When they announced they were breaking up back in 2006, I cried then too. I loved this band so much and they brought such pleasure to my life and the lives of others; how could they call it quits? The music industry is a tough place to work. It takes a tremendous amount of energy to get out there and tour, playing sometimes for pennies and almost no one listening. The lifestyle can take it's toll on relationships and on one's health. I understood that probably better than most, having worked with many bands over the course of their careers.
My heart broke when I got the news via Facebook that Steve Rodriguez, bass player for The Dragons, had passed away suddenly July 21, 2015. Disbelief, shock, questions...all flashed through my mind in an instant. And then the tears came. Only a few weeks prior I had cherished hopes that The Dragons might reform and play the Gearhead Anniversary party I was putting together for the fall. Now, I will never see them play again.
It takes a specific type of personality to be able to weather the stresses of band life, and Steve seemed to be that person. He was married to a lovely lady, Jamie, and had a cute kid, Jesse. He was so proud of his wife and son, and while I never got to meet his son, and only met his wife a couple of times, I knew that was one relationship that could withstand the rigors of the road. I was happy for them, and happy to see love thrive in the otherwise desolate landscape of constant touring. Being a woman in the music industry is rough. Many people think all you have to do is sleep with the band, and you're in the inner sanctum. I had the privilege of being one of the lucky few who got to work closely with the bands but never had to resort to sex to spend time with them. I had a strict rule: no sleeping with the bands! It allowed me to do my work, be the boss, but also be a friend and confident.
I went on tour with The Dragons and The Riverboat Gamblers in 2003. It was a blast, and really eye-opening. Much of touring is simply moving from one city to another, spending countless hours on the road discovering new ways to pass the time as you travel in cramped uncomfortable vehicles to the next show. It's the type of situation that can cause crankiness and frayed nerves to escalate into fights and disagreements but that never happened, at least while I was with them. In every picture of Steve, he is laughing, enjoying life, celebrating his friends and music and how much pleasure it gave him. And that is always how he was with me.
There was always time for a smile and a hug. He was especially good at the hugs. They were warm and deep and came from his very soul. He never held back, and there was never anything superficial in those hugs. I am a pretty shy person, although you might never guess that. During one stop on the tour, we were at a house party in Boston, and I felt very out of place. I didn't know anyone except the bands I was traveling with. I'm not really a drinker or a partier, and all I wanted was to go to sleep. Steve seemed to sense how uncomfortable I was and stuck close by my side talking and laughing, making sure I was ok. It meant so much to me, tears come to my eyes now as I remember how relieved I was to have him there with me, making me feel safe.
He became my guardian angel that night, and for the rest of the tour, he always made sure I was ok, feeling safe and comfortable, had food to eat or a beer if I wanted. He was thoughtful and kind, and there was no rock-star bullshit. He could have very easily pulled attitude with me, but he never did, and I never saw him pull it with anyone. H just seemed to thrive on being a nice, sweet kind guy, the kind of guy his wife and son would be proud of. Steve was a rock star in the truest sense of the word. He shone so bright when he was rocking!
His signature song was Joan Jett's Bad Reputation. As soon as Steve stepped up to that mike, you knew what was coming next. He rocked and sang with passion and enthusiasm and fun every single time I saw him perform it. And no one could have done it like Steve. It was just his song!
It's hard to put into words how much someone can touch your life without you really even knowing it. As I sift through the pictures and the memories, I wonder if he ever knew how deeply his kindness and love touched me. I don't think I ever told him. It makes me want to be a better person, more loving and more open and vulnerable, telling those I love how much they mean to me. Telling the bands that have touched my life how grateful I am to have worked with them, learned from them, shared with them.
To those of us left to honor his memory, I think that is one of the best ways we can do it. Be grateful for the close bonds of friendship and love that surround you. We all have them, even if you're not in a romantic relationship with someone. As we walk through our lives, we touch those around us, even if we're not aware of it. Little acts of kindness and generosity are what it's all about after all. Leaving the world a little bit better than how you found it. Many blessings and prayers to those touched by Steve's life, especially his brothers Mario, Kenny and Jarrod from The Dragons, and his wife Jamie and son Jesse. He has passed out of our lives physically, but emotionally, he is there, always reminding us to smile, to love, to be genuine and authentic, and most of all to make those around you feel loved and special. Rock with the angels my friend. I know they will enjoy you as much as we did.
A Go Fund Me account has been set up to help with expenses and to create a college fund for his son. Please donate what you can! A lovely video has been put together honoring Steve. You can watch it here. Also, a memorial show has been set up for Sunday Aug. 2, 2015 at The Casbah in San Diego. For more information go here.
Stories about cars, pop culture, music, art, and other related topics written by GEARHEAD owner Rev. Michelle Haunold. Guest writers are also encouraged to get in touch to share content that might be of interest to GEARHEAD customers.