On November 19th, 2008, Mr. Brownstone—a local NYC Guns n' Roses cover band—played The Late Show with David Letterman. Below, Dave Godowsky (who plays Izzy Stradlin) revisits the performance, which he declares the worst to ever air on the show.
I remember taking a shot of whiskey while being escorted to perform on the stage of The Late Show with David Letterman, and a hair from my wig was stuck in my mouth. Having a hair stuck in your mouth is gross and annoying, but the combination of A) wig hair and B) an impending audience of millions can exacerbate that. I plugged in my guitar but no sound would come out of the amp, the production crew was scrambling. I looked up desperately and saw Paul Shaffer just staring at me, confused. In hindsight his confusion was probably less about my inability to turn on an amp and more about why the hell a Guns n’ Roses cover band was playing there.
Someone noticed that my amp was in “standby” mode, so they flipped the switch and all was right with the world. I looked up at the band and we all exchanged glances, not unlike Paul Shaffer’s, but a little more giddy and way more drunk. Then David Letterman introduced us, and we were censored for swearing within 5 seconds of the performance.
Time out: Why did they book a cover band on Letterman?? Good question. I think it’s perfectly reasonable to say that the best cover band garners less artistic credibility than the worst original band. In that sense, we were without a doubt the worst band to ever play Letterman. Of the five cover bands who have ever graced that stage, we’re unequivocally the least impressive. If you’re going to be bad at something you might as well go all the way and be the absolute worst.
So we decided that the best way to have a Guns n’ Roses cover band is to wear stupid costumes, never rehearse, and always be drunk. Somehow that worked; we ended up selling out 1000-capacity venues and playing places like Bonnaroo and Letterman. Is it unfair to real, original, hard-working bands? Yes. Does it promote a lack of values and perpetuate a negative climate in an already-decimated industry? Yes. But do I regret any of it? Well, yes. Most of it. I forget where I was going with this.
In any case, The Late Show has pulled the episode from syndication and the video has been taken off of YouTube/CBS.com. Here are some fun facts for the few of you still reading this:
- The guest that night, Katie Couric, declined our invitation to “come hang out.”
- Chris Elliott, who was also on that night, declined our invitation to play cowbell.
- We all put microphones in front of us and pretended to sing so we’d get paid twice (you get paid once from a musicians’ union and once from a singers’ union.) It was $700 total, if you must know.
- We brought a roadie with us who was in charge of whiskey-pouring and wig-straightening.
- My parents still have the performance “TIVO’ed” at their house in Maine. They declined to comment for this piece.