Monday, August 29, 2005

Jay and the Mellencamp Tours.....

The fella in the picture there is Jay AKA Jmon. I'm an RN and thru a strange twist of fate, I was hired to be a "Helper Elf" for Jay on a part time, short run basis. I'm gonna relate the background on Jay as I know it. I'm not gonna swear this is gospel but it's the story as I heard it told by those who should know.

Jay was the "Original roadie" for John Mellencamp. He did the loading and unloading, setup and knockdown, driving the truck, etc, before Mellencamp became a big name act. He and John grew up as neighbors and friends and that relationship carried over as John became famous.

It seems that jay also had a ongoing relationship with drugs and alcohol also. After a multi-day Coke binge, he suffered a Huge stroke and damn near died. (Having seen a CAT Scan of his head. I have no idea how he lived at all or functioned as well as he did. Terri Schaivo had nothing on him). Jay ended up in the wheelchair as you can see in the picture. His right side, arm and leg, didn't work for shit either. But the worst thing for Jay was his speech was affected. Badly. His entire vocabulary consisted of "R. E, R, Yeah and No". That was just about it. R was the dominant word and he used it for everything. Differing inflections and looks were all the clues you got to understanding what the hell he wanted. Thank God, he was good at making gestures that conveyed certain needs also. Difficult to decipher until you got to know him. It took some time but I got the crash course.

Everyone has heard about that "DREAM JOB". I'd never known anyone who had gotten one though, so I was more than a little skeptical when my friend Jerry asked if I'd be interested in touring with John Mellencamp for a month or two. Good pay, travel, rock and roll, etc..... Jerry and I worked opposing day/night shifts and he asked me this as we were crossing paths on a Tuesday evening. I told him "Sure, tell 'em I'm interested" and promptly forgot about it. Till the phone rang at 10am the next morning. Well damn! Jerry wasn't kidding at all. In fact, they needed someone right now. I didn't find out why till Friday, when I met Jay and the Band in Milwaukee. Yeah, 3 days. I asked the Boss if I'd still have a job when I came back and when She said yes, I was gone. I'd have gone anyway and I think she knew it and as I had a shitload of vacation time, It worked out.

It wasn't the easiest transition I'd ever undertaken. It seems that Steve, who had been hired to do the job did not get along well at all with Jay. I got a 15 minute crash course on Jay which amounted to - "Here's his med list and important info. Good luck". And then I saw Steve hauling ass out of there. Oh, not good. Jay was eyeballin' me and I could see he was not likin' what he was seeing either. Shit, I couldn't understand a damn thing he wanted and Jay's attention span and patience level were both on par with your average 3 year old. Yeah, it was tuff for the first week or so. But we grooved pretty well after Jay taught me what I needed to know. If I wasn't so slow, we'd have grooved quicker.

It turned out to be a neat job. Jay, like most stroke patients, had some serious personality quirks. A stroke (or CVA) seems to bring out the worst in certain areas of the personality for most people and Jay was no exception. When he got an idea to do something, that became the most important thing in the world and DAMMIT, that's all there was to it. Practicality or logic didn't mean a thing. This led to a few big blowups and problems once in awhile but I generally figured out which battles were worth fighting and which weren't. I got good at sidetracking him and refocusing his attention in a hurry. He was a hell of a lot of fun most of the time. His mobility problems were always a challenge. We rode on tour busses. Jay was no little guy. He weighed about 240 and getting his big ass on & off the bus was a chore for my skinny ass. I learned to enlist roadies and backstage hanger-ons to be hero's and help.

I ended up doing 2 tours and a few special events working with Jay. It was a neat job and I got to meet a whole bunch of really nice folks. Jay passed away in December of 2004. I'll post some more tour stuff later. This post is to long now.


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