One thing musicians do is to show gratitude to their fans and community by playing benefit shows, when called upon. It’s part of being a musician. We are there to help our community, through good times and bad.
More than forty years ago, my band and I played a benefit concert presented (with the help of local radio and TV stations) by Yakima’s Lee Guthrie. My four-piece cosmic cowboy/country-rock group, the Western Electric Band, and I signed on to help raise funds to aid migrant farm workers, who, due to a severe lack of housing, were forced to camp along the Yakima River. The proceeds were to be turned over to the Emergency Task Force, founded in 1971, which would then employ the funds to help the migrant workers.
The band, which I led with vocals and guitar, included the very talented “Weasel” on bass/vocals, Dan Davis, a hot country-rock picker, and NW music pioneer Stan Ruehlow on drums. A super-talented bunch. We of course, did not ask to be compensated for our performance. Normally, we got paid to get dress up in loud cowboy shirts, load and haul our amps and drums, set things up, put on a show, tear down, load up again and drive home; but for this occasion we were more than happy to donate our performance. We felt a need to help these folks who were in dire straits. – Because, as we all know, there but for the Grace of God….
The concert took place on December 29, 1973, in the beautiful, old Davis High School Auditorium, on its equally beautiful old stage. (If that stage could talk, what stories it could tell!) A large crowd came to hear several bands, all of whom performed free-gratis. Hundreds of people plunked down their hard-earned cash, with the aim of helping these folks get on their feet. And I wanted to make certain, when it was our turn to go on, that I gave these good benefactors their money’s worth.
When we hit the stage, I proceeded to work my tail off, singing up a storm, playing hot guitar solos, all the while dancing around the stage with enthusiasm. In other words, I put on a show! Throughout our set, we got a good deal of applause, and no one gave us the hook, so to speak, so I assumed our show went well, and that I had successfully done my job. I finished the show covered with sweat, breathing heavily, generally wrung-out. I know I broke at least two guitar strings. Man, I had pounded my ax.
When we were all done, and we were tearing- down our equipment and unwinding from the “organized chaos” which a live performance is, a group of eight-or-nine-year-old girls walked up to me. I figured they were going to ask for my autograph. I started to reach for my pen. — Or at least they were going to throw a few compliments my way. Instead, in front of everyone within earshot, they asked me, “Are you on LSD?”
According to the event program, radio stations KAAR, KBBO, KIT, KMWX, KQOT, KUTI, and television stations KAPP, KIMA, KNDO, KYVE, and the Yakima Herald Republic donated time/space to publicize the benefit. The Davis High School Key Club helped with event coordination. The concert producers gave a special thank-you to The Emergency Taskforce and its volunteers.
My memory takes me back to the early 50’s, when the Yakima River overran its banks and flooded the surrounding area. My 5’5” father, Al Bowles, Jr., aka Cowboy Pinkeye, had to forego his usual duties at KIMA Radio/TV to stack heavy sandbags out in the rain, for hours, in an attempt to keep the station from being washed away.
Our little corner of the world has experienced very heavy rains at times; and the river has occasionally gone on to wreak havoc and destruction. — Take for example, the flood of January, 1974, which happened mere months after the concert.