Sunday, May 11, 2008
On the American Top Forty from May 20, 1972, Casey Kasem told a story about Harry Chapin, who had supposedly knocked around the music business without success for some fifteen years before he rented out Greenwich Village's Village Gate nightclub for an entire summer, serving as the opening act the whole time. As Casey tells it, by the end of the summer, Chapin had a loyal audience and a record deal.
I don't know at this late date how true this is, but I have my doubts. Chapin made his first solo album when he was 29, which means he would have been pounding on doors at the Brill Building in his early teens. The part about booking the Village Gate appears to be true, but Chapin spent part of the Sixties as a filmmaker; he directed and cowrote a film called Legendary Champions, which was nominated for an Oscar as best documentary in 1969. Anyone who's making an Oscar-nominated feature-length documentary can hardly be focusing all his attention on growing a music career.
I think of Casey as rather like Paul Harvey: a highly talented radio announcer whose relationship with the truth is refreshingly casual. As long as you keep that in mind, Casey can be most entertaining.