CLIFTON PARK – Rikk Feulner, 65, is living the rock star tour life one destination at a time. Splitting his time between his Ballston Spa residence and Florida, the local author and tour manager has over 40 years on the road and overseas managing the music tours of accomplished artists.
Last year, Feulner published his book, “Stars Don’t Carry Their Own Baggage.” It follows the story of an up-and-coming ’80s band, Cherry Thieves, as they go through the early stages of their career during 1985-1986 through the eyes of their tour manager, Richard Scott (Feulner).
“I wrote the book because I want the lady (who’s sitting at an outdoor table outside the Clifton Park Uncommon Grounds) to know what’s going on and what really happens and for the guy who works at the auto department store as he only knows what he sees on TV,” Feulner said. “I wrote it the way I wrote it because I wanted everybody to get an understanding and not just tell dirt.”
From Local Beginnings to Rock Star Status
Feulner was a drummer in high school when he lived in Schenectady and played in school bands. Beginning at age 22, he performed in clubs around Clifton Park, Saratoga Springs and Glens Falls with area bands during ’70s.
He became tired of playing cover tunes and wanted to advance his musical career beyond just playing inside clubs. He knew that playing music, especially original music, was all he wanted to do. Eventually, he began asking around the music community if anyone needed a drum technician.
Feulner was put in touch with both Blotto and the Penny Knight Band, who later became the band Cashmere, and traveled with Knight’s band all over New England. When Blotto needed a drum tech, Feulner was sold.
For a few years, he helped the band out and had a lot of fun, Feulner said. However, he knew that he needed to meet people who were involved in the music scene or worked for a record label, and he went out of his way to befriend them and keep in touch.
Feulner’s life changed when Blotto performed a monthly show at The Chance Theater in Poughkeepsie. The theater’s stage manager was looking for a crew for Johnny Winter. Winter, the Texas-based blues guitarist, had the biggest record deal of any artist in the ’70s, and Feulner and Blotto’s guitar tech took on Winter’s U.S. and European tours, opening for Jack Bruce of Cream.
“So we went out and did a whole U.S. tour, and while doing that tour, the tour manager who hired me was not advancing any of the shows and nothing was done properly,” Feulner recalled. “The crew guys and I were getting upset, and so I said, ‘I’m going to tell him that I’m taking over the tour.’”
Winter’s previous tour manager, Bob, was sent to rehab by Winter’s management office in New York City, who heard that Feulner did a great job taking over Bob’s job and offered him the tour manager position.
“It wasn’t what I wanted to do with my life. I wanted to be a rock star, but you know, hey, it was the closest thing,” Feulner said. “I’m glad that it all turned out this way because I’ve had a very good life and I’ve got to live like a rock star, but I don’t have the fame so I can go anywhere and nobody knows who I am and nobody bothers me, so it’s better to be rich than it is to be famous, as a friend of mine once said.”
The Tour Manager Life
For more than 40 years, Feulner has worked and established friendships with a who’s who of established musical artists, such as Robert Plant and Alison Krauss, Johnny Winter, Slipknot, Seether, Hall and Oates, The Eagles, Keith Urban, Trans Sibernian Orchestra, Boz Scaggs, Winger, Jesus Jones, Great White, Danny Vincent’s Invasion, Dream Theater, to 90s country artists, Jo Dee Messina, Suzie Boggus, Deana Carter, and his recent involvement with Mexican duo, Rodridgo and Gabriella.
Feulner’s responsibilities as tour manager revolve around accounting and show logistics: transporting the artists to their destination, show location, and leaving the show to the hotel or next destination. Feulner is responsible for booking hotels, plane flights, and tour buses. Feulner wakes up early in the morning sending emails and conducting business in preparation for Rodrigo and Gabriella’s current European tour.
‘Stars Don’t Carry Their Own Baggage’
Writing a book wasn’t something Feulner had in mind until Covid arrived. He and the entertainers were out of work, and he wasn’t sure what he was going to do with himself for the first time.
“I just started thinking about writing a book. I wasn’t even thinking about putting it out, just to pass the time and something to do,” Feulner said.
He made a list of the 38-39 bands that he worked with and put his thoughts onto paper. It took him two weeks walking around with a pad of paper jotting down anything he could remember. Feulner eventually wrote between 60-70 stories; only half of the stories were used in the book. Those stories were then sent to a publisher for feedback.
Although the publisher loved the stories, thought they were funny as hell, and knew it was going to be a great book, they wanted names – names of the bands and the artists. Feulner said no.
“Some of these people in the book are friends of mine. I’m not gonna get people divorced, I’m not gonna make bands break up, I’m not gonna get managers fired,” Feulner said. “I don’t want to give names. That’s not why I am writing this. My friendship’s more important than the money.”
Feulner didn’t disclose the names of the celebrity musicians whose stories he told. However, he did hint that one of those stories was based on his days in Cashmere.
All the stories in the book are true, Feulner said. The only thing that was made up were the band names. Also, to protect the identities of the celebrity musicians and Capital Region musicians who are friends of Feulner, he created fictional names for the manager, road crew, publicists and record companies, switching their names with other friends.
Feulner incorporated his local friends into the story as a tribute as they helped him along the way in his career.
The Origins of ‘Cherry Thieves’
“It was really hard to find a band name,” Feulner recalled. “I was out driving during Covid and listening to the radio, and it just popped in my head. I can make up a band, I can use all my stories, and I’ll use them as my vehicle.”
It was trial-and-error coming up with band names, and he came up with between 25-30 factitious names, but they were already in use. He came up with additional names that weren’t used and asked his family and friends for input. Some of the feedback was mixed.
Feulner liked the word “thieves” and wanted to use it in a name. While driving, “Cherry Thieves” popped into his head. He wanted to think of a band that would be around in the ’80s.
He looked online and discovered there was no band called Cherry Thieves anywhere. He e-mailed friends in New York and Nashville and asked if they’d heard of a band by that name.
“They wrote back a couple of days later and said, ‘I’ve never heard of this band.’ … I was like, yes, I got a name,” Feulner said.
The two acts that open for Cherry Thieves were two additional names that he originally came up with for using for the book.
The Book Cover Inspiration
Feulner’s son, Glenn Feulner, a Capital Region artist, was responsible for creating the Cherry Thieves band logo and the cover art for “Stars Don’t Carry Their Own Baggage.”
“We probably had like five different covers. I said (to my son), ‘Just think about what it is, “Stars Don’t Carry Their Own Baggage,”’” Feulner said. “So I said, ‘Let’s try something with suitcases’ … so finally we got this, so I was happy with it.”
The front cover depicts a guitar case at the lower center of the book, surrounded by dozens of suitcases. Some of those suitcases have labels depicting the typical rock ’n’ roll stereotype: sex, lies, booze, and the Cherry Thieves sticker. And its significance?
“You’re just living out of a suitcase. Everybody is – whether you’re the rock star or you’re the road crew – everybody’s living out of the suitcase. That’s kind of where I got the vibe,” Feulner explains. “I was trying to think about different things, and I was like, yeah, suitcases. Everybody has a suitcase on the roads and sometimes too many, especially female artists. Some people carry too much; other people just come with a paper bag.”
Feulner sent copies of his book to his celebrity musician friends that he worked with over the years, and they were impressed. It made it as though they were sitting at the bar talking to Feulner as he was telling the stories, he said. Several of those musicians who read the book even called to ask why a certain memory of theirs wasn’t in the book or perhaps, wanted to be featured in it.
Would Rikk Write a Book Two?
“I don’t know. Maybe when I retire, but right now, I’m too busy,” Feulner said. “It’s crazy.”
Being a tour manager is what Feulner knows and does best and he has no complaints about his career. He wants to continue his job for five more years. Once he turns 70, then he’ll stop. He said if he wasn’t doing this job, he would be mowing lawns.
“I appreciate all of my friends and my family. Anybody that helps me, I’ve always been kind to them, would do anything for them, and repay them by doing something good for them and helping them out.” Feulner concluded. “I try to help people and return the favor so to speak.”
This story appeared on page 1 of the September 27, 2023 print edition of the Spotlight