Happy Birthday Tom Waits: Performing Live In Germany 1977

By Scott Bernstein Dec 7, 2020 12:59 pm PST

Acclaimed singer-songwriter Tom Waits celebrates his birthday today. The reclusive Waits was born in Pomona, California on December 7, 1949 and explored various styles over the course of a career worthy of inclusion in the Rock & Roll Hall Of Fame as part of the Class Of 2011.

On April 18, 1977, the gravelly-voiced singer brought his quartet to WDR Studios in Köln, Germany for a performance that aired on the legendary German television show, Rockpalast. The 15-song set came as Waits was focusing on a jazz sound, just one of the many transformations his music would undergo. Tom played piano and sang backed by drummer Chip White, saxophonist Frank Vicari and bassist Dr. Fitzgerald Jenkins III.

Tom Waits was on the road in support of Small Change, an 11-track studio album released in 1976. Waits, White, Vicari and Jenkins fit 10 of the songs from the LP into their Rockpalast performance, including such instant classics as “I Wish I Was in New Orleans (in the Ninth Ward),” “Invitation To The Blues,” “Pasties & A G-String” and “Tom Traubert’s Blues.”

The four-piece also performed “Depot, Depot,” “Fumblin’ With The Blues,” “New Coat Of Paint” and “Semi Suite” from 1974’s The Heart Of Saturday Night. Waits’ 1975 LP, Nighthawks At The Diner, was represented by “Emotional Weather Report.”

Waits put less of a focus on jazz and switched from piano as his main instrument to electric guitar for his next album, 1978’s Blue Valentine. Tom last toured in 2008 and has only performed publicly a handful of times since. One of his most recent performances was a guest appearance with Mavis Staples at Lagunitas Brewing Company in Petaluma, California in September 2017.

Watch Tom Waits’ 1977 set for Rockpalast below via the JamBase Live Video Archive:

Tom Waits
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