Introduction:

The Bee Gees' Spirits Tour of 1979 has been one of these highlights of that long period I have been a Bee Gees fan so far. My first meeting with the Bee Gees' music was way back in 1967 and I finally first met them personally in February 1973 and have met them many times ever since that day. Now it's 2002 and I'm still Bee Gees fan and madly in love with their music. It's time to walk back down memory lane again and pay attention to one of these many, many interesting Bee Gees events of the past 4 decades I remember my holiday to North America in 1979 as a very special one. With some friends I traveled through the U.S. and Canada for over 6 weeks and saw lots of interesting places of both countries, as well as many fantastic Bee Gees concerts. We met very interesting people and had a real good time! Thanks to the help of the Gibb Family it was possible to get a chance to visit so many great shows. I'm sure that lots of other Bee Gees fans have, like me, wonderful memories of this Spirits Tour as well.




Therefore let's walk down Memory Lane to enjoy some of these moments again by reading this report with many photos, articles and other interesting items from that very successful Bee Gees tour!


he brothers began rehearsing in May / June 1979 for their American concert tour, which included a few Canadian shows as well.
Rehearsals were very extensive with the band practicing 5 or 6 hours a day.
The tour consisted of 10 weeks of concerts, with a 3 week break in between and covered about 50 cities.

Tourbook The Spirits Tour
The Bee Gees toured with their band, formed in 1975 and which consisted of Dennis Bryon on drums, Blue Weaver on various keyboards, and Alan Kendall on lead guitar.
This band was more than just a group of musicians playing together. As Maurice once said: "They're part of the family. Having a band that knows how we play and sing and write has really been one of the keys to our sound."
And the band members were just as thrilled. As Blue Weaver acknowledged, "I've never seen anybody create music like the Gibbs. It's magic and I'm thrilled to be part of it."
Bee Gees as well as band were very much looking forward to this tour.
As Dennis insisted: "I still get off on every performance. I'm a fan. No matter how many dates on a tour, I'm always amazed at how beautiful written the songs are."
Everyone knew: this was going to be the biggest tour ever for the group and all were very much looking forward to it with much excitement.
As Robin said: "I feel great about this tour, because this is going to be the biggest one we've ever done.
Basically, because we've never had success on the level we do now.
And it's going to be a whole different scene than we've ever seen before, because of it.
"
Maurice was also looking forward to it but for a different reason.
As he explained, "One thing that's really exciting me is that I'm not playing bass on this tour.
When we do all the vocals, like on Stayin' Alive, you've got the different bounce beats with the bass, and I find it more exciting now just to play rhythm guitar.
I find it more enjoyable and it makes it easier to do vocals on stage.
"
So The Bee Gees have been practicing almost around the clock for quite some time and as Barry said about the band: "Our band is really like a family and we're very close to one another.
We love them and they're the best.
"



ho are all their band members and other musicians with whom the Bee Gees performed during this tour...
First of all there was of course their lead guitarist, who still is lead guitarist for The Bee Gees until today:
ALAN KENDALL: (lead guitarist)
Alan was born in Nelson, Lancashire and has been with the brothers since 1970.
Prior to working with The Bee Gees he played in the group Toe Fat who toured the U.S. as openers for Eric Clapton's Derek and the Dominoes.
Alan worked previously with Glass Menagerie and Chris Ryan and the Questions.
A self taught musician, Alan lists his musical influences as Buddy Holly, B.B. King and Peter Green.
Alan: "My musical taste has always leaned to blues and soul music so it was naturally a thrill to be able to work that into this band."


DENNIS BRYON: (drums).
Born in Cardiff, Wales, Dennis joined the Bee Gees family in 1972 after playing with Blue Weaver in Amen Corner, one of the top bands in England in the late 1960.
After the break up of that group Dennis auditioned for the Bee Gees Band after a neighbor in his apartment building, Alan Kendall, suggested it.
Dennis' very first gig with the band was at the Festival Hall with the London Symphony Orchestra behind him. (we reported about this concert in the previous edition of Walking Down Memory Lane!).
Dennis is also a self taught musician and lists his musical influences as The Beatles, The Allman Brothers, The Meters and Little Feat.

BLUE WEAVER: (keyboards).
A true student of music, Blue Weaver studied piano and theory at the Cardiff College of Music and Art.
Born in Cardiff, Wales, Blue joined the Bee Gees in 1975, as they began work on the Main Course album.
Before his work with The Bee Gees, Blue had played with Mott The Hoople, Strawbs, Fairweather and with Dennis in Amen Corner.
He has done lots of session work specially in London and he lists his musical influences as originally classical, the Booker T., Willie Mitchell, The Markay's and Stevie Wonder...

Other musicians who assisted the brothers on stage during this tour were:
JOE LALA: from Tampa, Florida on percussion. It was Joe's second tour with the Bee Gees.
JOEY MURCIA: originally from Key Largo, Florida and was also member of the Bee Gees touring band before Spirits. He also can be heard on all of Andy's records. He plays rhythm guitar.
GEORGE BITZER: He is from New York City and joined the Bee Gees touring band for their Spirits tour to play keyboards.
HAROLD COWART: He was another new member for their touring band and Harold comes from Baton Rouge in Louisiana.
He played the bass during the tour and also can be heard on all of Andy's records.
THE BONEROO HORNS: Led by versatile trombonist, arranger and conductor Peter Graves, these Boneroo Horns truly accented the Bee Gees on stage during this Spirits Tour.
Graves has provided the horn arrangements for the tour.
Other members of the Horns are: Ken Faulk, Neil Bonsanti, Whit Sidener, Stan Webb and Bill Purse.
Two people who've helped The Bee Gees getting their well known sound also for the songs performed during the Spirits Tour of course are:KARL RICHARDSON & ALBHY GALUTEN.
The concerts were opened by the supporting act:
THE SWEET INSPIRATIONS an RSO recording group.
This outstanding trio had earlier in its career a Grammy Award nomination and were well known for their distinctive vocal work with all kinds of top artists like: Elvis Presley and Aretha Franklin.
Just before the start of the Spirits Tour The Sweet Inspirations had their first RSO album out: "Hot Butterfly".



he Spirits Tour turned out to become the hottest tour since The Beatles and people like Olivia Newton John, Barbra Streisand, John Travolta, The Osmond Brothers as well as BG brother and singer Andy and many Gibb relatives like: wives, kids, parents and grandparents visited one or even more shows during this tour.

Rehersals at the L.A. Dodger Stadium
It was one big circus every time again.
While the roar of another encore, after the mesmerizing show closer: You Should Be Dancing, is still thick in L.A.'s Dodger Stadium (just one of the many venues), The Bee Gees are already safe inside their limo.
Outside hundreds of fans try to attack the car.
Flashbulbs light up the night, and the kids scream and tap on the tinted windows and pound their hands on the trunk.
Some simply stand limp, overcome by the close sighting of Barry, Robin and Maurice Gibb or younger brother Andy.
Tears roll down the cheeks of many fans as the limo brings the Gibbs back to their hotel and to a next city.
For all Bee Gee mania that the more than 50 evenings of night fever is spreading across America in that summer of 1979, the mood inside the car is astonishingly serene.
Barry exhausted and shirtless drapes his head in a towel.

Visiting the tour Hugh - Linda - Grandma Norah Pass - Yvonne and Barbara
Robin gazes impassively out at other drivers frantically peering in as they go by and his bearded twin brother Maurice starts up a tune. 'I will follow him, follow him wherever he may go...'
The ride goes to the airport where the limo brings them on a runway 10 feet from their chartered 707.
It again was a circus in L.A. where sometimes over $ 700 was paid for a pair of tickets ( 1979!) and where concessionaires were taking in close to $3000 a minute on Bee Gees programs, posters, T-shirts etc. etc. as the brothers floated their gorgeous harmonies under a full July moon for about 60.000 people (and 400 cops).
Yet their personal manager Dick Ashby confessed; "I've never seen them as nervous before as they were before this tour started. They are at the pinnacle of their careers and people will try to tear them down."
After having done over 10 concerts during this Spirits Tour Maurice declared: "This is the tour we've dreamed about all our lives and never, never expected to do".
Each time it happened again: once they kick off their 90-minute set with Tragedy, the crowd lets out a numbing, collective squeal that recalls a taxiing jumbo jet!!
Barry "Now we surely have the time of our lives"!


The Spirits Having Flown 707

Small wonder. The 707, customized and leased for $1 million-plus for this Spirits Tour, is like a plush living room with video playback system, gourmet cuisine served by stewards in designers jeans and Hawaiian blouses.
The Gibbs used their own wardrobe woman, an entourage of about 90 members, including their parents, two of the Gibb wives and three of their children.
On the ground there was a caravan of seven semis and two customized buses ( with 32 bunks) for equipment and crew.
"I don't even tune my guitar anymore," laughs Barry.

The Bee Gees meet Barbra Streisand
Of course there's the flip side of all this grandeur but one of the lessons they've learned about staying alive in their career, says Barry, is "to stay straight, above all" and he means it!!
Manager Ashby, who lives in and works out of Barry's Miami Beach mansion, says: "If they hadn't been up and down before, they'd be going haywire now. They can handle anything thrown at them".
One of their security men, an ex-FBI agent, says that before signing on, "I checked my sources on these guys. I wasn't going to risk my rep on three rock stars who are into hard drugs".
Barry, who sips tea before shows, admits he tried cocaine once, Robin, a onetime speed popper says now that even grass makes him confused, forgetful and paranoid admits that he prefers to face reality but says they're not choirboys either.!
Maurice who has been struggling with a drinking problem hopes to keep it under control.
Partying on the road is subdued and usually reserved for family and crew.
Traveling together the brothers can spend hours sharing jokes. "There's no so called Happy Hour on this tour where everybody throws a TV set out of the window," says Barry. 'We can tolerate and cope with fame without the tantrums and outbursts.
Clearly, the buffering on tour by bloodlines rather than high-paid yes-men has filled the inner sanctum with pride rather than the usual impenetrable arrogance.
Along with the brothers on this tour: their mum and dad, superstar and kid brother Andy (partly), Barry's wife Linda and sons Stevie and Ashley, Maurice's wife Yvonne with son Adam and grandma Laura Pass ( 80 at that time) who came over from Australia to hear the boys perform for the first time in 20 years.
The Bee Gees are more confident and sober this time around but also considerably wealthier than a while back.
All three have houses in several parts of the world. Maurice, though he prefered to educate his son Adam in England loves the sunshine of Florida and also Barry who likes speeding on the water at Biscayne Bay in one of his boats.
Robin still enjoys living in England although he has also other places in the world to live with his family.
However this tour is like a prison.
To go out and buy a shirt would require two hours' planning for logistics and security.
In fact during this tour in Texas the Gibbs and 12 members of the band couldn't see the film Alien until Stigwood made the theater manager an un refusable offer to cordon off the entire balcony for the Gibbs.
Crazy but according to Barry: "life still can be handled right if you don't start believing everything people tell you and believe in yourself instead of becoming nuts of being a famous star".



've loved being part of this tour and it was an experience never to forget !!
In that summer of 1979 everyone was talking about The Bee Gees and their concerts.
They were in tv. shows, on the radio and in news papers and magazines all over.
The halls were very crowded and several times one decided to do extra shows like for instance in St . Louis (because the concert in Kansas City had to be cancelled), Tulsa, Providence, Montreal, Pittsburg etc. etc.
In New York the group even did 5 shows.
The Spirits Tour was one big success and the group did over 50 concerts in the U.S. and Canada.
Many fans had paid hundreds of dollars on the black market to get their tickets and to see one of the shows.
The audience was of all ages from 10 to 70 years old and they all enjoyed the performances of Barry, Robin and Maurice.
During the tour there was one big break for the Gibbs when they flew back home to Miami Beach for some weeks in August, but also there they didn't stop working and were busy in the studio and working on another special.
Over 40 cities were visited by the group and their crew and it all started in Texas ( Forth Worth) with special guest John Travolta joining them on stage at one time to dance with them to "You Should Be Dancing"
Many people traveled with them to help making this Spirits Tour one big success in every way.
Lots of technical people and security as well as drivers who were busy moving all the equipment from city to city all the time.


The Bee Gees with special guest John Travolta
©1979 Charlyn Zlotnik All Rights Reserved.

From June until October everyone enjoyed their Spirits Shows in places like for instance (some were cancelled from the original tour schedule and in some places there were extra bookings of shows)
Forth Worth, Austin, Houston ( Texas)
Denver (Colorado)
Salt Lake City (Utah)
San Diego, Los Angeles, Oakland (California)
Seattle (Washington)
Vancouver ( B.C. Canada)
Portland (Oregon)
St Paul (Minnesota)
Ames (Iowa)
Madison (Wisconsin)
Indianapolis (Indiana)
Pontiac (Mitchigan)
Chicago (Illinois)
St Louis (Missouri)
Tulsa, Oklahoma City Oklahoma)
After the break from August 5 until August 26th
New Haven (Connecticut)
Providence (Rhode Island)
Toronto (Ontario -Canada)
Montreal (Quebec - Canada)
Pittsburgh (Pennsylvania)
New York City, Buffalo (New York)
Cincinnati, (Cleveland Ohio)
Philadelpia (Penssylvania)
Washington (D.C.)
Norfolk (Virginia)
Birmingham (Alabama)
Atlanta (Georgia)
Greensboro (North Carolina)
Columbia (South Carolina)
Jacksonville, (Florida)
Miami (Florida)
© Story: Marion Adriaensen 2002
© Photos: Bob Sherman, Charlyn Zlotnik, Marion Adriaensen, GSI-Archive



Read more on Part 2

            

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