When I blogged about My Favorite Concerts last fall, I forgot a couple that, while they probably wouldn’t have made the Top 10, were still noteworthy.
One may have not come to my mind when I thought of concerts because it was more of a nightclub show, and it wasn’t specifically rock. John Hartford played at a converted theatre in Winona, Minn., back in the late 1970s.
Hartford was best known for being an American roots music performer, but he also wrote Glen Campbell’s Grammy Award-winning hit “Gentle on My Mind,” and recorded with the Byrds on Sweetheart of the Rodeo. Songs from his seventh studio album, Aero-Plain, got airplay on Radio Free Madison — and probably other “underground radio stations, as well — especially “Boogie,” “Turn Your Radio On” and “Steam-Powered Aero Plane.”
Hartford’s show that night was amazing, with his virtuoso banjo and fiddle playing accompanied with buck-and-wing percussion on an acoustic plywood. A licensed river pilot who worked on paddle-wheelers and towboats, he referenced the Big Muddy in that Mississippi River city — and nearly brought down the house when he sang about “12 feet of water at the Trempealeau Dam.” (For those of you not from my neck of the woods, that’s the next dam downstream from Winona.)
The other concert that slipped my mind was the first (and so far only) time I attended Milwaukee’s Summerfest music festival, in late June 1972. The main act that night was Arlo Guthrie, but I don’t remember much of what he played. I don’t think he did the song we knew best, “Alice’s Restaurant” — probably too long for a setting like that — but he did perform “Coming into Los Angeles,” as I recall.
Brewer and Shipley also performed, according to accounts online, but I don’t remember them playing — although I knew of them, and was familiar with, and liked, some of their music. What probably drove those musicians out of my memory was the other opening act, comedian George Carlin.
Carlin, who had gained fame for comedy bits that aired on Top 40 radio — that happened back in the late ’60s and early ’70s, when comics and novelty songs shared AM airplay with pop, rock and soul — like “The Hippy-Dippy Weatherman.” But by 1972, he had gotten a lot edgier, and his show that night featured the “seven words you can’t say on TV.”
I don’t remember the list in its entirety, and most of those words probably are spoken routinely on the Boob Tube. (No longer an applicable name, I guess, because TVs don’t have picture tubes anymore.) But a Milwaukee policeman who was there with his wife and nine-year-old child didn’t like the sound of them, called his superior and Carlin was arrested as he left the stage — and I saw it, live.
Thinking about the concerts I overlooked in this and the previous post, I perhaps was remiss in not mentioning Beau Soleil avec Michael Doucet. I saw them a decade or so ago at a University of Wisconsin-Eau Claire venue; they’re certainly not rock, but they do blend their Cajun music with that and other forms: Tex-Mex, jazz, blues, etc.
More importantly, they put on an outstanding show — not as rockin’ as Buckwheat Zydeco, whose concert was included in the earlier post — but very tuneful. Like their fellow Louisiana musicians, it’s stuff that makes you want to get up and dance — just different footwork.