Don Meets: Tom Waits in New Orleans

Late 70s: My late partner, Lee Arbuckle, and I were working in New Orleans and staying at the Rock & Roll hotel, The La Richelieu. We ran into the late promo rep, Jerry Barrett, who said he had Tom Waits at a Bossier City joint that night. He invited us and some other record business types to check him out.

I was aware of Waits who had adopted this Disreputable Bum persona and sang with a grainy, rough voice. He'd written some great songs including one of my favorites, "Old 55." So we fell by there after dinner and drank on Warner Brothers for the evening, really enjoying Tom's was him at a piano and guitar, supported by a drummer and bass player, and they were very together.

I had wondered if he was as difficult and abrasive in real life as his legend claimed, so after the curtain closed I went backstage to congratulate him on his new album and the show. I walked up with my hand out to shake. He ignored it, and said, "Are you the a**hole from the record company?" and I replied, "No, that's him over there," pointing at Jerry and walked away.

When I got back to our table Lee asked me if Waits actually was as offensive as his reputation as rumored, and I said, "Yep, he's the real deal." But that did not reflect on his music or talent, which I did appreciate. It was just his attitude and was no skin off the seat of my jeans, because I wouldn't have to work with him.

Here's a really cool video of Tom Waits doing his song, THE HEART OF SATURDAY NIGHT, around that time with excellent picture and sound in live performance. @therealdonrocks

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