When Greg Leon left Suite 19 to be Quiet Riot’s guitarist, Tommy found himself without a band. Tommy’s parents were devastated. They loved Greg. They thought Greg was going to take their son to new heights. Tommy’s parents felt Greg had abandoned Tommy and they refused to talk to Greg after that.
At the same time this was going down, two guys from Pasadena, Michael Britton and Mark Poynter found their band, Headwinds, falling apart.
In the late 70’s, Headwinds was the opening act for Van Halen, another Pasadena based band. Headwinds even had a minor record deal but it all fell apart and Mike and Mark were putting a new band together called Dealer.
Mark placed an ad in the paper for a drummer and Tommy answered. When Mark informed Mike that this 17 year old kid was coming over to audtion. Mike objected. Mike asked Mark to call Tommy back and cancel. They needed someone with some experience.
Back then there were no cell phones, so Mark had to call Tommy’s parents house to reach Tommy. Tommy’s mom answered and explained that Tommy had already left with her husband and should be arriving soon.
As they waited for Tommy, this young guy shows up and they welcome him in. The guy immediately starts setting up Tommy’s drums. Mike and Mark look at each other, impressed this kid has his own drum tech. Then Tommy walks in followed by his dad and sits down at the drums and just let loose. It was like that moment in “The Dirt”. Mike and Mark look at each other and say “Holy Shit!”.
The trio added bassist Glenn Bassett and the band Dealer was born.
Dealer performed in the local Hollywood clubs, but like Motley Crue, the band needed to get out of town to gain more exposure. Mike got the band booked at a club called Rock Palace. Located in the neighboring state of Arizona it was located on the Colorado River. They had a one week engagement as I recall. This was the first time Tommy ever went touring.
Just like Motley Crue, Dealer had this big old van called Cyclops. Whenever Cyclops broke down, Tommy’s dad would fix it and get it running again. Tommy’s dad was a Mechanical Engineer after all. As Cyclops headed east, the rest of the entourage followed behind. This adventure for Tommy turned out a lot better than the Cruesing thru Canada tour that occurred later in his career.
This event turned out rather nice. The Rock Palace was situated on the banks of the river. All around us was nothing but desert and hills. I’m serious. Nothing else in sight except… listen to heavenly music…an oasis right across the road. There was a big mobile home which was for us to live and sleep in, and next to it was this water park!
Here we are in the middle of a desert with a rock club, private home, and our own water park. How cool was that. naturally we are riding the water slide by day and partying in the club at night while Tommy and Dealer perform.
The weekend attracted a nice crowd as people drove in or used their boats for transportation to the club. On the weekday evenings, the place had no one. I felt like we were the only ones there watching the band at a rehearsal.
Mark and Bullwinkle
While Tommy was in Dealer, he fell in love with Mark’s girlfriend (the one Vince later calls Bullwinkle). Mark walked in on the two having sex and that was the end of the band Dealer.
Tommy was once again in search of a new band. That’s when Tommy and Nikki hooked up. Nikki asked to meet with Tommy at the Denny’s. Tommy didn’t want to go empty handed and needed something to show Nikki of his skills. In the movie “The Dirt”, they depict Tommy twirling his drumsticks as what got Nikki excited to work with Tommy.
In reality, Tommy’s previous band Dealer had recorded six songs during one of their rehearsals. Tommy asked Mike if he could borrow the demo to share with Nikki as an example of his drumming. It was these songs by Dealer that Nikki listened too. Nikki was so impressed with Tommy’s drumming, he asked Tommy to partner with him and form a new band (which later became Motley Crue).
Want to listen to the 6 song demo Tommy gave Nikki? Get Your Copy Here
Original song by Dealer featuring Tommy Lee and Bullwinkle