“URBAN LEGENDS, TRAGEDIES, AND HAUNTINGS OF ROCK & ROLL” #WeirdDarkness
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IN THIS EPISODE: The mythos of rock and roll music started as soon as Elvis and his swiveling hips hit the stage. But with a powerful mystique comes stories, legends, and myths—some of them true, some of them true but exaggerated, and some of them just plain made up. Others are misconceptions passed down through the generations, despite never being true. These are the most persistent urban legends and rumors in rock history, with an emphasis on the rock myths that are a little more unknown. Sure, you know about Phil Collins and the drowning man, but did you know that despite wearing dark glasses all the time, Roy Orbison was not actually blind? Or that two famous rock legends actually did die in the same apartment, years apart? The most infamous urban legends, tragedies, curses, and even a few hauntings within the annals of Rock and Roll, in this episode of Weird Darkness! *** (Originally aired February 19, 2021)
SOURCES AND REFERENCES FROM THE EPISODE…
“Urban Legends of Rock and Roll” by Mike Rothschild https://weirddarkness.tiny.us/glsstdfw, and Jodi Smith https://weirddarkness.tiny.us/lp9dyn08
“Rock and Roll Curses & Superstitions” by Jacob Shelton https://weirddarkness.tiny.us/33oyxyt7
“Rock Band Tragedies” by Daniel Kohn https://weirddarkness.tiny.us/37ufqpg5
“Bobby Mackey’s Haunted Night Club” by Michelle Nati https://weirddarkness.tiny.us/1sxph150
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Life in the public eye means enduring wild rumors accepted as facts after a slew of retweets. Crazy rock star stories, like the Marilyn Manson rumors about removing a rib for flexibility, are fun in theory; but they don’t usually hold any truth. But rock and rolls myths, such as curses in the music industry, have gained a life of their own. A few rocker stories are so crazy, so outlandish, they sound as if they must be fake. But friends, family, journalists, and bandmates have corroborated as true a few of the creepiest ones – which goes to show you that truth is stranger than fiction.
I’m Darren Marlar and this is Weird Darkness.
Welcome, Weirdos – (I’m Darren Marlar and) this is Weird Darkness. Here you’ll find stories of the paranormal, supernatural, legends, lore, the strange and bizarre, crime, conspiracy, mysterious, macabre, unsolved and unexplained.
Coming up in this episode…
The mythos of rock and roll music started as soon as… wait a minute… we’re talking about rock music in this episode… I need something with a bit more of a crunch. (MUSIC CHANGE) Ah yes, there we go!
The mythos of rock and roll music started as soon as Elvis and his swiveling hips hit the stage. But with a powerful mystique comes stories, legends, and myths—some of them true, some of them true but exaggerated, and some of them just plain made up. Others are misconceptions passed down through the generations, despite never being true. These are the most persistent urban legends and rumors in rock history, with an emphasis on the rock myths that are a little more unknown. Sure, you know about Phil Collins and the drowning man, but did you know that despite wearing dark glasses all the time, Roy Orbison was not actually blind? Or that two famous rock legends actually did die in the same apartment, years apart? The most infamous urban legends, tragedies, curses, and even a few hauntings within the annals of Rock and Roll, in this episode of Weird Darkness!
If you’re new here, welcome to the show! While you’re listening, be sure to check out WeirdDarkness.com for merchandise, to visit sponsors you hear about during the show, sign up for my newsletter, enter contests, connect with me on social media, plus, you can visit the Hope in the Darkness page if you’re struggling with depression or dark thoughts. You can find all of that and more at WeirdDarkness.com.
Now.. bolt your doors, lock your windows, turn off your lights, and come with me into the Weird Darkness!
STORY: URBAN LEGENDS OF ROCK AND ROLL=====
***Legend has it that Charles Manson wrote a song with or for The Beach Boys. Before you scoff at the impossibility of this, know that it’s completely true. Before he was a psychopathic murderer, Manson was just another struggling songwriter in LA. In 1968, Beach Boys drummer Dennis Wilson had a chance meeting with two female members of the nascent Manson Family, picking them up while they were hitchhiking, leading to Manson and Wilson forming a strange friendship. Manson wrote a song for Wilson to give to The Beach Boys, titled “Cease to Exist.” Wilson liked the song, re-wrote the lyrics and titled it “Never Learn Not to Love.” Manson was reportedly enraged by Wilson changing his lyrics and taking credit. Though accounts differ as to what happened when Manson confronted Wilson, the strange songwriter was soon out of Wilson’s life, and went on to bigger things, namely carving a swath of destruction through Topanga Canyon with his cult family.
***Roy Orbison’s normal attire of black clothes and his stationary concerts gave him the aura of a sad, dark man. And the huge dark glasses he wore both on and off stage led to something else: a persistent rumor that the singer was either born blind or blinded from an accident at some point in his life. The truth is that Orbison was never blind, though he did wear thick glasses to correct his vision. As the story goes, he once accidentally left them on a plane, and the only other pair he had were prescription sunglasses, so he wore those on stage. The next day he left for Europe to open for the Beatles, and didn’t have time to find his old glasses or get new ones made, so he just kept the sunglasses on. That tour received massive press coverage, and by the time he returned home, he was “the singer in the dark glasses.” So he made them part of his persona.
***Arguably, no rock and roll moments are as mythic as the ones involving Ozzy Osbourne biting the head off various animals. In 1981, with his first solo record on the verge of US release, Osbourne planned to release doves as a peace offering of sorts during the Epic Records annual sales convention. Instead, the intoxicated rock star grabbed a dove and bit its head off – then did it to another one. Osbourne’s decapitation of winged creatures didn’t end with doves, though. On January 20, 1982, Osbourne was touring for his second solo album, Diary of a Madman. While performing at the Veteran’s Memorial Auditorium in Des Moines, IA, 17-year-old Mark Neal threw a bat on stage. Osbourne, assuming the animal was plastic, bit the head off a very real, very dead bat. He was taken to the hospital and treated for rabies, marking the last time he bit off any animal’s head.
***Did Mama Cass die from choking on a sandwich? A half-eaten ham sandwich was found by the body of singer Mama Cass Elliot in the London flat, leading the media to put two and two together and declare she choked to death on it. It’s not true, and never had any truth to it. In fact, Elliot’s death from heart failure was probably due to the stress she put on herself through an extreme form of fasting, attempting to quickly lose a large amount of weight. Like so many other urban legends, the ham sandwich rumor has become accepted as fact, despite it not being true in the least. Unlike Phil Collins’s drowning victim, or the woman murdered by the Ohio Players, this urban legend has a real victim behind it: a great singer who died before her time, whose legacy is burdened with an ugly, fat-shaming smear, and should be debunked at every opportunity. While we’re talking about Mama Cass, there’s the rumor that she and Keith Moon from The Who died in the same apartment – at the same age. This urban legend is actually true. Mamas and the Papas singer Mama Cass and The Who drummer Keith Moon did actually die in the same London flat, four years apart. The apartment belonged to American singer Harry Nilsson, who was so spooked by the two deaths that he never went back. Instead, the apartment was bought by The Who lead singer Pete Townshend, to keep it from being exploited as a tourist trap.
***Why would someone record three dozen intentionally bad gibberish songs? In 1967, Irish troubadour Van Morrison was stuck in a brutally unfair record deal, and tangled in a dispute with his manager’s widow. Finally, he managed to get his contract bought out by Warner Brothers, but was still bound to the terms of his old deal, which required him to write and record 36 more songs. But Morrison got the last laugh. Knocking out over 30 songs in one day, Morrison fulfilled his end of the deal, recording short, out-of-tune, nonsensical tracks about ring worms, Danishes, and overdue royalty checks. These so-called “revenge songs” were useless to his old record company, but they did the trick, freeing Morrison up to start a run of albums that are hardly surpassed in rock greatness.
***Deep Purple and the building fire. Deep Purple’s “Smoke on the Water” came during a genuine moment of inspiration. On December 4, 1971, the English rockers prepared to record in Switzerland at a studio within the Montreux Casino. That night, as Frank Zappa and the Mothers of Invention played in the casino’s theater, a fan shot a flare gun at the rattan-covered ceiling. A fire quickly spread, destroying the entire casino complex and the studio. The band watched from their hotel across the water as the Montreux burned. Inspired by the events, they wrote “Smoke on the Water,” with the lyrics: “But Frank Zappa and the Mothers, Were at the best place around, But some stupid with a flare gun, Burned the place to the ground.”
***Various stories have swirled about Aerosmith almost buying the plane that later crashed and nearly killed everyone in Lynyrd Skynyrd. I’ll talk more about Lynyrd Skynyrd later, but what actually happened with Aerosmith is a lot less mystical, and is based on good observation and strong human resources. Right before the Skynyrd crash, Aerosmith’s assistant chief of flight operations (yes, that’s a job) checked out the Convair CV-300 that Skynyrd later chartered and deemed it unworthy of the Boston band, either because he saw the crew drinking or the engine caught on fire in his presence. Unfortunately, for Skynyrd, they had no such luck, and spent years trying to pick up the pieces from the incident. Note to future rock stars: your assistant chief of flight operations might save your life one day, so check references.
***KISS licensed their likenesses for use in a ton of commercial products and media during their 1970s heyday. Along with caskets, condoms, and Scooby-Doo appearances, the band agreed to appear in a Marvel comic book. The group donated blood to add into the red ink used to print Marvel Comics Super Special #1. Publicity photos even show the band mixing blood into the ink, and a notary public certified its authenticity.
***The urban legend about Guns & Roses and the drummer’s girlfriend. While recording their smash hit Appetite for Destruction, Guns singer Axl Rose brought drummer Steven Adler’s girlfriend, Adriana Smith, to the studio, and the duo engaged in activity that could euphemistically be described as “not drumming.” It was captured on tape during an incredibly awkward recording session and included on the track “Rocket Queen.” Numerous people saw it, and nobody involved with the incident ever did anything but confirm it. Smith later came to regret the incident before coming to grips with her weird claim to fame.
***For years, rumors circulated about Depeche Mode’s Dave Gahan biting a journalist as an act of vampirism back in 1993. It turns out the legend is true, but less dramatic. The incident took place backstage at the Jones Beach Amphitheater during Depeche Mode’s tour with Primal Scream. Gahan, dependent on heroin and cocaine by this point, summoned reporter Andrew Perry to his armchair at the center of a pre-show party. According to Perry, “He said, ‘I’m gonna curse you!’ and the next thing I know he’s bitten me on the neck.” Perry admitted the bite was gentler than it sounded, calling it “more of a love bite.” Gahan, meanwhile, said, “I definitely could have been a vampire, in my own head; I was fascinated by it at the time.”
***While history remembers the trio of Buddy Holly, Richie Valens, and the Big Bopper being killed in a plane crash on “The Day the Music Died,” which we’ll touch on later in this episode. But most people don’t know that future outlaw country superstar Waylon Jennings played bass in Holly’s band – and might have indirectly caused his death. Holly had chartered a plane to take him and the band to the next show, and being a nice guy, Jennings gave up his seat to the Big Bopper, getting on the bus instead. While the band members figured out their travel arrangements, Holly chided Jennings, “I hope your ol’ bus freezes up!” to which Jennings replied, equally, “Well, I hope your ol’ plane crashes!” Which it did. Thinking he’d cursed Holly, Jennings blamed himself for the crash and carried the guilt with him the rest of his life. But words and curses don’t make planes crash, and in this case, it was pilot error and bad weather, not the ill-advised joke of Waylon Jennings that sent Holly to his death.
***Lou Reed’s album Berlin is widely hailed as one of the bleakest records of all time. Capping off the horrific tale of a marriage gone wrong is the song “The Kids” which actually features album producer Bob Ezrin’s kids crying and wailing. Legend has it Ezrin and Reed got this effect by telling them their mother was dead and recording the horrifying aftermath. In reality though, Ezrin got his kids to cry on tape in a more old fashioned way – recording them refusing to go to bed.
***Was one of the most iconic songs of the ’70s, Bachman-Turner Overdrive’s “Takin’ Care of Business,” written in part by a pizza delivery guy who happened to be at the studio? Various versions of this rumor have gone around for years, putting the band in a scenario where they’re working on the song but something is missing – and that something is a piano part. Some versions have the pizza guy actually playing the iconic barrelhouse piano part on the song, others have him just sketching out the chords on a pizza box for someone else to play. Then he vanished, leaving the band to find him and give him a check. Neither version is true, though both are espoused by various members of the band. In reality, the piano player on the song was a professional musician who was in the same studio as BTO, recording commercial jingles. The band’s engineer asked him to play piano on the song, and the musician, Norman Durkee, did so – banging out one take of a boogie-woogie that became the best known part of the song. Durkee claims pizza had nothing to do with it. Durkee, who died in 2014, claimed he was paid $90 for the take.
***Maybe the best known of all rock urban legends is a persistent story that has Phil Collins writing his hit song “In the Air Tonight” after he was on a night drive and witnessed a man drowning, while another man stood on the beach watching the victim go under. The story goes even further, with Collins premiering the song live in concert, having sent tickets to the man who witnessed the drowning. He then ordered a spotlight onto the man, telling the audience that this new song was dedicated to him. The witness, publicly shamed by a rock star, goes home and kills himself. The problem is that absolutely none of this happened, nor is it even plausible. How would Collins be able to see any of this without being so close that he couldn’t just save the drowning man himself? How did he know who the witness was? Why would a man be randomly invited to a Phil Collins concert (by Phil Collins himself) and think that’s normal? Furthermore, the legend itself has a number of different versions, with some saying Collins actually witnessed a sexual assault, or tried to prevent the drowning and couldn’t, or couldn’t find the man and sings the song to a spot-lit empty chair. It’s all nonsense, as Collins himself has confirmed many times.
***Rolling Stones guitarist Keith Richards is well known for his history of imbibing and his sky-high substance tolerance. Contrary to popular rumor, the unkillable Rolling Stones guitarist never had his entire blood supply swapped out in Switzerland. While he did have a procedure to clean toxins out of his blood in an effort to kick heroin, the blood replacement story was a joke he told because he got sick of talking about his attempts to clean up. There’s no actual way to “change” a person’s blood, anyway. But with a rumor like that, the idea of Richards snorting his late father’s remains didn’t always seem too far-fetched. After his dad’s passing in 2002, Richards admitted he mixed a bit of the ash with some harder stuff and snorted the concoction. Richards later clarified what happened: “[I] opened my dad’s ashes and some of the blew out over the table. What am I gonna do? Do I desecrate them with a dustbin and broom? So I wet my finger and shoved a little bit of dad up me hooter.” Richards also allegedly told his daughters to do the same with his ashes.
***Michael Jackson and Prince, the duet. Back in the mid-80s (shortly after Phil Collins didn’t witness someone drowning), Michael Jackson and Prince were at the top of their game and engaged in a fierce but mostly friendly rivalry. And while rumors swirled of the two disliking each other, they were actually friends. In fact, Jackson originally penned the 1987 smash hit “Bad” as a duet to perform with Prince. It never happened, though, and various reasons came out as to why. Some speculate Prince thought the song would be a hit on its own, which it was. Others that Prince had qualms about the lyrics, specifically refusing to have “Your butt is mine” sung at him. Whatever the case, the version on the album is just Jackson singing. However, we can’t entirely rule out that they might have recorded a demo given the vast amounts of unreleased material both artists have in their vaults.
***Contrary to popular belief, the Beatles did not calm their nerves with a joint before meeting Queen Elizabeth and accepting their Member of the British Empire accolades. The story was a goof from John Lennon, and wasn’t corrected until years later by Paul McCartney. Macca admitted that the band did pop out for a smoke before meeting the Queen, but they were regular old cigarettes. At least, that’s the official story now.
***Though a host of Beatles conspiracy theories exist, the story about the FBI tailing John Lennon is true. President Richard Nixon considered Lennon’s anti-war protests and songs dangerous and assigned FBI agents to monitor the musician in 1971. Nixon worried Lennon would mobilize his young, politically activated fans to thwart the president’s re-election in 1972. Informants followed Lennon around, trying to find reasons to deport him back to England. The team tracked every facet of Lennon’s life, from his television appearances to the whereabouts of Yoko Ono’s daughter from a previous relationship. In March 1972, the Immigration and Naturalization Service refused to renew Lennon’s visa, but the FBI closed the case a month after Nixon’s re-election in November 1972.
***Virtually every popular band of the ’60s and ’70s was accused by fundamentalist Christians of including backwards Satanic or drug messages in their music. But few bands got as raw of a deal as metal gods Judas Priest. In 1990, the band was sued by the parents of two boys who committed suicide after listening to their music. They claimed that subliminal messages in the song “Better by You, Better than Me” urged listeners to “do it” with “it” referring to self-harm. The trial dragged on for a month before the judge ultimately dismissed the case, and subsequent research has shown that backmasking is ineffective at delivering subliminal messages. However, the judge bizarrely ruled that Priest HAD included backmasked messages in their music – you just had to know exactly what they were for them to work. Unasked was the question of what band wants their fans to kill themselves, rather than buy more records?
***Blondie and serial killer Ted Bundy. Was the Blondie lead singer a potential victim of the murderous Ted Bundy in New York City? According to Harry, yes. She said he kidnapped her in the early ’70s while she was trying to hail a cab, and she was held hostage in a car, only narrowly escaping with her life. In reality, while Harry might have had a scary encounter with a creep in a battered car, there’s no way it could have been Ted Bundy himself. The serial killer never spent any time in New York during his murder spree, and so couldn’t have almost killed Debbie Harry, or anyone else living there at the time. What’s more likely is a simple case of confirmation bias.
Closely related to urban legends would be supposedly real curses in Rock and Roll. Up next, some curses and superstitions that run rampant through the music industry. Whether it’s a haunted shepherd’s pie or a karaoke song that drives its singers to do bad things, they are all believed to be real by many who make music for a living. That’s up next on Weird Darkness.
STORY: ROCK AND ROLL CURSES & SUPERSTITIONS=====
It shouldn’t be surprising that there are a bevy of curses, superstitions, and creepy coincidences interwoven into the fabric of the music industry. Stardom is a strange and fickle mistress that exists in the world in between the corporeal world and the land of the unknown. Many of the curses I’m about to share are just creepy coincidences that seem to end up occurring over and over again. But others are truly disturbing and will chill you to your darkest bone and they may even keep you from carrying a white lighter or consulting any Ouija boards until you make it out of your 30s. Others will have you questioning what really went down during prominent events.
***The Robert Johnson Curse. Iconic Delta Bluesman Robert Johnson is almost as much known for his curse almost as his music. The story is that Johnson met The Devil at a crossroads on the outskirts of some unknown southern town and exchanged his soul in order to become a mythological blues performer. But when you’re dealing with The Devil, you have to expect some kind of shenanigans. In this case, Johnson went down in music history, but not until long after his passing at 27 years of age. Specifically, some think that Johnson’s song Crossroads is cursed, as are many artists who have covered it on their albums. Both Lynyrd Skynyrd and The Allman Brothers had tragedies among their ranks, and Eric Clapton, who recorded the song both with Cream and in his solo career, lost his son to a fall from a window.
***Music’s infamous “27 Club”. Rock’s most exclusive club isn’t on the Sunset Strip, it’s made up of musicians who died at age 27. Foremost are Jim Morrison, Janis Joplin, and Jimi Hendrix, who all succumbed to drugs and/or alcohol, around the same time and all at the same age. This coincidence lead to the media dreaming up a mythical “27 Club” where rock stars of that age go when their time is up. Later, Kurt Cobain would take his own life at the same age, and this, combined with his mother’s grief at him “joining that stupid club,” revived the mythos of the 27 Club. While it’s true that many rock legends, including Jimi Hendrix, Jim Morrison, Janis Joplin, Kurt Cobain, Amy Winehouse, and members of the Stooges and Badfinger all died at the same age, it denotes the occupational hazard of being a musician, not a curse. These rockers didn’t die because they were 27, they died because of drugs and alcohol. Some died in car crashes, showing the risk of spending months at a time on the road. A few were murdered. Regardless, their age had nothing to do with their death, other than that’s the age they were at when they died. Moreover, while there is a large number of musicians who died at 27, there’s a much larger number who didn’t.
***Fleetwood Mac’s Guitar Curse: Fleetwood Mac has been through so many guitarists that this is less of a curse as it is an inevitability. The group was founded by guitarist Peter Green who left the band to deal with his mental health. Then, slide guitarist Jerry Spencer left soon after. In 1972, then-guitarist Danny Kirwan started acting bizarrely during a gig on the eve of their tour, smashing his head on a wall and then taunting the band from the audience; he later passed away after extensive issues with his mental illness. More recently, guitarist Bob Weston suffered a fatal aneurysm in 2012, and later that same year guitarist Bob Welch ended his life after receiving news that he would never walk again.
***The Gloomy Sunday curse: Can a song be so sad and depressing that it encourages people to end their lives? The song in question is by Hungarians Rezs Seress and Ladislas Javor, and it was written about Seress’s girlfriend who took her own life. When it was released in 1933, authorities reported a rise in people taking their lives and promptly banned it from being played nationwide. It was also recorded by Paul Robeson and Billie Holiday in 1941. Each time it was released, it was held responsible for an uptick of untimely passings. I actually went more indepth about the song in an episode of Weird Darkness some time back; I’ll place a link to that episode in the Essential Web Links section of the show notes. In fact, I recorded an episode of Robert Johnson and the Crossroads curse as well – I’ll link to that as well.
***As mentioned earlier, the date of February 3, 1959 is commonly referred to as The Day the Music Died, because pre-irony bespectacled rocker Buddy Holly, Richie “La Bamba” Valens, and The Big Bopper were together during plane crash during The Winter Dance Party Tour that proved fatal for all three. It’s also known as the beginning of the Buddy Holly Curse, as many musicians and normies who knew Holly have met untimely demises since that day. Ronnie Smith, the vocalist hired to replace Holly on the tour, checked into a mental clinic after the last performance and ended his life a few years later.
***New Orleans jazz musician, Jelly Roll Morton (aka Ferdinand La Menthe) was said to be under a curse placed upon him by his own godmother, who sold his soul to Satan. Uhhh…thanks Grandma? His career flourished in the 1920s, but one day he discovered a mysterious powder sprinkled around his office and his career began to flounder. He was so convinced it was due to the curse that he sought out a voodoo woman who told him to burn all of his clothing. He did, and the curse appeared to lift, as his fortune and reputation returned.
***The White Lighter Curse. Hey Weirdos, if you have a white lighter in your pocket you should probably throw it out right now. Or give it to an enemy. A common myth says that anyone who uses a white lighter is cursed… possibly to [the end]. “But what does this have to do with music?” Well… did I mention that Kurt Cobain, Jimi Hendrix, Janis Joplin, and Jim Morrison were all found with a white lighter on them when they passed? You guys better start buying stock in green lighters or something. Just sayin’.
***Shortly after forming Led Zepplin, a rumor spread that three of the four members (Page, Plant, and Bonham) had made a Faustian deal with the devil for stardom and that from then on their lives were cursed. Robert Plant and his family were involved in a serious car crash, which left Plant unable to walk unaided for some time afterwards. Plant later suffered the sudden passing of his son Karac, aged 6 from an unidentified stomach virus. Page almost passed from his struggles with addiction and Bonham passed from some of the same types of issues in 1980, effectively ending Led Zeppelin as a group. Jones, said to have not entered into the Faustian pact, was left relatively unscathed on the cessation of the group’s activities.
***As far as the number “nine” was concerned, John Lennon was cursed by it. He was born on the 9th of October, 1940 in Liverpool and his band was fortuitously discovered on the 9th of November, 1961. The Beatles played on the Ed Sullivan Show on the 9th of February, 1964. Lennon met Yoko Ono on the 9th of November, 1966. Those aren’t curses, but blessings you might say. Sure, all of those things sound pretty good – but then things start to take a darker turn. The Beatles broke up after spending nine years together, and sadly, Lennon was felled on December 8th, 1980. But in Liverpool, where he was born, the date was December 9th.
***Speaking of the number nine… in the world of classical music, there’s something known as the Curse of the Ninth, since many composers who have written a Ninth Symphony passed shortly thereafter. Beethoven is the curse’s most famous victim and Gustav Mahler thought he had the curse beaten by starting upon a Tenth Symphony, but he was felled before its completion. The curse strikes again!
***Have you ever wondered why so many artists that rapped with Bone Thugs passed in the same year that their verses were released? To summarize, before Bone Thugs came to fruition, they used a Ouija board to predict their future and somehow ended up selling their souls to achieve fame. Then, for some reason they started dropping hints about the aforementioned soul selling and anyone who rapped with them passed. Maybe it has something to do with the Crossroads.…
***Allegedly, composer Giuseppe Tartini dreamt that the devil appeared to him and made a pact for his soul. Immediately after waking, he grabbed his violin and tried in vain to recreate the music he heard in his dream, which became Violin Sonata in G minor. For the rest of his life, he believed that sonata to be the best song he’d ever composed. Still, some orchestral players believe that song to be cursed. (MUSIC PLAYS)
***In the karaoke world, no other songs spells out certain doom other than Frank Sinatra’s My Way. At least that’s the way it seems in the Philippines. So many people have passed there after singing that song that it has its own crime category. Some say its because of the song’s popularity mixed with the aggressive atmosphere at the clubs, and not the song itself, that leads to so many issues. Either way, karaoke bars aren’t taking any chances and have pulled My Way from their big blue binders.
***When Jan & Dean recorded Dead Man’s Curve in 1964, were they calling out to the universe and asking to be made immortal? Or were they just singing a weird pop song about a curve near the Bel-Air Estates north of UCLA’s Drake Stadium that felled a bunch of people? Whatever the reason, they were almost claimed by the Dead Man’s Curve curse themselves in 1966 when Jan ran his stingray off the road, nearly ending his life.
***The Piano Sonata No. 6 was composed by Alexander Scriabin and according to his biographer, “It is one of a few pieces Scriabin never played in public, because he felt it was ‘nightmarish, murky, unclean and mischievous’”. He often started shuddering after playing a few measures for other people.” Does it sound spooky to you? (MUSIC PLAYS)
***Created by Benjamin Franklin in 1761, the glass harmonica has a disorienting quality and haunting sound that has been compared to that of rubbing a wet finger around the edge of a wine glass. In the 18th century, strange rumors abounded that using the instrument caused both musicians and their listeners to go mad. So let’s tempt fate and let if play for a few seconds more.
***If you are an aspiring musician wanting to be an award-winner, you might want to rethink that plan. Legend has it that, after the initial rush of attention, winners of the Best New Artist Grammy face nothing but misery, unrelenting pressure to live up to the lofty Grammy standard, poor record sales, and (at best) they become a trivia question lost to the ages. Artists like Milli Vanilli, Men at Work, Jody Watley, and A Taste of Honey have all succumbed to this curse, real or not.
***A lot of artists have a pre-show ritual (I hear Ke$ha has to roll around in oil and glitter before she goes on stage), but Keith Richards of the Rolling Stones not only needs to eat a shepherd’s pie before he goes on stage, but he has to be the person who breaks the crust. He’s so into the meal that he allegedly even fired the band’s head of security and tour manager for nibbling on his beloved pie before he’d taken his share. They were later reinstated, however, because it was soon realized the tour was a no-go without them.
***The Bad Boy curse. In the early 90s, Sean Combs’s Bad Boy Records was on top of the music industry. The label boasted a staggering roster of hip-hop heavy hitters like The Notorious B.I.G, Faith Evans, and Ma$e. But things fell apart after Biggie’s untimely passing and shortly afterwards, it seemed like Combs had lost his Midas touch.
***And… while not a curse with mystical properties (unless you believe in the magic of ~acoustics~), the Saturday Night Live curse has claimed many a musician who was unprepared for the stage’s notoriously bad sound. Some believe that the curse began when Ashlee Simpson first performed her haunted jig after her drummer cued the wrong backing track, others believe it was started when Sinead O’Connor ripped up a picture of the Pope on live television.
Of course, you don’t have to be the victim of a curse or urban legend to have tragedy in your life. Numerous rock bands have dealt with horrific losses and events simply because that’s the way the world works sometimes. Rock band tragedies, when Weird Darkness returns.
STORY: ROCK BAND TRAGEDIES=====
Sometimes being in a band isn’t all it’s cracked up to be, as you are about to hear. All of these bands have gruesome histories that go far beyond breaking a leg onstage. Murder, overdoses, suicides, motorcycle crashes, and more pretty bad things have added to, or tainted, these famous bands’s legacies. While it’s easy to assume a band like Slipknot has a screwed up past, The Band, the Allman Brothers, and even the Beach Boys have checkered pasts as well. More than a few members of these groups have experienced pretty horrific things, be they self-inflicted or thanks to the tragic indifference of existence.
***If there were a poster band for enduring crippling tragedy while keepin’ on keepin’ on, it’s the Allman Brothers. Everyone knows one of the band’s namesakes, Duane Allman, died in a motorcycle accident in his hometown of Macon, GA. To compound that tragedy, bassist Berry Oakley also died in a motorcycle wreck, a little more than a year after Duane. Oakley’s accident occurred just three blocks from Allman’s. Meanwhile, singer Gregg Allman, brother to Duane, has battled drugs, hepatitis C, cancer, and he married Cher (how’s that for horrifying?). In early 2017, drummer and founding member Butch Trucks committed suicide by shooting himself in front of his wife.
***Hard rock legends AC/DC are one of the few bands to become even more popular as the years wore on, despite the tragedy that has circled the group since the ’80s. Lead singer Bon Scott died from choking on his own vomit in early 1980. This might sink a lesser band, but AC/DC persevered, and soared to new heights. In the 2010s, after decades of mega success, things got weird. In 2014, guitarist Malcolm Young left the band, feeling the effects of dementia. Young moved into a nursing home, having completely lost his short-term memory. Singer Brian Johnson then left because he was losing his hearing. Then there’s the saga of drummer Phil Rudd. In 2014, Rudd was arrested for attempted murder (he was accused of trying to hire a hitman), as well as meth and pot possession. His behavior during sessions for the band’s 2014 album Rock or Bust was erratic, but no one expected he’d take such a dark turn. All said and done, as of recording this episode, Angus Young is the only member of the band’s seminal line up still in the band, and kinda-sorta still ticking.
***The Beach Boys are one of the greatest and most important American rock bands of all time. They also have a legendary history of not being the clean-cut, all-American boys they’re made out to be. This group of relatives (three Wilson brothers and cousin Mike Love) and one friend (Al Jardine) were led by the tyrannical Murry Wilson, father to the brothers, who has long been accused of psychologically and physically abusing the band. On top of that, there are the legendary on-again off-again squabbles between Brian Wilson and Mike Love. Wilson, the perceived genius, had a long battle with mental illness and drug abuse that eroded his creativity. Love is known as many things, kind and gentle not among them. Following the band’s 2012 tour, Love unceremoniously dumped Wilson in favor of his backing band, who proudly wave the Beach Boys flag without their most influential member. Brian’s drug use in the ’60s made him an icon and cemented him as a genius, but also melted his brain. The same can be said of his shrink, Dr. Eugene Landy, who gave Wilson enough pills during in late ’80s to fry his brain even more. Landy was attempting to control Wilson to nefarious ends, and it took a new romantic interest – who Wilson married – to break the sordid relationship. Oh… and then there’s the Charles Manson thing I told you about earlier, which probably didn’t help the karma. Dennis Wilson was friends with the Manson family and even jammed with Manson. And produced a song written by Manson after changing the lyrics to it. Dennis Wilson drowned in 1983 while diving off his yacht while intoxicated. Finally, Carl Wilson died of cancer in 1998.
***The Band are one of the most celebrated folk groups of all time. They’re best known for their work with Bob Dylan, the Martin Scorsese concert film The Last Waltz, and the tragic deaths of three of their members. Following The Band’s initial split after The Last Waltz, the group got back together in 1983. In 1986, piano player Richard Manuel, a long-struggling drug addict and alcoholic, committed suicide by hanging himself in a Florida motel room following a show. His replacement, Stan Szelest, died in 1991 from a heart attack. Guitarist Rick Danko had his own string of bad luck. In 1968, he was severely injured in a car accident, breaking his neck and back in six places. In 1999, he died of heart failure due to drug use (he was convicted in 1996 after receiving of a package of heroin in the mail) and alcoholism. Keyboardist Richard Bell died in 2007 from multiple myeloma and singer/drummer Levon Helm died from cancer in 2012. When The Band reformed after The Last Waltz, without lead guitarist and primary song writer Robbie Robertson, things fell apart. Either Robertson had tremendous foresight, or The Band’s subsequent legacy could be called the Curse of Robbie Robertson.
***As I mentioned earlier about Aerosmith dodging tragedy by not buying the plane that later crashed with Lynryd Skynyrd in it, Skynyrd will forever be defined by that freak accident that changed the band permanently. On a fateful day in 1977, the band’s chartered Convair CV-240 plane crashed in Mississippi when it ran out of fuel. Lead vocalist Ronnie Van Zant, guitarist Steve Gaines, backing vocalist Cassie Gaines (Steve’s older sister), assistant road manager Dean Kilpatrick, pilot Walter McCreary, and co-pilot William Gray all died. Their Street Survivors album was released three days earlier. If that wasn’t bad enough, guitarist Allen Collins’s wife died of a hemorrhage due to a miscarriage. Collins was later involved in car accident in 1986 that killed his girlfriend and left him paralyzed from the waist down. He pleaded no contest to DUI manslaughter and died in 1990 from pneumonia. Leon Wilkeson, Skynyrd’s bassist since 1972, was found dead in his hotel room on July 27, 2001 due to emphysema and chronic liver disease. Lastly, keyboardist Billy Powell died of a heart attack in 2009. As of this recording, only one original member, Gary Rossington, is still alive. Drummer Artimus Pyle survived the accident as well, but he wasn’t a founding member.
***The suicide of Kurt Cobain (a member of the 27 club) and overdose of Mother Love Bone vocalist Andrew Wood are the most well-known tragedies of the Seattle scene, but peers Alice in Chains suffered a far more protracted battle with its demons. Most of this is chronicled in the band’s music, lyrics, and song and album titles, which deal overtly with drug addiction. In 2002, vocalist Layne Staley, a long-suffering addict, retreated to his Seattle apartment to do heroin until he died. When his body was found (more than a week after he died), it weighed only 86 pounds and was already decomposing. Bassist Mike Starr suffered a similar fate, albeit nearly a decade later. He died from a drug overdose in 2011 in Salt Lake City. While the grunge icons are still around, they exist in a diminished state. Of the original line up, only guitarist Jerry Cantrell and drummer Sean Kinney remain. The two recruited a new vocalist and bass player and recorded music that has been received well by both fans and critics.
***The Grateful Dead are one of rock’s most beloved bands, thanks to their epic live shows and obsessive followers. However, you would never, ever want to be the band’s keyboardist. Beginning with Ron “Pigpen” McKernan, who left the band due to cirrhosis of the liver (he died in 1973), the revolving door swung around and around. Keith Godchaux replaced Pigpen, left the band in 1979, and died in a car accident the next year. Brent Mydland replaced him, only to die in 1990 from a drug overdose. Vince Welnick took over, and was in the position until Jerry Garcia’s death in 1995. Welnick overcame cancer and bouts with severe depression before committing suicide in 2006. Then there’s Jerry Garcia. The guitarist died from a heart attack in 1995. In his pre-Dead days, Garcia lost two-thirds of his middle right finger due to a woodcutting accident when he was four. Garcia had a huge appetite for drugs, most notably heroin, cocaine, and LSD. His hard-charging days resulted in a four-day diabetic coma in 1986.
***They say looks can be deceiving. In the case of Slipknot, the opposite is true. You get what you pay for with the nine masked madmen who churn out a frightening blend of death metal, nu metal, and Satanic noise. Singer Corey Taylor started doing coke and speed when he was 13. He overdosed on coke at 15, and was placed in a dumpster instead of being taken to a hospital, because, you know… Iowa. Many years later, guitarist Mick Thomson got in a knife fight with his brother on someone else’s lawn (while drunk, of course). In 2010, bassist Paul Gray met a grizzly fate in a Johnston, IA hotel room. Gray was found dead, a hypodermic needle next to his bed, a smattering of pills splattered across the floor. An autopsy revealed the drummer died from a combo platter of morphine and fentanyl, coupled with heart disease.
***They may appear to be an innocuous group of happy ’60s hippies, but the Mamas & Papas went through some dark stuff. As mentioned earlier, singer Mama Cass Elliott battled weight issues until her death in 1974 from heart failure due to obesity, with the urban legend that she choked to death on a ham sandwich, which isn’t true. Vocalist, guitarist, and songwriter John Phillips had a checkered history. He was addicted to heroin for most of the ’70s, and was arrested and convicted of conspiring to distribute narcotics in 1980. He spent a month in the big house in 1981. Phillips was accused of incest rape by his daughter, actress Mackenzie Phillips (who played Julie on TV’s “One Day at Time”), who alleged she had a sexual relationship with him for 10 years, which only ended when she got pregnant and didn’t know whether he was the father.
***It’s easy to forget how out of control the Red Hot Chili Peppers were in the ’80s and ’90s, given the band’s post-Californication shift to warm, cuddly cultural touchstones. From rampant drug use to insane sexual exploits, the band faced a ton of strife, much of which detailed in Anthony Kiedis’s batcrap crazy autobiography Scar Tissue. Guitarist Hillel Slovak died of a heroin overdose, which led to then-drummer Jack Irons having a nervous breakdown. Replacement guitarist John Frusciante, developed a raging heroin addiction upon leaving the band in the early ’90s. Lead vocalist Anthony Kiedis battled heroin addiction for decades. In his book he writes of shooting up in his mid-40s in seedy motels with models half his age while the band was playing stadiums. Drugs and mental breakdowns, yet the band forges on in the 21st century.
When Weird Darkness returns… with so many deaths in Rock & Roll under horrible circumstances, you’re probably thinking some spiritual energy must be left behind in the form of hauntings. Well, you’d be right… and no place in Rock and Roll history is more haunted than Bobby Mackey’s Music World in Winder, Kentucky… the most haunted nightclub in America. That story is up next.
STORY: BOBBY MACKEY’S HAUNTED NIGHTCLUB=====
Bobby Mackey’s Music World. The mere utterance of the name is enough to trigger many of the people who’ve visited “the most haunted nightclub in America.”
Located in Winder, Kentucky, the place (which was originally meant to be a slaughterhouse; a surefire method for opening a gateway to Hell) has worn many faces since it was built in the 1850s. From a hotel, to a casino, to good ol’ Bobby Mackey’s nightclub, there was even a period when, while abandoned, the site was used for vile purposes.
Based on pictures alone, you might not think the sleepy little club was a portal to Hell. It looks so innocent… a little small-town bar made for lovers of country-and-western. Nothin’ to it, right? Well, there are tons of folks who’d disagree wholeheartedly.
In 2008, the crew of Ghost Adventures set out for one their very first “lockdown missions,” in which no one is allowed to come or go once everything is in place. After the night was over, Zak Bagans, the show’s host, reflected on their experience: “We’ve been traveling around the world for years doing this. This is one of the only places where we’ve had stuff follow us home.”
One cameraman claims that the night after the investigation at Bobby Mackey’s, he heard pots and pans clanging around in his kitchen in the middle of the night. Then, the faucet turned itself on, as though someone was filling the sink.
Another crew member says he and his wife used to share dreams about Bobby Mackey. In them, the deceased business owner kept knocking on their windows because he couldn’t get in.
“This is the only place we had fear of returning [to],” said Bagans.
Built in the 1850s, the building that is now Bobby Mackey’s Music World originally served as a poorly planned slaughterhouse. By the late 1800s, the place was abandoned, and remained that way until the someone turned the property into a hotel in the 1920s.
In the decades where the building was left to rot, it’s said that cult members held frequent rituals in the basement, and used the massive drainage hole (originally dug for disposing of animal remains) to get rid of the bodies they sacrificed.
Gee… I wonder why this place is so haunted?
In 1897, Scott Jackson, a 28-year-old dental student from Cincinnati, impregnated a young woman by the name of Pearl Bryan while he was visiting Kentucky for the summer. Unsure of what to do, Jackson enlisted one of his fellow students of medicine to help perform an abortion on the young woman; an illegal procedure at the time.
The students had access to medical equipment and regularly worked on cadavers, so it stands to reason that they felt fairly confident in their ability to terminate Pearl’s pregnancy. However, they panicked at the last minute and instead decided to cut her head off and dump her remains in the well of the abandoned slaughterhouse.
Poor, headless Pearl was left in what became the basement of Bobby Mackey’s Music World. Due to the brutal nature of the crime, the story quickly grabbed the attention of the masses. The two men were caught, tried, and sentenced to death by hanging.
While the pair sat in jail awaiting their eventual trip to the gallows, some other inmates attempted a jailbreak. As an onslaught of prisoners fled, Jackson and his cohort stayed in their cells, fearing whatever fate the outraged public might have in store for them.
In the 1850s, the infamous building was built as a slaughterhouse and meat-packing plant. Too bad the interior of the place wasn’t well thought out…
The remains of slaughtered animals were supposed to be contained and carted off for incineration, but the building’s design wasn’t set up to easily facilitate this. Instead, the blood and “remnants” of butchered animals were scraped into a hole in the basement, where they were left to rot.
The building’s layout simply did not cater well to the disposing of large quantities of blood and gore. The slaughterhouse closed down before 1900, and remained abandoned for decades. However, a certain group of people continued to use the place for some pretty unsavory undertakings.
A patron of the bar once claimed he felt like he was suffocating while a trashcan was thrown around the room. Allegedly, an apparition of a man with a handlebar mustache appeared screaming “Die game! Die game!” which is Latin for “well dying.” This cryptic message might refer to the well in the basement that sacrificed bodies were dumped into.
Even Bobby’s wife won’t set foot in the place after she was grabbed around the waist, lifted, and thrown down the stairs by an apparition that screamed, “get out!” repeatedly.
A former caretaker of the grounds was said to have become possessed by a demon, and later had to be exorcised.
Regardless of their reasons for entering the club, it seems like pretty much everyone who steps foot in Bobby Mackey’s ends up with a creepy story of their own. Here are a few choice selections from an eclectic mix of visitors:
Laura Roland from Gatekeeper Paranormal shared this: “I was locking up after a tour, which happened to be pretty quiet that evening, and all of a sudden, I hear what sounds like all the windows and door shaking violently. You could actually feel the walls and the floors shaking. It was pretty creepy, so I stuck my head out the door and no one was there.”
Doctor817 on Reddit shared another experience. “I had a friend who went one day. I wasn’t there, but he told me about his experiences. He said as soon as he walked in there was a sign telling about the paranormal events that have happened, kind of a disclaimer. He told me while he was reading it he started to feel real weird and he was just staring at it. He heard voices that he couldn’t make out just drowning out the surrounding sounds. He said he couldn’t go anywhere, as he felt like he was being watched.
When he came back he was a different person for weeks, always angry and snippy, everyone could tell there was something off. He started to self harm too, which is when we all knew he needed help. He’s fine now, but promises never to return.”
According to Carl Lawson, a former employee at the club, “I’d double check at the end of the night and make sure that everything was turned off. Then I’d come back down hours later and the bar lights would be on. The front doors would be unlocked, when I knew that I’d locked them. The jukebox would be playing the ‘Anniversary Waltz’ even though I’d unplugged it and the power was turned off.”
Redditor CaptHotPantz had a less-than-calm birthday there. “For my 30th birthday, my wife got some of my friends together and did a Bobby Mackey’s overnight [tour]. We all had a blast and I wouldn’t hesitate to do it again. I [saw] a black figure peeking around a corner when I was in the attic by myself. I spent a lot of time solo on the investigation. I know I saw a figure upstairs in the old caretaker’s room behind the bar. When I called out, ‘I see you,’ it moved and I thought it was going to move from behind the bar but it didn’t. I stayed up there for a few moments longer but then I got a feeling of dread and went back downstairs to join my group. I found an old film strip in the basement of a girl screaming (8mm film probably 4 or 5 frames), [and] after I took it home as a souvenir from BM, I couldn’t sleep for days. I would be up all night and felt like something was watching me. After a few nights, I threw the film out and the feeling was gone. Idk if something latched on to it or if it was just psychological, but [there] was a weird vibe in my house.”
It’s a little surprising to find a Hard Rock Cafe in the middle of rural Kentucky, especially since the building isn’t even near the interstate. Yet that’s exactly what happened the day the ex-slaughterhouse, ex-mob-casino, reopened as the ubiquitous, rock-themed chain’s newest location.
Unfortunately, the kitschy restaurant didn’t stay in business for that long. Apparently, some folks got a little too raucously excited over the faux memorabilia and decided to pull guns. After a slew of fatal shootings, the Hard Rock was shut down.
This place has one Hell of a body count.
From the 1930s to the 1950s, gangsters used the building to house a casino. The owner of the club, who was himself a mobster, had a daughter named Johanna.
At one point, Johanna, who was also a dancer at the club, fell madly in love with Robert Randall, one of the more popular singers. Once it was discovered that she was pregnant, her father had his daughter’s lover hanged in the nightclub’s dressing room.
Unable to recover from the tragedy, Johanna allegedly killed herself by swallowing poison.
In what can only be described as a horrid coincidence, the current owner of the club shares Johanna’s lover’s name. Robert Randall Mackey, or “Bobby” Mackey. Say whaaaat?
Here’s Bobby Mackey himself telling the tale through a song he wrote, aptly titled “Johanna.” Rather than recite the lyrics, I’ll let you hear hear Bobby Mackey sing it, copyright issues be damned. (MUSIC PLAYS)
Just inside the door of Bobby Mackey’s club, a sign reads:
“Warning To Our Patrons – This establishment is reported to be haunted. Management is NOT responsible and cannot be held liable for any actions of any ghosts or spirits on these premises.”
The entrance hallway is lined with newspaper clippings that report strange happenings inside the bar, as well as articles detailing the crimes that some of the venue’s ghosts perpetrated while they were still alive.
From a hotel to a casino, Bobby Mackey’s had many iterations throughout its long history. Built in the 1850s, it originally served as a slaughterhouse, but was left abandoned by the late 1800s.
After brief stints where the building was used as a hotel and country club, it became a casino in the late ’30s. A gentleman by the name of Buck Brady owned the casino, but was forced out by some less-than-savory gentlemen from a neighboring state. Brady eventually killed himself over the loss, although, considering the building’s new owners, it’s possible that he might have had some “assistance.”
The Cleveland mob took over the casino, and went to work stacking dollars and “removing” anyone unlucky enough to owe them money. What’s now the men’s bathroom in Bobby Mackey’s was the casino’s office, where a trapdoor was allegedly installed. While the true purpose of this trapdoor was never confirmed, it’s hard to imagine a use for such a hatch that’s not totally morbid.
Thanks for listening (and be sure to stick around for the bloopers at the end)! If you like the show, please share it with someone you know who loves the paranormal or strange stories, true crime, monsters, or unsolved mysteries like you do! You can email me anytime with your questions or comments at email@example.com. WeirdDarkness.com is also where you can find information on any of the sponsors you heard about during the show, find all of my social media, listen to audiobooks I’ve narrated, sign up for the email newsletter, find other podcasts that I host including “Church of the Undead”, visit the store for Weird Darkness merchandise, and more. WeirdDarkness.com is also where you can find the Hope in the Darkness page if you or someone you know is struggling with depression or dark thoughts. Also on the website, if you have a true paranormal or creepy tale to tell, you can click on TELL YOUR STORY. You can find all of that and more at WeirdDarkness.com.
All stories on Weird Darkness are purported to be true unless stated otherwise, and you can find links to the stories or the authors in the show notes.
The stories in this episode were sourced from numerous articles found at Ranker.com, which did an amazing job with the topics, as you can tell.
“Urban Legends of Rock and Roll” by Mike Rothschild and Jodi Smith
“Rock and Roll Curses & Superstitions” by Jacob Shelton
“Rock Band Tragedies” by Daniel Kohn
“Bobby Mackey’s Haunted Night Club” by Michelle Nati
WeirdDarkness® is a registered trademark. Copyright, Weird Darkness.
Now that we’re coming out of the dark, I’ll leave you with a little light… “Blessed are those who hunger and thirst for righteousness, for they will be filled.” – Matthew 5:6
And a final thought… “Don’t be afraid of being outnumbered. Eagles fly alone. Pigeons flock together.” – Unknown
I’m Darren Marlar. Thanks for joining me in the Weird Darkness.