I’ve had the opportunity to meet a variety of musicians over the years. I collect autographs and have built up a nice collection. The opportunity to have an interaction, although usually brief, has been a great thrill. Celebrities understand that fan encounters are part of the game, although it no doubt gets weary and can be an invasion of their privacy. Selecting an appropriate time lessens the chances for a bad experience. Most of my experiences were at the venue, either before or after, or occasionally at the hotel. Since tour buses are parked at the venue, that is a great opportunity. All of this was pre-COVID, so I doubt the future will allow such interactions.
Looking through my books of photos, albums and other memorabilia, a lot of memories come back. Some day I might not remember some of these experiences, so it is a good idea to write down a few of them.
These recollections are in no particular order, just as they come to me.
Ian McLagan was a member of the Faces, an English rock back of the 1970s, he was also a member of the Small Faces, the band that proceeded the Faces. Mac played with the Rolling Stones for years and backed many musicians in the studio and on the road. In recent years, he had relocated to Austin, Texas and played at a local club most weekends. Occasionally, he hit the road as a solo. I had the chance to see at a bar, a few miles from where I live. He brought a guitarist, but otherwise it was just him on keyboard and vocals. He sounded a lot like Ron Wood as a vocalist (Wood was also in the Faces). After the set, I had him autograph a record album as he met with fans afterward. He was a short person, but looked exactly like the photos, with his spiky gray hair. Mac spent part of his time keeping alive the legacy of the Faces with a boxed set of music and running a website. Mac passed away several years ago, quite unexpectedly, and his death made me very sad, in part because he was a warm, funny and very down to earth person.
Gregg Allman played a casino across the river in North Kansas City. He put on a great show on what I believe was his last tour. He was sick and it would sideline him. We waited after the concert near his tour bus, a small group of fans. Security asked us to leave, more than once, but I thought this might be the only chance to meet him. It was. He came walking across the parking lot, friendly, and stopping to talk with us. Security tried to intervene, but he was cool and told them not to. He was a charming guy, soft spoken, warmth in his voice and looked at you as he spoke. Less than a year later he was dead.
Ray Davies came through Lawrence, Kansas, backed by a band called The 88s. Ray Davies is a rock god, the leader of the Kinks. Davies had a solo album to promote. Getting there early, I heard that he often left the venue to walk around, which he did. He was trying to be nonchalant, but we spotted him as he walked toward an office supply store. He was not overly friendly, but cordial. I imagine these fan interactions get a bit tiresome when you are not in rockstar mode. After the concert he was literally mobbed by fans as he walked to the bus outside the venue. As seldom as he tours, I’ll never encounter him again.
Mick Taylor was with The Rolling Stones for five years (1969-1974) during their most period creative period. He was playing the old Grand Emporium in Kansas City. The venue was small and we sat at a table about halfway back, as it turned out, a perfect place. The keyboard player in Taylor’s band was Max Middleton, who played with Jeff Beck in the 1970s, John Martyn, Kate Bush and many others. I brought with me an album he did with Beck, Rough and Ready, so when he sauntered by, I asked him to sign it. The concert was loud, so I am glad we were not seated right in front. After it was over, and people began filing out, Taylor walked toward us as he made his way to the back area. He returned a few minutes later and I asked him to sign an album. He looked utterly drained from the show, but he was very cordial and signed. A few other people asked him to sign their photos, so he sat down at our table, and a crowd gathered. We sat and listened as he signed and chatted away with fans. Mostly, he was handed Rolling Stones related items, which he gladly signed as he was told over and over again, how much they loved that particular album or certain songs. In years since, Taylor would continue to play clubs, and occasionally play with the Rolling Stones in stadiums and arenas. Such a contrast.
Peter Frampton. I have relayed this story a few times. On Frampton’s 35th anniversary of his Frampton Comes Alive album, he toured the world, and brought along a recording and compact disc manufacturing truck. He recorded each concert, put the music directly onto CDs and sold them to the audience that night. Very cool. He played the entire album, and a set of hits, for a very long concert. After the concert, the CD sets were ready. We were fortunate to get our copy and notice that his tour bus had not departed from the venue. We waited at the bus with a few people and he emerged to meet the fans. Frampton is short in stature, but very fit and energetic. He posed for photos with fans and readily signed items. However thousands of times he had done this, he made us feel like it was glad to meet us.
Elvis Costello played the college venue near my home. He was playing a solo show and revisiting songs from his long career. He even came out into the audience as he played and sang. After the concert, he came out and signed autographs as he walked to his transportation. The lighting in that area is not really good so I am not sure he knew what he was signing, but he was funny and made a variety of remarks about why fans would wait so long to get a signature from an old musician.
Poco came to Lawrence, Kansas on a very cold Saturday. We waited outside the Liberty Hall venue in the winter weather. A van parked in front, and members of the band got out. Shivering, I asked them to sign an item and they requested that we come inside with them. This was the middle of the afternoon and they were there to set up and sound check. They were all quite nice and joked with us. On this tour, former member Richie Furay was opening for the band and sitting in with them for a few numbers. I asked Richie about his songlist and he said he would be playing a couple of Neil Young songs that night. I tried to talk him into playing “On the Way Home” but he declined saying he couldn’t play all Neil Young songs. We had the run of the venue as the band did their thing. Furay showed up a bit later and I visited with him about his days in Buffalo Springfield. My only regret was not spending more time talking with guitarist Paul Cotton, who had been with the band for more than 30 years. He would leave the band in the next couple of years and relocate to Florida.
Emmylou Harris also played the college venue near where I lived. I did not actually go to the concert, I cannot recall why, but I headed over to the venue about the time the concert was over. There were a few fans waiting outside of her bus. I got in line and she let us on, one at a time. I noticed how tiny she was and how very pretty she still was at her age. She welcomed her gray hair. I told her how much I enjoyed Elite Hotel (1975).
Marshall Crenshaw is a singer/songwriter often compared to Buddy Holly. In fact, he portrayed Holly in the La Bamba film. Crenshaw’s biggest hits were “Cynical Girl” and “Someday, Someway” back in the 1980s. His songs have been covered by others, but his fame cooled down. A few years ago, he appeared at a local club where the audience was limited to 55 people. We had front row seats and were literally five feat away from him as he played his variety of guitars. Afterward, he stayed around to chat with members of the audience. This was an intimate experience, perfect for his style of songs.
Pat Metheny is a Midwest guy, growing up in Lee’s Summit, Missouri. I have been a fan since the late 1970s as his jazz-fusion had a unique and exciting sound. He has earned more musical awards than probably any other musician. He was playing Liberty Hall in Lawrence, so I headed over there one afternoon. I have seen him in concert a few times, but the album he was promoting on this tour was not one of my favorite ones, a bit too much traditional jazz for my taste. I did want to try and meet up with him, so camped out near the hotel the musicians usually stay at. He came out of the hotel ready for a jog. I approached him and he was friendly, signing an album and talking about how much he liked Lawrence.
Joan Baez also played Liberty Hall in Lawrence. I hung out near the venue, knowing she stayed across the street. About two hours before showtime, Baez and her guitar player, carrying their own instruments, walked across the street. A friend who I sometimes see meeting musicians, asked her if she would sign an autograph. She was receptive, but not overly friendly. She looked exactly like she does in photos, but definitely younger than her age.
Arlo Guthrie also played Liberty Hall, and the same friend who was there for Joan Baez, was there again. Arlo, with his long gray hair is easy to spot. He ambled up to us and was very friendly. He did not seem in a hurry and stayed to visit for awhile. He signed an Alice’s Restaurant album for me.
Jimmy Webb, a great songwriter in the 1960s and 1970s, often plays clubs, singing his own songs. I’ve actually met him a couple of times, both here in the Kansas City area. The first time I met him, he was the musical arranger for Michael Feinstein who he had recorded an album. I waited a long time for Webb to come out after the concert. Actually Feinstein was quite personable and talked with me until Webb arrived. The second time, Webb was appearing at a club, solo, playing his songs and telling stories. He had incredible stories about Richard Harris, Glen Campbell, Frank Sinatra and Art Garfunkel. He signed an album and told me a story about working with Garfunkel.
Yes is a band I have seen many times, reflecting their changing lineup. I was fortunate to see them at a fan-friendly venue. This was one of the best times I have had meeting a band. Each of the five band members came out at a different time. The stage door was on the side of the building and their van was parked right there at the street. Jon Davison, their current vocalist, was very friendly and seemed pleased with the attention from fans. No ego from him. No one mobbed him, so the interaction was very relaxed. He told us that Chris Squire would probably be the last to come out. Drummer Alan White was next, he stopped and talked with us. Keyboard player Geoff Downes was quiet but friendly. Guitarist Steve Howe was the most challenging. When he came out he was not recognizable, but I spotted him going in the opposite direction, not riding the van. Actually, his brother is his driver and they went to his car. I hustled up there, but he was already in the car. I asked if he would sign an album, so he rolled down the window and quickly signed. He does not seem to enjoy the rockstar attention. Squire was the last to leave and had clearly downed a few drinks as he was jolly and glassy-eyed. His wife was with him and they stopped to visit and accept compliments about the concert. Squire was the band member most fans were interested in talking to and having a photo taken with him.
Jack Casady and G.E. Smith were touring wit Hot Tuna, a band started in 1969 by Jefferson Airplane alumni Casady and Jorma Kaukonen. They had reformed often through the years and were playing the local college. Smith is famous for being part of the SNL band, former husband of Gilda Radner and lead guitarist for Roger Waters, Hall and Oates and many others. He was touring with Hot Tuna and would be leaving immediately to join Waters. I knew the hotel they were staying at so I went there the afternoon before the concert. I missed Kaukonen but caught up with Casady and Smith. Casady was soft-spoken and very accommodating even though he was in a hurry. She still wears the round glasses he started wearing in the 1960s. Smith wasn’t unfriendly, but said few words. He obviously had a lot on his mind, like digging into the Pink Floyd musical library.