Perception is a funny thing. Consider Alice Cooper, who will make his first Chattanooga appearance when he performs Friday night at Memorial Auditorium.
Born Vincent Furnier in Detroit, he put together a band featuring fellow cross-country runners while in high school in 1964 so they could enter a talent contest. They would eventually be called Alice Cooper, and soon enough fans and journalists kept assuming he was Alice himself. So he adopted the name, as well as the shock rock image that we know today.
That image became part of the rock lexicon in 1969 when an innocent stage gimmick involving a chicken went bad. The band thought it would be clever to have two live chickens appear on top of guitarist's Glen Buxton's amp during a particular song because bass player Dennis Dunaway thought his guitar solo sounded like chickens.
Cooper was to reach into a bag of feathers and watermelon and throw them into the air. In Toronto, he mistakenly grabbed one of two chickens, Larry and Pecker, which were also in the bag, and threw it into the air. Tragically, Pecker flew into the crowd and was pulled apart by the hyped-up crowd.
From that point on, Cooper became known as the rocker who killed chickens onstage. That's in addition to being known as a Satan-worshiping shock rocker who used a guillotine and electric chair in his act. People were actually scared of Cooper and his music for many years.
The truth is, it was always a character, and one that he has managed to make work ever since. What some might not know is that the guy known for using live giant snakes and fake giant spiders onstage is a born-again Christian who gave up drugs and alcohol more than 35 years ago. He's been married to the same person since 1976, and the two have three well-adjusted, happily married kids.
Cooper is also an avid golfer, whose playing partner and great friend until his death was Glen Campbell. Think about that twosome for a minute.
I interviewed Cooper before his 2012 Bonnaroo appearance and again earlier this week, and both times my first question was, "How much fun is it being Alice Cooper?"
"Any time you get to play a character that is not like you — I know there is an element of Alice in me somewhere, the show-off part — and you have that band behind you and you have those songs, it's fun.
"I put the makeup on and start those songs — how could you be bored with that? It's impossible to be bored with this show."
Contact Barry Courter at firstname.lastname@example.org or 423-757-6354.