girlhowdy meets boy
"You've GOT to go!" said my friend in New York (Jean). "Something WONDERFUL is going to happen that night, believe me- I KNOW!" I had just told her that my FAVORITE guitar legend Peter Green was coming to So.Ca. to play at my old hang-out The Ventura Theatre. When I had lived in So.Ca., this BEAUTIFUL old, ornate theatre (dating back to the days of Vaudeville) had unquestionably been my FAVORITE VENUE to see concerts at! The acoustics are great, the lighting perfect and I STILL knew some of the management. I was NOW living some distance away, having moved from Southern to Central California. I had also just barely recovered from a NASTY headcold. Still, I had DREAMED of being able to see Peter Green perform LIVE, and I knew that I would never get a BETTER opportunity to do so than NOW! As my friend is a professional psychic, it was HARD to mount much of an argument against her avid advice. I had NEVER believed in "Such nonsense" (MY quote) until I met HER. Her uncanny abilities had made a firm believer out of me and I asked her what my actual chances were of getting to TALK with Peter afterward. She fired back "YOU will not only get to TALK with him, you are gonna be GOING TO ENGLAND next year! You will be getting BACKSTAGE, so dress in a manner to create a warm, positive AURA!" She said that Peter LOVED the color RED, and especially liked it combined with BLACK, as to him this created a strong, positive energy emanating from the wearer. "But I have NEVER seen Peter wear THOSE colors" I told her (this was BEFORE I saw pictures from the "Blues Jam In Chicago" session, where Peter did INDEED wear a RED pullover top and BLACK slacks). "Don't you have A LOT of red tops and black slacks in your wardrobe? Well...pick something out and WEAR IT that night." she said. No more arguments..I was GOING!
The night arrived and I found myself standing in line outside the theatre, feeling more DEAD than ALIVE! I had worked the night before, then had to get in the car that morning (with NO SLEEP) to make the 4 and a half hour's drive to the theatre. Once I finally got INSIDE, however, it was like someone had shot me with a fresh dose of adrenaline! I was incredibly LUCKY to find a table dead-center, right next to the stage! It was so close that I could literally watch the show with my elbows resting on the stage! I had brought with me some VERY important items that night:several concert posters for that show and a GIFT FOR PETER! As I do volunteer work for a local organization in the Central Valley ("Helping Hands") that is ALWAYS in need of funds(they feed COUNTLESS poor/homeless people and FAMILIES where I now live)I had decided to bring along some posters in hopes of having Peter SIGN THEM to later auction for this non-profit organization. I had remembered reading how Peter was fascinated by ALL aspects of Native American culture, and being that I am part Navajo, I thought it was fitting to give him something Navajo-crafted! A friend of mine is a dealer/importer specializing in fine, hand-crafted, AUTHENTIC Native American items(especially silver and turquoise jewelry). David had travelled to Arizona and New Mexico recently, bringing back with him some OUTSTANDING jewelry pieces:many truly one-of-a-kind! Among them was a GORGEOUS man's HEAVY silver and turquoise bracelet that literally SCREAMED at me from the display case! "I've GOTTA have it, Dave!" I yelled. "Nah...pick something more AFFORDABLE, Shirl" he said. "THAT one is gonna set you back too much!" "But you don't understand, Dave..it's not for ME..it's for someone VERY SPECIAL that I am going to see in concert next week! Have you heard of the British blues guitarist Peter Green?" I asked. "PETER GREEN?! You're gonna give it to PETER GREEN?! I DON'T believe it! PETER GREEN is gonna be wearing something from MY store?! HEY gals...guess what?! Shirl is gonna bring THIS bracelet to PETER GREEN! O.K.! I'll make a deal with you:I'll sell it to you for HALF the marked price, if you get me at least one picture of Peter actually WEARING IT! I'm gonna take the picture and have it ENLARGED and display it RIGHT HERE for my customers to see! INCREDIBLE! PETER GREEN actually wearing something from MY store!" Dave was clearly ESTATIC; we had a deal!
As I sat breathlessly waiting for the show to start, I noticed a man sitting at the far corner of my table, with a TERRIBLY FAMILIAR FACE! He was engaged in an animated conversation with a guy I had earlier talked to (who was there to write a review of the show). As I caught bits and pieces of their conversation, it kept getting more and more INTERESTING! The guy said that years ago he and Peter had been ROOMMATES! He said that he had spoken with MICK FLEETWOOD, shortly before coming, to ask him if he thought it was wise to approach Peter after the show, "to talk about old times". He said that Mick had strongly advised him NOT to! According to the "Mystery Man"( who never DID tell me his name, though I asked him TWICE ), Mick had said "It will do you NO GOOD, as Peter will not remember WHO you are!" I showed him the bracelet, and he gushed "WOW! That is BEAUTIFUL! Yeah...Peter is gonna LOVE that!
The show started and the first band came and went. For the life of me I cannot remember what the guy's NAME was, only that he sounded A LOT like Stevie Ray Vaughn and he and the band were from the Los Angeles area. After their performance, the stage was set up pretty quickly and the REAL show began! From the moment the house lights went off and stage lights went on, you could feel the HEAT emanating as much from the AUDIENCE as from the hot stage lights! This audience was READY! The band launched into songs from the Robert Johnson Tribute album, with Nigel Watson noticably taking lead on both guitar and vocals. As this pattern progressed through the show (with the spotlight on NIGEL, not PETER) you could almost see the eyes of the audience becoming GLAZED! Clearly, this audience had come to see PETER, and no one else would do(though Nigel was in fine voice and his playing was superb). Peter continued to play more of a support for Nigel's lead, filling in at crucial parts in each song. Finally, Peter took the mike for his FIRST vocal:"WHAT is he singing?!" my tablemate screamed into my ear. Sure enough, it was almost impossible to hear him! His soft voice was having REAL trouble being heard above the ROAR of the guitars! "Sing out, Pete!" fans began shouting from the audience (all to no avail). You could REALLY feel the frustration rising from the audience when once again Nigel took lead vocal and there was NO TROUBLE hearing HIM!
Then something WONDERFUL happened when the band launched into "Black Magic Woman". It was as if The MUSE simply swept Peter up(and the audience right along with him)! Nigel began the lead as usual, then suddenly Peter simply GRABBED IT AND RAN WITH IT! You could see SOMETHING simply take hold of Peter, and once again he became the consummate showman:striking a pose onstage and firing deep notes right into the audience! At the exact moment when the excitement built to a crecendo, a single, shimmering golden stage light hit the face of his guitar JUST RIGHT, looking as if the light was emanating FROM his guitar, not TO! "SNAP!" That was one time I was glad I had left the flash RUNNING on my camera! Nigel was now the support as Peter took center stage, and he did so gracefully. The audience simply went NUTS, and shouts of "Eat your heart out, Eric!" and "Green Is GOD!" could be heard from almost every corner of the audience! After the song was over, you could see and hear the CHANGE that had occured in Peter. He was far more relaxed, and though he did not take actual lead in ANOTHER song, his playing became more assured and prominent throughout the rest of the show!
As Peter was playing an excellent harp during one of the Robert Johnson tunes(I had almost forgotten what a FANTASTIC harp player he is) something HILARIOUS happened! Two VERY drunk young ladies came from somewhere behind my table and took over the only two vacant seats left (right next to MINE, as luck would have it)! The blond was obviously VERY excited to be SO CLOSE to Peter (not more than maybe 10 feet away) and this had a BIG effect on her LIBIDO! She leaned right into me and began telling me in no uncertain terms EXACTLY what she'd LOVE to do to Peter (spoken in a range that could even be heard ABOVE the guitars)! She began nudging me for approval, to which I could only nod and smile (since I was AFRAID to respond for fear I'd burst out LAUGHING)! I could not tell if PETER was picking up on any of this, but it was clear that NIGEL WAS! Gallantly, he began to address the "Ladies" from the stage, dedicating the next number to them:"Now..this next number is dedicated to the LADIES in the audience..we LOVE you!" To this the gals lifted their glasses of rum (?) in approval! I am SURE that the LOOK on my face was surely a "Kodak Moment"!
As the show ended and the house lights came back on, the words of the young blond came flashing back at me; I beat a hasty retreat to the back entrance of the stage("Gotta get there FIRST"..I kept repeating to myself)! I approached one of the roadies for permission to go backstage. He directed me to a young man standing in a far corner of the stage (looking not a day over 20 years old)s aying "THAT'S the man you need to talk to. He is the backstage manager, as far as I'm aware". I approached the young man, explaining why I was there and showing him the posters. His name was Brian Gist, and he was just the SWEETEST GUY you could ever hope to meet! "Wait right here" he said. " I am waiting for Peter as well, as I've got a CD I want him to autograph." We stood there for what seemed like AGES, but what was probably not more than about 15 minutes. Suddenly Brian cried out "THERE HE IS!" I looked to where he was pointing(at the top of the staircase leading to the dressing-room area)and there stood Peter! I am not sure just HOW LONG Peter had been standing there watching us...somehow I had a feeling from his WIDE GRIN that he had been there for AWHILE. Brian and me literally RUSHED the staircase, following Peter to a corner of the room adjacent to the actual dressing area. Despite the "Pep Talk" I'd given myself on my drive to the theatre that night ("Relax, girl...be COOL, not a FOOL!") ALL HOPE of being cool was LOST from the moment I looked at Peter:"OH MY GOD! I am SO EXCITED....I CAN'T BREATHE! I can't THINK! I am SOOOO EXCITED!" To his complete credit, Peter stood there sipping his fruit drink, BARELY containing a grin as I gushed on and on(Yes...I got a PICTURE of it)! "I gotta HUG you, Peter...I GOTTA hug you!" came flying out of my mouth(I was beginning to think that maybe Peter would have been BETTER OFF if the blond HAD got there FIRST)! Like the class act he is, Peter gently gave me a "Comforting" hug and I calmed down enough to take his picture with Brian and explain about the posters. "O.K...what NAME do you want me to sign them with:my REAL or STAGE one?" Peter asked. "ANY name you WANT to, Hon!" I bellowed back. (Peter): "O.K. then. I'll use my actual name..anyone got a PROPER pen?" Brian managed to find a fine-point felt tip and Peter proceeded to sign away. At this point I remembered the bracelet(which had been resting in the box in my purse). I produced it and began to ramble on and on to Peter about EVERY last detail about it(right down to WHERE the stones had been mined). He graciously accepted it and at THAT point it occured to me that with bracelets (like rings), one size does NOT fit ALL! Peter was having a bit of trouble pulling it on his rather "Stout" arm, saying "It's got a bit of an ODD Shape...but then again SO DO I!" At this, Brian and me both just HAD to laugh, and Peter got yet ANOTHER hug from me (though I DOUBT this was his intention). At last Peter managed to STRETCHHH it enough to get it on (without actually cutting off circulation) and it looked FAB on him indeed! Peter stood, admired it for several minutes(as I reminded him he could take it to a jeweler in England for a "Proper" fitting), then went back to signing the posters. I asked him if I could take his pic as he signed them(as a kind of "Certificate Of Authenticity" to show buyers) then as he signed the last of the posters he said "O.K., I'll just leave them on the table to dry...so, do you ever MAKE IT TO ENGLAND?" With my usual "Quick" wit I did NOT immediately pick up on what Peter was asking (DESPITE what my friend had told me earlier..oh well, I was TIRED). Me:"Actually, no. I WAS planning at one point on POSSIBLY coming for a visit next Spring...."at which point a part of my grey matter STILL in good working order kicked in, and I did an ABOUT FACE with "Actually, I AM planning on coming to England NEXT year on vacation; possibly in May!" (Peter):"GOOD! Maybe you can stop by for a VISIT then!"
Brian meets Peter Greenbaum
At this EXACT moment, who should come into the room but NIGEL WATSON! I could feel myself sink inside as he said "Peter, we've gotta GO now! There are LOTS more people waiting outside to talk to you! (as he spies the bracelet)WHERE did you get THAT?!" With PERFECT COOL Peter nonchalantly replies "Oh...SHE gave it to me." (Nigel):"She GAVE it to you?! WOW!" This is my cue to begin again my lengthy "Saga" on the bracelet, all the while Nigel just STARING at it, amazed ("Don't fans EVER give Peter EXPENSIVE gifts?" I am silently wondering). I take their picture together, then follow them outside to the waiting crowd(and COLD night air..we are less than a mile from the BEACH here).
A WARMER welcome I have never seen for an artist after a show! Hugs, pats and handshakes were flying fast and furious. Fans produced almost everything imaginable for Peter to sign, and he graciously signed it ALL. A tall man with sandy-blond hair produced a microcassette recorder and began interviewing Peter right in the midst of all this. In a soft voice, Peter answered his questions about the events leading up to his replacing Eric Clapton In John Mayall's Bluesbreakers. Peter really SURPRISED me at this point by softly saying that, in HIS opinion, he had NOT filled those BIG shoes of Eric's to capacity in the band! Without thinking, I blurted out "No, instead Peter EXCEEDED what Eric had accomplished in the band up to that point!" At this, the journalist gave me "The Look" and I refrained from any more unwelcomed comments!
Peter signs a poster!
I waited until the crowd had become smaller, then leaned close to Peter to get that ALL IMPORTANT address! It was at THIS point that it occured to me that I had NOTHING for Peter to write it on (unless I wanted him to use one of the posters). The ONLY thing I had was just my CHECKBOOK! "Here, Peter. You can write that address on THIS" I said, handing it to him. A QUICK-THINKING man, he immediately FLIPPED it over, to read ALL the names listed on the checking account! When he was satisfied that I indeed seemed to have no "Significant Other" he quickly wrote the address, but was stumped on the post (Zip) code. (Peter): "Here. Ask NIGEL what the FULL post code is. I can only remember THAT much of it." Nigel too was not sure, but said not to worry, it would get there regardless. I came back, explained what Nigel had said, then realized that I HAD to be going (I had promised to get the car back by midnight). It was LATE. As I stood there looking at Peter, I did my final act of silliness for the evening:I found myself suddenly reaching up and planting a BIG KISS right on his cheek! NO ONE there (Peter included) could have been MORE surprised by this than ME! I turned and did a QUICK exit into the night. ( What a night!)