‘Main Man to Musicians’ Ames Flames Answers the Question: What is a Roadie?

Ames Flames is celebrating a 30-year career as “roadie” for some of the most beloved bands in Rock N Roll. He has supported musicians on the stage and on tour and has logged memories and miles in the music business. Talking with Ames is like delving into an American music archive.

His collection of memorabilia together with his stories makes you feel like you’re right in the group, going along with the tour. The go-to guy when it comes to putting a show on the road — and keeping bands rolling onward — Ames discusses career highlights and talks about today’s challenges on The IntraView.

The IntraView: What is a roadie? 

Ames: “Roadie” just means people on the road with the band which includes dozens of different jobs. I started in the L.A. underground. They were called “punk bands,” but they were very different from what was originlly called punk bands. I will name some of the bands. They all had a look, a sound, their own songs and a following. They never got that big break. 

Sometimes the big break is the kiss of death. Especially if the label has no idea how to handle bands such as these. OG punks would say that it was disposable and festivals were hippie shit. Now we have 4-day punk festivals with hundreds of bands. I call them “conformity fests.”

Ames Flames Roadie for The New York Dolls – Courtesy

Ames writes about the above photo: ‘Cricket Wireless Amphitheater, San Diego, CA 8/17/11 Just before the last set of the tour! We made it to every show and had a good time too! Mara Hennessey back up vocals, David Johansen lead vocals and harmonica, Earl Slick guitar and vocals, Sonia Wilson merch/photographer/tour assistant, Kenny Aaronson bass and vocals, Jason Sutter drums, Sylvain Sylvain guitar and vocals, Ames Flames stage tech/roadie/back up vocals/strumming! Not in this pic is Todd Spahr who was Earl Slick’s tech/roadie, Phil Sullivan tour manager/soundman, and Dave Chaney our bus driver! 11 of us on a bus for 10 and a half weeks!’

The IntraView: How complicated is your job as a one-person roadie, the only support in the van with the band compared with multiple roadie situations and tours? 

Ames: I was with new bands, not signed bands, and I as in the van with the band, not on a seperate crew bus. I experienced what they experienced 24/7. The only bus I was ever on was the Dolls and we were all in that bus. Plus, we were striaght up rock band. No fire, no video, no drums on a roller coaster, no wall of empty speaker cabinets.

Ames Flames with Betty Blowtorch band – Courtesy

Ames writes: Betty Blowtorch at the LA Weekly Awards just after receiveing the award for Best Punk/Hardcore Band at the Palace. 6/29/00

The IntraView: What are the hazards you faced on the road? 

Ames: Black ice, a deer hitting the trailer, flat tires, blizzards, rain, fire, etc. Parking. Fixing the Dolls’ bus …

The IntraView: As a roadie, what are some of the “unexpected” things that happen that you have to deal with? 

Ames: Like when at one location an entire drum riser was missing. I had to build a drum riser. I booked a show from our hotel room on an off night, with the dolls our stage manager injured himself and suddenly the I was crew. I even ended up singing back ups. After that I sang lead on a couple of songs with Cheetah Chrome here and there. I met Sylvain Sylvain working with the Batusis, that was Cheetah and Sylvain. What a joy those shows were.

Ames on Top of the Tour Bus – Courtesy

Ames writes: New Mexico 6/11/11 We were riding along and then we heard this noise coming from the top of the bus. We pulled over somewhere in New Mexico. Everyone got out but I figured out how to get up on the roof using the door as a ladder so I could see what it was. I just climbed right up as they watched in amazement.

Listen to Ames Flames on The IntraView here: