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BS: Brushes with Greatness

04 Nov 99 - 12:39 PM (#131729)
Subject: Brushes with Greatness
From: Michael K.

How many of the Mudcatter's here still currently gigging or retired from years of gigging, have been in situations where they've met/played with, or hung out with names, or famous musicians? Tell us some of your ''brushes with greatness'' as I call them and your impressions. (I hope this thread hasn't been covered before.)

Some of the people I've met were real nice and down-to-earth, others I was less impressed with. (All of those I did meet were people who happened to stop in for a drink or a meal, in the room within the hotel we happened to be playing at or during the course of a gig somewhere else.)

To start things off (and without going into long, long stories),over an 18 year career of gigging (retired from gigging now) the following came to mind and all took place in Toronto and Ontario between the mid 70s and 80s:

Partial List: (and not intended in any way to gloat or brag.)

a) Met and drank with (for the better part of an evening) with Eric Clapton, along with two regulars from the bar. They invited me over to their table, with this cool English fellow that they didn't recognise, and of course he only introduced himself as Eric. It was after he left two hours later, that I informed them of who he was. They were in shock and had no idea. I stayed mum on his identity although I recognised him straight away and we all just made idle chit chat and exchanged some very raunchy jokes. Very nice, classy, soft-spoken fella. (He had just finished a concert in town and was staying at the hotel we were playing in, and it was a dead night in the lounge.)

b) Met and had a drink with Tony Bennett.....very sweet and classy guy.

c) Met Gino & Joe Vannelli. Very paranoid and uptight. I didn't hang around too long....although Joe was cool.

d) Bill Medley sang ''I've Had the Time of My Life'' with the singer in our band, while he was on tour with the Dirty Dancing thingy. He just voluntarily rushed the stage when we started into the opening vamp. It helped that we did the tune in the same key he recorded it in with Jennifer Warren...and it was a dead on lift. Very nice guy. (Brought the house down, as this was the closer for the evening. Did an encore with us, so we did ''You've Lost That Lovin' Feeling''. A moment that I'll never forget and gives me goosebumps as I'm writing this!)

e) Aretha. (Met backstage at a corporate event. Very nice and very down-to-earth.)

f) Anne Murray. (Met backstage at a Variety Club Telethon. Very nice and down-to-earth. What you see is what you get.)

g) Frank Zappa (met in Ottawa at Chateau Laurier Hotel after he finished a gig at the National Arts Centre)..very soft spoken, sincere, and an acid wit as you can imagine.

h) Burton Cummings. Interesting story here. When my wife (who was also the singer in my band) got married, we had a short civil ceremony at City Hall, and we were on a steady engagement and had to play the same night. Got to the hotel early and had dinner. While having dinner the P.R. lady (who knew us well and who we were very friendly with) sent over a bottle of Champagne and informed us Burton was in the dining room having dinner as well, and maybe we'd be gracious enough to let him come up on stage and sing a tune or two? We had no problem with it. Finished our dinner, and we went up and did a jazzy dinner set, and Burton howled and clapped louder after every tune, than anyone else in the room. He was also starting to get rather shit faced, as the waitress was bring him trayfuls of Creme De Cacao shooters.

When we started our second (dance set) he came up to me and asked if it was cool to sit in and ''groove along with us''. I told him it would be an honour (and I knew all the Guess Who tunes having been a fan for a long time). It also helped that I had an L-shape keyboard setup on stage, with a baby grand piano, and a bank of synths in the Burton sat at the grand, and I stood beside him, and I could also see what his hands were doing on the keys. ''Stand Tall'' had just been released so he started the set with that one alone...and then we did 2 sets of ''Guess Who'' tunes with him. ...all the while, waitresses are bringing him drinks to the stage. As loaded as he was, his voice sounded great, and he never hit a bum note on the keys. The house went nuts as you can imagine...and to this day, we tell people that Burton Cummings played at our Wedding!

(I could go on....but it's time to give somebody else a chance...)

04 Nov 99 - 01:32 PM (#131739)
Subject: RE: BS: Brushes with Greatness
From: Peter T.

Not a musician, but once when I was an 11 year old on an American Air Force Base, I was sitting in a barber chair when the astronaut Gus Grissom came in, followed by a pile of staff people. He was being given a civic welcome in town some weeks after his flight, and I had been completely obsessed with the space program (as were all kids in those days), so I knew all the details. His aides said that he was in a hurry, and he asked me personally if I would mind giving up my seat for him. Thrilled, I did, and proceeded to talk with him for about 15 minutes about what space was like, what had happened when his capsule sank, and the usual kid questions. He was absolutely gracious, very generous, very funny, gave me an autographed picture and other souvenirs he had. And then after awhile his aides began to get restless, but he just kept talking with me, and I realize now without any sentimentality that he had gotten into being a kid again with me, seeing himself through me, about how great it was, and all the things he still wanted to do. He got more and more enthusiastic, all about zooming around, and space, and the moon. Finally, he got up to go, and he shook my hand, and said he had to go off to this dumb reception, what a privilege it had been to meet me, and how great it had been, and off he went, staff and brass in tow. Needless to say, I bragged about meeting this great astronaut for days, until everyone got sick of it.
Then later, when he died on the launch pad, I was in mourning for days. He is the most unremembered of the early astronauts, but not by me. He is still my model for a American hero (it is a terrible cliche, and I know his personal life wasn't perfect, but I can't help it.)
yours, Peter T.

04 Nov 99 - 01:57 PM (#131754)
Subject: RE: BS: Brushes with Greatness
From: Michael K.

Wonderful story...Peter T.

(By the way have you seen the movie ''October Sky''? If not, you would really like it. Rent it.)

04 Nov 99 - 02:02 PM (#131758)
Subject: RE: BS: Brushes with Greatness
From: Steve Latimer


As a former Torontonian, I'd be interested in knowing what band you were in. I'm assuming the Hotel in question is the Royal York, am I right.

Burton was always one of my favourite singers, wonderful voice and feel.

Wow, Zappa and Aretha.

04 Nov 99 - 02:37 PM (#131768)
Subject: RE: BS: Brushes with Greatness
From: Michael K.

To Steve Latimer:

The band was called ''The Julie Manchester Band''...and yes I met Bennett and Vannelli at the Black Knight Room of the Royal York.....back in the days when they had headliners in the Imperial Room.

I met Clapton at the old Triumph Hotel (Keele / 401 as that's where the entertainers performing at Kingswood - Canada's wonderland stayed) a Howard Johnsons.

Met Aretha at the Metro Convention Centre, and Burton at the Valhalla Inn, at the East Mall/Burnamthorpe area..

Another great place for meeting celebrities was (in all places!) Thunderbay!!! They would all stay at the Valhalla Inn there, when they would do stop over concerts from Minnesota.) This place was even more of a gold mine than any hotel I'd worked in in Toronto, and we spent a lot of time in Thunderbay at this property.....without going into stories, some of the people we met in Thunderbay:

Paul Shaffer Bob Hope Johnny Cash and June Carter Red Skelton Flip Wilson The Temptations Phyllis Diller The Smothers Brothers

...and others who's names escape me for the moment..

04 Nov 99 - 02:55 PM (#131775)
Subject: RE: BS: Brushes with Greatness
From: Peter T.

Michael , is "October Sky" the film about kids trying to put a rocket up? I haven't seen it, will get it. Obviously, I am a sucker for all astronaut films.
I envy your meeting Tony Bennett -- next time, ask him how he ever got through "Indian Summer" so smoothly. And did he like Bill Evans, and ......
yours, Peter T.

04 Nov 99 - 02:55 PM (#131776)
Subject: RE: BS: Brushes with Greatness
From: Allan C.

I am proud to say that almost all of my brushes with greatness have involved the very people who are reading this post. But there was one night in 1966 at the Wagon Wheel Restaurant in Great Falls, Montana which was memorable. I had just finished a night on the town and had come to the only restaurant which was serving breakfast at almost 4 A.M.. I had some time to kill while I waited for a ride. I ordered breakfast and soon realized that I was just about the only customer in the place. I had only taken a couple of bites when the door opened and in walked a guy who was dressed up in some nice western style clothes. But then, except for some of the guys at the air base nearby, (of which I was one) nearly everyone wore that kind of stuff. He looked around for a moment, spotted me and came to where I was. He said something like: "Seeing as how we're about the only two people in this place, would you mind if I sat here with you while I have some breakfast?" I invited him to sit. After some small talk he said something about being at a small club in the north side of town. I told him I knew about it, but had never been there. He said I should check it out. They sometimes had "some pretty good music" there, he told me.

We nursed our coffees and talked about the area and such. He told me he had grown up around there and filled me in on a great number of things about the town that I'd have never known otherwise. We continued talking for about an hour or so until a couple of my Air Force friends showed up and offered me a ride back to the base. As soon as we walked out of the restaurant one of them turned to me and said, "Do you know who that guy in there is?" "No." I answered. "That's Charlie Pride!" They went on to tell me that it was his habit to come back to his hometown once a year and play a free gig at the bar where he began his career.

From this I learned that some famous people are just people when nobody recognizes them.

04 Nov 99 - 03:52 PM (#131799)
Subject: RE: BS: Brushes with Greatness
From: Liam's Brother

Had a 15-minute chat with Ewan MacColl at the bar of a London pub. We later exchanged letters and he very kindly contributed a song, "The Campanero," to A Bonnie Bunch of Roses, my folk song collection. MacColl was someone whom I admired from my teenage years so that was very special. He was interested, sincere and gracious.

When Margaret Barry was in New York, she would often stay with me. She usually called Alan Lomax and he would invite us to his apartment for dinner, drinks and a few songs.

In 10 years of running a folk club in NYC and touring with a traditional band, I met and/or sang with a who's who of folk performers. Martin Carthy was easily the most down to earth. Ray Fisher among the friendliest; Peter Bellamy, Paul Brady and Lou Killen the most powerfully absorbing; Joe McKenna and Joe Burke the most virtuosic.

Dave Van Ronk came to one of our "Sing Around" nights and did a few Irish songs he had learned from his mother; Ed McCurdy and Rosalie Sorrels likewise. I met Robert Pete Williams, an incredibly intense Missippi bluesman and one of my all-time favorites, at the 1966 Berkeley Folk Festival and spent a few hours with him. I was in the company of Johnny Shines and Walter Horton for quite a few hours years ago in San Franciso.

The brilliant jazz pianist, Bill Evans, who recorded with Miles Davis and with his own trio, was my seatmate on a flight between NYC and Tokyo 25 years ago.

Outside of music, I've met a few princes, presidents, ambassadors and cabinet ministers... but I don't know whether any of those people were or will be great. We all made a big fuss over them but secretly wanted to get home to take our pants off and change into our slippers.

All the best,
Dan Milner

04 Nov 99 - 04:03 PM (#131800)
Subject: RE: BS: Brushes with Greatness
From: Mbo

I once stood next to the local weatherman from the TV news, at McDonalds!


04 Nov 99 - 04:06 PM (#131803)
Subject: RE: BS: Brushes with Greatness
From: lamarca

I used to sit and listen at one of our local Irish sessions (I don't play an instrument, but really enjoyed the music). One night a banjo player showed up with a 5-string, and moved into the circle. He played along with the regular group, chatted, and just fit in quietly. Asked his name, he just said "Bela"...later found out it was Bela Fleck, taking a break from his normal "New-grass" style. Nice guy - don't know if he fits the category.

As an amateur, I have a hard time knowing what to say when I finally get to meet folks that I consider my "Folk Heroes". I usually volunteer to sell their recordings or set up sound at our local folk society's concerts. What do you say to someone whose recordings you've collected for 20 years, other than "Thank you for all the musical pleasure you've given me..." I have to say that Martin Carthy has been one of the nicest people I've had the chance to meet this way!

04 Nov 99 - 04:12 PM (#131807)
Subject: RE: BS: Brushes with Greatness
From: Steve Latimer


I may be wrong, but I believe that Bela Fleck played Irish music before he played "Newgrass." Sounds like he was connecting with his past.

04 Nov 99 - 04:43 PM (#131834)
Subject: RE: BS: Brushes with Greatness
From: Mudjack

Attending folk concerts and actually meeting (shaking their hands) with proper introductions would leave the list to long for this thread. Greatness to me is a folk artist that is of lesser notoriety. Not a fair comparisom since most folk artist are indeed acually glad to meet and talk with their admirers. We made many a acquaintences as we were always early for the concerts, you see, we were part of the set up volunteers. The concerts were always great but some of our more memorable times have been before the concerts. Utah Phillips , Rambin Jack, Rosalie Sorrels, Martin Carthy, and about 100 others and I must admit with a tiny tear in my eye, "How I miss those days". We moved away and the venue eventually come to a close.

04 Nov 99 - 04:45 PM (#131836)
Subject: RE: BS: Brushes with Greatness
From: Michael K.

To Lamarca:

Interesting potential new thread here. ''Etiquette in dealing with Celebs and Notable Personalities''

There are different approaches depending on the situation. (These days I'm no longer a gigging musician who gets star struck and has to stifle when meeting celebs. I'm in corporate event planning and entertainment contracting - allright it's a fancy terminology for AGENT (heheheh)..and I deal with celebs quite a bit. I treat them exactly the way I would treat anyone I like, but generally I don't bombard them with questions, and try and stay out their way and not invade their space. If they start talking to me and want to pursue a friendly conversation, then I just roll with it.

From a ''fan'' perspective, if you see someone you admire and feel compelled to go over and talk to them, make sure first of all they are alone or not engaged in a heavy conversation with whoever they might be with - so that you're not being rude and interupting them. If the coast is clear, by all means go for it. The sentence you mentioned about ''I just want to thank you for the pleasure your music (or whatever it is they have impressed you with) has given me over the years'' is perfect, and they'll respond positively and love it. They never get tired of these kinds of things.....but don't overstay your welcome. Move on and keep the buzz going for as long as you can.

I was working cruise ships years ago back and forth between Miami and Bahamas, and was sitting in the lobby of the Grand Hotel (don't know what it's called now - next door to the Paradise Island Resort and casino.) It was our day off, and my wife (also the singer) were in the lobby having a smoke and relaxing, and the lobby was literally empty. At that moment Jerry Lewis walked in all by himself. My wife is a huge fan and just bolted before I could get up out of the I stayed put and watched her go over and start talking to Jerry, from about 20 feet away. I couldn't hear everything they were saying, but then Jerry looked over and smiled at me and motioned me over.....He wanted to know all about us and what we were doing in the Bahamas, so we told him. Turns out he was there scouting locations for a movie (which later turned out to be ''The King of Comedy'' a classic in my opinion.) We talked for about 10 minutes and then he split.....We buzzed for the rest of the night and well into the next day, and of course got autographs.

04 Nov 99 - 04:48 PM (#131838)
Subject: RE: BS: Brushes with Greatness
From: Bill Cameron

I encountered Stan Rogers at a Macs Milk (think 7-11) in suburban Ottawa once when I was driving cab (and a few other times at folk music events, but this was the only random meeting). I said hi, what are you doing in town, he said, tv show, I said, I'm a friend of *(*(*(*'s (his manager at the time, whom he was shortly to fire.) "Oh yeah", he said. Later that evening I saw my friend the manager on a sidewalk, so I stopped to chat. "Had a meeting with Stan," he said. "Well, he didn't hit me."

It's been long enough since he died, that people are more willing to say this--Stan wasn't the easiest person to get along with. Doesn't diminish his importance to folk music.

Then there's Doc Watson. The same friend of mine brought Doc to Ottawa for a concert once in 78 or so, I took tickets and got to schmooze in the dressing room. It was a crowded room, and I was amazed--he could see everybody in the room, just not with his eyes. He has an unfailing way of letting you know that he's conscious of you being there, and making a remark just to put you at ease. Many Mudcatters will know this of course. I've often thought that it's a pity the predominant Southern stereotype is the redneck cracker. The other archetype--the real soft-spoken Southern gentleman, and it has nothing whatsoever to do with class stature or wealth--is Doc. What a sweet guy.


04 Nov 99 - 05:03 PM (#131847)
Subject: RE: BS: Brushes with Greatness
From: Liz the Squeak

I've been kissed by an MBE, and my daughter (OK she was only about 8 months old) by an hereditary peer of the realm! The MBE was the incredibly nice Martin Carthy, I lent him a table for a show and it still has the stain from Ma Watersons' wine glass, same table was used by Roy Bailey at a later concert at the same festival; and the Peer of the Realm was the MP formerly known as Sir Anthony Wedgewood Benn. One of natures' gentlemen is Tony, drinks lukewarm tea on stage, very undemanding,just wish I could say the same about June Tabor. She turned up half an hour late for her sound check, insisted that the newly tuned Steinway baby grand provided for her was out of tune (it wasn't - her pianist is crap) and made over 60 people wait outside in the pouring rain, in late October, whilst she got picky about the sound check. Nothing would please her and when a disabled lady asked if they could maybe just come inside, she got shirty and said that the lady was welcome if she wanted to listen to crap. I think it not a surprise that when the concert started 45 mins late, although a sell out, there were still empty seats, and after the break, even fewer came back... She is renowned for being fussy, but being rude to a paying customer is something that no-one can afford to do, and people voted with their feet. She was never booked again.

Oh, and I've slept in the same bed as Les Barker.....

I once worked in a pub where Trevor McDonald kept us waiting for half an hour over our time one night, nursing a plate of beef sandwiches and Georgie Fame popped in for a drink one Sunday lunchtime.

And I upstaged (don't I always?) Jim Davidson at his pantomime Sinderella - yes that is the correct spelling - it was definately not a children's pantomime... I shan't say how, but it is linked with my nickname......

Liz the Squeak

04 Nov 99 - 09:34 PM (#131950)
Subject: RE: BS: Brushes with Greatness
From: Bugsy

I once stood next to Mr Acker Bilk whilst taking a leak.

He was much shorter than I had imagined.



04 Nov 99 - 10:19 PM (#131974)
Subject: RE: BS: Brushes with Greatness
From: _gargoyle

Interesting thread.... and some VERY interesting people.

I met and never sorted them out.

A best friend's father tells stories, that have only begun to surface after 25 years of very close reads like the greats of WWII.... Lippman, Winchel, Eisenhour, would think it was BS....but the photos and chronology back it up.

Some live "blessed lives."

05 Nov 99 - 04:59 AM (#132047)
Subject: RE: BS: Brushes with Greatness
From: Liz the Squeak

Oh, I did an interview with Leslie Thomas (Stand up Virgin Soldiers, etc) for BBC Radio 4, I have the tapes if anyone wants..... No? Ah well.

And I met Terry Pratchett, at a wedding. He was sitting at a table, not talking to people,wearing a black polo necked jumper, black leather jacket and black hat, and I asked the groom who he was, thinking he looked familiar. 'Who do you think he is?' was the grooms mysterious reply. 'Well he looks just like Terry Pratchett', says me. 'You'd be right them, but he's here incognito'. So how incognito was he? He was wearing a black polo necked jumper, black leather jacket, black hat. What is he wearing in all his publicity photos up to this point?? Black polo necked jumper (hand made in lambswool and flown in specially from Texas), black leather jacket and black hat. And just in case you weren't sure, there were 8 copies of his latest book (Lords and Ladies) on the parcel shelf of his Morgan car, and he gave one as a wedding present to the bride.... well she is in it, so there is another brush with greatness - I know the 'Over the fender, Julia'!! (it's there, look hard for it, it's said by the dried frog pill eater)


05 Nov 99 - 07:45 AM (#132090)
Subject: RE: BS: Brushes with Greatness
From: kendall

Pete Seeger.. an angel on earth. He showed me the basic clawhammer strokes.
Gordon Bok.. close friend
Tom Paxton.. asked me to sing Moose turd pie for him!! funny guy.
Utah Phillips one of my favorite people. He told me he would never sing Phoebe Snow again after hearing me sing it. (Ya gotta love a guy like that)
Stan Rogers.Well, Stan was Stan.
Steven King, Horrors, what an ego.
Former Sec. of State Ed Muskie.. He liked my book.
I've never met a celebrity that I disliked intensly but Stan Rogers came close.( I overheard him insult a woman.)

05 Nov 99 - 08:04 AM (#132096)
Subject: RE: BS: Brushes with Greatness
From: DonMeixner

I worked on the concert committee at Auburn Community College in the 70's and we did well for a small college. I got the job of intros and I mer a load of folks some I liked and some not so well.

Tom Rush was proffessional and friendly

Tom Paxton was gracious and accommodating to a fault.

Buffy Ste. Marie was lovely and generous with praise for rhe school.

John Hammond and Steve Goodman, who were on the same bill, were musical virtuosos and social wastes.

Livinston Taylor was very friendly and a lttle laid back.

Gordon Bok was fine ijn performance and as a house guest even did the dishes. he shared is rum as well.

Ed Tricket seemed amazed that all the fuss was over him.

Robin and Linda Williams will never forgive me for call them the Williamsons, ah well.

Dave Bromberg, Aztec Two Step, Seals and Crofts, even Bruce Springfield, The Winters Brothers. we had them all. Many great shows, very few louts.


05 Nov 99 - 08:16 AM (#132099)
Subject: RE: BS: Brushes with Greatness
From: kendall

I dont know how the rest of you determine greatness, but, in my opinion, Sandy and Caroline Paton are in a class apart. They dont come any greater.

05 Nov 99 - 09:16 AM (#132117)
Subject: RE: BS: Brushes with Greatness
From: Roger the skiffler

Most of my "brushes", have been like Buggsy's, "splashes with greatness", standing next to members of jazz bands in the urinals of the 100 Club in Oxford Street, or sitting next to thesps in the theatre (sat behind Billy Conolly & kids at the Windsor panto last year), but my ma-in-law was a governor of a school in Bucks and invited local celeb Cleo Laine to some function (speech day or opening a new wing) . My late pa-in-law, also a keen jazz fan, was smitten but what they both liked best was that Cleo spent the minimum of time with the official party and spent all her time with the children, getting them to sing etc.
If my ever-loving were on here sh'd tell you about the time she lent George Melly her matches and when he threw them back they went in my beer, and the time Richard Wilson (Victor Meldrew) trod on he foot at the theatre and was very gracious in apology and.... (why does she get all the attention when we're out?). RtS

05 Nov 99 - 10:14 AM (#132146)
Subject: RE: BS: Brushes with Greatness
From: Steve Latimer

I was on a Golf trip to Wheeling, West Virginia a few years back and found out that Willie Nelson, was performing in town. Went to the show with five other guys. Great show. Immediately after the show we went to a nearby tavern. Weren't there more than ten minutes when one of my buddies tells me Willie's guitar player was standing beside me. Sure enough, Willie's longtime guitarist Jody Payne was right next to me. We had a great night, talked golf and music, two of my favourite subjects. I asked Jody how long he'd been with Willie, he replied 24 yrs. I said 'Man, I'll bet you've got some stories' His reply was simply 'Yep.'

Great guy, we had a lot of laughs and I learned the hard way not to try to drink Tequila with a travelling musician.

05 Nov 99 - 10:25 AM (#132156)
Subject: RE: BS: Brushes with Greatness
From: Bert

Bugsy - You're BAD.

I thought I'd died and gone to heaven when Tom Paxton sang along and laughed at one of my songs.


05 Nov 99 - 10:49 AM (#132170)
Subject: RE: BS: Brushes with Greatness
From: Rick Fielding

This is kinda fun. Since I've been a professional musician for over 30 years years, meeting pickers has never been a big deal, but some of the NICEST were: Del McCourey, George Hamilton the fourth, Lonnie Johnson, Emmy Lou Harris, Conway Twitty, and especially Merle Travis. I'll leave out the "not so nice", but they're out there all right! Among musicians though, Sandy Paton stands head and shoulders above anyone I've met. Caroline too.

To me REAL celebrities have nothing to do with music.
About 22 years ago, I was in the British museum staring down at Egytian mummies, carrying on an animated conversation with a couple next to me. The three of us were fascinated and it was a couple of minutes before I really noticed that it was William Holden and Stephanie Powers. The groupie part of me wanted to acknowledge who they were but I couldn't think of her name, so when we parted I said "Thanks for the great entertainment" (or something like that.) I'd love to have asked him a million questions.