A 50-year-old, black-and-white video on YouTube. That’s what started it all.
In it, Peter, Paul & Mary, the great folk group, performed a fabulous rendition of Gordon Lightfoot’s “Early Morning Rain.”
In the early morning rain,
With a dollar in my hand.
Kelly Bogan watched it once. Then twice. Then again.
And an achin’ in my heart,
And my pockets filled with sand …
“I kept returning to it, thinking, ‘Man, these guys were good,’ ” said Bogan. “It just inspired me.”
Bogan is a terrific Spokane musician. He plays everything from classical and jazz piano to bluegrass guitar and banjo. He teaches at the Amend Music Center, 1305 W. 14th Ave., where he has also started “Kelly’s,” a basement venue for acoustic music performances.
Bogan, 65, has long held a special affection for the famed folk trio. He learned to play his guitar as a kid by listening over and over to what Peter Yarrow and Paul Stookey were playing on their iconic albums.
Watching the video reignited Bogan’s love for the group and gave him an idea:
Why not form a Peter, Paul & Mary tribute band?
That was three years ago. Come downtown during the lunch hour on Tuesday and you can enjoy the polished result.
Bogan, Bill Klein and Valerie Hughes make up The Willows, a tribute to Peter, Paul & Mary, with Bruce Pennell on bass.
The ensemble will perform on the sidewalks of downtown Spokane as part of the 15th annual Street Music Week. A variety of musicians and artists will perform Monday through Friday from noon to 1 p.m. to gather donations for 2nd Harvest food bank.
The event rides again in the downtown business core, the historic Garland District and on Coeur d’Alene’s Sherman Avenue.
The Willows will also be one of the acts performing Thursday (7-9 p.m.) in the Garland Theater for a special 15th annual Street Music Week celebration. The event is free to the public and there’s reason to celebrate.
Street Music Week has raised more than $150,000 in food bank contributions since it began. (Donations can also be made online at www.streetmusicweek.com.)
This year we’re hoping to crack the $175,000 mark.
There’s still plenty of time for performers to get involved. Just show up a little prior to noon, Monday through Friday, at one of the check-in spots.
I’m always next to the downtown Starbucks at Main and Post. At the Garland District, the check-in is on the sidewalk outside the Gathering House. In Coeur d’Alene, the check-in is outside the Art Spirit Gallery.
You’ll be given a red collection bucket and a special busker badge to keep. Go find a spot to play until 1 p.m. and then bring whatever you collected back to where you started.
Participate one day or every day. Street Music Week is open to every skill level.
I’m already hearing from a number of cool acts.
My brother Dave’s saxophone quartet – the Three Rivers Saxtette – will make the trip from the Tri-Cities again to take part on Monday.
The great Peter Rivera, former lead singer of Rare Earth, will sing once again at my Starbucks location on Thursday.
And on Friday, a first: Tim Lorentz will be downtown to give rides in his famed LaBoata boat car for $100 donations to the food bank.
I can’t wait to hear The Willows. I’ve admired Bogan’s musicianship ever since we were members of the same class at Ferris High School.
If you’re wondering where the name came from, The Willows was what the group was known as prior to Peter, Paul & Mary.
After their 1961 debut, the trio enjoyed a string of monster hits, including “Blowin’ in the Wind,” “Puff (The Magic Dragon)” and “Leavin’ on a Jet Plane.”
The way Bogan tells it, deciding to create a PP&M tribute band put him in a bit of a dilemma.
After an extensive search, he was unable to find a source for the group’s music.
Bogan didn’t want just chord and lyric lead sheets. He wanted exact transcriptions of all the guitar parts, bass lines and vocal harmonies, just the way the songs were performed on the albums. Everything.
So he decided to transcribe it all himself, note for note, which should tell you a whole lot about Kelly Bogan.
“It took a full year and I didn’t even have a band yet,” he said, laughing.
The end result is impressive. Bogan amassed a 2-inch-plus-thick binder that contains 60 fully transcribed Peter, Paul & Mary songs.
He also added interesting historic footnotes about where the songs came from and when they were recorded.
“I became pretty driven. Once I got on that train I couldn’t get off.”
Finally finished, Bogan set about finding the right musicians to join him. “It’s not easy to get the logistics of a band together,” he said, adding that personalities count nearly as much as musicianship.
“You have to be able to work together.”
Bogan, who assumes the Peter part, made sure that he and Klein picked the correct guitars and wore the trademark dark suits with skinny black ties of the early 1960s.
“I like to do a good job,” he said. “Not sloppy.”
That said, there are limits to everything. Unlike the fair-haired late Mary Travers, for example, Hughes has dark hair.
Bogan laughed again. Valerie said, “Please don’t make me wear a blond wig.”
Point taken. This really is all about the music rather than creating a trio of lookalikes.
“I just want to try to be good, to do a good job and pay tribute to their legacy,” said Bogan, who saw the group live three times in the 1990s.
“I don’t think I’ve ever seen any group in concert that I was more impressed with.”