Dinky Dawson and the Legendary Gig Wagon Races - Part 2

Martin Bailey mbailey at netsoltek.co.uk
Fri May 30 07:47:48 CDT 2008

Part 2:


I don't think the author is aware that Keith couldn't drive.  (At least - that's what I always thought...?)


Part II: Dawson and the Legendary Gig Wagon Races
by Dinky Dawson

**We return with Dawson's hilariously captivating tale of the legendary gig wagon races featuring Keith Moon. If you missed Part I, you can read that here <http://crawdaddy.wolfgangsvault.com/Article.aspx?id=6780>.**

"Okay, so what's going on?" I asked. Quietly, Keith Moon recounted how he had mentioned the Blue Boar and van races in an interview, and as word got out, roadies took up the challenge. I started laughing.

"Seen any cops yet?" I asked, shaking my head.

"Nah, it's too early in the game for them to know what's going on," he said, raising his eyebrows.

As Moonie was talking, who should walk in the door but the instigator himself, Chris Adamson. Moonie was ecstatic, to say the least. Chris had a big smile on his face and gloated that he was coming from a show in Newcastle.

"That's impossible," I said. "You'd have to do at least a hundred miles an hour all the way!"

"Try 115 miles an hour," Chris boasted.

I doubted a transit van could do 100, let alone 115, but Chris insisted that the modifications he had made to the engine, from the new shocks down to the Rocket Gold Star motor-bike exhaust system, were very real and very cool.

"Moonie," I insisted, "this is one gig wagon we gotta see."

After getting tea to go, we headed off to the parking lot. Something was brewing and it was not tea. As we reached Chris' gig wagon, Moonie pointed at the front extension, a telltale sign that this thing had a huge engine under the hood. Then he saw the Rocket Gold Star silencers protruding from under the side of the van.

"Groovy, man!" Moonie was laughing until Chris opened the hood. Keith's mouth dropped. Under the hood was a tricked-out engine, gearbox, and a heavy duty suspension. I was amazed. Did Chris have a transit shell put on a dragster truck chassis or did he have the English version of a whisky runner's truck? In either case, this was one mean gig wagon.

"Fire it up," Moonie yelled. Chris obliged, gunning the engine. I couldn't believe the sound as the van shook from side to side when Chris jammed the gas pedal. Moonie instantly wanted to drive it.

"No way!" yelled Chris. "Frampton would kill me."

"Come on. I'll pay if there's any damage," promised Moonie.

"Sure, you will," Chris thundered back. "You can't even afford to pay for your own gig wagon these days. Who's driving you around now, anyway?" Moonie said he was driving himself around in his Rolls.

Chris laughed, "I'll swap you my gig wagon for your Rolls!"

"No way!" Moonie guffawed.

It wasn't long before the rest of the roadies emptied out of the Blue Boar and came over, ready to start the race. I headed back into the Blue Boar followed by Chris, who, like me, was ready. There was a total of six gig wagons: Four transits, one Bedford, and Jethro Tull's brand new Mercedes-Benz van-and Moonie's Rolls Royce. I figured it wasn't how fast the gig wagon could go; it was how well it was loaded and how well the driver knew his truck. I knew that most of these gig wagons weren't packed well, overloaded with heavy speaker cabinets, B3s, sound systems, drums, lots of hardware, and heavy amplifiers.

At the last minute, Moonie decided to be the starter and the judge, rather than race his Rolls. We all agreed and insisted that this was a roadie race with no band members allowed. With this established, the great van race began. It was now after 4am, and the M1 was quiet. Normal folks were sleeping.
As we edged down the ramp onto the M1, there was no traffic north or south, so Keith slowly lined us up across the road: Six gig wagons across three lanes. Moonie was behind everyone, and when we all seemed even, he blew his horn and we started our engines. Chris Adamson took off like a rocket, establishing the lead; I was right behind him with Tull's gig wagon at my side and all the other vans close behind.

Most of the M1 is straight, but a few miles down the road was one of the few bends. Tull's wagon, top-heavy and overloaded, slowed down. Chris had long gone; I couldn't even see his brake lights. Suddenly, Moonie drove at my side, shouting something incomprehensible out of his window. I pointed down the road and he gave me a thumbs up and took off. All the other wagons were not far behind, except for Tull's van, and that one was way back.

I frantically drove through the dawn, slowly pulling away from the others but still no Chris in sight. As I reached the end of the motorway, Chris was waiting alone without Moonie. "Where have you been?" he greeted me smiling.

"Chris, I couldn't beat you and I don't think anyone else can either," I answered, feeling tired. "I'll talk to you later. It's time for bed."

"That's what Moonie said when he passed me," Chris related. The rest of the roadies beeped their horns as they caught up and headed into London. Even Tull's crew, bringing up the rear, seemed to be having fun as they passed us. Chris and I knew that next week we'd meet at the Speakeasy to recount the events of this night.

The gig wagon races were the talk of the roadie world for quite a while until Fairport Convention's road crew, along with some band members, had a bad accident. One of the band members died; there were injuries to everyone else. With police cars now patrolling the M1, the van races came to an end.

The following week, after Fleetwood Mac had played a gig in London, Peter Green and Danny Kirwan headed to the Speakeasy to jam with Hendrix and the Who. I decided to join them. It was Chris Adamson's birthday, and the party had already started. Peter Frampton had brought some girls, and some of the lads from the Move were all over them.

I saw Moonie chatting with Aaron Russo, the owner of Kinetic Playground, where the Mac often played in Chicago. Moonie and Aaron had been drinking for a while and were just starting to get a little rowdy. Whiz-I felt a strawberry fly by my head. Then plop, a corn cob burst through the air, scattering a few of us. Next thing I knew, fruit and vegetables were flying and we were ducking for cover. Fortunately, Peter and Danny were hanging at the stage out of harm's way, and were ready to go up and play. As the melee of vegetables continued, the owner of the Speakeasy made a beeline for Moonie.

"Oy, not me," said Moonie, pointing to Aaron, the perpetrator. "It's him. Make him pay!"

Although Aaron had to pay for any damages, Keith still got scolded by the owner. In truth, Aaron did admit to provoking the food fight, although he insisted Moonie encouraged and joined him. In the end, everyone laughed and had a good time.

Shortly after the birthday party, I shared a flat with Baz, who was a roadie for Keith Emerson's group the Nice. That lasted all of two weeks. One night, Baz came back to the flat completely drunk and knackered. Instead of peeing in the bathroom, he whizzed in the clothes closet. The next night I was knocked out of a deep sleep by loud banging and running water. I turned on the light and there was Baz, whizzing on the wall. That was it. I left the next day.

I last saw Baz at a gig in Antwerp, Belgium. Fleetwood Mac was on a bill playing a soccer stadium with Yes, the Nice, Jon Hiseman's Colosseum, and Aynsley Dunbar's Retaliation. Everyone traveled on two prop airplanes, one a cargo plane carrying the band gear. The old, small passenger airplane was full to the max with bands and roadies. The roadies had been up all night, coming from shows all around England. Despite being tired, we were suspicious of the planes, which looked as if they had seen better days. Before we set off, Baz began yelling for the free drinks from the only stewardess on the plane. And by the time we were ready to rumble down the runway, everyone wanted a drink. As I looked around the plane, I could see a couple of stress areas that looked like they had some rivets missing. The seats looked worn and old.

"We're all going to die," rasped John McVie, looking around as the plane lurched down the runway.


**Stay tuned for the conclusion of Dinky Dawson's Gig Wagon Race tales in the coming weeks.**

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