There were five of us, including the two who'd known each other only a week and had gone down to meet the others when their private jet arrived. The walk back to the terminal from where the plane touched down at the end of a spider-legged arterial concourse couldn't have been much farther than, say, from Valdez to Key West. Hence the unopposed suggestion that we all adjourn to the nearest cocktail dispensary. But I'm getting ahead of myself.
The events that got us to the table in question had begun playing out a week earlier at another watering hole, The Alamo Saloon, when this willowy young thing slipped onto a barstool adjacent to my own. "Hi, I'm Cindy from Austin and I was told you might be able to help me," she cooed.
She was a publicist for a concert promoter back in Texas who had assigned her as point person for the Park City stop on a tour of western ski towns by John Prine and Ramblin' Jack Elliott, and she had heard that, as the local music writer and a disc jockey in Salt Lake, I might be able to help her get the word out.
As you can imagine, I quickly took the bait, swallowing the hook whole. The line and sinker I deposited in a close-by spittoon.
As was the norm of the time, the summer of '73 was mostly locals only around Park City, especially that small old-town enclave composed of the Alamo, Post Office, Laundromat, unemployment office, and the art gallery that offered guitar lessons along with the mixed-media.
Back then, a somewhat large segment of the ski-bum population would head south once the lifts at Treasure Mountain (now PCMR) and ParkWest (Canyons) were shut down. Many among the younger set had little or no inclination to put down roots here or elsewhere and Mexico had a siren's call that was hard to ignore.
That would slowly begin to change, however, as more and more found summers to be at least as inviting as the ski season. It was the same in Aspen, Crested Butte, Jackson Hole, Telluride, Lake Tahoe, Vail, Sun Valley and the rest of the stops on the tour.
So, with the much anticipated show booked into the historic and seldom-used Egyptian Theatre on Main Street for the following weekend, we set about quickly splattering fliers all over town and running ads in The Park Record and Salt Lake Tribune. The promotion on my KMOR radio show was pretty much nonstop.
Once the concert quickly sold out, a second show was added for the same night. It seemed like everything was coming up roses for point-person-publicist Cindy. Her bosses would be pleased. On the appointed day, she and I would drive down in my car and meet the plane. What could possibly go wrong?
Meanwhile, back at the airport bar, Ramblin' Jack, John Prine, Al Bunetta (Prine's manager), Cindy and I found ourselves knee-deep in cocktails and jocularity. No one seemed to notice or recall the precise moment we entered the time warp.
Looking back, one of my most questionable moves that night might well have been handing Ramblin' Jack my car keys for the drive back up Parleys Canyon. Actually, he drove very well, careening up through the curves as he rambled on and on and on bouncing from one arcane topic to the next.
By the time we arrived at the Egyptian Theatre, the rest of us could easily have written Ph.D. dissertations on everything from square-rig sailing to cattle roping to the "Classic 1966 Needlenose Pete Peterbilt 281 Cummins 903 V-8 Diesel 2 sticks 4&4 duel." When Jack gets revved up, you'd best grab a gear!
Now, this is the point where things began to unravel. By the time of our triumphant entrance into the theatre, the house was full and the first show was already close to an hour late getting started. To put it mildly, Cindy was in deep doo-doo with her Austin bosses. No matter how hard we pleaded, we couldn't get her off the hook. They decided to stuff 10 pounds of concert into a 5-pound venue and have only one show!
Word went out to all the bars for all ticket holders for the second show to cram themselves as best they could into the venue. By the time Jack went on, it was packed to the rafters, the aisles totally clogged. And by the time Prine's set began, everyone was on their feet singing along.
And now, almost exactly 40 years later to the day, Thursday night, Aug. 22, Ramblin Jack Elliott will return to the scene of the crime to play the Egyptian Theatre once again. Coincidentally and ironically, John Prine will have played Red Butte Garden two days previous. What if Prine were to show up for Jack's show? Nah, couldn't happen, could it?
Jay Meehan is a culture junkie and has been an observer, participant, and chronicler of the Park City and Wasatch County social scenes for more than 40 years.