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JOE PUSATERI'S PAGE
Joe Pusateri lives in Memphis and is a great Stax fan. Here is his report of the Cropper Classic event in Memphis TN, which took place on October 14th and 15th, 2002. See all the photos at http://groups.msn.com/SloppyJoezBluesPhotos/cropperclassic.msnw.
Hey all, I just thought I'd add my own part of the story here. When I heard about the Cropper Classic, I called Sandy up and he said he was interested in playing. So I called up the the promoter and told him that Sandy Leigh was interested in playing and would donate his Hammond B3 and playing and that he could stay at my house. He said that Marvell Thomas was putting the band together and that he would relay the message. I called Sandy back and he was really wanting to come so I called Steve Cropper up and told him the situation and he said he would see what he could do. After many phone calls, Sandy got word on Thurday (I think) before the gig. The gig was on Monday and Tuesday and Sandy likes to be ready, so he left on Friday and made it to my house on Saturday. We tried to get into the Gibson Showcase on Sunday but could not. We ended up getting in touch with security and they let us in before noon on Monday. Now we had to get the Hammond and B3 along with 3 Leslie's into the room. There was about a four foot wide pit in front of the stage so we had to go down into the pit and then up on stage. Sandy was moving the B3 and Leslie's down to an art and two people can unload from the trailer and get it to the stage. We needed help to get it to and up on stage. Sandy got security to get us 3 more bodies for "just 30 seconds" as Sandy likes to say. And it's true we got it right on stage and in about 4 seconds (I'm glad I play guitar... whew). We got the B3 and Leslie's into position and set up. Sandy started playing to make sure everything was working right and one of the amps in the 1st Leslie was making a noise. One of the tubes was loose so Sandy changed out the amp in about 10 seconds. It took me a lot longer to get it out of the van. Anyway, about 2 pm, I saw Steve Cropper walking up outside and I told Sandy and we met him at the door. Security opened the door and Sandy said "are you sure this guy has a pass to get in here" The security guard looked shocked buy Sandy and Steve were smiling... so he got it that Sandy was joking. Steve went around a few minutes and then went onto the stage with his guitar and plugged in to the amp that a guy had delivered while we were setting up. Steve and Sandy ran through a few songs then they got off stage for a few minutes and everyone chatted for a bit. Sandy got Steve to autograph all my Cropper albums and I showed him the "Bang! Washrag" one and he laughed and said he saw the girl on the back a couple of years ago. After a while the rest of the musicians started to come in. It was great. I got to meet and talk with a lot of my musical heros. I just happened to have my Stax book... .hehe and I got a lot of autographs. People were walking up and saying hi to Sandy and introducing themselves to my wife Carol and I. I had the video camera set up in the pit (remember the pit) in front of the stage. Sandy got on stage as well as Steve Cropper, Duck Dunn and Steve Potts... 3 Steves and a Duck? Anyway the started to run through some MG's songs and you would have thought that it was Booker T. and the MG's. Sandy has Booker T. down to a note. It was simply fantastic. Then Marvell Thomas and his band got up for their sound check. More people started to file in. Carol and I got as many photos as we could before the crowd would be there that night.
THE MONDAY NIGHT GIG: We left the Gibson center and went home to get dressed. By this time I could not get the smile off of my face. We made it back to the center that evening before the gig and people were starting to file in. Sandy pretty much says what went on at the gig as Carol and I were videotaping and taking photos most of my attention was on the video camera, but between sets I saw the Stax folk that I had met earlier and they would say stuff like... Hey Joe, how's it goin... like we had known each other a long time. I was in heaven! After the gig we were all invited to BB King's. So Sandy, Eddie Floyd, Carol and I walked outside and Sandy and Eddie got into a limo with a bunch of other folk and took off. Carol and I walked back to put something in the car and walked the 2 blocks to BB King's. We were greated at the door and the promoter waved us in and said we were with them. Yahoo! Stax took over BB King's. We walked around and got to talk with everyone we saw. Steve Cropper and company including Sandy got on stage and blew the doors off the place. Well, this is gonna have to be a 2 parter cause I gotta go to work. But I gotta say that this was a dream come true and I just want to thank Steve "Sandy" Leigh for making it happen. In my wildest dreams I could not have imagined this happening. Thank You Sandy!
Ok this is part 2. Tuesday morning before the gig, I was feeling a bit rough but there was still a smile plastered on my face. Quote of the day was by my wife Carol "That Eddie Floyd is one happy guy". Well it was time to move the Hammond and Leslies from inside the Gibson Guitar Showcase to the roof of the factory. Argg (remember the pit in front of the stage... I did). Well we got there and could not find anyone to help get the Hammond off the stage. Finally 4 women that were part of the event came down to help. We did find a ramp to span the pit and get all the equipment on the elevator and to the roof. After we got it on the roof we had to get it up on a 4 foot tall stage. The roof is huge with a great view on Downtown Memphis. Sandy finally got 3 of the guys that were working on the dance floor to spend "30 Seconds" to get the Hammond on stage. After getting it on the stage and in position we had do deal with the asshole soundman ( This was Not Doug Neel who was the soundman at the monday night gig) We finally got an electrical outlet and Sandy began to warm up the Hammond and check it out. The Charity event was also going to have an auction and also a silent auction. So there was a lot of people there setting tables, auction stuff, sound equipment. The Blues Brothers Stage Manager Sauch (I think that is how you spell it) got there and Sandy helped him pull Steve Cropper's and Duck Dunn's Amps and guitars out of their cases and setting them up. Now this is cool!! After we got everything set up. I needed to get home and get ready. Sandy stayed (we didn't know exactly what time the sound check was going to happen) Sandy wanted us to bring his cloths up there for him to change. He called me at home that evening just before we were leaving and said that when we get there to go to the front desk and tell who we are. Well we got there and went to the line and told the lady who we were and they said Yea we got you right here and ggace Carol and I VIP passes, you know the kind you hang around you neck...God Bless You Sandy! We spotted Sandy on the second floor and he told us to come up there, so we got on the elevator and told the security "second floor please". Everyone on the elevator turned to look at us as if wondering who we were (The VIP Pass). Sandy met us at the elevator. He said "follow me, I got us a dressing room". The dressing room turned out to be the Green Room with tables and chairs, bottled beer,wine and snacks. Sandy got dressed while Carol and I sat there in this huge room soaking up the atmosphere. Sandy finished dressing and we were all sitting there(no one else was there yet). This young lady walked up to us and said "I'm here to get you anything you need, so just let me know. Sandy said "Anything" and the young lady laughed and said "within reason". Hey, I'm loving this and and I don't wanna go back to the real world...hehe. We left the Green Room and went up to the roof. We got to the side of the stage where the video cam was set up. We were waiting to see when Steve would be playing. We got word that the keyboard player for the Blues Brothers was having plane delays and that they wanted Sandy to play. Sauch (Stage Manager) had already told us that Matt Murphy is still recovering and would not make it. Well the keyboard player made it (Damn I was hoping that Sandy was gonna get to play with them) and Dan Akroyd did not show up but there was a clone and he was pretty good. There were several guest artist that sat in with the band including Eddie Floyd who just knocked everyone out. I was at the side of the stage closest to the B3 and Duck Dunn. It was starting to get pretty chilly and I noticed Duck (who was feeling pretty good about this time) staring at his amp which was a tall ampeg and trying to adjust the volume, because you could hear the bass at the front of the house but not on stage. He was trying to adjust the volume on Steve Cropper's amp ( I guess he thought it was controlling his volume. I got low up on stage to see if I could help him out and Sandy followed. We discovered that he had become unplugged from the direct box. I plugged it back in and he was pretty close to the speaker. Well out of the speakers came the huge loud thundering bass sound that we love so much. The sound hit him directly in the face and he kinda stumbled backwards a bit. Then he smiled at me and turned back to the crowd.
Ok this is part 3. In between sets there was an auction. I was standing next to Steve Cropper and the auction guy pulled out this great looking Green Onion Cropper Classic Guitar. I was drooling. Steve was kinda busy looking at stuff and the guy asked me if I could tune it so Steve could play it and auction it off. I said sure and grabbed the guitar and ran into the restroom (great acoustics in restrooms) and tuned the guitar. Guys were coming through and looking at the guitar and saying "did you buy that already" I told them no, I was just tuning it up. I brought it back out to Cropper and handed it to him. He told me that Peavey was having trouble keeping up with demand and they had made this one up just for him. It was awsome. He signed the guitar and then proceeded to go to the stage to auction it off. The auctioner asked me how much he should start bidding at and I told him it was a thousand dollar guitar. He announced the guitar for auction and said it was autographed and tuned by the Master Tuner himself...hehe. I've been called a lot of things but... anyway I wonder about them guys in the bathroom... hehe. So Steve plugged in the guitar to play it and if all you folk that play guitar or have bought a guitar before know that the guitar companies love to put these little cards on the guitars attached by a string. Well, the wind was starting to blow pretty good and just when Steve strummed the guitar the little card fell between the strings and it went "clang". Steve shrugged his shoulders and I pointed to the card and he saw it, moved it out of the way and played. It sounded great....WHEW. The bidding started and I was right there and Carol told me to go for it ... I yelled out one thousand and before the words came out someone yelled 2 thousand and it went from there. The guitar sold for £ 4800. Way too rich for me. The Blues Brothers got back on stage and Eddie Floyd got on also. By this time it was getting kinda cold but they did a great set. My only regret was it looked like Sandy was not going to be able to play on Stage with the Blues Brothers. Well they finished the set and it was windy and cold. Steve Cropper thanked everyone for coming and said goodnight. Duck Dunn path off the stage had been blocked by a chair and he looked a little confused about how to get off and people in the crowd were yelling Duck, Hey Duck trying to get his attention so I jumped from behind the amp and showed him the way off the stage. It was a weird step/ramp thing that you could not see from where he was. I talked with Duck and his brother for several minutes and you could tell he was really cold. (living in Florida had thinned that Memphis blood). That nice lady that kept asking us if we needed anything said that there was food in the Green Room. Sandy, Carol and I made it back to the Green Room post haste. There was the Blues Brothers. I recognized Alan Rubin and Lou Marini from the movie and I got to talk with them for a few minutes and of course Steve Cropper was there. He looked at us and said to try some of this prime rib its good and it was. Sandy and Carol went back to the roof to check on the Hammond. The rest of the Blues Brothers left and there was just Steve Cropper, a friend of his who sings backup and me. We were cutting off pieces of prime rib and dipping it into horse radish. We talked about fishing and the new boat he wants to get and such. Steve Cropper is a really nice down to earth person. After about a half hour a guy showed up with Steve's amp packed up and I pushed Steve's amp and guitar down to the van to take him back to the hotel. I told the guy driving the van that Mr. Cropper would need assistance getting the amp into the back of his car. And we said our goodbyes. Holy shit, I forgot about the Hammond. So I made my way back to the roof and they already had it off the stage. We finally got an elevator that they let us use to go down to Sandy's van and trailer. We fended off all the street people wanting to be paid help and got the van loaded. Thats about it. If I think of anything I'll write it up. Once again It was a once in a lifetime event that I will always remember. Thanks to Steve "Sandy" Leigh for making a dream come true for me.
Joe Pusateri, Memphis TN
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