remembrance by one third of Peter Paul and Mary)
it is october of 1971. i am
stunned. on the phone with me is harold leventhal (pete
seeger’s manager) and he’s asking me if i would consider
performing solo at Carnegie Hall in december.
mind you, as the ‘Paul’ of
Peter, Paul and Mary, i have performed twice before in
the ‘hallowed’ hall, but we have stopped work as a trio
over a year ago and now, on the basis of what could only
be called a modest success with the single recording
of "There Is Love (the wedding song)", i am
being given an opportunity to return once again...and
as a solo?!
in all innocence and with
encouragement and assurances from my ex-manager and his
staff that such a concert would be well within their
capabilities to handle, i excitedly agree and just six
short weeks later on a december afternoon find myself
backstage at carnegie planning the final integration
of a concert format involving the paul-and band that
had backed me up on the first solo album and the first
carnegie showing of an animated cartoon, "Norman
Normal", produced by Warner Brothers subsequent
to a sound track i had created with mouth sounds for
a mid-60’s peter paul and mary recording.
the sound check behind us,
the band and i are headed upstairs to the upstairs dressing
rooms to begin wrapping rubber bands with tiny jingle
bells around the poster/program books we had designed
for the evening when charlie rothschild, one of the management
team, calls me at the foot of the stairs. he looks terrible...
"Charlie", i inquire, "...why
the long face?"
"I’m really sorry Noel",
he says. "We dropped the ball"
"Huh?", i return.
"We didn’t keep track
of the ticket sales", he replies.
"Well, how many tickets
have they sold?", i ask with a sinking feeling.
his voice trails off and he lifts a hand helplessly.
"You mean we have...",
i pause to do some quick mathematics, "...uh, over
2000 empty seats?!"
"I’m afraid so.",
i’m speechless, "What
do you think we ought to do?"
"Well, i guess it’s up
to you...", he says sheepishly.
this is staggering. aside
from all the personal arrangements i’ve made with family
and friends, i’ve pulled together these ‘party favors’,
the animated cartoon showing, the, the...why i’ve even
arranged for a 24 track recording truck to record the
thing. i can’t cancel now!!
i look up the stairs where
the band had gone. i look back at charlie. i close my
eyes and for some reason i remember this scripture about
a man who’s giving the wedding feast and none of his
expected guests can attend...
"Go get me the tickets...",
i tell charlie.
"Huh?", he blinks.
"Go to the box office,
leave maybe 200, 300 tickets there but bring the rest
of them back here", i say again.
"What are you gonna do?",
he asks haltingly.
"We’re gonna spread the
wealth...", i smile...
and while charlie ambles away
toward the box office, i join the band upstairs. as we’re
threading the tiny little bells onto the rubber bands
i explain to them that there has been a serious oversight
by management...but that we are going to have ourselves
a carnegie concert tonight no matter...
and so, at four o’clock the
afternoon of the evening performance, each member of
the band hits the street with about 250 tickets and,
headed in a different direction, seeks out every window-shopping
couple they can find. after all, it is the season to
be jolly and here are two free tickets to carnegie hall
for a folk christmas and hey, if it’s boring we can leave...it’s
it takes less than two hours
to distribute the remaining tickets and by seven thirty
the hall is packed...the omnipresent tinkle of tiny bells
seems like a blanket of giggles in the austere hall...a
little unruly...a little noisy...but packed.
...and didn’t we have a grand
time?! most of the peter paul and mary material was greeted
warmly that evening (slowly, as a growing awareness of
just who this ‘noel paul stookey’ is anyway?!) along
with the newest of the band songs. dick kniss, the ex
peter paul and mary bass player made his singing debut...and
peter yarrow, just in from kansas city, made a surprise
appearance to sing a duet with me at the close of the
first half. paul winter brought his best wishes and a
basket of apples from connecticut. john denver came backstage
to give me a hug. NORMAN NORMAL, the animated cartoon,
was shown at the conclusion of intermission and set up
nicely the final 40 minute finale which included (and
properly so) a rock and roll version of jingle bells.
almost a year later, in 1972, we released a single in-concert
album from that event; "One Night Stand" and,
typical of their generous ways in the 60’s, Warner Brothers
incorporated most of the evening concert losses in their
since reuniting in 1978, Peter,
Mary and I have returned to carnegie perhaps a half a
dozen times to perform our Christmas/Hannukah program
with the New York Choral Society. the programs are always
well received, well attended and, in fact, recently televised
for the Public Broadcasting Stations.
still, for me, there will
always be this lingering sound of tiny jingle bells in
the air and a special place in my heart for the most
loved, most disastrous concert of them all