My first trip to NYC was in 1981 with the Rod Stewart Group to perform on Saturday Night Live. We’d just finished up the first album I recorded with Rod, “Tonight I’m Yours.” I was 26; Rod was 36.
Piano man Kevin Savigar was my bud and we lit up the town all week day and night as young bucks would do.
The way it was back then with SNL was that you’d stay a week in NYC going to rehearsals every day to maybe be in skits with the cast and just watch the show come together for Saturday night. It was a pretty cool process to witness. A new up and coming comic was just cracking us up all the time and that wasn’t easy… I was a biased long time fan from the John Belushi, Dan Aykroyd, Bill Murray, Jane Curtin, Gilda Radnor days. The guy’s name was Eddie Murphy and he just KILLED.
Once after we had completed a run-through of a song, he came to our dressing room and complimented us. A real down to earth, humble cat. It was a trip to see how big he got in the next few years.
The cool thing about The Rod Stewart Group at that time was we all hung together.
One night we went toThe Ritz to see Tina Turner. In one part of her act she put on a Rod Stewart wig and did “Hot Legs,” “Do Ya Think I’m Sexy” and other Stewart songs. Rod loved it.
We went backstage after the show and Rod invited her to come on the SNL show with us.
I truly believe this was the turning point in her comeback. That appearance with Rod on SNL and the subsequent four sold out shows at The Forum broadcast around the world set her up for the great things she was to do in the 80s.
We all stayed at the Berkshire Hotel in upper Manhattan. One night I was coming in late around 4am and I saw two of Tina’s handlers leaving the lobby and I said, “Hey, what’s happening?” They said Tina’s having a party in her room and gave me her room number. Well, I took it hook, line and sinker. I go up to this room and knock on the door. A woman’s voice says, “Who is it?” I said, “Hey Tina, it’s Jimmy Z the sax player with Rod Stewart.” Tina says, “ Jimmy Z go to bed!!!” Ooops.
The next day we were rehearsing at SIR and Rod and Tina weren’t there, yet. It was early October, so it was getting cold. We were running down a tune when Rod and Tina walk in with the biggest matching floor length fur coats I’d ever seen. Kind of orange thick fur that I’ll never forget.
We stop playing and everybody is welcoming Tina and Rod’s looking all proud and then Tina says, “I just wanna know one thing?” You could have heard a pin drop. “Who’s Jimmy Z??!!!”
All heads whipped around to look at me, especially Rod with a questioning look like WTF did you do this time? I just kinda smiled sheepishly and gave a little wave to Tina. She smiled and wagged a finger at me and left it at that.
Everybody kept asking what I did and I just said, “ Awww… it’s a long story.” And left it at that.
Here’s the rundown of the show… sorry no music… (probably due to a rights issue).
Here’s the Forum concert with Rod & Tina.
Read more about my adventures with Rod & the boys: