Richie and Howard Marks – The Tandem Boys (Guest Blog)

The following is a guest blog by my friend Richard Sheehy on his interactions with Howard Marks. You can read my own post on meeting with Howard here

Howard and Richie – February 2013

One fuzzy night the question was asked ‘Who would you most like to have a smoke with?’

This lead to some scheming, and the commandeering of a member of the UCC Psych Society to organise a talk ‘Marijuana: Science and Experience’ with Howard Marks and some other guy whose views I didn’t care for.

My part of the deal was that I got to collect Howard from the airport. With two friends and holding up a card that read ‘Mr. Nice’ that’s just what I did.

It was a pretty surreal experience on the car journey to the hotel, we basically had a private interview with the author of the book that we were glued to on holidays. It was obvious after a minute of hearing Howard’s anecdotes that no car journey could be long enough for us.

At 10.30am I remember looking down on Washington Street trying to spot people I knew walking to UCC, so I could call them and get them to look up. I was there at the window of the hotel having a smoke of some mighty fine hash with Mr. Nice, who was nice enough to invite us up – mission complete.

Howard then spent the day writing a speech about the science of, and his experience with cannabis, which he later delivered with the finesse of a poet.

The following year Howard returned to Cork to play the Pavilion and so it would happen that the night before his gig Howard’s manager would arrive at a session to hear me belt out a tune or two including a song about the ridiculousness of Irelands laws called Cannabis Tree, in which I refer to watching Mr. Nice on the Late Late.

The following night I found myself playing support to Howard on his ‘An Audience with Mr. Nice’ show. It was again a great experience and being terrible at rolling up I remember my relief to have pre-rolls in my pocket when Howard came off for his half time interval and asked if I could roll him a joint!

Several months later he would return to Cork with UCC DAR, now Students for Sensible Drug Policy, and I used my job as designer of UCC Motley to interview Howard for the magazine. Somewhere there’s a recording of myself calling Howard to do the interview that goes:

“  *audible laughter* .. hehe, Hey Richy”
“Hey Howard, are you ready for the interview?”
“Was that 2pm today?
“ *pause* …Oh, well can we do it at 2 tomorrow?”
“No Problem”
“Thanks Richy, talk to you tomorrow”

That may not seem as funny written as text but the next day we would do the interview where I found out Howard’s belief that government agencies take part in the drug trade, and his approach to life in prison; which was to help people as much as possible and to stay physically fit.

That interview also revealed that if given a choice Howard would prefer to fight 100 duck sized horses, over a horse sized duck, as at least he would kill a few of the 100 duck sized horses.

At the UCC DAR event he would debut part of his new show “Scholar, Smuggler, Prisoner, Scribe” and I again got to support him along with the late-Medicinal Cannabis activist and utterly hilarious comedian Aodhrua Fitzgerald.

Later that year Howard would do an Irish tour for his new show and I was delighted to travel with him playing 4 supports – and I have Howard’s manager Johnny to thank for that privilege.

Being around him for this period I saw Howard consistently being the perfect gent and incredibly accommodating for any people who wanted a signature, picture or to just have a chat. Howard even told me that if I ever wanted his opinion on a song or a joke that I could email him directly.

You can watch a clip of Richie performing Cannabis Tree in Letterkenny here

In Derry we figured out that we shared an inability to ride a bicycle, and Howard suggested we start a duo act called the Tandem Boys. Howard also introduced me to some of his favourite tracks, including Bob Dylan’s ‘One of us must know’ and a song written about Howard by Welsh rock group Stereophonics. It was also a shock to find out that during Howard’s time spent in Terre Haute Penitentiary he taught English for the jailhouse exam to one Christopher Wallace, a.k.a Biggie Smalls…. I think it’s pretty cool to be just 1 degree of separation from the Notorious B.I.G

I was lucky in Letterkenny when a major fan and obviously superb grower of the herb would offer Howard several samples of his top class smoke, and as Howard now prefers to stick to hash I got a nice little supply to keep me happy on the journey back down the country.

It was the night before the All Ireland Final and I needed to make it to Dublin, and once again Howard was as accommodating as one could be as he waited for ages at 3am in a car at Tubbercurry for me as I waited to catch a bus to Dublin that would never arrive.

I’m glad that this wasn’t the last impression I left with Howard, and during the Cannabis Cup in November I was lucky enough to catch Howard as he was honoured with a lifetime achievement award at the Hemp and Hash Museum. This is where I found out about Howard’s illness and yet still the man was in great form and accommodating for chats and pictures.

I asked him to sign the back of my guitar and I’ll always cherish the message he wrote. When speaking to him he seemed more interested in what I was doing and asked me to pass on messages to people he knew from when we were in Ireland.

Richie’s guitar signed by Howard

I find it quite funny that what started over a conversation over a smoke led to all of these meetings with whom I can only describe as a wizard and a legend. I will forever remain grateful to have had the opportunity to get to know Howard.

Rare is a man who can live such an extraordinary life yet remain as kind and down to earth as when he first began his journey. Howard could certainly claim this honour; but of course he wouldn’t be the type to let you know. He is, after all, Mr. Nice.


Howard and Richie - November 2014
Howard and Richie – November 2014

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