Duff: Speed Freaks Make The Best Chauffeurs

Former Guns N' Roses bassist Duff McKagan is now, among other things, a columnist for Rocks Off's sister music blog in Seattle, Reverb. This month Touchstone Books will publish Duff's memoir, It's So Easy: And Other Lies, and he agreed to publish an excerpt on Reverb. In turn, Reverb agreed to share Duff's wisdom with Rocks Off and our readers. When we left off Thursday, Duff and his G N' R bandmates had just hitched a ride with a rather... animated trucker on their way to Seattle.

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Photo by Greg Freeman
Guns N' Roses: Trucker friendly.
The drug-induced sleep deprivation started to take its toll on our driver about 200 miles into the drive. By the time we hit Sacramento in the morning, he said he needed to rest his eyes and clear his head of the speed demons. It was okay with me. I had been talking with the dude for this first part of the ride and noticed that he kept looking into his sideview mirrors and sort of jumping around in his seat. This kind of stuff happens when you don't sleep for several days. I had a little bit of experience with speed from my teenage years, enough to know what was happening to the driver.

Sacramento sits at the top of the arid central California valley -- the area became a center of agriculture only with the aid of intense irrigation. When it's hot in the valley, Sacramento always has the highest temperatures. Our venture into the valley coincided with an absolutely scorching heat wave. Now, for some reason, the driver stopped in front of the state capitol building.

"All right, boys, I'm going to need you to hop out here." We didn't know what to say, and were in no position to argue anyway. "I've got to take care of something," said the driver. "But I'll be back for you, don't worry." Yeah, right. I was convinced our driver had just tricked us and left us behind. I'm sure the rest of the guys shared the same suspicion. We were left sitting on the curb.

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No one said a word. No one even made a face, sighed, or raised an eyebrow.

As we sat there in front of the capitol, wilting in the heat, exposed to the intense sun, it became clear: as of this moment, Guns N' Roses was no longer a band, but the band --our band. These are my fucking boys -- they're willing to fight through anything. I already knew this trip had set a new benchmark for what we were capable of, what we could and would put ourselves through to achieve our goals as a band. This band became a brotherhood under that oppressive Sacramento sun. Fuck yeah!

Then, as I sat there silently rhapsodizing about my friends and our collective determination, the 18-wheeler suddenly pulled up and the driver nodded.
"Let's roll, boys," he said. He had actually come back to pick us up. Unbelievable. "You have a fucking show to get to!" he said. I hopped back in the passenger seat. He was cranked out of his mind.

He must have dropped us off to go score some more speed, and to this day I have no idea how, in that state, he remembered to come back for us. That afternoon, just after Redding, I cautiously suggested we pull over at the next rest stop and take a break. I could see it was getting even more dangerous being in a huge moving vehicle with him. He had huge black circles under his eyes and he was sweating profusely.

By some miracle, he agreed -- and he actually slept there for a few hours while we just hung out nearby, trying to be as quiet as possible. We had no money for booze or food. I'm not sure what Izzy had with him, but he wasn't showing any signs of withdrawal yet. After the driver came to, he took us the final 150 miles up to Medford.

"I'm actually sorry I can't take you any farther," he said. "Shit, I might even try to make it up there myself on Wednesday for your show."

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