Inside Stories

Chuck’s Fur Coat

by Capitol Theatre co-founder Al Hayward

The Capitol featured groups that were hot or up and coming, but we also tried to present music that was important to the roots of rock and roll. One of those rock  legends was the one and only Chuck Berry.

Most acts that played the Capitol arrived with a large entourage that included roadies, road managers and various friends. The Dead, for instance, had a dozen or so people with them when they performed. Not Chuck Berry. He arrived at the Capitol all by himself. He flew in to Newark Airport, rented a car and drove to Passaic. No roadies, no road manager and not even a back up band. We were expected to supply that. All he walked in with was his guitar in a case.

Since it was winter in New Jersey it was a typical cold night. Chuck had on a full length fur coat. When he went on stage he instructed Debbie Falconbridge, our back stage hostess, to stand on the corner of the stage and hold his fur coat. She could not be seen by the audience but she could be seen by Chuck. He did not trust anyone backstage with his coat and insisted that he had to see the coat in Debbie’s hands all the while he performed. As usual, Chuck brought down the house. He came to my office in the front of the theatre, I paid him cash for his performance and out the door he went.