In 1973, I taught myself to play the guitar. Two reasons inspired this effort: one, I really liked the sweet melodies of John Denver songs; and two, I saw the guitar as a ‘babe magnet’ and I figured any help was good help. It wasn’t easy but I persevered and have been playing my guitars ever since (in addition to the 6-string Gibson guitar I started out on, I quickly acquired a 12-string Yamaha because, well, John Denver sometimes used a 12-string).
Both of my reasons for starting to play worked out. I played John Denver songs over and over, in fact to this day his song My Sweet Lady is the tune I use to warm up. In 1974 the second reason was fulfilled when I began dating a young lady who in all good fortune also appreciated the music of John Denver. When it was announced in early 1975 that John Denver was coming to Toronto to perform in a concert at Maple Leaf Gardens, we had to be there. I was assigned the job of getting the tickets.
Unlike today when to get tickets you need to be fast on the keyboard so your online purchase request goes through before everyone else jams a server, in 1975 I needed to stand in line outside one of two locations selling tickets. I arrived early to get a good spot in line but my idea of early was apparently considered late by ticket purchase standards in those days. By the time I was about 20 people away from the ticket booth, the horrible words “Sold Out” were broadcast. Somewhat forlorn, I walked the downtown Toronto streets eventually heading to the second ticket outlet location. I decided to check with the location just to be able to say “I tried.”
On approaching the ticket window, where only one person waited in line ahead of me, I could not help but notice the “John Denver Tickets Sold Out” sign in the window. Asking for a miracle was free so I waited and within a couple of minutes had my chance to approach the ticket seller. “Any John Denver tickets available?” To my astonishment the reply was not a swift “No, can’t you read” but rather a “Well, the person in front of you just turned two tickets back in.” I took those tickets (see the stubs pictured below) and the young lady I was dating recognized me as a hero for getting second row seats, at least for a short while.
On April 23rd, 1975, John Denver sang twenty songs to us at the Maple Leaf Gardens concert in Toronto. He instructed us to sing along with him on the song choruses but to leave the verses to him. He sang all his hits, Sunshine on My Shoulders, Annie’s Song, Thank God I’m a Country Boy, Back Home Again, Take Me Home Country Roads and finished his concert as he always did with This Old Guitar. I noticed on the ticket stubs that the price, including 68 cents retail sales tax, was $7.50. Having seen two daughters through several Backstreet Boys concerts, those two tickets were the best $15.00 investment I ever made. I had a magical concert night, great memories to reflect on, and the young lady, well, she married me two years later.