QVC has had dozens of musical superstars on-the-air, everyone from Smokey Robinson to Emerson, Lake and Palmer. All performed and sold their wares, usually a box set and various autographed merchandise.
On one of the anniversaries of Woodstock, the 25th, I believe, QVC decided to do a show featuring merchandise from Carlos Santana. They tried to get him on-the-air but he was touring at the time. They decided to do with show anyway with me, their only host who was at Woodstock and actually remembered being there. (It was far out…I think.)
I was a big fan of Santana’s music and really admired his story. He and his band were very popular in the San Francisco club scene back in the late 1960’s. Like many bands in the area, they were managed by rock empresario Bill Graham. A few weeks before the Woodstock Festival in 1969, the whole thing was a disaster. Most communities were trying to stop the gathering of “hippies” from descending upon their small towns. (Bummer, man, bummer!)
The promoters of the festival brought in Bill Graham in an attempt to salvage the event. He agreed to help but only if they would feature Santana at the Festival in a prime performance time. The band didn’t even have an album at the time. The promoters agreed and gave the band the 2 PM Saturday spot. Graham worked his magic and the festival went on to make history in Bethel, New York.
Santana’s amazing performance also made history. Their blend of Latin and rock rhythms had never been heard before. They were different and they were great, almost a guarantee for success in any endeavor.
Without having Santana on-the-air, I decided to put together a show that was not unlike VH1’s Behind the Music. I am proud to say the VH1 show didn’t debut until a couple years later. We were really ahead of the curve. Who knows, our show might have been their inspiration.
We had an interesting array of products, everything from CD’s and cassettes (a major format at the time), T-Shirts, hats, books and much more. As I did each presentation, I presented a fact about Carlos’ history. I even talked about the 2 different guitars he used through the years, a Gibson SG (featured at Woodstock) and a Paul Reed Smith, which he still plays today. I happened to own each one, still do, and had them on stage during the show.
I played each guitar briefly, talking about the different sounds each one made. I played a minor pentatonic scale on the SG, as Carlos had done on Soul Sacrifice and many other early hits. On the Paul Reed Smith, I played a bit of his composition Europa, arguably one of the most beautiful pieces of instrumental music ever written, based on a C Aeolian Scale. I even referenced the incredible Gato Barbieri version of the same song.
The show took several days to prepare. But everything sold out early. “Put in the work, get the results,” has always been a credo of mine. It was a shining hour for us in the music world.
The story even has a happy ending. Carlos Santana watched a tape of the show a few days later. He sent me the autographed photo of Bill Graham and him at Woodstock (featured in the photo of the guitars). It was accompanied by a note that said, “To my brother in music, Steve. With Love, Carlos.” It is one of my most treasured possessions.
© 2019 Steve Bryant – No portion of this or any blog can be reproduced or copied and posted on any online site or read aloud on any audio or video media without the express permission of the author.