I was 13 years old when I watched these live on Saturday night, often with my Univox electric guitar in hand, ready to play along with the music. It was a blast from the past to purchase the first two seasons, with the third season set to be released this May.
I grew up on the flat fields of southern Minnesota, where we only got about four channels, so anytime I got to see a taped or live music concert was a treat. SNL, along with Don Kirshner's Rock Concert and The Midnight Special, were really the only games in town. Often, the guitarists would be playing a Stratocaster or Les Paul, the two guitars I wanted badly.
The Band made their last TV appearance on October 31, 1976.I was not a fan, but I remember watching this live that night. Robbie Robertson had recently been on the cover of Guitar Player, so I knew who they were. He was playing a vintage 50's Stratocaster with a humbucking pickup in the bridge spot, playing his distinctive sytle with pinch harmonics and that treblely tone. Levon was playing, as I learned many years later, his wooden drum kit bought in the 60's, that definded his drum tone. Now, of course, as I am older, my wife and I are huge fans of the Band and own many or most of their music and taped concerts. That was almost the end of an era, as the Band were true originals. Music changed later during the 70's, with disco taking over the airwaves and many of the older bands faded away.
Brian Wilson made a rare and unusual appearance on November 27, 1976. He was shaky at best, but it was good to see him out of his shell of anxiety and drepression. He was clearly nervous, but had the courage to appear in a sketch as a guard. He played Good Vibrations solo on piano while sitting in a sandbox.
The Kinks were on the show on the February 26, 1977 and played a quick medley of their hits. Dave Davies played a beautiful 50's goldtop Les Paul with P-90 pickups. This guitar was probably not a huge collectable at the time, but would be worth a fortune today. He sounded great, as did the rest of the band.
Levon Helm played on the March 19, 1977 show, along with Dr. John and Paul Butterfield, calling themselves Levon Helm and the All Stars. They played great on two songs, and one wonders why they did not continue with this line up. For us, this was worth the price of the boxed set. Leveon Helm is a true American musical treasure, who lives for the music and still plays today at his farm. He beat cancer and financial problems, and recently won a Grammy for Dirt Farmer.
Santana played on March 26, 1977, playing Europa, which was at the time, my favorite song, and did a short version of Black Magic Woman. I was a huge fan at that time and was learning his songs the best I could. He was playing a Yamaha SG-2000 through Mesa Boogie amps. It was a thrill for me seeing him play Europa. Also, he seemed to be on TV alot that year. You could not be an aspiring guitar player at that time and not be influenced by Santana. I would hold a microphone to the tv speaker and taped these performances to my cassette recorder so I could learn the songs. Somewhere, I have a tape of me from 1977, playing along with Europa. It was not a bad effort. Ieven hit a few of the same notes as he did.
Frank Zappa was on the December 11, 1976 show, with a young Terry Bozzio on drums. I liked Frank, but was not to familiar with his music at that time. John Belushi appears on Frank's last song on the show, as the Samuari saxaphone player. Frank was playing a SG copy given to him by a fan. Frank was a true orignal, and there has been no once since that is does his style of music. He did not care for guitar pyrotechnics and flash, and does not even play guitar on one of the songs.
Chuck Berry was on the January 22, 1977 show, playing his trademark Gibson ES-345. He played Johnny B. Goode and did his duck walk. It was easy to see why he scared the heck out of people in the 1950's and we own much to him for coming up with many of the guitar stylings and licks that we have all played at one time or another.
There are many more to write about, and I have focused mostly on the second season. I am looking forward to the third season, and will write more about others later when I have more time.