Rick Danko and Fred Neil onstage in Coconut Grove (Photo by Mark Diamond, via Twitter)
Other than an impromptu appearance at a Coconut Grove café in 1986, Fred Neil’s last show was a 1977 set at a Tokyo event called “Japan Celebrates the Whale and Dolphin.” All of his last concerts had something to do with marine mammals: before the Tokyo gig, there had been “Rolling Coconut Revue” shows at the Coconut Grove Playhouse in aid of a dolphin rescue organization Neil helped establish, and he made an appearance at the Sacramento “Celebration of Whales” event featuring Joni Mitchell, Gary Snyder, and Gov. Jerry Brown, singing “The Dolphins” with Joni.
After mentioning St. Petersburg, Florida in my last post, I started poking around for footage of hometown boy Fred Neil performing, or talking, or pumping gas, for that matter. There is not much. In fact, as far as I can tell, there is almost nothing—only this outstanding performance of “The Dolphins” from one of Neil’s last shows. The video below, dated August 2, 1976, likely comes from one of the Coconut Grove Playhouse benefits; that’s John Sebastian on harmonica, and I reckon that’s Neil’s former partner Vince Martin stage right.
With reasons to despair growing fat and multiplying, I thought we could all use a little pick-me-up from Fred Neil, whose music is always there to remind you that, no matter how bad it gets, you can always curl up in the trunk of your car with your handguns and slam heroin.