It’s All About The Music

Apr 18, 2019   //   by bwilber   //   Bob's Blog  //  Add a Comment

I’ve been a music fan for as long as I can recall. That’s a little odd, because I am completely devoid of any “music playing” genes in my DNA. The most complex instrument I could ever master was the steering wheel, although to be fair to this blogger I was, and continue to be, a world-class percussionist on said steering wheel. I’ve really just been a fan all my life. Music takes me places, and over the years those places have varied widely, from incredibly happy locations to darker “we’ll all get through this together” corners. It’s what music does best.

My first record of any sort was a 45. I apologize now, to anyone born after 1970, for the term “45.” For you, I can barely explain it. It was a record. A small record. It just had one song on each side. Do you know what a record was? To own one, and to put it on your record player and listen to the needle scratch its way into the first groove, was magic. My first 45 was by Jimmy Dean. Yes, the same guy with his own brand of sausage. It was “PT 109” and it was a song about John F. Kennedy and the patrol boat he captained during World War II. It was cut in half by a Japanese destroyer. The boat, not my 45 record. I played it endlessly on our record player, because it was mine. My mom bought it for me. I didn’t ask for it, I didn’t even know the song or record existed, she just brought it home one day and presented it to me as my own. It was a big day, for this six-year-old.

My first album (OK, surely everyone knows what those were, and still are, and don’t call me Shirley) was “Meet The Beatles.” Again, my mom was amazing. I had “reserved” our television set to make sure we’d be watching “The Ed Sullivan Show” on the night of February 9, 1964 when The Beatles made their American TV debut. I was transfixed. I was seven years old. The next day, she came home from running errands and handed me the album. Again, I never asked for it despite the fact I was absolutely well known for ceaselessly begging for any toy or special thing I wanted. I never thought it was possible that I’d have my very own album, nor did I even consider that it would be by The Beatles. She just did it. She knew. No one had a better mom than I did. I miss her every day.

Let me digress for a bit. My mom has been in my dreams a lot lately, and I find it interesting that she’s always around the same age in those nightly encounters. It’s Taffy Wilber in her 50s. Not the gorgeous wife of a ballplayer. Not the beautiful and vivacious KMOX radio personality. Not the executive who founded her own PR firm when women really didn’t do audacious things like that. Not the old lady with dementia who may or may not have recognized me the last time I saw her. Just my mom from my late high school and early college years. She’s just been showing up a lot lately. I wonder what that means.

Anyway, my mom brought “Meet The Beatles” home and my music “career” as a fan was kicked into high gear. Now, 55 or so years later, it’s still in that same high gear although it’s often turbo-charged. I’m a music geek, a music freak, and I’m hopelessly addicted to sound.

Phenomenal show. If “Rain” comes to your town, get tickets! (Click on any image to enlarge)

The connection here is what Barbara and I did last Saturday night, when we ventured into downtown Minneapolis for the third time in six days, to see a concert at the majestic State Theater. The band, and the show, was called “Rain” and it was a Beatles tribute group. We’d seen a couple of those types of shows in Vegas, and they’re always fun, but the reviews I had read about this touring act were stellar. Barbara wasn’t sure why we needed to see this show, but after a little convincing she went along with the plan. We had a marvelous time.

It’s a full concert, spanning The Beatles career, and it’s all played “live” note for note. The band members stay in character and have all the voices, mannerisms, and playing so well mastered it’s almost (yes, almost) like seeing John, Paul, George, and Ringo themselves. It’s sort of a “I can’t believe my eyes and ears” type of show. Really spectacular.

And speaking of The Beatles, here’s a fun thing you can do to illustrate people’s ages and eras. Ask anyone under 40 (maybe even under 50) to name the four Beatles. If they can, and that’s a stretch usually, they will typically just randomly pluck the first names from their memory bank. It might come out as “Ummm… ┬áPaul, Ringo, uhhh, John, and who was the other one? Gerry? No, George!”

Ask anyone who lived through Beatlemania and it will be automatic: John, Paul, George, and Ringo. That’s how the media always referred to them, and to us those four names trip off the tongue automatically in that order.

So that was fun, and the music was terrific. The four guys were great players, great singers, and magnificent performers. The show was chronological, so it started with them on Ed Sullivan and then followed them through Beatlemania, into the “Rubber Soul” era when they were expanding their craft into more sophisticated song writing, then the Sgt. Pepper era, and right through Abbey Road. It ends, of course, with “Hey Jude” and the crowd sang every word of it. I spotted more than a few tears running down the cheeks of people around us. Not me, of course. Oh no. Never.

Tonight’s headliner at The Dakota Club in Minneapolis!

And tonight, there’s more great music on the horizon. Ever heard of Daryl Stuermer? If you have, you know what a virtuoso he is on the guitar. Chances are, however, that the name is not familiar to most of you. It is to me, and I can’t wait to see him play and perform tonight, back at The Dakota Club in downtown Minneapolis. Tonight will be our third Dakota show in 11 days. Beat that!

OK, here’s the short version of why I can’t wait to see Mr. Stuermer. My senior year in high school coincided with my sister Mary’s first year of college. She spent that year on a transfer program, attending school in England. While there, she met one Alan Spence Learmonth, a full-on kilt-wearing Scotsman who also happened to be a phenomenal bass and guitar player. He introduced her to a British band that was just starting to “break” in terms of record sales and popularity over there, although they were still virtually unknown in the USA. Mary sent me a cassette tape of one of their early albums, although it was a “live” recording of one of their concerts. That was a little tough for me, because “live” albums are usually popular due to the fact the listener gets to hear an actual stage performance of studio songs they already know. I had never heard any of the complicated and strange songs on the tape. The title of it was “Genesis Live.”

It amazed me. It actually changed me, and I’m not exaggerating. It changed my musical taste forever. It was a like a door opening to an entirely new style of music and playing that took my tastes in music to a level I never knew existed. And that guy Peter Gabriel, who was the lead singer, wasn’t bad either.

Anyway, as you likely know, that guy Peter Gabriel left the group to start a solo career just about two years later. When that happened, the drummer for the band moved out front to sing. Some guy named Phil Collins. For the sake of touring, though, they needed a second drummer because being lead singer and playing the drums doesn’t work very well. For their first tour with this set up, they enlisted the brilliant Bill Bruford (formerly of Yes) and after that they hired Chester Thompson, who was so brilliant the band never played another show without him. A few years after that, guitarist Steve Hackett left the band as well.

The remaining three guys, Mike Rutherford, Tony Banks, and the aforementioned Mr. Collins, decided to hire a new touring guitarist. They handpicked Daryl Stuermer, who had been wowing audiences while playing for Jean-Luc Ponty. Like Chester Thompson, Daryl Stuermer played every concert with Genesis from that point forward (countless sold-out shows over a 30-year span) and when Phil Collins became a solo star, Daryl was always on stage with him, as well. He’s incomparable. He’s phenomenal. And I really don’t have a clue what his show is going to be like tonight, but I can’t wait to experience it.

Back to normal…

Here at home, in Woodbury, the mid-April blizzard from last week is now all gone. That’s the beauty of April blizzards. They don’t stick around long.

It is still a bit mushy and muddy out there, though. When a foot of snow melts in a matter of five days or so, and then is followed by 3 inches of rain (yesterday) things get a little saturated. Thank heavens for a good sump pump.

That’s about it for this week. Mr. Stuermer awaits at The Dakota tonight. Barbara is on her way home with hot soup from the grocery store deli. It’s not raining today, and by Saturday we’ll be in the 70s. I think (hope) we’re past the point of worrying about more blizzards, but there are no guarantees. It’s Minnesota.

Take care everyone, and I’ll see you next week with my review of the Daryl Stuermer Duo show. I’ll be stunned if I’m disappointed.

As always, I’m “that guy” who really likes it when you click on the “Like” button at the top. Maybe I need affirmation. Who knows? Does Peter Gabriel know?

Bob Wilber, at your service and unable to get “Watcher of the Skies” from “Genesis Live” out of my head.



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