I’ve been a Rolling Stones fanatic for decades dating back to the 1960s. It’s been said that the Stones are popular because of Mick Jagger. But, they’re a band thanks to Keith Richards, the group’s driving musical force. Keith has long been my hero. Not only did he bless us with rock’s most exciting and enduring guitar riffs, he’s led the kind of life the rest of us can only dream about. A life lived totally on his terms, free to do whatever he pleased whenever he wanted to. Keith has always remained true to his roots as a nonconforming rebel. He would never accept a knighthood like his jet setting bandmate, Mick, did.
Fast forward to early 1993. I was seated at a table in our local coffee shop with a neighborhood guy, a former politician. “Buddy” once served as the most powerful member of the Pennsylvania State Senate. He was later found guilty of corruption, and served prison time, but that’s another story. Still, he retained considerable power and influence. He could make things happen. I was reading the newspaper, and came across an announcement proclaiming that Keith and his solo band, the X-Pensive Winos, were scheduled to play the legendary Tower Theater in Upper Darby, just outside the city. I couldn’t contain my excitement. I blurted out, “I can’t believe it, Keith Richards is coming to town!” “Who the hell is Keith Richards?” Buddy replied. When I explained that he was a guitarist in the Rolling Stones, Buddy retorted, “Is that one of those bands that never gets washed?” I just smiled back, and said I would give anything to meet Keith. “Oh you would, would you?” said Buddy. And that was the end of that.
A couple of days later Buddy called, and instructed me to be at the Latham Hotel in Center City at 6:30 PM on the evening of the concert. “Ask for Mike Goffredo at the Front Desk,” Buddy told me. Mike was a local impresario who lived in the hotel. After hanging up the phone I jumped for joy, excited beyond words that my fantasy was about to come true.
I went to the hotel at the appointed time on the night of the concert, February 16, 1993, and asked for Mike at the Front Desk. He came down a few minutes later, and greeted me warmly. He was a character! A very large man, he was energetic, animated, and jovial. He impressed me as being the kind of guy who would be the life of any party. We hit it off right away. “Let’s go outside,” he said. “Our ride is waiting.”
We stepped out the door, and Mike said, “There it is,” pointing to a black limo. I did a double take! The driver opened the door for us, and we settled into the backseat. Mike introduced me to Kal Rudman, who was seated in front. Kal was a well connected and influential force in the music business as the founder and publisher of the famed Friday Morning Quarterback radio industry publication. The Senator (Buddy) called Mike, who in turn called Kal who arranged the meeting with Keith. That’s pretty much how power works. Buddy still had the power!
Off we went to the Tower. Aside from some brief small talk between Kal and Mike it was a quiet ride. At one point Mike leaned towards me and said, “You excited? I know how you feel. I felt the same way when I met Sinatra for the first time.” It was indeed an event of a lifetime. For many years I dreamed about meeting Keith. That night it was going to happen.
We pulled up to the Tower’s main entrance, eliciting curious stares from the crowd. Who could that be, they were probably wondering. Kal turned around, and said, “I’ll wait out here, and come in after the show. Here, take this. Stay in your seat, and I’ll be in after the concert.” He handed me a ticket for a 5th row seat! “This is really my night,” I thought to myself.
The Winos, whose lineup included Steve Jordan, Waddy Wachtel, Bobby Keys, Ivan Neville, and Charley Drayton. was Keith’s extracurricular band. He put it together in 1987 after a falling out with Mick Jagger who pursued a solo recording and touring career that went nowhere. By contrast, the group’s first album, Talk Is Cheap, was released in 1988 to critical acclaim. Since then it has gone gold, and has sold consistently. The 1993 tour supported the Main Offender LP, the band’s second studio album released in 1992.
Keith and the band rocked through Winos’ numbers from their two LPs, including; Take It So Hard, Struggle, Make No Mistake, Whip It Up, and You Don’t Move Me. They also performed the Stones’ classics Happy, Time Is On My Side, and Keith’s signature tune, Before They Make Me Run. I saw the Rolling Stones in stadiums and large indoor venues like the Spectrum, Wachovia Center (now Wells Fargo), and Madison Square Garden. In the Tower’s intimate setting the concert was raucous, disorderly, and often out of tune. It was also inspired rock and roll. It exploded with energy as Keith’s ravaged voice and legendary power chords bounced off the theater’s hallowed walls. We loved every minute of it.
As the crowd started leaving at the end I stayed in my seat as instructed. Mike found me, and brought me up to the stage. As we approached I saw Kal – and Keith! I couldn’t believe my eyes. There he was, my hero, in the flesh. I couldn’t take my eyes off him. Kal said to Keith, “I want you to meet your number one fan in Philadelphia.” I just stood there, frozen. Finally, Keith said, “Come here, mate.” We shook hands, and I offered him a token of my appreciation, a deluxe bottle of Jack Daniels, gift boxed. I stood next to Keith as he had a conversation with Kal, and we posed for photos. All of I could think of to say to him was, “Thanks for all of the years of great music and memories.” As he left for the van waiting outside the stage door Keith waved the Jack Daniels bottle in my direction with a nod. Then, he was gone.