My encounter with the reclusive Layne Staley

Growing up in a small town in Oklahoma, the words, “There’s nothing to do,” were never far from my lips. Never a more ridiculous idea have I entertained, looking back. We rode our bikes all day, played pick-up basketball games all night, and rarely watched television. In retrospect, it was idyllic. As they say, “Youth is wasted on the young.”

With the age of sixteen came driver’s licenses, and the world opened up to us, which meant we were dragging Main every Friday and Saturday night. It was more “Dazed and Confused” than “American Graffiti”, which I hope makes perfect sense to you.

Still, there wasn’t a lot to do in my little town of one stoplight. Even dragging Main became a drag after a few million loops. But there was one thing that came along every few months, which my friends and I could look forward to – a rock show. The concert venues were an hour and a half away from home, so it took a concerted effort for us to convince our parents we were trustworthy enough to go it on our own. We weren’t, but our parents let us go anyway.

When these infrequent and highly anticipated concerts finally came, we made a day of it. We wanted to meet the rock stars, so we left home many hours too early and loitered around the concert venue all afternoon, preferably as close to the tour buses as possible. Inevitably, the musicians took pity on the urchins baking under the hot sun and graced us with their presence. Some of them even invited us to have a bite to eat with them, but I’ll relate that in another blog post. This one is about the time I met Layne Staley.

The concert was ‘The Clash of the Titans’, featuring three of the ‘big four’ of thrash metal, Anthrax, Slayer, and my favorite, Megadeth. At the last minute, a previously unknown but quickly emerging band by the strange name of ‘Alice In Chains’ was added as the opening act.

This was an interesting time in my life as a musician. Having been a dedicated thrasher for years, something new was quickly altering my taste. That thing was called grunge, and Alice In Chains was a prime example of the genre.

The Clash of the Titans show was in Dallas, but by this time I was in college, so I just told my parents I was going. Four of us made the trek, and we arrived many, many hours early, since these thrash bands were our idols, and we lusted for their autographs.

We came prepared, with notebooks and pens, as usual. In addition, we had cardboard replicas of the Alice In Chains record, which were basically the album sleeve with no slit for a record. I was a huge fan of Alice’s debut album, but had never seen a video of the band. Not even a picture, if memory serves.

Anyway, we’re camped out, drinking beer and watching for our thrash idols, when some dude who we thought was a roadie or something walked up and pointed at the Alice In Chains promo in my hand. “Want me to autograph that? It’s me.” It was Mike Starr, the bass player for Alice. It’s his manipulated and distorted picture on the cover.

In no time, all the members of Alice were in our midst, basking in the adulation of their first national tour. Layne Staley hammed it up for me, doing skateboard tricks while I took his picture. These were the days before digital photography, though, so I reserved most of my film for my thrash idols, who I also met that day.

I never met Layne again. I never even saw him after I moved to Seattle. Junkies are reclusive by nature. My good friend, J.D., rented a house in the area of town known as Ballard that Layne had rented some time years before. Blood stains from needle play remained on the basement ceiling, and literature from rehab clinics sometimes came addressed to Layne.

Any more discussion on the topic might get me depressed, so I’ll end this post with a picture of the reclusive Layne Staley before he became a recluse – doing a skateboard trick for me.
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If you like this post, check out how I met the Rooster – http://backstagepasspublishing.com/2013/05/04/i-met-the-rooster/

If you like this post, check out this one about how I went to Nirvana’s “Live and Loud” Show – http://backstagepasspublishing.com/2013/06/16/live-and-loud-with-nirvana/

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