He was known as "The Lizard King."
A true rock legend, for his music, his style and his on-stage antics, Jim Morrison and the Doors rose to mega heights before his untimely death in Paris at age 27.
Morrison died before I started my official duties as rock writer, but I, like thousands of others, was a fan.
My encounters with the Doors actually began in 1967 in Fort Worth, Texas. A big rock extravaganza was booked for the Roundup Inn, part of the Will Rogers cultural complex on the city's west side.
One of the big sponsors was local AM station KFJZ, featuring legendary DJ Mark Stevens, better known to his followers as "Mark E. Baby." The big headline act was The Box Tops, who were riding atop the charts with a song called "The Letter."
But one of the secondarty acts was also generating quite a bit of excitement with the song, "Light My Fire." That group was of course The Doors, led by the sultry, deep-voiced Morrison, sporting his trademark leather pants and long, tossled locks. He earned the moniker "Lizard King" with his serpentine stage moves.
Understand the Roundup Inn was a big, cavernous hall, and the acts were scattered about in various locations. Concertgoers shuffled from stage to stage and could literally stand right by the amplifiers, almost able to touch the performers if they wanted to.
So there was Morrison and the rest of the Doors -- Ray Manzarek, John Densmore and Robby Krieger -- performing "Light My Fire" to the crowd that had gathered around them. I was probably 10 feet from Morrison's gyrating microphone stand.
The next time I saw Morrison in Texas was under much different circumstances.
The Doors were headlining a concert in Dallas and "bad boy" Morrison had made headlines when he was arrested for exposing himself at a performance in Miami. Needless to say, Dallas police was out in force.
But this time I brought a camera and managed to snap 20 or so photos of Morrison in action. It was the last time I would see The Doors in concert.
Rock star, poet, film-maker ... Morrison seemed yet another victim of a drug-and-alcohol-laden lifestyle that also claimed fellow rock stars Jimi Hendrix and Janis Joplin, each of the age of 27.
His songs and persona remain ingrained in our culture, and his gravesite has become one of the top tourist attractions in the City of Light.
I may have been the last person to interview Jim Croce.
Croce -- "Bad, Bad Leroy Brown," "Time in a Bottle," "Operator" and "You Don't Mess Around with Jim" -- was on a concert tour in September, 1973 which made a stop at Six Flags Over Texas in Arlington.
While primarily known for its rides, Six Flags also sported a full-fledged outdoor concert pavilion called the Music Mill Theater. Croce would be appearing there along with his opening act, comedian George Stevens.
At the time Croce was riding a wave of million-selling records and his feel-good, infectious melodies could be heard everywhere. Backstage and in person, Croce was just as engaging as his songs -- warm, open and on top of the world.
Hardly more than a week later came the shocking news: Croce, Stevens and four others had died instantly when their private plane hit a tree taking off from Nachitoches, La. en route to Sherman, Tx. and a show at Austin College.
Croce was 30 years old.
That December, his "I Got a Name" album was released. Along with the title track, two more songs from it topped the charts: "Working at the Car Wash Blues" and "I Have to Say I Love You in a Song."
Croce's music endures and is enjoyed by new generations. A fine and fitting legacy for a talented musician whose life ended much too soon.
The year was 1972. British rockers The Moody Blues were coming to town and the show was a sellout. But I wasn't going to be there. My colleague, Jerry Zenick, was scheduled to attend and write the review.
But something happened that forced Jerry to cancel out at the last minute. That's when he asked me to go in his place.
The Moodies were among my favorites and I was delighted to accept.
As my wife Pam and I settled in our seats (dodging the ever-present flying Frisbees zinging around the vast confines of the TCCC (Tarrant County Convention Center), the lights dimmed for the warm-up act, a duo known as Fat City.
I discovered Fat City was a husband and wife team, Bill Danoff and Taffy Nivert, whose main claim to fame was co-writing the iconic pop ballad that propelled one-time Fort Worth resident John Denver (aka John Deutschendorf, Jr) to stardom: "Take Me Home, Country Roads."
Then, just as now, warm-up acts had a tough job. Everyone was there to see the main event. Warm-up acts were generally viewed as a conspiracy to 1) increase business at the concession stands, 2) allow the headliners more time to lounge (or whatever) or 3) accomodate late-arriving concert-goers held up by traffic (or whatever).
In this case, Fat City's focus on ballads and folk was in direct juxaposition to the Moodies' mix of pulsating rock and psychedelic pop.
As their set ended and the house lights came up, the promoter we worked with at Concerts West, the company that handled most of the big tours at that time, came over to my seat.
"Where's Jerry?" she asked. I explained he had to cancel and I was in his place. That's when I found out an interview had been set up with Fat City back stage and they were waiting. A little detail Jerry had left out.
So off we went to their back stage dressing room to conduct an interview I was totally unprepared to do.
Looking back, Bill and Taffy had to be among my first interviews as a music writer. And as it turned out, one of the most pleasant.
As we sat down to talk, my initial nervousness quickly dissipated. Bill and Taffy were a delight: Funny, down-to-earth, smart. They had turned stints at the famed Washington D.C. (their home base) Cellar Door into touring with some of music's biggest acts and were thoroughly enjoying the ride.
That chance encounter became the basis for a friendship that would span the next ten years.
A couple of factoids from a half-dozen interviews over that time:
-- Taffy's real name is Mary Catherine. But when her brother tried to pronounce it, it came out "Taffy." The name stuck.
-- Bill, who used to work the light and sound equipment at the Cellar Door, has a BA in Chinese from Georgetown University.
-- When they met in the late Sixties, Taffy was working as a typist for the AFL-CIO. When a vacany came up in Bill's band, Taffy joined as a singer. That ended her secretarial career.
-- Their first album as Fat City was "Reincarnation," released by Paramount Records in 1970.
-- They met an up and coming folksinger named John Denver at the Cellar Door in 1970. The three of them polished up "Take Me Home, Country Roads." That's Bill and Taffy signing backup on it.
In the years following the Moody Blues show, Bill and Taffy returned several times to the Dallas/Fort Worth area, including a stop at a Dallas club called Mother Blues in 1974.
Then, in 1976, the duo became a foursome as longtime friends Margo Chapman and Jon Carroll joined to form the Starland Vocal Band. Bill penned a new song you may have heard --"Afternoon Delight," and suddenly, as the lyric from it goes, their career became "a skyrocket in flight."
Starland became one of the first groups signed to John Denver's Windsong label. They also toured with Denver, which included a stop in Dallas.
In the years that followed, Bill and Taffy would go their separate ways. But I'll always look back fondly on the friendship that grew from the interview I wasn't supposed to be at.
Music was always a big deal to me. Whether records, reel-to-reel tape or cassettes, I liked to surround myself with music. So it wasn't a big stretch that when i joined the staff of the Fort Worth Star-Telegram in 1970, I volunteered in my off time to write about music and musicians.