I planned to drive to Tucson in January, 1970, to attend college at the University of Arizona. Before heading West, I had one more New York City music experience scheduled; a Blood Sweat and Tears concert at the Fillmore East with Nancy Loehmann.
It was a big week for The Fillmore. New Year’s Eve and New Year’s Day featured Jimi Hendrix.
The concert bill was amazing: BS&T was the headliner. Appaloosa (produced by Al Kooper) was the second act. The Allman Brothers Band preceded them. Blood Sweat & Tears had reconfigured its band, and was now fronted by Canadian singer, David Clayton-Thomas.
Its second album, self-titled Blood Sweat and Tears (released 12/11/68) rocketed to the top of the U.S. charts, generating three consecutive top-five singles. It received a Grammy for 1970 album-of-the-year and went quadruple-platinum in sales.
During 1969, I had immersed myself in the album, so attending the concert was an absolute pilgrimage. I knew every lyric, every lick, and was mesmerized by the sound of the band, and the voice of the band’s burly charismatic singer.
It wasn’t that long until I saw the band again. Tucson was not exactly the garden spot of concert touring in 1970. There wasn’t a major concert venue anywhere in the state, except Phoenix, some 100 miles away. Every semester, a band would perform at the football stadium. The outdoor stage faced West, filling one side of the stadium seats. You would get a date, and go to the concert, because… well, that was the only major league show in town for four months. I was in luck… it was Blood Sweat & Tears!
Don’t remember who my date was, or if I even had one. I just remember being immersed in an encore performance of Blood Sweat & Tears.
I probably attended a dozen or more performances over four decades. Including Lake Tahoe, Reno, San Diego, Berkeley, and Las Vegas.
David Clayton-Thomas had a life-long love-hate relationship with Blood Sweat & Tears name. Its leader, drummer Bobby Colomby kept ironclad control of the name and leased it to David.
Last year, David Clayton-Thomas released an autobiography, Blood Sweat and Tears, that chronicled his life story, career, and the roller coaster ups-and-downs of the band. The book is compelling, gritty, and honest. I couldn’t put it down, finishing it in less than two days.
Truth be told, DCT and BST were inseparable. Despite various incarnations with different singers and musicians, fans were only truly interested in the band, when fronted by David Clayton-Thomas… a point he underscores in his book.
I own every solo album from David Clayton-Thomas. For my ears, he’s one of a handful of male vocalists whose sound is instantly identifiable. I specifically remember a trip to Hawaii for Christmas in 1982. I watched a TV commercial about early morning breakfast at McDonald’s. The voice was unmistakeable. It was David Clayton-Thomas.
To me, Blood Sweat & Tears was the musical concept of Al Kooper, the voice of David Clayton-Thomas, the musicianship of generations of exceptional musicians, magnificent arrangements, superb original music and decidedly fresh takes of cover tunes. Takes on cover tunes included songs from Motown to Lambert, Hendricks and Ross, to Jimi Hendrix.
The last BS&T concert I attended, fronted by DCT, was at The Cannery (Las Vegas), in 2005. In 2008, the band was on a 40th Anniversary reunion tour, when I saw them with my girlfriend, Jessica, at the Tropicana. They had brought back founding member, Steve Katz (guitarist and harp), to host the show.
Katz’s stories about the band’s beginnings filled in history for many who attended. Including Katz met a legal requirement to have an original band member on the bill, as part of Blood Sweat and Tears. The band still tours today, with its fresh set of musicians, true to the original sound.
The music is timeless and is the foundation of my affinity for horn-based bands. Both the memories and the music are vivid.
First Generation New Yorker