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Rikki Rockett doesn't mind taking credit for putting the "hair" in Poison's "hair metal" image.
Rockett, drummer and backing vocalist for Poison, is the only member of the band with a beauty school degree, a memento to the five years Rockett spent cutting hair in north Pennsylvania before Poison took off. There was a time, Rockett said, when Poison had no money and built their image from any resources available, including Rockett's degree.
"Everything we had, we begged, borrowed or stole," Rockett said. "I always thought, with our early image, we were gypsies. It was almost like we would wear whatever we could get our hands on."
It has been a quarter of a century since Poison emerged from their humble roots, and the celebration of how far they've come starts in Tupelo. The BancorpSouth Arena will host Poison in their first stop on their 25th anniversary tour Wednesday, May 25 at 7:30 p.m. The show will also feature special guests Warrant, known for such '80s metal hits as "Cherry Pie," "Heaven" and "I Saw Red."
Kevan Kirkpatrick, marketing director with the BancorpSouth Arena, said Poison had not only performed at the Arena about a decade ago, but they had also rehearsed there for other shows at the time. Now, he said, Poison is starting their tour at the Arena specifically because they like it as a rehearsal space.
"They had such a great experience going with Tupelo and the building that this is where Bret Michaels wanted to come back to and rehearse," Kirkpatrick said. "They're rehearsing Sunday, Monday and Tuesday for the opening show on their 25th anniversary tour."
Rockett said every venue is special, and Poison looks forward to all performances. He said he is excited, however, to perform in the town where Elvis Presley was born, and he likes Southern hospitality.
"I genuinely like people, and I especially like to perform for people," Rockett said. "And I will apologize for my Northern accent."
Rockett said Poison owed a lot to the fans, and their feedback had been essential in fitting 25 years onto two discs for their new compilation album, "Double Dose of Poison: Ultimate Hits." It wasn't as simple as just putting all their singles together, he said, as the album includes such non-singles as "Poor Boy Blues" and "Face the Hangman" alongside such radio staples as "Every Rose Has its Thorn" and "Talk Dirty To Me."
"Not everything works in a radio format that becomes popular," Rockett said. "'Stairway to Heaven' wasn't exactly radio format."
Rockett said one of the nicest things he ever heard from a fan was that Poison is the Grateful Dead of glam metal.
"If it wasn't for the fans, we wouldn't be," Rockett said. "They've stuck with us a long time."
However, fans can be dangerous, he said. When Bret Michaels made a surprise appearance a Panama City, Fla. nightclub, fans accidentally hit him with a glass of vodka, which scratched his eye.
"Sometimes the fans want to touch you in any way they can, and it's not positive," Rockett said, "but most of our fans aren't like that."
Kirkpatrick said Poison would be safe at the BancorpSouth Arena.
"There is a barricade set up with about five or six feet between the fans and the stage, with security detail between the barricade and the band," Kirkpatrick said. "We make it as safe as possible for our band and our patrons, for everybody to have a good time."
While Michaels is nursing a corneal ulcer from that glass of vodka, Rockett said Michaels was healing well, and the injury would not interfere with the show.
"We are a little concerned about Bret's health," Rockett said, "but he seems to be doing pretty well right now."
With two VH1 reality shows and a winning run on "Celebrity Apprentice," Michaels keeps busy even outside his band, and Rockett said that isn't a problem for Poison - not usually.
"There are times I believe that, because we'd like to work with him more," Rockett said. "At the same time, it exposes us to a wider audience as well. It's a double-edged sword."
Rockett said Poison sticks together, though, because their group dynamic is one of their best assets, one they've had since 1986. He said a lot of members of other bands tend to depend on each other less and less over the years.
"I think a lot of bands suffer from a point where they're not team players anymore, but for some reason, we've been able to sidestep that," Rockett said. "There's a certain dynamic between us, so that when we're together on stage, it works. If you could bottle it, you could make a lot of money. It's kind of like Poison was meant to be."
Kirkpatrick said tickets for Poison's show are still available, but the buzz is building, and sales are picking up.
"We're not close to being sold out, but they are picking up steam heading into the show," Kirkpatrick said. "It's not the biggest, but I think it's one of the more popular ones."