THE IDEA was to get Steve Goodman to talk about Himself.
I mean, here was a guy with sufficient taste to like Heinenken's beer and the "Hallelujah Chorus" and sufficient intelligence to distrust the Cubs' bullpen, and I wanted to know more.
That's why we convened the other night with some green bootles and some basebell on the tube and a lighter for the Camels that get popped with regularity into his mouth; we were going to talk to Steve Goodman, rising young folksinger, right?
Not exactly. The Sox won, the Cubs lost, and I wound up with a rather bewildering collection of notes -- mostly about other people -- and the incipient habit of ending sentences with "right?" almost as often as Goodman does.
and some impressions: That the 5 foot 2 1/2 inch Goodman, built like three-quarters of a hod carrier, has scaled ambitions to size so it won't interfere with important things like music and friendship. That he'll be wearing bib overalls and singing at the Earl of Old Town [where he's appearing this weekend] long after the record companies and the larger clubs have certified his ticket to the big time. That it was Steve Goodman, songwriter, and not Steve goodman, person, who wrote the follwing in a song called "Eight Ball Blues":
If that line's true, then Goodman, at 24, is doing one of the best impersonations of being together that I've seen. Maybe not satisfied, but not uptight about it either.
Satisfied is the way he sounds when he talks about his income, which many would consider modest: "What the hell would I do with a big chunk of Money?" Satisfied is the way he sounds about cutting a second album in the near future: "I was amazed that I got to make the first one -- the fact that I'm gonna get to do another one is doubly fascinatiing." And about recognition, tho his fame is less than widespread: "The papers have published my face already, so I guess I've done all that."
Maybe that's why he sounded like a press agent for his friends when he wasn't applauding the televised exploits of Dick allen [he fantastic!"] or exhorting a ball hit by the enemy to "GO FOUL!"
"You know very little has been written about Earl himself," Goodman said between innings "The guy is a prince -- i mean it -- and he's really taken care of people."
That'd be Earl Pionke, propietor of the Wells Street salloon that's come to be known as "the Earl". In between plugs for Earl and everybody else connected with the place, I learned that goodman got his start there as a student at Lake Forest College five years ago, and the club has been central to his life ever since.
He met his wife, Nancy, when she was a waitress there. He dragged Kris Kristofferson and Paul anka in there quite early one morning to hear John Prine [a morning that led to record contracts for both Goodman and Prine]. And that's where he's likely to be , on stage and off, when he stays out late with his friends [ all of whom deserve more ink, he told me again]: Fred and Ed Holstein, Tom dundee, Earl and other "nice folks".
Especially Eral. "Like last November," Goodman recalled. "I was booked at the Bitter End in New York, and I was borke, right? No pennies? So Earl lent me $150 to ge there. And then he shows up on opening night with Nancy along. that's the kind of guy he is, right? and then he gave me a gig so I could pay him back."
All of the sudden Goodman knew what he'd do with a nice chunk of money -- money that should be forth coming from Arlo Guthrie's recent recording of Goodman's song "city of New Orleans."
"I'm gonna take Earl and his wife to New Orleans. that's how we'll celebrate 'City.' A trip to New Orleans -- and some cognac for Fred."
And that of course reminded goodman that he wanted me to know about fred Holstein: "The best pipes in town, man. A hell of a club entertainer." And a complaint: " i hate the idea that you have to sell something that good. This business isn't being fair when a guy like Fred can't even make a record, man -- then nobody's listening.."
But what about Steve Steve? "What do I want? I want to live here. I feel home when I come here. I really just like to sing for folks -- I don't want to sacrifice performing for writing, nor the other way around.
"City is a hit this week, but I wrote it two years ago, and I'll still be singing it long after it's popular. This is just what steve does... "There's a whole bunch of songs around, including ones I didn't write, that I like to sing. I'm not gonna give that up, man. i want to adopt a houseful of kids, and right now I want every gig my agency lines up for me -- even tho working night and traveling, you end up being 24 going on 80. Really -- Prine has been accused of being 200 years old."
Either that or the Oldsmobile commercial he was chuckling at reminded Steve goodman to tell me his good friend John Prine is best lyric writer around ["the kid's brilliant'] I closed the notebook and decided to drink to that.
Phil Van Huessen
Steve Goodman: 24 going on 80.