A young Billy Joel & company doing the ragtime-infused bluegrass number, “Travelin’ Prayer.”
Originally recorded with session players for 1973’s Piano Man, it really deserved the live treatment it gets here with Joel and his usual partners in crime.
Drummer Rhys Clark and longtime Joel bassist Doug Stegmeyer open this thing up like a fast-moving locomotive, but things really take off after the piano and banjo come in.
Fred Heilbrun on banjo is just scary good, but I’ve never found out much about him apart from that he played scary good banjo on this song, live and on the studio recording. I’m not exactly a bluegrass aficionado, so if anyone has any info on him, please stick it in the comments.
The sax might seem out of place here (it wasn’t on the album version) — it sure does work though. I think that’s Richie Cannata playing, but it’s difficult to tell underneath the ’70s fro and facial hair.
Best as I can recall — I would have been about six at the time — this performance was the first time I ever heard or saw Joel. I used to stay up way too late on the weekends, even at that age, and watch Burt Sugarman’s Midnight Special and Don Kirshner’s Rock Concert with the volume down so low that it’s amazing I heard anything at all.
It’s a shame there isn’t much of a market for musical shows like those anymore, programmed and hosted by talented producers instead of programed by computers and hosted by telegenic veejays.
Ah, well — I pray at least we’ll always have YouTube.