Bill Walton & Ec


Bill Walton

I am saddened to read of the passing of Bill Walton – the Boston Celtics
basketball star and two-time NBA Champion – and wanted to send my
condolences to his wife Lori, his sons, Adam, Nathan, Luke and Chris and
to all of his family and his friends, knowing that all of his admirers
are poorer for this day arriving.

My first encounter with Bill was not as a fan of the Celtics but in
watching him march up the aisle of the Orpheum Theatre in Boston in the
summer of 1986.

The “Costello Sings Again” tour was a presentation in which we played
between three-to-five nights in six American cities, offering a
different show every evening, including the first appearance of “The
Spectacular Spinning Songbook” – a magnificent show business contraption
which was even taller than Bill and which audience members were invited
to spin in order to select the next song in the show.

About six songs into the evening, I became aware of a murmur of
encouragement for Bill to take the stage and my security man, Paddy
Callaghan, who was playing the role of our M.C., “Xavier Valentine”,
muttered to me that “this famous guy is coming up” and then I saw Bill

Even allowing for the rake of the theatre floor and the height of the
stage, when Bill was only twenty or thirty feet away we appeared to be
eye-to-eye and I thought it must be some kind of optical illusion.

He arrived into the spotlight to a huge ovation and was gracious in
playing along with the whole game show routine and may have even been
briefly persuaded into the go-go cage into which we invited our
contestants to gambol and caper. I cannot imagine the device was really
built to accommodate a person of Bill’s stature.

It wasn’t the last time we shared a stage, as when I revived the
“Spinning Songbook” in 2012 for “The Revolver Tour”, we played San
Diego, where Bill was now living. This time we came prepared with a song
by Bill’s beloved Grateful Dead, among the forty song titles to be
selected by “chance”.

I am not at liberty to confirm or deny whether any mischief or
shenanigans were involved in “Ramble On Rose’ being selected but Bill
seemed to be delighted with his good fortune and Lori’s photograph of
that evening is an absolute gem. I have to say that Bill’s knowledge of
the Dead catalogue was vastly superior to my understanding of basketball
tactics but by then I was more than aware of his incredible achievements
on the court and I loved seeing him again.

I got to serenade Bill one more time on my “Detour” show at Balboa
Theatre in 2016.

In the afternoon of the concert, I had taught the Hunter/Garcia song “It
Must Have Been The Roses” to Rebecca and Megan Lovell of Larkin Poe –
who were opening the show and then joining me in the finale.

Thirty songs into the show we finally played Bill his Grateful Dead
tune, in between my musical setting of the Bob Dylan lyric, “Down On The
Bottom” and Merle Haggard’s “I Threw Away The Rose”, as the second to
last song of the night.

Bill always did like to keep the finest company and I will carry that
song with me and sing it again in his honor when I next have the chance.

Here’s a beautiful interview with Bill, in which he speaks so generously
of that night.

“I am the human being that I am today because of the Grateful Dead”:
Bill Walton shares life lessons from 859 shows”

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