‘Weird Al’ Drummer Publishes Vintage Photo Book, Shares Phoenix Tour Memories

“Jon Schwartz has been my drummer since September 14, 1980,” writes “Weird Al” Yankovic in the introduction to Schwartz’s new book, Black & White & Weird All Over: The Lost Photographs of “Weird Al” Yankovic.

“I remember that date clearly because it’s the night I played ‘Another One Rides the Bus’ on the Dr. Demento Radio Show for the very first time, and Jon just happened to be there. I announced that I needed someone to bang on my accordion case for percussion, and Jon (who claimed to be a drummer) eagerly volunteered his services. He’s had the job ever since.”

In those early days touring with Yankovic, Schwartz was a photographer as well as the drummer. He often had a Minolta SRT-101 camera with him. Black & White & Weird All Overreleased last week by 1984 Publishing — collects many of the behind-the-scenes photos Schwartz captured during this era, which ends sometime around the video shoot for “Living With a Hernia.”

Schwartz also happens to be a Phoenix native. 

“Phoenix is always special to visit, and occasionally the tour gives us a day off in town before the show,” he tells Phoenix New Times. “I always drive by my childhood home and school on the westside and enjoy drum-shopping and dining with friends. Grimaldi’s in old Scottsdale is mandatory!”

Over the years, Schwartz has kept detailed notes while out on tour, and he recently shared with us some of his favorite memories from “Weird Al” stops in the Phoenix area.

Graham Central Station, June 6, 1984: Tour of the Universe In 3-D (album: In 3-D)

“I grew up in Phoenix in the sixties and moved to L.A. in late 1968. Although I made many return visits over the years, this was my first gig in town. This was the original Graham Central Station on West Indian School and was a happening venue when Weird Al played there. Remember Fann Toyota? Don Fann was a family friend and came to see the show. Don also played accordion, but I never asked what he thought of Al.”

ASU Activity Center, July 2, 1987: On tour with The Monkees 

“We were invited to open for the Monkees after they had a successful comeback tour in 1986, and we were excited to be playing larger venues than on our previous tours. Al and the band had been playing and recording together for a while, whereas the Monkees band was mostly new as a group that year. We didn’t rehearse with them, and this was the second show of that tour; they only heard us play for the first time the night before in Tucson. I guess we sounded pretty polished, as they started daily rehearsals in order to catch up!”

Coliseum, Arizona State Fair, October 19, 1997: The Bad Hair Tour (album: Bad Hair Day)

“I remember when the Coliseum was built, and thinking how cool it would be the play there someday. I got my wish in 1997! Alice Cooper was at the show and came to say hi afterwards, and I also enjoyed being able to run around the fair for free! We played there for the State Fair three more times, in 1999, 2000, and 2007.

Since our previous visit ten years earlier, I had bought a house in Moon Valley! But I had it for only three years. I quickly learned that trying to live in two major cities wasn’t cheap, especially with Phoenix’s $350/mo air conditioning bills!”

Celebrity Theatre, March 2, 2000: Touring With Scissors (album: Running With Scissors)

“Such a cool and iconic venue. I’m surprised it took us so many years to play there. A theater-in-the-round always presents some challenges for lights and sound, as well as the view of those sitting behind or to the sides of the stage. I don’t know if the stage there revolves — making the lights and sound even more challenging — but thankfully it wasn’t turning that night… some of us get motion sickness! We played there again in 2010, and the stage didn’t move.”

Dodge Theatre, September 4, 2003: The Poodle Hat Tour (album: Poodle Hat)

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“What a great venue — it had opened just a year before and was still squeaky clean and new. I think Alice Cooper visited us again at that show. We played there again, now renamed the Comerica Theatre [ed: actually, it already has a new name, Arizona Federal Theatre], in 2012, ’16 and ’19 (with a 41-piece orchestra!).”

Ikeda Theater at Mesa Arts Center, July 7, 2013: Alpocalypse Tour (album: Alpocalypse)

“Also a beautiful, then-fairly-new complex, and close to some great shopping on Main Street, which always includes a visit to my friends at Milano Music. We played again in 2018 on The Ridiculously Self-Indulgent, Ill-Advised Vanity Tour. That IS the short name!”

You can order Black & White & Weird All Over here.

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