This One's for the Road Dogs

Duff McKagan is the founding bassist of Guns N' Roses and the leader of Seattle's Loaded. His column runs every Thursday on Reverb.

As a traveling musician, I have been blessed with a modicum of durability in my career. I have met and stayed friends with a whole heap of people who have been out doing the same thing as me for a long time. We cross paths often, and whether it is another musician, guitar tech, bus driver, sound guy, or promoter, we all have developed a sort of road family. We understand the triumphs, and tragedies even, that have become an almost blase and everyday occurence in this field.

Lemmy from Motorhead is one great example. He knows I am into history (I'm reading Battle of Britain on this most recent trip to the UK). Instead of talking music and distances between this town or that, Lemmy will instantly start a conversation about some WWII book he has read or some historical war factoid about whatever European city we happen to be in.

On a recent tour with Alice Cooper, he and I spent more that a few hours talking about raising girl-children . . . in depth!

I've known people so long out here that I see their own kids now starting bands and flourishing.

Hollie Cook, daughter of the Sex Pistols' Paul Cook, has a flourishing career and just recently did Jools Holland. Her career is taking off, and the whole Cook family has become like a second family of mine, always asking about my wife and daughters and trying to make me feel like I have a real and anchored place in London.

And there are new bands that you realize you are being somewhat watched by. They want to learn something--ANYTHING--from a guy like me, I think. NBA'er Charles Barkley famously said "I'm not a role model," but in fact in music, I think it would be a disservice to helping rock and roll flourish to NOT be a role model of some substance . . . if you can muster it. Hell, maybe they are even watching guys like me for what NOT to do! Who knows?

(Speaking of new bands, there have been some finds on this trip, indeed: Try BUFFALO SUMMER, HEAVEN'S BASEMENT, and SAINT JUDE.)

You meet interesting people if you are open to conversation. Touring is like Planes, Trains, and Automobiles on steroids. Ferries, buses, splitter-vans, cabs, trains, friends' cars, and lots of walking.

On a ferry from Ireland to Wales, you might have a whole conversation with someone (in the English language), but their Newcastle accent will be so thick that you only nod in what you hope are the right places in the conversation.

On a train from the UK to Paris, I met a couple where the wife is a "brander" of entertainment personalities and the husband is the guy responsible for flavoring and getting the smell right for a large portion of all packaged foods coming from France. And they are rockers. They ended up coming to my show that night, and now I have a good contact of some nice people (with two girls, too!) in Paris.

At the Classic Rock Magazine Awards this week, I got to see Lynyrd Skynyrd play, and their bassist, Johnny Colt OG Black Crowes. The Black Crowes emerged at about the same time as GN'R did, and Colt and myself have been bumping into each other ever since. Skynyrd killed it, by the way.

I've gained many friends out here on the road. Longtime fans of bands I've been in have become a second family, too, and it has become a thing I look forward to (meeting up with @axlreznor is ALWAYS good).

But all of us out here on the road do count the days until we go home . . . well, at least those of us fortunate enough to have something to go home to.

I've showered in a skid-row hotel room and dined at the finest London eatery on this trip . . . but it is the in-between that keeps life interesting and fucking killer.

This column is dedicated to all of you Road Dogs. I'll see you again soon.

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