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Country Queen Emmylou Harris and her 1975 North Water Street Surprise

In July of 1975 rising country music superstar Emmylou Harris and her Hot Band did an impromptu performance at a long gone venue on North Water Street and then disappeared into the night and into music history.

Perry Bocci, Emmylou Harris, Bob Smith, Mary DuShane, RT and Steve Downey pose for a photo by Richard Underwood at the old Water Street Saloon on North Water Street in Kent on Wednesday, July 9, 1975
Perry Bocci, Emmylou Harris, Bob Smith, Mary DuShane, RT and Steve Downey pose for a photo by Richard Underwood at the old Water Street Saloon on North Water Street in Kent on Wednesday, July 9, 1975
  • Emmylou Harris appearing with Good Company, Wednesday, July 9, 1975 at the Water Street Saloon
This is one of my very favorite Kent stories and it is one that was fairly well documented and was so deserved by all of the stunned participants who witnessed and took part. In my mind what occurred on this night has every element of a great historical story: An international icon in her prime, a long gone local saloon, unseen photographs, an unheard recording and vivid memories from several folks who participated. Not to mention this takes place on North Water Street in downtown Kent during the middle of the summer of 1975.

This isn't a commonly known Kent story compared to some of the other tales that float around so when during a conversation a friend mentioned to me that the great country music icon Emmylou Harris showed up in town one night, it caught my interest. The gist of the story that I was first told basically went like this:

Late one night back in the summer of 1975 Emmylou Harris and her Hot Band unexpectedly showed up in Kent at the Water Street Saloon where local country-rock band in residency Good Company were playing to their regular crowd. Somewhere in the night Emmylou Harris and her Hot Band took the stage and performed an impromptu set of music and then shortly after, disappeared into the night and into music history.

Of course I couldn't let a story like this go and it was coming from a very credible source. I had so many questions about this tale. Why was Emmylou Harris in town? Why did she play a free show? How did she get here? What was the exact date this happened? What and where was the Water Street Saloon and what ever happened to it? What was the band Good Company? Are there photos? Did anyone record it?

One of the more intriguing facts about this story is that it takes place in the summer of 1975 and what makes that so interesting for Kent is that while nobody really knew it at the time, this was the tail end of the fabled days of the North Water Street bar strip. Just 6 months after Emmylou Harris did her impromptu performance at the Water Street Saloon a raging fire would destroy half of that strip including the Water Street Saloon, The Kove and Pirates Alley effectively punching a giant hole into what had been a thriving downtown Kent nightlife.

The original aforementioned fire took place on Wednesday, December 3, 1975 which you can see the aftermath of in this photo. The following day this story about the fire appeared on the front page of the Daily Kent Stater. It is my understanding that while the buildings burned pretty bad, there was a plan in place to rebuild that strip until 7 months later on Friday, June 11, 1976 a second fire devoured whatever was left of those buildings. Click here and here to see two photos of that second fire. 

I am not exactly sure how old the building was that housed the Water Street Saloon but if you look into this 1932 rephoto of North Water Street you can see it as a garage. You can also see the building suited as a street level business in this 1966 rephoto shown as Durham Electronic Co. Note the chunky line in the '66 photo to get into the basement bar The Kove in the same building. The Kove has a legend all its own which will have to make for another story in another piece. Later the "Saloon" building housed a bar called Big Daddy's which was one of the establishments the police emptied out just preceding the May 1, 1970 riot. After this, as you can see in this March 1974 rephoto, it became known as the Water Street Saloon which was its final name until the building burned down in 1975/1976.

Another interesting element about this story is that the middle 1970s marks one of the primest periods in Emmylou Harris's career. In the summer of 1975 she would have been out on tour supporting her fantastic "debut" album Pieces of the Sky.

In addition to this, since we know that Emmylou showed up in Kent on Wednesday, July 9, 1975 I can tell you that the recording of Emmylou Harris that was made at the Water Street Saloon that night was made just three weeks before she cut tracks for Bob Dylan's phenomenal album Desire on July 28-30, 1975. If you have Spotify you can hear that entire album here with Emmylou's gorgeous lone vocals providing harmonies throughout. Her contribution to that album (in my mind) was and is crucial to its artistic success and according to the Bob Dylan Biograph box-set this photo was snapped of Dylan, Emmylou, and Eric Clapton on July 28, 1975 in New York City.

This means that the photos and the recording made at the Water Street Saloon are the closest documents of any kind (that I could find) to those legendary sessions with Bob Dylan. We have truly unearthed a little potent sliver of music history here folks. And guess what...it happened in our own back yards.

As mentioned before, one of the great artifacts from this story is this reel-to-reel recording that was made that night which had been buried in a local archive for decades. The recording clocks in at only 11 minutes and 28 seconds but it's three songs provide a portrait of country rock roots mastery. 

The three song set list from that night goes like this: The performance starts with "That's All it Took" from George Jones and Gene Pitney's 1965 album For the First Time. Click here to hear the original version of this song and then click here to hear the Gram Parsons/Emmylou Harris version from the Parson's album GP. Of note is that if you listen to this old Gram Parsons interview, he states that this was the first song he ever rehearsed with Emmylou Harris.

The next song on the short recording is the 1969 Gram Parson's penned "Sin City" off of The Flying Burrito Brothers' album The Gilded Palace of Sin. Click here to hear the original version off of that old classic album. It's not surprising that Emmylou is still playing those songs of Gram Parson's on this night. Not only is he one of the greatest artists of the genre but he personally plucked her out of obscurity and made her a star. On this night at the Water Street Saloon we are only less than 2 years removed from his death and clearly he is still on Emmylou's mind. The third and final song of the set is the 1952 Hank Williams classic "Jambalaya (On the Bayou)" Click here to hear the original version.

--

On the evening of Wednesday, July 9, 1975 local artist, archivist and entertainer Richard Underwood slyly maneuvered himself (without authorization) into the backstage area at Blossom Music Center in Cuyahoga Falls during a performance of Emmylou Harris and James Taylor and managed to get Emmylou to stop on out to the Water Street Saloon in Kent later that night. This is what Richard told me about this adventure:

"The way I ended up backstage at so many of those Blossom Music Center shows in the 1970s was--in those days I would literally just BS my way back there and I also knew some of the people at Blossom. A lot of those people who worked there had seen me around numerous times and I think a lot of those people who worked there just thought I was somebody because I would always be seen with a lot of celebrities--hanging out with them taking pictures and stuff like that. So when I was back there I would make it a point to be friendly with the staff and the likes. I would always be saying hi and talking to them and ya know people kind of get used to seeing you from time to time.

"On the night of that James Taylor/Emmylou Harris show I really don’t remember exactly how I got back there. I imagine it was because in those days a lot of times I would park in the VIP section and then somebody would recognize me and I would just get let through. That was pretty much how I usually got back there.


"That night I remember being backstage and talking to Emmylou’s band members and to this day I don’t remember who was who that I was talking to. At that time I had heard the name Emmylou Harris and I knew who she was and I had heard some of her music but I wasn’t really totally familiar with her. My biggest reason to be back there was James Taylor and I was finding him to be kind of an a**hole. We talked a bit but he was kind of standoffish and wasn’t real open or friendly. Usually when I am around celebrities like that, I watch how they are around other people before I even approach them, and if I see someone being standoffish with others I am not even going to bother. If that’s what they want I’ll just leave them alone.

"But anyway I was talking to Emmylou’s band members and they were talking about possibly going out some place after the performance and they were wondering about any clubs around where they could go check out a band or hang out. I told them about the Water Street Saloon in Kent and I was mentioning that these friends of mine are in a band called Good Company and that the Water Street Saloon is really a cool place. It’s one of these bars where the stage kind of looks like a living room and they have these old lamps in there and you’ll even see a dog walk through every once in a while. I was basically telling them how laid back it was and that it wasn’t any kind of place you would have to dress up to be in. Plus the house band played country rock stuff and Emmylou’s band was being real receptive to what I was saying. As it turned out they were up to it and they were wondering how to get out there, so I wrote down the directions from Blossom to Kent though I had no clue they would actually come to Kent and bring Emmylou with them.

"At some point after the show I ended up giving a ride to this guy who had his car at the Holiday Inn on Route 8 (near the Turnpike.) There were actually two major hotels out there (along with a Brown Derby) and that was where most of the Blossom acts would stay. I don't remember who he was but he must have been a friend of somebody’s or one of the crew members. So I remember dropping this guy off at the hotel and telling him what was going on in Kent and he said he was going to come by afterwards but I have no idea if he ever did. So after that I headed to Kent and that is when Emmylou and the band showed up.

"I actually had no clue Emmylou was even going to be showing up in Kent since I gave the directions to her band members. I remember telling Emmylou’s people earlier in the evening that there was this girl who would be there, Mary DuShane who plays fiddle in Good Company and she’s gonna flip cuz she’s a big fan. Later I found out that all those members of Good Company were so close to that music of Emmylou’s and Gram Parsons.

"I remember when I got to the Saloon walking up to those guys in Good Company and mentioning that there were some people in the room from the Emmylou Harris band and Emmylou is with them…and then Emmylou comes walking in and Mary just had this look on her face and she was in shock. She was just amazed that Emmylou was even in the Water Street Saloon. Emmylou was really cool and the whole thing was really cool.

"James Burton was in her band that night at Blossom but I don’t think he came down to Kent and I definitely would have remembered that since I was a huge fan of his at the time from his work with Ricky Nelson and Elvis, and I had even seen him that year at the Richfield Coliseum with Elvis.

"I also remember taking those photos and I just knew that this was someone that people were really fond of though that night I did not know to what degree. I mean I was thinking that this person just performed at Blossom and she was famous and I was trying to capture this moment of her in Kent with the band. I was thinking it would be kind of cool for my friends in Good Company to get all these photos. I’m actually really glad I always carried my camera with me because a lot of times people would get really pissed off with me and say things like 'you and that damn camera' well now, all these years later with everyone on Facebook people are so appreciative that I took all of those photos and I am able to post them. So now I think it was well worth being a pain-in-the-ass with that camera because I know it meant a lot to that band to look back at something like this. I also had no idea the band had recorded the performance that night until much later and I only heard the recording really recently. It was a great great night."

--

Mary DuShane, who played fiddle in Good Company from 1973-1975 and spent just a few years of her life in Kent in the early/middle 1970s, can be heard on the recording playing on Hank Williams’ “Jambalaya” during that impromptu set at the Water Street Saloon and is shown in the various photos from the night. This is what she told me about her encounter with Emmylou Harris at the Water Street Saloon:

"Back in July of 1975 Emmylou Harris was not yet a big star. I think most of our audience didn’t even know who the heck she was but all of us musicians, we sure knew who she was because of her work with Gram Parsons. Perry Bocci (Good Company's vocalist and driving force (deceased)) and I used to sing '
Grievous Angel' in the band which was a Gram and Emmylou song so we certainly knew who she was. We liked that particular style of country rock which was a lot better than what else passed for country rock at the time which was these sort of head bashing southern rock bands that wore cowboy hats. Before we ever even knew Emmylou was going to walk through the front door we thought she was just a goddess.

"I remember when Emmylou showed up that night at the Saloon she had her steel player Hank DeVito with her and she also brought Rodney Crowell and I think he must have been playing bass that evening. I like the photo of her and me next to each other, flanked by members of Good Company Perry Bocci, Bob Smith, RT Mansfield and Steve Downey.  Hippie chicks, we were in those days, with our long dark hair.

"I remember at one point we got Emmylou and her band drinks and they were all really happy and you can tell in that recording because you can hear her say 'it’s good to be in a goddamn bar.' So they hung out a little and then somebody in our band arranged for them to get up and take the stage to play some songs and they had Steve Downey (from Good Company) play guitar and then Emmylou called me up to play fiddle on 'Jambalaya' which was the last song and I think that was about it. After they played they hung out, drank a little more and went away. 

"Even though it was just for that short amount of time that night, Emmylou and I seemed to make some kind of a connection. And if you look at that photo taken that night you can see that Emmylou is reaching out for my hand. I remember that we looked at each other and knew that we were two of a kind. Just like Emmylou, I was the only girl in the band. That’s how it always was back then. There weren’t very many musicians who were women. There were some great female solo artists but back then there weren’t that many women out traipsing around with an all-male band, so Emmylou and I recognized each other in that sense. I think we are about the same age and we recognized each other as two of a kind in that world. She was very friendly and easy to talk to.

"Later that night while she was still there and our band got back up I did sing one of the songs that I’d sort of written for her. I said ‘I have this song I can really hear you singing.’ So I sang this song called 'Loves Laughing With Me Now' to her and she said ‘send it to my agent.’ –and I regret that I never did. Who knows if something could have come from that. We did chat for a while and there’s one thing I clearly remember she said to me. At one point I asked her, ‘what’s it like doing opening sets for James Taylor? What’s it like playing places like Blossom?’ And she said ‘Thirteen thousand people with perfect hair who wouldn’t know a honky tonk if they were in one!’ I’ve never forgotten that. Those words stuck right in my mind. She’d been playing lots of bars. That’s how she started out--playing bluegrass and country music in taverns in the Washington DC area." 

In the course of our conversation Mary offered up two other stories that I felt should be shared in this article marking the last days of the old North Water Street bar strip. The first of which involved her witnessing a stealth DEVO show at the Water Street Saloon circa 1974-1975. This is what she had to say about that incident: 

"These guys DEVO, whoever they were, just showed up one night and wanted to play a set at the Saloon. They were just some rock and roll guys and they wanted to play and so they got up on stage, turned on their equipment and emptied the Saloon. Everybody hated them. They were headbangingly loud and they were wearing white lab coats and at least one guy had used tampons pinned on his lab coat. My crew at the Saloon was just a little happy country band ya know and then to hear these guys with this sort of shock rock thing going on. They had attitude before attitude was cool and people just left the Saloon in droves out to the streets until they finished and then everyone went back in. Oh my god they were so awful. Well I mean they probably weren’t awful but from our point of view they were awful because we liked country music. We had a feeling this was going to be the next big thing but we didn’t want anything to do with it(laughs.)"

Mary also told me what she remembered about the fire that took place just 6 months after Emmylou Harris stopped in at the Saloon. The fire really marked the end of the 10 year hey-day of the North Water Street bar strip. That area still had plenty of life left to it, but when on Wednesday, December 3, 1975 a fire took out the entire middle section of that strip an era of downtown Kent nightlife really did come to an end.

"That was an unforgettable afternoon. Good Company had just set up in a whole new configuration. Actually Perry and I weren’t getting along at that point. We used to be set up together in the middle but we’d had an argument so we set up with Perry at one side of the stage and me at the other. So that afternoon we had a rehearsal and then everybody left the Saloon except for my boyfriend Bart Johnson who was the bass player and myself. Our plan was to go home for dinner and then come back and play that evening with our new stage set up and as we were getting ready to leave Bart heard a funny noise, like a crinkling noise. It sounded like mice in a bag of potato chips. So Bart ran over and opened the fuse box which was at the back of the stage on the wall and he could see flames coming up from downstairs.

“So he and I ran through the connecting door that was the interior door from the Saloon to the stairs that went down to the Kove. We ran down there and there was an old fashioned gas space heater about 3 feet by 3 feet big or something hanging over the bar down there and there were all these little orange crinkly flames coming out of it. And the flames had spread across the ceiling. There were
these beautifully aged beams down there in the Kove. Just the kind of wood you’d want for your fireplace. So Bart grabbed the fire extinguisher that was down there and he sprayed it all over place and then he stopped spraying for two seconds and then it went. It started burning again because that space heater down there was gas and it just kept running. So Bart looked at me and said ‘we gotta get out of here.’

"Well later we found out the back door of the Kove had been locked and had we not gotten upstairs when we did we’d be dead because we then ran back up the stairs and Bart said ‘we gotta get our equipment out of here’ and I looked at Perry’s incredibly beautiful antique Guild arch top guitar with the F holes and I said ‘Bart you gotta open the closet so I can get the keys so we can get the guitar’—idiot I am. RT Mansfield (Good Company soundman) asked me later ‘why didn’t you grab all the (good) microphones?’ and I said I don’t know. I wanted Perry’s guitar and I got it and I put it in the case and Bart ran out on the street and he hollered for (Good Company pedal steel player) Gerry Simon who was by then half a block down the street. Bart yelled for him to get back to the Saloon and so Gerry came in and he grabbed his pedal steel guitar—he unplugged it and just grabbed it all set up without the case and he rushed out to the sidewalk. Lucky for me my fiddle was at home. 

"Bart grabbed his bass and his amp and then maybe one other thing and then when we went back in for another load it was dark—the fire had eaten through. And then so we stood out in the sidewalk and just moments later the fire trucks came screaming up North Water Street and the guys broke through the front doors with an ax and the 
flames shot across the sidewalk from where the wooden steps went down into the Kove. So that’s how close that was and that’s how hot that fire was. It makes me shiver just to think about right now. 

"After the fire the Numbers Band had a meeting and decided they had to keep going but Good Company also had a meeting and we looked at each other and we said ‘we’re done.’ Though shortly after the fire we had this big benefit at the KSU Rathskeller to help pay for all the equipment lost in the fire but after that the band was over and I went back to Minnesota. The fire was on December 3, 1975 and I was back in Minnesota by Christmas and I was done. My time in Kent was over but as I say the friends I made in Kent have become lifelong and I have visited Kent ever since I left 38 years ago and I’ve been visiting every year for the last few years including this past Labor Day. So even though it’s been a very long time since I lived in Kent the time I spent there was a pretty important time in my life."

--

In the Summer of 1975 Steve Downey was lead guitar player for Good Company and was asked to sit in with Emmylou Harris and her band in absence of her lead guitar player James Burton. When I tracked Steve down he had a lot to say about that night at the Water Saloon, his old band Good Company and that Summer of 1975 on North Water Street. This is what he told me:

"How I ended up in Good Company is that I had been playing in this garage band in town that never got out of the garage. Dave Robinson (of 15 60 75) was our drummer and Paul Braden of Woodsy's Music was the bass player. In the spring of 1975 Good Company's original guitar player left the band and they were already doing one of my songs so they asked me to take his place. Actually, I was in this band only for the last 6 months they existed. The big North Water Street fire in December 1975 ended everything down there for a while.

"Good Company was a band that did lots of Grateful Dead type stuff--that California country-folk-rock sound. We were the house band at the Water Street Saloon and played three, roughly one-hour sets a night, starting at around 10:30. The breaks were somewhere around thirty minutes. 15 60 75 (Numbers Band,) playing downstairs in the Kove, did more-or-less the same schedule. Summer evenings were hot then as now, so when the bands were on break, the sidewalks outside would fill. Each band had its own fans, but there was also a substantial number of people who liked both.

"The Kove was dimly lit, except for the stage. The Water Street Saloon was more lighted, some of that from the double doors open to the street. Kent's current local Mexican food restaurant, Taco Tontos began here in the rear of the Saloon. There were no laws against smoking in bars and the clubs were filled with haze.

"A huge factor in the bar scene at that time had to be that in the State of Ohio the drinking age was 18 for 3.2 beer. It's just a guess, but this might have approximately doubled the number of KSU students in the clubs especially in the summers when the nights were warm, the sidewalks were filled and the clubs were jammed. On any weekend you could probably hear seven or eight bands within Kent's city limits. People walked from bar to bar throughout the evening, hearing a little of one band, and then some of another, somewhere else.

"A few social behaviors were more relaxed in these days. I remember on a few successive weeks in that summer of 1975 when some of the dancers at the Saloon began taking off all their clothes while they danced. I don't think anyone does that today. It was probably just six to eight people, but they kept it up for a while and I never heard anyone complain.

"Of course there was some pot smoking going on in the bars, but people were usually at least a little watchful about how they did that. It was, after all, against the law and now and then someone you'd know would get into some pretty serious trouble about it. One member of our band sometimes brought some of his home-grown pot to the Saloon and would pass out joints on the dance floor.

"There was a little railing around the stage at the Saloon and there were candles set up at intervals along the top. The whole scene was really psychedelic looking and I remember one night watching a band-mate pass out joints to lined-up dancers at the railing. I remember thinking this was like some very odd twist on a Catholic communion ritual. This Water Street Saloon ritual seemed both funny and serious at the same time. I'm up there just noodling around on my guitar, playing some meaningless solo, while we all kind of smiled about the scene.

"The night Emmylou Harris came to the Saloon, none of us knew she was coming. I think
we were close to the end of our first set when she and her band walked in. It wasn't hard to recognize her and we just looked at her walking through the crowd and thought 'Wow- that's Emmylou Harris..' I think I remember doing two or three more tunes before going on break. 

"On break, I seem to remember us all hanging around the soundboard and meeting Emmylou and her band and someone in our band, probably Perry, asking her if she and her band would be willing to do a few songs with our instruments. I remember all of us more-or-less huddled around the soundboard in the rear of the club, and the discussion -  Emmylou and her group deciding what songs they could do without their guitar player and bass player, both of whom had stayed behind at Blossom because they were also in the headlining band.

"Somehow it was decided that Mary DuShane our fiddler, and myself on guitar would be invited to play with them. Of course this was a big thrill for Mary and I. Emmylou had a rhythm guitarist in her band who would play Bob Smith's bass, and Emmylou would play Perry's beautiful old Gibson electric ES 345. Gerry Simon would remember the name of the pedal steel player (Hank DeVito), who used Gerry's instrument. Whoever he was, he had to struggle a little because Gerry used an unconventional tuning. Nobody re-tunes a pedal steel for three or four songs.

"On stage someone counted it off and we played the songs. 'That's all it Took,' 'Sin City' and 'Jambalaya.' The crowd was on their feet the whole time. Both Mary and I were familiar with the songs and had no difficulties. Emmylou was nice enough to give us both solos. The club was packed, as it was always packed that summer, and everyone was loving Emmylou. I think the crowd was perhaps a little extra pleased with us- seeing Emmylou Harris on our stage probably reinforced our credibility a little. Every little bit helps. I remember one thing Emmylou said after the first tune, for which everyone cheered wildly, ‘It sure is good to be back in a God-damned bar’. It seemed like she had had a lot of fun. The rest of us did too."

--

Steel guitarist and longtime Kent musician Gerry Simon was at the Water Street Saloon performing with Good Company when Emmylou Harris and her band walked in. I got to talk to Gerry (along with Good Company bassist Bob Smith) about that night and those times with Good Company at the Water Street Saloon, this is what he told me:

"Good Company's very first gigs were at The Deck here in Kent which was in the basement of the old Hotel (now BW3’s.) We would play between sets for Rich Underwood's Monopoly. We chased away his fans. They didn't like us but eventually we were offered the gig at the Water Street Saloon although when that happened it was known as Big Daddy's.

(Bob Smith: "Initially it was just one night and a couple weeks later we came back for another night and that went ok and it just built on its own success. So at first it was just one night then it was two nights and then eventually it was 4 nights a week. On the weekends it was packed absolutely packed.")


"Before that night Emmylou Harris showed up I was already a huge fan plus Perry and I loved the album she did with Gram Parsons and we used to play 'Grievous Angel' in the band-- we were all in love with her. Perry and I were smitten with her voice, the music, her look--this beautiful woman. When she walked into the Saloon I remember Perry had no problem with being friendly towards her but I coward and I remember thinking 'that's Emmylou Harris! Oh my god, where can I hide' that kind of thing.

"She brought her steel player, drummer and rhythm guitar player. Her steel player Hank DeVito used my pedal steel and he doesn't sound nearly as good as he does when he is playing with familiar equipment. I had a weird setup and my steel was weird too so he had to quickly re-learn his style on it. I was using two amplifiers and the knee levers and the setup on the steel was not what he was used to. So I just needed to acquaint him with the peculiarities of my particular setup. Many steel guitars are set up to the discretion of the musician and not necessarily standardized so it wasn't easy for him.


"Emmylou seemed to have a really good time playing in Kent although that’s not from memory that’s what it seems to me from listening to that recording from the night. She was enjoying herself because when you play big concerts there is a big distance between the performer and the audience. You totally miss the intimacy.

"The Water Street Saloon had a totally different vibe than any other place in Kent. Actually it was pretty different from most other places I've been. We had dogs, kids, just a comfortable place. We had the stage set up with lamps and rugs and tie dyed stuff
. We also had a lot of air brushed images on our amps and speakers from Dr. Fly. The Water Street Saloon had more of the feel of a living room which is what we really wanted to have.

(Bob Smith: "A living room for very strange people.")

"Listening to the recording you can tell they are using unfamiliar equipment and an unfamiliar sound system so they sound a little rough compared to how you would usually hear her in a concert situation. Just judging from the steel playing, Hank DeVito is a great steel player but he was battling it.

"Emmylou actually gave us tickets to see her the following night at Blossom since she was opening for James Taylor again. So the next day Perry and I saw her play but we had to miss James Taylor since we had to be back at the Saloon to play our gig."

It's interesting now in 2013 to go back to what remains of the North Water Street bar strip. Click here to see a photo of the current state of the space that used to occupy the Water Street Saloon. Even though all that's left of that strip is JB's and The Brewhouse compared to around 12 establishments at its 1965-1975 peak, I still see energetic youth down there as well as successful events across the street at the Vinyl Undergroud and Standing Rock Gallery. That area still has energy and still has the ability to attract a lot of people.

With all of the development from Acorn Alley and beyond it seems that the next logical step would be to bring North Water up to par. Most of that street is ripe for development, cleanup and upgrades. While I can't project any kind of real numbers nor do I even know the politics and money behind what this takes, it seems to me that if a new building went in there where the Saloon and Kove used to be and it had 3 stories of bars and live entertainment that the area could once again be glorious.

As far as Emmylou Harris goes, you gotta wonder if she remembers her couple hours in town from that July night in 1975. In closing I'll leave you with this awesome piece of footage showing a vital Emmylou Harris...

Big thanks to everyone who helped me out with this piece including the Daily Kent Stater, Chestnut Burr KSU Media, Kent Historical Society, Stephen Downey, Mary DuShane, Gerry Simon, Bob Smith, Richard Underwood and Dennis Rein.

If you enjoyed this Kent story don't miss my others here on Kent Patch concerning Bo Diddley, the Red Hot Chili Peppers, DEVO, W.C. Fields, Ray Charles and Louis Armstrong, George Carlin, Phish, Duke Ellington, Bruce Springsteen, Paul Simon and Jackass star Ryan Dunn.

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Crazy Kent June 10, 2013 at 12:03 PM
WOW!! What a piece. That's some unearthed Kent history right there! Who knew----about any of this?
Crazy Kent June 10, 2013 at 01:03 PM
Amazing that photos exist and a recording. Unbelievable stuff.
cedar farris June 10, 2013 at 03:39 PM
"Cedar" Ruth Collander Farris: I hitched rides from friends to come from Cleveland some starting in 1974 although I was only 17 I had already been hanging out @ the old "Agora" & "The Grapevine" & places all around Cleveland & I had 8 years of serious New york City Ballet Co. scholarship to study locally @ Ballet Russe & Akron's Chamber Ballet Co. when it started in 1968. The dancefloor was what it was ALL about for me. A certain guy who shall remain nameless w/ a name ending in a vowel used to drive a carload of us young teenage girls & fix us up w/fake I.D.'s & we would memorize our new identities on the way to the clubs in his white Cadillac. I loved "Good Company" & remember the lady fiddler w/ her long skirts & always a dog walking around & the fire escape like stairs going down the stairs & the shock & awe of seeing Bob Kidney & "15-60-75". Black turtleneck & that intense dark stare. All of our childhood dreams of Beatniks came true.I stated @ K.S.U. & immediately "minored" in dancing to the "Numbers Band" & all the other great bands but "The Kove" was the best along side The Water St. Saloon & "Good Company". My cowboy & Beatnik fantasies all together. It was very dark in the Kove. When I walked into the Water Street sadly I can still remember being afraid of her skirts so close to an old space heater w/ a flame. Iwish I could have done something. I remember being in Koonce Hall when word of the fire already was spreading like wildfire we heard & just bolted for the door & raced on foot to see the fire.It was one of the saddest days.
cedar farris June 10, 2013 at 03:49 PM
At least a year later when the empty space was like a missing tooth or teeth. Bill Herman & I were hanging down in the pit & he had an idea of building a kiln w/ the fire bricks which we did & we found a dead dove & made a plate & fired the dove corpse on the plate in honor of The Kove & The Water Street Saloon.
cedar farris June 10, 2013 at 04:18 PM
In 1977 when we formed "Tent City" we would walk in LARGE groups downtown to see the bands. in about May Devo gave us an impromtu concert & a storm some say tornado ripped thru Kent knocking down lots of big trees all over town. Our tents were blowing but DEVO kept playing in the suits & "Energy Domes". That fall DEVO was on TV & became famous. I later did a large fabric piece at K.S.U. that resembled a group of tents w/ door flaps one side was hippy pretty & the other had black doors & safety pins, hundreds of them. For me one side was pre punk & the other punk as it arrived to "Tent City". It hung at Eels Gallery @ Blossom Music Center in 1992 but I think not everyone understood what it is about. This history of Kent & our melancholy about the fire & the changes helps.
cedar farris June 10, 2013 at 04:23 PM
Cedar "Ruth" Collander Farris : We were glad that 15-60-75 stuck around. We would chatter at Jerry's Diner about "The Generators" & "The Waitresses" w/ Chris Butler (I must of heard his name about 3 hundred times) we wondered who?? would be discovered next & would 15- 60- 75 get discovered & leave Kent??
Andrew Polcyn June 10, 2013 at 07:42 PM
Those photos were cool. I've always wondered what used to be in those areas. And then after searching through the one flickr account, seeing the old hotel that burned down across from the Loft and Zephyr. The city has really changed in 40 years.
Thomas Brown December 22, 2013 at 11:44 PM
Enjoyed reading this. Met Emmy in 1973- the night I gave Gram Parsons the lyrics to "Return Of The Grievous Angel".

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