I can’t believe I just found your web page! Here I am, with a thousand things to do and I’m sitting in front of the computer decompressing after a hectic week. I am the Executive Director of The Historic Strand Theatre a 1,000 seat, 75 year year-old venue in Lakewood, New Jersey and Steve Chapin, “Big John” Wallace and Howard Fields are appearing live in concert at 8 pm tonight. My thoughts should be at the theatre, but suddenly I’m carried back about 17 years . . .
In the summer of 1980, Harry and the band appeared at The Garden State Arts Center (now PNC Bank Arts Center) in Holmdel, NJ and my friends and I sat on the lawn, in “the cheap seats”. The concert was so wonderful we all agreed that next year we would get seats inside and up front. A few months later, I heard that Harry was appearing at a local club. I asked around, but no one wanted to go. They all said “Oh, we just saw him, we’ll wait until next summer.” So I went anyway. It was a great concert, small crowd so it was real intimate. Just Harry and Steve. It was before Sequel was released and we all heard it for the first time. After the show, Harry was in the lobby selling books, t-shirts, tapes and whatever for World Hunger Year. He would autograph anything you bought, and if you paid with $20 dollars and said “Harry, keep the change,” he’d give you a kiss, hug or handshake. I still have that $12 book of poetry, and the rest of the $20? Well, let’s just say it’s the best $8 I ever spent.
It turned out that I was last one of ‘our crowd’ to see Harry again. ‘Next summer’ never came for him or us. He died less than a week before the scheduled appearance at the Arts Center.
When a concert promoter faxed me the info on The Steve Chapin Band, I knew I had to have them play at my theatre. Recently I received a demo tape and song list from the Band office. My 14 year old daughter was with me when I opened the package and started to cry. When she asked why I was crying I said “I never though I’d hear these songs live again.” There it was in print – Mr. Tanner, Mail Order Annie, A Better Place to Be, WOLD, Circle. Steve sings the vocals on Harry’s songs now. I guess I’ll be sitting through sound check, to get all the tears out. This is a big, shi-shi affair for the theatre and I can’t be walking around looking like Tammy Faye Baker!
I know this is real stream of consciousness and I certainly won’t be offended if there’s nothing you want to post, but it felt good to tell “my story” to someone who understands.
Folks from World Hunger Year and a local FoodBank will be on hand tonight to shake the trees as Harry would. A reporter from local newspaper this week asked me why. I said “That’s the question Harry asked. His answer, his stories and his music touched my life. In his absence it’s up to all of us to keep the circle going.”
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