I suppose I should be grateful that I was whisked away from the hot city during the summertime as a kid, but lately I’ve been harboring some resentment, because in my mid-teen years, when I was most consumed by music and starting to go to shows, the most exciting stuff went on from July 4th through Labor Day, and I was sequestered in a bungalow colony. So I didn’t get to see all the amazing shows at Forest Hills Tennis Stadium, and most egregiously, I missed the Rheingold Central Park Music Festivals of 1966 and 1967.
In 1966, here are just a few artists who were in Central Park, for $2 a show, while I was miles away: The Four Tops, Jackie Wilson, King Curtis, The Animals, The Young Rascals, Mitch Ryder & The Detroit Wheels, Otis Redding, Muddy Waters, The Lovin’ Spoonful, Thelonious Monk, The Paul Butterfield Blues Band (w/Mike Bloomfield)…
And the following year, just as an example, and not even including August:
June 23 – Louis Armstrong
June 26 – Stan Getz/Joe Williams
June 30 – The Paul Butterfield Blues Band
July 3 – Nina Simone
July 5 – The Young Rascals (with ‘surprise warm-up act’ Jimi Hendrix)
July 7 – Phil Ochs/Spanky & Our Gang
July 8 – Duke Ellington
July 12 – Stevie Wonder/Esther Phillips
July 19 – The Four Seasons
July 21 – Leonard Cohen
July 26 – Smokey Robinson & The Miracles/Tammi Terrell
July 28 – The Byrds
So that’s just a little over $20, plus subway fares. I am so pissed.
Especially because I never got to see The Animals (until their ’80s reunion tour), Otis, or King Curtis (everyone on the ’67 list I saw eventually, except for Stan Getz, Tammi, Jackie Wilson, and Spanky, and I’m not 100% certain about Jackie Wilson, ’cause he’s in a Brooklyn Fox program for a show I saw, only I don’t think he performed on the day I was there; I believe that was the day Sam Cooke headlined, so I’m not complaining…).
Missing Otis is my one big regret (hey, that’s almost a Cole Porter song!). Of all the Shows I Wish I’d Seen, way at the top is Otis Redding with Booker T. & the MG’s. I’ve seen footage from their concerts, including, of course, Monterey and the European Stax-Volt Tour, and I think my head would’ve exploded with excitement if I’d been in a room where that music was being played. By the time I got to see B & The MG’s, drummer Al Jackson was gone, and although I still can’t imagine a better group of players than Booker, Cropper and Dunn, it wasn’t quite the same.
I saw Booker T. the other night, doing a club date in NYC. No MG’s, sad to say. And no DBT’s either (the Drive-By Truckers backed him on his new album, and on some recent live gigs). But there he was, and he breezed through most of the album, and also gave us ‘Green Onions,’ ‘Hip-Hug-Her,’ ‘Melting Pot,’ and ‘Time Is Tight.’ I count any night where I get to hear Booker T. Jones play ‘Time Is Tight’ live as a memorable one. But damn, I wish I’d seen the original quartet behind Otis in the summer of ’66.