As I did the dishes Thursday afternoon, I kept track of the tunes coming from the little mp3 player so I could post the list on Facebook. I no longer offer Dishwashing Music daily, but I do so maybe twice a week these days, usually when the player gives me an intriguing set of songs.
Thursday’s set was just that: “It Don’t Come Easy” by Ringo Starr, “Get Together” by the Youngbloods, “Pain” by the Mystics, “Baker Street” by Gerry Rafferty, “No Time” by the Guess Who, “The Boxer” by Simon & Garfunkel and “The Ballad Of Casey Deiss” by Shawn Phillips. I chose to highlight the Shawn Phillips track, as I hadn’t heard it for a while.
And as I searched at YouTube for a video of the tune and then listened to it to make sure it would work for my post, I wondered idly when Phillips – a Texan who currently lives in South Africa – would make his way back to Minnesota for some performances. He came through St. Cloud a few years ago, and I somehow missed it. Shaking my head regretfully, I finished the Facebook post and went on with my afternoon.
The Texas Gal came home, and I walked across the street to check on the mail. When I came back in, she was on the phone with someone. That someone said something funny and she laughed, and as she did, she handed the phone to me. The caller, it turned out, was my long-time pal Rick, calling from the southern Minnesota town of Kenyon, where he and his family moved a couple of years ago.
After some pleasantries, he told me the news: Shawn Phillips was playing a concert Saturday (today) in the small town of Zumbrota, about seventeen miles east of Kenyon. “Zumbrota?” I asked.
“I know, I know,” Rick said. “It’s weird. But that’s how Phillips is. He finds small venues when he’s around Minnesota.”
That’s true, and it’s part of Phillips’ continuing affection for Minnesota, which for some reason was one of the few places – along with his native Texas – where his records sold well and his concerts were well-attended back in the early 1970s, when his unique combination of rock and folk brought him some attention and some sales.
Phillips’ chart presence was not massive: Between 1971 and 1976, four of his albums reached the Billboard 200; two others bubbled under, including my favorite, 1970’s Second Contribution; two of his singles reached the Billboard Hot 100 during those years, and two others bubbled under. Nevertheless, whenever he came through St. Cloud in those years, tickets to his shows were hard to get.
“So,” Rick continued, “there are a bunch of us going.” He mentioned a few names, and they were folks I know, some fairly well. “And,” he went on, “I was wondering if you wanted to come down and see the show. I’ll cover the ticket. I figure I owe you a ticket to see Shawn Phillips.”
Well, that was true. Back in May of 1972, I had a pair of tickets on my dresser for a weeknight Phillips concert in St. Cloud State’s Stewart Hall, one for me and one for Rick. On the Saturday evening before – and I feel as if I’ve told this tale here before although I couldn’t find it in the blog’s Word files – I saw Rick standing at the corner of his lawn, seemingly waiting for someone. I walked across the street to chat with him as he waited, and he invited me to a party – a kegger – in a place called Hidden Valley somewhere near the small town of Sartell, which at that time was about ten miles north of St. Cloud. (The cities have expanded during the past forty-two years and now border each other.)
I tagged along to the party with Rick and came home sometime after midnight, drunk and ill. My parents, to understate things, were not amused. I was grounded for the next week: Home from college right after work each day, no evening excursions, no friends visiting, no phone calls. Well, I deserved some kind of discipline, and I could still see my (potential) girlfriend during the day. The only thing that would really hurt would be missing Shawn Phillips.
I got my tickets to Rick. I think my folks called him, and he came over and picked them up. He says I dropped them to him out of my bedroom window, which is a far better tale, so we’ll go with that. I don’t know who used the ticket that would have been mine. As it happened, KVSC, the college radio station, broadcast Phillips’ show from Stewart Hall, so on the night of the concert, I was able to hear his performance. But it would have been far better to be there. So, yes, Rick was correct as we talked on the phone two days ago: He owed me a ticket to a Shawn Phillips concert.
Zumbrota, however, is 130 miles away, a lengthy drive for me. I’d stay a night in a hotel in Kenyon owned by one of Rick’s in-laws, and hotel stays present their own challenges for me. And I’ve just barely gotten over whatever bug it was that laid me cross-wise this past week. So for reasons of budget and health, I had to decline the offer. Rick understood. We talked a bit about an upcoming Strat-O-Matic get-together in St. Cloud, and then I told him to enjoy the Shawn Phillips show. And I told him that the long-standing debt is no longer on the books.
All of that, then, made it easy to find a tune for this morning. Here, from Shawn Phillips’ 1970 album Second Contribution, is “The Ballad of Casey Deiss,” and it’s today’s Saturday Single.