The REAL Pitbull and My Adventures With a Guy Named Steve Downey
It’s hard to believe I’ve already been with ExxonMobil for 13 years, certainly the longest job I’ve ever held. It still amazes me how, what were at the time quickly made life decisions with little to no thought beyond the next day let alone the next year or so could have such far reaching repercussions. One little decision to leave one life and basically start another one started such a long crazy odyssey for me that realistically is still going on to this very day.
Yet in the same 13 years since, I’ve made other decisions too – some good and some bad….okay, a lot of bad ones but still, at least I’ve learned an awful lot from all of them which in the long run makes me a better person. Not necessarily a smarter person but a better person for sure. It’s the acknowledgement of the bad decisions and the acknowledgement of mistakes made that make us better people or so the Germans would have us believe…….
I’ve made friends everywhere I’ve been in my life and it’s those friends that always help me to keep some kind of an anchor in that place wherever it was that I made these friends and that can be a blessing as well as a curse sometimes. Sometimes I wish I hadn’t made some of the friends I have because now I find myself missing them and it hurts sometimes to not be able to just reach out and put my hands on them when I want to but I guess that’s just life.
I remember this old dude I met my first year of doing RemuS Radio whose name was Steve Downey. Steve was a service writer for Star Motors here in Houston and I met him, I think, at either Cardi’s or at Bobby’s Xtreme Sports Bar one night as I was checking out some band. It’s been so long that I can’t even begin to tell you the conversation we had or anything but the short, fabricated and embellished version goes something like this; I was at a bar checking out a band and Steve was probably waxing almost romantically and out loud even, about whatever band we were both there watching. I had no idea who this old dude was but his taste in music was way younger than most men his age are into.
I’m sure it initially struck me as odd that this guy who probably had 15+ years on me liked the music that he liked and it was no show he was putting on either. The guy really knew just what he liked and could go on and on endlessly about a band that he had a kinship with for whatever reason.
He worked pretty much Monday thru Friday as did his wife who worked for the Enron Corporation, in what capacity I can’t recall but his wife was cool with him going out and watching bands and that’s all he actually did, other than throwing down an awful lot of beer. He wasn’t a womanizer or anything; he just really loved a good Rock n Roll band and enjoyed watching them play live and that’s the biggest thing we had in common right there. Don’t get me wrong, he was quick to point out a real “looker” in the crowd when he saw one and we’d exchange the obligatory dick-laden compliments involving said “looker” and we’d exchange a few notes with each other on how we’d school these Tenderoni’ in the ways of love then put them up still wet and drippin’ but then we’d move on, as it were.
I’m sure at some point in that first conversation I introduced myself after a while and began telling him what I did for a living and what it was that I did in my spare time as well and he dug that – he dug that so much that any time I ran into him the man refused to ever let me pay for whatever it was I was drinking. I mean, I couldn’t so much as go take a piss and leave a half a bottle sitting there because upon my return there would always be a frosty new bottle there waiting in the wings or a shot of whatever I had been shooting prior to my having to go and break “the man seal.” As appreciative as I always was at his generosity, people like that are awfully dangerous for a person like me who can work up a powerful thirst talking about anything I’m passionate about and as was always the case, that would pretty much be good Rock n Roll and good lookin’ women. Sure, I know about a lot of other things too but those other things don’t get my dick hard either so we’re left with the whole music and women thing.
This man would show up at the oddest places too but always in the Southwest so I know he lived in the Southwest somewhere. We never planned meeting up or anything, it would just happen. One night it just happened to be at Cardi’s and when the show we were there to see fell through he talked me into heading over to Sports Resorts International which was over off Murphy Rd or somewhere nearby. He told me there was a band playing there called “Two Ton Jack” and this band was made up of the remaining members of a former local band called “Pitbull”.
Pitbull was made up of Houston boys John Ziegler on guitars, Greg Hokanson on drums, Craig Cauzaubon/Cazaubon on bass and Jeff Charnquist on vocals and they released a monster of a self-titled disc back in 1996 and I mean this thing totally fuckin’ rocked. In regards to good quality bands playing the Richmond strip back in the day, Pitbull owned it brother.
Out on the strip they were reduced to playing covers pretty much exclusively and were under management of Dennis Lange but I gotta tell ya, the covers they were playing back then weren’t just the same old Top 40 bullshit that a lot of the other cover bands were playing on Richmond Ave, they were playing covers by bands like Pantera, Soundgarden, Stone Temple Pilots just to name a few and Two Ton Jack picked up and continued playing in that same exact vein and they literally ripped and tore their way through every bar and beerjoint they played in.
So what exactly happened to Pitbull one might ask?
Well let me tell you…..
A guy came down from Sony Entertainment to check them out and he said “You guys really sound great an all but, you look too old for MTV.” And that my friend is a sad, sad thing to hear no matter how old you are. Mind you, Jeff Charnquist was about 31 at the time and I can’t really speak for any of the others but man, that just had to suck for them and in general, it sucks period. The world will never know, eh?
After that happened with Sony, Pitbull broke up I’m saddened to say and John Ziegler, feeling that he still had something to give in the far bigger sense of the word made off with most of the band’s shit and took off for the West Coast where he spent a great deal of time “coming out”, writing porn soundtracks [no, seriously] and eventually making it very big as a guitar play with a couple of very obscure but widely known bands as well as making it in his own right as a solo artist. Google his name and you’ll see; He’s palling (n) around with the likes of Maynard James Keenan and taking bands like Tool to the only West Coast burger joint that exists in Austin, Texas and having them over to his family’s house in Houston for Thanksgiving dinner when their tours land them here in the holiday season etc. so he eventually did quite nicely for himself.
What about the rest of the guys from Pitbull?
Well let’s see here; I got to know Jeff Charnquist back in the RemuS Radio daze and kept up with him and saw Two Ton Jack whenever I could until they too broke up. He got into another band situation in 2004 that was a Deep Purple Tribute band called “Lazy” that was also pretty badass and I booked them for my 2004 Houston Food Bank benefit show that year and they went over pretty damn well if I do say so myself.
Well after Metal Mercy IV I lost track of him what I thought was for good until a few months ago when his name was brought up at a post-memorial service gathering for a friend’s 20 year old son who had passed away very suddenly as well as very tragically. During the portion of the service when people were invited up to speak about their own experiences with the deceased, this very tall guy with grayish, shoulder length hair had gotten up and spoke briefly at the memorial service about how, when the deceased boy was just 3 or 4 years old, he had taught him how to play some song by the Loving Spoonful on the boy’s kiddie piano or maybe it was the Guess Who, I really can’t remember anymore but the whole time this guy is talking he had a very familiar air about him but I just couldn’t put my finger on what it was that was so familiar about him it at the time.
After the memorial service we all gathered at a family friend’s house to have a few beers and meet with the family etc. and my bride and I were in the kitchen talking with some folks and I was trying to cool down and dry off from the heat as I was sporting long sleeves and a tie that day and by this point, I was pretty much drenched in sweat. Now before you even ask, no I couldn’t have just worn a short sleeved shirt instead of a long sleeved one and I’ll tell you why; a tie cannot be worn with a short sleeved shirt and that’s straight up. Doing that is an extreme fashion faux pas and very much an unforgiveable clothing offense.
I know this shit, trust me.
Anyway, we’re chilling out in the kitchen and out of my right ear I hear someone mention Craig LeMay so I sort of re-tune my head the direction of that conversation and jokingly refer to him as Craig LeMazing and everyone chuckled, of course, and continued on. I asked what Craig was doing these days and they said he was playing in the Van Hagar Project and although I had heard rumblings of this new tribute band I was unfamiliar with its personnel and as I continued to talk to my bride my right ear then heard the same conversation referring to another familiar name that I had not heard spoken of in a great many years and that name was Jeff Charnquist so I immediately turned my head again and interrupted them once more to ask in what vein his name was mentioned and they said once again the Van Hagar Project.
Well, needless to say my interest was extremely peaked at this point because when they referenced him, it was just as this guy was walking past us on his way outside to the patio area and that guy was the same tall guy who had briefly spoken at the memorial service and they were referring to him as Jeff Charnquist. No fucking way dude, it just can’t be.
Well naturally I immediately went outside at that point trying to catch up with him and the guy was just gone; vanished into thin air despite my efforts to scour the yard looking for him. I did however manage to see another old familiar face in the back yard that I hadn’t seen in person in almost just as many years and it was Greg Hokanson, the former drummer of Pitbull and Two Ton Jack that I knew was back on the scene and currently playing with Point Blank but had yet to ever run into him anywhere.
This leaves Pitbull’s bass player Craig Cazaubon: All I know about his post-Pitbull years is that after the band’s breakup he went on to play bass with Mike Haaga and Joe Fazzio in The Demonseeds including playing on their only release, 1999’s Knee Deep in Hell’s Grasp and since that time he’s literally fallen off the face of the earth. I mean, I can’t Google up another damn thing about the guy after that point. He obviously played in other bands prior to this, namely Razor White and Crawlspace but that is about all there is.
Steve Downey? I’m unsure about him as well. He is still listed as a Service Writer at Star Motors and I tried emailing him there but never once got a single reply from him at all but would genuinely love to hear from him again. He’s only about a thousand beers behind now and I’m starting to get a bit thirsty.
I worry that he may have passed away or something but surely they wouldn’t still list the guy as a service writer at Star Motors if he wasn’t actually still alive, would they? I can’t imagine why they would. I know they lost a ton of money when Enron went under because I believe that his wife had been a fairly long time employee there and one of the last time’s I saw and spoke with him he mentioned how she had gotten fucked over pretty badly in that whole deal and how he was not going to be going out the way he had been but I don’t know or understand why he wouldn’t have at least replied to my email I sent a few months back. I dunno, man……..life can be fairly squirrelly sometimes and people have been known to get squirrelly on me as well so we’ll just have to wait and see what happens with that.
Did I mention my editor has a birfday coming up in the very near future? Yeah he does and I can’t decide what I should get him either besides a swift kick in the ass. [Just remember I’ll have to match your gift for your own birfday – Ed].