English guitarist Geoff Beck is considered one of rock’s finest men. Beck, who died on Tuesday at the age of 78, was enlisted in the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame Not once, but twice: first as a member of the Yardbirds (1992) and second as a solo artist (2009). He was ranked fifth on Rolling Stone magazine’s list of the “100 Greatest Guitarists of All Time”.
Among other songs, Yardbirds are remembered for beating “The heart is full of soul” With Beck’s guitar memorably imitating the sitar.
In Peoria, Beck is called in for a rather poor performance and a heated encounter with a catfish dinner.
On Friday, June 25, 1976, the Beck and Jan Hammer Group performed as the opening act for a concert at the Glen Oak Park Amphitheater. Fleetwood Mac was the frontrunner.
Related:From Fleetwood Mac to The Beach Boys, Glen Oak Amphitheater rocked Peoria in the ’70s
“Most of the crowd came to see Fleetwood Mac and just used Jeff Beck’s slot to warm themselves up and finish socializing” before the main show, read the Journal Star review the next day. “Jeff Beck was kind of a let down at first,” the story continued. “The band began to roll near the end of their set, however, and Beck’s shimmering guitar was more than his usual surreal rock high quality by the end of their performance.”
Was Beck’s slow performance related to his constant dissatisfaction with his pre-concert meal?
In a 2016 Journal Star article, promoter Jay Goldberg looked back on that ill-fated dessert.
“At his contract contestant, Beck specified that he wanted a fish dinner before the performance,” the story said. In an effort to impress, Goldberg sent a ride to King’s Restaurant, north of Peoria on Galena Road, known for its fried catfish.
“I was so proud that I took her to Beck myself, to the dressing room,” Goldberg said then. “He looked at her, then he looked at me, then he looked at her again — and then he threw her across the room.”
The story continued, “Goldberg yelled, but later asked Beck’s manager what the catfish’s reaction was. Hovey, the manager, explained that the British viewed the catfish as being beneath them: ‘Jeff was offended.’ We don’t eat catfish in England.”
Related:Christine McPhee, Fleetwood Mac mesmerized the Peoria audience in 1976
Now 72, Goldberg remembers the catfish incident — and the party — with amusement.
He sees hurling fish as just a sign of Beck’s high standards.
“Jeff Beck was a perfectionist and wanted everything professional. But he was a really nice, easygoing guy otherwise,” he said recently. “When Jeff realized that for us purists, catfish king was a delicacy, we laughed together and the show went on.”
He added, “I have some fond memories of that concert and hanging out with Jeff Beck and Fleetwood Mac later that evening, but some of the stories were left untold — LOL.”
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