Harry Chapin’s Mr. Tanner

Harry Chapin wrote a song, “Mr. Tanner” about a Midwest cleaner who dreamed of being a professional singer. We learned to identify with someone pursuing the desire of becoming famous beyond a meager existence. Only to have those dreams dashed by a NY Times critic’s review. The sweetest solace is the last verse.

Music was his life, it was not his livelihood,
And it made him feel so happy and it made him feel so good.
And he sang from his heart and he sang from his soul.
He did not know how well he sang; It just made him whole.

As it turns out Connecticut and Mr. Tanner have quite the bond. The song was recorded in   Bridgeport at Paul Leka‘s Connecticut Recording studio in 1973. On Saturday night , 11/12 at the Quick Center on the Fairfield University campus three related events intersected with Harry Chapin’s “Mr. Tanner”.

  1. The real Mr. Tanner and the inspiration for the song, Martin Turbidy is discovered  living in Weston, CT.  He is invited to attend The Chapin Family concert as their special guest.
  2. He joined The Chapin Family on stage to sing, “Mr. Tanner” which validated the real person featured in the song from 1974 performing the song live.

3. There will be a children’s book, Mr. Tanner, based on Harry Chapin’s song with a                        happy ending :). The author, Bryan Langdo and book company representative, Rod                  Broder  of Ripple Grove Press were in attendance in the lobby, promoting the future                book with preliminary copies on  display  and  taking pre-orders.

The Bottom Line Archive, Harry Chapin Live

One of my regrets even with all the live music shows  I have attended in the tri-state area (425 concerts in 46 years) was never getting to a live show at the Bottom Line. This famous club was located at 15 West 4th Street in Greenwich Village. It was owned by Allan Pepper and Stanley Snadowsky, the Bottom Line opened February 12, 1974 and enjoyed a 30-year run.

The Bottom Line would broadcast live shows in conjunction with top NYC progressive rock radio station, WNEW-FM 102.7. A historic milestone in the club’s history was The Bruce Springsteen and the E Street Bands 10 night “Born To Run” engagement in August, 1975. I recall listening to the raw excitement of those sold out shows on the radio that evening.

Thankfully to Allan Peppers credit and ingenuity I can cancel that regret because we have the Bottom Line Archive.  The treasure trove of live recordings that Alan Pepper is housing is mountainous, over 1,000 live recordings.

Allan Pepper is working with Greg Bendian, formerly of The Mahavishnu Project a jazz-rock fusion cover band that we saw perform at Toad’s Place, Lily Pad room in 2011.

I am very interested in the Harry Chapin recording, HARRY CHAPIN: LIVE AT THE BOTTOM LINE (JANUARY 8-10, 1981) 35th Anniversary Expanded Re-master. The release includes the original set, as released in 1998, PLUS an extra offer a previously unreleased 88-minute show.

I preordered this recording on Amazon which is due to drop on June 30th.

We spent several magic moments in concert and discussion with Harry Chapin in the day. Looking forward to hearing  Harry live in concert once again.

Marking his 2000thperformance (January 8-10, 1981) this release provides a unique snapshot of an artist at the peak of his career – intimate and intense.

I think I will be buying more Bottom Line Archive recordings in the future.

American Shakespeare Theater – Stratford, CT

The American Shakespeare Theatre in Stratford, Ct. holds a unique space inside the MusicOfOurHeart. We saw wonderful plays and concerts there. I hope the theatre gets its well deserved renovation.

I read this week that the town of Stratford has selected a plan by the Stratford Stage Group which involves renovating the theater and building an inn on the site.

I drove around the theatre yesterday and discovered there will be a program by the Shakespeare Company this summer which will feature Twelfth Night and Henry V. 

I reflected on the times in the past I had seen plays and concerts in this beautiful theatre.

Plays Seen

My appreciation for Shakespeare like many others commenced in high school English. We studied in 10th and 11th grades, As You Like It (1967) and Macbeth (1968). I saw both plays in the Spring at the American Shakespeare Theatre during my high school days. I remember having lunch outside on the grounds at the picnic tables.

Othello – 1981

Othello starred James Earl Jones as Othello , Christopher Plummer as Iago and Kelsey Grammer as Michael Casio. The play premiered in Stratford before opening on Broadway.

Concerts Witnessed

1) MT. Airy (Tom Chapin) and Harry Chapin – 1/25/74

This was the first of eight Harry Chapin concerts we attended. We loved Harry Chapin. I was fortunate to meet him, interview him twice. I saw him record the album Verities and Balderdash at Paul Leka’s studio in Bridgeport in 1974.

Tix2

Harry

2) Jackson Browne and Linda Ronstadt – 3/2/74

This was the first of three times we saw Jackson Browne and the only time we ever saw Linda Ronstadt perform. I recall her performance bathed in a red light with the Stone Ponies.

Jackson Browne did a stunning version of “Song For Adam” on the piano with a solitary candle burning on the piano top.


Tix1

3) New Riders of the Purple Sage

We saw NRPS four times. This was the third concert where they were the only act to perform.

We first saw them with Jerry Garcia on pedal steel guitar in 1970 at the Capitol Theater in Portchester, NY. They were the opening act for The Grateful Dead that night.

4/7/74 – American Shakespeare Theater – Stratford, CT

First Set: Panama Red / Lonesome LA Cowboy /Austin, Texas / She’s No Angel / One Too Many Stories / LA Lady / Henry / Sunday Susie / Teardrops In My Eyes / Sutter’s Mill / Neon Rose / Tico Tico / Parson Brown / Sweet Lovin’ One / You Should Have Seen Me Runnin’ / Dead Flowers / Truck Drivin’ Man


Second Set: I Don’t Know You / Dim Lights, Thick Smoke (And Loud, Loud Music) / Portland Woman / Devil Doll / Lochinvar

Buddy Cage on Pedal Steel Guitar

Dave Nelson on Rhythm Guitar

NRPS 

John “Marmaduke” Nelson on Lead Guitar and Vocals

Marmaduke

Harry Chapin’s Legacy 30 Years On!

This Saturday, July 16th will be the 30th anniversary of Harry Chapin‘s death. We so miss him. Harry Chapin was someone we got close to knowing and seeing in concert many times, at his Broadway play, and during the recording of Verities and Balderdash at Paul Leka’s recording studio in Bridgeport, CT.

The remarkable aspect about Harry Chapin was that he would always find the time to talk to you. I interviewed Harry Chapin several times in my music journalism career. He was always friendly, open, candid, a delight to converse with about topics. Harry educated me about many aspects of life I was not as aware of as he instinctively was such as the definition and impact of loneliness, the severity of the world hunger crisis, the art of poetry, folk music and story song writing.

Harry’s energy and never ceasing activism took on a life of its own. 30 years later the impetus involving Harry captivates new as well as existing generations.  The Harry Chapin Foundation embraces Harry’s legacy as do the ongoing efforts of the Chapin family and Long Island Cares (The Harry Chapin Food Bank).

Please read about and help support the proposed  Harry Chapin postage stamp, A new push for a Harry Chapin postage stamp!

For all his work promoting social justice…Harry Chapin deserves a stamp!

The proposed Harry Chapin postage stamp, unveiled on July 11, 2011

Harry Chapin 30th Anniversary – Daily Post #14

Verities & Balderdash
Image via Wikipedia

This year marks the 30th Anniversary of Harry’s passing. I’ve been thinking about Harry a lot lately. I have written two blog posts this year alone about Harry Chapin, one about his second recording, Sniper and Other Love Songs and one about his third recording, Short Stories.

I plan to publish more concert and personal memories about Harry Chapin soon. I was very fortunate to meet Harry Chapin on several occasions. He was a warm, wonderful, obliging person. If I can ever find the interview I did with him at Paul Leka‘s Connecticut Recording Studio  I will publish that as well.

I hope you will enjoy these two pages scanned from my music concert scrapbook. In the mid-seventies I too was a FM jock on a couple of college radio stations. I also wrote music articles for a local free entertainment magazine known as The Entertainer.  I included the two articles I wrote in 1974 about Harry Chapin for this post.

I saw Harry Chapin and his band recording Verities and Balderdash in Bridgeport in 1974. That’s another story for another day 😉

As Harry always said, “Keep the Change”. 🙂

Harry Chapin – Short Stories – Daily Post 2011 #9

Short Stories (Harry Chapin album)
Image via Wikipedia

It’s such a comfort being back in touch with the musical spirit of Harry Chapin. I received his CD, Short Stories this past week. This was Harry’s third recording, following Heads & Tales and Sniper and other Love Songs. It was the first of four recordings produced by Paul Leka (Paul was Harry’s producer from 1974-1976) at Connecticut Recording Studios in Bridgeport. Connecticut.


Short Stories is just that, a collection of 10 short story songs written by master story-teller Harry Chapin. The recordings are backed up by Harry’s band at the time, Ron Palmer on guitar. John Wallace on bass and Michael Masters on cello. Paul Leka played all keyboards.  There are various other session musicians that were involved and they are listed here.

I played this album many times during my FM college days at WHNU-FM and WVOF-FM from 1974-1978.

My favorite tracks on Short Stories are W.O.L.D., naturally. I especially love the three songs in succession, “They Call Her Easy”, “Mr. Tanner” and “Mail Order Annie”. Theses tracks flow together with an effortless charm.

The first sentence in this stanza expresses how music will always feel to me. 🙂

But music was his life, it was not his livelihood,
and it made him feel so happy and it made him feel so good.
And he sang from his heart and he sang from his soul.
He did not know how well he sang; It just made him whole.

Mr. Tanner by Harry Chapin. Copyright 1973 by ChapinMusic.

“Old College Avenue” hearkens as my latest favorite as I wax nostalgic envisioning the imagery of walking around a campus university. There is just something about academia that fills my consciousness with dreams of youth and times gone by…

Expect more posts about Harry Chapin as the year progresses 😉

Sniper and other Love Songs – Harry Chapin – Daily Post 2011 #3

Harry Chapin after his concert at the Paramoun...
Image via Wikipedia

Harry Chapin is one of our favorite all-time singer-songwriters.  We were privileged to see him perform eight times from 1974 through 1979 . His concerts were a rich mixture of fun, provocative thoughts, and pinch of balderdash.

Harry was always personable and graciously accommodated my requests for interviews several times. I’ll never forget the night he did two back to back concerts for the World Hunger Year charity at Fairfield University and afterwards came back to the college radio station to do a 45 minute interview with me over the air live on WVOF-FM 88.5.  What made this interview significant was that this was the station where I conducted my “Sunday Morning Sunshine” radio show. Harry’s single was the song I used to open every show 🙂

Harry had a special quality about him, he treated you like an equal by honoring what you knew, then he would add to your collective consciousness with his unique perspectives about music and life.

His second album Sniper and other Love Songs was released in October 1972. It was a change in music direction with its added intensity and depth from Harry and his band. His Top 40 hit, “Taxi” from his first album, Heads and Tales was riding the charts in 1972, so Sniper and other Love Songs was quite the contrast.

Sniper and other Love Songs is a mixed bag of story songs, hit singles and folk classics. “Sniper” is a gripping song that puts you in the mind of Charles Whitman, the 1966 Texas  clock tower assassin. Harry’s portrayal of the sniper is eerily poetic as we find out why the sniper kills others. The voice in the sniper’s head that Harry sings about are the echoes of a mother ignoring and blaming her child for being born. The sniper’s last words, “I was, I am, and now I will be”, are an ironic triumph over a neglected life on earth which perhaps sheds the final insight into the psychology of the sniper, who is on a tortured quest for self-actualization.

Our other favorite two songs on this CD are “Better Place to Be“, which is a song that I urge you to listen to understand the aching of the human heart. “Circle” was a song Harry Chapin performed often as the encore at his concerts. We would join hands in the audience, chiming in with him and the band as their extended theater in the round.

I plan to write more about Harry Chapin on this blog, as I gather up my memories, so until that time 😉

Circle, Written By Harry Chapin, Lyrics copyright Harry Chapin Foundation

All my life’s a circle;
But I can’t tell you why;
Season’s spinning round again;
The years keep rollin’ by.

1. Sunday Morning Sunshine
2. Sniper
3. And The Baby Never Cries
4. Burning Herself
5. Barefoot Lady
6. Better Place To Be
7. Circle
8. Woman Child
9. Winter Song