A conversation between Grover DeLuca and Mike McCarthy

Dear Mike, Nice site! I don't think I have anything of real interest to relate. Bowie and I talked for about 90 minutes during a phone interview on FM 100 (before he started that first tour and prior to the release of Ziggy Stardust) which was initiated by Jon Scott, the most popular local FM dj of that time, whose interest --- along with that of Jim Blake of The Yellow Submarine --- was responsible for Memphis being one of the two cities Bowie first broke in (Cleveland being the other) and Bowie and I talked together, just the two of us, about an hour all-told during the parties after the New York and Boston concerts but I don't remember a word of what we discussed, nor do I remember spending any time alone with him during either Memphis gig, though I did talk with Mick Ronson (who very sweetly offered to let me crash in his room) and with John Hall and Daryl Oates, who were complete nobodies then and seemed somewhat ill-at-ease at the truly dismal after-concert reception, and though I'm sure Julia mentioned the Art School visit to me, I have totally forgotten that, not that I ever really knew the first thing about it to begin with.

As an insight into Bowie's character, I remember one of the promoters, Mike Turbeville, asking me to call Bowie to see if he would do an hour-and-a-half set rather than the contracted-for hour and doing so and Bowie very graciously saying "Sure!" without a moment's hesitation.
Memphis is the city where Bowie learned never to get near enough to the crowd when he was wearing his absurdly long feather boa for a member of the audience to be able to grab it and rip it off his neck as a trophy, giving him a friction-burn that caused him to react visibly and dramatically. I also recall one detail of the Carnegie Hall show, where I --- in spite of my All-Access Pass --- ended up standing against the back wall of the hall, as far away from the stage as one could get without actually leaving the room, about a foot away from another nobody, Andy Warhol, whose expression and demeanor seemed never to vary from that of a dough-faced mannequin during the entire show, or at least not when I glanced over at him. (One hears the expression dull, flat eyes and dismisses it as a cliche, but the condition does indeed exist.)

I also recall, after that gig, a horrendous banging and pounding on the door of the room on the third floor of the Plaza Hotel where I was staying with Leee (sic) Black Childers, who worked for Tony de Fries and Mainman, which came from a mile-high Angie Bowie, accompanied by shrieks of both our names and an invitation to come out and play, which, wisely, I'm sure, we ignored. (She was a very impulsive and friendly and likable lady.)

It was also in NYC that de Fries --- who so slavishly modeled himself on the unspeakable Allen Klein that it was hysterical --- gave me a $20,000 check from Columbia records paid to Bowie for his production efforts on Mott the Hoople's version of All the Young Dudes to take to the William Morris Agency. This is memorable because de Fries could not possibly have had more than the remotest idea who I was and why I was there.
It's more memorable due to the fact that the smiling, cigar-smoking gentleman preceding me into that dark redoubt, made a grand but genuinely good-natured flourish out of opening the door for me to precede him. "Thank you, Mr. Lemmon," I said and off Jack and I went. I can't imagine any of this being of the least use to you and I'm sorry I haven't more to offer and I wish you great success with your endeavors. Best, Grover PS: I also remember a discussion about quaaluudes with Mick Ronson in Boston the night before he did his first one of those and his subsequently telling me what little he remembered about it the next morning during breakfast at Howard Johnson's. That tour was awash in drugs, though Bowie was a complete abstainer at that time. The days of The Thin White Duke were looming though...


this is incredible, but who are YOU? What is your title in all this? I need more details. This is all fascinating. Dig deeper. And allow me to post it all at my bowie essay site..... (do you have a ticket stub?) Are you living in Memphis? Regards, Mike


Dear Mike, I didn't have a title and my only musical point of (barely possible) interest is that I'm one of four credited writers of the Alex Chilton song "Take Me Home and Make Me Like It". (My line was "black leather thoughts and whiplike words", not, I am sorry to say, the title, which is the only good thing about the song, other than Alex's voice.) I just happened to be around, working at The Yellow Submarine for Jim Blake, and he and Jon Scott, who was a prince of a fellow, one of the nicest guys you could ever hope to meet, were best of friends and both early Bowie nuts --- it was Blake who first turned me on --- so that's how I got to meet Jon and when Phil, the local RCA promo man, set up the phone interview at Jon's request, Blake and Jon asked me to participate.
It went well: Bowie was stunned that I knew of stuff he had in the can, info I had gotten from the publisher and editor of "Phonograph Record Magazine" who was also a big exec at UA records and well-connected --- he signed The Move, one of my all-time favorite groups, to that label --- and who also had copies of the then-rare Arnold Corns and Dana Gillespie tracks Bowie had done years before plus several very scarce Mercury B-sides, as well as a couple of then-unreleased tracks, including 'Velvet Goldmine' and 'Bombers'); and Bowie was impressed enough with what I thought was so obvious a question I was afraid I'd sound simple asking it ("Isn't 'The Bewlay Brothers' another take on 'The London Boys' by someone older and wiser and a bit sadder?') to murmur that I knew more about him than he cared to know. I was inordinately flattered at the time, but what the hell: I was 23 years old and an idiot, though I thought far differently at the time --- I'm still an idiot, but at least now I know it --- and in retrospect he was naiver then too, since it's hardly a penetrating observation. (Pretentious and full of faux-portent, yes; acute, no.)

Anyway, I ended up going on the tour, due to some jiggery-pokery (as P.G. Wodehouse would say) which I can't go into, and jaunted around with them to Cleveland, back to Memphis, then to NYC, then to LA, where I bailed and returned to Memphis. At one point I went into Boston the day before the gig there to do a radio show to hype ticket sales --- which were poor at that point --- using a tape I was to make combining parts of the interview with various Bowie tracks, both rare and current. It was a small independent FM station and they were notoriously laid-back even for those days, with the jock who was going to air the program leading me into a production room and gesturing to equipment that looked to me like a control-board for NASA which he said he knew I had intimate knowledge of, but the likes of which I had never seen in my life and hadn't a clue as to how to operate but was too embarrassed to admit, and then off he went, probably to toke up, and somehow --- and it was a blur then and has remained a blur to this day --- somehow I figured out how to make the tape without breaking anything, though it took all night long.

I had been told to bring it in at 30 minutes. What I ended up with was over an hour (70 minutes seems to ring a bell, but it may have run to 90) but I figured that once they started playing it they would have to keep going til it was over, so I just handed it to them with no comment --- literally minutes before air-time --- and raced out the front door, and they did indeed play the whole thing and were, I later learned, happy to have done so, since it was both well received and well rated and supposedly did help goose the ticket sales, but who knows that for sure? What their feelings were at about 35 minutes into the initial airing (they re-ran it at least once) I never asked. I wish I still had that tape, but I loaned it to another RCA promo man in some other part of the country after my return to Memphis and it was lost. I've often wondered if there was a tape, at least, of the original FM 100 interview gathering dust there in Memphis somewhere. (FM 100 has probably been gone a long time now, so probably not. I can't even remember who owned them, though it might have been Scripps-Howard.) You're welcome to post most of what I sent you.

There's lots more memories stirring now that I've thought about this --- which I haven't done in years --- but most are neither particularly relevant to the subject at hand nor fit for a family audience. I need to add the caveat here that all I've written is as I remember it but the memory blurs after so long a time and I may have made some errors, such as assigning the boa incident to Memphis. It may have happened in Cleveland. Best, Grover PS: I live in Atlanta, arriving here from Memphis on July 4th, 1976.

Good morning Grover,

You state: "Anyway, I ended up going on the tour, due to some jiggery-pokery (as P.G. Wodehouse would say) which I can't go into, and jaunted around with them to Cleveland, back to Memphis, then to NYC, then to LA, where I bailed and returned to Memphis."
So this you say above seems to be amiss of detail BUT potentially the most interesting (and damning?) bit of history. I find it unique that you out of everyone who was connected with getting Bowie here would be picked by Mainman (or Bowie?) to work his way deeper into America.
So to clarify, it's too bad about the lost tape (a grail item) but do you have anything that you can photograph or scan that brings 'tangibility' to your memories? Did you save any documents, photos, ticket stubs, etc etc. God forbid you should have a picture of yourself with anyone connected with those days. I would want to post it with your essays (at your first look approval).

At the very least, do you have Yellow Submarine era fotos of you and the guys at the store? Or just a shot of yourself. Im really trying hard to document that particular window of Memphis time. Anything will help.
Keep digging into your 'jiggery pokery' as you please. It's the conflict and life motivation that makes anything most interesting. And I will post none of your thoughts until you approve the final passage.

Dear Mike, To stay with the Wodehouse idiom, you're confusing jiggery-pokery with argy-bargy, which is to say that there was no conflict involved, no drama, and since Main Man had nothing to do with my being there, there goes the mystery. The only person to whom it mattered that I was there was me. Period. And I found a way to make that happen because I have always had a gift for making things happen I wanted to happen. (A gift I wish now I could have traded for the ability to stop things happening I didn't want to happen.) The trip to Cleveland and back was paid for by RCA, without their knowledge. Most of the other travel was paid for by me, though the shuttle flight from New York to Boston and back came out of the Main Man coffers --- all $60 of it --- but I'm pretty sure that it was finessed as well, even though I was technically working for them by doing the radio thing. A Main Main employee did ease my way in to the tour group and let me share a hotel room a few times and then it was just a simple matter of behaving as if you belonged. If you can project that, you can get in just about anywhere and stay there unmolested as long as you choose, or so I've found. (Well, maybe not always unmolested, but at least not really bothered.) Also --- and you really had to be there to understand --- for all the "security", things were still amazingly lax. Very few people --- from top to bottom --- gave a rat's ass about anything but their own little trip and were so busy wallowing in every happening moment of those that there was no time to question or think about anything or anybody else. Curiousity was at a noticeable low. All of this was fueled by euphoria; much of it was drug-induced, of course, but just as much was not. I have no stubs, since I never bought any tickets, and the only souvenir I had --- an acetate of "John, I'm Only Dancing" which was signed by Bowie, Ronno, Trevor and Mick, along with Angie, De Fries and a few others who were on the tour --- I gave away long ago. No pictures either, as I always disliked having my picture taken and rarely allowed it. Also, I never had much interest in photos of other people or places or events as aids to recall, so I have none of those. I'm certain I've told you everything "important", now, so this is it for any reminiscences from me. By all means, use what you want of the previous stuff I've sent and any of this you like.

Again, my very best wishes to you and your endeavors. Grover
PS: Thanks for the recommendation, but I can't summon up the least bit of interest in even looking at Moonage Daydream, but I did look again at your site and personal info and seeing that you have an interest in Elvis: I was the last member of the Christine School Safety Patrol to come in off duty one morning in 1952 or '53, having dragged out avoiding actual class as long as I dared, and was just about to go in, when here comes a straggling little kid and at the same time up roars a Harley as big as a semi it seemed so out I marched with my little red flag on a pole to bar passage and Elvis --- all by his lonesome --- and I stared at each other for about 30 seconds. I was too shy to say anything, but he did nod at me as I stepped back and he roared off. I was hard to impress even then, but I knew I was close to something very special. It was like looking at Mount Rushmore.