I Wish I Could’ve Seen em’
By Jack Coll
Over the years I’ve had the pleasure, (in most cases) of seeing hundreds of performers in concert, no I haven’t seen everyone, I’m not sure anyone has seen everyone, but I’m trying. A good friend of mine Bob Frost and I have been on the road for more than two decades checking out performers at concerts in a number of states at dozens of venues. Sometimes we’re able to work our way back stage to talk with a performer, hang out, or have lunch or dinner with a performer or two and enjoy the tales they have to tell.
With this being said, sadly for me, when I hear different artists on the radio, (and I listen to a lot of radio) I often think about the performers I’d didn’t see, and will never have the chance to see because they are long departed, performers that died years before I was born, and performers that will die in the coming years that I never had the pleasure of seeing perform live.
Tell me, who wouldn’t have liked to have sat in a smokey night club with Louis Armstrong and his horn belting out “Hello Dolly,” or “Mack The Knife” Billie Holiday, Buddy Holly, Elvis or Frank? How about Bobby Darin, Sammy Davis Jr., hell Michael Jackson for that matter. All great performers and great entertainers, and most of them have left us way too early. I have a short list of musicians I would have liked to have seen performing live, before they left us, in no particular order.
Cass Elliot, “Mama Cass” of the Mama’s and Papa’s fame died in London of a heart attack on July 29, 1974. Cass was this huge talent, who, following the Mama’s and Papa’s break-up in 1968 struck out on her own with hits like “It’s Getting Better,” and “Make Your Own Kind of Music,” not to mention her big hit with the group “Dream A Little Dream Of Me.” I remember seeing an interview with Michelle Philips, (the good looking blond in the group) on the Mike Douglas Show. Douglas had asked Michelle if she thought that maybe it was a little uncomfortable or embarrassing for Mama Cass to have to stand up on stage next to you (Phillips) with you being so thin and beautiful? (Mama Cass was a size) Michelle without thinking replied, “Do you have any idea how uncomfortable and embarrassing it was for me to have to stand up on stage next to Cass and sing!” I would have like to have seen Cass with or without the rest of the group. For the record the Mama’s and Papa’s were for the most part a studio band, they performed less that 50 times, live, in concert
I wasn’t a big Jimi Hendrix fan, (I know just shoot me now) but I was, and still am a huge Janis Joplin fan. She was a free spirit, a troubled soul, and the craziest son of a bitch I’ve ever seen. But when she sang, she felt every note throughout her body. She was soft, hard, soul, gritty, jazz, country, rock and roll, and psychedelic, in every song. Janis is truly one of the top three performers I would have loved to have seen.
While I liked the music of the Doors, I’ve seen footage of Jim Morrison and the Doors and he didn’t impress me as a great performer or entertainer, it would have been cool to have seen him, but I don’t miss having not seen him.
I mentioned top three performers with Janis Joplin being one of them, well count me in for Otis Redding and Sam and Dave. Otis was just this huge icon who was just hitting his stride when his plane went down on December 10, 1967. Just two years earlier Otis hit the Pop Charts with “I’ve Been Loving You Too Long,” followed with “Respect,” “Satisfaction,” “Fa-Fa-Fa-Fa-Fa,” and “Try A Little Tenderness.” In the summer of 1967 Otis played the Monterey Pop Festival, the Beach Boys were signed to close the three day event that had drawn more than 50,000 spectators. For unknown reasons the Beach Boys backed out. Lou Adler, a record producer and John Philips a member of the Mama’s and Papa’s were the promoters of the festival and called on Otis Redding to close the show. With his closing performance Otis became an overnight word wide sensation and along with Janis Joplin, (who also played Monterey) shot into super stardom. Riding the success of the festival a few months later on December 9, 1967 Otis went into the Stax Studio and recorded “Sittin’ On The Dock Of The Bay.” Despite heavy rains and fog Redding’s plane took off on December 12, for Madison, Wisconsin, the plane went down into Lake Monona, Redding, Pilot Richard Fraser, and five members of the band, The Bar-Kays, (Soul finger) all died in the crash.
“(Sittin’ On) The Dock of the Bay,” was released in January 1968, sold four million copies and was the first posthumous number one single in US chart history.
Sam and Dave were performers, they could sing, but man could they dance. If you ever watched the movie “The Blues Brothers,” and watched Jake and Elwood dance, that routine was right out of a Sam and Dave concert. Sam and Dave were much bigger than the three hits on the pop charts, (“Hold on! I’m Comin’,” “Soul Man,” and “I Thank You.”)
I regret the fact that I never saw John Denver in concert, Karen Carpenter, and Booker T. & The MG’s. I miss Jim Croce, I love his music, and I loved him. Croce played a lot in the area in his early years, I missed him when he played the Philadelphia Folk Festival back in 1973. Jim’s plane went down on September 20, 1973, just a month after playing the folk festival.
I would have loved to have seen Sam Cooke, John Lennon, and Patsy Cline, all three died way too early. I would have loved to have seen Jr. Walker & The All Stars, Jr. Walker passed away back in 1995. Jr. Walker was known for songs like “Shotgun,” “(I’m A) Road Runner,” “How Sweet It Is (To Be Loved By You)” and “What Does It Take (To Win Your Love).”
Someone I would really like to see, and maybe someday, Dionne Warwick, what a talent she is. “Walk on By,” “That’s What Friends Are For,” a song written for her by Barry Gibb called “Heartbreaker,” “Make It Easy On Yourself,” and just so many others. I have to tell you one of the most talented groups of the early 1990’s was a group called Wilson Phillips. The group was made of by a couple of sister Carnie and Wendy Wilson, daughters of former Beach Boy Brian Wilson, and Chynna Phillips, daughter of John and Michelle Phillips, formerly of the Mama’s and Papa’s. When these three girls sang, nobody, I mean nobody could harmonize like these three young ladies. I think they only performed for less than two years but I would have loved to have seen them. “Hold On,” “Release Me,” and “You’re In Love,” were their three biggest hits.
I always thought Bette Midler would put on a really great show, not just by singing her hit songs, “Boogie Woogie Bugle Boy,” “The Rose,” “Wind Beneath My Wings,” and “From A Distance.” What I would have really have liked to have seen back in the day was seeing Bette and Mick Jagger performing “Beast or Burden.” In a strange way I would like to see Madonna, but without all the crap she does on stage, perhaps someday when she becomes a casino act, I might take a shot. I would have liked to have seen the original Lynyrd Skynyrd, with Ronnie Van Zant
It seems to me there are about six hundred bands and acts I would have liked to have seen, but I’m truly grateful for the acts I’ve had the pleasure of seeing over the years.
How about you, are there a few bands you would have liked to have seen over the years, are there a few bands still touring that you might want to see, don’t put it off, if you want to see them, and they are in the area, Just Do It!
This Week’s Trivia
# 1 I mentioned Elvis Presley in this week’s column, his first song to hit the pop charts came in 1956, “Heartbreak Hotel,” and his final hit came in 1981, with “Guitar Man.” In between Elvis landed how many songs in the top 40 Billboard Charts?
Hint! If it helps you he had 18 Number One songs.
#2 Dionne Warwick had two Number One hits including “Then Came You,” with the Spinners, and “That’s What Friends Are For,” with Elton John, Gladys Knight, and Stevie wonder. How many top 40 hits did Dionne put on the Billboard Charts?
#3 The Mama’s & Papa’s were only on the charts for two short years but charted ten hits, they had one song reach Number One, and one song reach Number Two, can you name them? Hint, it wasn’t California Dreamin’, that song only hit Number Four in February of 1966.
Answers next week!
As Usual, no looking it up!