Bill Sullivan has been the tour manager for a number of acts, including Bright Eyes, Yo La Tengo, Soul Asylum, and Syl Johnson. But it all began with the Replacements. Sullivan worked as a roadie for the group, from their first tour in 1983 through their 1989 trek opening for Tom Petty and the Heartbreakers. His duties included hauling amps, keeping rowdy fans off the stage, and finding places for the entourage to crash. The Replacements’s debaucherous antics are now the stuff of legend, and Sullivan was a frequent co-conspirator. On many occasions, he was behind the microphone, taking the lead on lively covers of such gems as Roger Miller’s “Kansas City Star,” Lou Reed’s “Walk on the Wild Side,” and the goofy Elvis Presley tune, “Do the Clam.”
One night during the Petty tour, the Replacements were in the midst of their set, when Paul Westerberg started playing the opening chords to Alice Cooper’s “I’m Eighteen.” Taunted by Westerberg, Sullivan ran out and grabbed the mic to belt out the Cooper chestnut for 20,000 people.
I met Sullivan decades ago, a few years after his time with the Replacements had ended. Mentioning I had bootlegs of him singing “If I Only Had a Brain” and other covers with the ‘Mats, he smiled and said, “If I only had a brain, I wouldn’t be on all of those bootlegs.”
Courtesy of Bill Sullivan.
Sullivan fronted Jefferson’s Cock, an informal Replacements side project that played just a handful of times. The story of Jefferson’s Cock begins in 1983 during a stop in Lawrence, Kansas. The Replacements had agreed to play a house party, but it turned into the first JC performance. In Sullivan’s absorbing new memoir, Lemon Jail: On the Road with the Replacements, he writes about the genesis of Jefferson’s Cock.
Paul decided we were going to play the party as Jefferson’s Cock, a name he just pulled out of his ass. Tommy and Bob were not involved, but [fellow roadie] Carton played bass and Mars played drums. We got into the roommates’ closets and dressed in housedresses and combat boots, which was the look at the time by the women who hung out at the Hüsker shows. We spent the afternoon painting our eyes and powdering our noses and then did a set of covers including “You Think I’m Psycho (Don’t You Mama),” “Mrs. Brown, You’ve Got a Lovely Daughter,” “Borstal Breakout,” and of course, “Eighteen,” “Kansas City Star,” and “Do the Clam.”
The Cock’s next appearance would be at the Rat in Boston.
We had more than ample help for this show and showed up in severe makeup (Paul had gotten a diagram and instructions from a beautician he had met in Ohio). We also had housedresses and boots. We hit the stage with no sound check and little gear of our own and gave them the Hits, this time adding a little Gary Glitter. After our set a little sweaty guy in an ill-fitting three piece came back and told us he wanted to sign us to a label. Pulling out an enormous ziplock full of blow, he shouted, How much of this will it take to make the deal? and dumped it on the carved-up cable-wheel table full of beer ashes and tahini. As we were digging the last crystals out of the grooves, security arrived and made him leave.
More after the jump…