Title: Coffee Break Concert Interview
Source: The Coffee Break Concert radio show on WMMS-FM (Cleveland/ USA). Conducted by Kid Leo (Lawrence James Travagliante). December 3, 1975. Transcription from tape by "Pieter from Holland" as published on the Tom Waits Library.
Date: aired April 14, 1976 (verified in The Plain Dealer, April 2, 1976)
Key words: Los Angeles, Nighthawks at the Diner, musical influences, Nighthawks tour band, The Eagles, Bette Middler, Napoleone


Coffee Break Concert Interview


[Drunk On The Moon - live at the piano]

KL: And that song introduces you slightly to eh Tom Waits. A VERY special guest this morning on "Coffee Break Concert" here on WMMS(1). Good morning, to everybody including Tom. You're bright-eyed and bushy-tailed I see. You're ready for action!

TW: (laughs) You don't know the half of it!

KL: (laughs) You know, most people have put labels on people, like "singer-songwriter". So we label this man "a character" and let it go for that. Eh... from Los Angeles/ California... is mister Tom Waits. We were talking about this before the show, in the pre warm up game here, and you're not your typical Los Angelino. Eh, like I said, most of them are Garry Glitter or Laid Back Lenny. How do you feel...

TW: Laid Back Lenny!?

KL: Yeah...

TW: Uhm... Well I don't know. I mean eh Los Angeles, like I was saying earlier, is a eh... it's kind of a sprawling metropolitan area. Ehm... it's eh teaming and undulating but it's squashed out y'know? And eh... but there is... It does have a pulse, like I guess, like any city does. As far as the type of people it spits out, y'know eh... maybe I'm a little bit of a misfit, I don't know how typical I really am. But eh... So, I do a lot of traveling too y'know? You know, I travel about 8 months out of the year. The rest of the time I'm at home, y'know? So I spend more time gone then I do at home.

KL: Is it hard for you to cope in the big city lights?

TW: Hard to cope with what?

KL: I don't know, like I said... YOU said it: "You're a misfit". You know, like eh... your albums... especially... let's take a look at the last one eh Nighthawks(3) ... Eh it seems more that you fit in on the sleazy East side of New York, or something like that...

TW: Uhu... Well, I don't know. My perspective on it is to differ y'know, cause I'm like a kind of a hunkering down screwing my wig all the time and try to y'know, deal with the business of eh... of eh writing, and performing and traveling a good solid portion of the time too. So eh... I don't know eh... if it's the East side of New York or it's eh... you know or what. I mean, it's urban.

KL: You'll be there...

TW: ... best way to describe it maybe, yeah.

KL: We're gonna let you do a little more here, so that people get an insight into the man, because there's something being inside it too...

TW: [intro at the piano] Well, let's see.... This thing's about a diner here eh... It's kinda 'bout a eh... This is just about any diner. Late at night I hang around a place called "Ben Frank's"(4) at home or "Tuff's Restaurant" or "Norm's" or "The Four Corners" or eh... "Will and Emma's" or y'know "Mary's" at the Sterling Hotel down eh East 30th and Prospect. Eh... it wasn't too shabby really eh, I think it was like 11 bucks a night, last night it was... I got a rate y'know? And eh... and a view of eh [...?...] so it was eh... Yeah, it was fascinating... But eh, so this is kinda like going into a diner and elbowing up with every other loser in town. And eh ordering up an order of "Eggs over-whelming" or a "Chicken Catastrophe" and eh... walking out of there with enough gas in you to open up a Mobil station somewhere...

[Eggs And Sausage - live at the piano]

KL: That's one of my favorites "Eggs And Sausage". Aside to that is a little "Warm Beer And Cold Women" which you may get to later, cause I'm gonna make you! (laughs) But eh.. y'know you are eh... I don't wanna say, unique, cause you're more... eh honest then unique. You're like a breath of fresh air. You are kind of a separate little niche in rock 'n' roll. Who do you... How did you grow up on musically?

TW: Who was I listening to?

KL: Yeah?

TW: Eh... Oh eh lot of different artists. I listened to the Hitparade when I was young y'know? I used to listen to Reverend Gary Davis and eh Mississippi John Hurt and I jumped around a lot. I listened to eh Thelonious Monk and Bill Evans and eh Clarence "Frogg" McHenry and Huey Piano Smith and Art Tatum and eh.. Lord Buckley and Lenny Brice and Harry "The Hipster" Edison and eh Rudy Ray Moore on Redd Foxx(5) and eh... Well Rodney Dangerfield.

KL: Heeey! (laughs)

TW: (laughs)

KL: He's the only man that I have any respect for!

TW: (laughs) I've seen him at an airport once. Eh, passing out wolf tickets(6) to eh... He was trying to get a flight to New York or something he was run into a little trouble and eh pulling on his tie. I expected him any moment to tell her that he just don't get no respect y'know?

KL: (laughs)

TW: But eh.. No I was listening to eh... Jesus, well Charlie Parker and Miles Davis and eh... Aaargh and eh...

KL: You had the usual...

TW: ... Allen and eh...

KL: How about a little Dion and the Belmonts(7) too?

TW: Yeah, Dion and the Belmonts too, The Sparkletones, The Spiders, lot of stuff on Sun Records(8) that I got hip to later. Eh... yeah. In fact just the other night we heard "Black Slacks" by The Sparkletones. I hadn't heard that in years, and eh... Yeah I listened to a lot of Rhythm & Blues, a lot of vocal groups and eh just about anything I could get my hands on, or anything that I thought was real authentic and valid y'know? And eh...

KL: You mentioned a few comedians, and eh.. your act is eh very comedian... I laughed a lot... Especially Nighthawks. I loved to put on the album. Me and a bottle of J.T.S. Brown

TW: J.T.S. Brown?! (laughs)

KL: I liked the stuff you know? Besides it's cheap. And eh you know I had a good time. In fact I'm gonna have a good time now. Why don't you play another song?

TW: Ehhh...

KL: You can safe "Warm Beer And Cold Women" but you're gonna play that, sooner or later! (laughs)

TW: Okay, ehm... I don't want to turn this into a Sominex here. Like I said earlier, I've been traveling with an ensemble(10). A provocative copasetic trio that I discovered in New York. They're 3 unemployed bebop musicians from New York. I got a eh, I got an Italian tenor sax player and a black upright bass player and eh... and eh Chip White on drum. I don't know what he is, an all kind mixture. Eh... Porto Rican-Indian-Black, I don't know. Got a real international group.

KL: May be a [...?...} in the neighborhood, I tell you.

TW: (laughs) But eh... We just played in eh... Where did we play?... Pittsburgh!(11) Did pretty well. Eh, but eh... [intro at the piano] Well here's one about eh... matrimony... Eh, it's kind of an old song I kept working around eh... I used to do it like a blues and it ended up like a little ballad, like a little anthem. But this is kind of a eh... Well I don't have any personal vendetta against the constipation of holy matrimony, but this is just kind of a...

[Better Off Without A Wife - live at the piano]

KL: There's a perfect touch on the Coffee Break Concert on the housewife-shift, I think they call this time of the day.

TW: What do they call it?

KL: The housewife-shift. (laughs)

TW: Housewife's...

KL: That's why this is WMMS The Coffee Break concert. Kid Leo sitting in. Usually "Matt The Cat" is your host. But I wanted to talk to this gentleman Tom Waits. Elektra recording artist, with 3 albums to his name...

TW: That's a little formal. But eh...

KL: Well once in a while you gotta break tradition you know?...

TW: Alright...

KL: Eh... 3 albums and I know that there are not that many people know you. I think that's a pity. But eh...

TW: Yeah, I'm kind of a...

KL: Maybe they know you after today! I think a lot of people, whether they know it or not, it may be a bad thing to say, 2 songs of you have been recorded by other people... I think 2, at least I know of 2.

TW: Eh more then 2 actually but eh most of those were eh pretty obscure anyhow. So...

KL: The 2 we're talking about are "Ol' '55" by The Eagles and Bette Middler who did "Shiver Me Timbers". (12)

TW: Yeah...

KL: And eh how did they. Did they pick 'em? Were they approached or ?

TW: No, they picked 'em y'know?

KL: I had a feeling.

TW: I must say, in all frankness, that eh I wasn't particularly eh impressed with eh The Eagles' version of that song. Nor am I then impressed with The Eagles in general I must say!

KL: But they are fellow Los Angeles people! (laughs)

TW: Well, you know, we don't all get along [...?...] eh... nor musically. But eh... You know what happened was, they just liked the song so did it. But eh... And eh it didn't put me on Easy Street or anything but eh it was kind of a shot in the arm for the wallet y'know and eh that was alright. But eh... You know, and then Bette Midler, who I admire a lot, did "Shiver Me Timbers" but it's a song that's real old for me and eh... Y'know you just hope that if somebody does your song, y'know that you continue to be proud of the song and the group that choose to do it y'know? Which was not the case with The Eagles!

KL: ...the former... (laughs)

TW: ...But it helps, y'know with your level of popularity, I guess it helped me a little bit but I'm still kind of a rumor in my own time. So...

KL: What about "Ol' '55"? Are you a fan of them kind of cars?

TW: Well I have a '54 black Cadillac 4-door Sedan...

KL: Wow! Hey, take me for a ride some time, we'll go eh, I'll buy you a quarter [...?...]


KL: Why don't you do "Ol' '55" for us, please?

TW: Aw, shit...

KL: Make us proud about yourself.

TW: That's in F-sharp, I just did something in F-sharp! Y'know!?

KL: Would make a good [...?...]

TW: That was... That was pretty tricky y'know. Well, why don't we... Why don't I do it after I do this other one?

KL: Okay, we'll put it on the tab.

TW: Yeah, we'll roll right into it. Because eh... I don't know... I still do it now and then y'know? When I'm performing with the group, what I tend to do is do a lot of monologues, do a lot of nocturnal emissions and eh improvisational adventures. I still do requests... But eh... See eh, I'm trying to think here... [intro at the piano] I don't know eh, why don't I tell a story? I could do this piece called "Putnam County". This is about a place in Tennessee eh... It's a real town, a small town. It's one of those towns where... It's so small that the main drag is a transvestite... and eh...

[Putnam County - live at the piano]
[Ol' '55 - live at the piano]

KL: Yeah, thank you! I promise, no more requests less, after all it's less than half an hour before last call. So eh... Did you ever wanna be a con man when you were young?

TW: A con man?!

KL: Yeah.

TW: You don't mean: ex-con man?

KL: No, I mean confidence man do you?

TW: Oh, I see! confidence man!

KL: For those of you who cannot see the man... I have to say, cause you know you look... If you walk down the set of The Sting, the director would set you over there and get you a role y'know? You have that look about you y'know? I was wondering, what was your child... what did you wanna be as a child?

TW: Eh I wanted to be a service station attendant.

KL: Damn, did you ever make it?

TW: Yeah...

KL: Alright! (laughs) I never did, I ended up in the car wash really. But it was almost as good.

TW: ALMOST as good! (laughs) Any place where you got to wear a uniform...

KL: Yeah, alright now we are WMMS Coffee Break Concert, this is Tom Waits...

TW: No, I'm Tom waits YOU are Kid Leo.

KL: That's Tom Waits, I'm Kid Leo. It's your show. Give us one of them monologues.

TW: You wanna hear a story?

KL: Yeah, I do. I haven't heard a good one in a long time.

TW: Let's see eh... Well I could do you a kind of a [snaps fingers] Vroooooooom... vroooooomm... vrooooooom... You know eh, it's kind of a little inebriational travelogue here eh.. about eh... It was kinda like say: Well, hey look baby, I'll be right back, I'm just going down the corner and get myself a pack of cigarettes see... And you know, you get down and you hit the bricks and you notice there's kind of a Thunderbird move rolling across a muscatel sky... You see... You're standing there down there on the corner of 5th and Vermouth, it's a block away from the corner of Baby Why Did You Leave Me and Why Don't You Please Come Back Home...

[Nighthawks Postcards - live while snapping fingers]

KL: Yeah! That's Tom Waits a snappella. (laughs) Alright! That was a hell of a monologue...

TW: Snappella! (laughs)

KL: Catch your breath now...

TW: Alright, alright...

KL: You're listening to WMMS the Coffee Break Concert and Tom Waits is a very special guest. Where do you go from here now?

TW: I'll go back to New York City for a couple of days and then eh we gonna play upstate and somewhere... a couple of concerts. We're gonna be on the road until probably late May.

KL: That cut's out another album until late May, maybe?

TW: I'll cut one when I get home. It's called eh... It's called, tentatively right now, it's called: "Pasties And A G-String - A Beer And A Cheap Shot - Cheater Slicks And baby Moons" But that's just a tentative eh title.

KL: Have to work out... (laughs)

TW: [...?...] to change. And eh... Working on material while I'm traveling. So maybe I'll have one out in August. If I'm lucky, I don't know...

KL: ...

TW: ... So you wanted to hear "Warm Beer And Cold Women"?

KL: Oh, you remembered! Yeah! That would go good at about now.

[Warm Beer & Cold Women - live at the piano]

KL: Yeah.... I know the feeling.... Tom Waits here. I think we got time for, well I think we got time for maybe one or two more. If you could make that a 3-minute single in B-sharp flat type. (laughs)

TW: A 3-minute single huh? ... [intro with guitar] You were saying that you always wanted to work at a carwash, eh... Well, I eh after I quitted I was working at a Mobil station and I was 15. I started working as a dishwasher and a cooker at a place called "Napoleone Pizza House"(14). And eh, worked there for years... And eh for Joe Sardo and Sal Crivello. And eh... it was a gas... Ehm... well like every night about 4 o'clock in the morning and eh all the white vinyl booted go-go dancers... and all the sailors would come over at about a quarter to 4. And eh... Just about that time Joe would go out in front just to check out the traffic on the street y'know? He would like leave his paper hat and he'd fold his apron and he would go out and stand in front of Napoleone's. And across the street from The Golden Barrel, and Escelani's Liquor and Mario's Pizza, there's a Shell station right on the corner. And a Westerner and a Club 29 and a Melody Club, Phil's Porno, and Ebu Jima Eddie's Tattoo Parlor... And there'd be a cab out there combing the snake...

[The Ghosts Of Saturday Night - live with guitar]
[The Heart Of Saturday Night - live with guitar]

KL: The Heart Of Saturday Night!... Mister Tom Waits... And Tom I wanna thank you for dropping by. It has been a very enjoyable hour. Stop any time, we got [...?...] a board here, anytime you want.

TW: (laughs) Alright.

KL: Now I think, we go down to The Apollo Lounge down the street and get a couple of [...?...] makers and eh...

TW: (laughs)

KL: Thanks again...

[tape cut]


(1) "Coffee Break Concert" here on WMMSMatt the Cat's WMMS Lunch Box concerts on Wednesdays

(3) The last one eh Nighthawks: Nighthawks At The Diner (P) & � 1975 Elektra/ Asylum Records Asylum 7E-2008

(4) A place called "Ben Frank's": Coffeeshop bar-restaurant in Los Angeles, 8585 Sunset Boulevard. Untill 1965 this was a famous gathering place within the bohemian scene. After circa 1966 it was populated by the rising hippie-generation. As mentioned in "The One That Got Away" (Small Change, 1976): "But his reputation is at large, and he's at Ben Frank's every day Waiting for the one that got away."

(5) Rudy Ray Moore on Redd Foxx: Rudy Ray Moore born March 17, 1937 in Fort Smith, Arkansas recorded some songs for Federal Records in the early 1950s. The most famous of these recording sessions is "Step it up and go." Although Moore's singing career didn't hit the big time, he did deliver some truly great soulful rock n' roll songs in a similar vein of Richard Berry. Moore moved to Los Angeles, California in 1959. Several more singles were released by various labels, including his own Vermont Records, with Moore performing either as a solo artist or with other vocal groups like The Seniors. At this time his first comedy albums were recorded, "Below the belt" and "Let's all come together" (both 1961), which was later followed by "The Beatnik scene" (1962). Realizing he needed to carve out his own niche from other black comedians of that period (namely, Redd Foxx), Moore took a much more shocking approach to his comedy by filling his material with profanity, sex, and several traditional toasts (Shine and the Great Titanic, The Signifying Monkey, and of course Dolemite), making him the world's first X-rated comedian. His toasts (black tradition of story telling) were formatted as rhyming stories ("Some folks say that Willie Green, was the baddest motherfucker the world had ever seen," etc.) and often backed by music which has made him a great influence on rap artists of today, many of which have sampled Moore's material or even went so far as to have him appear in songs or videos. Things finally took off in 1970 with the release of the comedy LP "Eat out more often" featuring the "Dolemite" toast as well as other material. Sixteen more comedy albums were released within a few years, selling well over a million copies combined, though none achieved the massive acclaim of his first two ground breaking albums. With titles like "I can't believe I ate the whole thing," "The Streaker," "Dolemite for President," and "Dolemite is another crazy nigger" his releases were always held under the counters at record stores. But what really took the public by surprise were his outlandish and incredibly daring record covers which always featured Moore and several women seminude in hilarious and suggestive poses. This by far helped his releases gain the status they achieved since these records were not teasing you and gave you "more than you came for!" Further reading: Official Rudy Ray Moore Website

(6) Passing out wolf tickets:
- Mentioned in "Spare Parts II" (Nighthawks At The Diner, 1975): "I'd like to get some Danger High Voltage slacks, with high top, mid noon, brushed suede penny loafers, so I can be passing out wolf tickets(5) regardless of where I go." and "Trouble's Braids" (Swordfishtrombones, 1983): "Passin' out wolf tickets, downwind from the bloodhounds."
- Tom Waits (1988): "Another one I like is wolf tickets, which means bad news, as in someone who is bad news or generally insubordinate. In a sentence, you'd say, "Don't fuck with me, I'm passing out wolf tickets." Think it's either Baltimore Negro or turn-of-the-century railroad use." (Tom Waits 20 questions. Playboy magazine: Steve Oney. -- March 1988)

(7) Dion and the Belmonts: The most successful white doo wop group, Dion and the Belmonts were perhaps the suavest of New York City's late-fifties white teen idols. Dion DiMucci broke from that clean-cut pack with an engagingly cool, streetwise swagger epitomized by "The Wanderer." Dion DiMucci was born July 18, 1939 in the Bronx. The Belmonts second single "I Wonder Why" was a hit, almost making the Top Twenty. "No One Knows" and "Don't Pity Me" followed, but the Belmonts big break out hit came in the spring of 1959 with "A Teenager in Love" (#5). The next year "Where or When" made it to #3. By the early 60s Dion and the Belmonts broke up. The main reason was Dion's heroin habit which he had been nurturing since he was sixteen. In 1967 he reunited with the Belmonts and they recorded "Mr. Movin' Man," "Berimbau," and an album Together Again for ABC Records in 1968. The group played Madison Square Garden in mid-1972, as documented on the Reunion album. Dion briefly re-entered the show business mainstream, frequently appearing on TV variety shows. In the mid-Seventies Dion with Phil Spector recorded Born to Be with You, but it was only released in the U.K. Dion returned to rock and roll in June 1987 with a series of sold out concerts at Radio City Music Hall. His autobiography The Wanderer was published in 1988. Dion actually released a cover of a Tom Waits song: "(The Return Of) The Wanderer", Dion (DiMucci). 1979/ 1996. Label: Lifesong (1979)/ Ace (Return Of The Wanderer & Fire In The Night 1996, UK). Song covered: "The Heart Of Saturday Night"

(8) Lot of stuff on Sun Records: "The Sun Sound began when Sam Phillips launched his record company in February of 1952. The label was launched amid a growing number of independent labels. In a short while Sun gained the reputation throughout Memphis as a label that treated local artists with respect and honesty. Then in 1954 Sam found Elvis Presley, an artist who could perform with the excitement, unpredictability and energy of a blues artist but could reach across regional, musical and racial barriers. Dubbed a Country charts on a national basis. He helped form the beginnings of the Sun Sound by infusing Country music with R&B. Elvis's bright star attracted even more ground-breaking talent to the Sun galaxy. Listed among his contemporaries and lab mates were Johnny Cash, the inimitable Jerry Lee Lewis, and the "Rockin' Guitar Man", Carl Perkins. These four soon became known as the Million Dollar Quartet. Right behind them came Roy Orbison, Charlie Rich, Bill Justis, Harold Jenkins (a.k. Conway Twitty) and other equally memorable musical talents. All eventually sold on Pop, R&B and Country charts and grew to international fame." Further reading: Sun Records official site.

(10) I've been traveling with an ensemble: tour promoting Nighthawks At The Diner October 1975 - August 1976 (album released: October, 1975). Tom Waits: vocals, acoustic guitar, piano. Frank Vicari: tenor saxophone. Dr. Fitz(gerald) Jenkins: upright bass. Chip White: drums. Further reading: Performances

(11) We just played in eh... Where did we play?... Pittsburgh!: unknown/ unidentified show

(12) "Ol' '55" by The Eagles and Bette Middler who did "Shiver Me Timbers"On The Border. The Eagles, 1974 Elektra/ Asylum LP 1004. Songs For The New Depression. Bette Midler, 1976. Atlantic.

(14) At a place called "Napoleone Pizza House": further reading: Napoleone Pizza House full story