Welcoming the Band

Welcoming the Band

By Roger Heid

 

Some day during the summer of 1979, I was still in the Army, some rock band was scheduled to make appearances at a couple of local US Army NCO Clubs. I cannot recall what they called themselves. I think they were Canadians. I probably had heard some of their stuff on AFN (American Forces Network).

The band was scheduled to arrive at the Stuttgart Main Station, coming from Mannheim. Someone from the Club System needed to greet them and usher them to a hotel where reservations had been made. It so happened that, on that day, the Club Manager was unavailable because his wife was about to give birth. Since there was no other person readily available, I volunteered to fill in. The manager was a good friend of mine, and I happened to have the day off.

Among the people waiting at the station was Gustav, a truck driver in his late twenties, an outspoken rock fan; he looked like it, too. I had seen him a couple of times before as the company he worked for also served Uncle Sam on occasions. I did not expect him to recognize me; also, I was not in uniform. He seemingly had no idea who I was. Along the line, I had gathered that Gustav was quite a character. He had a heart of gold, he loved heavy metal rock music, married with two nice little twin girls he meticulously took care of, so I had been told. But he was not the brightest star in the sky, they said. The trucking company he worked for loved him, however. He had a reputation of being very good at what he was doing. They called him ‘Mr. Reliable’. He also spoke fairly good American English he had picked up from GIs over the years.

A brief conversation between us made it apparent that he was here to haul the band’s equipment to the Club where they were scheduled to make their first appearance. I had been informed that the band’s gear would be in the baggage car behind the engine, so I informed Gustav of this. He looked at me, curiosity written all over his face, and said:

“Uh, Sir, are you some kind of manager?”

Normally, I don’t pull gags on people, but here I could not resist the temptation. So, I replied:

“Actually, I am a representative of a major Air Guitar manufacturer. I’m here on business.”

Imagine an astronaut landing on Mars, confronting a McDonald’s Restaurant and the resulting look in the astronaut’s face. That’s all I can say.

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A very nice looking BR 181 had pulled in the train, and things briefly became bit hectic. The band members looked like they needed to crash on the spot. I told Gustav to wait for me and the band’s road manager at the club so we could check the load and sign the delivery invoice. I loaded the musicians into the small bus I was driving and dumped them off at the hotel. From there, the road manager, a sour faced shrimp with a very heavy limey accent, and I headed for the NCO Club where Gustav was already waiting.

After the load had been checked and the papers were signed, this road manager disappeared inside the club to act important and to haggle with one of the club attendants. I was about to depart myself, but Gustav stopped me in my tracks as I was about to get into my bus.

“Uh, Sir, are you serious about air guitars?  I always thought this was just some guys going nuts, pretending they are playing a guitar. Now you’re telling me that air guitars are actually manufactured. I think you are pulling my leg. Who are you really?”

In the spur of the moment, I decided to push the envelope a little further. I told Gustav to wait right there. I went back to the club warehouse, took a guitar out of its hard case and went back to Gustav. I laid the case on the hood of some parked car and carefully opened it.

“Here you can see for yourself, Gustav, but don’t touch.”

“You got to be kidding, Sir!”

“Now why would I want to kid you? What good would that do?”

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Classic Air Guitar in case

I closed the case, told Gustav to wait and took it back to the warehouse. Now I kind of started to feel a little sorry for the poor guy. Somehow I felt the urge to make up for this prank. So I took him inside the Club and bought a couple of Saturday night tickets for him and his wife. I also slipped him a Five Spot to pay for a baby sitter. He thanked me exuberantly and left. I also bought tickets for me and my wife. On the way out, I noticed a poster in the hallway letting everybody know about an upcoming local ‘Air Guitar Contest’. I was sure that Gustav had seen it, too. Oh Boy!!

We got there early on Saturday night to make sure we would get the table we wanted. Gustav was already there, milling around on the stage, helping to set up a huge drum kit. He waved at us and pointed to a young nice looking lady sitting alone at a table close to ours. I introduced myself and invited her to sit with us. Gustav joined us shortly thereafter.

The show started, blowing my ear drums clear to the far side of town. This promised to be good. The highlight came toward the end of the second set. The lead guitarist jumped across the stage and grabbed a different ax and started a lengthy high tech solo riff. My eardrums moved to the next county. This was really a good show. During this epic guitar solo, the lead singer hopped around like a drunken monkey, bringing on some fantastic air guitar dance moves. Gustav’s jaws dropped through the floor to the bottom of the basement below. That’s all I want to say.

My wife was no slouch when it came to pulling pranks. She had concocted some fold out piece of paper depicting a couple of empty pictures frames. There were model numbers and prices of air guitars printed below each frame. Gustav’s wife, Elsa, immediately took keen interest in this and asked to see it.

“Gustav, maybe we can afford to buy you one of those for your birthday. I think I like this one. What do you think, Gustav?”

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Left: Model AG 101 Standard – $295.-          Right: Model AG 201 De Luxe – $450.-

Gustav eagerly studied the ‘brochure’.

“I agree with you, Elsa. I like that one also.”

Then he looked at me and said:

“Does it come with a case? How long will it take to get one?”

Now it was time for me to feel like my leg was being pulled, big time. We all looked at each other and laughed and laughed. My gag had backfired, wouldn’t you know!! The third set was the culmination of the evening. My ear drums now withdrew to Central Asia. My wife’s wine glass started to creep toward the edge of the table, but she caught it just in time. A good show it was, indeed.

The local Air Guitar Contest was held two weeks later at a school auditorium in the suburbs of Stuttgart. Gustav and Elsa sent us tickets to attend. The event was sponsored by a local music store and supported by a hot local heavy metal band. Gustav was the lead guitar. He also won the contest. During a break, he told me that his air guitar was very special. It was made of compressed air.

My illustrious gag had double-backfired. Oh well! You can’t win them all! But we all had a good time!

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Samples of ‘Air Guitarists’

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