Metal Sludge

Metal Sludge

TUFF DIARIES #19 … Michael Resigns, River Phoenix, Thirsty Whale, He’s Got a Gun, Stolen Van and Danny Quits


Metal Sludge — We’re now pushing forward, and into the 1990’s.

The band was faced with obstacle after obstacle, but I was still as committed and determined as ever.

Regardless of the future showing little to no hope for a glam band from the Sunset Strip, I didn’t want to accept the fact that the odds were stacked against us, or… I was blind as a bat.

It’s now 1993 and the band started off the year with a few live shows, but for much of the calendar, we worked jobs, and lived a normal life so to speak.

At some point midway through the year, it appeared that we finally had a home for the band’s new music and by the fall, we headed out on a 2 month coast-to-coast U.S. tour playing more than 40 shows.

Oh yeah, and there would be not 1, but 2 changes in the band within a few month’s time.

TUFF DIARIES #19 covers the entire year of 1993.

I will let you read it all below.

I hope you enjoy it.


TUFF… Jorge DeSaint (Guitars) Danny Wilder (Bass), Stevie Rachelle (Vocals) and Michael Lean (Drums) – Photo By: William Hames 1993 copyright RLS Entertainment 2021

Welcome to TUFF DIARIES #19.

This diary is more than double the length of most of the previous, but this entry covers an entire calendar year.

It’s now 1993 and the band ended last year with a short Midwest Tour and a string of weekend dates along the West Coast.

We did all those dates between August and December (1992) after taking off most of the earlier part of the year from playing live.

Without a doubt we needed a break anyway.

We had a whirl-wind of a year in 1991 and after Chase had quit, we all needed to regroup and get up to speed with our new bassist Danny Wilder.

We were also looking for a new record label as well, and we seemed to be getting closer to nailing that down.

Danny has only been in the band about a year by this time, and he seemingly got a bit more disgruntled as the months went by.

Nothing major, just random complaining or perhaps he was anxious for all kinds of amazing stuff to happen.

He had now joined a band who had went much further up the food chain than he had previously in any of the groups he was involved with.

Well now he was in the middle of it, and was likely realizing the grass is always greener on the other side of the fence.

It was becoming more and more clear, that the new sound, style, image and overall music industry appeal in general was the complete opposite of Tuff.

The Tuff name and logo, our image and music… was not appealing to the masses that’s for sure.

It was obvious that we didn’t have many of the qualities that were now considered flavor of the week.

The industry as a whole including radio, print and MTV were saturated with bands like; Counting Crows, Cracker, Candlebox, Blind Melon, Gin Blossoms, Soul Asylum and Spin Doctors.

There was the occasional song or video from Aerosmith, Def Leppard or Queensryche that made its mark but 95% of the 80’s bands had all but disappeared from the musical landscape.

Poison’s new record “Native Tongue” featured a relatively unknown 23 year old guitarist named Richie Kotzen after the band had fired CC DeVille.

Motley Crue had also booted Vince Neil and were now in the studio with singer John Corabi working on songs for their next album.

In addition, one of the biggest bands in the world was about to release “The Spaghetti Incident” which barely went platinum.

All this after their 1987 debut “Appetite for Destruction” had dominated the charts along with their dual-LP follow up “Use Your Illusion I” and “Use Your Illusion II”.

Of course I am talking about Guns N’ Roses, and even their band had lost 2 of their original, or shall I say classic era members in Izzy Stradlin and Steven Adler.

So with the giants of the 80’s industry struggling, a band like Tuff who was just starting to make a little mark in 1990 and 1991, well truth is we were decimated by the newest and latest 90’s trends.

We literally almost had no chance, especially after watching the biggest multi-platinum super bands of the era also suffer through the massive change.

But we forged on and without hesitation continued our quest.

Were we dedicated or downright dumb, you be the judge.

Stevie Rachelle with a fan at the “Troubadour” West Hollywood California March 7th 1993


1993’s Random Gigs

As the year began we played a few shows, which included a Hollywood date at “The Whisky” with VAIN in January, a few dates in Phoenix at the trusty “Mason Jar” and then back in Hollywood at the “Troubadour” in late March.

Other than that… we did a few dates in the San Fernando Valley in August, for a grand total of 6 live performances during the first 9 plus months of 1993.

But typically, we would always do a long tour in the fall and it was booked to start in mid October and take us across the entire U.S. and back to California ending the week before Christmas.

The year was pretty slow in general for Tuff, not just the live shows, but everything as a whole for the band.

We were still trying to sort that new label for our new songs and we also flew to Philadelphia to demo a few more tunes with producer and songwriter Randy Cantor.

We all had various jobs, and I was working close to full-time as a mover while living in Reseda.

Danny was living in Hollywood and working at a Tanning Salon, while Jorge lived in North Hollywood.

Jorge was living with his girlfriend (unless they were fighting) and he never to my knowledge ever held a job for more than a week the entire time I knew him.

Michael was renting a house in Burbank and he worked too but I can’t recall exactly what he was doing at the time.

Tuff Tour Book Itinerary November 1993 on the “Better Off Dead Tour” Fall 1993.
Note the tour book cover, was all tombstones, with select band members, road crew members, and other related who were no longer with the group, dates, etc…

As the end of the summer winds down we were getting ready for what had become an annual thing for us.

That fall tour of the U.S., and our booking agency Ashley Street Talent out of Michigan was busy sorting a pretty long run of dates.

It’s now September and we had only played a few shows the entire year.

And the calendar has us hitting the road to do this full 2 month 40 plus date U.S. Tour.

The tour was scheduled to start October 19th in Phoenix Arizona and it ended on December 17th in San Diego.

As the month of September was coming to a close, I was trying to coordinate rehearsals as we haven’t done much of that in quite a while.

Jorge, Danny and I are all ready to get in a room and start working on the set, but Michael is kind of putting it off.

By this point I had taken a much more significant role in the band as the leader, for what it’s worth.

But Michael was no doubt the guy when I joined, and it was he who led the way in the 80’s and early 90’s as we worked our way towards signing to Atlantic Records.

I was always his right-hand man, but he was definitely the boss.

In short, Michael was John Gotti, and I was the under-boss and muscle… or Sammy “The Bull.”

However in 1992 and 1993, my position in the group had become even more involved than before, as Michael and his interest seemed to be waning.

Todd had also quit and Jorge was usually smoking pot and as useless as ever, unless playing his guitar.

Over the years, while I was trying to line up pussy for the night, in between working at a moving company or on a movie set, Michael was also reading up on stocks, computers and business investments.

Over the years, I recall all of us seemed to joke with him from time to time, or goof on him for being ‘Mr. Business’.

Now it’s late September and the first tour date is less than 3 weeks away, however we had not rehearsed once.

At some point Michael and I are on the phone, and I am pushing him; “Dude, we gotta rehearse, the tour starts in the next few weeks.”

Michael then said something I had never expected to hear, but his words were something like: “Why don’t you get Billy to do the tour?”

Billy was my roommate from Philadelphia, who was also a drummer, a good looking kid but in my eyes, he didn’t have nearly enough experience.

He was also several years younger, which at the time, I was 27… and Billy had just turned 21.

Not that this age makes a huge difference, but truth is, Billy just didn’t have enough mileage behind the kit to be that guy.

I then say to Michael: “Huh? So you want Billy to do the tour, but you’re going to stay home, and then still be in the band when we get back?”

Michael seemed to imply that was his idea.

Michael was also adamant; we need a new and bigger record deal, one with a commitment, a real budget and so on.

But by this point it was pretty clear, Tuff were not getting another big record deal.

And I think Michael had read the writing on the wall long before I or Jorge did.

After a mildly heated discussion I told Michael this: “You are either in the band, or not in the band.”

Without much hesitation Michael agreed, and soon after our phone call ended.

The bottom line was, Michael wasn’t going to go on tour for 2 months across the U.S. in a van.

He also had a son who at this time had just started grade school.

His priorities weren’t playing taverns and dive bars across the mid-west, especially when he had a kid.

I am not sure what he thought, but I felt at the time and still to this day, feel that Michael was somewhat relieved.

I don’t think he wanted to quit… and I didn’t fire him, but it was a ‘Shit or get off the pot’ kind of cross-roads.

And he chose to get off the pot and out of the touring van so to speak.

Michael had also voiced his ideas to open up a Coffee Shop and start his own business.

I along with Jorge, and some others all thought this was, well… kind of goofy.

“A Coffee Shop?” I said to myself, why open a Coffee Shop?

The truth is, the ending with Michael was not a good one, but it wasn’t a bad one either.

There was no yelling, no screaming, no anger or hate… but he wasn’t feeling it anymore and I was still as committed as ever.

I was going to go forward, Tuff had a 40-date U.S. Tour booked, and now… I (we) needed a new drummer and fast.

If my calendar notes prove true, that conversation with Michael opting to leave the band took place in early October of 1993.

We were running low on time as it was, and just to get ready for a tour of this magnitude is a lot of work.

But now that Michael has officially checked out… we have to find, rehearse with and work into the show and band – a new drummer in literally – day’s time.

I wasn’t off the phone with Michael for more than 10 minutes and I started making calls.

I first called Anthony Focx, who had played drums for a local band called Tommi Gunn and he had also played with the group Jones Street.

I asked Anthony straight away… “Are you interested to do a tour with Tuff?”

And he pretty quickly said he wasn’t interested and had some other things going on.

I don’t recollect what Jones Street was doing in the fall of 1993, but regardless Anthony said no.

Tommi Gunn from Chicago, moved to Hollywood in late 1987, left to right are Marty Kelley (Guitars), Steve Mitchell (Guitars), Vinnie Kelley (Vocals), Anthony Focx (Drums) and Pat Ryan (Bass)

My 2nd phone call was to a drummer named Rachill Bitch.

Rachill was from a band called Legs Up who had moved to Hollywood from Ohio and played the scene, but by this point – they were defunct or close to it.

Rachill, or Chill as some friends called him, also said no as he was working with another project at the time.

Okay, so it’s only been 15 minutes since Michael resigned, and I am 0-2 on this drummer search. Ugh.

After racking my brain; about what drummers I know, I start calling friends to tell them the news.

I am now on the phone with my friend Shawn from Detroit and told him about my dilemma.

Shawn and I are talking and he mentions some local guy named Jimmy.

I asked: “who is that?” … and he gives me some details.

I guess he was in a local Detroit band that had opened for Tuff at one of our shows in that area; I think it was at “Harpo’s.”

Shawn filled in some of the blanks and said he was a solid player and a great showman.

By the info I was hearing, Jimmy was a Vicki Foxx type player; stick twirlin’, hair flippin’ and can slammin’ kind of drummer, which was exactly what we needed.

Shawn says: “Yeah, his name is Jimmy Gunz.”

I was like: “Jimmy Gunz…. you mean, like as in Tracii Guns?” as we both chuckled.

“Yeah”… he’s in such and such a band says Shawn.

I tell him, “Call that guy up… I am interested to see if he wants to play with Tuff.”

Within minutes Shawn calls me back, “I just talked to him, he’s down… here’s his number, he said to call him.”

I am now dialing the 313, or the 734… I forgot which area code it was, but I am tracking down this Jimmy guy.

Ring, ring, hello, hello… and I get to the point: “What do you think about doing a tour with Tuff?”

Jimmy tells me he’s interested and he’s ready… and on our first phone call we sorted as much detail as we could.

Over the next few days, we orchestrated a lot… which included Jimmy learning 15 songs and flying him to Los Angeles within the week.

Relying on the trusty brain and many of my related notes…  Jimmy flew to LAX on October 8th 1993.

He arrived in town, 11 days before the 2 month tour was to kick off in Arizona.

Upon arrival, we head to a local rehearsal space and start jamming the songs with Jimmy “Gunz” Winalis.

Jimmy is a redhead which goes against all that is rock n’ roll, lol… unless of course your name is John Waite.

But either way, a ginger on the drum kit it is… Jimmy is nicer than most people you could ever meet.

A good Midwestern kid, who has plenty of bar-band experience, he’s tall, thin and hits drums like a pro-boxer hits faces – hard as F#@k.

He’s also got a lot of style and flash to go with that hard hitting power… and he’s hungry to do this.

Jimmy is a bit younger than I, and at the time he joined the band he was 23 and fit like a glove.

However, there was one big problem.

“Dude… you can’t be Jimmy Gunz…  Gunz sounds kinda whack…” I am telling him.

Now we’re talking about stage names, etc..  and his real name isn’t going to work either, as Winalis is too pedestrian, and Gunz is well… too gay.

Looking back… did it even matter?

Nope, not at all… truth is he could have been Bob Smith.

But at the same time, names like Licks Lightning or Rock E. Rocker weren’t going to fly either.

Of course I was, or we were… still clinging to some rock band with rock stars dream I guess.

I came up with the stage name Lord, and Jimmy went to Jimi, and Jimi Lord on the drums was born.

We rehearsed for a little over a week, and Jimi was up to speed and ready to knock it out.

While he played on a rent-a-kit during rehearsals before the tour, he had all of his drums and road cases shipped to Reseda and they got to the house just in time for the tour.

Done, done and done… 11 days later we pulled into Phoenix.

Jimi’s first run with the band was 2 months and 40 shows, from California to New York and back, with every stop in between.

Included was a big home-coming show, in his home town of Detroit at the “I-Rock.”

Welcome to Tuff, Jimi Lord on the drums.

Jimi Lord on the drums live at “The Haven” Milwaukee, Wisconsin October 31st 1993


Signing to Grand Slamm Records

At some point after a year or more of meeting with record labels, demo’ing more songs and sorting through the options, we finally signed a deal.

Well, if you want to call it that.

Brian McEvoy was the President of Grand Slamm Records, and he wanted to sign Tuff.

In a nutshell, what we were offering (to them) was our previously recorded Atlantic Records demos for album number 2, as our next release.

A few labels showed interest, but no one really made any solid offers.

After some back n’ forth, we were starting to realize we didn’t have a lot to choose from, and the very low offer from Grand Slamm Records was really the only one on the table.

What was it?

It was exactly 10% of what we signed our original deal for.

As told in Tuff Diaries #12, our deal with Titanium/Atlantic Records was for $75,000.00.

So yeah, 10% of that is a whopping $7,500.00.

That was what we signed for and Grand Slamm who was at this time a subsidiary of I.R.S. Records.

A few things here…

First off the recording was already done, paid for, mostly by Atlantic, and this money was just our advance if you will.

Of course that’s not much of an advance, but our goal was to have it released by a label, and even though it wasn’t Warner Brothers, Geffen or Capitol, I.R.S .was considered a major label.

Over their history, I.R.S. Records was behind some big records by bands like; REM, The Go-Go’s, Concrete Blonde, Oingo Boingo and Timbuk3 to name a few.

Grand Slamm had previously released records by White Lion, Lilliane Axe, Riot, Alcatrazz, Lion and Cry Wolf.

We also knew, that they knew in order to push us, and possibly move units, they would have to put in some money for advertising, and perhaps a video and maybe some tour support.

So with the small advance that they gave us, well, it left other monies to be used in the way of promoting the new Tuff record, or so we thought.

Michael even though he had essentially just left the band, had wanted to call the release “Sacrilegious” and had an idea for an old wooden rocking chair on the cover.

I recall arguing with him about this, and felt the idea was something that Counting Crows or Stone Temple Pilots would have used.

Of course I knew that 4 guys with big hair wearing leather pants, headbands and bullet belts wouldn’t work either, but I was trying to remain somewhere in the middle.

One thing I recall happening in the late summer, as this fall tour approached, the label President Brian McEvoy did not want us to tour.

He was adamant, we stay home, and wait to tour the following year once the record was released.

I argued with him on the phone, so much so, at some point he stopped taking my calls.

I recall me saying something along the lines of: “You worry about the record, its release and promoting us… we’re not staying home the entire year while we wait on you or the label to do your part.”

I am pretty sure he at some point realized I was a bit of a nightmare to deal with.

I was no stranger to this game, and knew which side my bread was buttered on.

When we played shows, we made money.

It helped us pay for our rent, our rehearsals, gear and some money to live off as well.

By this point in our career, if you want to call it that, I was fairly versed enough to know what was best for me, or us, as opposed to others.

Others meaning, the record labels, executives, and some random person in a suit who had never stepped foot into our rehearsal room, apartment or touring van.

So when some guy in New York tells me: “Don’t tour. Stay home. Wait for me to direct you…” and so on, my response was in general: “F#@k off and you do your job, and I’ll do mine.”

Of course that wasn’t my first or exact words, as I would always be open to listen to other’s advice, or direction, and then collectively we would take in what others had said or suggested, and along with our own intuition or knowledge, make a decision best for the band.

In the end, we were going on tour, and I never for 1 second waivered in the plan.

After several phone calls, and faxes… it got a little ugly, as I voiced my opinion and when met with what I perceived as an inadequate reason, as to why we should simply sit home and wait, I vented.

What’s that old saying: “A closed mouth doesn’t get fed”

And us sitting around the Valley for the entire year of 1993, waiting for something to happen, was not going to happen, at least not on my watch.

So, as planned, we booked the tour and went forward ready to put another 40 notches on our belt.

Jorge DeSaint at the “Thirsty Whale” Chicago, Illinois November 1993


1993 Fall Tour = Drama x 1,000

While on tour we once again encountered all the typical stuff that every U.S. Tour of this length allows to go wrong!

Almost anything and everything that can and will happen, does happen, and it’s a nice mix of good, bad, amazing and at times – really ugly.

We were only a week into our fall run and we were smack in the heart of Texas.

I recall sound-checking at “Dallas City Limits” or DCL as the locals called it.

The guys are setting up, banging on drums, tuning guitars and the soundman is pushing the P.A. system to the limits… the same noise every day.

Depending on the year, would depend on what you heard blaring at sound-check.

RIP Johnny Solinger

In the fall of 1993 it was probably Tool, Primus or Type O’ Negative.

While the music blasts I am usually scoping out the club, the backstage area and dressing room.

Is there food or a restaurant, is there a sexy bar-maid and who played here recently and who is coming soon.

Most clubs have select admats scattered throughout the venue and it was always fun to see the various posters local promoters had made for our show.

At almost all the dates, I would take some off the wall or ask if they had extras to take home with me.

I see a bunch of Tuff promo and upon further review I say to myself: “Oh look, Skid Row Lite is playing with us tonight” as I joke to myself.

The band was called Solinger.

They were a 5-piece hard rock band from Dallas, with a singer front and center, which resembled Sebastian Bach.

I don’t recall much of them from that night, but we all know that some years later, Johnny would replace Bach in Skid Row and stayed in that role for over 15 years.

At some point once he got that gig, I was thinking: “Hey, I remember that guy” and that’s a great gig for him.

Fast forward over the years, Johnny and I chatted a bit, shared the stage a few times along with swapping some emails and music as recent as 2020.

We all know that Johnny passed away in June of 2021… damn… that really sucked.

Johnny Solinger was a good guy and a really nice guy, and… an awesome singer too.

RIP Johnny Solinger, I will miss you my friend.

Tuff tour manager Richie Wuestenberg


Money is Tight as F#@K already

After making our way through Arizona and New Mexico, we then had 4 shows in Texas.

Money is extremely tight and when we left California we had 8 people on the tour.

The band included; Jorge on guitar, Danny on bass, our brand new drummer Jimi and myself.

We also had 4 total crew members; tour manager Richie Wuestenberg, merchandiser Keith Cartwright and (2) stage techs Bob Rager and Jim Hicks.

We also had 2 vehicles, a box truck for the equipment that Bob and Jim were driving in, and an Enterprise Rental Van that carried Richie, Keith and the band.

Over the history of the band on tour, we traveled every possible way you can imagine.

We did tours in a tour bus, a motor-home, a passenger van and various rental trucks.

And the biggest concern when being on tour is simply put… money.

How much do you have, how much are you guaranteed, what is your daily or weekly over-head, the motels, the crew and of course the transportation costs.

Stevie Rachelle live at the “Lone Star” Kansas City, Missouri October 26th 1993

Don’t forget gas, tolls, parking, the occasional flat-tire repair and speeding tickets.  

We’ve done this enough times that we or shall I say, I… had figured out ways to cut costs and keep this thing moving.

Michael was also now 100% out of the picture, so it was more than ever, on my shoulders, all of it.

I do not recall how hiring a crew and equipment truck from Ohio was brought to the table, but it was.

We rented the truck from Jeff Hair of “Hair Raising Sound” and a few of his guys with it.

Jeff and his company were based in Ohio.

Of course, they had to drive to Los Angeles to start the tour, so we went out of pocket a week before show #1… for gas, motels, for the guys to eat and some pay.

Oh well, we committed and we had known Jeff for some years and he was giving us a really good deal.

We also opted to bring along our tour manager (Richie) who we first met when Tuff opened for Britny Fox on an East Coast Tour in the spring of 1990.

Richie also was our TM on the “What Comes Around Goes Around” tour throughout 1991.

I do recall thinking we didn’t need Richie, and I could handle the TM duties along with my cousin Keith.

But for what it’s worth, I brought Richie along and we flew him from Philadelphia to L.A. in mid October.

I also recall our manager Brian Kushner pushed for Richie to come out as well, as he hadn’t had any work (tours) in a while and likely needed a little getaway.

My guess is it was a coin toss when Richie asked himself: “Do I stay at home with the wife and kid, or go on the tour with Tuff and Rachelle from Hell?”

Likely he was going to have to put up with some drama either way.

Richie was a bit older than us, a seasoned veteran of the road, and with that came some wisdom too but also a higher weekly pay check.

He was also past sharing motel rooms with random roadies, so part of his deal was he was to get his own room nightly.

We were paying Richie $900.00 per week, and if you calculate that to current dollars, that’s over $1,700.00 in 2022.

Remember, we were no longer on Atlantic Records, we weren’t on MTV, the magazine press was far and few between and our $2,000.00 nightly guarantees were now more like $500-$1,000.00.

The crew, hmmm… I don’t recall what we paid them, but I can assure you it was much less, maybe $300.00 per guy – per week – plus per-diems.

After sorting the equipment truck, band and crew, I had to also sort the rental van.

Tuff singer Stevie Rachelle takes photos with fans Lea and Cindy at the “Lone Star” in Kansas City Missouri October 26th 1993

I called everyone under the sun, and was trying to find the best possible deal.

Enterprise had a monthly rate, which included free mileage if you stayed in the state of California.

I wanted the van for 2 months, but they would only do it for 30 days at a time.

However they also had some type of clause, that after 3 weeks, you could call in and add the 2nd month to your rental and extend it for another 30 days.

The free mileage and 30 day rate was music to my ears, and I locked in that van.

Week 1 on the tour was pretty much a wrap, but in crunching the numbers I realized a fatal mistake I had made.

That mistake was, agreeing to bring Richie out as tour manager.

Richie was a good guy, no question… but his pay, individual motel room nightly and a daily per-diem was costing us around $1,300.00 per week.

That’s roughly $2,500.00 per week in 2022..

At the time, our weekly average income was somewhere in the $3-5 thousand dollar range.

Sure we had some better weeks, and some worse… but no matter how you slice it, Richie was averaging out to be about 1/3 of our total budget.

So after a quick meeting with Keith, I called Jorge into my room and told him the news, “We’re gonna let Richie go.”

Jorge immediately is not happy: “Why? What did he do wrong?”

I explain to Jorge the financials, and we’re only 1 week in and money is tight as ever.

We have 7 weeks to go, and we’re paying Richie 1/3 of our income… he’s 1 guy, and there are 8 of us and 2 vehicles on this tour.

Jorge was pissed, and more of that was that Richie was his “smoking buddy”… and yeah, they both enjoyed using marijuana.

But regardless of them being bud buddies or not, that didn’t have any effect on my decision, it was simply the money that we couldn’t afford.

I go meet with Richie, tell him the news and he’s not happy but he understands my decision.

We finish out our Texas dates, and buy Richie a flight home to Philadelphia from Kansas City.

This worked out as we have 1 off-day for travel and then are booked to play on October 26th.

We roll into K.C. and at some point Jorge and I drive Richie to the airport, shake his hand and say goodbye.

This was 1 of the many arguments, disagreements or fights that Jorge and I had, but in the end, as much as I grew to dislike our guitarist, I would like to believe he understood this move.

Richie was a great asset, but we just couldn’t afford him.

Tuff bassist Danny Wilder live at “The Haven” Milwaukee, Wisconsin October 31st 1993


Milwaukee Wisconsin

Halloween is here, and Tuff is appearing at “The Haven” tonight.

We’re in the Motel 6 by the airport and Danny comes bursting into my room.

“River Phoenix died!”

I immediately reacted and my heart sank:  “Huh? What?”

“It happened at The Viper Room… it’s all over the news” Danny tells me.

I didn’t know River personally, but I had just worked on a movie set with him only months earlier.

RIP River Phoenix

In between playing in Tuff, and working at the moving company, I also did some various works on film and T.V. productions.

All kinds of random stuff acting as background, or some featured extra on T.V. shows like Melrose Place or Dream On, and in movies like The Stoned Age and Wayne’s World 2

At some point I got booked to be in a few scenes in the movie “A Thing Called Love” starring River Phoenix and Samantha Mathis.

I worked on this movie a handful of days here and there over a few months’ time.

I knew of River as a child actor, but never really followed his career much at all.

But I absolutely knew his name, and that he was a big star.

I recall a day we were all sitting in our respective assigned spots on the set where he was playing guitar and singing.

I was by the stage area, seated close to him and in-between takes we had few interactions.

It wasn’t anything big, just small talk and “bro, what’s up” kind of acknowledgments.

On another day we were on break and everyone was getting food.

I had learned of his fierce commitment to being a hardcore vegan, so it made sense that he only ate some nuts out of a bowl as we all filled our plates.

We exchanged some general pleasantries again, “Hey man…” and “How are you?” type stuff over the days I was on set.

Now it’s less than a year later, and I am on tour with my band and learning he had just died.

Not only did he die, but his life ended on the sidewalk on the Sunset Strip in front of the Viper Room.

Danny was very shaken by this, and I don’t know if he knew him, or how well, but he was definitely affected.

I had only been around River a handful of days but the few interactions we had were real and he was genuine to me.

I can see him, looking at me, and his smile, his vibrant youth, good looks and charisma.

He’s only 23 years old though… he can’t be dead.

I am 27… my life is still young too… but his life was even younger and full of so much promise.

River Phoenix had taken a deadly mix of drugs, and tragically died of an overdose.

How sad, here is a guy who wouldn’t touch meat, or any products related to animals, but in the end put unthinkable chemicals into his system that cost him his life.

That movie, “A Thing Called Love” had just been released in August just days after his 23rd birthday.

This young star had only begun to really shine and now that’s all gone.

So much life, so much to live for and now… he’s dead.

I was truly hurt by his death and hearing how things unfolded hurt me even more.

There was something I shared with him, an odd closeness, even though it was brief that our paths crossed, they did and now this tragic news is hitting me.

I remember going into the bathroom in my Motel room and crying.

But, I now have to gather myself, go to sound-check, play a show and try to celebrate Halloween.

I’ll miss you bro, but my show must go on.

RIP to River Phoenix

Tuff plays the “Thirsty Whale” Friday and Saturday November 5th & 6th 1993


Stolen Van

Welcome to the heart of America, the Mid-West and we’re playing shows bouncing state to state.

One night we’re in Davenport Iowa, the next we’re in Minneapolis Minnesota, then back in Des Moines (Iowa), then into Milwaukee (Wisconsin), back to Cedar Rapids (Iowa) and then up to Green Bay (Wisconsin).

At some point I am checking our Tuff Hotline which serves as not only a voice mail service to and for the fans, but also a way to get messages from management or friends and family.

I am listening to messages and I hear the following: “Hello, looking for Steven Hanseter, this is Enterprise Rentals in Los Angeles, please call us back at….”

A few days later and I get a similar message: “Hello, Mr. Hanseter this is the regional manager for Enterprise Rent-A-Car in California. You need to call me back within 24 hours or we’re reporting the Van you rented from us as stolen.”


Holy F#@k!

I immediately call my manager Brian and tell him the situation.

In short, I rented this van in California, for 30 days, but it was considered a local or state rental only, with unlimited mileage.

Obviously I knew in advance, we were not staying in California, and figured I could get away with this but now it’s clear, they’re onto me.

Rentals like this happen all the time and sure people might rent in California and drive into Las Vegas, or perhaps Arizona to the dessert and maybe even Utah.

But going coast to coast, thousands of miles… probably not… however I rolled the dice and it seems that I just may have crapped out.

After trying to figure out what I can or should say, I call Enterprise and get the manager on the phone.

He immediately asks me:  “Mr. Hanseter, where are you?”

I tell him something like: “I am camping in Northern California in the mountains.”

“No you’re not…” was his reply.

I am now fumbling around with my words and he interrupts me: “Mr. Hanseter, I have information that you are in the state of Illinois.”

I am now silent, and he said something about a license plate reader at a Toll Booth, or an Airport has tracked the Van.

I am trapped… busted red handed and finally admit to being in Wisconsin.

The man is not happy with me, and tells me that I need to return their rental to an Enterprise agency or he will report it stolen.

I explain to him my situation, we’re a band on tour, we have shows to play and we’ll be in Chicago in the coming days.

We had gigs at “Thirsty Whale” on that Friday and Saturday, and also had Sunday off before our next show in Kentucky which was on Monday November 8th.

As pissed as he was to start, he ended up being very cool and said he would work with me.

However, he also told me, I would have to pay a $500.00 fee to have the car returned to California, and all the mileage we put on the van plus the monthly rental pro-rated to the number of days we had it.

At this point we had the van for less than 3 weeks.

My thought was, we could return the van to O’Hare Airport’s Enterprise location, and we’d be in Motels for pretty much the whole weekend anyway.

Letter from Enterprise Rent-A-Car demanding I return our tour van, or it was going to be reported stolen to the Los Angeles Police Department and a warrant for my arrest would be issued as well. The full letter is shared below.

This would then give me 2-3 full days in one spot, to play the gigs but also be in a major city where I could dig around and find an option for new transportation.

Meanwhile, we know a ton of people in Chicago and some friends who were coming down for the weekend from Milwaukee.

We can hitch rides to and from the “Whale” with some friends until we get a new van.

Something else that entered my mind was… less than a week ago we cut our tour manager loose from the tour and sent him home because of budgets and Richie was not too happy about that.

It did seem awfully ironic that just days after this happened, that Enterprise was informed of our location and the rental scam I was trying to pull off.

Was it a license plate reader at the Kansas City airport, or while passing a Toll Booth in the greater Chicago area, who knows?

Regardless if they were tipped off or not, I admit this was solely my responsibility.

This wasn’t on Richie, or Jorge, or anyone else… it was all on me.

I was running the band pretty much day-to-day and sure we had our manager Brian, but like Michael, he too was slowly fading from the picture.

He was also on the East Coast, while I was on the West Coast and I was for the most part calling all, or at least most of the shots.

I was the one who orchestrated the Enterprise rental and thought I could get away with it.

So much for cutting corners and saving money, as I now have to pay Enterprise their return fee, plus the mileage and not to mention the cluster-f#@k we’re in the middle of.

Well fear not, after a few days of living on the edge, it all worked out.

The Enterprise manager let us keep the van for another few days until we got into Chicago, and that worked better for them as well, as it was a major hub for airlines and rent-a-cars.

Once in Chicago we unloaded the Enterprise Van and were holed up in a Motel 6 on Elk Grove Road for the next 3 nights.

By Monday we sorted a new passenger Van and made the 400 mile drive to Kentucky.

What could possibly go wrong now? 

Here is the full letter from Enterprise Rent-A-Car


He’s Got A Gun

There are so many stories to tell, but I can’t possibly share all the drama that happens over 2 months on the road.

But I will detail a few more nights from the tour here and hope that I can paint the picture adequately.

We’re about 3 weeks in and now on the East Coast.

We played “I-Rock” in Detroit on Wednesday November 10th and that was Jimi’s big homecoming show.

It worked out perfect for him, as we had already played about 20 gigs and the band was clicking on all cylinders.

Detroit was great, but the next day sucked as we had to drive roughly 600 miles to get to our next destination, the Red Roof Inn in Trevose Pennsylvania.

Thankfully we had an off-day to make the hellish drive.

We were all more than ready to get a good night’s sleep after traversing the state of Ohio and most of Pennsylvania on Interstate 76.

Now we wake up on Friday November 12th and tonight we play a club called “The Cell Block.”

Our guarantee is $900.00 and the promoter had already sent our agent (Mark Hyman of Ashley Street Talent) a 50% deposit.

We head to the club for load in at 4:00pm, sound-check is at 6 to 7pm, doors are at 9pm and our set-time is at 12 o’clock midnight.

At some point my cousin Keith who is working as a road manager for me is sorting all related details.

The band and crew are checking guitars, drums, while Keith is prepping the dressing room and the guest list.

Ahh, the guest list… isn’t this fun.

Page 13 of our 1993 Tour Book, with details, info, and all related notes for the “Cell Block” gig in Philadelphia (Bensalem) Pennsylvania on Friday Nov. 12th 1993

Every band hates these, and the promoters hate them worse… the owner of “The Cell Block” was no different.

We’ve never been out of line with these, or if we were, it was usually way back in the Hollywood days.

But in 1993, a struggling glam band from Sunset Strip playing random clubs at the height of the grunge movement, well… let’s just say we knew better.

Or did we?

Keith writes down a handful of names, a girl here, a buddy there, and our manager (Brian Kushner also on the list) told us a few of the Britny Fox guys were going to come down to see the show as well.

Even “Dizzy” Dean Davidson was slated to come down.

So, Keith puts down Britny Fox + 4.

By this point, Dean had formed Blackeyed Susan and they had all but disbanded.

I think Michael LeCompt was also on that list. 

Either way, Keith at some point goes in to talk to the main guy in charge, and his name was Jimmy.

After a few minutes Keith comes to find me and says the owner was giving him a hard time about the guest list and maybe I should go talk to him.

We go knock on the door together and he lets us in his office in the back of the club.

I am as polite as I can be, and start to explain that Keith told me there was a problem with the guest list.

I am going to guess, it was maybe 14-15 people on the list.

A lot of clubs would give you 10, unless it was a bigger event, then you might get 20.

But even if they offer you 10 guests, you could usually stretch that by a few.

Now I am standing there blabbering away trying my best to be nice, and respectful about who is on the list, and why.

Jimmy is not fazed, as he sits there staring through me like an Italian mobster eyeing up someone he’s about to whack.

With almost no expression, he says: “The guest list is 5 people.”

I then begin to babble again: “Okay, I get it, 5 is fair, but we also put on the guys from Birtny Fox and…”

Jimmy cuts me off mid-sentence: “I  don’t  give a F#@k about Britny Fox…  it’s 5 people.”

Obviously I couldn’t hear well, or was just being a douche because I started in with more of the same.

“Britny Fox are locals, you know they are from Philadelphia right and they toured with Poison….” Blah, blah, blah I keep on with the drivel.

Jimmy is calmly sitting at his desk and leans back in his chair.

His eyes are fixated on me and he never looks away.

He reaches to his right, and slides open the top drawer of the old wooden desk he’s sitting behind.

I am standing there with Keith and as the drawer opens my eyes can’t help but not notice….

… the black hand-gun.

“ I understand. the list is 5 people. We will cut it down.” are the last words out of my mouth.

Jimmy didn’t say another word and pushes the drawer shut.

Keith and I walked out of the office and thanked Jimmy for his time.

We decided we needed to cut the 14 person guest list down to 5, as clearly Jimmy had the upper hand.

Typical Philly stuff…  Jimmy wasn’t taking any shit from some dude from California or his cousin from Wisconsin.

“Hey Keith, what the F#@k are you doing putting 14 people on the guest list?” were my words as I bust his balls laughing.

Keith just shakes his head at me and shoots me a dirty look as I walk up onto the stage to join in on the sound-check.

The guys in Britny Fox never even showed up but “Dizzy” Dean did stop in at sound-check to say hi.

At some point during our final hours in town, Jorge got an address for a local place to eat.

Sadly I can’t recall the name, but do remember it was a tiny shack like shit-hole with people lined up on the side-walk waiting to order.
We all got our food to go, and enjoyed a killer cheese steak as we drove to New Jersey.

Thank you Philadelphia!

Tuff guitarist Jorge DeSaint and drummer Jimi Lord, outside “Derringer’s” in Brockton Massachusetts Nov. 20th 1993


Boston to Atlanta

1,079 miles… that is the distance from Boston to Atlanta.

So we play a few dates up in the Massachusetts area just before Thanksgiving.  

We hit Boston @ “The Rock Pile”, Brockton@ “Derringer’s” and Salisbury @ “Chapter 2.”

These shows were on Friday, Saturday and Sunday, November 19th, 20th and 21st.

We then had 2 full days off on Monday and Tuesday and our next show was on that Wednesday in Atlanta.

As I stated earlier, on this tour we had 2 vehicles.

The equipment truck, and the passenger van.

When you have 2 different vehicles it makes for a bit of a cluster-f#@k at times.

And you can’t always stay close to each other, especially during the really long drives.

So what we do is the tour manager or band, gives the crew and their vehicle a float.

In short, a “float” is money to make it to the next town.

Enough cash for gas, motel rooms, their daily per-diems and some emergency money.

Now this drive was especially long, over 1,000 miles and we had 2 off-days to make it to Atlanta.

So after we finished in Massachusetts, we give the crew guys and their truck money and tell them; “See you in Atlanta.”

Now it’s late November, weather on the East Coast is a crap shoot and I recall it being a bit rainy.

So it’s Monday November 22nd, and we load up the van, fill it with gas, eat some food and start driving.

The full day goes by and we grab a motel, spend the night and wake up on Tuesday.

Tuff drummer Jimi Lord with a fan named Kathie at “Derringer’s” Brockton Massachusetts November 1993
Note the display case with signed 8×10 promo shots of Danzig, Shotgun Messiah, Tuff, Spread Eagle and Sactterbrain among others.

I don’t recall where exactly we were, but I do remember it was close to the South Carolina border.

We hit a truck stop for gas and food, and I hit a pay-phone and call the Hotline to check messages.

I am listening to, saving and deleting messages and then hear this: “Rachelle, 9-1-1… its Kushner, call me ASAP! The truck broke down!”

These messages were from the night before and the guys broke down somewhere in Virginia.

I immediately call our manager (Brian Kushner) and he tells me the truck broke down, the crew is in a Motel, and the truck was towed to a repair shop.

After a day plus of driving, we were several hours ahead of them and hundreds of miles past where they broke down.

I get in touch with the crew, we get their location and we have no choice, we have to turn around.

After a few other calls, the repair shop told them it would be several days before the truck could be fixed; there were parts that needed to be ordered and so on.

This is bad news… but the good news is, we’re in the middle of having 2 off-days, so we have a little time to figure this out.

As many notes as I have, I don’t recall the exact city, or distance, but they were in Virginia and we were at the South Carolina border… so give or take, we had to drive back about 8 hours or 400 miles to meet them.

We now spend the rest of Tuesday driving backwards, to meet the crew and fetch the gear.

Make note, this is 1993, there were no cell-phones (at least not for the general public like us) and there was no internet, email, wifi, texting or the like.

Hard to say, but I may have had a beeper, and there may have been a beep to tell me to check the hotline, but I can’t be sure of that.

Regardless, we were in a van and the crew was in a big box truck.

Tuff Tour Book Itinerary November December 1993

We could drive 75 or 80 and they were probably doing 55 or 60 tops, and we also left separately … so over a 24-36 hour time frame, we were well ahead of them.

Now we arrive back into some random Motel parking lot, and oddly the repair shop was right next door to it.

I came up with a plan to go rent a 1-way U-Haul trailer, from Virginia to Los Angeles, which we need for the next 2-3 weeks time.

The box truck our gear was in was 7 feet wide, by 14 feet deep by 7 feet tall.

The largest U-Haul trailer was 6 feet wide, by 12 feet deep by 5 feet tall.

So, we’re losing 1 foot in width, 2 feet in length and 2 feet in height.

The truck was not 100% full, but had all our road cases, cabinets, drums, guitars, basses, merchandise boxes and more.

We’re now in Virginia and we rent this trailer and the hitch set-up that attaches to the back of the van.

Luckily we had a larger 12 passenger van, as our load was going from 5 to 7 people, along with duffel bags, back-packs and multiple ice-coolers holding food and drinks.

We usually had 1 cooler for food, 1 for water and soda and then 1 that was strictly alcohol.

Okay, so reality is, us 7 guys, and our personal stuff will fit in the van no issue.

And we’d usually put Jorge’s main guitars in the last set of seats in the back of the van as well.

We pull into the connecting Motel and repair shop parking lot with the U-Haul trailer.

If my math is correct, this will be the 4th vehicle used on the tour, and we’ve still got 3 weeks to go.

The equipment truck is basically on its last legs… the shop talks to the truck owner back in Ohio, and based on repairs, how old it is and the truck is 500 miles from its home base, he opts to junk it.

But obviously we can’t leave our equipment, and we have to be in Atlanta tomorrow night for a show.

Not to mention, the next 3 weeks of the tour, taking us clear across the entire United States of America.

Ok… now to sort out what goes where, how it best fits into this smaller trailer.

Anyone who has done any type of touring, even local knows there usually is a best way to load the gear into your band vehicle.

On a tour of this length, with multiple cabinets, rigs, cases and more, it’s kind of like a Rubik’s Cube.

And on a nightly basis, there is usually one guy who is inside, or just at the edge of the truck and others bringing him select cases, gear or other as he calls out for each item.

“Bring me the main drum case”, and then “Ampeg bass cabinet”, “Marshall Cabinets” and so on.

But now that extra foot here, and couple feet there are removed from our available space in the trailer.

So we start loading it this way, and that way, and this fits but that won’t.

After a few tries it was clear we had the ability to load in the main cases, the main cabinets along with all related power heads, merchandise boxes and the miscellaneous stuff.

But, there were 2 cases that were still not fitting in, no matter how we arranged it.

The first was Jimi’s hardware road case.

It seems like it would fit, but it’s like 2-3 inches to tall or to wide depending on which way you slide it in.

After doing this for 30 minutes, I realize we need to remove the casters from this case.

Casters meaning…  the wheels.

We grab some tools, and after 10 minutes the casters are off, and that case now slides in like a block into a Jenga tower, just perfectly.

My memory is pretty good, and I want to say we had a total of 7 road cases, plus select guitar and bass cabinets.

With Jimi’s hardware case in the trailer that makes 6, and the 7th case left was Danny’s Ampeg cabinet case.

For those who don’t know, an Ampeg bass cabinet is big… it’s almost the size of a full stack or two (2) Marshall Cabinets.

And Danny had his Ampeg, inside an old beat up road case.

Now we opened that case, and had enough space to put the actual cabinet in, but it was the cases extra bulk that wasn’t making it fit.

And unlike Jimi’s drum case, even if we removed the casters, this case is not fitting!

Adding that, Jimi’s road cases were mint, basically new, where Danny’s case looked like Jimi Hendrix’s bass player used it at some point, it was just wrecked.

Out of all 7 road cases we had, Danny’s Ampeg case was by far the most beat up.

We’re an hour or so into this load and reload, and it’s clear, that case is not going to fit.

I am also looking at first to last, best to worst, and so on.

I look at Danny: “Are you sure you really want that case?” and everyone starts laughing.

He immediately gets upset: “Yes! You are NOT leaving my F#@king case behind…”

“Okay, calm down, no worries, we won’t leave it behind” I tell Danny.

Jimi Lord live at the “Lone Star” in Kansas City Missouri October 26th 1993

I now look to one of the roadies and Keith, “Here, take fifty bucks, and go over to that hardware store across the street, buy a boat tarp, and a dozen of the strongest bungee cords and a few long-haul cable ties.”

Everyone is now looking at me, “What are you waiting for?” I bark out an order like a son-of-a-bitch.

Twenty minutes later the guys return, and by this time we had unloaded Danny’s amp, from the case, and slid the amp itself into the open space, where the cabinet fit.

I then instructed the crew, let’s lift that case, and put it here, as I point to the trailer hitch between the front of the trailer and behind the van.

Danny: “What the hell are you doing?”

“You said you wanted the case, I told you we wouldn’t leave it behind” as everyone is now laughing hysterically.

“If you wreck my case…” Danny starts bitching.

As we all simultaneously look at him and I verbally bitch slap him; “Wreck your case? Dude, it’s a pile of shit!”

We spend the next several minutes placing, wrapping, strapping and securing the 2+ decade old road case to the tongue of the trailer.

 I think our 1,079 mile trip to Atlanta to Boston was more like 1,900 miles after turning around to retrieve the gear and crew.

We made it to Atlanta, rocked “The Masquerade”, and that case never left the trailer hitch for the next 3 weeks.

Danny’s case riding like a stowaway on the outside of the trailer through the rain was amazing.

All of us busted his balls on his piece of shit road case for the rest of the tour.

With each passing day, and each shitty comment, Danny kept saying: “I can’t wait to get home.”

Then someone would pretend to be Dorothy from The Wizard of Oz and say: “There’s no place like home, there’s no place like home.”

Cue Willie Nelson song… “On The Road Again”


Alice in Thunderland

It’s been about 18 months since Danny had taken the bass position after Chase quit in December of 1991.

Danny was officially brought in around mid May of 1992.

Well as much as Danny was excited to join Tuff, and see the road… he too was over it.

Over the course of 1993 there were a few other side-projects that he got involved with, and one of them was the group Alice in Thunderland.

In short, this was Emi Canyon’s band… she was 1 of the Nasty Habits back-up singers from the Motley Crue “Girls, Girls, Girls” tour.

Danny was working with her, and the guitarist (Chet Thompson) and they had some interest to sign a deal with a Japanese label, I think it was Pony Canyon Records.

Danny had done a few tours with Tuff, and a few dozen shorter West Coast runs, but the ship was … well, maybe not sinking but where we were sailing to was kind of up in the air.

Michael had left in early October before this tour, and during this tour, Danny had expressed to me and Jorge that he was going to leave after the tour ended in December.

Like with Michael’s departure, there was no real animosity and no hard feelings.

But of course there were little things said here and there.

On a day when the club was less adequately filled (which was more times than I could count) or there would be some miserable long drive or a shitty motel room, Danny would say out loud: “I can’t wait to get home.”

Or he’d drop some snarky gibberish about Alice in Thunderland’s impending big record deal.

Of course I would likely have a quick come-back with something twice as snarky, “Or, maybe you can rejoin Paradise and headline Gazzarri’s too” as everyone in the van would giggle.

I really liked Danny, he was a good guy.

But, I also saw the Hollywood side of him, the side of him that was a bit risky, and he was using some chemicals or drugs, that I found to be a bit scary.

One of those he was using was GHB.

It’s a clear liquid that became popular in the 90’s and Danny was using it on tour with Tuff.

But he absolutely kept all or most of his drug use or interests away from me, and was likely informed by Jorge to do so.

Jorge himself had battled a cocaine and meth problem for years, and while he only smoked pot in front of me, he absolutely hid the harder stuff from me and Michael over the years.

Danny was also a bit of a partner, for Jorge to smoke with, or do other drugs with while on tour.

Both smoke cigarettes, both were for the most part casual drinkers, but Jorge was Snoop-Dogg level on the pot.

Danny would occasionally smoke pot, but nowhere near what Jorge did.

Oddly, Jimi liked pot too, and smoked it fairly often, but again, not to the level that Jorge did.

Danny seemed to be playing with, or experimenting with some things that from my knowledge, Jorge was not.

This being GHB for one, and I am guessing that led to some other harder chemicals the same.

No matter which way you slice it, they both enjoyed their “party” favors, and I didn’t really care, unless it affected their ability to perform or be timely.

Over the years, Jorge was absolutely late, a lot… and that was for almost everything from rehearsals to band meetings or other.

However, when it came to performing live, of in studio, I will give Jorge credit, he was 100% all in, and usually 95% sober when we played.

He was a great player, a great performer, but at times a questionable human being to put it mildly.

Danny was also reliable to rehearse, play, perform and be available, and to my knowledge, Danny never did anything out of line that would question him as a friend or person.

In the end, drugs were part of their existence, and not mine, so there was a bit of a divide there.

Danny was the new Todd, but like Todd, was about to quit the band as well.

Oh well, what else is new?

Stevie Rachelle of Tuff at the “Thirsty Whale” Chicago, Illinois December 3rd 1993


Return to Chicago

Hello Windy City and it’s now early December.

We’re slated to play “The Thirsty Whale” in River Grove on Thursday and Friday December 2nd and 3rd.

We’ll also play “The Stingray” for 2 shows on Saturday December 4th, making it a big 3 day weekend of music from Tuff in the greater Chicago area.

The area was a great stop for us, and like some past tours we hit this area (twice) going out, and coming back.

Remember, we were here in early November during the rental van debacle, and now we’re back in early December.

The All-Ages shows were usually set up with doors opening at 6:00pm, a couple local bands will each play 30-40 minute sets and Tuff will headline at 8:00pm until about 9:15pm.

By 9:30pm, the entire club will be cleared out, and the door will open up for 21 & over.

We had done this here many times along with some other venues like “The Mason Jar” in Phoenix, “The Whisky” in Hollywood and so on, and of course with double shows, it also equals double pay.

So we’re now loading in, sound-checking and sorting all the typical daily stuff that we do on the road.

I am chatting with my favorite local girl, aspiring singer and a barely of age bartender named Lori Blondel.

Lori is a sweetheart and has been working for this club since she was 14 years old.

She runs the bar-area for the All-Ages shows but has a mouth like a trucker and takes no shit from anyone, including Rock Stars on tour.

She grew up in this town, in the clubs and around all these bands, local and otherwise and ruled with an iron fist even at 102 lbs.

Now it’s time to sort the daily list, you guessed it… the guest list.

At some point I take our guest list in to see Lori’s boss and club owner, Jimmy DeCanio.

Yes, another Italian guy named Jimmy who owned a rock club, just like in Philadelphia.

As I said Tuff had played here a ton, going back to our first Mid-West tour in the summer of 1989.

And Chicago for us was a really good market.

We had a lot of radio support from the biggest rock radio station in town, 103.5 The Blaze, who played “I Hate Kissing You Goodbye” in heavy rotation.

In addition to the “Whale” as it was often called, Tuff played the “Vic Theatre”, “Gateway Theatre”, “Cubby Bear Lounge” and “Chances R” among other area clubs.

But there is no doubt; “The Thirsty Whale” was our home away from home gig in Chi-Town.

In addition to our fans and friends from Chicago we had also established a great friendship with Enuff Z’Nuff who would usually come down and say hey if they were not on tour.

This weekend was no different as Chip Z’Nuff and Vikki Foxx both stopped in and hung out with us on the Saturday night.

Thirsty Whale local muscle Lori Blondel with Tuff Mom (Stevie’s Mom)
Backstage at the “Thirsty Whale” with Tuff Z’Nuff – 1993
Jorge DeSaint, Stevie Rachelle, Vikki Foxx, Chip Z’Nuff & Jimi Lord
Lori Blondel and Stevie Rachelle at the “Thirsty Whale” Chicago, Illinois 1993

So I go knock on Jimmy’s office to chat with him about the night and weekend’s shows.

He’s confirming doors, set-time, deposit, payout, food and then we get to the guest list.

I hand him the guest list and my memory is, it wasn’t a lot of people, but again like Philly maybe 15 names.

He’s now looking at the list, “Who are all these people?”

I start telling him, “This is my buddy from Milwaukee, this is my Mom, this is…”

Jimmy interrupts me: “Your Mom? I have no problem letting your Mom in Steve… no problem”

“But your friends and buddies… they are coming to support you, right?”

I am now muttering away: “Umm, yeah, sure… they wanna support me…”

“Then why don’t they pay? It’s only $10.00… why do I gotta let all these people in for Free?”

“Thirsty Whale” owner Jimmy DeCanio (RIP) with Stanley of L.S.D.

“Are you gonna play for Free?” he asks.

Me: “Umm, well no…”

He’s as serious as the ceiling is low on the “Thirsty Whale” stage.

And for the record, it was pretty f#@king low.

“Umm, well ahh…” as I begin to babble some more.

Jimmy then goes on a bit of a tirade.

“Steve… I don’t want to let any of these F#@kers in for Free…  I am running a business here.”

“You want your Mom to come in? No problem.  I want to meet your Mom, but the rest… they gotta pay!”

Jimmy continues: “Their pay is helping me, pay you, and you don’t want to play for Free, right? Well, I don’t want to do anything for Free either Steve.”

I am sitting there as he’s breaking it all down for me, busting my balls and I agreed.

He was 100% right.

“That goes for the food too… you want a sandwich? If you want 5 sandwiches, I will give you as much food as you, and your band and crew want to eat.”

“Drinks too… but not your F#@king friends!” as Jimmy rants on.

“I am not feeding all your F#@king friends… they can buy their own F#@king food and drinks.”

“I don’t wanna see 1 guy, who is not with your band or crew take a single F#@king drink out of that dressing room! And if I do….”

He’s borderline mad as hell now, and letting me have it pretty good.

His voice went from “I am not happy” to “Do NOT F#@K with me!”

I assure him: “Jimmy, it’s all good, I totally understand.”

Chicago rock royalty Tony ‘The Shark’ Labarbera – RIP

Jimmy is now calmer and his voice settles a bit: “Steve. I know you do. You’re a good kid. I like you. I like your band. You guys always do good business for me…”

“….but these bands who come into my club, and F#@k around, and give my beer away to their drunk friends, and all these others… I don’t like it.”

He now continues with the same about the deli-tray they bought us which was part of our rider.

“If I see so much as 1 slice of baloney on the floor, I swear to Christ…”

“I will feed you guys, but this stuff isn’t for a food fight, or some of your drunk F#@king friends to F#@k off with… do you understand?”

I was polite the whole way, and knew Jimmy was right.

“Jimmy, I get it… say no more… I will handle it.”

He’s literally booked Tuff on a dozen or more occasions and it’s always been great.

But like the bands, a club like the “Thirsty Whale” that had a lot of hair-bands, and 80’s rock shows happen there, they too were struggling in the 90’s.

Jimmy was nothing but nice to us, but he also ruled his club like a mob guy and he didn’t take any shit.

And even his teenage bar-tender Lori, she learned from him too… don’t let her pretty face fool ya.

Sadly Jimmy DeCanio passed away a few years ago.

Tony “Shark” LaBarbera also passed away on July 1st 2021.

Tony was another great guy from the area who made things go in the music scene, for decades in Chicago.

RIP Jimmy DeCanio, RIP Tony “Shark” Labarbara and RIP “The Thirsty Whale”.

I also now learned the club’s long-time soundman Mark also passed away.

All of these people played a huge part in bringing Tuff to Chicago over many years time.

I miss you all, and I miss Chicago, thanks to all of you who did so much for Tuff.

Tuff left to right: Jorge DeSaint (Guitars), Danny Wilder (Bass), Stevie Rachelle (Vocals) and Michael Lean (Drums) – Photo By William Hames, Copyright RLS Entertainment 2022


Headed West and Losing Our Bassist Again

At this point we’re a solid 7 weeks and over 35 shows into this tour, and finally headed homeward.

From the Midwest to our home-base is roughly another 2,000 miles, but first we’ll pull into Denver and then shoot up towards Salt Lake City before returning to California.

Denver to Salt Lake City is a brutal 500+ mile trip and we’ve done this several times before.

Going back 2 years ago to the same cities, the same clubs and nearly the exact dates we are once again winding down a long U.S. club tour.

Back in 1991 on this same final stretch is where we had that fight going down the highway.

If you recall in TUFF DIARIES #16, this is when Jorge and I had our big blowout in the van and that was the last straw for Chase, who quit a few weeks later.

On December 5, 1991 we played at “Bangles” in Denver and the very next day we played our last show of the “What Comes Around Goes Around” tour at “Rafters” in Salt Lake City Utah.

Now 2 years later, almost to the date, we’ll play “Bangle’s” in Denver on December 7th and the next day appear at “Rafter’s” in Salt Lake City.

The only thing different on this tour, is we’ll have 2 more shows in California once we’re home.

But also like that 1991 tour where Todd would ultimately play his final shows with the band, these are Danny’s final shows as well.

We knew this as he had pretty much told us after this run he was going to leave Tuff to pursue the Alice In Thunderland project with Emi Canyon.

As this tour winds down it was more about just getting home in 1 piece, with our equipment, the vehicles and hopefully our health.

1993 was my 7th year in the band, and Jorge’s 9th year in the group that he co-founded with Todd Chase on New Years Eve of 1984.

By this point Chase had been gone 2 years and Michael 2 months.

What does the future hold?

Is there a future?

Only time will tell, and soon enough the calendar will change again, and it will be 1994.

And 1994 starts out rocking and rolling, way more than any of us could have imagined….


Simple, we lived in Reseda which borders Northridge, and on January 17th 1994, we experienced the Northridge Earthquake.

So much so, the epicenter was roughly 1 mile, from our house. Ugh…

Thank you for reading… and stay tuned for TUFF DIARIES #20.

Stevie Rachelle



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


Tuff – U.S. Tour Fall / Winter 1993

October 19, 1993, Phoenix, AZ @ “The Mason Jar“
October 20, 1993, Albuquerque, NM @ “El Rey Theater“
October 21, 1993, El Paso, TX @ “Sa-So’s“
October 22, 1993, Killeen, TX @ “Escapades“
October 23, 1993, Dallas, TX @ “City Limits“
October 24, 1993, Houston, TX @ “Backstage“
October 26, 1993, Kansas City, MO @ “Lone Star“
October 28, 1993, Davenport, IA @ “Mr. Roger’s Neighborhood“
October 29, 1993, Minneapolis, MN @ “The Mirage“
October 30, 1993, Des Moines, IA @ “Center Stage“
October 31, 1993, Milwaukee, WI @ “The Haven“

November 2, 1993, Cedar Rapids, IA @ “Big Dogs“
November 3, 1993, Green Bay, WI @ “Orpheum Theater“
November 5, 1993, Chicago, IL @ “Thirsty Whale“  *2 shows
November 6, 1993, Chicago, IL @ “Thirsty Whale“  *2 shows
November 8, 1993, Richmond, KY @ “Phone 3“
November 9, 1993, Indianapolis, IN @ “Backstage“
November 10, 1993, Detroit, MI @ “I-Rock“
November 11, 1993, Covington, KY @ “100 West“
November 12, 1993, Philadelphia, PA @ “Cell Block“
November 13, 1993, Newark, NJ @ “Studio 1“
November 17, 1993, New Britain, CT @ “The Sting“
November 18, 1993, Staten Island, NY @ “The Wave“
November 19, 1993, Boston, MA @ “Rock Pile“
November 20, 1993, Brockton, MA @ “Derringer’s“
November 21, 1993, Salisbury, MA @ “Chapter 2“
November 24, 1993, Atlanta, GA @ “Masquerade“
November 25, 1993, Hickory, NC @ “Cowboys“
November 26, 1993, Charlotte, NC @ “Rocky’s“
November 27, 1993, Winston-Salem, NC @ “Rittenhouse Square“

December 2, 1993, Chicago, IL @ “Thirsty Whale“
December 3, 1993, Chicago, IL @ “Thirsty Whale“  *2 shows
December 4, 1993, Oakland, IL @ “The Stingray“  *2 shows
December 5, 1993, Memphis, TN @ “Illusions“
December 7, 1993, Denver, CO @ “Bangles“
December 9, 1993, Salt Lake City, UT @ “Rafters“
December 16, 1993, Hollywood, CA @ “The Whisky“
December 17, 1993, San Diego, CA @ “Chillers“

See TUFF DIARIES entries all listed below… the series will be 25 parts!

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 G’bye 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 heaing & my 1st Playmate  (June 2nd 2019)
Entry #13 Recording 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, the L.A. Riots, a New Bassist & Jason Flom Part II (March 2021)
Entry #18
WildSide, Dee Snidet, Tour Fun, Baywatch, Label Search & Living In Reseda (Aug. 2021)
Entry #19 1993, Michael Resigns, River Phoenix, Thirsty Whale, He’s Got a Gun, Stolen Van & Danny Quits (Jan. 2022)
Entry #20 1994, Northridge Earthquake, Kurt Cobain, RLS Records, releasing “Fist First” (May 2022)

Tuff @ Facebook –  eBay – Amazon– iTunes – Instagram – Twitter – Store– Discogs –YouTube

Stevie Rachelle @ Twitter – Facebook – Facebook 2 – Intsagram –  Reverbnation – Metal Sludge – Donate –

Tuff “Rattle My Bones” live at “Big Dogs” Cedar Rapids Iowa Nov. 2nd 1993
Stevie Rachelle (Vocals), Jorge DeSaint (Guitars), Danny Wilder (Bass) and Jimi Lord (Drums)


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