THE SHAKERS IN THE USA: PART 2 - 'ABBEY ROAD ON THE RIVER'
Good morning America! After just a few hours sleep we were wide-awake and ready to face our first full day in Louisville, Kentucky. A hotel breakfast buffet and coffee started our day before a wander around the festival site and its environs. Last minute preparations were being carried out all over the lawn ready for its official opening later in the day. A quick walk down to the banks of the Ohio River to see the mighty riverboat paddle steamers and then it was back to the hotel to sort our passes, guitars etc and work out our schedule. No gig for us today so we could take it easy and take it all in before our debut tomorrow (Friday).
The Rockits had their first gig later today so we arranged to go and give ‘em a bit of support on their first show. Another walkabout first, though. A few blocks away there was ‘Fourth St. Live’, a covered street, featuring a Hard Rock Café and various bars and shops but just on the other side, opposite a beautiful old art deco theatre, we found a quiet bar in which to relax for a while. We met up again with Andy and went for a drive in his huge Ford Econoline van around Louisville. As we reached the more run-down part of town, with the shotgun shacks and bored teenagers hanging out on the porches, the heavens opened so we retreated into a roadside fast ‘soul’ food joint. Some fried chicken (well, we were in Kentucky after all) and a break in the clouds later, we headed back to the Belvedere festival site, as it was time to get the party started. The music was now in full swing. People were still arriving so it wasn’t hugely busy but the sun was shining again and the place had a good vibe.
Our own debut followed the next afternoon on the massive ‘Lawn Stage’, where bright sunlight and a family style atmosphere gave us a fairly relaxed introduction to our scheduled shows. It was great that we could give them a taste of real Liverpool beat amongst the international line up, most of which were tributes to the Beatles. Although some of the songs didn’t seem that well known to some of the audience, we still managed to create the right atmosphere and gave ‘em a good ‘beating’! At one show, in the Muhammed Ali Centre, we played ‘Gerry & The Pacemakers’ ’You’ll Never Walk Alone’. We got some strange comments afterwards as to why we played comedian Jerry Lewis’s theme song from his annual telethon! Despite some of these ‘lost in translation’ moments, our shows went well in all the various venues dotted around the site and it was a great experience generally. Very different to the ‘full on’ style of our own Beatle Week though. However, the party always lasted most of the night after the shows were done, in the cavernous Conservatory that linked the two hotel towers (and then sometimes in the various corridors around the hotel after that!) Much singing, jamming and drinking ensued until dawn most nights.
We also managed to see a fair bit of Louisville and its suburbs thanks to Andy. During our down time he drove us around to get a proper flavour of real America. Music shops, vintage guitars, vintage diners, a trip to Churchill Downs racecourse, home of the world-famous Kentucky Derby and even a stop in a cemetery to see soul man, Wilson Pickett's grave (and the original Colonel Sanders!) was on our itinerary during the course of the festival week. We saw a few 60s legends over the festival too, Peter Noone, Denny Laine (who said it was great to hear our Liverpool accents after so long) and Peter Asher amongst others. Our time there flew by and soon it was our turn to take flight. The journey back to Blighty was somewhat less dramatic than our journey over there (apart from our small 50 seater plane from Louisville to Chicago rollercoastering all over the sky virtually the whole journey!) A five hour layover before boarding our UK bound jet meant we had plenty of time to chill out amongst the various ‘attractions’ of O’Hare airport, before heading home. We uneventfully arrived back in the UK the next morning after a successful trip and were soon back on the beat in the best of cellars, as usual, a few days later. Welcome home, lads!