Singer Stevie Rachelle recalls first meeting with Tuff band members leading to his audition
Tuff singer and Metal Sludge principal Stevie Rachelle has decided to share his story via a series of articles on Metal Sludge called the Tuff Diaries.
“People have said to me for years, “You should write a book, I’ll buy it.”
That’s not likely going to happen… not anytime soon at least. But if you are down with my blogs, my band or my various projects – I say thank you.”
The following is an excerpt from Metal Sludge‘s Tuff Diaries #2, which picks up where Rachelle meets the Tuff band members — guitarist Jorge DeSaint, bassist Todd Chase and drummer Michael Leah — for the first time and leading up to his audition on July 7, 1987:
“Flash forward to Van Nuys California July 1st 1987 around 8:00pm.
I am awaiting Tuff to come meet me and am in the bathroom trying to clip in my hair extensions.
I had hair that was resembling Leif Garrett’s teen years…(sadly my hair still resembles Leif Garrett’s hair today as we’re both in our 50’s) you know, to my shoulders, feathered, etc.. nothing crazy or super cool like Eric of Cinderella.
So back in Wisconsin I had heard about this salon where they would make hair extensions. The clip in type. I made an appointment, and went in and orderded one.
My guess it was late 1986 or early 1987 when hairband mania was peaking, but I had the hair length of Honeymoon Suite or Loverboy. That wasn’t gonna cut it.
So.. I got this whack ass hair extension thingy. I wore it sometimes. but not all the time. Even for Oshkosh it looked pretty stupid.
But now I am in California, and about to meet Tuff for the first time.
I need to look cool…like say…someone from King Kobra.
Suddenly I hear the buzzer…
I push the intercom: “Hello?”
“Is Steve there? It’s Michael and Tuff, we’re downstairs.”
“Yeah, it’s me, come on up.”
As I push the entry buzzer I walk onto the balcony and await them to appear around the corner on the lower level. I wanted to motion them to come up the stairs as a lot of these apartement buildings are mazes once in the gate.
A few seconds later they are below me, all cool jackets, black cowboy boots and they had super long and big hair.
What do I say? Something completely fucking stupid and cocky.
“Hey you fucking dicks, I am up here.”
I have no idea why I said it, but it was something totally random and uncalled for. They ignored me and walked up the stairs.
I am now standing in the living room and the door is open.
Three guys walk in and all say hello and their names. I shake hands and now we’re face to face.
The tallest one (Todd Chaisson) without hesitation looks at me and says: “Is that all your real hair?”
My heart sank, my throat swelled up and I felt about an inch tall.
Stuttering: “Ummm. well, I do..have a hair extension.”
He says nothing.
Alrighty then, Mr. Oshkosh (to myself).
Tuff = 1, Oshkosh = 0.
I now notice the shortest guy (Jorge DeSaint) has possibly the MOST hair I have ever seen on a human in my life.
I am thinking…”There is NO way that is all real.”
The guy was like Sigmund The Sea Monster. Lol.
Then Michael says something like: “Here, these are our demos”
He hands me a shrink wrapped brand new copy of their 1986 debut “Knock Yourself Out” on cassette, released by Tuff Muff Music on Hot Stuff Inc.
Also another demo, professionaly duplicated. And a folder, with a Tuff logo on it, all their lyrics, already typed out, a bio, press shots, etc..
Holy fuck. These guys are like Motley only need a singer…that could be me.
I hope my fucking gay-ass hair extension doesn’t look, ummm…totally gay! As I stand there in my pink Cinderella boots.
We start small talk, asking ages, influences, etc.. as I put in their demo tape in the stereo.
We listen to a song snipet or two and I was thinking, “This sounds like ‘Look What The Cat Dragged In” side 3.”
It was very Poison, very Motley, very RIGHT up my alley.
I stop the tape, “Wanna hear my demo?”
They all kind of mumble, “Sure…”
As I hold up my demo, which is a copy of a copy on a Maxwell 60 Minute tape, with a hand written label.
Tuff = 2, Oshkosh = 0.
I played them “Love Ride” (see a Live Version below from youtube) and a clip or two of the other tracks.
They commented but nothing I recall. I am sure they were not too impressed.
Michael Raimondo was the band’s drummer. And soon it appeared was the band’s leader as well.
He was the Gene Simmons or Nikki Sixx of Tuff.
Anything I know, I learned from Michael.
Seriously, mature beyond his years and a work-a-holic. Oddly, Michael was also the youngest guy, and I was the oldest.
I was 21 when I moved to California, Todd and Jorge were 20 and Michael was 19.
But they had already been here almost a year, done professional recordings, played the big clubs, opened for Poison and more.
Tuff = 3, Oshkosh = 0.
Clearly my hickass from Oshkosh had some catching up to do.
After a short meeting the guys and I traded some more info and phone numbers.
Todd was more outspoken and more friendly than Jorge or Michael. He said something like “Let’s hang out this week, as Michael is going to Phoenix for some business.”
Michael was actually going to Phoenix to see his son. Michael was a Father at 18, and his son was back in Arizona with his (even younger, underage) girlfriend who gave birth to their son at 16.
Michael’s trip was already planned for this week, so we couldn’t jam or do an audition til the following week.
July 7th to be exact was set to be my audition.
So Todd offered to hang with me, and was probably trying to feel me out. See if I was a cool guy, and so on.
That weekend was July 2nd, 3rd and 4th. I don’t recall any fireworks but Todd came over to my place and we walked back to the Tuff apartment.
As noted earlier, this was 1 mile door to door. And the 7/11 on the corner (next to Law Dog) is where we stopped for Todd to buy some alcohol.
He bought beer, smokes and I likely bought soda and candy.
We walked to the pad and he was calling some girls.
At some point he invited over a pair of girls. I wanna say it was Tina and Wendy.
He was with Tina and those two matched me up with Wendy.
I recall Todd on the phone (with an inquisitive girl on the other line) saying something like: “No, he’s cool. Come hang with me and my singer.”
Wendy’s hair was bleached more platinum blond than I had ever seen. She was cool, and skinny. I liked skinny girls.
We hung out, Todd smoked, drank, got drunk, and my guess is he or they probably smoked a few bowls too.
All of which I politely declined.
I kinda recall Todd smiling and saying something like: “All good… more for me.”
As the night wore on we ended up with the 2 girls in Todd and Jorge’s bedroom.
They shared a room. Todd was on his bed with Tina and I was with Wendy on Jorge’s bed.
Sure, I don’t smoke, No I don’t drink and No thanks on the Pot.
But vagina? Yes please!
I was fucking Wendy a few hours after I met her and I remember at some point I got up to use the bathroom and the light came on.
Tina and Todd both see me naked and Tina says, “OMG! Look how big his dick is.”
Wendy is on the bed smilling and Todd acknowledges her comment and at some point says something like: “That’s my singer” proudly laughing.
This was my first visit to the Tuff Muff Mansion but the weekend fun ended…and it was time to go back to Pam’s apartment.
Add to this… I had to go to work on Monday morning.
Lastly… I had an audition on Tuesday night July 7th.
Todd told me: “Work on the songs dude. And do those lessons too.”
Along with all the Tuff stuff they gave me, they also rbought me a copy of their previous singer’s new voice lessons.
They were being sold in Rip magazine and their old singer had an amazing voice.
His name was Jim Gillette and his vocal tapes, “Metal Power” were a huge hit. Even crazier, Jim was a teenager, younger than all of us and already in magazines selling vocal lessons.
Damn, I need to catch the fuck up!
Tuff guys = 4 Oshkosh = 0
Time to get to work.. .at phone sales… vocal lessons and rehearsing songs like “Candy Coated”, “Dressed For Dancin”, “Glamour Girls” and “Bang Bang.”
Stay tuned for my next journal when I detail the audition, that almost ended in a fist fight between band members.
Tuff‘s (with Jim Gillette on lead vocals) “Glamour Girls” song:
Early Tuff With jim gillette on vocal