Skip to content
Home » K.K. Downing Used My Guitar Pick & My Fingers Got Stuck in His Guitar Neck at a British Steel Concert in 1980

K.K. Downing Used My Guitar Pick & My Fingers Got Stuck in His Guitar Neck at a British Steel Concert in 1980

This is my K.K. Downing Pick of Destiny story.

Ever since one Spring afternoon in 1976 when my friend John D. turned me on to Sad Wings of Destiny, I have been a Judas Priest fan. I saw them live for the first time in 1978 on their 2nd U.S. tour in support of Stained Class.  I saw them again 2 more times on different legs of the Hell Bent for Leather tour (5th row orchestra) and then again 2 more times on the British Steel tour; 1st at NYC’s Palladium sitting in Loge, and then a 2nd time with Front Row Tickets at the Calderone Concert Hall in Long Island.

In anticipation of being in the front row, I drew the letters K.K. in stylish calligraphy on a white guitar pick with hopes of giving it to guitarist K.K. Downing; I knew my seat was right in front of him. We got to the venue and I went down to the front row. It was a killer show. I got a couple of high fives from Halford during the show, as I was also showing off my denim jacket that I had painted of the Sad Wings of Destiny cover. Sadly it’s gone.  Anyway towards the end of the concert K.K. is cutting his solo during Genocide. He finally makes eye contact, tosses his pick at me which hits me in the chest and as I look at my chest he grabs the pick out of my hand and strums with my pick. He then tosses my pick to the side grabs another pick and starts wailing again. He steps back to the front of the stage and my arms are punching the air celebrating his frantic performance. He hovers right over me which was awesome except that when he did that my right arm was thrusting up at the same time and my fingers went under the strings and got stuck under the fret board for a second. He quickly pulled back his guitar, looks at me angrily like I did it on purpose and mouthed to me “YOU DICK!” while continuing his solo.  Anyway, I realized he threw his pick at me and it dropped. Luckily it was right there at my feet and it being a white pick I spotted easily (photo of pick is below).

I could understand his frustration at the time as this was a HUGE show for Judas Priest as it was broadcast live on the radio in NY.  The tapes have survived over the years and bootlegs are everywhere including YouTube (embedded below). I don’t know the exact moment it happened, but one of those classic sounding K.K. whammy bar pulls was actually my skin getting ripped off my knuckles by his strings. Here’s a photo from when I saw Judas Priest at the Palladium on the same tour. My buddy who sat in orchestra that night took photos (we split the cost of film and development, thus sharing prints).

Fast forward about 20 Priest shows later to 1991. A good friend provided me with Meet and Greet passes for the Operation Rock and Roll tour and I finally got to meet my favorite band. All five members, Rob Halford, Glenn Tipton, K.K. Downing, Ian Hill and Scott Travis. I spent a little time conversing with each of them individually. When I finally met K.K., I had to bring up the 1980 Calderon Concert Hall pick-exchange fingers-in-frets incident.  I said “you probably don’t remember this at all, but I have to get it off my chest and apologize.” After I recounted the tale, his smile quickly diminished and said, “That was you, you son of a bitch!” and he pretends to lunge at me slightly startling me. “We’re all good mate,” he smiles and begins laughing hard.

It turned out to be a great meet and great experience. I got all their autographs and was lucky enough to snag one person to take a photo of Halford and I.

Fast forward another year and I interviewed Rob Halford in 1992 for my magazine NY Onslaught which solidified our working friendship. I ended up being Rob’s Marketing Director and Internet Tech Guru at Metal God Entertainment 2005-2012.