Today in Music History August 3

That Time Bruce Springsteen opened for Anne Murray

Aug 3, 1974. The Schaefer Music Festival in Central Park was a long running music festival that took place in the summer months at Wollman Rink in New York City’s Central Park between 1967 and 1976.  Each summer night featured 2-3 performances, and over the years the artist list was a veritable who’s who of the American folk, pop, rock and jazz world.

On Aug 3, 1974 the lineup was supposed to be acoustic duo Brewer & Shipley as the overall openers, followed by Canadian adult contemporary singer Anne Murry, and then headliner Boz Scaggs.  However, Scaggs canceled a month before the show, so the promoter booked Bruce Springsteen to replace him.  Anne Murray’s management objected to this, arguing that since she was a bigger commercial star, it wasn’t right for her to be opening for Springsteen.

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This was technically true, since by that time, Murray had already had a number of radio hits, including ‘Snowbird‘ and ‘Danny’s Song‘ (a cover of the Kenny Loggins song ) and a number of other songs I couldn’t bring myself to listen to on YouTube.  But her management was clearly not familiar with Bruce Springsteen live.  Springsteen to that point had had modest commercial success, but had built up a cult following on the East Coast, especially in the NY and NJ areas, for the quality and intensity of his live performances with the E St. Band.

 

Springsteen’s manager, Mike Appel reluctantly agreed to go second only on the condition that he (Bruce) be able to play his full 80 minute set.  As it turned out, the vast majority of the 5000 people in the audience had come to hear Springsteen. About half way through the set, Murray’s management realized  what a colossal mistake they had made, and tried to get Appel to make Springsteen stop – Appel of course refused.  According to some reports, Murray was hysterical backstage, pissed off that her management was making her follow Springsteen.  This was a reasonable reaction, as apparently after Bruce’s set, the crowd booed the announcement of her upcoming set, and about 3/4s of them left, leaving her a much smaller crowd.

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Legend says that this was the last time that Springsteen opened for anyone else.  Partly due to bad experiences in the past (he had been booed (not “Bruuuced”) by fans when he opened for Chicago in 1973), and due to other artists not wanting to repeat the Anne Murray experience, this makes sense.

Murray went on to greater commercial success in the remainder of the 70’s and early 80’s.  Springsteen went on of course to become a rock and roll legend, songwritng icon, and national treasure (yes, I’m a fan!)

Here’s a clip of Bruce and the E St. Band performing ‘Spirit in the Night’ in 1973 in LA to give you a flavor of his show at the time.  I couldn’t find any live footage of Anne Murray (ok I didn’t really try).

 

 

Sources: This day in Music.com; Wikipedia; fyimusicnews.ca; thelightindarkness.com; zeroblindterry1 YouTube channel; BrucebaseWiki

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