Ex-Roadie And Electrician Recalls Gigs With The Rocket Man

Written by Chief Editor.

Tana Douglas was in the music business for over three decades. So that entailed a lot of responsibilities, whether it was being a roadie for a band called Fox; doing lighting for Elton; or overseeing logistics for Ice-T and Ice Cube. Her autobiography, Loud, is now out, and a review appears on EJW's 'News' page. Tana also took time out to talk with this site's Chief Editor. . . .

EJW: You decided to become a roadie after meeting Wane 'Swampy' Jarvis, a producer who took you under his wing. Do you know how his nickname came about?
TD: I have no idea: He would never tell anybody!
EJW: One of the artists you went on tour with was Elton, in 1982. You wrote about some of his special guests such as Rod Stewart, who got into the unfortunate habit of dumping his champagne bottle on top of your dimmer racks, and Yoko Ono and Sean Lennon, who joined Elton for an Empty Garden John Lennon tribute. Do you recollect any others?
TD: Freddie Mercury showed up. He and Elton liked to play jokes on each other and were hilarious together.
EJW: One of the Jump Up concerts was held at Colorado's Red Rocks Amphitheatre, which you found to be lovely. But you also thought it could be dangerous: how so?
TD: This was built into a canyon and was a monster of a building. It was difficult to load in and load out, and you had to go way uphill. The crew could be out in the sun for 18 hours.
And one time, in the front-of-house, we found a rattlesnake!
EJW: Another unusual setting was a pre-tour get-together--a private screening of the silent movie, Nosferatu. Did Elton attend? Why do you think he came up with the idea?
TD: He was there. The movie had just been re-released, and there was a lot of hype about it. 
It was a way for people, who would be spending so much time together, to get acquainted.
I also remember crew members going to one of his Christmas parties. 
EJW: The first time you worked with the piano player was at Windsor Castle, where he and Ray Cooper performed for Prince Andrew's 21st birthday. What was the set list like, and did they have to dress formally, like others in attendance?
TD: It was in the Portrait Room, where they had a balcony and a smaller {than usual} stage. Elton looked about the same, as he's always formal, in a costumey way.
We got the set list, but he played on and on, I guess being carried away by royalty!
EJW: In 1999, you started a non-profit to show children the value of music--what you've called the forerunner to VH1's Save The Music Foundation. Do you know if any of them wound up in the music industry?
TD: I didn't keep track, but yes, some did continue with music.
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