Music has been a passion of mine since I was a young child acting as the conductor while standing in front of my parents’ stereo playing “Raindrops Keep Falling on My Head” by BJ Thomas. Most of my adult life centered around music as well. I worked at a record shop and for several labels (SST, CRUZ, Cargo, Enigma, and even Capitol for one day), and have been managing bands (full or part time) since 1988 (Big DRILL Car, Drive Like Jehu, Rocket From The Crypt, Supernova). Nowadays, while I am old enough to get a senior discount at McDonald’s, I still love music, I still go to shows, I still buy records, I contribute photographs and reviews of rockshows to several music magazines, and I still love hearing tour stories.
My mom noticed my love of tour stories many years ago. I would tell her different stories that I had either experienced or heard from the bands I was working with. This led to the original version of Hell on Wheels in 1994 … It was all my mom’s idea.
In the early 1990s I was living in San Diego, managing a few rock bands, and sharing an office with my friend, former SST carpool buddy and current (at the time) book publisher, Gary Hustwit. Gary, being the only author on his press at the time, asked me if I had any ideas for a book and if I wanted to write one. I mentioned my mom’s idea about tour stories, he liked it, and we were off. To secure tour stories in 1993/4 I had to rely on friends introducing me to bands, phone calls, and the occasional ambushing of a band before or after their set at The Casbah and simply asking them. Social media was not prevalent at that time. Most of the stories were recorded on a microcassette tape recorder and transcribed by our friends.
More recently, in 2020, there was a mention of the book on a Naked Raygun fan page on social media which prompted people to seek out the book again. I received several messages asking “Are you the Greg Jacobs that wrote Hell on Wheels”? I was surprised and honored that anyone remembered the book and was trying to locate it after all these years. And, of course, I shared the post on my social media accounts which lead to the connection to University of Hell Press and this re-mixed version of the book.
Securing tour stories in 2020, with social media, was different. I didn’t need to have anybody’s phone number or even an introduction. Most bands have contact information online and I simply reached out to them. I made a dream list of bands and contacted every one of them. So many of the bands were very accommodating. Since these stories were being gathered during the pandemic and bands were not able to tour, I like to think my request for a tour story was welcomed. If the band can’t be on tour, at least I was there to ask about touring and to listen to their tour stories … Maybe not, but who knows? Many of the participants opted to type their stories and send them over to me, which was great! Other stories were recorded over the phone and transcribed, this time, by me.
I’m very happy to have had the opportunity to edit the original version of Hell on Wheels and had several fanboy moments gathering interviews for the revised book. It was very difficult for me to maintain any sense of being cool and not release the complete dork within me while talking to some of my rock and/or roll heroes. I think I pulled it off but let’s ask some of them.
I wanted this book to come out in 2021, but real life got in the way. I lost my dad on June 28, 2021, and I am still trying to accept it. While my dad did not understand the music that I love, he supported me every step of the way. He knew, while I was an intern at Enigma or making very little money at my other label jobs, that I was following my passion. When I quit my job and became a full-time band manager, he was there with support, advice and even a little cash when I couldn’t afford to pay rent at my office. He was the best and I miss him every day.