Summer Concerts . . . Some Are Too Big

by Bob Sparrow


U2 Concert in Pasadena

As summer heads into the ‘dog days’ and recording artists wind up their very profitable summer concert schedules, I got to reading about concerts today and comparing them to concerts of yesteryear.

I discovered that back in 2009 the group U2 broke their own attendance record for the best-attended single concert performance when they performed at the Rose Bowl in Pasadena to a sellout crowd of 97,014! They broke their old record of 86,145 set in 1987 at JFK stadium in Philadelphia. That Rose Bowl performance grossed $9.9 million, which was 2nd all time, only to the Three Tenors concert at Giant Stadium, New Jersey, which grossed $13.4 million. Pink Floyd was third, then the Rolling Stones with the Backstreet Boys (how did they get in there?) rounding out the top five.

rolling stones in concert

Mick Jagger one inch tall

The Rolling Stones are at the top of the list for most expensive concert ticket at $624 A PIECE! Surprisingly Fleetwood Mac is second with a price of $307 per ticket and Justin Timberlake is a close third at $293. These are actually ticket prices, scalpers can end up getting significantly more.

I have to say I’m not a big fan of the ‘big concert’ although I saw the Eagles at the Forum in Los Angels last year (their final tour since leader Glen Frey passed away in January of this year) But I find at these big concert venues, unless your seats are front and center, the performers look about a half an inch tall, so you end up watching the entire ‘live in person’ concert on the Jumbotron.

hungry i exterior

Exterior of the hungry i

I’m going to sound like the old geezer that I am here, but seeing top performing acts today is nothing like it was when I was growing up. I think back specifically to going into San Francisco’s North Beach to the ‘hungry i’ to see the Kingston Trio perform. This of course was back in the ‘folk scare era’, the acoustic age, when folk music and the Kingston Trio were really big and I was really into folk music in general and their music in particular. I was also a fan of the Limelighters, who I’d seen at the hungry i and Peter, Paul & Mary who, when they were scheduled to sing on a Friday night at the hungry i, came over to College of Marin, where I was going to school, and did a short mid-day performance at an assembly for us – not too many top acts would do that today!

For not not familiar with the odd-named hungry i, how it got its name is not really clear. Some say the ‘i’ was short for ‘intellectual’, other say it was for ‘id’, either way, the story goes that as they were painting the name over the door, the painter ran out of paint (and apparently capital letters), so all that appeared was ‘hungry i’, and so it stayed.

hungry i interior

The Kingston Trio at the hungry i

The hungry i was the spot to see all of the top folk and comedy acts of the day.  It was a brick-walled basement nightclub with a capacity of about 75 -100 people, all sitting a few feet from the slightly raised stage on one level, no balconies or other fancy seating.  John Philips, later of the Mamas & the Papa and his band, The Journeymen, were the house band. In the early days of the ‘i’, a young Barbra Streisand, who had never performed professionally in her life, begged to perform there for a single night promising that someday she would come back as a big star – I think she kept her promise!

And even though I did see, and I do mean see because I couldn’t hear, the Beatles perform in the Cow Palace in San Francisco in 1964, my favorite all-time concert was the night I saw the Kingston Trio at the hungry i. It was a double date with my good friend Don, but for the life of me I can’t remember either of our dates. (I hope we talked to them at some point during the evening!)

album coverThe Trio walked right past our seats on the aisle as they took the stage. No electronics, no speakers, just three guys (plus their stand-up bass player, ‘Buckwheat’) singing and playing their guitars and banjo. It was like they were singing to us. They would interact with the audience throughout the concert, we could actually see the expressions on their face. If you ever get a chance to listen to a ‘live’ recording of an act from the hungry i, you won’t hear thunderous applause because there are so few people there, but it’s probably ‘Standing Room Only’.   And I know they didn’t set any records that night for top grossing performance – tickets were about $15

Later this year I will see Jimmy Buffett (yes, again!) at Irvine Meadows, at a large (15,000) amphitheater that will close its doors forever after his performance.  Even thought I love his concerts, I won’t feel that Jimmy will be talking or singing to me and he will only be about a quarter inch high on the Jumbotron. It will be enjoyable, but it won’t be the Kingston Trio at the hungry i.  I realize you can never go back, in fact the hungry i has moved down the street and is now a strip club.



The Turntable That Turned Back Time

by Bob Sparrow


The ‘Time Machine’

I took a most unusual and sentimental journey this past week and never left my house. My trip was facilitated by my new ‘record player’. My old turntable, that I had purchased in Japan in 1968, had become inoperable many years ago and with the arrival of first, the CD and then the iPod, I never saw a need to replace it. So my 75 or so 33 1/3 LPs remained silently tucked away in a closet for many years.

There was a time not too long ago when you couldn’t even find a turntable to buy, but in recent years it was discovered that turntable fidelity equaled or surpassed many of the digital-age playing systems, so they’ve made somewhat of a comeback. A new turntable would not only allow me to once again play my old albums, but it would enable me, for the first time, to play the record collection of my departed, best friend, Don Klapperich.


Lt. Cmdr. Klapperich

After Don was done flying F-4 Phantom jets for the Navy, he took a job in Saudi Arabia working for a U.S. company that was contracted by the Saudi Air Force to teach them how to become better combat pilots. When Don left for Saudi Arabia in the late 80s he did not want to take with him his rather large record collection, which include both LPs and 45s, so he asked if I would hold on to them for him.   I stored them with mine in the back of the closet and had not thought much about them . . . until now.

Linda, having read my letter to Santa Claus last year, got me a turntable for Christmas. I decided that I would set up an ‘entertainment center’, such as it is, in my office in the upstairs loft. I built some shelves and started the process of moving records from the downstairs closet to the newly built shelves upstairs. I took them a handful at a time, not because I couldn’t carry more, but because I wanted to reminisce as I flipped through each one as I brought them to their new home.

'Entertainment Center'

The ‘Entertainment Center’

There were many duplicates among Don’s collection and mine, as both of us were part of the ‘Folk Scare of the ‘60s’ and were thus big fans of the Kingston Trio, The Brothers Four, Bud & Travis, The Limeliters and Peter, Paul and Mary. But after that, our collections took two very divergent paths, mine was more pop, things like Neil Diamond, The Everly Brothers and Linda Ronstadt; Don’s reflected his personality: eccentric, esoteric and genius. Classical masterpieces, Broadway musicals, Classic rock, Gregorian chants, pop, flamenco guitar, bluegrass, opera – you name it, he had it. It was an unbelievable collection of eclectic music. Looking through these albums was like exploring the many facets of Don’s complex personality. He may have been the only white, 16-year old in America who owned every one of Ray Charles’ albums. As you might guess, it took me quite a while to move 200+ albums upstairs, as with each handful I had to use my new turntable to hear at least one song on each trip. Then I found it.

Radio Record

The ‘Radio Show’ Record

Wedged between the Berlin Philharmonic Orchestra’s rendition of Beethoven’s 9th Symphony (Don’s personal favorite) and Janis Joplin’s Farewell Songs was a record in a plain paper sheath, no album cover, no label, no markings of any kind, just uneven grooves cut into a black vinyl disc. I was delirious with anticipation as I gingerly placed it on the turntable and eased the stylus onto the first cut.

In 1961 when Don and I were seniors in high school we, The ‘Neverly Brothers’, were asked to sing on Hugh Turner’s radio show, ‘What’s Doing in Novato’, on KTIM, which was broadcasting from Pini Hardware on Grant Avenue in downtown Novato. Don’s parents recorded the show from home by putting a small tape recorder next to their radio – which is the excuse I’m using for the way we sounded. Don’s dad then took the recording into San Francisco and had it ‘pressed’ into a record. I had only heard the record once, shortly after his dad brought it home.


The ‘Neverly Brothers’

I remember that day like it was yesterday; it was bad enough that we were nervous about singing on the radio, but through the window in Pini Hardware we could see a most-attractive girl, Carole Garavanta, who was definitely out of our league, sitting in her parked convertible in front of the store watching us through the window and listening to us on her car radio.   She was probably waiting for us to stop singing so she could come into the store and buy some wing nuts.  We sang three songs and were interviewed by Hugh Turner, answering questions about ‘our music’ and what we planned to do after we graduated in June from Novato High School.

I sat motionless, mesmerized by the spinning record as it took me back to that time and place.  We sounded like . . . a couple of naive high school kids.   As the record came to a scratchy end and I was brought back to the present, there was a smile on my face and a tear in my eye.  It was great to hear Don’s voice again.

Just a few days away from the four-year anniversary of Don’s passing, his record collection has helped me understand a little bit more about my enigmatic best friend; and discovering our ‘radio show record’ was a gift that he probably didn’t even know he left me . . . or maybe he did.