THE WHO - Jacksonville, August 7, 1976 - The Real Story!

Elsewhere on Just Backdated I have eulogised about The Who’s concert at Jacksonville on Saturday August 7, 1976, and followed this up with a post of several great photographs taken at the show. However, for reasons that will become clear if you read what follows, I have been less than truthful about what really happened to me that day and night, but now I’ve decided to set the record straight.
          The reality of the situation is that I was invited by Atlantic Records to fly down to Jacksonville to do a story on Black Oak Arkansas, another act appearing in the all-day event at The Gator Bowl headlined by The Who. I wasn’t particularly interested in seeing BOA or writing about them but I was always keen to see my friends The Who, whom I hadn’t seen since March 11 that year at Madison Square Garden in New York, so I accepted the invitation and flew down. I arrived at Jacksonville Airport around lunchtime and rented a car to drive to my beachside hotel, the Sea Turtle on Ocean Boulevard, then headed for the stadium, arriving around 3pm.
          The day turned out to be memorable for two reasons, neither of them related to BOA.

In the afternoon I did an interview backstage with Jim Dandy, BOA’s singer, and watched their set. Afterwards I hung around in the backstage area waiting for The Who to arrive and in the bar fell into conversation with a friendly girl called Andrea who was dressed in a halter neck and cut-off jeans, well-tanned too. She was cute and had a nice smile and seemed glad of my company, so much so that before long it occurred to me that I’d found the perfect overnight companion. All seemed to be going swimmingly until her elder sister’s husband arrived with the news that their babysitter had cancelled on them at the last minute, and since they were going out to some event with a bunch of friends in the evening they now needed Andrea to babysit instead. So Andrea did the decent thing and opted to leave with him instead of seeing The Who – but she did offer to meet me at my hotel later.
          “You know the Sea Turtle by the beach?”
          “Of yes,” she said, skipping off with her brother-in-law. “I’ll try and be there before midnight.”
And so I stayed to watch The Who, of course, and it turned out to be the last Who concert I ever saw with Keith on drums. Nothing I wrote in my previous post about the actual concert needs revising. As noted, it was by no means a sell-out, there was a bit of angst backstage and, perhaps as result, The Who gave a staggeringly fluent performance, truly one of the best Who shows I ever witnessed. Afterwards, when I complimented Pete on the show in the dressing room, he memorably told me: “We were playing for the people who weren't there.”
The Who had their own plane and were flying on to Miami that night so I didn’t linger long. Pete’s words were ringing in my ears as I drove back to the Sea Turtle. In truth the show had been so great and the aftermath so profound that I had completely forgotten about Andrea. She wasn’t waiting for me anyway.

It was a lovely warm night and there was no way I could turn in after watching The Who’s set, so after parking the car I decided to take a moonlit walk along the deserted beach, gazing out across the sand towards the waves. Then I heard music, rock music, and followed the sound until I came across a bar by the boardwalk, a wooden shack, and went up the door. It was opened by a guy in jeans and t-shirt with long hair who seemed friendly, especially when he spotted my Backstage Access All Areas pass to the Who show which was still stuck to my shirt.
          “You work for The Who?” he asked.
          “Not really but they’re friends of mine,” I said.
          He acknowledged my accent. “You’re English?”
          “Step right in.”
          I walked in and he followed. A band was playing but there weren’t many people inside, no more than a dozen. I think the night was drawing to a close there. He tapped me on the shoulder.
          “Can I have that pass you’ve got? I want to stick it on the wall behind the bar.”
          I looked towards the bar where a seriously gorgeous girl with short blonde hair was sitting on her own on a stool nursing a beer. She was wearing a very short, very flimsy, black and yellow summer dress. 
          “Do you know her?” I asked, nodding towards the girl.
          “Sure, that’s Melanie.”
          “Is she with someone?”
          “No, not tonight.”
          “If you introduce me to Melanie you can have my pass. My name’s Chris.”
          So it was that the manager of the bar introduced me to Melanie and we got talking. The band closed their set and I bought her another beer. She seemed happy to chat with a Brit who knew The Who and before long we were flirting. After about 20 minutes she asked if I wanted to go back to her apartment to smoke some grass. Her place was five minutes away in a car. The guy behind the bar grinned at me as we left together.
          Melanie lived on the ground floor of a house in a one-bedroom apartment and no sooner had we closed the door behind us than we were at it like rabbits on the floor of her living room. When we’d got our breath back she produced a couple of bathrobes for us to wear while we smoked a joint on her balcony overlooking the ocean. We had a whisky each then retired to her bedroom for a more leisurely round two, after which she offered to drive me back to the Sea Turtle as she had to get up early in the morning. Melanie dropped me off outside the hotel at about 1.30 am.
I walked through the lobby and asked at reception for my room key.
          It was Andrea. She was sitting there waiting for me.
          “Hi… er sorry, I’ve been for a walk along the beach.”
          “Can I come up?”
          “It’s a bit late.”
          “I’ve been waiting…”
          “Of course.”
          Up we went. I had a quick shower. Andrea had got undressed and was in bed waiting for me, eagerly I think. She stayed the night. Keith, a connoisseur in this line of behaviour, would have been proud of me I thought when I finally closed my eyes.
          The next day, on a whim, Andrea collected a few clothes and flew up to New York with me, hanging out at my apartment for the best part of a week. It turned out her dad ran a pool hall in Jacksonville where she worked on the counter serving food and drink, and she played like a demon. I took her to a pool hall on 14th Street and she hustled about $50 in an hour, so we had a slap up dinner that night. Sassy as they come, she knew exactly how to draw in marks so she did the same thing the next day, and the next, paying her way in NY by hustling pool until she decided to head back down to Jacksonville.
          Andrea came back to stay with me in NY again a few months later, then dumped me for Jimmy Bain, bassist with Ritchie Blackmore’s Rainbow.
          But what did I care after that night in Jacksonville, the last night I saw Keith drum for The Who? 


Doc Bill said...

I was there that night working “The Who Concert”. A combat medic in Vietnam a couple years earlier, I had returned to Jacksonville to decompress. The war had taken its toll on me so I slid back into civilian life as a Rescue Paramedic. I was asked to work concerts at the Gator Bowl and so it was I came to be there that hot August day and night. I really wanted to see The Who. I wasn’t really a big fan but I had heard something about a big laser show, a novelty at the time. I believe I actually ran into you. I had a woman over my shoulder who had enjoyed a bit too many recreational drug that I had picked out of the down front crowd and the path of least resistance was through the stage area. It was there I bumped into a camera festooned Photog with a British accent. We both exchanged a quick “Sorry” and I was on my way. After stabilizing her and putting her on her way to the hospital emergency room I retraced my steps back to the rear stage to avail myself at a craft table for a soft drink. I saw the Photog again. A smile a wave and we were back to our respective duties. When “The Who” took the stage it was like someone flipped a switch. I became very busy down front pulling 4 people from the crowd. The last a severe dehydration issue that I worked hard to keep alive. She lived but all I saw of the light show was the lit sky from the back of a Rescue Unit taking her to the hospital. I remember the strains of Pinball Wizard as we pulled away. Retuning to the stadium I could see the show was over. I was exhausted but keyed up. The last of my adrenaline coursing through me. A high school friend Joe Adeeb owned the Sea Turtle. I decided to take up his offer of a room anytime I wanted one and head to the beach to unwind and gain perspective. I checked in and like you walked the beach. The gentle roar of the waves, the moon, and crunch of the sand beneath my feet was therapeutic. Pete’s Bar was around the corner. A local band was playing and so I stopped in for a drink. I had to take of my uniform shirt to go in. There I sat nursing an adult recreational beverage in my uniform pants, white t-shirt, and sand covered boots when I spied a young lady looking at me. A smile, a nod, a request to the bar tender with a heavy tip to forward her a drink. Next we were sitting, drinking, chatting, and laughing “Are you a cop?” she asked “God No” I responded “a paramedic”. I drink or two more and we were on our way the block to the Sea Turtle. Life was simple those days. We made love with the sounds of the Ocean as our accompaniment. The drapes to the balcony blowing in the wind from the open door. As the Sun rose the next morning I ordered breakfast we took on our balcony. The conversation was intimate and led to an encore to the night’s event. It was far less urgent, much more gratifying. I had a much better view of her young tanned, well endowed attributes. After we talking about life, love, the future, and for the first time I leaned she had been at the concert. She said she had seen me pull an unconscious woman from the crowd. We dressed and I walked her to her car. Glad thing went well for you that night. Those were different times. Be well

Chris Charlesworth said...

We would definitely have crossed paths somewhere that night. I wouldn't have had cameras around my neck so the photographer wasn't me. But it must have been Pete's Bar where I found myself after walking along the beach and it there that I met the girl called Melanie. Our rooms at the Turtle can't have been that far apart. What a coincidence.