Procol Harum

the Pale

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The real Leo Kottke connection

David Pelletier / Dave Ball / David Pelletier

'Leo's urban myth of how he came upon Procol Harum is 100% horseshit, ' writes one of Procol Harum's former tour / sound managers to 'Beyond the Pale'. In his own words, then, this is the true connection; following that, Procol's own Dave Ball gives his version: then a reply to that! It's 'draw your own conclusions' time again! (pictures on this page: Kottke on stage at a PH concert (thanks, Beverly))

When Procol played Boston, at the Psychedelic Supermarket, the first time (1967) the promoter didn't bother to rent a piano. I was waiting in line, heard what was going one and zipped home to get my dad's Wurlitzer electric. It was much appreciated and I had met a band I liked very much. Kellogs was especially grateful.

Later on I met them again at Chicago's Kinetic Playground, where Terry Reid was opening for them and 'Logs' and I joked about the 'no piano' show. At that time I was in the Navy and at a training school.

Later on, I was on a ship in San Diego, where one of my shipmates was a geeky kid named Stephen Gibbons. He was a very talented guitarist and showed some promise. I knew John Fahey had Takoma Records up in Santa Monica and thought Steve might be good enough to pass muster with John. Sad to say, when his big moment came, he froze. But since the audition took place amongst stacks of records nobody ever heard of before, I took the opportunity to propose that I become Takoma's South Bay distributor. Fahey said OK, gave me one of each record, so I would have a clue about what to push and off I went.

I listened in number order. By the time I got to Leo, who was #24, I was pretty burned out on lingering chords, eastern harmonics, and other sominex-inducing material. So, I put on Leo's one song I knew: the Bach number on side two.

The 'phone rang. I was talking and then one tune drifted into another and as it got better and better: I told the person on the other end, 'Hey, something's going on here, see ya'. I was floored. I hadn't even heard the first side yet. When I did, I put it back in the cover, hopped into a car and drove it over to the NPR station in Pasadena and dictated 'you have to play this, now'. That was Leo's first airplay according to his manager at the time, Denny Bruce.

Now how does this fit the Procol story? Well, now that I established my contact with Leo, a sound company I worked for, Tycobrahe, started doing Procol's sound in Southern California. We hooked up finally on a professional level and did a number of concerts together. I met Chris Thomas then, who mixed them live at the time.

After stints on the Exile on Main Street Tour and Lennon's Madison Square Gardens concert, I was hired by Procol to be combination Tour manager and audio engineer, since Thomas was off mixing Dark Side of the Moon. My Kottke connection was pretty strong then and I introduced his manager to the Chrysalis folks, who, when they got interested, signed Leo.

Then when Procol was looking for an opening act for some English and Euro dates, I said 'why not Leo'. He certainly was less complicated than a band and when he performed his first solo tour of the UK, guess who was there to baby-sit. Right: yours truly.

Once the Procol relationship began, it became a natural fit and off they went into their respective futures. And that is what really happened.

(The guy that owned Pall's Mall, by the way, is not some thug as Leo contends. He is Fred Taylor, one of the nicest and most respected club-owners from that era.)

So add that to the Leo connection, because that is how it really happened.

Many thanks, David!

Whereas Procol Harum's Dave Ball remembers it this way ...

It's just me again. Been out browsing around the PH site reading interesting little tidbits ... anyway, on the matter of everyone v when did PH team up with Leo Kottke.

My first recollections of Leo were these big bare feet sticking out of a car window outside of the hotel we were staying in in Portland Oregon. The poor bugger didn't have the money for a hotel so we dragged him up to our rooms (mine I think) where he slept on a couch. I guess this would have been in 1971. Well, you would wouldn't you? A guitarist with that much talent deserved a room!



Many thanks, David!

And David Pelletier replies ...

I liked Ball's version, which is highly likely. They still probably got their early Leo albums from me somewhat before that time. They were pretty hard to get and I always had @ 10 of them with me to give to any guitarists I happened upon. Ronny Wood, Townshend, Ball, Martin Barre, etc. all got one from early 1971 on. I was sort of his evangelist at the time, preaching 'the word of Leo'.

Many thanks, David!

The Kottke Connection, version one! Kottke covers Procol Harum


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