Richard Lloyd: 'Scuse Me While I Hit This Guy
Originally published in Guitar World, December 2009
In 1969, Jimi Hendrix slugged Richard Lloyd. Forty years after, Lloyd punches back with a hard-hitting tribute album to Mr. Purple Haze himself. Writer Charles M. Young traces the television cofounder's connection—and devotion—to the world's most legendary guitarist.
Somewhere around Black River Falls on I-94, Richard Lloyd pulled a large yellow onion out of his shoulder bag and started eating it like an apple.
“What the fuck are you doing?” I said.
“This is going to cure my laryngitis,” Richard said, spraying little bits of onion into the air through the gaps in his teeth. Onion juice dribbled down his chin.
“No, it isn’t,” I said. “The doctor told you the only thing that would help your voice was not talking.”
“Onions are anti-viral,” Richard said, continuing to munch and spray. The four of us—me, Richard, drummer Billy Ficca and bassist Keith Hartel—were riding in a Honda compact SUV. Even with the clubs furnishing the “backline” (bass amp and most of the drum kit), the car was dangerously overloaded, with two Stratocasters, two Precision basses, an ancient Supro Thunderbolt amplifier, Billy’s snare and cymbals and kick-drum pedal, all our bags, souvenirs that Richard bought in every truck stop, half-consumed bottles of prescription and nonprescription medicine that Richard bought in every drug store, half-consumed bottles of herbal elixirs that Richard bought in every New Age emporium, and a boggling array of books on occult weirdness, brain science and the sexual habits of tribal peoples around the world. So shit was piled up to the ceiling in back, shit was piled up to the shoulder in the backseat between me and Billy, and shit was piled up to the elbow in the front seat between Keith, who was driving, and Richard, who was being Richard, in the shotgun seat.
“I have a virus,” Richard continued, as he turned 180 degrees and rested his chin on the top of his seat, fixing his unwavering eyes on mine, which were about 20 inches away. “It has nothing to do with talking. I had four years of medical school, so I know.”
I briefly considered yelling at him, as I had considered yelling at him many times during our tour of small clubs that had taken us down the East Coast, across the South and up the Midwest. It had already been a really long day, with Richard waking up at 6:00 a.m., after a late show in Minneapolis, and demanding medical treatment for his throat, which was ravaged both by singing every night and by his habit of talking relentlessly for 18 to 20 hours every day. So I—the embedded journalist and T-shirt seller and designated babysitter—took him over to the Hennepin County Medical Center, where we spent five hours dealing with security guards, clerks, aides, nurses and doctors, all of whom heard Richard insist that he needed a shot of cortisone in his vocal cords and they couldn’t fool with him because he had four years of medical school, which any moron could tell he didn’t. I was hoping that someone would notice he was barking mad and put him in a rubber room for a month so he could get his meds adjusted. Instead we got a prescription for lozenges, which Richard threw in the doctor’s face. I then began hoping that someone other than me would beat the crap out of him and put him back in the hospital. Indeed, Richard was so irritating as he tried to convince people to stare at the sun with him on the sidewalk outside the hospital that a couple of guys began to square off with unmistakable violence in their eyes. But it didn’t quite happen. And we drove down I-94, where I decided to respond to the onion in the manner of Billy and Keith and just stare out the window with a clenched jaw and watering eyes.