English guitarist Jeff Beck is considered one of the best ax men in rock. Beck, who died Tuesday at the age of 78, was inducted into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame not once, but twice: first as a member of the Yardbirds (1992) and then as a solo artist (2009). He ranked fifth on Rolling Stone magazine’s “100 Greatest Guitarists of All Time” list.
Among other songs, the Yardbirds are remembered for the hit “Heart Full of Soul”, with Beck’s guitar memorably mimicking a sitar.
In Peoria, Beck is called back for a somewhat subdued performance and lively encounter with a catfish dinner.
On Friday, June 25, 1976, Beck and the Jan Hammer Band performed as the opening act for a concert at the Glen Oak Park Amphitheater. Fleetwood Mac was the headliner.
Related:From Fleetwood Mac to the Beach Boys, the Glen Oak Amphitheater rocked Peoria in the 1970s
“Most of the crowd came to see Fleetwood Mac and just used Jeff Beck’s opening to warm up and finish socializing” before the main act, read a Journal Star review the following day. “Jeff Beck was kind of a disappointment at first,” the story continued. “The band started rolling towards the end of their set, however, and Beck’s flashing guitar more than lived up to its usual surreal rock high quality by the end of their performance.”
Was Beck’s slow performance linked to lingering resentment over his pre-concert meal?
In a 2016 Journal Star article, promoter Jay Goldberg reflects on this unfortunate meal.
“In his contract rider, Beck had specified that he wanted a fish dinner before performing,” the story said. “Seeking to impress, Goldberg sent a go-fer to King’s Restaurant, north of Peoria on Galena Road and renowned for its fried catfish.”
“I was so proud that I took it to Beck myself in the locker room,” Goldberg said at the time. “He looked at it, then looked at me, then looked at it again – then threw it across the room.”
The story continued, “Goldberg rushed in, but then asked Beck’s manager about the reaction of the catfish. Huffy, the manager explained that the British considered the catfish to be inferior to them: ‘Jeff was insulted. We don’t eat catfish in England. “”
Related:Christine McVie, Fleetwood Mac mesmerized Peoria audiences in 1976
Now 72, Goldberg recalls the catfish incident — and the concert — with amusement.
He sees the thrown fish as just a sign of Beck’s high standards.
“Jeff Beck was a perfectionist and wanted everything to be professionally perfect. But otherwise he was a really nice, laid-back person,” he recently said. “When Jeff realized that for us Peorians, King’s catfish was a delicacy, we all laughed together and the show went on.”
He added: “I have fond memories of that gig and my outing with Jeff Beck and Fleetwood Mac later that night, but some stories are better kept – LOL.”