Metal Sludge

Metal Sludge

TUFF DIARIES #12 … Ready to record, Howard Benson, FM Station, Jani Lane, Court hearing and a Playboy Playmate



Ready to record, Howard Benson, FM Station, Jani Lane, Court hearing and my 1st Playboy Playmate

Andy Secher, Paul O’Neil, Susie Owens, Hot Rod Long, Bobbie Brown, Tommi Gunn, Sabine & Young Guns.

Stevie_Rachelle_Signature_Metal_Sludge_June_2018_1 — Tuff finally gets signed in the spring of 1990

After years of playing shows, writing and recording songs – the big goal is achieved.

We got a record deal.

The word is that Atlantic Records has offered Tuff a contract.

Well, kind of.

In reality we were offered a deal from Titanium Records.

Which was a subsidiary of Atlantic Records.

Not everyone gets signed to the big deal right away, some do but many more don’t.

Either way, we were excited to finally have our shot.

Poison initially signed to Enigma, and after success Capitol Records got involved.

In the case of Motley Crue, they self-released on Leathur Records and then Elektra Records became their home a year later.

Our offer was for $75,000.00 and it was a 7 album deal.

Not huge money, but this was 3 times what Poison first got ($23,000.00) to record “Look What The Cat Dragged In.”

Yes, a 7 record deal, and with each record our budget would increase.

This sounds amazing, however it’s pretty standard and the label has (control of) the other 6 options.

The label (Titanium) was made up of 4 partners.

They were: Andy Secher (Editor of Hit Parader Magazine), Paul O’Neil (Producer), Mitch Hersowicz (Also a part of Hit Parader) and a silent partner named Sheldon.

Titanium also signed Badlands featuring Jake E. Lee and a group out of Kansas City called Banshee.

I vaguely recall finding out that we were signed.

However nothing over-the-top or crazy came with this news.


There was no signing party, no board-room meeting, no showcase, nothing.

I had also already seen, or heard past promises, or hopes go by the way-side.

So… I have long been a believer of, don’t count your chickens before they hatch.

There were phone calls between our manager (Brian Kushner) and various people related and the word was, this time it was really happening.

Funny looking back, at several points during the late 80’s, we would see pin-ups of Tuff or myself in Hit Parader Magazine.

And the magazine’s off shoot publications – like Hot Shots or Concert Shots.

We had come to learn that the Hit Parader staff had been eyeing us for a while.

Andy may have wanted to sign us much sooner, but timing is always a huge thing in the business.

Oh well, better later than never.

I guess all those pin-ups of Tuff in previous Hit Parader issues were kind of (Andy) promoting us before the fact.

Now it seemed, that our time had finally arrived.


Will the alleged Defendant please rise.

Before I get too deep into 1990 I want to go back to earlier in the year.

I was issued a request by the City Attorney to appear in a Van Nuys Court hearing on February 7th 1990.

I was being accused of Section 242 Penal Code – Battery.

This was stemming from a late 1989 incident that happened at Spice Club.

I was at the Hollywood Boulevard club when I spotted Hot Rod Long.

Long, real name Christopher Ellington was a local writer.

Similar to the bands, I guess as a critic – he too was trying to make a name for himself after moving here from Virginia.

“Who the fuck is this Hot Rod Long guy?” I asked myself after seeing his attacks on our band.

No Clue, but clearly he knew who I was.

Long wrote several disparaging articles in various local zines about me for months.


Van Nuys Court requesting my appearance for pending criminal charges. 

First it was a blurb in his club blog, which then evolved into full features with huge headlines telling the readers what a piece of shit I was.

Now, I wasn’t exactly a choir boy, but I would like to believe I had many more friends than enemies.

To my knowledge, I had never met this guy and didn’t know why he was out to get me.

Other zines and writers usually praised us, and we were well liked.

Of course we had our naysayers, but nothing like the venemous words he wrote.

Hot Rod was anything but a fan and went after us bigtime, especially me.

He wrote about how bad I sucked, I was a punk and a talentless poseur.

The usual stuff.

That night as I approached him I realized he was much bigger than I was.

My guess is he was pushing 250 pounds at the time.

I know it’s not politically correct to say, but Hot Rod Long was a big fat nerd.

At least that was my general assessment at the time.

As I walked up I was thinking: “Ok you fat fuck, we’ll see who the punk is now.”

He was just entering the club foyer when I politely said: “Hey dude. What’s your fucking problem with me?”

Ok, so maybe I wasn’t polite.

He immediately engaged me, calling me names, finger pointing in my face and his big fat head and glasses were begging to be altered.

A heated exchange of words ensued, and then a push.

Honestly I don’t remember if he pushed me first or I pushed him.

But soon he was coming at me and I tripped him to the ground.

I punched him numerous times in the face until his glasses were in pieces on the floor.

However that wasn’t enough.

You see, I can be patient, and put up with a fair amount of poking.

But once someone crosses the line, I turn into Michael Douglas.

Kind of  like when he was denied breakfast in Falling Down.

I then kicked him repeatedly in the head. Unfortunately for Hot Rod, I was wearing cowboy boots.

And similarly to when Nicky’s friend got worked over in Casino, with every kick I added: “You piece of shit” and “Take that stupid fuck.”

You get the general idea.

Security ran up and pulled me off him but not before a tornado of fists and kicks put dough-boy on his back.

Gerry Gittelson and Rueben Blue (Rock City News) were both there to catch the tail-end of the beating.

Michael rushed me out of the club and we headed home.

The following week Hot Rod detailed the incident in an article in Rock City News about how he was viciously attacked by the Tuff singer.

My guess is most of Hollywood didn’t read it and those who did thought, “Good, he deserved it.”

This guy was an ass and earned every bit of my fury.

Just for the record, he didn’t just write a bad review. It was multiple rants, writings and he was going out of his way to attack me (Tuff) in the local press.


A short time later I was summoned to court by mail.

I showed up, and did my best to look innocent.

Ellington brought some medical papers claiming he had seen a Doctor.

He was complaining of a concussion and some hearing loss.

I vaguely recall the Judge noting his size compared to me and a lack of witnesses.

In the end, the courts didn’t feel there was enough evidence to pursue the charges.

So, I walked.

Not sure, but I’d like to think Hot Rod Long learned a lesson that day.

But as much as people supported me, he had his supporters too.

One of them was David Crowley.

Another writer/critic who would review Tuff later in the year.

Where Hot Rod left off, Crowley picked up.

I have no idea what I ever did to offend these guys, but they had it out for me.

For the record, I am not bragging here or think this was the best way to handle things. But I was a 20-something hanging out in Hollywood in the 80’s.

I am not a bully, but being the Glam pretty boy back in the day, as you might imagine – there was a lot of shit talking thrown my way.

To quote Motley Crue: “Just cause I wear make-up doesn’t mean I can’t kick your ass!”

Robbie Crane watched me ignore a shit talker at the “Whisky” one night.

This dude and 2 friends were following me around taunting me non-stop.

Robbie told them; “Leave him alone.”

Finally I took off my jacket, handed it to Crane and I unhinged on these guys.

His friends were begging me to stop.

But it was too late.

After Crane pulled me off the guy, they carried their friend into the bathroom covered in blood.

Reality is, I should have been arrested and charged with assault & battery multple times. Lucky for me, that never happened.

Going forward Hot Rod Long opted to take the high-road regarding Tuff.

My thought is he made a good choice.

Talk shit, get fucked up.



With the good news of getting signed we planned a big celebration to play the Sunset Strip.

We booked a dual night at “The Roxy” for July 12th and 13th 1990.

The advertisement slogan read “Hell Froze Over!” Atlantic / Titanium Records Recording Artist.

It really did feel good to finally say we were signed.


This sounds so cheesy looking back, but getting signed was like getting drafted into the NFL, or NBA.

You have to consider the hundreds to thousands of bands on the planet.

Then add in, the hundreds of thousands to millions of musicians trying to do the same.

Form a band, write songs, play shows, build a following and get noticed enough that a major record label decides to sign you.

This in a nutshell, is a company at the very minimum investing a solid six-figures into your idea.

And that can easily grow into the millions.

metalbabe_block_150_1In short, it’s not easy to accomplish this, but we finally did it.

I was, and still am to this day, very proud of that.

Something else occurred to me at the time… was that all the years, the shows and everything we had done up to that point was suddenly wiped clean.

In other words, getting signed was really the first step.

It’s like starting over.

Now we have to record a full length album.

Pick a single, or two.

Shoot a video, or two.

Book a tour, or three.

Then do countless interviews, dozens to hundreds of shows, meet the fans – and so much more?

So much more meaning…

Drive thousands of miles and fly many more.

Sleep nightly in Motel 6, eat daily at Waffle House, Denny’s or in dirty truck stops on rural highways all over America.

But our attitude was, BRING IT ON!

We’re ready, let’s do this.


Silver and Gold.

Doing all that, and then once the record is out, it needs to sell.

You also are now competing with everyone, not the local bands from Hollywood.

Early on Michael would say, “Our competition is Motley Crue, Van Halen and Aerosmith. Not Taz, Crystal Pistol or Rock Dolls.”

The latter being local bands.

We wanted to present ourselves, in all aspects of the game at the highest level.

Stevie_1990_2We were very confident, but not 100% delusional.

Or were we?

Of course we knew we weren’t Van Halen or Aerosmith – yet.

But remember, Poison was the baby band in 1986.

Who then were the show opener on tours with Quiet Riot and Ratt.

Eventually they would surpass both of those bands in sales, and status.

We had to think of ourselves in the same way.

To be a big successful band, with certified RIAA plaques.

But never mind going Gold or Platinum, first we need to take a ton of other baby steps.

At this point, I was in Tuff for 3 years while the others started this journey 5+ years ago.

And now, eve n after all these years…. we’re basically at the starting line.

Only this time, it’s in the big leagues.

Rocking a Late Night with David Letterman hat, one of my hereos for sure. Circa 1990

I recall at some point an industry person (Elisa Casas, who was an employee at Titanium) said to me: “Stevie, congrats. This is such great news. Let’s hope you can sell a few hundred thousand records.”

My immediate reaction is laughable at best.

I clearly remember saying: “Elisa, are you kidding me? If we don’t go Platinum, I’ll shoot myself.”

In looking back, I guess I was partially delusional, lol.

Elisa was also the girlfriend to Steve Sinclair, the President of Mechanic Records.

Tuff did a showcase for Mechanic a few years earlier, but they passed on us and signed Trixter instead.

Mechanic was a subsidiary of MCA, and Trixter’s debut was released in May 1990.

Fun Fact: Trixter did go Gold. Shout out to my East Coast bestie, Steve Brown and his boys.

Either way, our time was now, we’re on board with Atlantic and ready to work.

Of course I was kidding about shooting myself. But I was dead serious that I felt we’d sell a lot more than a few hundred thousand records.

For those not in the know, going Gold means you sell 500,000 and Platinum means you’ve sold 1,000,000.

Fast forward a few years, Tuff sold roughly 100,000 units of our debut.

I turned 24 in the spring of 1990, and as much as I did know – which was a good amount, or so I thought – I was still naive.

Going through this process was fun, interesting, awesome, and stressful.

The process meaning, being a “Rock Star” in training.

SR_RB_SB_March_2_2014I mean, when you’re in your 20’s you are usually clueless. But you don’t know this (yet).

Add in some good looks, some fame and the followers (fans) who put you on a pedestal – and you really do have a recipe for disaster.

One of the hottest bands to break out in the late 80’s and early 90’s was Skid Row.

Take for instance Sebastian Bach.

He had the look, the voice and the youth.

Add in, a management company who were at the time – representing the biggest bands (Motley Crue, Scorpions, Bon Jovi) on the planet.

It didn’t hurt that the band’s guitarist (Dave ‘Snake’ Sabo) had a high school buddy (Jon Bon Jovi) who helped out too.

Of course Bach’s immaturity and brat-like attitude cost them along the way as much as his infectious star power and soaring voice helped.

From the infamous ‘bottle incident’ to the now 2 decade plus long feud between himself and the original group.

In watching the repeated behavior flaws this once superstar has shown over the years it’s clear who never grew up.

This story is nothing new, as we’ve seen melt-downs with Bieber, Britney and other young celebrity types.

I feel like I was pretty grounded but do admit, there were things I did, said and felt that were downright dumb.

In looking back I can see where I did some really stupid shit.

Had we went double Platinum – perhaps some of my stupidity may have become front page news like it did with Bach.

But when you are barely on the D-list, it doesn’t get the reaction like the bigger stars get.

Yeah, I was, and maybe still am on the D-list, but I’ll take it.

There are a lot more bands who didn’t make any list.


Hello record deal, hello Playboy Playmate!

Regardless of being on the D-list and failing to go Platinum, along the way – we did live like kings.

Take for instance, the women.

Even though Tuff were for the most part still a club circuit band in 1990, my dating was hitting a new level.

What I mean by this was…. my status was growing which allowed me to attract higher caliber chicks.

No disrespect to anyone I ever dated, but dating a Playboy Playmate was a bit more exclusive than a mud wrestler from The Tropicana, a stripper from The Seventh Veil or a Miss Gazzarri’s dancer.

And along my journey, I dated all of them.

During one of our “Roxy” shows earlier in the year something interesting happened.


We had just finished playing a sold-out show when some V.I.P. friends entered the dressing room.

In walks photographer Mark Weiss and a very attractive friend.

Mark introduces me: “Stevie, this is my friend Susie.”

Susie Owens from her March 1988 Playboy Playmate pictorial. 

Susie was stunning beyond words, and I was pretty sure I knew who she was.

No sooner did Mark introduce us, she asked, “Is there a restroom I can use?”

For those that don’t know, the “Roxy” dressing room is about the size of an average bedroom.

With an attached bathroom, and another kind of closet (dressing area) thing with mirrors.

I replied, “Right behind you.”

Mark has already focused on talking to someone else as Susie and I were chatting.

Susie answered: “Thanks” and as she opened the door to the bathroom, she glanced at me then grabbed my arm: “Come here” pulling me in with her.

As she closed the door, with a stone face she says: “Here, take my number, call me sometime. Now get out so I can go pee.”

She was very forward but also acted professional.

I guess in one way I was shocked, and in another, I wasn’t.

Woman had been throwing themselves at me for most of my life.

Nothing slutty or crazy happened – just a scribbled number on a business card.

The standard dressing-room follies with friends, and networking continued on for an hour or so until the club staff kicked us all out.

In the coming weeks Susie and I talked on the phone a few times.

She was really cool and thanks to Playboy, I already knew what she looked like nude.

Susie Owens was Playmate of the Month and Centerfold in the March 1988 issue.

Aside from seeing her in Playboy, I also knew she had dated Bret Michaels.

Her eyes were like a cats.

Her hair was like what you might see on a fairytale Goddess.

Literally ropes of blond hair hanging below her waist.

Susie was also tall, at 5’8”, she was a woman, not a girl.

Her looks were striking from head to toe, as noted above – almost fairytale like.

Which made sense that in 1993 a comic-book super hero character named Flaxen was created from her real-life image.


At some point Susie invited me to her Hollywood Hills home.

I was embarrassed that I didn’t have my own car but took her up on the offer.

So upon planning our first date, I had to inform her my buddy would be dropping me off.

I don’t recall her reaction, but she seemed to accept the fact that I was a starving musician.

Ugh, looking back, I feel like such a loser. Lol. But this was my life in 1990.

My best friend and roommate Todd agreed to give me a ride.

Not Todd from Tuff, but Todd as in…Toy Stacey.

Todd would later join The Zeroes at some point replacing (bassist) Danny Dangerous.

Anyway, Todd drove a cool black I-Rock Z-28 Camaro.

I figured if I was going to get a ride, at least I would be in a cool car, right?

Haha…funny flashback here about Todd and I in his I-Rock.

Todd is driving and I am sitting shotgun.

We’re on our way back to the Valley from Hollywood.

We’re at a stop-light on Highland, about 2 blocks before the Hollywood Bowl and the 101 North entrance.

A jeep pulls up next to us, and a cute little blond is driving.

We have the T-Tops off, stereo cranked, and of course we were rocker dudes.

I look over at the girl: “Hey, you’re hot!”

She snaps her head to left, sneers at me, flips me the bird and just as the light turns green – floors it.

Todd looks at me, “Dude, that’s Drew Barrymore.”

We both broke into laughter as he turned up Twisted Sister on the ride home.

Ahh, the good ole days.

Back to my Playboy Playmate first date with Susie Owens.

So Todd gives me a ride and we’re winding our way up the hill near Beachwood Canyon north of Franklin.

I remember as we pulled up she came out to greet me with her dog, a big beautiful Husky.

My first night with Susie was fun.

I don’t remember much other than we had some food, talked about the business and eventually got into the sack together.

Not sure why, but I don’t recall the sex being great.

Nothing crazy and wild to tell you here, other than I guess I was feeling a little out-of-place.

Susie_Owens_Playmate_Bret_May_2019_1I do recall being a bit nervous which never happened with me.

But looking back, I had to get a ride over to her house.

How lame is that?

Part of me felt like I was in middle school.

Susie Owens with Bret Michaels. Ironically Susie told me the first time she ever saw me, was looking through a rock magazine while sitting on the couch at Bret’s apartment. 

Susie was a decade older than I, and she had this killer pad too.

I’m pretty sure she didn’t own the property, as I recall it was a guest house.

But by comparison,  I was living with a half-dozen guys in a North Hollywood apartment.

Sure I was signed, and about to record for a major label but I was still pretty naive I guess.

My night with Susie to my recollection was kind of a dud.

Well, until some years later when we reconnected in Texas.

More on that (much better and way hotter) fun reunion down the road.

Crazy to think at some point I would look at Playboy monthly.

Always looking at the girls, especially the Centerfold and reading all of their info and bio.

I can still remember reading about Susie and how she stuck out in my mind.

Then, just a few years later, we’d meet and she’d shove her phone number into my hand.

So to be laying nude in her four-poster bed with this shear white drapery in the room was a bit surreal.

Susie drove me back to the Valley in her Jeep the next morning.

Honestly, Playmate or not, I think I forgot about her after I said goodbye.

Typical day in the life of a Sunset Strip slut back in the day.

The slut was me, not her.


One of our last gigs of 1990.

It’s now September and we’re about to start pre-production.

But before we dig in, we have 1 more gig.

Tuff is playing at Jani Lane’s Policeman’s Ball.


The gig is at FM Station in North Hollywood and it’s usually a jam style evening, where each band plays a short set – like 4-5 songs.

This place is becoming a more popular place to hang and play away from the Sunset Strip.

And Jani Lane having a weekly (every Wednesday) event is helping bring in some people.

This event is co-promoted by Jani and Howie Hubberman.

As some might recall, Howie was our manager back in 1988 and 1989.

Howie also previously managed Poison and while working with us, he also managed Nitro and The Zeros among others.

On this night September 5th 1990, we played and it felt kind of odd.

I was never completely comfortable doing short sets, or jam style gigs.

Once I get going, I don’t want to stop and doing a few songs is not my deal.

Anyway…tonight we’ll share the stage with Jailhouse and The Zeroes.

I remember Jani being present with his Star Search model girlfriend Bobbie Brown.

During our set, just as we were set to hit the first few chords I saw Jani and Bobbie take a seat close to the stage.

Something else odd about FM Station, is that there were tables down front.

It was more relaxed than say a Hollywood show.

Nothing stands out other than I was performing and couldn’t help but stare at Bobbie Brown.

Or, try not to stare.

This was pre “Cherry Pie” era too.

Not by much though, as the song was released on September 11th 1990.

Literally the next week this song hit, and my interest in Bobbie Brown went up a few notches.

Along with every other guy who was breathing. Lol.

Jani at some point came up and congratulated us on getting signed we shook hands and the night like many others, became a blur.


It was the fall when we (I) actually signed our Record Contract.

In looking at the actual 29 page agreement, it is dated October 29th 1990.

I can clearly remember that day.

I was out on a moving job.

IMG_7008Load, Lock & Roll was the name of a local moving company that I worked for.

I was at a job in Hollywood.

My memory tells me it was on a side street just up from Hollywood Boulevard and La Brea.

The front of our Tuff recording contract with Titanium/Atlantic Records. October 1990.

Michael Lean called the office to locate me, and to my recollection, Vince gave him the address to find me.

Vince as in, Vincent “Kelly” Fitzgerald.

Vince was the singer of Tommi Gunn, who were a great rock band from Chicago.

Their manager, Mike Galam, also from the Windy City started Load, Lock & Roll Movers in 1989.

It was his play on words, Load Lock & Roll, sounded like Rock & Roll.

You load the truck, lock the truck and roll with the truck.

And most of us working there, were all rocker guys from various bands.

Fun Fact: The very first truck Mike bought for his company was a used white box style pick-up truck. He bought it from Howie Hubberman for $ 1,400.00.

Everyone is or was somehow connected, kind of like the Six Degrees of Kevin Bacon.


Vince and I were definitely BFF’s in the heyday.

And aside from being in our respective bands, we worked at the moving company too.

Tommi Gunn were very popular with the ladies and had epic house parties at their place on Formosa north of Melrose.

Not to sound corny, but I loved Vince. Big time.

I don’t know how or why, but we really connected.

Like high school besties.

We just seemed to like the same stuff, rock n’ roll, girls and sports.

We had a mutual respect for each other and got along great.

Vincent had a twin brother Marty. Marty was the good twin, Vince the bad, Lol.

The other guitarist was Steve, bassist Pat and their drummer was Anthony Focx.

Shout out to Tommi Gunn, a band that should’ve gotten signed.

A great band, great guys with great songs – but this business isn’t always fair.

I love you Vincent!

Stevie_Andy_Secher_NY_1990_1At a band/label dinner in New York City with Hit Parader Editor and Titanium partner Andy Secher. 

Now back to Tuff getting signed….

Michael drove to the job site with the contract, a pen and a video camera.

While moving furniture and boxes down a flight of stairs my drummer showed up.

I informed the customer that we were going to take a 10 minute break.

I stood in the back of a 22 foot International box truck, covered in sweat and wearing a weight-belt.

As I swigged from a Gatorade bottle, Michael turned on the video camera and filmed me signing the contract.

It was now official.

I am an Atlantic Records recording artist.

Michael left, and I went back to moving furniture.



During the late summer and early fall we would rehearse 2-3 nights a week.

This was typical for us over the years as well, but I guess we had more of a purpose than ever with these sessions.

Over the history of the group Tuff, the clear-cut leader in rehearsal was always Todd Chaisson.

Todd is what many refer to as the musical director of a group.

He basically leads the band, and also was and still is vocal about what we’re doing, in what order and coordinating the songs.

This means, for live as well. How the set would start and how each song will start and end.

As many fans know, when you see a band live, often the songs can be slightly or vastly different than originally recorded.

Add to this, sorting what fits where, based on tempo, tuning and so on.

Not only has Todd always been this in Tuff, but he has held this position in his other musical projects as well. And he’s damn good at it.

This is the work of the group’s musical director.

In short, it’s having a Producer-like directive of the performance, be it for 1 song or a 90 minute headlining set.

Now after getting the big record deal, we were faced with picking a professional, credited Producer among other things.

Tuff_Todd_Chase_Chaisson_1990_ZlozowerBy the time we actually signed our deal in 1990, we had started to tone down our image alot. More towards the Skid Row look. Todd Chaisson 1990, Photo Neil Zlozower

I remember meeting George Tutko who had come to our rehearsal studio.

We rehearsed in Burbank in a lock-out warehouse.

We shared this space with 2 other bands.

Legs Diamond and a killer local band called Young Gunns.

We would alternate the schedule. And flip-flop from early (6pm-9:pm) to late (9pm-12:am).

Tutko had previously worked with Journey, Lita Ford and Vinnie Vincent Invasion.

We also met with Howard Benson at the same space.

Howard had just recently produced Bang Tango, SouthGang and Sweet FA.

I don’t remember how we chose Howard, but we did.

By late October we were officially in pre-production.

For a few weeks straight, Monday thru Thursday we would rehearse from 12:00 (Noon) until 6:00pm.

This made the other bands happy, as most of the guys worked day jobs and wanted the rehearsal space at night.

So, Tuff was doing our stuff mid-day and the other 2 bands could share the night slots.

Howard would arrive with his lunch and ask us to play him our 5 best songs.

Then the next best 5.

Then another, and then he’d have us play our unfinished songs or working ideas.

We had about 30 tunes and working ideas that were being considered for the record.


Howard was very organized and asked us to make 3 lists.

Our top 1-10 songs as list #1, a 2nd list of 11-20 and a 3rd list with working ideas.

So, we literally made lists, on tag board, and they were on the rehearsal room wall.

Howard started making notes and selected what he felt were our strongest tunes from each list.

Kind of like a draft room, there would be markings next to certain songs, check marks, etc..

I recall how detail oriented Howard was.

He would ask us to play a song, then stand behind or to the side of Michael.

Watching him play the drums, and meticulously pointing things out, suggesting ideas.

After he was happy about the way Michael was playing the drums, he would then focus on Todd’s bass playing.

Then Jorge’s guitars.

Literally building the song, from the ground up.

The beat, rhythm, bass, guitar and the structure of the song.

He would tell Jorge, “Don’t play a solo. Play a solid rhythm throughout.”

Howard wanted to hear the basic song idea, structure and solidify that first.

I would seldom be singing (unless asked to), and just listening and watching.

All the while making notes, writing lyrics and waiting to be called on, if needed.

Funny, how some songs worked out in pre-production.

An example is the “Dokken idea”, which was a partial song from the 3rd list.

This was a Jorge riff, that Todd arranged and soon enough it was a full song.

I just referred to it as the “Dokken idea” as it had this riff that kind of reminded me of a George Lynch part, like the intro from “It’s Not Love”.

Go listen to the start of either, and you’ll hear what I mean.

So, I sat on the floor with a legal pad and pen.

Humming along, turned into me singing “I wanna take her down to the blah blah bridge”


“Do you wanna, do you wanna go down – down”

And “Ruck-A-Pit Bridge” came to life.

Why I sang about a bridge?

I have no fucking idea.

And no, Ruck-A-Pit Bridge is not a real place.

I guess it’s the typical story. Meet a girl, and take her to a park or river area where you could make-out in the summertime where nobody is there to watch.

As many know, this song became the lead track on our debut.

Howard Benson, inset right. Howard is a wizard when it comes to music, flat out, a genius.

Another song that was just an idea, was “Lonely Lucy”.

It was a Todd riff, and they were working on this.

Like “Ruck-A-Pit Bridge”, I was sitting on the studio floor and jotting down lyrics while the guys were running through the “Lonely Lucy” riff.

Of course, it wasn’t called “Lonely Lucy” until I titled it that.

Where did the title come from?

Laughing to myself, I am not sure, but I think I stole it from Young Gunns.

As in WildSide!

Their set-list was on the studio wall, and they had a song called “Lucy”, or “Hang On Lucy”.

I guess the girl’s name Lucy caught my eye, and I wrote it on my note pad.

Looking back, that’s kind of creepy of me huh?

Or did we write it first, and they lifted it off our set-list?

Fuck, I don’t remember for sure…guess we’ll have to wait for Drew or Benny to reply.


Anyway…several of the songs from the album were part of our set for a while.

Including: “Good Guys Wear Black”, “Ain’t Worth A Dime”, “Forever Yours” and “I Hate Kissing You Goodbye.”

The ballad definitely went through some changes, and Todd Meagher helped bring the melody and lyrics to another level.

In reality, “I Hate Kissing You Goodbye” was originally demo’d back in Wisconsin by my first band X-iter (1985).

But it was called “Kiss The Girl Goodbye”.

I also remember we had the label and Howard talking to us about working with some co-writers.

We were not opposed to it, but also felt confident in what we had on our own.

I also recall at some point there were names being thrown around like Desmond Child.

We knew who he was, and what he had done, but I don’t believe we understood the level he was really at.

I mean, we did, but we didn’t… if that makes sense.

But it was a turn-off when we heard about the splits.

We were informed in short, if he walked in the room, hung out for 10 minutes and changed 1 word in a song, then he would get like 60% or more.

We all felt the way it was laid out, or told to us, that if we involved him we might be giving up more than half of our credits to him.

But on the other hand, most song-writers would expect 50% regardless of their contributions.

Especially if they came in through a contracted publishing agent.

Which is what we were dealing with.

At some point we passed on Desmond and somehow Todd Meagher got involved.

Meagher came down, listened to our set and at some point he singled out “I Hate Kissing You Goodbye” and said “Stevie, I want to work on that song with you.”

He was very aggressive.

Todd came to our rehearsals, to our apartment after rehearsal and we talked on the phone about this song for hours over several weeks’ time.

He didn’t have a car, or he did… but his wife was driving it, so he would take a scooter across town to our rehearsal.

Todd was ALL IN and dedicated to his work.

In the end, Todd Meagher got 50% of a song that we had been playing for a while, but he definitely helped re-shape melody and re-write the lyrics with me.

Over the years he worked with Jani Lane, Night Ranger and much later Josh Todd.

And for those who might be second guessing our decision and saying: “Why wouldn’t you work with Desmond Child? He wrote all those massive hits for Bon Jovi, Kiss, etc..”

Well, he also worked with SouthGang, also produced by Howard and in the end their records and songs sold no better than ours.

So there are no guarantees, no matter who you work with. Be it management, producers or song-writers.

Another song that had been in the set for a few years was “Boys Will Be Boys.”

I don’t recall how, but at some point we scratched the title, lyrics and started over.

The new title for basically the same musical arrangement was now going to be called “The All New Generation.”

The title, New Generation came off a list of working titles I had in a spiral notebook.

At first I was writing lyrics that were name-checking dead Presidents, famous people and musicians too.


The same type of delivery, but the generations were about famous people in general.

My idea was to do it like “We Didn’t Start The Fire” by Billy Joel.

Some original lyric ideas for “All New Generation” at right and typed below. OMG! #Lol

How funny….imagine singing along to “Alll New Generation” with the following….

Billy Jack was trouble, now I am too
Just like the Old Lady, I live in my Shoes

Jack and Jill went up the Hill to fetch a Pale of Water
Jill was gone, but Jack came down, with someone else’s Daughter

Lincoln, Elvis, Nixon, Manson, Fonzie, Lennon, OJ Simpson.
Yeah they were all friends of mine, Seven faces, different Minds. 

Howard looked over my lyrics one day and said: “Why don’t you stick to writing this about music. The generations of musicians.”

Looking back I can see why.

I even had Laverne & Shirley name-checked in a version of the song. Ha.

At that point I went back to my legal pad and started writing down popular music acts from the 50’s, 60’s, 70’s and the 80’s.

The first pre-chorus sings:
”Elvis Presley, Ritchie, Jerry, Little Richard, Buddy, Berry, you know The Beatles had a Hard Day’s Night”

For those not familiar with who is who, just based on their first or last name listed…see below.

Ritchie Valenz
Jerry Lee Lewis
Buddy Holy
Chuck Berry

These were the rock stars of the late 50’s into the 60’s.

Up next was the late 60’s into the 70’s.

And as you may know…the second pre-chorus sings:
“The Who, The Doors, Pink Floyd, Led Zepplin, Rolling Stones and Old Van Halen, Aerosmith told you: ‘Walk This Way”

Note, I say old Van Halen, as to everyone around this time – that’s what it was.

Especially by 1990 the Van Hagar era was in full effect, and to many people – including radio Dj’s – they would refer to the Roth era as Old Van Halen.

And continuing on into the late 70’s through the 80’s…the third pre-chorus sings…
“Cooper, Kiss, the Oz and Motley, Poison, Axl, Jon Bon Jovi, Skid Row is “The Youth Gone Wild”

Okay, enough about lyrics.


After about 3-4 weeks of pre-production the band was ready.

Howard had helped us immensely and we had picked out which songs to record.

During this time there were tons of other things being dealt with as well.

Michael was on the phone daily with the publicity folks at Atlantic, our manager and endorsements.

The band was getting ready to record, but we also had to sort gear to record with and subsequently tour with as well.

By this time Todd and Jorge were endorsing ESP Guitars after previously being sponsored by B.C. Rich for years.

The company was making them custom guitars and basses.

Todd also had an Ampeg Amplifier deal and Jorge had a guy hot-rodding his Marshall heads and cabinets.

Michael was a longtime Sonor Drums, Paiste Cymbal and DW Pedals guy.

Road cases were not something you could get for free, so we had to buy these.

StevieRachelle_1990_1We had some, but needed more, and these things were not cheap.

Add in a monthly rehearsal bill and being in a band cost money. It ain’t cheap.

Also, now that we were signed, would we make any money?

Of course we would.

$ 600.00 per month, per guy after we got signed.

Yup, you read that correctly.

The $75,000.00 was the budget for the record. Not for the band to live like Rock Stars.

But in putting together the budget, Howard and management made room to pay each of us 6 bones per month.

$ 150.00 a week, which was enough to cover some rent, food and I guess cigarettes for the others.

Stevie Rachelle, 1990, signed to Atlantic Records and making $ 150.00 per week. Whoo, hoo! 

No, there was no advance for the band, or some big signing bonus. Atlantic was funding the recording, ie: the studio time, producer & engingeer.

Let’s not forget, the actual 2 inch tape reels we’d record with. Remember, this was all pre-digital.

The budget also includes various other supplies, a runner and a professional back-up singer (for select tracks).

Something else that is being sorted and planned, is the album artwork.

William Hames at this point had shot Tuff more than any other photographer.

So it makes sense that we will use him for the album cover shoot.

Michael had the idea, for the title, and the carousel.

Aside from the album shoot, we will also shoot with all the other top photographers as being signed to a major, and a hot upcoming prospect makes us in demand.

Howard also suggested I take some voice lessons as well.

At this point in my life, I had never taken not 1 single voice lesson.

Except… Jim Gillette’s Metal Power.

Yes…I was given Jim’s tapes the day I first met Tuff in July of 1987. Lol.

True stuff, but did I ever use them?

Ummm, a bit but not religiously.

I guess it might have helped, had I done so, but oh well.

Howard suggested Elizabeth Sabine.

Sabine was an older woman with a ton of personality.

She was 67 in 1990 but had the energy of a much younger person.

Sabine was a character for sure.

Very polite, very proper, and she worked with everyone.

She taught voice control to singers, along with actors and voice over specialists.

Tuff_Diaries_12_Sabine_Stryper_June_2019_1Sabine backstage with Stryper

The Heavy Metal Grandma was her nickname with a resume that included: Axl Rose, Dave Mustaine, B-Real of Cypress Hill and Colin Hay of Men At Work.

I am sure there were dozens if not hundreds of 80’s guys who learned from her and I was one of them.

She would have me drink hot tea with honey and then stand in her kitchen doing warm-ups.

She’d say, “Imagine a boy across the street you don’t like.”

“Go away. Go Away. Go Away” as she would bellow into my ears.

I would stand there in her kitchen, belting out, “Go Away” as loud as I could.

She was English and a very sweet lady.

Always complimentary to her students and treated everyone like close family no matter what your look or style.

I still have the tapes from those lessons which I took for a few months.

Sabine passed away in 2015, at the age of 92.

RIP Sabine, she was a good one.


Tuff_FM_Station_Dec_12_1990_Policemans_Ball_Jani_Lane_1Tuff play 1 last show at FM Station on Dec. 12th 1990. We start recording on December 26th.
Review of our final show in 1990 just before beginning the recording process.

Our last gig of 1990, was at FM Station in North Hollywood.

At this show both Jani Lane (Warrant) and C.C. DeVille (Poison) are in the house.

C.C. was always very cool to us, and he also liked Jorge a lot.

He respected Jorge as a player and was beyond awesome to all of us over the years.

But not everyone was a Tuff fan. You can see from the review (above) from Hollywood Rocks.

This guy David Crowley was  not very fond of us.

My guess, is he was buddies with Hot Rod Long. This was the same zine that Long wrote for a year earlier when the court stuff happened.

Oh well, time to move on.

We’re signed, and no longer just a local band.

It’s time to record.

Tuff Diary #13 will be us recording…from Day 1 through the mixing and mastering sessions.

Are you ready?

I will detail everything down to what we ate, what we read and who got yelled at and why.

We have killer Rock Star guests in studio, porn galore and even a suicide scare.


Yeah…silly drama…bitch pleez.

Stay tuned….

Message from the author.

People have said to me for years, “You should write a book, I’ll buy it.”

That’s not likely going to happen… not anytime soon at least. But if you are down with my blogs, my band or my various projects – I say thank you. 

I have self-released roughly 50 projects on CD. Cassette, VHS, DVD and Vinyl since 1994. All on my own. Without any label support. None. 

I have also kept Metal Sludge alive, afloat and online since 1998. For Free. You cannot imagine the workload a website of this magnitude can be.

No Kickstarters, no Go-Fund Me, and no Pay Me now and I’ll make a CD in a year and send it to you later. 

I am also self-managed, self-booked (most of the time) and 100% self reliant. A 1-man gang. 

If you want to support in anyway, buy a CD or Vinyl record from me, or a T-shirt. Or send me something direct via Pay Pal.

I am not begging. I am not sick and no hospital bill. Nope, just continuing my service to the fans that support my Rock N’ Roll. 

My direct Pay Pal email is – send a dollar, send ten or send fifty. Send whatever you like, or nothing at all. 

Many independent websites have Donate buttons, Metal Sludge has NOW added one, Top Right of this page.

No pressure, but hey, it’s an option if you care to do so. 

Thank you for all your loyal support of my projects.

There is more to come, more blogs and more music too. I have something in the can now it just hasn’t been packaged just yet. 

Thank you again and all of your support is greatly appreciated. 

Stevie Rachelle

Read my previous blogs linked below, numbered and dated.

Read my previous blogs linked below, numbered and dated.
Entry #1  How I Made My Way To California, 31 Years Ago Today  (June 25th 2018) 
Entry #2  My First Meeting With Tuff, “Is That All Your Real Hair?”   (June 29th 2018)
Entry #3  Tuff audition, Jim Gillette screams, a near fist fight & our debut show  (July 5th 2018)
Entry #4  The Metal Years, Famous People, Cocaine, Kiss & Sex with a Miss Gazzarri’s Dancer  (July 14th 2018)
Entry #5  Guns N’ Roses, Del James, 1988, Sound City, Strippers, Crabs & You’re Fired!  (July 30th 2018)
Entry #6  Summer on Sunset, Vinnie’s Invasion, Tracii’s Glue Gun, Vain & Sex by a Dumpster (August 11th 2018)
Entry #7  MTV’s NYE Big Bash, Riki & Taime’s Cathouse & My Girlfriend was a Poster at Spencer’s (August 20th 2018)
Entry #8  Jon Bon Jovi, Sebastian Bach, Rick Rubin, Howie Hubberman, BulletBoys & Gazzarri’s (Sept. 16th 2018)
Entry #9  Summer Tour ’89, Andy McCoy, Def Leftovers, Max the Model, Z-Rock, Tommi Gunn & Lit (Oct. 10th 2018)
Entry #10 Goodbye 1989, Jessica Hahn, Skid Row, Martha Quinn, Young Gunns, Flyer War & Cock-Rings (Nov. 9th 2018)
Entry #11 Hello 1990, Texas, Britny Fox Tour, Strippers, Hells Angels and Atlantic Records signs Tuff (March 24th 2019)
Entry #12 Ready to Record, Howard Benson, FM Station, Jani Lane, Court hearing & my 1st Playmate  (June 2nd 2019)
Entry #13 Recording our Atlantic debut, Bret Michaels, Kane Roberts & Sex is fine, but no sleepovers (Aug. 27th 2019)
Entry #14 New York City, Mixing our Record, Publishing Deal, Video Shoot , Cherry St. & Tigertailz (March 25th 2020)
Entry #15 Hello MTV, The Nelsons, Jason Newsted, U.S. Tour, London & our Stolen Ryder Truck (May 19th 2020)
Entry #16 Lita Ford, Jason Flom, 75+ Shows, Cocaine, a Lawsuit, Sweet F.A. & the Freeway Fight (July 29th 2020)
Entry #17 Hello 1992, Gene Simmons, More Money, Mike Starr, a New Bassist & Jason Flom II (March 20th 2021)
Entry #18 WildSide, Dee Snider, Tour Drama, Baywatch, New Label Search and Living in Reseda (Aug. 21 2021)
Entry #19 Michael Resigns, River Phoenix, Thirsty Whale, He’s Got a Gun, Stolen Van & Danny Quits (Jan. 16th 2022)
Entry #20 1994, Northridge Earthquake, Kurt Cobain, RLS Records, releasing “Fist First” (May 2022) 

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