My First Performance

We had a band but nowhere to play. If we were going to unveil our new group we would have to take it into our own hands and create a place to play.

One of my high school classmates was hurt in an accident and Dean suggested we put on a benefit concert for him. And we would be the headlining act!!

So the first time I ever play out in public was gong to be in my High School auditorium in front of 500 people. I did not have a great history in this auditorium. I had tried out for every play and talent show my high school ever put on and never got selected for ANY of them. The only time I had been on the auditorium stage was a concert we put on for our parents where I played “God Bless America” on a baritone horn.

Now I was backstage peeking thru the curtains to see if anybody actually came. I knew my Mom and Dad were out there. I knew my brother Randy and his wife Pat was out there. I told myself it didn’t matter if we had a crowd or not. But I couldn’t resist. I peeked out and saw the auditorium was full. I pooped my pants. Just a little. In show business it’s considered good luck. Some say “Break a leg!” Some say “Stain the Trou!”

Dean was in charge so he herded everyone out to their positions.

I went out, put my guitar over my shoulder and stood nervously behind the curtain. We were starting with “Mare Take Me Home”, a Wildweeds song written and sung by Connecticut legend Al Anderson.

The curtain rose, Dean counted off…and I started my music career. I thought we sounded great. I have a cassette of the show…whoever recorded it missed the opening numbers. It only captured a sampling of the middle of the concert…but the vocals sound great. The only instrument you hear is my cheap acoustic guitar with the pickup in the hole. This is what the show was:

“Kind Woman”…a Poco song that I sang. Funny how it’s a song that is very much dominated by steel guitar but Eddy wasn’t playing steel yet. In a year he would switch.

“Down By The River” by Neil Young. This began my lifelong obsession with imitating Neil.

Rocky Racoon (Beatles) sung by our bass player Dennis O’Neal

The JONI MITCHELL version of Woodstock!!! How cool were WE?

Then we brought out Paul Kroll and he sang with us…this was considered quite a coup. It validated us to have the BIG folk singer in town deign to perform with us.

With Paul we did:

“For What It’s Worth” by Buffalo Springfield

It took a while for this song to get going because you can hear Eddy replacing a string that broke during Woodstock. Between songs was always dead silence only slightly interrupted by us tuning…always tuning. My Dad drove me back up to WPI the next weekend and his only criticism of the show was “Don’t tune so much. It makes you sound amerish.” To this day I use that phrase and it makes me smile. “Let’s not play that…it makes us sound amerish.”

“Bluebird” by Buffalo Springfield…a train wreck. A very ambitious train wreck…but a train wreck. The end of this record has a banjo in it. John, our sound guy, made me a little stomp pedal to make my acoustic guitar sound like a banjo. I stepped on it and the guitar just sounded like….the same guitar… only cheaper and thinner.

“Handsome Johnny”….this was a song Richie Havens sang at Woodstock…I knew this one…I heard it at Woodstock and so did Paul. I can slightly hear the band playing behind him but it’s mostly just Paul.

“Coming Into Los Angeles”…Arlo Guthrie. I fell in love with it at Woodstock so I made sure our band learned it. Paul knew it so we let HIM sing it here. I was generous in the years before I became bitter.

The last song on the tape is “Helpless” by CSN&Y. Not a bad version. Once again it’s me doing Neil.

That’s all that’s on the tape. I kind of remember that we took a little break and came back with Paul and me singing Mr. Bojangles.

I’m not sure if we sang anything else together. We ended the show with “I’m a Man” by Chicago and had everybody that wanted to jump up on stage with us. Dean’s girlfriend Cindy grabbed him around the neck as he played and screamed about how great the show was. Our friend Chris Lippit grabbed percussion and played along.

The audience went crazy and the curtain came down. I excused myself and went and changed my pants.