I need to remember this
So baby, give me just one kiss
And let me take a long last look
Before we say goodbye
Greetings, oh beloved citizens of Bootleg City!
When we last talked about the often absent/hardly missed Mayor Cass, I shared the news that he’d gone to prison. What hasn’t been shared, though, is the reason behind his prison sentence, and since even our politically troubled friend is foggy on the reasoning behind his punishment, it’s important that it be discussed.
Although it’s widely believed that the mayor’s problems began in Arizona, the truth is that the situation goes much further back. In June of 1998 Mr. Cass, who was Bootleg City’s deputy mayor at the time, got together with Matthew Boles, the Minister of Hip-Hop and Job Displacement, or something like that, to mount a concert featuring reluctant ’80s pop star and piano legend Bruce Hornsby. It’d been nearly ten years since the last concert in Bootleg City, when former teen idol Donny Osmond came to town for a performance that’s still being talked about today.
While Hornsby didn’t have “Soldier of Love” in his catalog of hits, he did arrive armed with favorites like “Mandolin Rain,” “The Valley Road,” “Look Out Any Window,” and his signature hit, “The Way It Is.” For nearly three hours, he and his band, the Noisemakers, tore the roof off the small pavilion in the public commons located in the center of Bootleg City.
By the time he wrapped up the performance with a moving rendition of the rarely played “I Will Walk With You,” there wasn’t a dry eye in the house. Nearly 36,000 people had come from neighboring towns and cities nearly two hours outside of the city limits to see Hornsby, who hadn’t been in the area in nearly 15 years. The unexpectedly large crowd caused quite a bit of damage to the city’s downtown area, and Deputy Mayor Cass quickly realized he had a situation on his hands that would require careful handling.
Meeting with the Minister of Rap Career Counseling, or whatever Matthew was calling himself back in the day, Cass sketched out a repair plan, borrowing from a secret slush fund that’d been saved for a rainy day. Years passed, and he truly believed that his tactical error had been forgotten by the citizens of Bootleg City. After all, the city had built both a new pavilion and a playground for local children.
Cleverly, Cass brought Hornsby back for a return engagement to dedicate the playground with a performance of “The Old Playground,” from Hornsby’s 1988 album Scenes From the Southside. It all seemed so perfect — except it wasn’t.
Subsequent allegations of tax evasion (tsk tsk!) and a discovery of the secret slush fund in early 2006, once Cass had been elected mayor, led to a hushed investigation by a small group of concerned citizens. After the mayor’s Arizona issues emerged in June, the group came forward and gave him a report of their findings, telling him they planned to press charges and seek the death penalty. Luckily for the mayor, you can’t get a death sentence for tax evasion, but you can wind up with a few years in the slammer. The mayor realized it was in his best interests to take the punishment and do the time.
Behind prison walls, Mayor Cass discovered that, curiously, many of the prisoners were Bruce Hornsby fans. While Internet access is prohibited, the prisoners had discovered that they could have family members conduct trades on their behalf to acquire various bootleg live performances. By pooling their resources, they’d amassed an impressive collection of Hornsby rarities and live treasures.
I had the opportunity to speak with Mayor Cass briefly this past week during his allotted phone time, and though he said his time in prison has been challenging so far, he’s developed a great deal of respect for the Hornsby catalog. He offered to send along a couple of his favorite shows, and I’m pleased to share them with you now.
The first concert finds Hornsby making his first visit to Toledo, Ohio, on July 23, 1994, playing a headlining show during a break from a summer tour opening for longtime friend Bonnie Raitt. The trio of “Across the River,” “The Show Goes On,” and “A Night on the Town” that pops up midway through the show is one highlight, with the first-album nugget “Defenders of the Flag” providing another shining moment. You won’t get an argument from me on this show, because I never met a live Hornsby bootleg that I didn’t like.
And as a bonus for those of you that like it better when Hornsby plays ’em just like the record, you will also enjoy the following vintage 1988 performance from Bruce Hornsby & The Range in Orlando that will remind you exactly how good those first two albums were.
(And shall we spend some time talking about how awesome that third album was? Nah, just go and read the excellent Hornsby guide from Jeff Giles for the complete lowdown on how much the dude rules.)
July 23, 1994
Hot House Ball
What a Time
Billie’s Bounce/Au Privave/Sex Machine/On the Western Skyline
The End of the Innocence
Defenders of the Flag
Rainbow’s Cadillac/Franklin’s Tower
Talk of the Town
Across the River
The Show Goes On
A Night on the Town
Don’t Do It/The Way It Is
Look Out Any Window
Another Day/It Takes a Lot to Laugh, It Takes a Train to Cry
Mandolin Rain/Fields of Gray
The Valley Road (early fade-out)
Bruce Hornsby & the Range
August 27, 1988
Look Out Any Window
I Will Walk With You
The Old Playground
The Road Not Taken
The Wild Frontier
Every Little Kiss
The Valley Road
The Way It Is
Defenders of the Flag
On the Western Skyline