Glenn Hughes: my stories of Ritchie Blackmore, Keith Moon, Phil Lynott and more

Glenn Hughes sitting on a sofa backstage
(Image credit: Sergei Fadeichev/Getty Images)

Glenn Hughes moved in exalted circles during his time as a member of Deep Purple in the mid-1970s. He befriended David Bowie, who wanted him to sing on his Young Americans album. He partied with Keith Moon. He met “big, girthy and massive” John Wayne. He shot the breeze with Richard Burton. And he got high with Exorcist actress Linda Blair. 

“I was loaded on coke and the champagne was flowing. But I’ve never smoked a lot of pot, so my memories of those times are pretty vivid,” the bassist/vocalist declares. Hughes’s cocaine addiction got so serious it threatened to destroy him. But he pulled himself back from the brink and has now been clean and sober for 30 years. Let those vivid memories commence.


Ritchie Blackmore

When I got the gig as bass player in Deep Purple I was only aged 21. We went to Clearwell Castle to work on the Burn album. Ritchie rigged up my room with hidden speakers. In the middle of the night I woke up to the sound of all these ghost noises. I was scared shitless! The next night me, Baz Marshall [Purple roadie] and Ritchie held a séance. Baz was a farmer and he’d recently lost one of his cows. 

We started the séance and suddenly the room echoed with the sound of a cow mooing. Only this time it wasn’t a wind-up! Blackmore freaked and ran out. When it came down to it, he was a bit of a scaredy-cat. But Ritchie was the king of the prank – we all know that. Even today, he always carries a water pistol around with him. I have it on the greatest authority

Cameron Crowe

Cameron was the 15-year-old kid who wrote for Rolling Stone magazine, and now he’s a major movie director. When Cameron was a writer he came on Purple’s Burn and Stormbringer tours. We became good friends because we both loved R&B. We’d be in my hotel suite listening to people like Kool & The Gang, The Ohio Players, Parliament, Sly & The Family Stone, Stevie Wonder and Marvin Gaye. 

Of course, Cameron also saw all the shenanigans go down with the chicks and the drugs… he was privy to all that. Stillwater, the band in Cameron’s film Almost Famous, are popularly believed to have been n based on Lynyrd Skynyrd, but there are plenty of elements of Purple in there as well.

Keith Moon 

My first band was Trapeze, and I met Keith at one of our shows in 1969. It was in Carlisle, believe it or not. Later I joined Deep Purple and in the summer of 1974 we recorded Stormbringer. We stayed at the Beverly Wilshire hotel in LA. One evening I got a knock on my door, and it was Moony. He was with Ron Wood and Mal Evans [The Beatles’ road manager]. Keith was dressed as a Nazi war officer – the jackboots, the outfit, everything. 

I had a bunch of coke with me and I laid out four massive lines. We had a competition to see who could snort the fastest – and I won. I did half of Keith’s line as well, which I thought was quite monumental. That night we hired a limo and went all across town. For 24 hours we were completely out of our minds. And Keith stayed in the character of the Nazi the whole time.

David Bowie

I was in LA and I got a call from David Bowie’s personal assistant Corinne [‘Coco’ Schwab]. She said Bowie had been watching footage on TV of Purple playing the California Jam and he’d been impressed by my performance. So I met up with him and we sat up talking all night. At the time, he was into his blue-eyed soul thing. We shared a mutual love of Luther Vandross! Later Bowie asked me to sing on his Young Americans album. Unfortunately Ritchie Blackmore was vehemently against it. He thought it would be bad for Purple’s image. I was a bit pissed off about that. 

I stayed friends with Bowie. We were both into blow, only Bowie’s paranoia on cocaine was far greater than mine. And I thought I was pretty crazy! Bowie was very intelligent but he suffered bizarre mood swings when he was high. Our relationship was very intense in 1975 and ’76. He lived at my house in Beverly Hills for a time. I was loaded on coke, so was Bowie, the champagne flowed… it was a great period. I’ve never smoked a lot of pot, so my memories of those times are pretty vivid.

Linda Blair

Linda had been dating Tommy Bolin [Deep Purple Mk IV guitarist]. In the summer of 1976, just after Purple had broken up, some offers came in for me to re-form Trapeze and undertake a US tour. I decided to do it, even though this was a truly intense period for me. I’d broken up with my long-term girlfriend and I was going off the rails. I was stick-thin, I’d cut my hair, I was wearing make-up and I’d been hanging out with David Bowie. Bowie had even given me some of his clothes. 

Just before a Trapeze gig in St Louis I got a call from Tommy, and he put me on the phone to Linda. She told me she was a big Purple fan, and she was getting ready to travel from LA to New York to shoot a new movie [Exorcist II: The Heretic] with Richard Burton. She wanted stop over in St Louis and see Trapeze. She turned up at my front door the next morning carrying an overnight bag – and a saddle. I thought: “Is this some bizarre sexual fetish?” No, it turned out that she was a keen horsewoman! 

Anyway, we quickly became an item. Like me, Linda was very addicted to cocaine. I was going completely off the rails, and I’d found the perfect mate to stumble along with. We shacked up in LA together. It’s incredible to tell you this, but I broke up with her because she was doing so much blow, it was getting too intense for me to be around. We’d be driving down Sunset Boulevard, she’d have an ounce of cocaine in a bag on her lap, and she’d be doing bumps through a straw. I’m thinking: “Any minute now they’re going to catch us; whoever they are.” 

I couldn’t deal with it. A few weeks after we broke up she got busted. She got caught up in a deal involving major kilos of cocaine. Luckily she didn’t go to jail, but I got out just in time. If I’d been busted with her, my life and career in America would’ve been over.

Richard Burton

I went with Linda Blair to New York to watch her film some scenes for Exorcist II: The Heretic. Richard Burton played the priest, and I met him on set. I was in awe of the guy but I was so fucking loaded. When I started talking to him, all I could think was: “Does he realise that I’m completely out of my mind?” 

I don’t know whether he knew I was high but he was very gracious to me. He wasn’t the drunk, obnoxious Richard Burton of legend. He was very professional. We talked about where I was born in Cannock, Staffordshire, and how a lot of British rockers were moving to the States because of the high taxes; I think we were paying 83 per cent tax back then. We also spoke about food – and of course I wasn’t hungry at all!

Phil Lynott

In 1980 I was in LA making a record with Al Kooper called Four On The Floor. It was a disco record, to all intents and purposes. Thin Lizzy were in town and Phil, Scott [Gorham] and Gary [Moore] came down to the studio. Phil pulled out two phials – one was full of coke and the other was full of heroin. I remember thinking to myself: “They’re both white, how can he tell which is which?” 

Phil was a big character but he was also the kind of guy you didn’t want to mess with. Shortly afterward Gary quit Lizzy in the middle of a US tour. He showed up at my house and asked if I’d like to form a new band with him. It was going to be called G-Force and Sharon Osbourne was the manager. I said I’d love to – but I was still going through a difficult period, drug-wise. 

Gary stayed at my house while I thought about it. He needed a place to hide out. A couple of days later I got a phone call at three in the morning. It was Phil. He said: “If you’ve got Gary there I’m going to rip your throat out and shove it up your arse!” So there I am living in fear of this crazy Irishman coming round to knock my block off. I had to lie and say Gary wasn’t there.

John Wayne

David Coverdale and I were walking through the Beverly Wilshire hotel and we spotted John Wayne in the lobby. He was a big man, girthy, massive… he completely filled up the room. We walked up to him and said we were fans of his. He asked us who we were and we told him we were in Deep Purple. He said: “Oh, my daughter would be so happy to get your autographs.” 

So David and I got John’s autograph on a piece of paper and we both signed his cowboy boots so he could give them to his daughter. We still talk about that incident.

Tommy Bolin

Tommy and I were kindred spirits. It wasn’t just the drug thing; we were very much alike as people. But I was never into heroin like Tommy. It was pretty much a private drug for him. We auditioned [Humble Pie guitarist] Clem Clempson to replace Blackmore in Purple, but that didn’t work out. 

When Tommy walked into his audition he had these red, blue, green and yellow feathers in his hair. He blew us away with his playing and I knew straightaway that he was the man for us. He never really got the kudos he deserved in Purple. When Tommy died [in December 1976, after a cocktail of beer, champagne, cocaine and heroin] it incensed me because six or seven people could’ve called an ambulance to save his life.

Stevie Wonder

I was in the bathroom of the Record Plant in LA taking a whiz… and in walks Stevie Wonder with his assistant. Stevie’s standing next to me taking a pee! I introduced myself, ushered him into a small studio and played him You Can’t Do It Right (With The One You Love) [the Stormbringer track that can only be described as Deep-Purple-play-Stevie-Wonder]. 

Stevie said: “Man, you’ve been listening to my records.” He touched my face and my hair and said: “I gotta call you Leo, cos your hair is so outrageous.” Later that year I picked up Circus magazine and Stevie was quoted as saying: “Glenn Hughes is my favourite white singer.” He said it in Ebony magazine, too. That’s quite an accolade, coming from your hero.

The original version of this feature appeared in Classic Rock 112, in 2007. The Dead Daisies tour the UK with The Quireboys later this year.

Geoff Barton

Geoff Barton is a British journalist who founded the heavy metal magazine Kerrang! and was an editor of Sounds music magazine. He specialised in covering rock music and helped popularise the new wave of British heavy metal (NWOBHM) after using the term for the first time (after editor Alan Lewis coined it) in the May 1979 issue of Sounds.