The Larry J. Weir Memorial Concert at the Sheldon: A Personal Note
Every Sunday morning I make the hour drive from Mt. Olive, Ill. to the KDHX Magnolia Avenue Studios for the weekly edition of Songwriters Showcase, and every Sunday, when I walk into the building, I look around the corner and expect to see my friend Larry Weir at his desk. Larry’s been gone 8 months and it still hasn’t really sunk in. I still love the show, but I will forever miss the Larry Weir experience.
For 22 years I had an open invitation to sit in with a real master, who loved the English language and the art of conversation and used it and enjoyed it unlike anyone I have ever met. I knew from hanging out with Larry that he had a large and diverse circle of friends; everywhere we went Larry knew someone. It always amazed me. That being said, Kathy and everyone close to Larry were overwhelmed by the genuine outpouring of concern and affection that took place during those excruciating three weeks in January. I expected a lot, and it far exceeded that.
After Larry’s services we all headed to Off Broadway to the wonderful party, organized on short notice by Larry’s friends at KDHX and the local musical community, for a much needed unwinding. While sitting at Off Broadway, drinking a Stag and offering a lot of toasts to Larry, the comment both Kathy and I heard over and over was: “Now this is what Larry would want: a cold beer, a crowded bar, good music and being surrounded by special friends.” It was at that moment that we both thought, after the dust settled, that we should do a musical tribute to Larry and try to get some of the many songwriters and friends that Larry promoted and championed throughout the years to perform.
It was easy to put a wish list together. Larry had a lot of favorites, and the powers that be at KDHX wholly supported the idea. They secured a great venue (the acoustically perfect Sheldon Concert Hall) a date (Sunday, September 12, 7 p.m.) and gave us a budget to work with. Larry loved words, and when it came to songwriters, Larry didn’t take the word brilliant lightly, but he used it for a handful of his special favorites, including Bob Dylan, John Prine, the late Townes Van Zandt, Guy Clark, David Olney, Eric Taylor, Tom Russell, Butch Hancock and Terry Allen. Some on this list were out of our budget (including Emmylou Harris), and others were already booked. Eric Taylor recently underwent a triple bypass; though we were unable to schedule him for this night, I’m glad to report he is doing well.
So with a lot of the preceding list unavailable, we were delighted that we were able to get Terry Allen to headline the show. Anybody that listened to Larry on a regular basis knew that Terry was a special favorite. Larry never hesitated when asked to name his favorite album: Lubbock (On Everything). Allen plays live shows very infrequently, and I was with Larry several years ago when Terry brought his sculptures and music to Laumeier Sculpture Park, and a few years later when Terry and his wife, Jo Harvey, were at the Side Door on Washington Avenue. We are very proud that Terry is going to be part of the tribute night.
Larry started out in commercial country radio in Arkansas and Western Missouri. He often told me that his three favorite artists then were Steve Young, the late Gary Stewart and Katy Moffatt; they pointed him in the direction that would have a great influence on his future musical tastes. In the spring of 1991 my wife Shelley and I made the trek to Texas along with Larry and his then girlfriend, Kathy, to take in the Kerrville Folk Festival. On the way we stopped at the wonderful Cactus Cafe in Austin to see Tom Russell, Andy Hardin and Katy Moffatt; we saw all three again at Kerrville. After Kerrville, Shelley and I headed home, Larry and Kathy stayed, and in typical Larry Weir style, in the middle of the Guadalupe River, Larry asked Kathy to be his bride. We saw Katy many times after that at her St. Louis shows; she was also on hand at Off Broadway along with Dave Alvin when Tom Russell recorded his album The Long Way Around. Katy called Kathy and I several times after Larry’s accident, and we’re very happy that Katy will be part of the show, and delighted that she will be accompanied by superb guitarist and another good friend of Larry’s, Andy Hardin.
Like Hardin, multi-instrumentalist Fats Kaplin was a part of the Tom Russell Band and became a good friend of Larry’s. Both Fats and Andy were guests of Larry’s in the KDHX studios many times. Fats and his wife Kristi Rose took the time to travel to St. Louis to pay their respects at Larry’s wake, and we’re happy to say they’ll be returning to lend their considerable musical talents to the evening.
Larry always reveled in discovering new talent; he couldn’t wait to share these new discoveries with his audience and work to get them to St. Louis and the KDHX studios. I remember the excitement when he brought in new discs by Cristine Kane, John Flynn, Reagan Boggs, Michael Fracasso, and many others, and to this day when I find something new that excites me, my first reaction is “I gotta play this for Larry” — and I do. We needed to include a recent discovery in the lineup. Larry loved Ben Bedford, who played a couple times live on Songwriters Showcase, and so Ben will open up the concert.
Larry was also a big fan of the local music scene, and often commented how proud he was to see it grow and mature in his 22 years at KDHX. Larry took me to my first Geyer Street Sheiks concert at Riddles in the Loop and introduced me to great food and great music. We saw them many times after that, and after they broke up we went to several of their reunions. We contacted some members of the band and asked if they would get together to honor their friend. They said they would be proud to do it, and we’re happy to have some of the Sheiks join us.
Having multiple acts play we needed an M.C. Michael “Supe” Granda, one of the founding members of the Ozark Mountain Daredevils, a St. Louisan, a Cardinals fan, and a friend of KDHX and Larry’s, seemed like a perfect fit. When we called Supe he jumped on board without any hesitation. Last December, Supe was at KDHX to promote a St. Louis appearance on Fred Friction’s Fishing With Dynamite, when Fred became ill, Larry stepped in and interviewed Supe in what turned out to be one of Larry’s last interviews. We’re glad Supe will be part of this special night.
We also hope you will come out and celebrate the life and legacy of our dear friend, Larry Weir. Join us and share wonderful music, lots of laughter, a few tears, a good cigar and a scotch ale.
Hope to see you there,
P.S. I hope the concert for Larry will measure up to the amazing tributes the KDHX DJs did for him the week he died. It was the most heartfelt and compelling radio I have ever heard and I was proud to be associated with it. I couldn’t stop listening.
KDHX Presents the Larry J. Weir Memorial Concert at the Sheldon Concert Hall
Sunday, September 12, 2010, 7 p.m.
Tickets available online through Metrotix.