The Riotous Life of Stump Stephenson

There is only one Stump Stephenson.
There is only one Stump Stephenson. REUBEN HEMMER

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click to enlarge Stump'S framed courtroom sketch of Axl Rose and himself are part of a vast personal collection of rock & roll memorabilia. - REUBEN HEMMER
Stump'S framed courtroom sketch of Axl Rose and himself are part of a vast personal collection of rock & roll memorabilia.

What was it like having court with Axl Rose?

It was wild, man, I was in court for three weeks with him. They were more focused on the motorcycle club than anything, because some other Saddle Tramp guys got in trouble, and some other stupid shit. It was a feeding frenzy on that. I'm squeaky clean, and they were trying to affiliate me with the thugs in the club. They subpoenaed a bunch of felons that don't even like Guns N' Roses, and I was ready to get beat up by my own people. Then people started making comic books about me and shit. It was crazy — it didn't even look anything like me! It was all based on attacking the club, and Axl had his lawyers follow me down to Daytona Bike Week. They tried to say I couldn't be hurt because I was riding my motorcycle all over the beach and hanging out at strip clubs. What those dipshits don't know is that I experienced trauma, and my doctor told me the best thing to do was clear my head. That beach and those strip clubs were therapeutic! They were just waiting for me to mess up; it was all a front for the feds. Stupid questions about the club, constantly. They were trying to equate it to the Altamont Concert where the Hells Angels stabbed a dude to death. I mean, shit, we had St. Louis Cardinals doing cocaine in '82, but what do we do, take away the World Series? Doesn't make the whole team bad. It was all generalization. I was cracking up because they were trying to say the Saddle Tramps had a black-market, underground-concert photo ring, and we were trying to sell them to Rolling Stone or some shit. I even told them I wish that was the case; I would have paid to shut the fuck up so I could be making some money. It was ridiculous. I even looked at Axl and said, "What would I gain from selling photos of that guy?"

What did they bring up about the concert?

They tried to show me some sign that said "No Camera, Weapons or Outside Alcohol" and asked if I saw that sign. I was straight-up honest with them: I saw a sign, but not that sign! The sign they brought into court looked like a billboard off of 270. I let them know I had everything on me but a gun — whiskey down my pants and all. This is rock & roll, man. They also had me and Axl sitting side by side when they showed footage of the concert. It was kinda weird: When they played "Rocket Queen" I couldn't help but rock out in my chair. My lawyers were looking at me like, "Would you stop it?" But I can't stop it, I'm a rocker! This is kick ass! The jury is watching us, and Axl's looking at me all crazy.

What was it like with friends and family at this time?

It was mostly all good, man, but you find out who are your friends and who ain't your friends once you're on MTV and start making a buttload of money. Motherfuckers from high school you haven't heard from in forever start calling you, chicks in Beemers and Corvettes that would usually run a red light to get away from us would pull over. It's all about how you perceive and take it, though.

Were you happy with your settlement?

Looking back in retrospect about everything, man, if I would have been a little older and mature about things I would have done some things differently. As far as the settlement goes, I was just caught up in the glitz and glamour of everything. The money really didn't even matter. We first attempted to sue for $1.1 million, and when you start thinking, ya know ... even if I don't get that I'm still getting a sizable amount. All I can say is: Don't go up to Ladue shopping with a Lemay pocket, you know what I mean? You get disappointed. I honestly didn't mind getting screwed either way; I was enjoying the media. It's all good, though. I have great friends and family that supported me. My mom walked around a radio station with a banner saying, "I'm the Mother of Stump, the One that Axl Thumped, Needless to Say, I am Here Today, Because on Axl I Want to Dump!" So I was feeling the love. One of the most profound moments was the Rolling Stones put together a giant "flip off" to Axl Rose at the Admiral. We all rode down there, had the crowd split like the Red Sea. There were a bunch of us flipping off Axl. A helicopter was there to get a bird's-eye view. It was incredible; you could feel the support.

How have all of these events changed your outlook on life?

It may not have changed my outlook, but it has changed me. I mean, it's 30 years later, and the media still calls me on July 2nd. Would I say I'm mad about it? No, I'm not gonna lie. I like the attention, and it helps my band. It keeps my band promoted. And now I'm gonna be in the Riverfront Times! This is also the publicity Axl hates too. "There he is again, being good, minding his own business and making music."

click to enlarge Stump admiring art by local artist Janie Stamm at the Granite City Art and Design District. - REUBEN HEMMER
Stump admiring art by local artist Janie Stamm at the Granite City Art and Design District.

Do you have any hobbies or interests that people may not know about?

Well, I know I'm not very subtle. I'm pretty exposed: choppers, guns, music, explosives ... but I do like to think I have a great interior decorator's eye. A lot of my gal pals call me up and ask me to do their living room.

These days Stump's life has slowed down, but only by a little. He is still representing the south side hard, living on the shores of the River Des Peres. His house could be a rock & roll museum, filled with countless amounts of music memorabilia, and an entire amphitheater built in his backyard for his annual "Call the Cops" party. There is even a VIP cabana for injured bikers featuring spare crutches, wheelchairs and a prosthetic leg. His band Southside 5 recently opened up for Tantric, and the group stays booked nearly every month.

But in between playing music and riding motorcycles, Stump's main focus is now on family. "I'm a proud dad," he says. "I love my daughters, and without my family or my kids, who knows where I would be?

"In the grave or in jail," he muses after a beat. "Probably for doing something fun, though."

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About The Author

Reuben Hemmer

Reuben Hemmer is a registered nurse living in St. Louis, Missouri. The influences of his upbringing have produced an insatiable curiosity for the human story and a powerful fascination with people and culture. Inspired by the beauty, pain, and honesty of the Midwest, he attempts to objectively document the complexities...
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