I vividly recall an early appearance by the Manhattan Transfer at the Main Point in Bryn Mawr, PA in the early 1970’s. We were very excited about that gig as we had listened to, and loved, James Taylor’s first album – and we were slated to be his opening act.
He was an incredibly warm and kind guy, quiet and pensive though. Our great friends Ingrid and Jim Croce lived nearby, and came to hear us perform. James lit up upon meeting Jim Croce that night. I don’t remember how it came about, but after that meeting, the band (MT) spent a wonderful afternoon at the Croce’s house, singing and playing music, laughing and soaking in a beautiful warm spring day.
I remember James teaching Marty Nelson from the Transfer how to make a flute from a reed of grass pulled from a nearby pond. And the two of them sat on the bank making up songs while we sang along. James and the Croce’s became good friends – how cool to have witnessed the two jamming into the night with Gene Pistilli from Manhattan Transfer. We knew it was very cool, but perhaps not how really extraordinary it was to hear these great talents together.
By the end of our run at the Main Point, we were closing James’ show with him singing the old Carter Family classic, “Will The Circle Be Unbroken” complete with four-part harmony, tambourines and plenty of love. It was magical for us all.
A year later, after the release of Manhattan Transfer’s first single, “Winterlude,” we all attended a James Taylor concert at Princeton University, where Tim Hauser’s cousin Curt Gathje was a student. Curt later created the artwork for “Jukin”, MT’s first album on Capitol Records. At that concert, we were able to get backstage – you can imagine how early-on in his career this was – and gave him a copy of the single.
That was my last encounter with James Taylor until I attended his concert with Carole King in Philadelphia last spring. Again, I was fortunate to have been invited backstage by my good friend Robbie Kondor who was in the band. I re-introduced myself to James who was very cordial me, as he was to everyone in the huge swarm of admirers waiting for a moment of his time.
But one thing I said commanded his full attention. As I recounted the story of our day in the sun with Jim and Ingrid, he looked deeply into my eyes and a big grin came instantly. He took both my hands in his. “Wow,” he said. “I totally remember that day.” Forty some odd years had passed and we both remembered that magical day as if it were yesterday.
And here’s a funny aside….last New Year’s Eve, my husband and I attended a party at the home of old friends in Birchrunville, PA. I was introduced - as a founding member of the Manhattan Transfer - to a very nice man named David Yaeger. And David said…”wow, you played the Main Point in the 1970’s.” Yep. “You opened for James Taylor.” Yep. Then he said…..wait for it…….”I was your sound man.”
My mother used to tell me that it is a small world and I should always be kind and nice to everyone I meet. Glad I was.