October 28, 2020 @ 11:03 AM

 
What an early club gig looked like ... The Jabberwocky, 1974

When John Hall, Wells Kelly and Larry Hoppen first played publicly in February 1972, it marked the start of  what would become known as Orleans. It would be 9 months later, in October, that I (Lance Hoppen) would be invited to join their work-in-progress. By the spring of 1973, we had landed a recording contract with ABC/Dunhill and, come June, we were in Muscle Shoals Sound Studio making our first album.



In these early days, the band played a relentless stream of gigs on the club and college concert circuit, up and down the northeast corridor and, especially, in our native upstate NY. There was an abundance of songwriting happening and these gigs allowed us to test out material for that first album and the next to come. At the same time, the band was given to flights of improvisational fancy with John leading the charge, spontaneously launching into well-known covers as well as long-form blues tunes, overflowing with guitar solos.

This never-before-seen footage comes from one such outing.

The year was 1974 (not sure of the month). The first album had been a regional hit in upstate NY. We had been hired to play a 2-night engagement at The Jabberwocky, a basement club at Syracuse University. The first night was topped off by a surprise after-show appearance by Jackson Browne (who had played a larger local venue that night) and his perennial sidekick, the fabulous lap steel player, David Lindley. Unfortunately, none of that was captured on videotape.

On the other hand and unbeknownst to us at the time, it appears that some intrepid audio/video students took it upon themselves to set up for a multi-camera black and white video shoot of the entire 2nd night! What they captured was a rare ... even unique ... look at what an early Orleans club gig was made of.



This show was over 2 hours long! ... so it might have made sense to release this footage in 3 or 4 "bite-sized" chunks. But, in the end, we decided to split it into 2 halves. Here, then, is the first segment ... all 55 minutes of it!

Things to watch for (the set list) ...

1. A cover of Howdy Tanky ... we were playing Reggae long before most American bands even knew it existed
2. Cold Spell, before we recorded it for our Let There Be Music album on Asylum
3. A cover of Philly-styled What Kind of Fool
4. A spirited version of Please Be There, a favorite from the first album
5. The R&B-tinged Firefly Lover, a song of John and Johanna's that never got recorded (too bad)
6. Having ingested a good dose of Reggae, we spat out our own version in If (also from the first album)
7. More from the 1st album ... Two-Faced World and Half Moon
8. And still more ... Stoned, with John switching to drums and Wells on keys
9. Wells then steps up to the guitar plate for his signature character song, The Bum
10. Then it gets a little silly with covers of The Ventures' Walk Don't Run and the iconic Wooly Bully!
11. Finally, a jam breaks out and morphs into the King Bee blues.

And that's JUST the
1st half of the night! (Part 2 is in our collective futures! :-)

NOTE: You might think there was a lot of guitar tuning happening, but you have no idea how much was edited out!!!! (it would surely have tried your patience!)

As an aside, the bass I was playing was not mine. It was a loaner from Ithaca-based luthier, Joey Inserra. Joey was working on mine and was kind enough to lend me one of his. Well, that ended badly. At the end of the night, the crew loaded everything into the U-Haul truck, with that bass being the last thing in. Failing to lock the truck, they went back in to do the "idiot check" (to see if anything might be left behind). When they opened the truck the next morning, the bass was gone. :-(

At the time, I think we paid Joey about $250 compensation, which was fair for then. However, that bass would be worth over $10,000 today. Oh, well ... so sorry, Joey!

I'll add to this post when we release the second half of this one-of-a-kind video stream. Stay tuned!



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