Wed 12/19 @ 7 PM
There’s an image of roadies as being failed musicians or grunts that just move gear and party all night with the band members (and hopefully groupies). Lifelong roadie Kevin Dugan will tell you that’s not his job description. He busts his behind offstage to make sure bands onstage sound and perform as best they can.
The 1972 Euclid High School graduate, who was president of his class, is a serious bass tech who early on in life discovered a laminate-wearing world where he could tour the globe with some of rock ’n’ roll’s biggest names.
The Euclid native returns to Northeast Ohio with an Cleveland Stories Dinner Party appearance Wed 12/19 at the Music Box Supper Club to tell his story, which began working with Rainbow Canyon, the James Gang and the Raspberries in northeast Ohio and eventually Bob Welch, Michael Anthony, Great White, Sammy Hagar and the Cult in Southern California.
CoolCleveland talked to Kevin Dugan, who was the fourth individual to be inducted into the Roadie Hall of Fame, about his decades of rock ’n’ roll history.
CoolCleveland: Before we get into your past, what are you up to these days?
Kevin Dugan: Right now, I’m a production manager for the Rock ’n’ Roll Fantasy Camp and I’m still working with Michael Anthony who, along with Sammy Hagar, has two different bands: Chickenfoot with Joe Satriani and Chad Smith; as well as the Circle with Vic Johnson, who I worked for 45 years ago when he was in the BusBoys, and Jason Bonham. So I’m constantly working.
CC: Considering your experience during Cleveland’s rock ’n’ roll heyday, what was the scene like in the early to mid-’70s?
KD: Cleveland was a rock ’n’ roll town that could support a local band. They would have two to three crew guys, a truck and own their own gear. I’ve traveled around a lot and that was pretty rare. Back then, I worked for Rainbow Canyon. I did a little stint with the James Gang, filling in for somebody and then I co-owned a professional PA with Hank LoConti from the Agora. We’d do the Monday night out concerts in Cleveland and Tuesday night in Toledo. So Cleveland was a rocking town that supported live music where local bands could work four or five days a week. It was pretty incredible.
CC: While Cleveland was hopping, in 1975, you still made the decision to me to Southern California. How did that come about?
KD: Back then you had to pretty much work out of New York City or Los Angeles. The first time I was in New York City I was 17 and got mugged. That same year, I went to Los Angeles and had two blonds that came to my hotel room and accosted me. They beat me up — in a really good way — all night. Between that and the weather, I chose Los Angeles. I moved out with Wally Bryson after the Raspberries split up. He was one of my closest friends, but we had a major falling out. So I parted ways with him and just started going out with George Duke. After that, I just kept meeting people and ended up in the Fleetwood Mac camp for five years. Then like in late 1980, early 1981, I met Van Halen’s Michael Anthony. That was a blessing in disguise because I’m still working for him.
CC: Tell us about your main man, Michael Anthony.
KD: I was in the right place at the right time. He’s unbelievable. He is without a doubt the nicest rock star in the business. That’s why I’ve been working with him for nearly 39 years. Even at the peak of Van Halen, I never saw him cheat on his wife. He’s a total family man, he has daughters and a granddaughter. He’s also the nicest guy in the world always making himself available to fans.
CC: What’s interesting is even though you grew up in Cleveland during its rock ’n’ roll era, you never had the itch for stardom?
KD: No. I played in bands up until I was a senior in high school and maybe after, but I didn’t have that burning desire to be a rock ’n’ roll star as much as I had a burning desire and severe wanderlust to get out on the road. So I basically fired myself from my own band and started touring as early as I could. Along the way I accumulated not quite 30 gold and platinum records. I’ve got album credits on more than 60 records. And going out with Van Halen at the age of 25 was everything you heard it was supposed to be. It was like that and more. It’s a rare situation I fell into.
CC: Speaking of the rock ’n’ roll lifestyle, touring with Fleetwood Mac during its heyday must have been interesting.
KD: When I was with Fleetwood Mac they were the biggest band in the world. People say to me you went out with Van Halen for decades, you must have seen some really hardcore stuff. As far as drugs go, I worked for Fleetwood Mac on and off for four years. They made Van Halen look like fucking nuns. I mean, Fleetwood Mac did more blow than any band I ever saw in my life. Everyone except Lindsey (Buckingham), who smoked like this Maui Wowie. It smelled so bad, you couldn’t even be in the same room when he smoked it.
CC: Finally, what should people take away from Kevin Dugan’s story?
KD: I really have enjoyed what I do for a living. It’s kind of funny because my mom used to always say to me “When are you going to get a real job?” One time I said if I ever got a real job I’d have to stop sliding $100 into her pocket when I visited. She kind of stopped asking me that question after that.