This is part of a series of posts I’ve entitled, “Stories From the Road.” Each week I will post a new story from Rick Sikes, a Texas musician who traveled the roads of Texas, Oklahoma, New Mexico and out to California for well over twenty years. With hours to pass in a bus full of sweaty musicians, they found ways to entertain themselves. These stories are told in Rick Sikes’ words. I’ll do my best to correct grammar, but I want to keep them in his own voice.
“I had a tall skinny bass man that we used to play tricks on. His name was Thomas Jenkins but we all called him Red because he had red hair. He wore glasses with thick lenses. He had a lot of trouble with his eyes. I remember one time we were in a motel out in California when he went to sleep on the floor watching TV with his glasses on. My brother, Bobby, had some watercolors and he painted the lens on his glasses with red, yellow and orange paint. When it dried on them, after a minute or so, he put a paper sack in an aluminum pan and set it on fire. Once the room filled with smoke, everybody started hollering, “Fire, fire, fire.” Red woke up. He jumped up off the floor and of course, all he could was red, orange and yellow and he could smell the smoke. He was panicking until he pulled his glasses off. Of course, he failed to see the humor in it but we were all rolling on the floor laughing.
Another thing we used to do to him when he would zonk out like that was spray shaving cream on his glasses. He would wake up and couldn’t see anything but white shaving cream and he’d think he’d gone blind. I suppose that was pretty cruel, but it was all in fun. No harm was ever meant by it.
This same guy, Red Jenkins, greased his hair down with Brilliantine oil, that was popular back then. He was bad about falling asleep; one of those guys that nodded off real good, kind of a Rip Van Winkle sort of guy. So anyway, this time, someone else was driving, Red was in the middle and I was on the passenger side. Three other guys were in the back of the car and we were heading to a gig. I was wearing a white western shirt. Red went to sleep and fell over on my shoulder with that greasy head so I pushed his head back up. He didn’t even wake up. We went a little farther down the road and he fell back over on my shoulder again. I raised his head back up but by this time I was getting a little perturbed. So, the third time he fell over on my shoulder, I popped him upside the head and told him to wake up. He said, “That’s alright, you sonofabitch. You’re gonna want to sleep someday.” It was kinda funny though. The guys all cracked up when I popped him good.
I will say this about Red Jenkins. He always had my back. I met him when he was hitchhiking through Texas on the way to California. I stopped to give him a ride. He wound up staying with me and playing in the band for many years and even went to prison with me. I felt responsible for him. He wasn’t real bright, but he could play good and he was loyal. I often wonder whatever happened to him…”