The setting is the Midsummer Festival, at the fairgrounds of Nevada County in Grass Valley, California. I believe August of 1992. It may have been 1991 or 1993, but after a stroke and heart attack in years past, not to mention having been diagnosed with Parkinson’s six years ago,the years are starting to run together on me. And to
make things worse, some days they don’t exist at all, but those are stress-free days so I guess everything has a good side to it. Back to the story at hand. It was Friday afternoon and I was the backstage manager for the Midsummer Festival that year. It was about 2:30 in the afternoon and the next act up was to be Berline,Crary,Hickman, and Spurgin. Just about then, one of the owners of the festival walked to the backstage area and asked me if I had seen any members of the next act that was supposed to be up?
I told him no I hadn’t, but I wish they’d show up pretty quick because they were due to go on in 30 min. It was then that he dropped the bombshell on me when he said; well we’re getting concerned because they haven’t checked into the front gate Yet. Yikes!!! I told him you better go get the next act ready to go on in their place, just in ase they don’t show up in time, so he disappeared in a cloud of dust.
10 long, agonizing minutes crawled by, and just about that time.
This little teeny compact car comes sliding up backstage in a cloud
of dust. Who piles out but none other than my buddy Byron Berline!
Then he says to me; JD, are we late? I said nope, got 20 min. to
spare. About that time the rest of the guys had got out of the car,
and Byron says to ’em; boys. We made it with 20 min. to spare!!! A
huge sigh of relief went out of the entire band, and Steve Spurgin
says good, we got time for a cuppa coffee.
So, while the band was getting their instruments tuned up I poured
them a cuppa coffee. I asked Steve where was your last gig? He
looked me right in the eye and said, Tahiti. Did you say TAHITI, I
asked? Yep he says,Tahiti, the gig from hell. It was then that he
told me of the ordeal it was for them to get from Tahiti to the
fairgrounds in Grass Valley on time. Now you have to remember this
was back in the early 90s when this all took place. Steve said there
was one airplane in and out of Tahiti once or twice a week back
then, and they were supposed to be at the airport to catch the plane
Wednesday morning. Steve said we were setting there about noon when
they see this airplane approaching and it flies on over the island
and keeps going. They figure they would catch the next plane and
they sat there for a couple hours. Then they went in and asked when
the next plane was supposed to be there because they were supposed
to get on it. The airport man asked them who they were and where
they were going? They told him who they were and they were supposed
be heading for Hawaii then to Los Angeles. Steve said the airport
guy panicked and said I didn’t know you were supposed to be here to
catch that plane because that’s the only one that comes by here once
a week. They told him he better get a plane because they gotta be in
Grass Valley to play music by Saturday afternoon. So the guy got on
the radio and got a plane headed their way to Tahiti, and about 12
hours later they are on the plane headed for Hawaii. Steve said that
airplane ride from Tahiti to Hawaii, seriously tested his power of
prayer. It was a twin engine airplane and Steve said the motors
backfired continuously and you could see fire every time it backfired,
and oil running down the wings
behind the motors. To this day, Steve says he doesn’t know how that
airplane stayed in the air and by the time they got to Hawaii he had
ran clean out of prayer material. But, they weren’t out of the woods
yet because they still had to get to Grass Valley. They got on a jet
to Los Angeles, changed planes for Sacramento, rented a small car
and lit out for Grass Valley, and got backstage at 2:40, 20 min.
before they were supposed to go on stage. That is close to a 3 Day
Rd. trip to make one gig! That has to be a world record for distance
and to get there on time.
Steve Spugin, Dan Crary and I sat down backstage at the Strawberry
Festival here a couple of years ago and relived that time of 22
years ago. I told them that is one of my most outstanding memories
when that rental car came sliding up backstage, and Byron jumping
out and asking me; JD, are we late? I only wish I had a picture of
the big grin on his face when I told him, nope, you got 20 min. to
spare. You look like you need a cup of coffee. One lump or two, you