C O L U M N S
Tales from the Jugular
Our Eric Compton Remembers His Friend, Lenny Haze
With regret we pass along the news that original Y&T drummer Leonard Haze has passed away at age 61 after battling chronic obstructive pulmonary disease (COPD) for several years.
Today was supposed to be just another day, grinding away at work with hot coffee and a half-smile. Midmorning I read a text that my friend Lenny Haze passed away. Damn...I didn't even get to say goodbye. In fact, the last time I talked or texted with him was early summer when he told me a story about being a roadie for Jackson Browne.
What do you say when you lose a loved one? You can never go back, right? What's done is done and all you have are the memories. It still crushes your heart and soul nonetheless.
I met Lenny through Maximum Metal part-timer Jonah Haze (Carmine Appice). Jonah is Lenny's nephew and he had often shared his uncle's stories with me over a few years. At some point, he asked if I could interview Lenny and I agreed. Honestly, as I joked with Lenny from time to time, I'm not even a huge Y&T fan. I can sing a few songs and name a couple more. I thought to myself before the phone call, what do I discuss with Lenny Haze? I have no earthly idea. But when I talked, texted, and emailed with Lenny over an initial week-long exchange, I quickly became a fan of LEONARD HAZE. He didn't care that I knew very little about his career or prior band. He was just happy to talk about music and life and his family and goals. He was as honest and genuine as any man can be. What you see is what you get. That's the way it was with Lenny.
I wish I could just summarize the hundreds and hundreds of texts Lenny sent me over the last couple of years. The two of us had even talked about putting all the texts and emails into a book about Lenny's career, a defining spotlight that connected the dots. We talked by phone a dozen times or so each year and sadly we never met in person. He's west coast and I'm...Floridian...as we like to say way down here. Lenny really trusted me, shared a whole lot of his personal life, and instilled in me a lot of hope and courage to just live life with no regrets.
He talked with me in-depth about his childhood, growing up always wanting to please his mother. He confided to me by phone that no matter how many shows he played or albums he recorded, it was never enough to please his mom until he landed Dick Clark. Once he appeared on "national television" his mother had utter satisfaction that her little Lenny had made it. It just meant the world to him.
He often talked about his bucket list, an item that came up in March of 2015 when he called to tell me Dave [Meniketti, lead guitar and vocals of Y&T] was going to let him play with the old band at the prestigious The Fillmore in San Francisco. He was extremely excited and satisfied that he was going to play with Y&T again. He said he could do one show at least and hoped to do more (He rejoined his bandmates on stage, March 14, 2015 at The Fillmore in San Francisco to perform two songs, "Winds Of Change" and "Dirty Girl"). They did two together, and reunited for an additional one. Lenny loved Dave. I don't know much about their relationship other than what Lenny has told me. But I'll go to my grave knowing how much Lenny talked about Dave and how fortunate he was to perform for so long with him.
In an in-depth interview I did with Lenny back in 2015, he told me how much he loved the late Phil Kennemore and that he would do anything for Phil's family. In those same conversations, he stressed how much he loved Ian Gillan, playing with his band, and touring the globe. Lenny always described his time with Ian as a pure pleasure, even going as far as saying how much he loved living with the Gillan family and playing board games with Ian's mother. He adored Ian and would always joke about the same funny farm story--during an interview Ian was asked how many animals does he have at home. He responded, "Well I have four dogs, three cats, two fish and Lenny Haze." He was so proud of that tour, and being one of the few bands to play the USSR in the early 90s. He recalled playing a huge outdoor stadium in the Soviet Union on the Fourth of July and one of the band members was able to get an American slogan onto the giant Titantron. He said they were lucky to get out of there alive. Just like Lenny, he shared that story a half dozen times. He was proud to be a branch on the "Purple Tree", and he was tickled to death that Gillan still kept in contact with him every year. It meant the world to him, not only to have the respect of his peers, but to have their friendship and comradery.
Lenny had heaps of praise for Carmine Appice and credited "The World's Fastest Foot" award [1986 via Circus Magazine] as a huge compliment. He talked about playing with Motley Crue, throwing chickens on stage at them and a night in Memphis where he got lost in a shopping mall with Tommy Lee. Friday and Saturday nights were never boring with Lenny texting at all hours of the night. He would text me to watch out for solar flares and to buy lots of water in case of the apocalypse, then turn around and tell me stories of how he wrecked Ian's car and dropped onions and mustard from a giant hotdog onto producer Chris Tsangredis' shoe in London. The guy never had a dull moment and neither did I as long as my phone was on.
When talking about his career and life he would always say he was truly blessed. I had shared a story with him once about a popular artist complaining about having to perform a gig tired and unmotivated. He told me that one day of him playing poorly in the worst possible scenario is the absolute best day ever for a guy making shoes in a factory. He truly believed that and I commend him for it. He never took his career, his opportunity, his life for granted. He had learned what hard work was day in and day out. While he had his own demons, I think his ultimate high was accomplishment.
Lenny wanted to play daily and didn't even like off days on tour. I can remember conversations being cut short earlier this year because Lenny couldn't miss drum practice. Even at 60 he said he was still learning to play and improving his technique and skill set. That is incredible, a guy who is considered one of the finest drummers of the genre, still striving to improve at age 60. He told me last year he had a chance to talk to Anvil drummer Rob Reiner at The Fillmore show. He said, "that guy can play. I want him to teach me to play drums." That's astounding.
For over a year or more Lenny had tried desperately to influence and teach others with COPD that life doesn't end just because you have an oxygen tank (what he referred to as an elephant trunk). He still played drums and live gigs with his band HazeXperience, a bluesy rock and roll act that he was so happy to be involved with. He sent me their single last year, "Helluva Xmas", and told me over and over how pleased he was. Together, we tried to get on some of the podcasts and Lenny tried to call in favors with older veterans like Alice Cooper, Tommy Lee, Nikki Sixx, Eddie Trunk and some newer shows too. Unfortunately, the answers were always the same...as soon as the schedule opens up.
Sadly, Lenny's schedule is now the one full.
He can't tell his story any longer.
But those of us who knew and loved him can continue to tell his story for him. We can play the albums, watch old performances, and cherish his contribution to rock and roll.
Lenny, I hope they put "Ludwig" on your gravestone buddy. I'll miss you my old friend.
Eric's Interview with Lenny Haze pt 1
Eric's Interview with Lenny Haze pt 2
[Other Maximum Metal Columns]
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