This is a series of lessons from the on-the-road gear guys and what they learned. Some are from roadies who were there and some are from the players themselves and what they learned.
“Never work for someone you’re not allowed to talk to.”
This lesson is from gear roadie Steve Dikum. Steve honed his skills from spending close to 20 years on the road. He’s toured with bands like ZZ Top, Fleetwood Mac, Warren Zevon, Aerosmith and Little Feat; just to name a few. Here’s a story of when he worked for Prince… for a short time.
I was hired to work for Prince a number of years back. He was between tours and he needed a guitar tech. He wanted someone that could build him a new hot rig, and someone mentioned my name. So they fly me out to the Purple Palace, that’s his studio in Minneapolis. They set me up with a rental car, great wages, and a suite in this beautiful hotel. And I’m thinking, ‘this is pretty preferential treatment for a guitar tech.’
I soon found out why.
Because if you looked out the back window of your suite, there’s a patch of woods, then you can see this purple square cube sticking up. That cube is the Purple Palace. And the reason I was so generously given a rental car and a pimp suite, was that I had to stay right there in that room, 24/7 and be ready to answer the phone, whether it was 10am, 10pm, or 3am – and it was my responsibility to hop in that rental car, and get down to the Purple Palace before Prince got there.
The rule was to get there before he got there, and leave after he left.
So I get my first phone call. I race to get dressed, fly through the halls of the hotel. Leap into my rental car, and burn rubber the entire half-mile stretch to the Purple Palace. I go running in, sweating, and as I’m meeting the rest of the crew, one of the guys pulls me aside and says, “Now remember Steve, no matter what happens, you are not allowed to talk directly to Prince, ever.” Like, you’re in deep shit if you talk to Prince. And I was amazed. Here I am, his personal guitar tech, building a rig to his specifications, and I’m not allowed to talk to the guy.
I’m wondering, ‘how the hell is this going to work?’ And it was a bit intimidating. He would come in, and he would have his personal bodyguards with him. And no-one would dare speak to the guy. It was really strange.
So I kept trying to get rigs going for him. And everyday I would ask the Production Manager – “What does Prince think of this?” Or “What does Prince think of that?” And the Production Manager would say, “Well, if Prince is in the right mood, I’ll ask him.” I’d see the Production Manager the next morning and say, “Well, what’d he say?” And he’d respond, “Prince wasn’t in the right mood, so I didn’t ask him.”
Okay – well how am I supposed to do this, I try this and I try that and I don’t get any reaction on his face, and he doesn’t say anything to me, and I’m not allowed to ask him – how do I know if I’m doing the job he hired me for?
It was around this point I’d learned that I was the sixth guitar tech in as many months to work for Prince. And you could see why. It’s no wonder he never got his rig working properly.
I didn’t last very long at that job.–
This story originally came from Vintage Guitar Magazine and this website.