A Plymouth Barracuda, a flaming amplifier, and the best one-liner I ever heard
Reposted from old Opposite Lock... a cautionary tale about old electronics and good neighbors
(Author's note: I apologize for the swear word at the end, but it's a direct quote, and it's funny)
In the spring of 1994, while I was busy flunking out of college, I lived with my then- girlfriend in a row house in Duluth, Minnesota. Our next-door neighbor was quite a character; he was one of those guys who came home from Vietnam, started smoking weed, and never stopped. His receding hairline, grizzled beard, and aviator sunglasses led us to give him the nickname Johnny Fever, after Howard Hessman’s character on WKRP. I don’t remember his real name, if I ever even knew it.
Johnny was a nice enough guy; he helped us recover one of our cats after it got out, and jump-started my girlfriend’s old Chrysler Newport a couple of times. He was happy to do it; Johnny was a Mopar guy, you see, and had a very cool car of his own: a 1965 Plymouth Barracuda, wine red with a cream-colored interior.
We never saw him drive it more than 100 feet. On nice days, he would start it up, pull out of his garage in the alley, drive up onto his front yard, wash it, carefully dry it off with cloth diapers, then sit in a lawn chair drinking a beer and admiring it for a while, and then put it right back in the garage. He did this at least a couple of times a week when the weather allowed.
One warm spring day, I had some time to kill before work, and decided to noodle around on the guitar a bit.
At the time I had a monster of an old amp, an Ampeg G-410 combo (4 10" speakers and the amp head, all in one cabinet). I had had it a couple of years, and got it cheap, because it was in terrible condition. It had two nice Celestion speakers, one cheap Radio Shack speaker, and one gaping hole where a speaker should be. The wiring behind the back cover was a rat’s nest of splices and crimp connectors, and it always smelled a little hot after it was on for a while, but it was loud and I was young and stupid, so I just played through it anyway.
Not my Ampeg, but looks just like it. These things must weigh a hundred pounds, or close to it...
On this day, however, the old Ampeg had had enough. I switched it on, heard a loud popping sound, and smoke started wafting out of the back. I peeked inside the back, and saw smoldering wire insulation just starting to catch. I unplugged the amp, but it was too late; the smoke kept coming.
It was around this time that it occurred to me that we didn’t have renter’s insurance. So I did the only thing I could think of: I got the amp out of the house, banging the heavy awkward thing against the bannister as I went, trying not to burn my hands. I got it as far as the front porch, and heaved it down the steps into the front lawn, just as the grille cloth caught fire.
Johnny Fever was out, just finishing up with his Barracuda, and I shouted to him, “Lemme see your hose!” He obliged, and I doused the amp before it could do any more damage.
We stood there, Johnny Fever and I, looking down at the smoking ruins of the amp, and then he looked up at me wide-eyed, almost reverently, and asked, in a perfect stoner deadpan...
“GodDAMN, man. What were you PLAYING?"