My favorite memory of Fred-Freak Smith, circa 1989

One night, as the evening was running down, not much was going on in the long hallway.  It had been a night that didn’t attract much attention; maybe a Three Band, Three Bucks, or a Video Dance Party, I forget.  There I sat, at the end of the long hall, when the door opened, for the first time in a while.  Through it, out onto F Street, I caught a glimpse of a stretch limo, the kind not unknown to us, but not familiar, either.  

Out of that car stepped a man, tall, lanky, with dark blue jeans.  He didn’t look like ‘much’.  He had lank, almost greasy hair, hanging down past his ears, but no longer than the collar of his starched white shirt.  But out of the limo, as he came in the door, I could see that he was accompanied by two women, obviously younger than him, dressed as many of the day did around such vehicles – fairly skimpy, day-glo colors, big hair.  

They came down the hall, and I immediately thought, “Gee, this’ll be short.”  But as they came to the desk, I recognized the gentleman.  This was Tom Scholz, the brains behind the early 80s juggernaut that was Boston.  In high school, I had been a fan.  Being then from anywhere within a 100-mile radius of The Hub, you kind of had to be.  But since I had arrived at the Mecca of cutting edge cool that was 9:30, I knew better.  This man was a relic of a bygone era, the very symbol of the Arena Rock that was our arch nemesis.  Still, it was my job to put on a welcoming face.

He was friendly and deferential, not at all what I expected from a ‘Rock Star’.  I said hello, and, after informing him of what to expect within, welcomed the party into our establishment.  Still, I kind of snickered to myself that, of course, we were WAY too cool a place for the likes of this dinosaur.

Just then, the side door burst open, and through it came Fred, with his typical, full-volume welcome, “FREAK!”

“Hey, Fred,” I called, “you’ll never guess who just went in!”  My thought was, of course, that Fred would think Mr. Scholz was a has-been, a relic of a now-forgotten style, to be consigned to the ash heap of musical history. 

“Who?!” he bellowed.

“Tom Scholz, that guy for Boston!” I replied, expecting Fred to smirk, at most, and go about his business.  Instead, his face lit up, and he grabbed me by the shoulders, shouting “Where? WHERE!?”

“There?” I bleated, pointing a finger through the glass door, toward where one could just make out the silhouette of the man and his two companions.  Fred crashed headlong through the glass doors, ran up to Tom and caught him up in a huge bear hug, lifting him off the ground.  I watched aghast during their brief, but enormously animated conversation, stunned that I had, once again, misjudged something at chez 9:30.  Scholz looked dazed, but pleased, and Fred was, as always, ecstatic.

When Fred finally sauntered back out through the doors, looking post-orgasmic, I asked what all that was about.

“Are you kidding me?!  That guy’s a GOD!!!  He invented the RockMan!”  He then went on to explain to this neophyte Mr. Scholz’s place in the guitar Pantheon.  It was, to say the least, a detailed explanation. 

Since that night, I have tried never to judge anyone by my preconceptions.  It hasn’t always worked, but I’ve always thought that is was nice to have Fred to try and keep me honest.

The 9:30 club is located in Washington DC.