Rock and Roll’s Most Infamous Tour Manager


TIM HARRINGTON: Nashville– Music City. Our time here’s tight so
we gotta make it quick. Our man on the ground is Ben
Swank, Nashville musical kingpin and Jack White’s right
hand man on Third Man Records. I just called him and he
sent me straight to Phil Kaufman’s house– AKA, The Mangler. He’s a national celebrity and
probably the most infamous roadie ever for many reasons,
but none moreso than for stealing Gram Parson’s
body and burning it. I’ve heard he’s an amazing
character and an unmatched storyteller, but he’ll eat you
for breakfast if he doesn’t like the look of you. So I’ve got my best pants on. Phil Kaufman, I presume? PHIL KAUFMAN: Hey man
thanks for waiting. TIM HARRINGTON: How’s
it going? PHIL KAUFMAN: Good
to see you, man. TIM HARRINGTON: Good to see
you– it’s Tim Harrington. PHIL KAUFMAN: Do you
want to go inside? TIM HARRINGTON: Sure PHIL KAUFMAN: This is
the Casa De Mangler. All my memorabilia
is on the wall– and in my mind. Over here, there’s the wall of
shame with Steve Earle, and Emmylou, Gram Parsons. TIM HARRINGTON: I love
this picture. PHIL KAUFMAN: Oh
this one here. That’s early rock and roll– money, cocaine, hashish,
and a gun– [INAUDIBLE] off to work. TIM HARRINGTON: That’s
all you need. PHIL KAUFMAN: Up
to the office. Up to the office, yeah. I celebrated 3/4 of a century
and no progress last year– 76 this year and still at it. Still riding motorcycles, scuba
diving, and chasing younger women– you know, 65, 70– the young girls. TIM HARRINGTON: How did
you get started? PHIL KAUFMAN: When I
got out of prison– I was a marijuana felon
in the ’60s– so my buddy called me up and
said Mick Jagger and Marianne Faithfull were coming to LA. And they needed somebody to
drive them around– somebody new to the area– the guy bought me a pair of
shoes, and it was time to go to the studio doing mixing
of Beggars Banquet. And I got to the studio and they
said, who’s there, and I said Rolling Stones. They said, they’re not here,
I said yeah they’re here. I heard the guy in the back
says, they’re not only here on the right day, they’re
on time. And I said they’re going to
be on time every day. So I drove them back
to their house– brand new ’68 Cadillac
convertible– and Mick said, how are
you getting home? I said, I’m going to
have to walk– I didn’t have any money– and Mick says, oh shit. He took $1,500– all the money he had in his
pocket– handed it to me, gave me the keys to the car, and
said, see you tomorrow. TIM HARRINGTON: Yeah,
[INAUDIBLE] a little bit better than [INAUDIBLE]
horror movies. PHIL KAUFMAN:That was my first
day in the music business. All of a sudden– I said this is pretty good. Than Gram Parsons came in
about a week later. Gram asked me if I’d
work for the Flying Burrito Brothers, touring. And I said, what does
a road manager do? He said, well, it’s
the same thing you did with the Stones– you know how– you just take it on the road. I said, oh shit,
I can do that. TIM HARRINGTON: But I’d like
to talk about Gram. PHIL KAUFMAN: Well,
I met Gram– as I said, through the Flying
Burrito Brothers– and we went to a funeral for
Clarence White, who was the guitar player for the Byrds. And Gram and everybody there
were saying, if Clarence had his choice, if would definitely
not have been his choice of a funeral–
it would have been a little bit more subtle. So Gram and I had a few
sherbets, and we each said, if I die first, I want you to take
my body out to the desert and burn it. I said, me too. Is it a deal? And we shook on it. Course the asshole died
several months later. And I’m sitting around the
house playing should’ve. I should’ve been with him, I
shouldn’t have let him do this, I should’ve– So anyhow, my girlfriend says,
get off your ass and to do it. So I did. I borrowed a hearse from a
friend, went out to LAX and convinced them that the family
wanted the body flown out to New Orleans. TIM HARRINGTON: So you just took
him out to Joshua Tree? PHIL KAUFMAN: I took him out to
Joshua Tree and opened up the casket. We used to play this game– what
have you got something on your shirt? That was the last thing
he got from me. And then I put the gas on him
and said see you around pal. I lit a match and threw it in. It went– boom. It was a big flame ball of
oxygen as the gasoline ignited, and I could
see his ashes going up into the desert. I said, my job’s done here. And then we left. A couple of days later the
police arrested me for grand theft Parsons. TIM HARRINGTON: You produced
Manson’s record. PHIL KAUFMAN: Yeah. TIM HARRINGTON: Is it true
you worked on it? PHIL KAUFMAN: Yeah, Charlie– Charlie Manson. I’ve got the original
copies inside. TIM HARRINGTON: Oh yeah? PHIL KAUFMAN: Yeah,
I’ll show you. I heard him singing in
the prison yard– he sounded like a young
Frankie Laine. So when I got out, I stayed with
Charlie and the family for awhile. I have had sex with more
murderers than anybody in show business. But then Charlie got a little
crazy and I said, I got to go. He said, you can’t stay here–
you’re too smart. TIM HARRINGTON: He’s like,
you’ve got to be the smartest one around. PHIL KAUFMAN: You
can’t be smart hanging out with Charlie– Charlie does the thinking. Here’s something– the original
Charles Manson album– we only did 300 of them,
but it’s been bootlegged for quite a few years now. He gave me the rights to his
music– and this is just taken from 1/4 inch tape– it’s not a
very good mix, but it’s the original one. He used to call me occasionally,
and the last time he called me he was
rambling on and on. And I said, Charlie, the
difference between you and I is that you’re doing life
and I’m living it. He said, you think
that’s funny? I said it’s fucking
hysterical– don’t call me again. And I hung up on him and I
haven’t heard from him since. I hope I haven’t offended him. Those murderers are so touchy. TIM HARRINGTON: Was part of
your job ever involving scoring tail for the bands? Or have they got that
covered on this own? PHIL KAUFMAN: If somebody sees
somebody they like– a girl– we’ll wave at her. I’ll just give her a backstage
pass and then bring her back. Like Sweet Connie– you ever heard of
Sweet Connie? Connie was a schoolteacher in
Little Rock, Arkansas, and she used to come out– can I say “blow job?” TIM HARRINGTON: You can say blow
job, you can say, suck cock– you can say whatever
you want. PHIL KAUFMAN: She would come
back to service the band and then do their laundry when
they come to her town. And then some of them would fly
her out there– and she’d do the same thing– and I’ve seen the
top of her head. But she’s notorious– everybody knows Sweet Connie. TIM HARRINGTON: I want
to know Sweet Connie. PHIL KAUFMAN: She’s in a book. These are pictures in my book. My job is to get them to work
as gracefully as possible, plug them in in, and
out of their. Way I don’t like the them and
us attitude that some musicians have. The roadies are them– and then the musicians
are [INAUDIBLE] We’re all together. These guys aren’t plugging
it in, you ain’t shit. TIM HARRINGTON: You’re
a lifer? PHIL KAUFMAN: I’m
a lifer, yeah. But it’s show-business
God I love it. TIM HARRINGTON: Good
ol’ Mangler. I was just getting started in
my stories about Zappa, and Morrison, and Joe Cocker,
but I had to go to meet Nashville guy, Ben. What is this place? BEN SWANK: This is our record
store, where we sell all of our Third Man wares. So the idea is like,
the old Sun Records or Fortune Records– something like that– where you
record the records in the back and then sell them
in the front. So we only sell Third
Man stuff. All of our miscellany, t-shirts,
45 [INAUDIBLE] all kinds of random
novelty, and junk. TIM HARRINGTON: The dude
that sells black lacquer in town is psyched. BEN SWANK: He’s psyched. We do a lot of shows back too. A few of Jack’s bands
played, obviously– all the bands on the
label play here. TIM HARRINGTON: So
this is a live– BEN SWANK: The live room–
holds about 300 people. This is where we do
photo shoots, video shoots back here. Far as we know, it’s the only
venue where you can record straight to analog tape. TIM HARRINGTON: Straight
to analog tape. BEN SWANK: Jack produces and
mixes all of the [INAUDIBLE] albums himself– so he’s really hands
on with all of it. TIM HARRINGTON: That’s cool. For me, I’m really into
whale-watching. You lay down– naked– and you look down, and you’re
trying to give yourself a boner without touching. And it kind of like, flops
around like a whale. And you can look down, and be
like, whoa, she breached. BEN SWANK: I’ve never
done that. TIM HARRINGTON: [INAUDIBLE] BEN SWANK: See that’s weird. We just met. I’m sensitive. TIM HARRINGTON: I understand. Oh man, I always get a
little too friendly and mess things up. Ben doesn’t seem too
mad though– he said he’s going to take me
to Glen Danzig’s house. It’s like a house party place,
where these dudes put on shows in their house, and
I was like, yes. While these guys set up a show,
I can work on my new Nashville-inspired, four-part,
electronic opus. [ELECTRONIC MUSIC PLAYING] TIM HARRINGTON: Is that a
longstanding tradition in Nashville to have a black-out
[INAUDIBLE] — to have punk spaces? BEN TODD: Sort of. It comes and goes. I usually run the door and run
the sound and make sure bands are going on time. TIM HARRINGTON: What’s
happening tonight? Let’s talk about the lineup. BEN TODD: Having a show with Big
Surr, Cy Barkley and the Way Outsiders, and
Natural Child. TIM HARRINGTON: Natural
Child, I really like. BEN TODD:Local lords. [MUSIC PLAYING] TIM HARRINGTON: Which member
of Natural Child are you? WES: I’m Wes. TIM HARRINGTON: What
do you do? WES: I play bass and sing. ZACH: I’m Zach. TIM HARRINGTON: What
do you do? ZACH: I play drums. TIM HARRINGTON: Piss McMurray. What do you do? – I pee turned around
at interviews. TIM HARRINGTON: Watch out–
it’s hitting your shoes. – It’s all right– I’ve got boots on. TIM HARRINGTON: You guys
are road dogs. Where are you guys from? WES: Nashville, Tennessee. TIM HARRINGTON: Right here? What do you guys travel in
when you’re on tour? – A minivan. TIM HARRINGTON: Mini V? – But don’t show it because we
don’t want the police to know. TIM HARRINGTON: How long are
you on the road for when you’re on tour? Long stints? Little short runs? – Never more than two
or three weeks. TIM HARRINGTON: I thought you
said you guys were road dogs. – Well, we are. That’s good. See, listen– if you tour too much. TIM HARRINGTON: Lapdogs. I thought you guys were like a
big ol’ Turner & Hooch dog, but now I’m like, [INAUDIBLE]
chihuahuas. – We’re all tired, and
you lose your shit. You get sick– everybody gets sick at
least one on tour– it’s terrible. TIM HARRINGTON: You roll
into the club– what’s the vibe? What vibe do you want, when
you’re like, this is going to be good? – Everybody handing us weed. Smoking [INAUDIBLE] the bar. TIM HARRINGTON: Let’s hear
it for the Natural Seed. Let’s wrap it up. What have I learned
in Nashville? One, I want Mangler
to be my dad. Two, I want to live in
Third Man Records. Three, I want to hang out at
Glen Danzig’s house every night for the rest of my life. [YELLING] TIM HARRINGTON: So there’s
only three cities left to hit– and one of them is on the other
side of the country. Time to see if my road
dog tendencies are still in tiz-act.

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