The Aaron Sarlo Tapes: “The Billy Gibbons Story”March 24, 2019
By AARON SARLO
This story takes place during yet another demo session at Ardent Studios. As part of our contract, we were able to record demos at Ardent whenever we wanted, which, in hindsight, was an awesome privilege. For this session, we planned on an entire weekend, Friday night to Sunday afternoon. Before the trip, I went to see a friend of mine who gave me a plastic grocery sack full of hallucinogenic mushrooms in exchange for a VHS of the Techno Squid videos. We drove to Memphis on Friday afternoon, and arrived at the infamous Ardent Band House, which was a small, yellow two bedroom house owned by the studio on an adjacent lot where bands would stay while in session. As soon as we woke the next morning, Shayne and I started eating the mushrooms, and continued eating them, as well as drinking them in tea, for the entire weekend. On Saturday, I had an extensive lull in my duties as a guitarist, so I decided to poke around the dusty entrails of Ardent Studios, and found myself in the verboten closet behind the mellotron they used on Big Star’s Third/Sister Lovers, and then eventually on the roof of the building. I ambled over to the center of the building, which was an open courtyard with a tiny tree in the center. The mushrooms had a good, solid hold on me by that point, and I decided it would be a good idea if I jumped into the tiny tree. I mean, it might have even been a sapling, it was so small. But, the mushrooms told me a different story.
A couple minutes into me working up the courage to jump, John Hampton poked his head through a door leading into the courtyard, and asked, “Hey, Aaron. What are you doing?” I said, “I’m gonna jump into this tree.” He said, “That tree is way too far away, and way too small. You’re not going to make it.” I said, “Yes I will, John.” Right then, Billy Gibbons of ZZ Top walked up to John and asked, “What’s he doing, John?” (ZZ Top was recording Antenna in the studio down the hall.) John told him what I was trying to do, and Billy Gibbons came out into the courtyard and said loudly, “Hey, son. You’re not gonna make it if you jump! It’s too far, and that tree would never support your weight.” I disagreed, and said, “Yes I will, Billy Gibbons! I’m gonna make it.” He turned to John, and asked him my name, and turned back to me, “Aaron! You’re not going to make that jump. Come on down, son. Get off that roof.” I said, “No way, Billy Gibbons. I’m gonna jump. It’s only one floor down. I’ll be fine. I’m gonna make it.” He said, “No, man. You’ll probably break something if you try. Come on down off that roof.”
I got off that roof, didn’t jump. But after that, I upped the mushroom intake, and the memories get much hazier for the rest of the weekend. The music that weekend turned out great. So, yay for drugs, I guess.