Just another Thursday night at the Pal…

Since my first visit to the place, back in 1971 or so, The Palomino was more than home to me. Even when I wasn’t out there reviewing a show (which was often), I’d drop by, knowing that the level of the music was pretty reliably good: in fact, I’d as much enjoy the house band (whether led by Jerry Inman, Ira Allen or that guy with the white perm) as many of the headliners.

Tommy Thomas, who owned the place with his brother, for some reason had taken a shine to me, and the bartenders and waitresses treated me nicely. For me, The Palomino was “Cheers,” with live music and an all-you-can-eat Sunday buffet (the food wasn’t much, but it sure was salty — beer consumption went through the roof on Sunday afternoons!).

All of which helps explain what I was doing there on February 19, 1987. I had a night off from my newspaper work, and drove out to the Pal to see Taj Mahal perform; with a band that (as it turned out) included the great Jesse Ed Davis on guitar.

Taj was reliably great, and his ability to move among genres of folk, soul, blues and even jazz made him the Keb’ Mo’ of his day. And “Indian Ed,” while never to make it as a solo performer, was a valued session player.

It was, as I recall, a Thursday night, and there wasn’t much happening at the club. It may even have been raining. In any event, the turn-out wasn’t what Taj deserved; if there were more than 50 people in the room, including the Palomino staff, I’d be surprised.

I tended not to sit at tables in those days, but to wander around the room from a base near the (usually closed) back bar. And there I was, when I spotted two familiar faces: Bob Dylan and George Harrison.

The two had worked together on the “Concert for Bangla Desh,”* and Harrison had cut a good version of Dylan’s “If Not for You.”  I didn’t know that they hung out, but there they were, just chattin’ and laughin’. Knowing neither, having nothing to contribute to the conversation, and not being one to interrupt, I moved on.

Seated about halfway back, at a table just in front of the raised area in the back of the club, I spotted another celebrity: John Fogerty. Him, I knew, having interviewed him a few weeks earlier. It had gone pleasantly enough, so I stopped by the table to say “Howdy.” He’d come to see Taj, he said, as a long-time fan.

Did you see Dylan and Harrison over there by the back bar? I asked. No, he hadn’t, but he did cast a glance that way. Do you know them? No, he didn’t.

Come here, I said, and dragged John over to where Dylan and Harrison were standing. This time, I did have something to say.

Excuse me, I interrupted their conversation. This is John Fogerty. I knew they didn’t know who I was, and didn’t care. But they sure knew who John was, and immediately started talking with him. My work done, I retreated.

Within minutes, Fogerty, Dylan, and Harrison were on stage with Taj and his band, trying to remember each others’ songs, as well as their own. It was a jumble, but God knows a historic one.

I wasn’t able to get space for a full review, but did manage to sneak a news item in the Saturday paper. This was the night that Dylan turned to Fogerty, and pointed out that if he didn’t resume singing “Proud Mary,”** audiences would begin identifying it with Tina Turner’s version.

(This entry originally appeared on my blog on the now-defunct Journalspace; February 19, 2007)

* as had Jesse Ed Davis, who had also recorded with both of them individually
** In protest of something or another, Fogerty had ceased performing songs he’d written and performed as a member of Creedence Clearwater Revival.