English guitarist Jeff Beck is regarded as one of rock’s finest ax men. Beck, who died Tuesday at age 78, was inducted into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame not once, but twice: first as a member of the Yardbirds (1992) and second as a solo artist (2009). He was ranked fifth on Rolling Stone magazine’s list of the “100 Greatest Guitarists of All Time”.
The Yardbirds are remembered, among other things, for the hit “Heart Full of Soul”, with Beck’s guitar memorably mimicking a sitar.
In Peoria, Beck is called back for a somewhat understated performance and a heated encounter with a catfish diner.
On Friday, June 25, 1976, Beck and the Jan Hammer Group performed as the opening act for a concert at the Glen Oak Park amphitheatre. Fleetwood Mac was the headliner.
Related:From Fleetwood Mac to The Beach Boys, Glen Oak Amphitheater rocked Peoria in the 1970s
“Most of the crowd came to Fleetwood Mac and just used the Jeff Beck opening to warm up and wrap up the socializing” before the headlining act, read the Journal Star review the next day. “Jeff Beck was a bit of a disappointment at first,” the story continued. “However, the group started to get rolling towards the end of their set, and Beck’s flashy guitar was more than up to par with his usual high quality of surreal rock by the end of their performance.”
Was Beck’s slow-building performance linked to lingering resentment over his pre-concert meal?
In a 2016 Journal Star article, promoter Jay Goldberg looked back on that fateful meal.
“In his contract run, Beck had specified that he wanted a fish dinner before performing,” the story read. “To impress, Goldberg sent a go-fer to King’s Restaurant, north of Peoria on Galena Road and known for its fried catfish.”
“I was so proud that I brought it to Beck myself, into the dressing room,” Goldberg said at the time. “He looked at it, then looked up at me, then looked down again — then threw it across the room.”
The story continued: “Goldberg scrambled, but later asked Beck’s manager about the catfish’s reaction. Huffy, the manager explained that the British consider catfish to be among them: ‘Jeff was offended. We don’t eat catfish in England.'”
Related:Christine McVie, Fleetwood Mac captivated the Peoria crowd in 1976
Now 72, Goldberg fondly remembers the catfish incident — and the concert.
He only sees the fish lying around as a sign of Beck’s high standards.
“Jeff Beck was a perfectionist and professionally wanted everything just right. But other than that he was a really nice, laid back person,” he recently said. “When Jeff realized that King’s catfish was a delicacy to us Peorians, we laughed together and the show continued.”
He added, “I have fond memories of that concert and hanging out with Jeff Beck and Fleetwood Mac later that night, but some stories are best left untold – LOL.”