Remembering Ron Asheton
One of the great honors of my musical life was to release a CD and vinyl album by the great Ron Asheton on my own independent Birdcage Records. How I got access to the "Thin, Slim & None/Flunkie" tracks is a story all to it's own. Apparently the album had been released through a German label called Flippaut and they needed a US label with a distributor... I filled that bill. Right place, right time.
And I loved The Stooges.
Before the release of the album on Birdcage, a dinner was set up for Ron & I to get to know each other. He knew a bit of my work with Dread Zeppelin and, of course, I knew all about his whole career and was an unabashed fan. The conversation was a bit hesitant at first, I didn't want to dive right in with "Gee, how did you come up with the riff of 'Now I Wanna Be Your Dog?' or did Iggy ever scare you?" Or anything like that. Instead, and I don't know how it even came up, we started talking about The Three Stooges.
Ron lit up... this was obviously a good subject for the both of us. He leaned over to me and said in a reverential voice, "Did you know that I met Larry Fine?"
Turns out when the Stooges were doing their "Raw Power" shows at the Whisky in the mid-seventies, Ron was dating a woman who's mother was a cousin (?) of Larry's. Ron found out that the mother, a raging alcoholic, was visiting Larry in the motion picture retirement home where Larry had gone to live after suffering a series of debilitating strokes. Ron begged her to take him to visit Larry... at first she resisted, but finally gave in.
Ron said that when he first went to the home... he gushed to Larry about how much he loved The Three Stooges and that he was playing in a band named after them, blah blah etc.
Larry listened to Ron's spiel and sat quietly. Ron wasn't really sure if the strokes had damaged him so badly that he wasn't able to respond, or even hear him.
Finally, Larry turned to him and said, "That's real good, Kid. Next time you visit can you bring some good scotch and cigars?"
So Ron began bootlegging liquor and smokes into the hospital for Larry.
The nurses remarked that since the strange young man had been visiting, Larry seems like a new man. He was telling old show biz stories again and even giving the nurses little pats on the fanny. Feelin' good!
A few weeks later, Ron got a call, late night, maybe about three in the morning. A drunken female voice on the other end shrieked into the phone:
"YOU KILLED LARRY!!!"
And then hung up. Larry had, indeed, died... presumably with a smile on his face.
Despite the morbidity, Ron & I laughed for at least a solid five minutes. I said, "Wow... if you EVER write your autobiography, you have the title: 'I Killed Larry'".
Ron Asheton was a lovely, lovely man and, for what it's worth, a giant influence. I hope that he forgives me for sharing this story, but he had so much fun telling it to me and I laughed SO hard... it's what I thought of when I heard the sad news today.
Jah Paul Jo
Richard M. Nixon