also a fellow redhead. On the phone, we discussed the marginalization of our species, and I had him rate various redheads on whether he believed they represented us well, or poorly. As if he should be the one to judge! Carrot Top still existed in his natural, skinny, awkward state at that time, before he came to look like the Michael Jackson of redheads. Because during the interview we’d discussed weed, I brought some weed over to the performing arts center right behind the newspaper building after Carrot Top’s show a few weeks later. I didn’t attend his show, just popped over after work to shake his hand. I chickened out and kept the weed in my pocket.

34. DJ Paul Oakenfold (New Orleans, 2010): The “world’s most popular DJ” (Guinness World Records) visited VooDoo Fest to play “progressive house,” “progressive trance,” “breakbeat” and “downtempo” and other genres he helped define since the late 1970s. During his lifetime, he also signed DJ Jazzy Jeff and the Fresh Prince and Salt-N-Pepa, and acted as an agent for the Beastie Boys and Run-DMC. He met Nelson Mandela and won awards given him by the Queen herself. He scored films including The Matrix Reloaded, Pirates of the Caribbean and Shrek II. And he also met me. I only remember that he said he didn’t like New Orleans’s food. A culinary school graduate, Oakenfold labled the food here “too heavy,” and said that, “There doesn’t seem to be anything new coming out of New Orleans now.”

35. DJ Shadow (New Orleans, 2003): Shadow’s album Endtroducing remains one of my favorites of all time, and so I felt deeply honored to help him set up all his samplers and sequencers before his gig at House of Blues. We watched him practice pieces of a great new routine, where he tapped drum pads that triggered audio samples synched up to video clips that flashed on the giant screen we’d set up behind him.

36. Earl Sweatshirt (New Orleans, 2013): Backstage at Buku Fest, I’d just introduced my friend Chuck D to my friend Big Freedia, and with a big smile I stepped out of P.E.’s tent, directly into Earl Sweatshirt! Though twice his age and melanin deficient, I’d been listening to his music a ton at the time and seeing him got me embarrassingly excited. Also I was a little drunk. I asked to take a photo with him — something I almost never do. Earl mumbled “OK.” But given his body language in the photo, I’ve titled this shot, “Someone Who Hasn’t Yet Learned to Say No.

37. Ernie K-Do (New Orleans, 2001): The only time I ever met Ernie K-Doe, he was dead. I had just moved to New Orleans a few weeks prior, and someone at my local coffee shop suggested I attend K-Doe’s public funeral at Gallier Hall. K-Doe had recorded New Orleans first ever #1 hit song, “Mother in Law.” Just arrived from Florida, I’d never attended a public funeral. Nor had I heard the term secondline. At Gallier Hall, I stood in line to pay respects at the casket. K-Doe looked a bit like a sleeping Little Richard. He wore a crown and held a scepter. Behind him, a rock n’ roll band played. The frontman placed his foot on the casket while singing. The only food on hand was doughnuts. Over the following years I became genuine friends with his widow Antoinette K-Doe, who continued to run the couple’s Mother-in-Law Lounge until she too died one Mardi Gras day. She told me lots of stories about Ernie. But the only time I met K-Doe, he was dead.

Michael Patrick Welch’s “132 Famous People I Have Met” series is FREE, but please consider donating to his VENMO (michael-welch-42), or to his PayPal account (paypal.me/michaelpatrickwelch2), so he can feed his kids, pay his mortgage, etc.

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#32. I met author Dave Eggers (Florida, New Orleans [1999–2007])

In six small pieces:


In the late 90s, I loved the quirky McSweeney’s literary journal, edited and eccentrically designed by Dave Eggers. When my bosses at the St. Petersburg Times assigned me to book authors for the paper’s Festival of Reading, I wrote to Eggers and tried to get him.

An underling McSweeney’s editor wrote me back. He asked if I could “throw in a free fishing trip or something.” He quickly admitted that he hadn’t wanted to ask me for that. Then he forwarded me Eggers’ entire shameless fishing trip email. This got the editor in trouble with his boss, but he and I have been friends ever since (thanks to Dave Eggers).

For the record: I love fishing, and would have asked for the same thing. Besides, Eggers was at the height of his Heartbreaking Work of Staggering Genius fame, and this unpaid festival gig came only with a St. Pete beachfront hotel. A fishing trip would have made it worth it.

Eggers wrote to me directly, declined my invite, and suggested I instead book Neal Pollack, author of the very first McSweeney’s Books title, The Neal Pollack Anthology of American Literature. Neal Pollack visited St. Pete with author and TV writer Jonathan Ames. Both of them acted insane. And we are all still friends today (thanks to Dave Eggers).


Two years later, still hyped on his journal and his novel, I drove with a lady friend two hours from Tampa to Miami, to hear Eggers hold forth in a church full of grey-hairs, sprinkled with us 20/30-something-year-old fanboys. After, I waited in line, gripping tight the first McS journal. Eggers wasn’t terribly friendly when I told him I’d booked Neal, but I don’t really expect people to be friendly with we who aren’t friends.

Eggers drew a bloody-mouthed dinosaur inside my McS journal with the inscription, “I’m sorry for everything he’s done to you.”


After I moved to New Orleans in 2001, McSweeney’s.net published a piece I wrote about my Bourbon Street restaurant job. I turned that piece into my first novel, The Donkey Show, and sent that novel to the McSweeney’s shop in Brooklyn. They contacted me to set up a book event at their comically tiny “bookstore.” But when my friend Jonathan Ames agreed to read with me, they moved the big shebang to the large, trendy event space, Galapagos, where I read and played music in front of hundreds of Jonathan’s fans.

One of the greatest nights of my life! Thanks to Dave Eggers — who did not attend.


After Katrina, McSweeney’s contacted me again, and I ended up housing another of their underlings, and helping him work on a collection of oral histories for the McSweeney’s book, Voices from the Storm. That underling too, remains my deep friend.

I never spoke with Eggers about Voices, but a year later, I visited McSweeney’s headquarters in San Francisco, where Eggers had just opened his first 826 teaching facility and “pirate supply store.” I saw him in a room teaching as the staff gave me a personal tour. I also noticed my novel sitting on the main book shelf!


The second-to-last time I saw Dave Eggers, I‘d pre-ordered his first real novel You Shall Know Our Velocity online weeks before his “free” reading at an Uptown New Orleans bookstore. We arrived at the event to find a massive line, and news that you had to buy a copy of the book from that store to get in.

My two corny friends who loved me both bought books and went in and told Eggers, who sat signing autographs, that I was stuck outside. Dave looked up from his signature, waved to me and shrugged.


Five years later, I glanced out the open second floor window of a friend’s Uptown apartment, and saw Dave Eggers riding a bike.

Michael Patrick Welch’s “132 Famous People I Have Met” series is FREE, but please consider donating to his VENMO (michael-welch-42), or to his PayPal account (paypal.me/michaelpatrickwelch2), so he can feed his kids, pay his mortgage, etc.

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#31: I met Daryl Hall of Hall & Oates (New Orleans, 2013).

I do look (and sing) like a raggedy Daryl Hall.

Hall & Oates were one of the very first musical acts that my sister (9) and I (13) both loved simultaneously. One Christmas, when she was in love with Daryl Hall, she asked Santa Claus for the Big Bam Boom album. Then she got mad when I asked for it too, and Santa brought us both got copies.

Since then, I’ve always wished I could sing like Daryl Hall, who began his career as a backup singer for Smokey Robinson. Daryl and I do have the same range, though mine ain’t nearly as solid. I also wish I had that hair. In my youth, on a good day, I may have looked and sounded like a raggedy Daryl Hall.

More than twenty years after that controversial Big Bam Boom Christmas, I fronted a Hall and Oates cover band. Despite that I can’t play piano, I led that band as Daryl. My guitarist friend Jack performed Oates. Two young men with no kids and no serious jobs at the time, Jack and I worked on our H&O set/impression every day for two months, programming drum beats, working out his guitar parts, tryna hit them high notes.

The task was anything but simple. Hall and Oates — the top-selling duo ever in rock, with over 34 top-100 charting songs — peppered their tunes with unique chords, off-time tricks, and mid-song key changes. Jack and I really worked hard to get it all down.

We worried when our bassist, musical savant David Hyman, joined us for just four practices, one week before the Halloween show; he had a lot of catching up to do. Turned out though, Dave walked in knowing too much: “Yeah, that chord change doesn’t actually go like that.” Dave made minor adjustments to everything we’d constructed — this, even he hadn’t picked up a bass guitar once in all this time! “I just drove around in my car listening to Hall and Oates at work all month, and doing this…” Dave pantomimed playing bass, and steering with his knee.

While Dave was setting Jack and I straight/scaring us/making our whole H&O routine a lot more difficult, another trio of my friends (two girls and a guy) asked if they might wear Oates mustaches like Jack, and sing backup — more or less drunken karaoke style. I didn’t care. I had a million new chords and key changes to learn, thanks to Dave. So our mustachioed backup singing trio (named Oates and Oates and Oates) joined us on stage.

Our Hall and Oates show went really well. I came off stage very proud of our act. Until, years later, I told Daryl Hall himself about it…

I could tell, talking to Daryl on the phone for Gambit Weekly, that he had been asked every question, ever. He was nice enough about this, but also beamed it out, apparent. My default mode for musicians of Daryl’s status is to talk gear: I asked about the old Moogs and drum machines H&O used during my favorite points in their career. “When I started out, it was four-track reel-to-reel, and the only non-acoustic instruments you could play were the electric guitar, electric piano and organ,” Daryl answered. “I saw the Moog become the Polymoog, and all different kinds of advances in keyboard technology in the ’80s… I was making use of all these new tools. Now I’ve sort of gone past all that because I don’t really feel the technology has gone any farther than it did then. … So I just sort of revert to a more simplistic way of production and recording now…”

We also discussed singing, and especially the power of the falsetto. “I switch between my natural voice and my falsetto; it kind of flows and overlaps,” said Hall, who also told me he dislikes the term ‘blue-eyed soul.’ “I am a second tenor … but my falsetto increases my range considerably.”

Daryl told me that the most important thing about Hall & Oates was the vocal harmonies. “We have eight guys in our band now including me and John, and all of them sing the choruses. The chorus is the most important part of all Hall and Oates songs,” he said. “These guys are so good at harmonies that, right before a show, we can say ‘You usually sing the fifth, but tonight you two guys are going to switch, and you’re gonna sing the fifth and you’re gonna sing the forth.’ And man, they just get out there and do it perfect with barely any practice.”

You would love my friend Dave Hyman, I thought. Remembering Dave caused me to blurt, “Wow, we didn’t have anyone singing harmonies in our Hall and Oates over band.”

“Yeah. No,” Daryl replied, sounding almost disgusted. “You can’t do a Hall and Oates cover band without vocal harmonies. You just can’t.”

I felt ashamed, especially after, later, I heard H&O perform at Jazz Fest. Hearing all those choruses rise in loud harmony, I felt disgusted with myself, really.

Michael Patrick Welch’s “132 Famous People I Have Met” series is FREE, but please consider donating to his VENMO (michael-welch-42), or to his PayPal account (paypal.me/michaelpatrickwelch2), so he can feed his kids, pay his mortgage, etc.

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#30. I tried to start a band with Cut Creator, LLCoolJ’s DJ (Tampa, 1999)

LL (r) Cut Creator (r)

He said he had this great idea, and I immediately volunteered. He was LLCool J’s chill-but-driven former DJ (“What’s my DJ’s name?” “Cut Creator!”). He’d moved to Tampa from up north to host his own, very good live mix radio show. I just had to interview him.

“I have this idea,” he promised over the phone, “for a fresh, new, live musical project. I don’t really want to go into detail right now…” My editors wouldn’t like me using the almost-prestigious newspaper job I’d lucked into just out of college, to create new financial/musical situations. But I loved good ideas! There weren’t many in Florida. I told Cut Creator I had access to a crack team of musicians. “Hmm. OK,” he conceded. “Let’s all get together and discuss this.”

We took our first band meeting at a Thai cafe restaurant in Ybor City, where Cut Creator, a stocky guy, then in his late 30s, bought us all dinner, and unveiled his idea: “I want to do…a live project…

“…where we take rap…”

Big pause.

“We take rap, and we mix it with rock n’ roll.”

Florida’s own Limp Bizkit at that time competed with Korn for radio play. The Judgement Night soundtrack shrank in the rearview, as Kid Rock rose on the horizon. Had Cut Creator never heard “Walk this Way”? Or for that matter the LL song “Go Cut Creator Go”? This was weird. I looked around at everyone. No one in the hypothetical band laughed at his idea. They plugged it up with pad Thai.

He was super cool though, a sincere, otherwise solid, leader-type older dude. So we invited him over to the big home studio owned by my bandmates Damon (drums) and Aaron (tons of instruments), a former daycare they called “Romper Room.”

My plan was to play bass. I’d played six-string for over a decade, and assumed bass was just simplified guitar, and would be a snap. Fucking naive! First, there’s a little something called feel. You gotta put in your 10,000 hours either way. When Cut Creator dragged all his turntable gear to Romper Room, I hadn’t logged 40hrs on bass.

We did not sound like a crack team of musicians. I had mastered the bassline to the Grammy-winning Roots song, “You Got Me,” which we jammed on for too long while Cut Creator threw down some scratches and samples. Despite playing guitar for hours every day, the bass hurt and blistered my fingers quickly.

Still, Cut Creator sensed some promise in me, or was just sucked in by my empty confidence, because after our mediocre jam he called and invited me to his professional studio session with two Puerto Rican teen boys. He’d been hired by their mother to create for them a hit song.

I invited multi-instrumentalist Aaron to join us, and showed up to the session wanting to experiment. I unpacked all my guitar pedals, my sampler, my Zoom drum machine. Cut Creator had already whipped up the song’s bones though, and sampled Frankie Cutlass shouting “Puerto Rico!” and he just wanted to just get the track done. Cut Creator told me to put my sampler and drum machine away and follow his lead.

I recall him commanding me to play some Spanish guitar, but when put on the spot, in a well lit room, with him and the three teens and their mom and Aaron staring at me through the studio glass, I simply choked.

Aaron stepped in and cleaned up, played exactly the right faux-Spanish licks. Aaron was always the better musician. Cut Creator booked a second recording session with the kids but invited only Aaron. It was all a very humbling experience.

Michael Patrick Welch’s “132 Famous People I Have Met” series is FREE, but please consider donating to his VENMO (michael-welch-42), or to his PayPal account (paypal.me/michaelpatrickwelch2), so he can feed his kids, pay his mortgage, etc.

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#29. I met Craig Wedren and my favorite rock band, Shudder to Think (New Orleans, 2009)

I couldn’t believe it! Outta nowhere, my favorite defunct, weird D.C. Dischord Records band, Shudder to Think, had regrouped and was set to play New Orleans’s VooDoo Fest 2009 in City Park! And on the same Saturday as my band, The White Bitch!

In 1992, I loved Shudder’s Get Your Goat: muddy, psychedelic math-rock featuring even less toxic masculinity than Fugazi. Like some cross between Sonic Youth and Roy Orbison, Shudder to Think influenced my singing and my music more than any other band.

After watching Shudder to Think get boo’d by homophobic skinheads at a 1993 Fugazi show, we knew something was up; that show featured a new drummer, and new guitarist Nathan Larson, a show-offy rockstar with greasy 21 Jump Street hair. We later discovered they’d signed to a major label. “Selling out” represented a death knell in indy circles, but Shudder to Think really grabbed the opportunity by the balls, and switched up their sound, recording the clear, muscular Pony Express Record. Very different from Get Your Goat, my Pony Express cassette posted up in my car’s tape player for a straight year and a half. I air-drummed so hard to it at stoplights — swatting a lead ornament hanging from my rearview like a surrogate cymbal — I cracked my windshield.

So I couldn’t believe White Bitch would get to open the Bingo Tent (11am!) on the same day Shudder to Think would close it out (7:30pm).

Of course, I used this as an excuse to interview singer Craig Wedren for both Gambit and Filter, and ask him a decade and a half’s worth of questions. On the phone, Wedren and I talked about the nakedness of singing, and about Roy Orbison. We admitted to each other that we both loved David Lee Roth’s autobiography, Crazy from the Heat. We got on well. Twas a perfect superfan experience.

At VooDoo Fest, White Bitch’s morning show went well. Shudder to Think didn’t see it.

Then around 6pm, I took some very good ecstasy. My mind was aflame even before the Bingo Tent stage manager Lloyd ran up to me: “Can Craig Wedren borrow your guitar for his show?”

“Huh?” Am I making this happen with my mind?

I hadn’t met Craig in person yet. And my guitar was shitty. I mean I loved my orange Telecaster; I played it well because I knew its every problem precisely. I knew how it was rigged. But I’d never foist it on an unsuspecting professional musician headlining a festival. Anyway, I’d taken the guitar home, and didn’t want to drive back to get it while tripping balls.

Not long after, while wandering the backstage mini-tent, I spotted Craig’s silhouette in the dark at the edge of the lake, his big bald head like a giant white lightbulb. I saw headphones in his ears, and heard him practicing vocal scales, warming up his voice for the show. Though I knew it was the wrong thing to do, high out of my mind and hyped up about the guitar business, I interrupted him anyway.

He removed his earphones. I told him how high I was. He was very understanding. We talked more about the nakedness of singing. He told me he’d found a more professional guitar to use tonight, thank you.

I hugged him and went back inside to stand in front of the stage, waiting, eyes rolling back. Shudder to Think took the stage to adjust their own amps and guitars. As Craig tuned up for the show, he tested the mic, talking to the sparse crowd: “My friend Michael and I were just now talking about singing, and…” He was trying to trip me out. It worked!

The show was great. His voice sounded perfect (my interruption hadn’t fucked him up). As the band’s last note rang out, my partner and I, still high out of our minds, raced backstage to hang and party with Shudder to Think.

Except that they weren’t really partiers.

And neither am I! I’ve almost never been the most fucked up person at a party. But I sure was that night. Backstage, we proceeded into awfulness. It was great fun. My partner wore a padded boxer’s helmet and would walk up to random people and ram heads with them, like a goat. No matter how hard she rammed, it didn’t hurt at all! I remember Craig didn’t want to do it though. She bullied him into it. “Don’t break my nose,” he rightly worried before finally letting her slam his big bald head with her padded headgear. That’s one I wish we could take back. Just awful.

Shaking Nathan Larson’s picking hand, I couldn’t really speak. He wasn’t impressed. My partner and I finally realized a little too late that there was no party, and that we were making the biggest asses of ourselves. And so we drove home.

Years later, Craig Wedren created music for my friend Jonathan Ames’s second TV show, Blunt Talk (very funny show!). Around that same time, Craig wrote to me, asked for my address, then snail mailed me a box filled with his newest, excellent vinyl record, Adult Desire, and some cardboard virtual reality goggles. I downloaded an app and slid my cellphone into the goggles, which gave me the power to explore Craig’s actual house while absorbing his new, quieter, more intimate music. It was like learning about my favorite singer all over again.

Michael Patrick Welch’s “132 Famous People I Have Met” series is FREE, but please consider donating to his VENMO (michael-welch-42), or to his PayPal account (paypal.me/michaelpatrickwelch2), so he can feed his kids, pay his mortgage, etc.

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#28. I met Cliff Williams & AC/DC (Ft. Myers, FLA, 1987)


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 fishingIn the end, I was less AC/DC’s fan than Dave’s.

Cliff Williams was, like most bassists, not particularly memorable.

(NOTE: Joking, bassists!)

Michael Patrick Welch’s “132 Famous People I Have Met” series is FREE, but please consider donating to his VENMO (michael-welch-42), or to his PayPal account (paypal.me/michaelpatrickwelch2), so he can feed his kids, pay his mortgage, etc.

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#27. I met my only hero, Chuck D (feat. Flavor Flav & Prof. Griff) (Post-Katrina New Orleans, 2007)

Chuck D had something important to tell me (!?!?)

This is a list of 18 plot points of the most interesting event on my life. I’ll someday write my formal Chuck D essay — or my Chuck D book — when the occasion’s right. In the meantime, I strove to make this list poignant and fun to read:

  1. Chuck D of Public Enemy is the only human I’d call my “hero.” His ability to critique white America while also drawing us in, changed my life forever. Public Enemy and the Bomb Squad’s ability to lay poetry over noise also spun my brain, regarding art and music.
  2. Though I’ve seen just about every musical act I ever loved, I never saw Public Enemy during its heyday. In high school, I had tickets to see P.E. open for Sisters of Mercy (?!?!) but got grounded and couldn’t go. That was before I realized that no parental punishment could ever be worse than missing my favorite band in its heyday.
  3. Once I became a journalist, I knew I’d someday interview Chuck D. They say never meet your heroes; I never even wanted to interview Prince. But I just had to interview Chuck D someday.
  4. Prince and Public Enemy were the first two acts to ever release music online, and Chuck was one of the first artists of his stature to keep a blog — which seemed quickly typed on a Blackberry, on a plane or something. His typos inspired me to write to him in 2000, and tell him he needed an editor. “I write all that shit on Blackberry on planes etc…” he said when he wrote back! He said he’d consider me! A month later he wrote on his blog that he’d acquired an editor, and it wasn’t me, but he mentioned me by name. 13-year-old me would never believe that Chuck D and I kept in contact a tiny bit for several years.
  5. When P.E. came through New Orleans in 2007, I finally interviewed Chuck on the phone for Gambit Weekly and AntiGravity. With the half hour I was allotted (very generous!), I’d planned to ask about music, and also about the racial implications of Hurricane Katrina. However, Chuck and I talked about Katrina for 30 minutes before he had to move on to another interview.
  6. Because we didn’t get to talk music at all, Chuck called me back a few days later! For another 30 minutes, we discussed music topics, like how sampling is maybe the only art form to ever become illegal. “Well, there was Lenny Bruce,” he astutely added. “But yes, exactly.” We even argued a bit, about the use of backing vocals at live shows, and about Rage Against the Machine (he loved them; I did not). And with that, I figured, I did it! The end. However…
  7. P.E.’s post-Katrina New Orleans show was fucking amazing, with Chuck and Flav backed by a live band, and all the original S1Ws including Professor Griff. At one point, Chuck sat on a stool and read the lyrics to P.E.’s Katrina charity single, “Hell No We Ain’t Alright.” As he closed that piece and put the stool away, he mentioned that he and Griff’s pay from tonight show had been donated, and that he’d visit a local arts high school the next day…
  8. After the show, I talked my way backstage. On my way to the dressing room, I shook Flavor Flav’s reluctant hand as he breezed past me. Professor Griff was a little nicer. Chuck sat on a couch, seeming tired and a little grumpy after an athletic two-hour concert. But he remembered me and our interview, and when I asked him if I — a music teacher focusing on rap — could tag along to the high school tomorrow, he gave me his personal cell phone number. 12-year-old me woulda never believed it.
  9. I called off work and met Public Enemy at the address Chuck D texted to me (!?!?) At the high school, I hung back behind the band and a dozen people following Chuck to the classroom, trying not to draw any attention, since I’d already gotten more than enough time with my hero. However, well-rested now and happy, Chuck made a point to break away from his posse and fans for a moment, and walk and talk just to me. I told him all about my rap class, and gave him a CD of my students’ newest songs. I’d already come to realize that Chuck’s social skills were finely tuned, and though he could be short with people in a pragmatic way, if he sensed you were part of his real army, then he’d put you in his real army.
  10. During that exchange, I offered to take Chuck and crew on a “Katrina tour.” He told me that task had been promised to local “art critic” Doug MacCash, who did not deserve such an important honor, because he is the worst art critic humanity has yet produced.
  11. Chuck sat among of a group of about a dozen high school kids, and handful of teachers, plus fucking MacCash. Instead of lecturing, Chuck mostly asked the kids questions about their artistic aspirations. This example really taught me a lot about how to interact with my own students. These teens then rapped for Chuck, and one even beatboxed. I was already amazed to be part of this, before Chuck said to the class, “Michael over there also teaches. Tell them about your rap class, Michael…” Holy fucking shit.
  12. For some reason MacCash had to cancel at the last second — turns out I’d wished just hard enough — and some members of P.E. stepped up to me and asked if I’d take them through the destroyed Lower 9th Ward, on the other side of town, about a mile from my house.
  13. If your idol was Keith Richards, you’d probably want to get fucked up with him. If your idol was Chuck D, you couldn’t do better than walking around insane Katrina wreckage bitching about the government and society and racism. On that chilling tour, I took them to see the house with the long car on its roof with another house atop that car. I took P.E. (sans Flav and Griff) into a flooded church in the Lower 9, where all the pews were covered in a carpet of dry, cracked mud, and band instruments (drums, trombone, tuba, etc) hung from the rafters —it almost looked faked, like a movie set.
  14. After our tour, Chuck dropped me off at my house, where he signed the back of my favorite guitar while his posse all played with my pet goat, Chauncey. Surreal to have my hero literally in the house.
  15. In 2009, I published a New Orleans travel guide for music fans, and since I’d given P.E. such a great tour, Chuck D agreed to write a blurb for my book, in which he called me a great tour guide and a “true community light.” I still cannot believe that.
  16. Several years later, while at Buku Fest with my friend Jeremy and his boss, insult comedian Tony Clifton, who was scheduled to perform, I noticed P.E. was also on the bill. Jeremy had carved a Public Enemy logo into his shoulder, but had never met his idol. So, after P.E.’s show, we walked over to their backstage tent. We stepped in to find Chuck D sitting on a couch across the room, holding court. When Chuck saw me, he stood up and said loudly, “Michael Welch!” and walked across the room to greet us. I felt 20-feet tall.
  17. The next year, P.E. performed two back-to-back shows at Essence Fest, both of which I enjoyed, but didn’t go backstage. Then prior to P.E.’s JazzFest 2014 appearance, I again interviewed Chuck for Louisiana Weekly. Because I had already asked him every question I’d ever wanted to ask since I was 13 years old, I instead asked more personal questions; at age 48, Chuck had just fathered another baby, and so I asked him about fatherhood. At some point, he realized we weren’t just catching up, and that these represented my actual interview questions. “Wait, this isn’t going in the article is it?” he asked. When I said yes, he replied, “No. Fuck no.” After that, I decided to never try and interview him again; I d run out of questions for my hero.
  18. Still, every time Chuck D returns to New Orleans, I drop his people an email and he puts me on the guest list. They say never meet your heroes, but my hero Chuck D is exactly who he seems to be.

Michael Patrick Welch’s “132 Famous People I Have Met” series is FREE, but please consider donating to his VENMO (michael-welch-42), or to his PayPal account (paypal.me/michaelpatrickwelch2), so he can feed his kids, pay his mortgage, etc.

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