Thirty-six years ago this week, security at Graceland, Elvis Presley's Memphis manse, called the police to come deal with an unwanted visitor. A drunk, gun-waving lunatic in a brand-new, white Lincoln Continental was blocking the compound's drive and causing a hell of a ruckus at three in the morning.
That lunatic was none other than the Killer: Jerry Lee Lewis, the "Great Balls of Fire" hit-maker and Elvis' compatriot in Sun Record's Million Dollar Quartet. After a night on the town, the rock and roll pioneer decided he wanted an audience with the King and drove on over to his old acquaintance's home just before 3 a.m. on November 23, 1976.
Lewis evidently became belligerent after being informed that Elvis was sleeping, and the Graceland staff figured the .38 Derringer he was brandishing was probably as loaded as he was. Harold Lloyd, Elvis' cousin and head of security, called the cops and claimed later to have done so at Presley's behest. Whether Elvis was ever informed of the Killer's early-morning visit or not, the incident instantly became one of the wildest and most amusing rock and roll arrests of all time.
The highly eccentric Lewis is hardly the only famous musician to have a bizarre brush with the law, of course. Frequently prone to both uncensored megalomania and orgiastic substance abuse, rock stars are often shocked to find themselves in incriminating circumstances that must later be resolved with lawyers, fines and community service. As Jerry Lee proves, though, some stories stand out above the rest.
In honor of the Killer's terrorism of Graceland, Rocks Off has compiled a list of the ten most awesome musician arrests in recent memory. To up the difficulty factor, no one was maimed or killed in any of these tales. See if your favorite mentally ill star made the cut:
10. Ozzy Osbourne Salutes the Alamo
The Ozzman's long career is full of enough outrageous public behavior to fill a separate list. There's no question as to his most infamous infraction in the Lone Star State, though. That'd obviously be the time he flopped his dick out and pissed on the Alamo.
Legend has it that the metal godfather was wastedly taking in a few sights after a San Antonio show (wearing his wife's dress, natch) when nature called and he obliviously relieved himself on a wall ringing the sacred mission/fort. And the cops did indeed bust him for his public urination.
Contrary to the fable, though, Ozzy never pissed on the Alamo. He pissed, instead, on the Cenotaph, a gigantic, impossible-to-miss stone monument to the Alamo dead across the street from the mission. Decide for yourself whether if that's better or worse.
9. Nelly's Adventures in Muling
The town of Sierra Blanca, Texas, is not the greatest hamlet in the world to drive your tour bus through. Everyone from Willie to Snoop to Fiona Apple has been busted there for weed and other possession charges in recent years, but it was St. Louis rapper Nelly who made the biggest splash on his trip through town.
When the local cops pulled Nelly's bus over and performed a search, they found 36 baggies of heroin, TEN FUCKING POUNDS of bud and a loaded .45. Nelly appeared headed from "Country Grammar" to country slammer.
Or not. The rapper was merely "detained" before being released when entourage member Brain Keith Jones took the rap (ha!) for the contraband. Nelly stated in a release that he was totally super-sorry about the mean trick his hired man had played on him.
8. George Michael Meets the Phallus In the Park
By 1998, rumors about George Michael's sexuality had been swirling for years, but even the fans who strongly suspected that the singer was gay were a bit surprised to discover that he liked to cruise for anonymous sex with regular jerks in public parks.
But hey, that's exactly how he was outed. The fallen star was busted for "engaging in a lewd act" in a police sting operation at a park in Beverly Hills. After pleading no contest to exposing himself the cop, Michael publicly admitted he was gay with as much grace as he could muster.
It apparently didn't stop him from continuing to cruise, though. Eight years later, he was again accused of anonymous public sex, this time at London's Hampstead Heath. Once again, the singer copped to it.
7. Jim Morrison: The Lizard King, Indeed
Toward the end of his life, rock poet Jim Morrison was more or less an unpleasant, alcoholic wreck. His performance with the Doors in Miami on March 1, 1969 wasn't quite the nadir of his music career, but it was close.
Arriving to the gig very late and very drunk, Morrison antagonized a past-capacity crowd of 13,000, calling them "slaves" and "fuckin' idiots" and demanding to know what they were going to do about it. After some freak jumped onstage and doused the singer in champagne, he took his shirt off. Playful now, Morrison asked the crowd if they wanted to see his cock.
By some slight of hand, he managed to give everyone what they wanted. Some swore he whipped it out and others said he didn't. Days later, he'd be charged with exposing his penis while on stage, shouting obscenities at the crowd and simulating oral sex on guitarist Robby Krieger. Morrison was convicted, and died before his case could reach appeal.
6. John Popper's Packin'
Blues Traveler's hefty, harmonica-wielding front man John Popper always seemed like the kind of guy who'd never harm a fly, which is why it was so disorienting when police discovered a hidden cache of 14(!) weapons in his car during a traffic stop in 2007.
After clocking Popper's Mercedes doing 111 mph, Washington state troopers pulled him over and found a small amount of weed in the car. Then they uncovered something else: Hidden compartments built into the vehicle where he'd stowed four rifles, nine handguns and a goddamn switchblade.
Oh, plus night-vision goggles and a taser. And what was he planning to do with that arsenal? Survive, obviously. Survive what, exactly? Pretty much any fucking thing, we'd say. Do not piss this man off.
5. Pete Townshend's Barely Legal Research
The Who guitarist Pete Townshend had one of rock history's biggest "No, really, I can explain!" moments back in 2003. That year, the classic-rock icon was hauled in by the FBI as part of a massive child porn crackdown after using his credit card to access a kiddie porn Web site.
A victim of abuse himself, Townshend told law enforcement officials that he accessed the site only while conducting paper-trail "research" for a campaign against child pornographers. He'd canceled the account immediately, he pointed out, and no incriminating material was found on his computers or in his home.
Luckily for fans, investigators decided that Townshend's story checked out. While he was never able to prove an illicit financial chain between Russian orphanages and British banks as he'd hoped, he was allowed to remain a free man after accepting a "police caution," which kind of sounds made-up, to be honest.
4. DMX: Noted Impersonator
DMX has made a hobby of doing nonsensical, self-destructive shit. Perhaps it's the rampant drug abuse, or perhaps he's truly mentally ill. In any case, no list of awesome musician arrests could be complete without a mention of the "What's My Name" rapper's 2004 incident at JFK airport in New York.
DMX first called attention to himself by smashing his SUV through a parking lot security gate. Guess he lost his ticket! X then immediately compounded the problem by explaining to the attendant that he should be left alone because he was a federal agent. (Note: DMX is not and never will be a federal agent. Federal agents can't rap.) Then the star ordered another driver out of his vehicle, claiming to be an FBI agent. When the driver saw through this obvious ruse, DMX dragged him out of his car, anyway.
Surprise, surprise: Cops found crack rocks, opiates and a damn billy club in DMX's car. He was charged with drug possession, criminal impersonation, criminal possession of a weapon, criminal mischief, menacing, and driving under the influence of drugs or alcohol, while claiming to be a federal agent and attempting to carjack a vehicle. Damn.
3. Coheed's Michael Todd Seeks Treatment
Coheed and Cambria seems like the kind of band that would prefer to play Dungeons & Dragons and write fan fiction during its downtime on tour than abuse hard drugs. For at least one of the prog-poppers, though, addiction issues run a tad deeper than Mountain Dew Code Red.
Last year, bassist Michael Todd walked into a Massachusetts Walgreen's and showed the pharmacist a note on his smartphone threatening to detonate a bomb if he wasn't given OxyContin. Todd made off with six bottles of oxycodone before hopping into a cab that took him right back to his tour bus. In retrospect, the getaway may have been poorly planned. The cops found him almost immediately.
Todd plead guilty and was sentenced to a year of house arrest and three years' probation. Sadly, he may now need painkillers more desperately than ever before: He was diagnosed with cancer this year.
2. Axl Rose Don't Mind a Riot
Never the most stable individual, Guns N' Roses screecher Axl Rose definitely has the rap sheet to back up his dangerous reputation. His most infamous arrest came at the height of his fame in 1991, after a gig in St. Louis took an anarchic turn.
Axl was and is a deeply paranoid man, making control very important to him. At the Riverport Amphitheater in Missouri, Rose became incensed when venue security refused to confiscate a man's camera in the front row. Axl took matters into his own hands, leaping into the crowd and dishing out some punishment before slamming the mike down and ending the show.
The crowd went ballistic: This was the biggest tour of the year; maybe the decade. A major riot began that led to 16 arrests, 90 injuries and millions in property damage. Rose was charged with incitement to riot -- nearly a year and another riot later, when the band returned from its overseas tour dates.
1. Randy freaking Travis
When Randy Travis gets arrested, by God, he does it right. This summer, Texas state troopers discovered the country singer's Pontiac Trans Am crashed into some construction barricades, with the 53-year-old Travis lying naked, bruised and (allegedly) wasted in the middle of the road.
When the cops hauled Travis in to the slammer, he reportedly threatened to shoot and kill them, which probably earned him an extra blanket or two after he was booked. We mentioned he was naked, right?
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Sadly, it wasn't the singer's first booze-fueled public spectacle of the year. In February, Travis was arrested on another P.I. charge after allegedly being found slurring his words and reeking of drink out in front of a Baptist church, an open bottle of wine in the front seat of his Trans Am. Can someone get this man some help, please?