Tucked behind the Ferry Terminal and up the hill from Borough Hall in the Saint George district of Staten Island stands a gem of a building erected almost one hundred years ago. Stephen Stills and Judy Collins will be appearing there on June 29th. The original owner of the theater, Sol Brill, had fountains, murals, and sculptures adorning the interior. Theater restoration is an art unto itself. No doubt a collection of America’s great theaters restored to their former glory would be an excellent coffee table book. But restoration is also in the acoustics. My hat goes off to Stills-Collins who have carefully selected these quaint venues to perform in, starting with the Vogue Theater in Vancouver. The musical duo leave us on the edge of our seats as we are witness to their folksy, relaxed camaraderie. It is magical to hear their harmonies hanging in the rafters.
We are one year short of celebrating the 50th anniversary of Woodstock. Crosby, Stills, Nash, & Young were one of the bands. I came across a YouTube interview where Stephen Stills tells his story of how the band’s equipment was delivered from LaGuardia Airport up to the festival with just ten minutes to spare. In the music cases were two 1958 White Falcon Gretsch hollow-bodies, one for Stills and one for Young. They would laugh to themselves as they famously took opposite sides of the stage just to allow the brilliant appearance of these matching guitars to dazzle the audience. The volume knob on the Falcon is uncharacteristically positioned just south of the pick guard so you could work the tremelo bar and the volume simultaneously.
One other joy of Stephen’s guitar inventory is a 1939 Martin D45SS. I heard Stills mention Doc Watson and Chet Atkins, two of my all-time favorite American finger pickers. These two guys would be enough to serve as role models. Two years before Woodstock, Stills and Young were part of the Buffalo Springfield. For me, nothing is finer than a nice acoustic version of ‘Bluebird’. The song is timeless.
“Bluebird” Acoustic version performed by Marc
Double drop D is my favorite tuning that also works for Joni Mitchell tunes. I look forward to learning Judy Collins’ catalog. I am embarrassed to admit that I do not know much more about Judy Collins than she was the Judy in ‘Suite: Judy Blue Eyes’ written by Stills for CSN and performed at Woodstock in 1969. She was a solo artist and I always ignorantly grouped her with fellow folksingers of the time, Joan Baez and Janis Ian.
So, the Saint George Theater in Staten Island will be as close as Stills-Collins will make it to New York Harbor next week. After that gig, they will complete their tour at the Kennedy Center in Washington D.C. Somehow, I will continue to hear their music playing along the waterside long after their concert is complete, even if I have to do it myself.