40 Years ago...

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40 Years ago...

Postby Tom » Mon Feb 29, 2016 3:17 pm

Hi prairie dogs,

It's the 40 year anniversary of PPL’s blistering string of five concerts in New York City and Long Island, shows which helped play a large part in the rise of the Prairie and also stamped them as an act with the promise of far more to come. 40 years later the promise was not only fulfilled , it exceeded even the most optimistic expectations. Throughout the years there have been many landmark moments for the band. No doubt the performances in NY and LI are among the most important.

The shows not only got 1976 off to a flying start, it captured the attention of critics and fans alike in a major market, one which is essential if you have intentions of basking in the national spotlight. It may seem like yesterday to the fans but perhaps the band members who were doing about 250 shows a year still feel the aches and pains .Two of them, Mike Reilly and John David Call are thankfully still at it, joined by Donnie Lee Clark and Scott Thompson.

It kicked off at the famed Bottom Line in New York City, a venue with major historical significance. The band had a weekend gig there on Friday February 19, 1976 through Sunday the 21st. In 1975 The Two Lane Highway LP had already been hailed in Rolling Stone magazine as a gem of the genre , noting that the success was unexpected after the departure of Craig Fuller in early 1973. The LP, If The Shoe Fits, had just been released. Despite this, 1976 was about proving the year prior wasn’t a fluke, not a one shot deal. The band was on fire but knew to complete the comeback there was still a large mountain to climb, New York. NY can be a tough nut to crack, especially if you are in a genre that does not lend itself to major radio airplay in large markets. The band had The Big Apple in it’s crosshairs. William Tell could not have taken it down any better.

PPL delivered big time, selling out three straight shows with wildly enthusiastic prairie dogs letting the guys know that the city was more than ready for them. Only a few years earlier some misguided critic called them an obscure country band. Now they were an act that took stormed through New York City with a fiercely loyal fan base that still exists today. They surprised the critics and yes, they even shocked RCA with their upbeat , scorching brand of country rock.

After rocking the Big Apple, PPL headed East to Long Island. The date was February 23, 1976 for a gig at another famed venue , My Father's Place in the Village of Old Roslyn. Some of the biggest names in music played there and the location was well known to radio stations in the area. The band had two shows that night. One of them was carried live by WLIR FM, 92.7 on your dial, a station that would prove to be enormous supporters of the band, providing much airplay , several live shows and a few interviews with Mike Reilly and Vince Gill over the years.

Sensational doesn't begin to describe the music or the reaction of the fans. Before the first note was hit, there was a buzz in the crowd which exploded when the band took the stage. The word was out and fans obviously had taken the Two Lane Highway. Afterwards I wondered what a crowd in PPL’s hometown Ohio must sound like if a Long Island crowd could respond with such enthusiasm, such deafening ovations. I asked John David Call about it. He was more than pleased with the results. " It does not get any hotter than what you just saw, that was amazing." That was an understatement. In Mike Reilly’s words, the night was “ Mighty fine, mighty fine, mighty fine.” PPL had found a new home outside of Ohio.

On February 21,1976 the NY Times gave the band a fine review, citing that even in a age where disco music and rock and roll is prevalent, a band like PPL can still capture your attention and take country rock into national taste. The fact that the NY Times would even show up to review a country rock act was an accomplishment.

5 shows in 5 nights in New York City and Long Island set the stage for the next 40 years. PPL rode those nights into some legendary performances through several more decades with guys named Reilly, Call, Fuller, Powell , Connor, Hinds, Gill, Goshorn, Clark, Thompson, Wright , Burr and many others. The Beacon Theatre, The Bottom Line, The Lonestar , B.B.King’s, My Father's Place, Speaks, Belmont, Nassau Coliseum, Stephen's Talkhouse, and many other NY/LI places all became fixtures on PPL tours. Of course the band had their share of luminaries come to see them but perhaps none more legendary than two guys names Paul and George who caught them at The Beacon and the Bottom Line. The two had been in a band together. One more note: a guy named Jimmy Buffet opened for PPL at the Bottom Line those 3 nights in 1976. He did OK for himself too. I think he’s still around.

As usual, all the best and still remaining,
Tom Sheridan
Floral Park,NY




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