There weren’t very many gigs left. We were near the end of the line. I could be wrong, but at the time of this incident, I don’t believe we even had a steady drummer … just whoever was available. We were, truly, The Ritchie Family. Rich on keyboards, mandolin & accordion, Rich on guitar, another Rich on guitar. All 3 Rich’s sang.
We were playing at a place that had been a haunt of ours for years … the Arizona Saloon in Long Beach, NY. We were doing a weekend there, and it was Saturday night, so all our stuff – sans instruments – were set up already from the previous night. We arrived, did a little sound check and left the stage area with our guitars and stuff in their stands all ready to go. While we were waiting for 10PM to arrive – or, whatever time it was that we were supposed to start – we just mingled about, in the bar, out front of the bar, AT the bar. And that’s where the lead guitar player, Rich, and this author, another Rich sat. Chatting and sipping on drinks. I was to Rich’s left. The stage was off to our right. So, I could see the stage as we spoke. His head was turned toward me.
Some guy meandered up to the stage and was looking over the stuff. Not unusual. Yet, something struck me about his behavior and I kept an eye on him. Consciously, I really didn’t think much of it. Then, for a brief moment, my brain had a difficult time comprehending what my eyes were definitely seeing.
The fella was eyeing Rich’s guitar … I forget what it was … maybe a Stratocaster? All I know is that he had a “Question Authority” sticker on it. A nervous glance around the place, and then whoosh … he grabbed the guitar off the stand and fled out the back door of the club, which was just off to the side of the stage. I hesitated for just a second, not believing what I saw … Then, another whoosh. I was hot in pursuit.
He ran down an alley way out toward the beach. I could barely see him in the darkness. Really, about all I could see was the cresting whiteness of the waves breaking at the beach shoreline. I was yelling every curse word I could muster – think I probably made up a few as I went along. Shouting threats. Always favorable to make the other guy think you are more crazy than he is. I was gaining on him. All of a sudden, he gave up. Oh, he was still running for his life, but he tossed the guitar off to the side where it landed on the sand of the dunes.
I used to do crazy shit like that. I mean, what if he had a knife and stopped and turned to stab me? Oh yes … that actually did happen once, only it was an ice pick. Another story.
OK … so there was no “cowgirl, but there was a “guitar in the sand.” Had to get your attention somehow!