The previous blog entry
was about a newly released Chuck Berry live recording which was said to stem from a KBCO broadcast in the early 1990's.
We finally found out when and where this was recorded. And the interesting thing is that it comes from a show which is in our sessionography database already.
The hint to solve the KBCO show mystery came from Thierry Chanu who saw a YouTube posting called Chuck Berry at Wolf and Rissmiller's
explains that this one-hour audio is from a live broadcast on 94.7 KMET recorded at Wolf & Rissmiller's Country Club in Reseda, CA. You hear the KMET DJs introduce and sign-off the broadcast.
Listen to the recording of Bio
halfway in the show. This is the exact same recording used on the new ROXVOX album where it is labeled as "KBCO-FM, Early 90s". Also the other four songs from the so-called KBCO tape are on markbrow's tape as well.
But there's more: Listen to Sweet Little Sixteen
and the Carol / Little Queenie
medley. Have you heard those before? Yes! They are on the famous Westwood One radio station album, the only one containing Berry live recordings not published otherwise. The tracks were re-released on the Sheik of Chicago
CD last year
Thus thanks to markbrow's tape we now know the origin of the mystery KBCO recordings. All three recordings (YouTube, radio station album, and KBCO tape) are from the same show.
The show was recorded on January 17th, 1981 at Wolf & Rissmiller's. Berry performed two sets this day using the same backup band consisting of Jim Marsala on bass, Johnny Rivers on guitar plus unknown pianist and drummer. Some source talked about the "Billy Ciofe Band", but this is unconfirmed. Rivers is introduced by name but doesn't sing, not even Memphis, Tennessee
Read markbrow's description on YouTube and you already see it was a great show even before listening to it. Mark Brown of the Orange County Register remembers it in an 1999 article:
Today, he barely tours, and when he does it's a short, routine set as part of some oldies package.
So what happened in 1981 that made him want to show everyone, just one last time, that he was the heart and soul of both classic and modern rock 'n' roll?
It started in January, with a live broadcast on KLOS/95.5 FM [sic] of a stunning set from the now-defunct Country Club in Reseda. That's odd enough in itself; Berry never does anything for free, much less a live-to-radio direct broadcast.
The show in the full house sounded impossibly hot, and 18 years later, the tape still sounds like barely contained anarchy - you can feel the sweat.
Fans stormed the stage, and Chuck happily shared it with them, yelling at the bouncers, "Don't hurt my children! " Even the DJs manning the broadcast were dazed and speechless, reduced to sputtering "That was a GREAT SHOW."
Huh? What was it about a boxy warehouse in the Valley that could bring Berry musically back to life? Yet incredibly, it happened one more time. Berry returned a few months later - this time to a full house, packed with people who had heard the radio show....
Compared to other audience tapes from the late 70s, early 80s, the Reseda show is nothing special. Berry plays his greatest hits and leaves the stage after exactly 60 minutes. The main difference is the very good backing band, especially Johnny Rivers and the unknown piano player.
Strangely, reader Jeff told us in 2004 about the second set he attended:
I remember the line being around the block to get in. I was 21 at the time, and had been into Chuck since I was about 12. This was the first time I had a chance to see him, although I've seen him numerous times since.
When they hit the stage, I recognized Johnny Rivers right away. He kinda stayed to himself, not moving around the stage much, just playing along with the band, and taking a solo whenever Chuck prompted him.
I remember it as a wild show, with Chuck firing on all cylinders.
Towards the end, Chuck tried to play something soft. He kept motioning to the band with his hand to play softer. But the drummer kept hammering away a steady beat. He wouldn't stop. You could tell he was upset about something. So Chuck stopped, and just looked at the guy, not knowing what to do.
Finally the drummer, and the piano guy (must've known each other) got up and walked off. That left Chuck, Rivers, and Marsala. Chuck then walked up to the mic and said, "We'll just use guitars for this song". And he ripped into Johnny B. Goode. Probably a 15 minute version. Chuck was looking like he was trying to prove a point. Angry that someone would try to upstage him, and doing it in front of that crowd.
After the song, Chuck asked if anyone in the crowd could play drums and if anyone could play piano. Two guys hopped up on stage. They played a couple more songs, and finished with Reelin' and Rockin'.
As he was playing, Chuck went over and asked the guys their names. Chuck said their names into the mic, and the place went crazy.
When he returned in April, those two guys were back in his band. Amazing.
Talking about the second show is of interest as well: The recording of Maybellene
on the Westwood One radio station album is NOT the same as the one from markbrow's YouTube posting. Both sets have been recorded. The first one was broadcast live on KMET (as the DJ comments on YouTube prove). The second show (or at least part thereof) was recorded but not broadcast directly. Segments of both shows were kept for re-broadcast. CBS's Westwood One distributed Maybellene
from the second show along with Sweet Little Sixteen
and the Carol / Little Queenie
medley from the first show on an album to radio stations nation-wide. The album was filled with recordings from a George Thorogood live show at Wolf & Rissmiller's, probably recorded a month later, February 19th, 1981. According to Wikipedia, the Chuck Berry show was the first of many live shows owner Norman J. Pattiz recorded for Westwood One.
Also the so-called KBCO tape is NOT from the KMET live broadcast. It is the same show, but in markbrow's posting on YouTube at the end of Bio
there is a station identification from KMET which is not on the KBCO tape. Thus this tape was recorded from a re-broadcast, maybe on KBCO. It only has the last 30 minutes of the show though it's unclear if the first part was not broadcast or not recorded from radio.
The complete set of recordings from January 17th, 1981 thus consists of:
Maybellene (1st set) - 3:33 - KMET
Memphis, Tennessee - 3:38 - KMET
School Day - 1:59 - KMET
Roll Over Beethoven - 3:17 - KMET
Sweet Little Sixteen - 2:02 - Westwood One, KMET
Carol / Little Queenie - 7:06 - Westwood One, KMET
You Don't Have To Go / Lousiana Blues - 7:00 - KMET, last 3:27 only: KBCO
Bio - 5:27 - KMET, KBCO
Nadine - 5:45 - KMET, KBCO
Johnny B. Goode - 4:58 - KMET, KBCO
Reelin' & Rockin' / House Lights - 12:25 - KMET, KBCO
Maybellene (2nd set) - 2:15 - Westwood One
The recording descriptions in our database
have been updated accordingly.
Thanks to markbrow, Thierry, and Jeff for helping to sort out these recordings.