We had played with the Infliktors who Tracks had never been particularly friendly with. I’m not sure why. Both Lorry and I thought they were a good band. And we had always tried to make nice with the groups we played with. After all, we were all in the same boat – playing in a dive for little or no money. But for some reason the Infliktors had always deflected any attempts we made at backstage camaraderie. The one exception was the late Gary Cook who got along well enough with Lorry anyway. Hell, he even played emergency drums with Tracks for a set one of the times Wild Johnny was delayed from making the show due to other (unknown) priorities. But the other guys in the Infliktors had been pretty cool towards us. So when I saw one of them come through the dressing room door with a friend, I just concentrated on pampering my Gibson.

“Hey, a fretless wonder,” spurts the friend.

I look up and see a motley-faced guy with long hair, dyed jet black. Right, a ‘rock star’, I snicker to myself. I’m not sure if he’s insulting my guitar or me but I’m not too happy with either alternative. He bends over my lap to have a closer look at my guitar and I’m not too excited about having his breath all over my baby.

“Let me take a look,” he says, pantomiming playing.

I probably just stare at him for a minute or two ‘cause Lorry gives me a nudge in the ribs. Without thinking, I offer up my beloved. I don’t know why I agreed so readily. I can only claim being in a state of shock over the ridiculous request.

So Mr. Rock Star plays a bunch of wild stuff that doesn’t sound too impressive, the guitar not being plugged in and all and hands it back. I clutch it close to me and immediately and silently wipe it down as I glare at him viscously. Again I feel Lorry nudge me. I blink.

“Thanks. Nothing like them fretless wonders,” he states before turning round and exiting with the Infliktor. And I’m thinking, why didn’t I slap that insulting son-of-a-bitch?

Lorry says, “Why do you have to be so
intense?”

“He insulted my friggin’ guitar!”

“No he didn’t.”

“Fretless wonder? Fretless
fucking wonder?” I could be pretty excitable in the 70s and thankfully Lorry usually knew when she had to calm me down. I tried to do the same for her.

A guitar player we knew popped into the dressing room and asked, “What did Ace have to say?”

“Who?”

“Ace Frehley. You know, Kiss?”

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Tracks...the Wild Ones
TRACKS guitars circa '77-'78:
From left, Jeff's Stratocaster and Les Paul; Lorry's natural wood finish Strat. That's a piece of John Shriver's Kustom amp off to the right, but his Rickenbacker bass was absent from this shoot at Blue Door studio.
SIDE STORY– RAT MOMENTS #3 - KISS OFF!

We had just finished our show at the Rat and while Tracks’ rhythm section had gone off in search of liquid or feminine refreshment, Lorry and I already had our stimulants and were in the dressing room cooling down (somewhat) while stowing our gear and cleaning up our sweat-stained guitars. My main axe was now a ’69 Gibson Les Paul Custom that I was pitifully attached to. I loved that guitar (still do) and since 60s Gibsons were all different, it had been a long journey to find just the right one that sounded ballsy, felt comfortable and was worthy enough to take the lead from my equally beloved Stratocaster. Not to mention the crappy jobs I took to finance its purchase. I had finally found her in the Record Garage on the very same day that we recorded the “Brakes On You” session at The Club. But even then Lorry had to give me a final kick in the ass to make me part with my bread for such an extravagance. It cost almost four hundred dollars - at the time a bit more than the price of most cars I had owned. In the end, she made me realize that since I was about to become a recording star, having another guitar was really a necessity. Besides, maybe she’d get to play it too.

While my Fender was a hard-working, road-worthy journeyman’s guitar, the Les Paul was a work of art. It’s sensuous lines, gold plated hardware, mother of pearl inlays and deeply grained ‘n flamed finish were but mere embellishments for a finely made instrument that nearly played itself. My fingers glided over its ebony fretboard like they were soaked in butter. My only regret was that I wasn’t a better player to fully realize its potential. And that fact constantly inspired me to get better. So anyway, that night I was anally wiping it down with a soft clean cloth and applying a little polish in gentle sweeping motions, carefully removing the oily smudges the finish had taken during the heat of battle.
Well, I was never a fan of Kiss. At the time, the only people I knew who would own up to being fans were still quite a few years shy of shaving. Compared to the music I was diggin’, to me they sounded like wimps and looked like clowns. I barely knew what they looked like with their stage make-up, let alone without. I got an education. Ace played Les Paul Customs religiously and ‘Fretless Wonder’ was an endearing term applied to the flat, thin frets that were unique to the Custom and made it so effortless to play. Did I feel like a jerk? Yeah.

I’m still not a fan of Kiss, but I got to see Ace’s solo act in New York years later when Lorry and I were doing NEON magazine. I thought his music was solid and raunchy even though he was pretty stoned. Real rock ‘n roll. Yeah, he was still playing a Fretless Wonder. I thought it best not to mention that backstage Rat moment of days gone by.
Ace Frehley at the Ritz (NYC) 1990
Photo - Lorry Doll