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Derek Gentile: Memories of the former Music Inn

Music Inn opened its 9th season, the weekend of June 17, 1978. Performers included Bob Marley and the Wailers, and Climax Blues Band

Music Inn opened its 9th season, the weekend of June 17, 1978. Performers included Bob Marley and the Wailers, and Climax Blues Band

The late Derek Gentile originally shared this column in October 2014. 

I’ll start by saying that I can never recall having a bad experience at Music Inn, closed now for 43 years. But I understand the angst it must have caused abutters.

And I’m well aware that my friend John Beacco, a Stockbridge selectman in those years, has mostly bad memories of angry residents, lawsuits and headaches brought on by the Music Inn.

But for a young guy, the Music Inn brought a series of world class musicians to the Berkshires. And from that narrow perspective, I appreciate very much what went down over there.

I was, by the way, at the now-famous show in 1979 at which the Allman Brothers Band performed. Members of a local motorcycle gang roughed up several patrons.

I didn’t see that. But I do remember Gregg Allman inviting the roughed-up patrons backstage to meet the band.

What I also remember was a great, great show. After the regular set ended, one of my friends left, as he had to work early the next morning. The encore was about a 30-minute version of "In Memory of Elizabeth Reed," one of my faves. Plus several other numbers. My friend, in fact, eventually missed about an hour of the show, due to the length of the encore.

The most amazing thing I ever saw there was during a show by The Band in 1978. Their equipment truck hadn’t arrived by showtime. So an announcer got up onstage and asked patrons on the right side of the lawn to move over about 30 feet to allow the truck in.

And they did. I remember the announcer, whoever he was say, "Thank you! We’ve never tried anything like that before!"

And hopefully never again, I thought.

Ah, The Band. One of the greatest shows I ever saw. One of the things that was so impressive was how they all could play different instruments.

Levon Helm played the drums, bass and mandolin. Richard Manuel played keyboards, the drums, slide guitar and guitar. Rick Danko played bass, fiddle, trombone and guitar; Robbie Roberston played mostly guitar but also played harmonica; and Garth Hudson played just about anything.

They didn’t generally switch too much when they played live. But I remember that night I saw them, Hudson played a beautiful organ on "It Makes No Difference," and then standing up and playing an incredible sax solo later in the song. They were a majestic group.

My favorite show was a Kinks-Ian Hunter double bill. The place was rocking that night. I am sure abutters weren’t happy. We sang "Lola" with Kinks’ lead singer Ray Davies long into the night.

Hmm. I have space for one more story. I’m not going to lie to you; there were drugs and alcohol at the Music Inn. I was at the Charlie Daniels Band show in 1979, and I saw these two older guys swapping a bottle of Jack Daniels. Jack Daniels equals Charlie Daniels? I don’t know. Good thing Poison wasn’t playing.

Anyway, I walked by them and my friend Jeff predicted, not surprisingly, that those two dudes weren’t going to see much of the show.

They didn’t. I walked back to use one of the portable rest rooms and saw them both passed out nearby, a half-empty bottle of Jack lying nearby. But I’m sure they told their friends back home they saw a great show.

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