High On Stress – Little Shiva’s Song 3/5/2014

“LIttle Shiva” Written by Robert Dunlap

High On Stress

Nick Leet – vocals and guitar
Mark Devaraj – drums
Jim Soule – bass guitar
Chad Wheeling – guitar

Produced by High on Stress
Engineered by Chad Wheeling
Recorded at Triple T Studio in Brooklyn Center, MN

I grew up in North Dakota and my parents bought a satellite radio box that I would listen to in my house where I grew up. I remember a lot of songs popping up that I had never heard before due to the lousy Minot radio stations. One song kept playing almost every night. It was “I’ll Be You” by the Replacements. I didn’t own any of their records but I had heard about them. I couldn’t believe how great that song was. As a teenager I related immediately to it.

In the summer of 2008 we were putting the final touches on “Cop Light Parade.” We wanted to put together a great CD Release show line-up. Slim was the first person we talked about asking. I had no idea how to reach him. He had a MySpace page but there was no way to reach him on there. I asked a couple of people for his number but nobody knew how to reach him. Finally I was able to track down his phone number. Nervous as hell I cold called Slim Dunlap. He was the guitar player of one of my all time favorite bands. The guy who played guitar on “I’ll Be You.” I had never said a word to him before that point and now I was calling him on the phone. Was he going to ask me how the hell I got his number? Was he going to tell me to never call it again? I had no idea what to expect but you don’t get anywhere without trying. He answered the phone in that recognizable voice of his and I said “Hi Slim, you don’t know me and I hope you’re not upset that I’m calling you but my name is Nick Leet and I’m in the band High on Stress.” I could barely get the word Stress out when Slim enthusiastically said “HI NICK! I LOVE HIGH ON STRESS!” I could not believe my ears. Here I was worried that this guy was going to scream at me. I told him my reason for calling. “Would you like to play our CD Release show for our new record?” Slim replied “I can do that.” Once again, I couldn’t believe my luck. I called him back a couple of weeks later with more details a little less nervous since he put me at ease. “Hey Slim, I’ve got a question and feel free to say no. Would you be interested in coming up and playing a song with us?” Slim said “Sure! What song were you thinking?” I said “Eyeliner Blues” from “Moonlight Girls.” He said “I love that song. I’ll do that.” And he did just that. We didn’t rehearse. As I found out later Slim wasn’t much into rehearsing! He walked up on stage that night in front of 350 people and the crowd went nuts. He picked up my black Les Paul and we kicked into the song and people lined the stage taking pictures of the man. We were on top of the world. I had no idea what it was going to sound like but I swear to God it sounded like that magical guitar playing from “Don’t Tell a Soul.” I couldn’t have felt better at that moment. We incorporated his great part into the live version that we play today.

After that night I called him to say thank you and tell him how much I appreciated him helping us out. He was very gracious and he went right into Slim story mode. He talked about everyone from Keith Richards to Steve Earle and how much he liked Buddy Holly and all the great ballrooms that he had the opportunity to play. We kept talking over the next couple of years. I’d check in with him typically once a month and listened to his stories and he’d ask me about the band and how that was going. I told him that I was going to become a father and he got excited and told me how great it is to be a father. When Slim introduced himself to my son he said “I’m the oldest guy you will ever know.” As time went by the Slim Dunlap, the rock star, became Slim Dunlap my friend. He’s one of the kindest, selfless people I have the pleasure of knowing.

I’ve had people ask me “How did you ever get to back Slim?” I also know that Slim got asked the same thing before the shows we played with him. “How did High on Stress get you back on the stage with a band?” Slim’s answer was “Nick tricked me.” That wasn’t exactly the truth but it made me laugh to hear him say that.

Later I called Slim to ask him if he wanted to join us for a show at Cause in Uptown MPLS. He said, “Sure, I’m going to bring this great Swedish fiddle player with me. This guy is great” I also asked him if he wanted to join us for “Eyeliner Blues” again. He said “I’ve got a better idea. Would you guys be interested in learning some of my songs and playing a show sometime? I’ll get up and play a few of your songs with you too. I need to redeem myself from last time (yeah, right!)?” I said “you got it!” The guys and I talked about it and we had an idea. We decided we were going to make this night all about Slim. We booked his friends the Mammy Nuns and Kruddler. I called him and told him about the line-up and he was excited to be back at the Turf and especially to have Rob and Leah Rule involved. It meant a lot to him. I asked if he wanted to rehearse and he said “maybe once…it’ll sound better if you don’t know the songs.” He gave me live versions of his songs and I noticed that he didn’t always play them the same way as the records. “Slim, which arrangements do you want to do? Do you want the live versions or do you want the studio versions.” He replied “whichever.” Not exactly answering my question! We had our one rehearsal with him and played super quiet and walked through the songs. For some he’d play the first verse and we’d play along and he’d say “okay, you’ve got that one” before we even hit the chorus! We knew we were in for just about anything once we hit that stage.

We showed up the day of the show all excited to help Slim get back on that Turf stage. The night was going to be about him. We wanted to play before him and then he would come up and join us on his own songs. Slim wouldn’t have it. He said “I think I should go first and you guys should follow me.” I couldn’t figure out why he was doing that. This night was about him. He can’t play second! He told me he wanted people to hear High on Stress and he said more people would hear us if we played after him. I told him that this was his night and everyone will bail after he plays. He said “not if you play well. If they leave it’s your fault.” Haha. No pressure, right? Well we got up with Slim and played an amazing set. The first song was “Ain’t no Fair” and it sounded pretty good. After that we played “Little Shiva” and “Girlfiend” (on YouTube!) and it sounded amazing to my ears. After “Girlfiend” he turned to me and laughed and said “you guys are soooo good.” I was never more proud in my musical life. With the help of his trademark “come on boys,” and “one more time” he led us through his remarkable songs without even knowing what arrangement he was going to play. If you follow his lead you’ll be alright. His set ended with a version of “Times Like This” and the Turf Club was roaring (also on YouTube). I was so happy that I could be a part of this night and help out our friend. What a great set. He kept telling the packed crowd how wonderful his backing band was all throughout the night and he refused an encore and walked off the stage signing autographs and talking to everyone in sight. Thankfully the crowd stuck around! We were revved up and played a high energy set of our own. Halfway through our set Slim was supposed to return to play some songs with us. I called him to the stage and he walked over and said “keep going, this is all about you…not me. You’re doing great…keep going.” Once again I was confused. Don’t leave me hanging dude! Was he not going to join us as planned? We played a few more songs and I tried again. He walked up on stage and grabbed his trusty Rickenbacker and the crowd went nuts again. We played “Eyeliner Blues,” “These Days are Gone” and “Cop Light Parade.” When we got to the chorus I heard this extra backing vocal. I turn back and Slim is singing our song. It sounded amazing. It was probably the greatest night I’ve ever had on stage. That night on the way home I was going over the show in my head and it hit me. All this time we were trying to make this show about Slim when he was trying to make it all about High on Stress. He did that show because he wanted to help us and he thought more people needed to hear us because we were friends and he liked our band.

Time went on and we played with him again opening for his old buddy Tommy Keene. Once again it was a great night. About two weeks before his stroke I called him and we chatted for a bit and I told him that I was headed to band rehearsal and he told me he thought our new album was really great. He said he wanted to write us a song and that he would make sure to put the capo on the 4th fret so it would fit in with my other songs. (smart ass!) I got to band rehearsal and he ended the call by saying “tell the boys hi for me.” I miss playing music with the man and our fun phone conversations about music, life, politics, baseball and movies. He has our support and always will.

Love ya Slim!

High On Stress

High On Stress Photo by Steven Cohen