John Myers was the least outspoken of the twelve members of Carmel City Council. He tended to go along with the majority and shied away from controversy. He owned an independent commercial real estate company that did well enough to keep him on billboards throughout the county —a distinct advantage when it came time to run for office. He didn’t really like politics but being on the council helped him keep watch over policies that impacted his business and if that meant he had to vote a particular way to ensure a zoning issue went his way later on, he had no qualms with it.
This made him the last person that anyone would expect to cross Mayor Teddy Wiggins. Which is exactly what John intended to do. It started with a seemingly harmless motion. The councilman suggested that the roundabout at 126th and Keystone avenue have some monument to music. Many of the city’s roundabouts had been upgraded with art, plants, and other features in recent years. John encouraged the members of the council to consider a tribute to the art of musical performance.
“I’m making a motion to consider the plan being distributed to you now,” he said as papers were passed to each member of the council. “The motion is to use the $50,000 left in the Roundabout Beautification budget the fiscal year ending June 30, to put a sculpture celebrating Franklin and his contributions to musical performance. And of course, Taylor will do the sculpture of his head with accompanying symbols of his craft”
“I think that’s a fine idea,” George Fillmore responded. “And of course, Mayor Wiggins is a big fan of Morty Franklin and will be behind this all the way.” This was met with shaking heads of approval.
John Myers chuckled to himself. His motion did not actually say Morty Franklin. It just said Franklin. Just like the sculptor’s name was not Monique Taylor, the woman who had done the other sculptures and art around town. No, Councilman Myers used last names on purpose. He was vague on purpose. He wanted this passed without a thought, agreed to before it could be taken back.
“Will the council need a sketch of the work, or can we just move on with it?”
“We need some idea of what you have in mind,” George responded.
“It’s just that I would like it to be a surprise for the Mayor unless you have any objections,” John responded. “Of course, that last statement would have to be stricken from the minutes in order to do so?”
“That’s a fabulous idea,” shouted Martha Bickmore-Welsh. “It will be all I can do to keep the secret when I go backstage to greet the performers at the Palladium this weekend.” Martha greeted anyone she wanted at the Palladium, whether they wished to be greeted or not. She was on the Palladium board and the Bickmore’s of the Bickmore-Welsh family had once owned the land on which it sat. She was a philanthropist, patron of the arts, and delighted to point out that she had “performed opera in New York, don’t you know.”
“Well, do please try to contain your enthusiasm, Martha,” John warned.
“I performed opera in New York, don’t you know,” she answered.
“I seem to recall that,” George responded.
She raised her left arm, almost pointing to New York and the rest of the council feared she would break out in song. “But the Great American Songbook still holds a dear place in my heart.” She put her other hand over her heart. “It is fitting that such a monument be put in our fair city.” She looked at Clair Bee, the stenographer. “Strike that last statement of Mr. Myers from the record. We’re keeping this a secret.”
George Fillmore objected. “Martha, I’m the chair. It’s my job to tell Clair to strike the last statement.”
She gave him a dismissive wave. “Go on then.”
“Clair, let’s just state that we’ve empowered Mr. Myers to take care of the monument in the roundabout of 126th and Keystone Avenue.” He looked around the room. “Everyone agreed?” Let’s vote. All in favor?” 11 ayes. “All opposed?” 1 nay. “Let the record show Sy Kinsler voted no. Motion carries.”
Sy Kinsler, being the only Libertarian on the board, always voted no to any government spending out of principle. He was elected as an at large member when someone discovered that over fifty percent of the ballots that election were printed without his competitor’s name. As the election was close for the mayor that year (within 20 votes) the possibility of a redo was terrifying. So, he and his backers convinced Sy Kinsler’s opponent (Janet Jefferies LeClure) to not challenge the results. She promptly found her place of business (LeClure Luxury Linens) in a property tax-free zone for a decade.
The unassuming councilman that brought this motion to the board smiled and quietly participated in the rest of the meeting. Part one of his plan was complete. He now had nobody watching over his shoulder and $50,000 to spend on a tribute to Franklin —Franklin Myers that is.
John Myers lost his brother Franklin to pancreatic cancer the previous year. Franklin had moved back to Carmel after 45 years on the road as a guitar tech, road crew manager, and eventually production manager to some of the most famous and infamous rock bands in history. In the world of music, he was known as “Filthy Frank.”
In the 70s, Filthy Frank gained a reputation as a reliable roadie and a degenerate partier. When Noah Bleekman of the Rusty Spoons turned 30, it was Filthy Frank that organized the infamous Noah’s Ark party—complete with two dozen sets of female twins dressed in matching animal costumes. The Feminist Music Critics of America organized a protest at their next concert.
It was Filthy Frank who filled the JC Memorial Fountain in Kansas City with KY Jelly, although Motley Crue, KISS, and Sinead O’Conner have been blamed for the incident over the years. But probably his biggest act of depravity happened during a summer music festival in Europe. Hip hop diva Shady-T was on the bill and her roadies along with her rider demands were making life miserable for the other roadies at the three-day event.
She had an all-white dressing room, twice the size of all the other performers. And nobody was allowed to use the backstage restroom but her. The rest of the crew and other bands had to share a set of two port-o-potties outside or make a quarter-mile trek back to the lot where the tour buses were parked. This even included the two days of the festival before Shady-T arrived. It was diva behavior at its worst. And Franklin Myers wasn’t having any more of it.
So, Filthy Frank tampered with her bottled water supply (flown in from Fiji) and added a clear laxative. Exactly 32 minutes into the show, the singer quickly left the stage while her band and dancers performed a lengthy improvised jam session. Meanwhile, Shady-T had to use the outside port o potty as the roadies and chained all the backstage bathroom right when she took the stage. The delicate princess had to take a lengthy dump in the port-o-potty filled with the aroma of 3 days’ worth of roadie fudge marinated in 95-degree summer heat and humidity. By the time she was done defecating, she began vomiting.
When she returned to the stage, she was paler than her all-white backstage palace. In a fitting tribute, all the non Shady-T roadies hummed Procol Harum’s Whiter Shade of Pale as her roadies took down her stage set up. Some laughed at the joke. Some were embarrassed to be on her crew and vowed to leave at the next opportunity, even if it meant finishing the summer touring with Bill Joel.
Filthy Frank wasn’t just filthy. He did manage to come up with some innovations that helped make stage set up and tear down more efficient. He became a wise and experienced production manager. And, he was also always working to help other roadies who were down on their luck.
When he retired, he wanted to open a small museum to honor the work and lives of the unknown roadies who help make all the big shows you and I pay hundreds of dollars (along with convenience fees) possible. So, he retired to the town in which he spent his youth, and came up with a plan to pay tribute to the men and women of the profession he loved.
So, he came up with a plan and went before city council to ask for their support, both financially and otherwise. They turned him down. He wasn’t as polished as the usual presenter in these meetings, what with the roadie clothes and the black cowboy hat with the silver skull on its band. Some of the council members even mocked Filthy Frank.
When Mayor Teddy was asked about the proposal by the Carmel Bugle, he said, “A roadie museum in Carmel? There would be people in Metallica wife beaters as far as the eye could see. Of course, I’m not in favor of that. I’m glad the council had the sense to pass on it.”
Franklin Myers died one year later; his dream never realized. His brother had now set in motion a fitting plan B.
Three months later, Teddy Wiggins drove to the unveiling and ribbon cutting bursting with excitement. He loved the American Songbook. He worshipped at the feet of Morty Franklin, and he adored the art of Monique Taylor. This was going to be a pivotal day for Carmel, IN. A major thoroughfare of the city would become a monument to the music he loved. Thousands of cars every day would look upon it and absorb the superior artistic genius encapsulated in this display.
At least those were the words he was going to use once the curtain was drawn and he made his closing comments. He never had actually seen the display, as it was supposed to be a surprise. But word had leaked out and today was the day.
Teddy parked his car and proceeded to the roundabout which was closed for the afternoon’s ceremony. “How is it looking? Can I peak behind the curtain,” he asked John Myers.
“No,” John said. “I want your capture your reaction authentically along with everyone else. This is going to be a singular moment for the city.”
Mayor Teddy squeezed John’s arm, “I can’t wait.” Then he winced when he saw some rock and roll types dressed in black. “Who are they?” he asked.
“They’re just part of the set-up crew for today’s musical accompaniment,” John replied.
“Will they be gone before the cameras get here?”
“I’m certain they will be right where we want them by then,” John replied.
The only person who was not happy today was Martha Bickmore-Welsh. She felt completely left out by not being invited to sing. “How could you honor the American Songbook and not have me sing,” she asked John.
“Martha, not again. We’re going on in two minutes.”
“I should be singing If My Friends Could See Me Now. I know Morty would have been so pleased to hear me sing.” She looked around for the performer. “Speaking of which, where is he?”
“He’s not coming?”
“Not coming? But this is his big day! How can you honor the man and he not be here? We need to cancel this right now.” She made for the podium, but John cut her off.
“He’s not here because we didn’t invite him.”
“Didn’t invite him? I don’t understand.”
“You will in a moment,” he responded.
At this point, Mayor Teddy cut him off. “It’s time to get this started. Where is the Monique and Morty?”
“They aren’t here,” Martha replied.
“How could they not be here?” Teddy was getting red in the face.
“Teddy, who on earth are those people?” Martha gestured to a group of musicians dressed in black.
“I don’t know. John who the hell are those people?
He responded, “They are the musical performers for today?”
“They look like a heavy metal group,” said Teddy.
“How can you have a heavy metal group sing If My Friends Could See Me Now?”
“That’s what I’ve been saying for weeks,” Martha interjected.
“They aren’t,” John replied.
“Wait, what is this?”
“Too late it’s 2 pm.”
Mayor Teddy nervously walked up to the podium, clutching his script. “Good afternoon and welcome to this monumental occasion. We are here to pay tribute to the music and performance that have made our country great.” His voice wavered, gripped by uncertainty. “And to the artist who has captured that in the creation we are about to unveil. Now I would like to introduce John Myers of city council who spearheaded this project.”
As Teddy walked off the stage, he whispered in John’s ear, “What have you done?”
“You will see soon enough.”
John began, “Ladies and gentlemen. Two years ago, our city and the world of music lost one of its vital citizens. Behind every great performance, is a crew that sets up the stage, manages the lights, monitors the sound and tears it down at the end. Their names are unknown because they operate out of the limelight. Of course, I’m talking about the roadies. And Carmel, Indiana is proud to honor one of our own and the profession of rock and roll roadie with the Tomb of the Unknown Roadie.”
The band immediately began playing “The Load Out” by Jackson Brown. As they did, the curtain came down and John’s tribute to his brother and all the roadies who ever lived was revealed.
Throughout the roundabout were limestone roadie statues, posed in a variety of roadie activities. Some were pushing crates of equipment. Some were tuning instruments. A lighting rig stretched across the roundabout and roadies were dismantling it. In the middle of the stage was a stack of limestone Marshal amplifier stacks. On top of the stacks was a casket draped with microphone cords. Under the casket was an inscription that said, “Tomb of the Unknown Roadie.” To the left of the stage was a singular statue. A roadie with a cowboy hat with a skull, pointing instructions to the rigging guys. He had a vest and bare sleeves. On his right bicep was a tattoo of a Gibson Flying V guitar.
Teddy was aghast but had to will himself to composure as all eyes were darting from him to the sculpture and back again. This seemed out of line for Mayor Teddy Wiggins. This seemed out of line for Carmel. How did this get approved they wondered?
Martha Bickmore-Welsh was not as skilled at regaining her composure. After clocking both Teddy and John with her purse, she marched to the podium to take charge. The soundboard operator cut the mic. Those in the front row heard her vow to have the display removed. Which is exactly what Teddy said to John.
“I will have this ripped out of her by tomorrow afternoon,” he swore.
“You can’t,” John replied. “You signed an agreement to keep it here for ten years.”
“You little weasel! You’re finished. Don’t you dare try to run for city council again.”
“I don’t plan to,” he responded. “And mayor, keep it down. The press is waiting.”
The song finished and Teddy looked out of over the puzzled crowd. The press had lots of questions. Frankly, so did Teddy. “Mayor Wiggins, you seemed surprised by this monument. Were you aware of this tribute to roadies?”
He thought for a moment, collected his thoughts and answered, “What a unique vision John Myers has brought to the city of Carmel. I can say none of us expected this,” his voice trailed, his attention now focused on the spectacle behind the crowd and cameras, “nor did we expect Metallica wife-beater as far as the eye could see.”
Walking up the ramp from Keystone Avenue, was a long procession of musicians, roadies, and their families. Every band on tour in the Midwest had detoured to Carmel Indiana. And like the closing scene in Field of Dreams, an unending stream of rockers came to pay tribute to Filthy Frank.
It was glorious, even if Martha Bickmore-Welsh didn’t get to sing “If My Friends Could See Me Now.” Hours later, long after the mayor had sworn revenge on John and Martha Bickmore-Welsh had informed everyone not in black that she had sung opera in New York, the roundabout had turned into a party. And as the sun went down, the roadies and rockers who crowded the roundabout convinced the band to play the “Loadout/Stay” one more time as they all sang along. And everyone stayed, just a little bit longer.