If you lived in Chicago in the 1990s, you couldn’t get away from Armando Gallop. As a DJ, producer and promoter, he was everywhere in this town. From his “School Daze” parties at the Hummingbird on 86th and Ashland, to Medusa’s and the Warehouse up north, where people from all races came together, he absolutely owned it. Internationally, he was an almost mythical figure: a single name on a slab of vinyl with the sickest beats and a 303 sound that has never been duplicated.
And then one day he was gone. Tragically, Armando was taken away from us at the age of just 26 – usually, an age when a young artist is just getting started.
But in those 26 years, Armando established a staggering legacy. His records – most notably, “Land of Confusion,” “151,” and “100% of Disin’ You” – are classics. He set the model for how parties were promoted. But most of all, his legacy relates to the people he knew and the people he inspired.
You never forget your first love, your first kiss, or the first DJ that got hold of your soul and introduced you to House Music. Armando was the “first” for a whole generation of us that grew up hearing him. And beyond music fans, he broke a lot of doors down for his friends, who like Terry Hunter, Paul Johnson, Mike Dunn and countless others, have gone on to become among the biggest names in House Music. “Armando introduced people to a lot of their ‘firsts,'” Terry Hunter said. “For me, it was over and over again. My first record. Ron Trent’s first record. Armando took me into a studio for the first time. He was a brother to me. He was my best friend.
“Print this: without Armando, there wouldn’t have been any Terry Hunter.”
For the last year, I’ve been gathering stories, names, pictures and all manner of information for a story to pay homage to someone so crucial in the history of House Music. After awhile, I realized that it was hopeless. There was no way to talk to everyone – or even just the 50 or so people of importance – without setting aside years to do it.
Then, Sean Smith called me. Eric Martin throws a party every year close to Armando’s birthday in tribute to his friend. The timing seemed right. And this story started to take shape.
It was important, first of all, to let people speak in their own words. That’s what this story is – oral history, just people talking. But it’s important to remember that with oral history, not everyone agrees with each other – sometimes people remember things wrong, or just see it from a different angle than someone else. But for these drawbacks, I felt it was important to let people share their memories – their Armando, as they remember him – rather than impose my own.
I also didn’t want to limit this to a circle of people who were close with Armando. If I’ve learned anything from Chip E., it’s that there’s no scene without the ‘heads, and you can’t hope to get the texture of the times without an Average Joe’s view from the dancefloor. Some of them were inspired by Armando to launch their own careers; some are collectors, run music stores, or are simply fans. They’re important, and I’ve tried to include them in this story as well. Any errors in transcription of course are mine.
And in regard to the people I didn’t get a chance to talk to – by no means will this story be over when this issue is off the streets. There are literally thousands of people who remember Armando, and I want to talk to them all. And so, with this, we’re announcing the beginning of The Armando Project. A special section of our website at 5chicago.com/armando has been created – you can find not only this story there, but the raw transcripts of the interviews with the people I’ve spoken to so far. The idea is that this will continue to grow, unrestrained by the limits of print, into a massive archive of interviews, photos, flyers and mixes to give respect to a man who wasn’t just a giant of a certain kind of music, but a genuinely great human being. If you want to share something, you can get in touch with me at firstname.lastname@example.org. -Terry Matthew
The Early Years
ERIC MARTIN: “I first met Armando around 1985. We played on the same Little League team together. Paul and I were playing around on the turntables then, but Armando wasn’t a DJ yet. We were doing House parties in the neighborhood. Whatever we had as far as equipment, we put together to play neighborhood parties.”
PAUL JOHNSON: “I met Armando in ’84. I wasn’t even DJing then. I was still a breakdancer. I lived around the corner. Armando started to DJ at a skating rink. Michael Airhart and I used to go there skating. But after the skating was over, we started hearing House Music from the DJ. We were like, ‘What’s this?’ That’s when we met him and I realized I lived around the corner from him. (Read the full Paul Johnson interview transcript here.)
“We got into a lot of teenage BS together. One incident that I want to talk about is the best one. ‘Move Your Body’ came out in 1984 on Trax Records. They used to throw records into their garbage bin – records that had two stickers on there or a misprint, but the record was still okay.
Myself, Armando and Mike Airhart used to drive down to 38th and Morgan, jump in the garbage can and for hours pulled out records. All the same record, Move Your Body.
“Myself, Armando and Mike Airhart used to drive down to 38th and Morgan, where they were, jumped in the garbage can and for hours pulled out records – all the same record, ‘Move Your Body’. We filled Armando’s trunk up and the last time we got out, the workers from the plant spotted us.
“They yelled, ‘What the hell are y’all doin?’ and started chasing us down the street. Literally, chasing us! Armando pulled off and left me and Mike in the street, so we’re running down the street with a box of records, being chased by a van. We’re laughing and crying at the same time. Every 15, 20 seconds, Armando would drive by and yell, ‘Go that way! Go east now!’ For about 30 minutes this went on. We thought we were going to jail!
“But we did get away. And we still managed to sell some of those records, right out of the trunk! We’d pull up right after school, “Psst, hey, we’ve got ‘Move Your Body’!” Everybody wanted to become DJs at the time, and it was very very difficult to find that record. They only heard it at parties when Farley or Marshall or Pharris would play it.
“I want to put emphasis on how funny this was! From that point on we just all became friends.”
FARLEY JACKMASTER FUNK: “I met Armando when I was on WMBX, and I was going through a record shop at Evergreen Plaza called JR Records, where Armando worked. He was just so energetic and just pushed and pushed and pushed. Everybody came to JR’s, so he got a chance to meet so many people from the industry.
“Off and on he kept in contact with me, and he’d carry my records to some of my gigs. After awhile, the respect level changed, from him just being a kid to being a very formidable DJ. On a personal level, it changed from him being just a kid to being a friend. We developed a really strong relationship.
“I had a residency at a place called The Playground, and I would let him DJ sometimes there. I’d also put him on the radio on WBMX.
“He kind of kept me on my toes, because I had this new youngblood around me that was so energetic. It couldn’t help but to rub off and even inspired me.” (Read the full Farley interview transcript here.)
TERRY HUNTER: “We were all good friends. I slept over at his house, and he slept over at mine. I still know his address by heart – 9129 S. Aberdeen. I still know his phone number. Write this down: 779-0865. That goes to show you – I remember that like it’s 1988 again. It’s been all of these years and I still have those memorized. He was always smiling. I never once saw Armando pick a fight with anyone. Ever. I never saw him angry.” (Read the full Terry Hunter interview transcript here.)
MIKE DUNN: “Armando would bring his stuff over to my house or Bam Bam’s house and I would get it right. He had a studio set up in his basement on the bar and anyone who came to his house would come down those stairs, records everywhere, with the drum machine, tapedeck, reel-to-reel and all of that in the basement. Basically the closest people that were always over there were Hugo, Pharris, Terry, Me, Joe Louis, Disco Dave… Like I said, Bam Bam lived right around the corner. And that’s how ‘Land of Confusion’ came about.” (Read the full Mike Dunn interview transcript here.)
You can drop ‘Land of Confusion’ at any time, anywhere in the whole world. If you’re a House DJ, you can drop it. If you’re a techno DJ, you can drop it. No problem. Anytime, anywhere.
PAUL JOHNSON: “I was actually with Armando when he bought his 707. He was the first with one – none of us had anything to make anything with. And this is how business-minded Armando was. Right from the very beginning, for us to make something on his 707, we had to give him records. Say I wanted to make a few tracks on half of a 30 minute tape. He would say, ‘Okay, you gotta bring me two copies of “I Fear the Night”, In plastic.’ I’d have to go find two copies of ‘I Fear the Night’ just to make simple beats. But it was so brand new that it was fun as hell to us.”
MIKE DUNN: “All we did was put the music on the reel-to-reel. We had the drums synced up so the drums would always play live. That’s why we could never duplicate most of that stuff because we taped it to cassette or whatever and then erased the shit. Back then, we didn’t know anything about what it was worth. I mean, these were masters! We were naive as to what the music business was all about. We were just about putting out this great record and, look, my name’s on it! All of the other stuff we didn’t really care about.
And people now are like, ‘Man, you got the masters?’ Are you serious?”
KEVIN STARKE: “I’ve heard a lot of imitators, and I don’t think they’re bad, but I’ve never heard anyone put out an acid bassline like Armando did, and ‘Land of Confusion’ is one of the best acid tracks ever made. There are a lot of guys that try to imitate his style, but I’ve never heard anyone put out a track with a 303 and make the kind of sounds that he made. House Music started changing in the ’90s and people tried to put out edits that sounded like his. You had DJ Pierre and Phuture, and then Armando. That’s just my opinion.” (Read the full Kevin Starke interview transcript here.)
BEAR WHO: “You can drop ‘Land of Confusion’ at any time, anywhere in the whole world. If you’re a House DJ, you can drop it. If you’re a techno DJ, you can drop it. No problem. Anytime, anywhere.”
PAUL JOHNSON: “I was in the hospital when Armando made ‘Land of Confusion’ – I had just gotten shot. It was right at the same time. I was shot on May 12, 1987. I was still in rehabilitation, and one of the nurses used to let me slip into the rec room. WBMX would be on until 2 in the morning, and they’d let me sneak in and listen. I was like, ‘Y’all don’t understand, I’m a DJ, I still want to do it, and I’ve got to hear what people are playing.’
“So one day I was listening and I heard ‘Land of Confusion’ and I almost died, man. I never heard anything like that. But I knew something was really familiar from it – it was that damn beat that Armando kept making! I was like… Wait a minute. I think I know this. Oh man, once I got out of the hospital? He had blown up because of that.
“He never would tell us how he got the 303 to run two different sequences at once. We all had a 303, but couldn’t run two sequences like he did. So what we did – you’re going to laugh at this – we had an 808, a 707, a 909, a 626, a 727, and then we’d have two 303s and we’d make sure we had everything MIDI’ed through and a couple of things that synced. We eventually figured out if we could sync two 303s together, we could get two different sequences going at once. And that’s what he was doing. He had two 303s and he never told us!”
ERIC MARTIN: “He mastered [the sequencing of the 303]. He mastered that. I remember going with him to Bam Bam’s house. We were on his label and we used to go down there to record. Bam Bam was a big part of helping Armando break through. That was Bam Bam’s Westbrook Records.”
Lil Louis came up and wanted to put out this track called ‘French Kiss’. I told Armando, ‘Nah, nah, nah, that ain’t gonna do nothing.’ Armando was like, ‘This is gonna be huge!’ But I was all, ‘Nah, nah.’
MIKE DUNN: “A lot of our stuff – all of Armando’s stuff, Terry Hunter’s stuff – I was the one recording it. We used to do that at Bam Bam’s house.
“I had an 808, someone else had a 707… That’s how ‘Land of Confusion’ came about. I originally was putting things together and forgot to erase the tape. The name of that track was originally “Slave for Love”. Armando was in Miami at the time.
“I’m giving you the real history – and it’s not a dis in any way, because Armando was one of my best friends – but ‘Land of Confusion’ was a mistake! It was one of the biggest records, but it was actually a mistake! This is how it was made. ‘Land of Confusion’ was based on the 303. If you take the batteries out for a minute and put them back in, that’s the first bassline that will come up. A lot of people weren’t there and the story gets fabricated. It’s no dis, but that’s how it came about. ‘Land of Confusion’ was a pre-set bassline. Take the batteries out for a second, and it’s going to clear all of the memory out. Put ’em back in and all of the pre-sets come back up. That was the first bassline.”
GENE HUNT: “I heard Armando’s productions and what he was doing had a really unique sound to it. When he put out ‘Land of Confusion’, which was obviously one of the biggest records he ever did, it really got my attention.
“I first met him at Trax Records – I guess Larry Sherman just worked on the side with Armando. To make a long story short, with my first release, ‘Living in a Land’, which came out in 1989, I called Armando and said, ‘Hey, man, I’m in a bind and I need your help. Can you come and pick me up and bring your 303?’ We programmed it on his machine and it was put out on Trax. That’s how Armando is listed as producer on it – my very first track. I learned a great deal from him. He was a really inspiring figure in the context of House Music at that time.”
ERIC MARTIN: “When Armando put the second release of ‘Land of Confusion’ out, the one with the remix with ‘151’ on there, I drove out with him to 3400 West Ogden to pick them up. Man! We packed so many records in my car, you looked around you couldn’t see nothing but records. They were everywhere. That was his new label, which he created himself, called Warehouse Records. That was when he started releasing things himself.”
REGGIE DAVENPORT: “Armando’s tracks were talked about a lot at my high school (Lindblom) and I kept up with the scene even after I left Chicago to enter the Air Force. One time while I was in town on vacation, I was finally able to meet Armando. I was hunting down the ‘Land of Confusion’ remix EP that was on Warehouse. I searched everywhere and couldn’t find it. I finally found a way to get that record – I had to contact Armando himself by calling the phone number on the label. I did just that and arranged to go over to his house to pick up the record. He met me at the door and we shook hands and chatted for a minute. He was the coolest guy ever. Not only did he give me two copies of ‘Land of Confusion’ but also two of the test pressing of ‘The Armani Track’.”
MIKE DUNN: “Armando and Bam Bam fell out because Armando worked in JR Records, so he knew how many records were getting sold and could call up all the other record stores. So they fell out, and that’s when he started his own label, Warehouse Records. That was his, Dance Mutha was my label, and we came together and did Muzique Records. He had his and could do what he wanted on it, I had mine, and then with Muzique, we’d jointly agree on everything.
“Lil Louis came up and wanted to put out this track called ‘French Kiss’. I told Armando, ‘Nah, nah, nah, that ain’t gonna do nothing.’ Armando was like, ‘This is gonna be huge!’ But I was all, ‘Nah, nah.” [breaks out laughing]
DJ PAP: “‘Land of Confusion’ stands out to me. Also some of the edits Armando did on Ron Trent’s record ‘Altered States’, which was released on Warehouse Records. I met Armando at the Music Box in 1986. Actually, some of the edits even back then that Ron Hardy was playing, Armando did them.
“But the track that shook me was Armando’s ‘151’. It was the second coming of acid music. The first was Pierre. Pierre did it right and Armando did it right. Those two had the right melody using that 303. After Armando did ‘151’, I said, ‘Well, here’s another great acid song that will propel Chicago with its sound.'”
So I go up to Kenny Dope and I say, ‘Look, you guys might beat us up, but I’m going to stab every one one of you in here.’
MIKE DUNN: “With ‘100% of Disin’ You’, Armando knew what he wanted. He just couldn’t get it out himself. So he said to me, ‘I want it to sound like Todd Terry.’ Oh, okay, cool. I got the Loleata Holloway track that was on the Criminal record, sampled something from one of Todd’s hits, plus some other little things we put in there and we came up with it. Needless to say, Todd Terry was extremely upset…”
TERRY HUNTER: “We went to New York for the New Music Seminar. I don’t know if you remember, but the New Music Seminar was really big. This was before WMC. And this was a place where rappers and House people used to connect.
“We’re sitting in the Red Zone, me and Armando, and here comes a guy with seven or eight people. One of these people in fact happens to be Todd Terry. Todd sees Armando’s badge, and turns around to this big Spanish-looking dude from Brooklyn. He says to him, ‘Yo, here that muthafucka is, right here!’ That big guy was actually Kenny Dope. The problem was, Todd Terry sampled a record, and Armando sampled the same record for ‘100% of Disin’ You’, with the vocal, ‘I’m gonna dis you right now’. Todd interpreted it as Armando saying, ‘I’m gonna dis you right now’ – meaning, Todd Terry.
“In those days, I was a thug. All I saw was Todd Terry grab Armando’s badge and talk to this big guy next to him. I didn’t know it was Kenny Dope. Armando’s telling him, ‘Todd, I wasn’t about you – it was just a sample that I took’ and on and on.
“Kenny Dope started coming up, saying, ‘I don’t care – you’re in New York!’ So there was a champagne bottle right next to me. Armando was like, ‘Terry, be cool man!’ I break this champagne bottle on the side of the speaker. By this point Larry Thompson and Tyree Cooper were there too. So people are like, ‘Oh – Chicago vs. New York!’
“So I go up to Kenny Dope and I say, ‘Look, you guys might beat us up, but I’m going to stab everyone one of you in here.’ So there’s this big commotion in the middle of the Red Zone and it’s Armando and me with a half-cracked bottle of champagne with people from Chicago runnin’, and people from New York runnin’, and security runnin’. It was so funny.
“Everything got defused, and the next day, we’re chillin’, and here comes Kenny Dope and Todd Terry. Todd had figured it out and everything was squashed. Kenny walks up to me and was like, ‘Yo, what up? Respect, I didn’t know that was you. We sold a lot of your records at my store that I work at in Brooklyn. You a real dude, you stood up for your man, we like that. Yo, give me your number.’ Since that day, me and Kenny Dope have always remained in contact and we’re like brothers now. Because of Armando. Todd Terry too. So you go figure that. I was like ‘Armando, you’re always getting us in trouble!’ And Armando wouldn’t hurt a fly!”
KEVIN STARKE: “There was this one story that I always talk about. I would go on Saturday nights when Armando played at the Warehouse. I would go down there to watch him play and talk to him, just find out information on records. He’d always show me records when I didn’t know what it was.
“Saturday night at the Warehouse was primarily a black night. There weren’t too many white guys. But I remember this – he looked at me one night, and said, ‘Watch this. This is the record I’m going to play and mess these guys up.’ And he showed me the record: ‘Smells Like Teen Spirit’ by Nirvana. I’m thinking, oh, they’re never going to dance to this. They’re going to get pissed!
“These people lost their minds. People went fucking nuts. That guitar riff – people were dancing all crazy. That’s when I kind of looked at it like, okay, never say you can only play this kind of music at this kind of a club. Never say this type of people only like this type of music. You never know. Once you’ve got the crowd, they’re yours.”
In Chicago, it’s like an unspoken code. People often say that they want to work together, but feel threatened by another guy who may be better. Armando was one of those of people that had such a good spirit about himself that he went from working with me, to Mike Dunn, Lil Louis at the Bismarck.
PAUL JOHNSON: “I was there that night. I was in the front – I always stayed in the front to see all the females when they came in. So when I heard the Nirvana song come on… I said, ‘Man, what the heck is that? I know I don’t hear that.’ I just started cracking up. I went back there right when the chorus says, ‘With the lights out…’ Man, it sounded so good! The crowd started going crazy!”
MIKE DUNN: “The Warehouse was at 738 W. Randolph. Frankie opened up the first night, which was Halloween, October 31, 1990. It was owned originally by Rocky Jones, Joe Smooth and Julian Perez. They opened up the first night with Frankie so it would solidify their position in calling it the Warehouse. Julian went to Rocky and was like, “We need to get Mike Dunn in here” after I guested one night. So I took over the main floor. Eventually I took over who would spin at the club. So I hired Armando, I hired Hugo, K-Alexi too but he was playing Hip-Hop. I got Armando hired there on Thursdays when I started on WGCI. I’d also do the Riv on Thursdays and come down to the Warehouse later. So he took over Thursdays, and I took over Saturdays.
“Armando did great tracks, but Armando was really the brain behind the scenes. He was a great promoter. From the ‘School Daze’ thing at the Hummingbird, Medusa’s, the hotels… Armando would go out at midnight and hang posters on poles. He’d call me at 7am saying he’d just finished! When you woke up that morning, they were everywhere. Imagine two or three people in only one car, from 95th to 35th, stopping at the corner and boom-boom-boom… It was his determination and dedication that were incredible to me.”
BEAR WHO: “He was one of those guys always playing like the deeper disco classic anthems – but I had never heard these. Like ‘Earth to Mickey’ by Chaka Khan. I never knew who it was or what it was. It was out of print for years – you couldn’t get that mix. So I talked to him about it. He said, ‘Oh, this one? Here, take it home, record it on tape.’ I said, ‘You’ve got to be kidding me.’ I brought it back the next week and thanked him. And he’s like ‘Oh yeah, I forgot I gave it to you.’ I mean – here’s this young kid that he doesn’t know except from seeing me a couple of times as a regular at the party.”
FARLEY JACKMASTER FUNK: “Actually, those were probably my records. [laughs] I left all of mine in his basement. He’d color ’em up and tell me they were not mine! ‘Look at this little spot right there – that’s my record!’ I forgot all about that. He didn’t have records from way back then! But I didn’t mind though, I didn’t mind…
“He was one of those young guys that was so lovable. In Chicago, it’s like an unspoken code. People often say that they want to work together, but feel threatened by another guy who may be better or his name is stronger. They actually won’t work with a guy – they’ll say, ‘Hey, let’s DJ together,’ but then they won’t do it. He was one of those of people that had such a good spirit about himself that he went from working with me, to Mike Dunn, Lil Louis at the Bismarck… He was that guy that everybody said, ‘Man, he’s just so cool, man.’ Then he turned around and started throwing his own parties. He’d DJed for everybody and now was throwing his own parties. He was a very smart promoter as he learned from Marvin Terry and some of the other people.”
DJ PAP: “One of my favorite nights was a party at Kaboom that he and I played at. Mike Winston was playing too. I watched Armando spin for maybe about an hour before I went downstairs. I think my mouth dropped a couple of times. He was playing some unbelievable edits. They were so clean! Mike Winston’s set was okay. [laughs] Not to knock my friend Mike Winston, but Armando Gallop hit it.”
MIKE DUNN: “Armando started to get… not quite himself. ‘Man, Armando’s in the hospital – he’s in Cook County.’ I didn’t know how sick he was. They then transferred him to Little Company of Mary. They were telling me I better go see Armando.
“Armando was Catholic. I went to see him and a priest was walking out of the room. He’s like, ‘It’s a shame, he’s so young.’ I walk in there, and… Oh my God. His head was so swollen and his legs were just… A sign was over his bed, ‘Do not comment on his looks to him.’ He’s not conscious. I was just sitting there talking to him. Saying my prayers. I walk out, crying. I really couldn’t believe it.
“A couple of weeks go by. Almost a month. Armando’s getting better. I go back up there and see him. He’s looking cool, he looks good now. Still a sign over the bed, but he’s looking better. All of the swelling and all of that had gone down. He can barely talk. ‘Ah, Mike… I heard you got this song… at the Warehouse… ‘Freaky Muthafucka’… everybody going crazy over it…. Man, can’t wait to hear it…’
“Okay. We have a talk. He comes home. I’m like, okay, he’s really good now. I leave to DJ in Germany. After I leave Germany, I made a connecting flight to New York because Byron Stingily was doing his video for ‘Get Up’ and I was going to be in it. Thinking everything’s cool, he’s doing better…
“We’re driving home. It’s me, Big Ed, Ron was in the van, and another person I can’t quite remember. We’re driving home through this big snow storm. We’re in Indiana, almost hit Chicago. Phone rings. Big Ed answers the phone. We’re all listening to music and everything. Terry Hunter’s on the phone. I don’t hear what they’re talking about. He hangs up the phone. He’s like, ‘Hey guys, turn down the music. Armando just passed.’
“I just went off. They had to pull the van over. I got out, was walking on the side of the road, just saying, ‘No, no, no, you were supposed to wait until I got back, you were supposed to wait…’
“We finally get back. We go to the funeral home. The funeral is starting at 7 o’clock. At 5 o’clock I was there, just sitting by myself. I couldn’t even get up. Farley got up and spoke. Ron got up and spoke. His parents were Catholic so they had the service in the church as well. I didn’t want to go to that one — I didn’t want to see him, you know, put into the ground. The last time I was talking to him on the phone, it was upbeat – I’m going to Germany, when I get back, I’ll go over there to see you…”
I just feel bad because I didn’t go see my friend. And I understand now why half of my friends never come see me when I’m in the hospital. They never come. And I always say, ‘Why don’t you guys come?’ They never really give me a straight answer but I get it now.
TERRY HUNTER: “I walked into his hospital, and I saw him, and it destroyed me. It destroyed me. He couldn’t even eat, he couldn’t hold his own fork. He still tried to smile in front of us. To this day… You know, his mom was like, ‘Terry, don’t go in there. You’re not ready to see this.’ I’m like, this is my man, how bad can it be? But I wasn’t ready.
“When he passed… All of us went through some stuff. Myself and Mike went through a lot – you know, we were young and we didn’t know how to handle it. When I saw Mike at the funeral, we just hugged and he said, ‘Man, this is a bunch of years we’ve got between us…’ We worked it all out…”
FARLEY JACKMASTER FUNK: “It was a very very sad time. I was trying to encourage him – you know, I’d given my life to the Lord right when he was sick, so I was constantly preaching to him and telling him to be encouraged, things of that nature. It was a very sad moment, because I’m like family to his mother and his brothers and everything. But he got better, then worse, then better, then worse and worse and worse, and that was the end…”
PAUL JOHNSON: “Nobody knows this but one person – Emanuel. Me and Armando were extremely close. But I couldn’t handle it. The whole time he was in this place – months – everyone was going to see him. He kept saying, ‘Where’s Paul at? Tell Paul to come.’ I feel so sorry and ashamed, man, but I never went to see him. I couldn’t. And I was already in a wheelchair myself. See what I’m saying?
“I knew he was going to die. I couldn’t look at his face because I knew. I knew it’d be the last time I’d see him. I just didn’t want to remember him that way. I wanted to remember him as the man I’d always known – smiling, laughing, cracking jokes. And that’s how I kept it. He was so close to me and entrusted me with the 707. The reel-to-reels? He left those with me and those were his most prized possessions in the world. I felt pretty good about that, that he felt that good about our friendship, because everybody was his friend by this time.
“I just feel bad because I didn’t go see my friend. And I understand now why half of my friends never come see me when I’m in the hospital. They never come. And I always say, ‘Why don’t you guys come?’ They never really give me a straight answer but I get it now. I couldn’t see him, either. So I finally get it.
“At his funeral I just sat there and cried, grabbing his arm. Nobody touched me and they let me stay up there. That was my boy…”
MIKE DUNN: “Most people don’t know it, but I always say a prayer when I’m getting ready to spin. I know Armando’s looking down on me. I know he’s watching over me through all the trials and tribs a brother’s been through. I know it – he’s my angel.
“I never want to be one of those old cats saying I should have been, I should have tried, I should have taken the chance. Armando taught me to never be scared to try something. He was younger than me but I looked up to him just as much as he looked up to me. It wasn’t one-sided. I helped him because I knew he was a true friend and I was to him.
“And that’s it – from the beginning of the story to the end of the story.”