John Prine Tribute Band
John Prine started playing in a small club in Chicago called the Fifth Peg, and was luckily noticed by a famous movie critic, Roger Ebert which ultimately ignited his career. Ebert wrote a glowing review—“Singing Mailman Who Delivers a Powerful Message in a Few Words”—that appeared in the Chicago Sun-Times, October 9th, 1970, a day before John Prine’s 24th
birthday. It was the first review Prine ever received, a birthday gift in the papers. For Ebert, Prine was “sneaky good”: “He appears on stage with such modesty he almost seems to be backing into the spotlight. He sings rather quietly, and his guitar work is good, but he doesn’t show off. He starts slow but after a song or two, even the drunks in the room begin to listen to his lyrics. And then he has you.” The crowds kept coming back to hear Prine, who signed on to play every Friday, Saturday and Sunday, striking a chord somewhere between country, rock, and folk that sounded pretty good to most.
His stories about playing hank Williams songs for his daddy, while he sat at the kitchen table brought back familiar memories of mine also as a boy. I started listening to all his songs while working late at night, and every couple of days a new song would come on and just blow me away completely. The first was Hello in there. How a guy of just 20 years of age could write something so deep about something that he should not be able to relate to was unbelievable to me. It’s a simple melody with a painful ode to a plaintive retiree and his wife Loretta, who sit around with “nothing much to do;” the last verse serves as a soft injunction to everyone: “So if you’re walking down the street sometime and spot some hollow ancient eyes, please don’t just pass ‘em by and stare as if you didn’t care, say, ‘Hello in there, hello’.