Pete's Blog

My First Concert

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This has become a standard autobiographical device among musicians, or at least among people interviewing musicians. Everyone seems to think they can learn something about the inarticulate or incoherent flavor du jour if they ask what was the first show they ever saw. At least it's something he'll talk about, anyway. My first concert of something other than classical music was when I was perhaps ten, and my parents took me to see the great gospel-singer Mahalia Jackson at the Academy High School football stadium. I remember very little of the music, although family legend holds that I wept. I remember a few things, though. First, we were the only white people in a crowd of perhaps a thousand, which made less of a difference to me then than it does now. I was terribly proud when Tom Ray and Lew Prince took me to a Bobby Bland show in a big old black nightclub St. Louis where we were the only whites. Twenty years earlier I really couldn't have cared less. I also remember the entrance she made, driving in the far gate in a huge white Cadillac, driving all the way around the running track, then onto the field where the stage was set up. For some reason the stage faced along the field away from the gate, despite the fact that most of the crowd was in bleachers along one side. I also remember it was very cold. She wore a fur wrap (white? with a white dress?) and when I followed a group of fans down onto the field to get her autograph ("Mahalia Jacks.." I wonder where it is now, and I wonder what my parents were thinking as they watched me go down into the scrum) someone called out for her big hit "Move Up a Little Higher." She said, "I just want to move up a little warmer."

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