Remembering Jeff Beck

Jeff Beck Group, Woolsey Hall May 9th, 1969

In 1968, living in New Haven had its advantages. The one that lives on in my mind as a guitarist is Yale’s Woolsey Hall. April of 1968 brought us Cream and in November, The Jimi Hendrix Experience. As 1969 dawned, the world was wide open for a guitarist to paint their own canvas. I was a 16-year-old guitar player, with a Les Paul, sitting in New Haven and it felt like the entire Rock & Roll world was coming to me. The explosion of new bands, created from old bands breaking up, discovering new sounds, reimagined from the roots of rhythm & blues and early rock, pushing the evolution of Rock & Roll forward at warp speed, making each new LP a gospel of enlightenment, to be studied and made a part of your language, was beyond anything I can put to words.

The Jeff Beck LP Truth is one such album. In my mind, it secured Jeff Beck’s position in The Rock & Roll Trinity, along with Eric and Jimi and when the concert at Woolsey on May 9th, 1969 was announced, I was up early, in line for tickets.

I don’t recall much about the opening act, Rhinoceros, but I did think enough of them to buy their LP after the concert. The band had two guitarists that played Fender guitars, with the finish stripped off and no pickguards.

I’m not 100% sure which song the Jeff Beck Group played first. Maybe it was “You Shook Me,” to get into a groove. However, I do know that things turned bad fast, as Rod Stewart’s vocal microphone went dead on that first song. The band conferred for a bit and then blasted into “Let Me Love You.” When Rod came in with his vocal, the entire band cooled it down to a whisper! This is Woolsey Hall. Rod didn’t need a PA, as long as the band played the room. I’m not sure how many songs this went on for, but the band played on, until it was sorted out. I also remember them playing “Morning Dew,” “Shapes of Things” and “Jeff’s Boogie.”

Random memories: Jeff played his Les Paul for the whole show; there was a Stratocaster leaning against the side of a speaker cabinet, but I don’t recall him playing it. Jeff never took center stage — most of the time, he stood in the shadows or behind the Marshall stack, even when taking a solo. Ron Wood looked cool with a Fender Tele bass. Who would have known he would become a Rolling Stone?

I wish I could remember more and have something epic or profound to say about Jeff’s passing. I was 16 years old, and that show is a part of my personal mythology; the last time I sat in the presence of The Rock & Roll Trinity.

(Concert ticket photo courtesy of Bob Anderson; ticket stub courtesy of Tom Smith; concert ad courtesy of Timothy Wood)

©2023, AcousticMusic.Org

Written by Brian Wolfe

January 13, 2023

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