I remember the day we met. It was June of 1977. I’d just graduated from high school. Pace Concert called to tell me Aerosmith was in town for two nights and needed emergency ‘surgery’ on one of their Marshall Amps. By `77, I’d been showing up for soundcheck at every major concert in Houston for a couple years starting when I was 15. At that point, the local promoters finally realized that touring bands liked it when I brought vintage guitars around and was there in case they needed something from the local music store.
I hopped into my new `77 Rally Sport Camaro and headed for Houston’s Summit. I’d only had it a day or two and hadn’t taken anyone for a ride in it yet. It was a graduation present from my parents and grandparents. $6700 on the sticker.
Once inside the venue, I discovered it wasn’t Aerosmith that had a sick amp, it was their opening act, Nazareth. Nazareth had been around since 1968 and first played Houston in 72 but this was my first time seeing the band live. I knew their hit “Love Hurts” but that was about it. My friend at Pace introduced me to Davey, Naz’s guitar tech and he showed me the broken Marshall amp and then introduced me to Manny. in 77, Manny was not only their lone guitar player but also the band’s producer beginning with the classic Hair of the Dog album.
I loved these guys right away. Scottish accents, mischief, killer guitar riffs. What’s not to love? Manny and I started talking about guitars and I offered to take him to a couple of music stores around town the next day. I ran the Marshall amp over to MusicVille and got their tech Travis working on it and I had it back to them in time for soundcheck. That night, the band invited me to watch the show from the side of the stage, a first for me. I was only 17.
I picked Manny up the next day and we visited a couple of stores. I didn’t sell him a guitar but we had a blast and hung out until it was time to head back for soundcheck. I hung out backstage and, once again, got to catch Nazareth from stage right.
From them on, any time Nazareth was in town, I was at the show. That early experience with hanging with Nazareth and their road crew helped shape my choice to become a road manager. To travel the world with a rock band seemed like the best gig in the world!
The boys came back in `78 as headliners and I drove down to Beaumont to see them the night before they played Houston. Once again, I was happy to see the band and crew and we made plans for me to pick up Manny, Pete Agnew the bass player, and a new 2nd guitar player Zal Cleminson.
On the way back to Houston, one of my air shocks broke. I had to limp the car home and put it in the shop. I recruited my roommate, Joe Gavito (also a brilliant guitarist) to drive me over to pick the band up. Rather than my hot Camaro, we arrived in his old red Toyota wagon. Here we are at the Whitehall hotel picking these guys, who are usually taking limos everywhere, in this old beater. They didn’t mind at all. Funny thing about Joe’s car is every time you turned right, the horn honked twice. The guys thought this was hysterical.
After visiting Rockin’ Robin Guitars and MusicVille, we stopped by the apartment to smoke a little weed. By `77, I’d met a lot of rock stars but this was the first time I had them in my living room.
Once again, Nazareth put on a brilliant show and I remembered they played ZZ Top’s “Tush” as an encore which drove the Texas crowd nuts. Nazareth was back again in `79 and I’d see them many times over the next couple of years including in `82 when by then I was touring with Humble Pie. In the early 90’s I was working for Australia’s Heaven and was excited when I heard we were booked to open for Nazareth. Sadly, I found out that Manny had left the group.
In 1986, when Guns & Roses were about to record their first album, Axl Rose wanted ‘the guy who produced Hair of the Dog’ (Nazareth’s Dan McCafferty is Axl’s favorite singer) and Manny ended up recording about 25 tracks with the band at Sound City studios including “Paradise City”, “Rocket Queen”, “Welcome to the jungle”, “Nightrain”, two versions of “Move to the City”, “November Rain”, “Shadow of your Love” (takes one and two), and “Reckless Life”. Unfortunately, Manny was scheduled to produce a new Nazareth album and had to return to Europe. GNR ended up hiring Mike Clink to replace him and most of the world never knew of Manny’s contribution until the band reissued the album in 2018 and included all the tracks Manny worked on.
I lost touch with Manny for a few years and then we reconnected in the 90’s while I was managing Glenn Hughes. Manny sent me a cassette demo of his band Drool and asked me if I could help him get a record deal. Unfortunately, there just wasn’t enough name recognition at the time and I couldn’t get a label to bite. We stayed in touch, though, mainly on Facebook. I hadn’t seen him in person for quite a while.
I can remember walking the streets of Ekaterinburg on my first trip to Russia in 2002 and spotting posters for an upcoming Nazareth show. I thought about how much fun it would be to show up at their show and I even considered extending my trip.
Last night I heard the news that he’d passed, just a couple weeks shy of his 81st birthday. We’ve lost so many rock stars lately. It seems like I’m tweeting out an RIP every other day. But this one really hits close to home because Manny was the first rock star that I actually became friends with. Hard to believe it’s been 45 years since we met. Rest in Peace, Manny.