I met Richie Havens in the basement of The Right Track Inn, a bar on Long Island that I was a part of in the early 1970s.
It was a bucket of blood when Mike and Al bought it. Mike recruited Steve and me to rebuild it. Because we knew nothing about the bar business, we had no idea how much chaos and even mayhem we’d have to endure before we made the place safe. We spent several years doing everything we could think of to make it work, and finally it did.
We doubled the size of it and it became one of the three most successful rock and roll clubs on the island. Eventually, we were booking up-and-coming local bands like The Ramones as well as national acts that included Richie Havens.
His contract required a “green room.” We had no idea what that was. We found out 24 hours before he was due to appear. Since I was the (amateur) carpenter of our little group, I was appointed to build one in the basement.
Armed with some hand tools and a handful of speedballs, I worked 24 hours straight. A simple room would have sufficed, but this was Richie Havens. I made it a masterpiece of hippy decor, with beveled pine slats and interlude mirror on all the walls. I was finishing up the last slot when the door opened.
It was Richie Havens and his entourage. He frowned at first and my heart stopped. Then I like to think he noticed my sweat-stained shirt and my dilated pupils and he smiled. He was looking at my work and nodding his head in approval. “Groovy,” he said. “Groovy.”
As I scurried past him, head down, he put his hand on my shoulder. “Groovy,” he repeated.
Click HERE to watch a video of Richie Havens’s unforgettable rendition of “Freedom” at Woodstock in 1969.