One of those questions I answer on my annual summary of the previous year is “What did I do on my birthday?” This year, I spent it with Karen Durkot and about 200 of her friends.
Back on February 24, she noted that her record company was throwing a send-off shindig in her honor on March 7. “If you can make it, other than my sister Elaine, you’ll be the person there who knows me longest!”
“Longest” as in since kindergarten, going through K-12 together. I wrote about her here and a few other times.
I had already taken off the day from work, as is my tradition. I spent the morning dealing with incredibly boring but necessary processing of health reimbursement funds.
After lunch, I took the bus to the Amtrak station and caught the 3:45 to Penn Station. I walked from 34th and 8th to 26th between 5th and 6th Avenue, getting there about 6:45 p.m. I walked in with a couple who I sussed correctly were music people. The couple was vaguely explaining to the gatekeeper what we wanted to do; he needed more specificity – downstairs, 7 p.m. – so he knew that we knew what we were talking about.
The downstairs was one large room with tables set up, and an open bar. I had brief conversations with a few folks before I found one heroic woman from the label who engaged me in longer conversation. I also found an old Binghamton pal, Pat Cannon.
Finally, Karen and her sister entered. I didn’t find the need to rush the entrance and hung out at the bar. About ten minutes, she sees me. She said later that I had hung back for dramatic effect. I had not, but it did create that result.
Karen introduced me to several folks before engaging in other conversation. Knowing the legendary KD for so long gave me some reflected fame.
Around 8 p.m., they showed a video of a bunch of musicians, including Steve Gorman of the Black Crowes, who was physically present. Also on the recording was Valerie June, one of many folks whose music she introduced me to; some folks from the Stereophonics (ditto); and Jack White from the White Stripes.
The general narrative was the same. When Karen Durkot, who is not a large person, comes to town to promote an act, it is as though she has a metaphorically huge sledgehammer. “Play this record!” she says to radio programmer. “Book this act!” she relays to the venue scheduler.
She expressed gratitude to the people who had hired her , not only at Concord but over the years at Geffen, WEA, and American Recordings. How great it was to represent so many artists, including Johnny Cash. They presented her a blue St Vincent signature guitar, signed by James Taylor and several others.
The mic was open, and I told a couple anecdotes about Karen’s lifelong love of music which people told me they appreciated. I left around 9:30 to take a 10:45 train home.
A couple days later, this got posted in one of the radio/record trades.
“One of the all-time promotion greats, CONCORD RECORDS VP/Promotion KAREN DURKOT was pointed in the direction of her retirement and feted by a room full of her colleagues, family and friends at HILL COUNTRY BBQ in the FLATIRON section of MANHATTAN on THURSDAY NIGHT (3/7).”
It was a splendid evening.