My father wanted to be an artist. He was fortunate to have the opportunity to study his art at Cooper Union in NYC. Restless, he left school early to pursue his career with all the passion of someone meant to do something else. He was led to a different path. A new family brought new responsibilities. He went into advertising. Think “Mad Men.” (Years later, he would complete his studies with me filming his graduation ceremony.) By the mid 1960’s he had established a small, but well respected advertising agency on Madison Avenue. One of his clients at the time was WPLJ, the FM affiliate of WABC Radio.
In August, 1971, on a typically hot summer’s day, my father took the pre-rush hour train from Grand Central and came home early. It was unusual. He walked in and announced that he was going to “freshen up” and then head back to the city for a client event that evening. He said it was a, “WPLJ thing” with some band that was recording a live concert over the radio. He said he had a ticket for me, if I wanted to go. My mom smiled. I think they might have planned this out, yes? My parents were always thinking of ways to introduce my brothers and me to the arts. Some of my most vivid memories of my time with them were of visits to museums, theaters and concerts. That night I was fourteen. I didn’t even know the name of the band, but it sounded groovy! Of course, I said, “Yes.”
We rode the post-rush hour train back to the city, then grabbed a cab to A&R Studios. I followed my dad inside and through the studio, as he greeted his business partners. Along the way, I politely shook hands or nodded where appropriate as he introduced me to many people who seemed to have had a reason to be there. We made our way to our seats. One or two hundred others took theirs around us. “Wow, pretty close!” I thought. My dad must have been doing a good job for the station. I asked him again who was playing.
I had heard The Allman Brothers on the radio, but didn’t own any of their albums yet. I liked them and this was my first live rock concert. Their albums would be in my collection, shortly. The lights changed and it got very quiet. The WPLJ DJ (Dave Herman?) began his broadcast. The band took the stage. It was the Allman Brothers in their original form, lead guitarist Duane Allman; his younger brother, organist-singer Gregg Allman; second lead guitarist Dickey Betts, original bassist Berry Oakley; and drummers Butch Trucks and Jaimoe. It was amazing. They played most of the set from their recent show at The Fillmore East and included a special tribute to saxophonist King Curtis; a frequent collaborator of Duane’s who had recently passed away.
By the end of the first song, I wanted to be a rock star. I was hooked. When the show ended, I met many of the same people on the way out that I met on the way in. This time, I shook their hands with more gusto. A couple of them even belonged to the band. Thank you, Dad! The broadcast, recording and album were a hit. What no one knew at the time was that two months later, Duane would be killed in a motorcycle accident. It was one of the band’s last concerts together. It was a special night. On the way home, I begged my dad to let me take guitar lessons. He said I could, but I had to start with classical guitar. The basics. I started the lessons a few months later and I’ve been playing guitar ever since.
Well, that’s not entirely true. I gave up playing for a few years when I lived in Los Angeles and my guitar was stolen. When I moved to Auburn in 2001, I was introduced to Jon Peterson, a local musician who encouraged me to start playing again. We played together and he turned me on to the vibrant, talented pool of musicians who live in the area. One of them was Loren Barrigar.
The first time I heard Loren play was with his brother, Kevin. I simultaneously thought, “This is the best acoustic guitarist I have ever heard” and “Boy, do I suck at guitar. Time for some lessons and practice.” I knew he was special. The night at A&R Studios resonated in my memory. Sometime later, I got to meet Loren and discovered he’s as humble and good natured as he is an extraordinarily talented musician. I have been entertained and inspired by Loren’s playing for many years.
When Auburn Public Theater came into being in 2005, music became a focal point of our programming. If we were going to be recognized as a venue for quality performances, Loren Barrigar needed to be a part of it. Loren Barrigar has graced our stage numerous times as a solo artist and with many other collaborators, including Dusty Pas’cal, Austin Gravelding, his brother Kevin. When Loren teamed up with his current partner, Mark Mazengarb his playing soared to an even higher level. Mark both complimented Loren’s style as a player and pushed his sensibilities as a musician, opening him up to new ideas and influences.
Loren and Mark are playing this week at Auburn Public Theater. I’ll be there, enjoying the show, standing in the back, because there are no seats left!
Photo courtesy of Rolling Stone and lorenandmark.com.