Fanboy Jer post #12
Tuff (this is going to be long…deal with it)
Tuff …There is a reason Tuff is the last entry into the Fanboy Jer posts. No one else did the ‘band/fan’ relationship better. In fact, anyone promoting their own product should be forced to study how Tuff did things. Sure, times have changed, but the concept of sheer gruntwork hasn’t.
Tuff worked their asses off D.I.Y. punk-rock style. They were nationally known before they were signed, selling out the Sunset Strip before they were signed, etc. When they WERE finally signed by Atlantic Records and released their debut album, “What Comes Around Goes Around” in 1991 …it was all coming to a halt, a grinding, grunging halt to the hair metal ride. In fact, I’d argue Tuff’s “I Hate Kissing You Goodbye” was the very last song of the genre to reach the masses. It made it to #3 on Dial MTV (…never forget…) and that was it…for everyone in leather pants.
Back to 1991 though… I was 16, headed toward 17, devouring Metal Edge magazine, so I was more than aware of 'Rock On The Rise'rs’ Tuff. I bought the album the day it came out at Record Alley. Which lead to writing a fan letter, joining their fan club, calling their hotline (which I still know by heart I believe), etc. You know, same drill as all the others. I got my newsletters, Dial MTV postcards, birthday wishes, etc. I even got a swank ass Tuff folder (see above) to house all the incoming mail.
At some point, their lead singer Stevie Rachelle called me to thank me for the support etc. Things like that automatically increased fandom by 666, so you were ready to work even harder to spread the Tuff rock gospel.
Months later, Tuff announced a tour date in Cincinnati. Unfortunately, it was as Annies…which was 21 + up, therefore I couldn’t get in (this caused me to miss Tyketto, Southgang, Lillian Axe, Kik Tracee, and more during these crucial hair metal years). Since my Mom rules, she drove me and my friend Tina down to Annie’s early in the day, with hopes to meet the dudes in Tuff after a soundcheck or something. Total shot in the dark.
We arrived at Annie’s to find the Tuff Muff Tour Bus and staked out our spot in the parking lot. Eventually the guys were coming off the bus, heading in and out of the club. Tina and I approached the bus, and before I even said anything, Stevie Rachelle from Hell says “Jeremiah?”
Cue my head exploding.
I asked how he knew who I was, to which he replied…and bands take note, this was before cell phones, email, etc…. “Oh, when we hit a town I look up what fans are in the area. I remember calling you a bit ago.” This still gives me major “WTF?”.
Stevie then proceeded to hang out with us chatting, signing autographs, taking pictures, etc…then, HE.INVITED.US.TO.SEE.THE BUS.
If you didn’t grow up in this time, you simply do not understand this. I am a 16 year old kid from Kentucky who has only seen tour buses in those “life on the road” Bon Jovi videos. A tour bus was like the fucking batcave. Sacred, secret, and only seen by the inner-circle. This was UNFATHOMABLE in my brain. Stevie even invited my Mom to come hang out, to which she declined and stayed in the car…bless her :)
This day lead to a lifelong friendship with Stevie. Even when Tuff wasn’t in the public eye anymore or even active at points, Rachelle was sending me birthday cards, Xmas cards, or just calling to check up on me. Over the years, I was finally able to see Tuff many times. Stevie has never let me pay for a show, a shirt, a cd, etc. In fact, sometimes I’d randomly receive a priority mail box full of Tuff and random other band’s stuff he thought I’d dig.
I continued to push the Tuff name whenever I could help. For instance, when I started working at Phil’s Records…I took all Stevie’s products on consignment and we were cutting him sales checks a few times a year. When he released “American Hair Band”, I pulled a pretty good move to get it played locally on the biggest rock station in Cincinnati. One of their DJ’s came into the store and was hoping to get a discount on some CDs for his “Big Hair” show, so I made him a deal that I’d give him a huge discount if he promised to play “American Hair Band” twice on his show. He did, it blew up for the show, and I was routinely calling Stevie for more boxes in the following months. I was thrilled to be still helping out when I could. It was the least I could do.
Through the years, Stevie has gone above and beyond many other times. He never treated me like a 'fan’, even from the first phone call. Here I am in 2012, almost 38 years old, and he still makes the time to check in with that kid in Kentucky, in between putting out a new Tuff record (that rules!), running the infamous Metal Sludge, and being a kick-ass proud father. The guy is golden. And it all started with a fan letter….
Thank you Stevie, much love and respect my brother.
So that wraps up my “Fanboy Jer” series. I hope you dug reading it, as much as I did reliving it. If I end up coming across other stuff, I’ll still throw them up for fun, we’ll call’m 'bonus tracks’…. but this is the good stuff, the important stuff. Thanks to all the bands who cared, it meant more than you know.