Close Encounters of the Rock Star Variety: The Who  

The Second Time’s the Charm: Dazzled By Daltrey

Roger Daltrey

Roger Daltrey was one of the nicest rock stars I ever met. It took two near encounters before I found that out. The first time I had the chance to meet the iconic singer of The Who, I was too shy, and, admittedly, too intimidated to do so.

It was Roger Daltrey after all, arguably the greatest singer in the history of rock and roll. The man who fronted the Who. Who wouldn’t be in awe?

After listening to Daltrey’s new album, The Who’s Tommy Orchestral, I was reminded once again why I always idolized him. After all, what greater reinforcement is needed than to hear him retracing an album that found him at his finest.

Roger Daltrey The Who’s Tommy Orchestral, Universal 2019

Granted, there have been innumerable versions of Tommy reprised over the years. There was the soundtrack to the stage show, an all-star set, a previous symphonic Tommy and Daltrey’s tribute to Pete Townshend that included several of Tommy’s top tunes. So do we really need yet another stab at success?

Well, there are additional reasons to celebrate. For one thing, 2019 marks the 50th anniversary of this amazing opus, arguably one of the greatest albums of all time. So too, there’s the fact that Daltrey still sounds amazing. Dare we say his performances of “Eyesight to the Blind” and “See Me, Feel Me” easily rank with the originals, and in some respects, perhaps even overshadow them.

My first encounter with Mr. Daltrey took place on the opening night of Chess, the musical written by lyricist Tim Rice and playwright Richard Nelson, with music by Benny Andersson and Bjorn Ulvaeus of ABBA. The setting was the Jackie Gleason Theater –or, as it’s known now, the Fillmore at the Jackie Gleason Theater — in Miami Beach.  It was a star-studded occasion, if for no other reason than the fact that Daltrey, Rice and all three Bee Gees — Barry, Robin and Maurice — happened to be in attendance. The Gibb Brothers made their home on Miami Beach. Rice, of course, was on hand, to celebrate the opening. Why was Roger Daltrey there? I really don’t know. 

Chess The Musical

Regardless, it was a pretty impressive gathering, at least as far as I was concerned. I recall glancing down from the balcony at those iconic individuals as they sat together watching the show. They then vanished during intermission, most likely to get some VIP treatment backstage. When I watched them return to their seats, I figured maybe I’d get to meet them when the show was over and they were on their way out.

Accordingly, when the curtain came down, I lingered by the exit aisle. The Brothers Gibb passed quickly by, too quickly in fact for me to catch up. However when Daltrey appeared, dressed all in denim and looking very cool, I managed to catch his eye as he caught mine. We exchanged glances. He looked at me, likely anticipating that I’d ask to shake his hand or ask for an autograph. I’m sure he could sense a starstruck admirer. Indeed I was. In fact, I was so awestruck that I didn’t know what to say, and so he simply walked on by. All I could do was stare at him helplessly, chiding myself for my failure to act.

Pete Townshend and Roger Daltrey

I actually have a memento of that evening. A professional photographer friend of mine was there that night and managed to coax the five men into posing for a picture in the theater lobby. It’s still hanging on the wall of my record room. 

And yes, every time I look at it I regret the fact that I didn’t barge my way into it. 

Fortunately for me, I had a second chance to meet Daltrey several years later. He was a special guest performer on the second annual Moody Blues music cruise, am event meant to celebrate the Moodies historic appearance at England’s Isle of Wight Festival in 1970. The fact that the Who also appeared on that bill made Daltrey’s appearance on the cruise both timely and appropriate. Although. he performed two sensational headlining concerts in the ship’s theater on two different nights of the cruise, it was willingness to take time one afternoon for some candid conversation and a bit of Q&A on the pool deck that allowed for one the more memorable highlights of the entire cruise. My wife Alisa and I managed to get up close to the stage, practically within an arm’s length of Roger while he recounted some early exploits and various encounters with his famous friends. Throughout the exchange, he appeared gracious and gregarious, freely sharing an inside look at rock and roll history while his ardent admirers eagerly looked on. 

Fast forward a few days. Because we had a press passes, Alisa and I were invited to attend the private farewell party that celebrated the cruise coming to an end. As I walked into the party, Daltrey was on his way out. This time, I took the opportunity to say hello. He was in a jovial mood and greeted me enthusiastically, like I was an old chum. It was clear that he had enjoyed himself. So while it was a quick exchange, it was still remarkably memorable one, at least for me. After all, I finally met the man I always admired.

Okay, so maybe I’m a bit of a groupie. But then again, this was the singer of the Who, who happen to be one of my favorite bands of all time. Who wouldn’t be dazzled by Daltrey?

 

STREAMING: Roger Daltrey “Pinball Wizard”

 

Lee Zimmerman

Lee Zimmerman is a writer and columnist based in beautiful Maryville Tennessee. Over the past 20 years, his work has appeared in dozens of leading music publications. He is also the author of Americana Music: Voice, Visionaries, and Pioneers of an Honest Sound, which will be published by Texas A&M University Press early next year.

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