Favorite Derby Party Ever: R&R RePast

Posted: May 1st, 2024 | Filed under: Rock & Roll Rewind | 2 Comments »

I am a rock & roll lifer. I got stories, lots of stories. Here’s another.

Derby parties. Derby concerts. I’ve been to a few.

When the two merge it can be really special.

The Derby Eve Jam used to be a big thing. May still be, don’t pay as much attention as I used to.

The first I remember from back in he day is Canned Heat at Louisville Downs. Also saw Emmylou Harris there, with some original Crickets in her band. Allman Brothers at Freedom Hall. Dwight Yoakum, I believe.

Plenty more, on Derby Eve mostly.

But my two all time favorites were on the day after, Derby Sunday.

In ’78 or ’79, just before their classic lineup broke up because of band turmoil, the great under-appreciated rock band of forever: Little Feat. At Louisville Gardens.

Lowell George. Bill Payne. Sam Clayton. Paul Barrere. Kenny Gradney. Richie Hayward.

There’s was a unique combo of southern rock, blues, country, syncopated swamp gumbo with an extra dash of special sauce.

George’s lyrics were a cut way above. Funny. Sly. Descriptive.

Astute and melodic as: I’ve been from Tuscon to Tucumcari/ Tehachapi to Tomapah/ Driven every kind of rig that’s ever been made/ Driven the back roads so I wouldn’t get weighed

Or sly like: Well, we made all the hot spots, my money flowed like wine/Then that low down southern whiskey began to fog my mind/ And I don’t remember church bells or the money I put down/ On the white picket fence and boardwalk of the house at the edge of town/ Oh, but boy, do I remember the strain of her refrain/ The nights we spent together, and the way she called my name

(Personal aside: That the Feat, an incredibly talented and innovative group, have never been inducted into the Rock & Roll Hall of Fame has always to me diminished the importance of said “honor.”)

Feat were smokin’ hot that night, far and away the best of several times I got to hear that iteration live.

But my favorite Derby gig of always was actually a fund raising charity event, though I honestly do not recall the beneficiary. It was held in one of the hotel ballrooms on Sunday as the Derby blow out for barkeeps and waiters of all the nighttime establishments in town, who had worked through the busiest week of the calendar.

Restaurants and bars would buy tables for their employees to come and finally savor the kick out the jams nature of Derby week. Maybe 300-400 in attendance, eating and drinking and ready to party. So out and about was I then, one of the barkeeps, Cosmo Probably, invited me as a guest.

Lucky me.

The line up: NRBQ. Joe Ely.

Yes, my friends, don’t bother knockin’ the place was rockin’.

It was the Mother of all Dance Parties.

I honestly don’t remember who played first, that is but a blur.

It was the classic lineup of the Q. Terry Adams (who is still at it all these decades later) on keyboards. Joey Spaminato on bass. Tom Ardolino thrashing the traps. And Big Al Anderson on guitar.

It was during the period when they were the faves of the cognoscenti, and would pass a hat for people to make song suggestions. Simply too fun.

I’m also not sure if Ely’s band that night included Louisvillian David Grissom or not. He certainly played six string for Ely on a couple of visits (and in the video below), just can’t say for sure about that night.

The tune I most identify with Lubbock, Texas’s Ely is actually a Robert Earl Keen song.

The road goes on forever/ And the party never ends

At least for those two Derby weekends.

— c d kaplan

2 Comments on “Favorite Derby Party Ever: R&R RePast”

  1. 1 jay goldstein said at 7:30 am on May 2nd, 2024:

    C…great read, thanks.

    Hey, my full band will be doing a showcase at The Monarch on May 30th…. doors open at 7p with SadBlack Lab,opening act.
    The Monarch is a great listening room venue for singer-songwriters…Jim James and Jason Isbel have played there… It’s free,byob

  2. 2 gnash001 said at 8:43 am on May 3rd, 2024:

    Add Warren Zevon to that list of snubbed candidates for the RNRHOF. At least last year he made it to the last round.

    The best Derby weekend show I remember was Willie Nelson on Derby Night. He played Whiskey River at least four times.

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