This was a “My View” column that was in the Bflo News on 4/17, I wanted to post it then, but I didn’t.
So better late than never, it does say a lot about the man...
MY VIEW column, written by Dan Schwartz, Buffalo News, 4/17/20
Prine shared warmth with Buffalo folks
John Prine was special to us.
When he passed, I added a Facebook comment about how my friend George Torok and I spent a lot of time in the tunnels under Cassety Hall at SUNY Buffalo State in the early 1970s. We’d memorized every cut from Prine’s first three albums. The acoustics, or lack thereof, made us sound a lot better than we really were.
For the next few days additional stories relating to Prine kept coming back to me unbidden.
There was the time a small group of us went to see Prine and Steve Goodman at Artpark.
Our friend Shelly Reback had a lot of courage in those days. Artpark was one of those half openair, half indoor concert halls. Without warning, Shelly was under the red rope and making a dash down to a position near the stage where Prine and Goodman were doing a sound check.
With visions of being run out of the stadium by security, her then-boyfriend Ricky Teibel and I followed her in hot pursuit.
Before we could get to Shelly, she called out, “Hello, Mr. Prine!”
Prine resounded, “Hello out there.”
“I’m Shelly! Today’s my birthday!”
“Happy Birthday, Shelly.”
“Would you please play a request for me for my birthday?!”
“What would you like to hear, Shelly?”
“I’d like to hear you and Mr. Goodman play “Frying Pan!”
“Frying Pan” was one of the short songs Prine wrote when he was a teenager. It begins with, “I come home from working this morning/There was a note in the frying pan/It said, fix your own supper, babe/ I run off with the Fuller Brush man.”
There was a pause, then Goodman whispered something to Prine. Prine mumbled something to Goodman, and they were off, playing a spirited rendition of the tune, just as security was catching up to us.
Once they began playing, the security guys did something unexpected. They stopped dead in their tracks and listened
to the whole song.
When it was over, Shelly yelled out, “Thank you Mr. Prine! Thank you, Mr. Goodman!”
Prine said, “You’re welcome, Shelly.”
Goodman laughed, “Happy Birthday, Shelly.”
I had visions of it being a onesong concert. I was expecting security to throw us out of there, but the security guys smiled and said the theater wasn’t open yet, and we’d have to wait outside until they started seating for the real show.
At another show, Prine was slated to be the headliner at Harvey and Corky’s Century Theater, a former movie palace.
The show was way late in getting started. People began clapping rhythmically and stomping their feet. Eventually, Prine took the stage first.
When David Bromberg’s “Folk Orchestra” finally arrived, Bromberg explained his band had been stuck in a snowstorm in Rochester. He thanked Prine profusely, and explained not many performers would have done what Prine had just done.
Years later, when Torok and I were working on our dissertations, I bet George a case of beer I could quote and cite Prine in my dissertation.
The committee never even questioned it.