WHAT IT WAS

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WHAT IT WAS

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WHAT IT WAS
October 9, 2015
By Michael Erlewine (Michael@Erlewine.net)

Well, what can I say, folks? I am, or should be, speechless, humbled would be the better word, but you know I have to write about my time at the 50th Anniversary of the Grande Ballroom and my time with the Yardbirds. This was WAY beyond any expectations I might have had.

For one, it was an all-day affair and of course I arrived as early as I could. That's just me. I would rather stand around and wait than not be wherever I am going. The event was at the Ford Community and Performing Arts Center in Dearborn Michigan, which is a very large and elegant place. Margaret and I arrived around 10 AM and had been told to find our way to the VIP table, where we were supposed to have tickets and badges waiting for us.

Well, you know how those things go. Somehow, our names were not on the list, so there we stood wondering what to do. Then, someone arrived with the word that Jim McCarty of the Yardbirds had sent down word (or our names were found) that we were to be "special guests." And before we knew it, there we were with large badges on lanyards hanging around our necks that said in big letters "Special Guest." That was embarrassing, but we wore them, of course. What it meant was that as we walked around and people could read the badge, they had to asked us who were were. We must have been somebody famous to have to wear a tag that marked us as special guests. LOL.

And there I would be, trying to explain what on earth made us special, and I could of course come up with no reason other than the truth, that we were friends of Jim McCarty of the Yardbirds and he had greased the way for us. I must say that Michele and (poster-artist) Carl Lundgren who put this whole event together did an outstanding job. No thought was spared to make the event as meaningful and fun as possible. And even the people at the VIP table told me I might just as well relax and enjoy being "special" because that is how we were going to be treated, and we were. It was those tags.

And, as a musician who had been there at the original opening of the Grande Ballroom on October 8th of 1966, and whose band (Prime Movers Blues Band) had played at the Grande, I ended up being interviewed on camera by CBS while I was standing around yesterday. There was also a huge ballroom filled with vendors of memorabilia, mostly rock posters. The room also had a raised stage with bands playing throughout the day. However, the bands were so loud that when I tried to buy a reprint of a poster, neither myself nor the vendor could hear one another, so I had to come back later when the bands were taking a break. That must have been hard on the vendors.

They had a special room where Margaret and I could hang out for the VIPs and, of course, the Special Guests. It had food, drink, and comfortable couches where we went and talked with members of the other bands and generally just took a load off. And so it went.

We were told by the Yarbirds' manager Henry Smith that we should meet him later in the afternoon and that we would be invited to sit in on the sound check. Well, it got way better than that. Henry met us and told us the band was waiting to meet us, so there went, filing past the VIP room, and going into the area that said "Yardbirds Only." I felt sheepish. And there was James McCarty and the whole band, who were so friendly and welcoming. Margaret laughed, because after introductions I apparently stammered out that I was at a loss for words, a mighty rare event.

Then Henry said that as for what we could do, Margaret and I could just be with them, do whatever they did, hangout, go to the sound check, eat dinner with them, and all of that, which we did. It was just too good, so much fun.

We went with them to their "Meet and Greet" session, where the VIPs got their albums signed and they gave out (and signed) a new poster by Carl Lundgren and things like that. Did I mention that earlier we were given a whole bag of stuff, gifts, records, etc.? That too.

We had dinner, Jim McCarty and I sitting together on a couch, talking about the Karmapa, and all kinds of things. Very definitely, it was like a waking dream. And that is how it was. This blog is getting too long, so I will have to save any account of the show until another time. Suffice it to say that the opening act was pure Detroit music from back in the day, literally an assault on the senses, which is how they like it. This was followed by a full show by the Yardbirds, with encores.

So, this old guy had quite a day. Just thought you might like to know.
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