I was “turned on” to Harry Chapin around 1975, by a photographer friend of mine, when he played the little remembered song “Dog Town” for me. I had never heard anything like it, and I became an instant Harry Chapin fan.
Over the next couple of years I collected all of the Harry Chapin albums I could find, and the intensity of my like for Harry grew. I was in college at this time, and actually succeeded in converting all four of my roommates (one of them a “dyed in the wool” acid rocker) into Chapin fans as well.
I think it was during Christmas break in 1977, when I learned that Harry was scheduled to play a concert at St. Vincent’s College, about fifty miles from my home. Of course I absolutely had to go!
I contacted my photographer friend, and together we purchased a pair of tickets for the event, which was but a few days away. Unfortunately; the night of the concert a blizzard descended upon Western Pennsylvania, and virtually everything wound to a complete stop. Schools were closed, major highways were blocked, and the State Police were on the radio urging everyone to remain in their homes. None the less, a call to an area radio station confirmed that the concert was still on, and my friend and I were off!
For three hours we navigated over icy miles of snow-blown back roads (the main route was closed), suspecting that even if we survived the trip, we would very likely arrive at Saint Vincent’s to find that Harry was snow bound somewhere between there and Pittsburgh. We almost put the car in a ditch twice, and had to run around a jack-knifed truck on the last big hill, but we finally made it into the parking lot of Saint Vincent’s gymnasium, where we “stashed” our car in a convenient snowdrift.
We were an hour late, but so was Harry. Inside there was a pathetic sight. The total audience could not have numbered more than a hundred people, most of them frozen and storm haggard like my companion and I. We found seats near the stage (easy enough, the crowd was so small that EVERYONE was sitting near the stage), and sat with our cold feet immersed in the giant pool of melted snow which had formed under the thawing concert goers. As we waited my friend predicted that Harry would never perform, and that if he did, he would play a very short set before making a mad dash for his next appointment in Columbus, Ohio. My friend was wrong.
When Harry came on stage that night, he smiled, and thanked us for braving the weather to see him. Then he sat down and proceeded to do a four hour show, complete with encores! It was so intense that I actually found myself wiping tears from my eyes. In the end Harry walked down off the stage, and shook hands with every single person in the audience! I have never experienced anything like it.
I would get to see Harry once more during the course of his short life, at the old Stanley Theater in Pittsburgh, around 1980. That show also lasted four hours, and in spite of the full house, Harry was waiting for everybody in the lobby afterwards. It was a fantastic experience, but it still could not rival that winter night at Saint Vincent’s. Even twenty years later, that experience remains vivid in my mind, and I am thankful to all of you for permitting me to share it with you.
Please note: this story is the sole property of its author. Unauthorized use is prohibited without the author’s permission.