New Timesscribe Lee Zimmerman shares stories of memorable rock 'n' roll encounters that took place in our local environs. This week: A little Lovin' Spoonful goes a long, long way
I'm not shy about namedropping. Yet, of all these individuals, there are few that I consider the kind of pals I'd hang with when there wasn't some specific reason to draw us together. One exception is Steve Boone,
bassist for the classic '60s band the Lovin' Spoonful ("Do You Believe
in Magic," "You Didn't Have to Be So Nice," "Nashville Cats," "Rain on
the Roof," etc.).
Steve co-penned one of the group's biggest hits with
vocalist/guitarist John Sebastian, the classic "Summer in the City," and
later helped steer the band in the aftermath of Sebastian's departure
in 1967. Steve also appeared with the Spoonful when the original members
reunited for the Paul Simon film One Trick Pony, and he was onstage
with them when they were inducted into the Rock 'n' Roll Hall of Fame in
2000. The Lovin' Spoonful still tour, in fact, with Boone, original
drummer Joe Butler, and Jerry Yester, a replacement guitarist and producer
recruited in the late '60s, being the current mainstays.
I met Boone when I lived in the U.S. Virgin Islands in the late '60s. The Spoonful had some drug issues, and he was forced to flee and chill out in the islands for awhile. He bought a 56-foot sailboat that he named the Cygnus and anchored it in St. Thomas. My group of friends was, of course, considerably younger than this bearded, long-haired hippie, but somehow we all became fast friends -- the islands were very open and carefree at that time -- and eventually we all started partying and hanging out together. That lasted several months before Steve's drug problems caught up with him and he was forced to leave. He eventually straightened out and opened his own recording studio in Baltimore (his first project was Little Feat's album Feats Don't Fail Me Now) before eventually moving to Fort Lauderdale in 1987.
I next ran into Steve several years later when the new version of the Lovin' Spoonful did a show at the Biltmore Hotel in Coral Gables. By this time, he was sans beard and balding, looking more like a good old farmboy as opposed to the ragged-looking rocker I had known decades before. Still, we immediately reconnected and rebooted our friendship and also managed to keep in touch over the next several years. When I worked at the Hard Rock Café in Bayside, Steve made a celebrity appearance, and six years ago, he and his wife were guests at my wedding. Steve kept me abreast of a newer project, a cartoon combo called Forq in which he and some other musicians dubbed the music for the animated characters.
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Steve would share a lot of rock 'n' roll trivia dating from those heady days of the mid-'60s, when the Spoonful reigned supreme in the American rock pantheon. He relayed a story about how he and Joe Butler attended the Beatles' famous Shea Stadium concert in 1965, sitting in the audience and attempting in vain to act anonymous. Naturally, though, the teen throngs quickly caught sight of them and threatened to mob them in true fan fashion. Fortunately, the cops intervened and moved the pair to safer environs, specifically the Beatles' own dressing room. "They ushered us past the Young Rascals, who were also on the bill, but even they didn't get to mix and mingle with the Beatles," Steve recalled. "They were eyeing us as if to say 'Who the hell do these guys think they are?'"
Steve remembered that the Beatles were very jovial and hospitable, and they displayed their trademark irreverent humor, despite the fact that they were about to play in front of the biggest crowd to ever attend a rock concert up until that time. "As they exited the dressing room and prepared to make their way onstage, they serenaded us with a song," Steve chuckled. "They harmonized to 'It's a Long Way to Tipperary.'"
Incidentally, the Lovin' Spoonful's connection to the Beatles didn't end there. The Fab Four once name-checked the Spoonful as among their favorite American bands. Butler later rented his Greenwich Village apartment to John and Yoko when they initially relocated to New York City, and Paul McCartney even promised Steve that he would make him a gift of his famous Hofner bass. "He never came through," Steve lamented. "So when we were inducted at the Rock 'n' Roll Hall of Fame, Paul happened to be there, and I asked him what became of my bass. I've yet to hear back on that."
Steve moved to his birth state, North Carolina, a few years back, and we've been out of touch lately. But I still have his phone number, and I gotta admit, it's kind of cool to be able to look at an old album cover, point to his picture, and say a member of one of America's most venerable rock bands actually knows my name.