With decades of music and touring under his belt, George Porter Jr. is a celebrated bassist and singer of The Meters. One of the biggest tours of the band’s career was their 1976 run with The Rolling Stones. Porter Jr. spoke candidly about his memories and his experience.
The notable musician also shared his thoughts on his tie-dye style and upgrading his fashion. Porter Jr. talked honestly about his decades of sobriety and why he no longer struggles with drugs while on the road.
You have been wearing tie-dye even before you became a Deadhead. Where did your love of tie-dye originate?
When I was a young guy, I wouldn’t say I was a hippie but I would say it was colorful. I was doing acid back then too. The colorful acid days was the idea [that] tie-dye and acid went together. That was kind of me.
At that time, I couldn’t afford to stay into the real tie-dye stuff. We had fake tie-dyed stuff. It wasn’t until 10 or 12 years now I met Mickey Hart and did the tour with his band and met Ben Jammin, co-founder of the JamminOn line of tie-dye clothing, through Mickey Hart.
I had some fake tie-dye and Jammin pulled me to the side and said I couldn’t wear the fake stuff. So he started giving me my wardrobe. He gave me more stuff than I paid for. I wore it because I liked it. Other tie-dye artists all over the country, almost every city I would go in, somebody would come to the side of the stage and say they made this for me.
We recently lost a beautiful lady in Texas who did tie-dye, Lisa, she just passed. She was a beautiful person and a wonderful tie-dye artist.
You mentioned acid and tie-dye, but you have been sober for over 30 years now. Is it ever a struggle for you on the road even after all this time?
It is never a struggle. There have been four reasons why I have been sober, where I could have easily fallen off the wagon and easily got back into drugs.
One was, not even two days after I got out of the treatment center. I was looking forward to spending time with my father. We had been estranged for most of my adult life. I was looking forward to spending time and getting to know him. When I was in the treatment center he came up there every Sunday.
We would talk and make plans and be friends and learn about each other. I got out the night before Halloween or Halloween day. That night he was at a Halloween party at his house with his sister, his Mom and his wife. He went to bed that night and that Sunday morning he didn’t wake up. I found out that he passed away.
“I’m just not there anymore.”
My wife called me while I was on the stage with Anderson Miller and Reggie Houston playing a gig. My wife called me and said she had bad news that my father passed away. The stage was at the top of the bar so at my feet were bottles of liquor everywhere. I walked away from there.
I was in Florida playing the Funky Biscuit. My wife called and told me that my brother had passed away. This was years later. A year after that, I went back to the Funky Biscuit. I got a phone call again telling me my Mom had passed away. I escaped through that one as well.
Then Ara (George’s wife) passed away. She passed away two years ago, almost three years ago, November 27th – one day and one month from our 51st wedding anniversary. I watched her melt away for two and a half years. If I was going to get loaded again, any one of those four reasons would have been a good enough reason to give up on myself. I’m just not there anymore.
You talk a lot about the Stones tour from 1975 in interviews over the years. Do you have a memory that stands out from that tour?
Can’t talk about that. [laughing]. The thing that most stands out for me, we opened that Rolling Stones tour in Baton Rouge in ‘75. We played in a dome or auditorium in Baton Rouge. The local promoter from New Orleans that booked the show had a pretty low opinion of us.
They wanted to use somebody else to open that show. But The Rolling Stones said they wanted The Meters to be on that show. They pushed the promoters against the wall. They said either we do the Meters or we don’t do the show with you guys. I think the company was called Beaver Productions –they eventually gave in and gave the Meters the gig.
When we arrived at the hall, they guided us to the area where it was going to be our area. A place to get dressed and wait and hang out before the show. It was the girls’ shower room. We were almost two blocks away from the stage and the rest of the complex. I was so pissed off by how they were treating us.
This happened to us once before. It was at a show we did in New Orleans at The Warehouse and we were with Billy Preston. Clint Davis coordinated the show but Beaver Productions, it was their house.
The Meters had a hit record in New Orleans. This bass player traveled with Billy Preston but there were only two dressing rooms. They gave the bass player the one dressing room and Billy the other one. The Meters were going to be out in the hallway.
“Is that the way your local people treat you guys?”
Clint had our back. He demanded that the guy give up his dressing room so The Meters could have a dressing room. Beaver Productions had a bone to pick with us. We weren’t going to get a fair shake with those guys.
When the Stones got to the hall we had already done our sound check. Keith and Jagger and the guys were asking where the Meters were. One of the crew guys brought those guys back, I was so pissed.
I was way back in the shower smoking and drinking, I remember this British tone. He said, “Is that the way your local people treat you guys? This is bullshit and I don’t like this.” I turned around and it was Jagger and he was really upset. He told us to get our stuff and let’s get the hell out of here.
We started walking and the closer we got to the compound, we could start hearing birds. It was the sound of going to the oasis or something. It was the funniest thing I had ever seen. When we got to the compound, they had this turf and some sand. It was like we were on an island something. It was one of the most beautiful sights I had ever seen. I was like “Is this the way you travel?”
They treated us like kings. I think we did 13 shows on that US tour with them.