MANIA - The ABBA Tribute (Formerly ABBA MANIA)
November 18, 2022
The Mars Music Hall
I have wanted to get MANIA to perform in Alabama for a very long time, but somehow it has eluded us until now. I have a long history of visiting and performing in Alabama as a solo artist and with A1A. I could write a book on the memories of events, friends, fans, and relationships with Alabama at the center of them. Oddly enough, however, I have never made it to Huntsville, Alabama. This fact is even more perplexing given that the U.S. Space and Rocket Center is located there. Anyone who knows me well is aware that my dream of being an astronaut and going to space trumps any other dream I have ever had here on earth. It isn't going to happen at this stage of the game; however, I am still extraordinarily interested in our space program, our journey into space, and the search for extraterrestrial life. But that is a long story for another blog.
I had some friends and fans coming to the show this evening and had already made plans to spend time with two of them, Ed and Ruby Winkles. Ed and Ruby are long-time friends whom I met through my travels with A1A and The Montgomery Alabama Parrot Head Club back in 2001. I had not seen Ed and Ruby in a very long time, and I was looking forward to spending the afternoon with them. Unfortunately, my U.S. Space & Rocket Center trip would have to be postponed.
The venue we were playing this evening, located in The VonBraun Center, is relatively new and aptly named for its location, The Mars Music Hall. I have been looking to book A1A into this venue, so I was looking forward to performing here. It holds around 1,600 people and is laid out nicely so the audience and the band can interact well with each other.
I was meeting Ed for lunch, so I exited the bus earlier than usual and made my way in to find my dressing room, check out the venue and get set up. The dressing room area was very nice but small, so Keith, Chris, and I had to share a dressing room. It is a good thing we all like each other. :-)
After getting set up, it was time to meet up with Eddie. I was starving and told him I wanted lunch. He was delighted to hear this, for he was anxious to take me to Huntsville's oldest and most popular diner. Unfortunately, as I write this blog, its name escapes me now. That shows how your mind and memory can be wiped out on the road. :-) What hasn't escaped me was how delicious their locally famous hot dogs and cheeseburgers were. Yes, yes....I went off my diet, but it was worth it.
Afterward, Ed and I went back to the house so I could see Ruby. It was wonderful seeing both of them, catching up and reminiscing about old times. During our long conversation and reminiscing, Ed gave me some very cool unexpected news. As it turns out, his dreams were like mine when he was a young boy, and he wanted to be an astronaut. Ed was brilliant in math, so his parents saw this as a possibility. They had big connections and friends at NASA, so little Eddie got to meet ALL of the astronauts and witness everything firsthand in the space program that went on in the 1960s and up to the end of the Apollo program. His connections and friendships with people in NASA went as far as those who helped build and design the space shuttles. So when Eddie whipped out his memory book full of personally signed autographs from EVERY NASA astronaut and then some, I was ready to find a Benny substitute for the night and hang with Ed for a couple of weeks!
I stayed with Ed and Ruby as long as possible and returned to the venue just in time for sound check. The sound check was quick and uneventful, and I felt a bit tired. I was still full from my big Alabama lunch of hot dogs and cheeseburgers, so I decided to forgo dinner, take a short nap, and chill in the dressing room.
By the time I was dressed and ready to go, things were heating up. Judging from the buzz in the air and noise coming from the other side of the curtain, we were in for a good night. When I pulled back the curtain to make my entrance on stage (I am the first of the four to enter), the place erupted, and I could see that it was a packed house. There were many people in costume, and you could tell that the crowd was eager to have a helluva good time. It was a great show, one of the most fun of the tour, and I was sad to see it end. The crowd was incredible. Immediately after the show, I went out front to get some pics with Ed and Ruby, say goodbye, and thank them for coming.
The proceedings from here will be different than most of the ones I have been sharing with you recently. Alison's Birthday was coming up, so we were all going to go out after the show and celebrate. We found a very cool local restaurant bar with live music and walked there after the show. Alison was in fine form and, as always, in charge of holding court. In all honesty, nobody does it better. :-) I often tell her I want to be her in my next life. :-) We ate way too much good food and drink and pretty much closed the place down. But the celebration is still ongoing when Alison is in charge. :-) The party continued on the bus into the night, but I hit the sack before everyone else did. Times like this make many dull times on the road worthwhile. This group of people is so much fun, and we love each other so much. It gives me time to sit back, enjoy each other's company, blow off some steam, be grateful for what we have, and, most importantly......watch Alison Ward dress like a cow and dance for us. I do love this job. :-) Mooooooo!!!!