Don Recalls: Bruce Before He Was The Boss

It was a quiet Thursday afternoon in the mid-70’s when I received a surprise phone call from my friend, John Kirksy, who did promotion for Columbia/Epic Records. It seems he had a new artist performing that night and tickets weren't selling, so would I help him "Paper the House," to help him build an audience? I told John that it was Thursday night and I'd been on the road, so I was pretty tired. Then he said, "Don, BRUCE SPRINGSTEEN is going to be a huge star and you can see him in a small venue, about 2500 seats."

I was very familiar with Bruce, he’d been on the covers of both, Time and Newsweek, the same week, a triumph for the CBS publicity department; and Jon Landau had written in Rolling Stone: "I have seen the future of Rock and Roll, and his name is, Bruce Springsteen."

I told him that it was a school night, but he was really begging, so I said that sure I’d go and bring my daughter, Jacqui, with me. He said thanks, and that he’d leave tickets at Will Call. So that evening my daughter, in her mid-teens, and I drove to the Convention Center Theater, a smallish venue with maybe twenty five hundred seats that when we entered the room only a few hundred residents, and I knew a lot of them personally. It turned out to be one of the most memorable times of my career, an unforgettable night. I knew the guy at the Sound Board and we sat with him, best seats in the House, which was very sparsely filled.

The story was that this was Bruce's 3rd album, and he really needed a hit to become the artist he was expected to be. He was in the Studio working on the album, "BORN TO RUN," and former Rolling Stone writer, Jon Landau, was advising on the Production of the Record. There were many versions, but none seemed to have the sound of a hit, so they decided to just let Bruce Rock It, pick up the tempo and make it Loud and Proud. I'm told there was a moment after many playbacks when everyone knew that they finally had the song that would establish Bruce Springsteen as a Major Artist.

But the night of the show we didn't know that, until Steve Van Zandt kicked off the E-Street Band and The Boss himself came sliding onto stage on his knees, guitar above his head. It was obvious he was hungry, and the Band was on the same page. One future hit after another played that night, including Thunder Road and Jungleland, and then Born to Run, I was blown away.

He worked his heart out for the next couple of hours, and got a "Standing O," from the mostly industry types in the audience. On the way out John was bidding everyone a good night and I paused and said, "You were right man, he’s something really special." John grinned and said, "That’s why I invited you guys man, I knew that after you saw him you’d spread the word."

There are only a few nights that I remember as clearly as that, another would be seeing the Stones in a 3000-seat room, and maybe the night we realize Springsteen was going to be a big star. But I not only spread the word about Bruce, I became a lifelong fan.

This is the official video for Born to Run, a montage of clips from several Live Shows over the years, one special note: Check out the Big Man, the late, great saxophonist Clarence Clemons doing his famous Break Solo.

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