Today’s post is not really a blog. It’s just a great epic story that I wanted to share with you about the amazing coincidences that happen from time to time in life.
When I was a kid we used to run home from elementary school and go over to my lifelong friend Richard Garza’s house and make prank phone calls. Richards older brother John was kind of an audiophile and his Dad Hazael had an amazing record collection. As long as we made some fun prank calls John would let us hang out because he enjoyed them.
Prank calls can seem foolish and a waste of time to boring people with no sense of humor but if you can’t laugh, and especially at yourself, what kind of life are you living?
We did this so much in my childhood I got really good at it. It went on to be a blessing later in life as my phone skills were sharp as a razor and booking bands and getting through to people that seemed impossible to get on the phone was easy for me.
In high school I had a great singer in my hard rock band Acylum. His name was Costa Liollio. Costa knew I loved prank calls and he brought over a cassette one day of some legendary prank calls his father got a hold of. Costa’s Dad was named George Liollio and he was this big Italian man that owned a TV repair shop across the street from my high school.
He had these mesmerizing eyes that drove all the girls crazy. His wife was a beautiful lady from Greece that was our Art teacher. The girls from high school used to poke their head in the door at his shop to get a peek at his eyes and then they would run off and giggle, I even knew a couple of girls that went in and asked for directions to the Sonic that was next door just so they had an excuse to talk to him.
That tape Costa brought over was so funny we wore it out and made copy after copy for all of our friends. Little did I know how profound that one cassette would come to be in my future.
In the early 90’s I moved to North Texas to study music at U.N.T. There was this record store on Fry street called 14 Records that was owned by a music aficionado named Big Bucks Burnett. He was a great guy and I loved going to his store because he always had the coolest stuff and stories to tell. He was even friends with Jimmy Page. How cool is that? He had a copy of the same pranks I did and he called them the Trucker Tapes.
Once I started touring with my band Riddle Me This we would all take those tapes in the van with us and listen to them on the road. Almost every band I knew was listening to them and still do even in modern times. My friend Mike Wiebe the singer for the River Boat Gamblers loves them. It seemed like everywhere I went and I spoke of those calls someone would light up across the room and come over and start reciting lines from the calls and high five me. This happened so many times I quit counting. I was such a fan of the calls when I put out my first CD in 1995 in the liner notes where I put my thank you’s the last thing I wrote was
“And a big thanks to whoever the hell that guy is who did those genius Lucius Tate phone calls.”
I was one of the first bands I knew to get up a website and start using it for promotion in the early 90’s. I even had this genius guy Jim McNeely build me a database in Filemaker Pro so we could stay in touch with our fans. A few years after I did that I get this email out of the blue from a guy named Dan and he says “Hey man, I dig your music and I am building a website for the guy you thanked on your CD Lucius Tate. I was blown away. We had heard so many rumors as to who and where these calls happened. I heard the guy was in jail, we heard he was a radio DJ, and now I was finally going to find out who this brilliant man was.
Dan got us in touch and the notorious creator of Lucius Tate and his wife came out to see my band play on the courthouse lawn in Denton Texas. The minute I saw this big, built like a football player, character walking up and his pretty wife I knew it was him.
We went to an Italian restaurant that night after the show and hung out for hours. I had so many questions. I knew all the calls by heart. He told me all the stories behind them and we have become the greatest of friends since. He lives two hours away from me in a small town and one of my most cherished memories, and there are a lot with this guy, is this-
A few years ago Spin magazine published an article on the five greatest prank phone callers of all time. Lucius was in the top five and rightfully so. I called him and told him, he didn’t even know. They didn’t sell Spin magazine in his town so he had to drive to Dallas to buy copies.
I was so notorious for prank calls and my love of them something we’ve all experienced started happening. Guilt by association. My good friend John Aruzian’s assistant Sylvia was taking ballet in my home town and somehow my name came up as a potential performer at a benefit for the ballet troupe. I had a friend Chris Savino who was a guitar builder here in town at the time. His wife jumped up at this meeting and said “I will not have anything to do with this Eric Keyes. He is a notorious prank caller and has harassed one of my friends.” Of course none of this was true, but it is funny how people make associations randomly sometimes. I called my friends wife and made it clear it wasn’t me, I don’t think she ever believed it though. I even had a friend relate to me that the great band Brave Combo had been getting prank calls for years from some funny guy and there was word out that it might be me. Once again completely untrue but funny as hell. How gossip and rumors spread.
If this wasn’t enough check this out, this really takes the cake. So the aforementioned Richard is getting married several years later in Austin and I get the invitation in the mail. My girlfriend and I are at the wedding and things are going great and we’re having the part of the wedding where the bride and groom are getting toasted and roasted. All of the sudden these prank calls start getting played over the P.A. that spanned a period of years. These were prank calls on Richard. He had casually mentioned to me something about these before but it was miniscule. At the wedding he looks at me, frowns and is kind of shaking his head and says to me “Beez (my nickname in Houston) I knew this was you all along, you Mo-Fo.” This goes on for a few minutes and finally I am let off the hook as his fiancee and sister are looking incredibly suspicious as they are turning purple and holding back laughter and it is revealed finally that it was them all along.
You see how things can be misconstrued in so many ways? And this is just one of a myriad of examples I could share with you of this phenomena. Like my good friend Bill Dear says- “Never assume, always verify.”
I can tell you one thing for sure- you will know if I prank phone call you.
I know all those guys and they would have known if it was me. I have been retired from prank calls for years but I still love a good laugh and am thinking about coming out of retirement, but I’m so busy with music, not much time for folderol these days. However there’s always time for a good laugh.
Speaking of a good laugh here is a link to Lucius’s website so you can see and hear this legend at work.
Have a look around and download some of his greatest hits. Make a prank call mixed CD for stocking stuffers. Your family and friends will laugh their ass off and love you all the more for it.