Stars pay tribute to Mill Valley record shop owner
Joel Selvin, Chronicle Senior Pop Music Critic
Tuesday, September 11, 2007
Bettye LaVette wept as she talked about John Goddard, owner of the Mill Valley record store, Village Music, which closes this month after more than 60 years. LaVette was a forgotten rhythm and blues vocalist with nothing going on when Goddard called her five years ago and asked her to play one of his birthday parties at the Sweetwater.
She has since recorded two albums - the second, "Scene of the Crime," is due to be released next month and was produced by Patterson Hood of the Drive-By Truckers - and found a national audience for herself, success and acclaim she never knew as a younger performer.
"Thanks to John," she told the Great American Music Hall audience on Sunday at a tribute concert to Goddard, "I can send my grandchildren an allowance every week for the first time in my life."
LaVette, whose specialty as a vocalist is raw emotion, was only the most visibly moved of the evening's performers. With Goddard and his wife seated front row center, the entire procession of performers - from rock stars Sammy Hagar and Bob Weir to rhythm and blues pioneers Jimmy McCracklin and Sugar Pie DeSanto - played their shows directly to Goddard.
The Music Hall event was the second live music extravaganza to be thrown in Goddard's honor. Bonnie Raitt, '50s rock 'n' roller Frankie Ford, John Sebastian with David Grisman and others appeared last month at Mill Valley's 142 Throckmorton Theatre and then spilled across the street to the Sweetwater, where the music continued into the early hours.
Obviously, this guy did more for these musicians than give them discounts on records they bought from him. When someone as clearly crusty and wary as LaVette cries while she credits Goddard with igniting her career, it's proof positive that Goddard was more than another record store owner.
The show Sunday featured many of the same performers who, over the years, graced the stage at Goddard's Sweetwater soirees. With an audience full of musicians and other with-it scenesters, McCracklin can perform his 1958 R&B hit, "The Walk," to a roomful of people who get it. Musical director and the evening's host Scott Mathews early on dubbed the house band "Village Idiots" and called the crowd "Village People."
The evening began with the highly energetic DeSanto, a 72-year-old live wire who used to run around the Fillmore with Etta James when they were teenagers. Slide guitarist Roy Rogers sounded like he grew up in Mississippi, not Richmond. McCracklin led the band with exuberance and authority.
Sammy Hagar doesn't play a lot of clubs and admitted to being nervous. "I have been drinking," he allowed. With his own well-oiled band behind him, playing at a volume that suited the small room, Hagar threw together a wonderful four-song set that included "Right Now," a song out of his days with Van Halen that Hagar said he'd given a "California psychedelic" arrangement. He also offered a brand new song he said the band had never performed in public.
Bob Weir - like Hagar, a longtime Mill Valley resident and Village Music customer - was the evening's surprise guest, offering a long, skillful set of improvisations with bassist Rob Wasserman and drummer Jay Lane over a variety of material, from Dylan to the Dead.
But it was the Collins Kids - along with the evening's final act, LaVette - who best represent the Village Music spirit. Lorrie and Larry Collins were child rockabilly stars on '50s Los Angeles TV and made a series of great records known only to a few. They live in Reno and perform only occasionally at rockabilly festivals in Europe. But they are two electrifying performers who have somehow managed to escape the attention of the music business.
Lorrie Collins is a cowgirl queen with a big, booming voice and killer smile. Her brother is a fleet-fingered master of the double-necked Mosrite guitar he learned to play when he was a 10-year-old cast member of "Town Hall Party." Followed by LaVette's intensely wrought, masterful blues singing, the show returned to what Village Music is all about after the star turns by his famous clientele.
E-mail Joel Selvin at email@example.com.
This article appeared on page E - 1 of the San Francisco Chronicle
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