I recently got to thinking of all the live musical performances I have attended. Before I met my wife there were several. And after meeting her, many more, rarely without her.
ONE musical evening we both attended stands out in particular. The most amazing, the best, most fun, musical performance I have ever watched … and heard. And, in no small degree, felt a part of. I’ll rhapsodize on this later …
Pre-Betty, I was able to sneak into the
Jefferson Airplane with several friends. The Airplane played the Boulder (Univ. of Colo.) Field-house in late 1969 or early 1970. I was very proud when my friend Cliff (“Carngorn Cadaver”) was observed at the back of the stage sharing and giving out marijuana cigarettes to several band members. I might have been tempted to do likewise, but I was becoming enamored with Cliff’s sister. (We dated for some time after).
A couple years later I hitched from my carpentry job in Steamboat to take a former girlfriend to the
(yes, Grateful Dead). This occurred next door to the afore-mentioned Fieldhouse, in the Footbawl Stadium. I was on a rare “kick” of not imbibing in any intoxicating substance and possibly was the only un-stoned member of an audience of many thousands.
Unfortunately, perhaps in part due to my late conversion to acknowledging that reggae is/was/ the eminent, FUNdamental, planetary music, I was never able to see the pioneers (Wailers: Bob, Bunny, Peter, also Jacob Miller, etc.) in their heyday. But in the later 1980′s those British rascals, UB40 were a more-than-adequate substitute for the big-band Rasta sound, and Betty and I saw them at Red Rocks (outside of Denver).
This was our only attendance at a concert at that famed venue. We were in the process of leaving when they launched into “Amandla Eweytu, (Sing our Own Song)”. (I’ve probably misspellditt). It was the first time we had heard that song and Betty said “let’s stay through this one.” Seminal.
We attended Asleep at the Wheel, twice. The first time, it was such a kick-in-the-butt, what with the variety of music, ranging from outright-hokey-country-schwang to grateful-dead-type jams, that we both acknowledged that my parents would enjoy this.
Asleep came thru’ town a year or so later and I bought my parents tickets as well. It wasn’t long, after their initial wide-eyed shock at being out in public with live music and lots of weird younger people, that they were OUT ON THE DANCE FLOOR. My siblings still think I’m lying when I tell them this.
We attended a Bela Fleck performance featuring a troupe of African Musicians.
Bob’s son (and another son, and daughters) came thru’ town — Ziggy M and the Melody-Makers.
Heck, we like many kinds of lively danceable music — hard to beat Zydeco!
My daughter was visiting, and had just attended a “big” outdoor (thousands, and 1,000′s of people) Dave Matthews concert in Washington state. She said this Buckwheat Zydeco experience topped that. She and her mom carved a big niche out on the dance bloor.
In the later 1980′s a club opened in Grand Junction (Colorado). Castle Creek. Named, so I seem to remember, for a Club of The Same Name the owner operated in Austin, Tejas. Right away, they brought in top-notch wonderful performers.
The first week we went to hear …
Yes, the Taj-man himself.
It was pretty unbelievable that we had, in our backwater little town, such an amazing and fabulous musical club. As stated previously, there was a constant flow of fantastic musicians who played there.
Betty and I and most of everyone we knew heard more good music in that almost two years it was open than the town had ever heard, ever — and never will again in that span of time.
And so we went to hear BO DIDLEY. It was a magical night . . .
Bo brought no band, except his harmonica player who happened to live not too far away, in Minturn. He was a caucasian fellow named (I think) Mark Bell. At some point during the evening, at a break between sets, I was talking with him. I said that I tried to play the harp, and wouldn’t in several lifetimes even approach being as good as he, but I did do something which I thought was unique. It was too loud to play out in the club itself, so we went to the basement. I think we went into a closet. I pulled out a harp and played “Bolero.“ As I tell people, that’s kind of my specialty, butchering the classics. Either he was genuinely impressed, or convincingly acted like it. He said something to the effect of “You’ve got something novel and good there! Keep it up!“
Why, other than this minor detail, was this a “magical night”? Before head-liner Bo took the stage, Big Daddy Kinsey and the Kinsey Report played. This was their third straight (I think) and final night at this venue. “Big Daddy” was an old-style bluesman, and I presume had his sons as his backing band, before they split off on their own. I think that the sons by themselves were “The Kinsey Report.” Although I had tried to educate myself on blues musicians when I was “The Blues” DJ at the college radio station for a couple years previously, I was not exactly familiar with the Kinseys. But there were a few very interesting stories about them.
Donald, the lead guitar player, was standing right next to Bob Marley when Bob was shot (no, Bob wasn’t killed, it was merely attempted murder). Two or three of the brothers still sported long dreads — as they liked reggae more than the blues, I think.
At the conclusion of the Kinsey set on “Bo night” Mr. Diddley walked onto the stage and talked with “the brothers.” He did not talk to Big Daddy nor his harmonica player — another gentleman of the same age and background as the band-leader. The audience/public probably was not supposed to hear what was said, but I did.
Bo asked all members of the band (except the two older guys) if they wouldn’t mind staying and playing as his back-up band. They all agreed.
It was fantastic. It was great. Superlatives are most-warranted here. Here was an ensemble which had not played together, but everyone knew the genre, the songs, what was expected. It was just loose enough to have surprise hooks and tangents and quirkiness and such. Bo’s harmonica player frequently would ‘motion’ to the others, signals such as, I think, “we’re ending soon” or “let’s ramp it up,” etc. And quite frequently the band would go off on an extended reggae-jam. Bo would stand off to the side, looking more and more petulant, until finally he’d step to the center, signaling with the neck of his guitar that this was to end.
I wondered about this concert for many many months afterwards. Was it really as I remembered? If the seeming random and unpremeditated intersection of differing musical elements had coalesced and transpired like I thought they had?
A couple years later The Kinsey Report played at another venue in town. Betty and I went with a few friends. During a break in the music I decided I’d try to go backstage and talk with one of the Kinseys. Actually, I was hoping to ask Donald about his time with Bob Marley and the Wailers.
Surprisingly, the backstage ‘guards’ allowed me to pass. (I think they were a couple of my former-fellow-college-radio-station DJs). Donald seemed distant and pre-occupied and I approached another Kinsey brother, one of the dread-locked guys. I asked him about the Bo Diddley night.
His face lit up with an ear-to-ear grin. “We had always wanted to play with Bo Diddley,” he said. By ‘we’ he meant his brothers and himself. He emphatically agreed that my memory and assessment were valid. “Bo walked up to us and asked if we wanted to continue to play, with him. No rehearsal, no advance notice, just like that. Of course we knew most of his songs.” And yes, he concluded that that was truly a magic memorable night.
(Sad, predictable? story-of-the-times Post Script. Yeah, Bo and Big Daddy have passed on, which is part of the circle, the cycle. I guess a shadowy part of the cycle was the key to Castle Creek’s success. It was abruptly closed down and word got out that during all the time it was operating, it was a front for drug-dealing and money-laundering.)