Tag Archives: Doors

Yeah, The Doors Played At Staples. Cream, The Byrds And Peter Frampton Too. And…

…also the Yardbirds, Animals, Rascals, and Sly and the Family Stone.

Plus the Byrds, Rhinoceros, Buddy Miles, J. Geils,  Peter Frampton and Taj Mahal. And Steve Tallerico, before he became Steve Tyler.

For years, those of us who grew up in Westport in the 1960s and ’70s have regaled friends with tales of those concerts. They looked at us like we smoked one too many bowls.

But they really happened. And now there is proof.

Smollin book cover

Mark Smollin — a 1970 Staples grad who went on to fame as an artist and designer — was at many of those shows. He’s just produced a massive e-book filled with photos, posters and ticket stubs — plus essays and remembrances by concert-goers and professional musicians — from those amazing days.

Oh, did I mention that tickets were usually just $2 or $3?

Doors posterThe Real Rock & Roll High School: True Tales of Legendary Bands That Performed in Westport CT is a 150-page gem. It opens with an essay by Barry Tashian. Westport’s 1st home-grown rock star — his band, the Remains, opened for the Beatles — provides some context by recalling hunting down 45s at the Melody House on Main Street, listening to jazz concerts at Compo, and going to dances at the Y and Longshore.

Smollin tracked down Ellen Sandhaus, whose brother Dick signed those first legendary shows — while still in high school. (The story of how he and classmate Paul Gambaccini became 17-year-old concert promoters is in the book). Ellen contributed fantastic photos, taken with her Brownie camera.

Cream ticketSmollin used Facebook to find more information. Mary Gai joined Ellen as a writer and editor. Fred Cantor did heavy lifting in the Westport Library newspaper archives. He unearthed proof that — as students who were there have always maintained — the Blues Project, Left Banke and Blues Magoos (twice!) all played at Staples proms.

The buzz grew. People chimed in about bands they claimed played at Staples, but actually were at other local venues. So Smollin added a section on other places like the Nines Club (Mitch Ryder and the Detroit Wheels, Strawberry Alarm Clock, Vanilla Fudge, ? and the Mysterians), and the Westport Country Playhouse (the Critters).

Smollin also gives a shout-out to non-rockers who played in Westport. That’s an impressive list too: Louis Armstrong, Pete Seeger, Phil Ochs, Chick Corea, Dave Brubeck, Sammy Davis Jr., Ferrante and Teicher, Odetta.

Ginger Baker, Cream's drummer, at Staples in 1968. (Photo copyright Jeremy Ross)

Ginger Baker, Cream’s drummer, at Staples in 1968. (Photo copyright Jeremy Ross)

Finally — because he himself played in a band (called Smoke; they still do reunions) — Smollin included a list of local groups that may not have lasted long, but were legends in their own (and many others’) minds: Triumvirate. The Wild Sect. The Saints. Strawberry Fun Band. Mandrake Root. Styx. (No, not the more famous “Come Sail Away” band.)

The Real Rock & Roll High School is a trip — down memory lane if you were there (or wished you were), into the rabbit hole of amazing musical history if you were not.

The Staples auditorium -- where so many legendary concerts took place -- as seen in the 1970 yearbook.

The Staples auditorium — where so many legendary concerts took place — as seen in the 1970 yearbook.

So if you have any interest at all in great bands and solo artists — and others like Edgar Winter, Livingston Taylor and John Lee Hooker, all of whom also played in Westport — check it out.

I know. It’s only rock ‘n’ roll. But we love it.

(Click to order The Real Rock & Roll High School.)

Bonus track: I mentioned Steve Tyler above. Here’s Aerosmith’s front man giving a hat tip to Staples, during his 1995 induction ceremony at the Rock & Roll Hall of Fame:

Play A Song For Me

I promised myself I would not write about my Staples reunion this weekend.  But:  I can’t help myself.

Sugar pie, honey bunch…

Of course.  Anyone of a certain age (mine) knows without thinking that those are the only words that follow “I can’t help myself.”

Just as everyone at our reunion — or any other one, anywhere, from that era — understands instinctively that the only thing boot heels do is “wander.”  And — as Doctor Doctor Mister M.D. says — all you really need is good lovin’.

Yeah, yeah, yeah.

Brian Keane and Charlie Karp rock on. (Photo/Lynn U. Miller)

One of the many highlights at Saturday’s reunion was the band.  All were members of our Staples Class of 1971.  Billy Sims, Rob McClenathan, Bubba Barton — each with non-music jobs now — joined Mike Mugrage, Brian Keane, Jeff Dowd, Billy Seidman and Charlie Karp to play some of what Cat Mother and the All Night Newboys know is “that good old rock ‘n’ roll.”

Mike toured and performed with James Brown, Ronnie Spector and Orleans. Brian is a multiple Grammy and Emmy Award-winning composer.  Jeff is an opera singer based in Germany.   Billy teaches music at NYU.

Charlie never graduated from Staples.  He dropped out a few weeks into 10th grade, forsaking algebra and gym for touring and recording with guys like Jimi Hendrix and Buddy Miles.  He’s now back in this area, playing with great bands like Slo Leak.

These guys sometimes played together at Staples.  They were in different groups too.

Linda Satin, Carissa Simon, Margaret Hart and Bonnie Housner channel the Supremes. (Photo/Lynn U. Miller)

On Saturday night — with the addition of former Orphenians Bonnie Housner, Margaret Hart, Julie Aldworth McClenathan, Kim Plaut, Linda Satin and Carissa Simon as singers, all of whom had the “Stop!  In the Name of Love” hand motions down pat — they brought us back to a time when music was not only real and good, but a shared experience.

Everyone who went to school in the 1960s and 70s listened to the same songs at the same time.  We heard them on transistor radios, car radios, turntables at parties.

Just a snippet of the most obscure tunes — “I’m Your Puppet,” “Hitchin’ a Ride,” “Indiana Wants Me” — brings back powerful memories of precise places, people and the funny/outrageous/bizarre/typical/illegal things we were doing at those moments.

So as I listened and danced Saturday night — Mustang Sally, you been runnin’ all over town — I said to myself:  “Man, you are one lucky guy to have grown up when you did.”

Jimi Hendrix, back when music was music.

And then I thought about music today.  When the Class of 2011 has its reunion, they will not have actual music to listen to.

Nor will they have classmate bands from high school to play it.

Nor experience the joy of growing up sharing the same music, at the same time and place, during a transformative time in their young lives.

I threw this sad fact out at a friend from Burr Farms, Long Lots and Staples — a guy I haven’t seen in decades, but who because of our time together long ago, I’d reconnected with instantly.

He didn’t buy it.

His kids — in their late teens and early 20s — love the Beatles, Doors and other groups we also loved, he said, back in the day.

Suddenly, I felt fine.

In 2051, I realized, alums attending their own 40th reunions will listen to the same music we did.

Eighty years before.