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POP MUSIC / THOMAS K. ARNOLD : George Benson Leads Pack for Humphrey’s Concerts

What will be the most successful bookings, attendance-wise, in this year’s eighth annual Concerts by the Bay series at Humphrey’s on Shelter Island? Last Saturday, tickets went on sale for the 1989 season’s preliminary lineup of 35 dates. Judging from first-day ticket sales, the big winner is likely to be George Benson.

Benson’s Sept. 19 and 20 appearances at the 1,000-seat outdoor facility are nearly six months away. But, by the time the box office closed Saturday, more than 500 tickets had been sold to the pop-jazz superstar’s four-show, two-night stand.

Also among the top five box-office draws as of Saturday night, according to promoter Kenny Weissberg, are, in descending order, jazz fusionists Hiroshima, June 7 and 8; Motown greats the Four Tops, May 19; calypso king Harry Belafonte, July 6, and Ray Charles, the legendary “father of soul,” June 9. More than 300 tickets to each of these shows had been sold by day’s end.

“All of these concerts look like they’re going to be sellouts,” Weissberg said, adding that total first-day ticket sales are up 28% over last year.

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“Not only did we go on sale with more acts than we did in 1988, we’ve got a stronger lineup, with a lot more big names.”

So much for the winners. What about the losers?

According to Weissberg, the bottom five box-office draws as of Saturday night, again, in descending order, are rock balladeer Gene Pitney, June 23; late-1950s doo-wopper Little Anthony and early-'60s heartache queen Lesley Gore, July 30; gospel singer Al Green, Aug. 27; jazz saxophonist Ronnie Laws and his brother flutist Hubert Laws, June 29, and the O’Jays, one of the most popular black vocal groups of the pre-disco ‘70s, July 9. First-day ticket sales to each of these shows were less than 75; in the case of the O’Jays, the final count was a dismal 30.

“Most of the concerts that aren’t doing well are by oldies acts,” Weissberg said. “But, in the past, the six or seven oldies shows we’ve done each season have had the highest average attendance, so I’m still holding out hope--and waiting for Eagle 105, oldies radio station KCBQ-AM/FM (1170/105.3), which is presenting these shows, to launch their traditionally aggressive promotional campaign.”

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The eighth annual Concerts by the Bay series opens May 12 with two shows by soul singer Natalie Cole. Other confirmed dates, aside from the ones already mentioned, are appearances by pop-jazz group Spyro Gyra, June 15 and 16; jazz saxophonist Grover Washington Jr., June 18; guitar ace Chet Atkins and British New Age guitar duo Acoustic Alchemy, June 22; pop-jazz guitarist Earl Klugh, June 25 and 26; mid-'60s bubble-gummers the Monkees, July 7, and acoustic guitarists Leo Kottke and Michael Hedges, July 14.

Also on tap: a cappella vocal group the Nylons, July 16; folkies Judy Collins and Al Stewart, July 20; pop-jazz guitarist Lee Ritenour, July 21; Latin-rock troupe Sergio Mendes and Brasil ’89, July 23; keyboard player David Benoit, July 28; comedian Gallagher, Aug. 3 and 4, and Jacuzzi-jazz fluegelhorn player Chuck Mangione, Aug. 6.

Rounding out the list of confirmed bookings at Humphrey’s this season are soul singer Lou Rawls, Aug. 9; B. B. King, Aug. 11; hot new country singer-songwriter Lyle Lovett, Aug. 17; jazz vocalist Diane Schuur, Aug. 18; country-rock group the Desert Rose Band, led by ex-Byrd Chris Hillman, Sept. 14, and jazz stalwarts the Dave Brubeck Quartet, Sept. 21.

Tickets to these shows, Weissberg said, are selling well, with first-day sales between 100 and 250.

On Thursday, tickets go on sale for three newly announced additions to the 1989 Concerts by the Bay series: country legend Johnny Cash, July 19; comedians Emo Philips and Judy Tenuta, July 27, and country hotshot Ricky Skaggs, Aug. 24.

LINER NOTES: First, there was Beatlemania and any number of Elvis Presley impersonators. Now there’s Wild Child--led by Jim Morrison look-alike Dave Brock--and Randy Hansen, presenting musical salutes to, respectively, the Doors and Jimi Hendrix. The two clone acts will be appearing Thursday night at the Belly Up Tavern in Solana Beach. . . . New additions to the Del Mar Fair’s 1989 grandstand concert lineup: Motown veteran Smokey Robinson, June 21, and pop crooner Tony Bennett, June 22. . . . Folk-rock singer-songwriter Steve Forbert has been tapped to open for Edie Brickell and the New Bohemians May 24 at Symphony Hall.

Tickets go on sale today for roots rockers the Dead Milkmen’s April 27 appearance at the Soma 555 dance club downtown. On Friday, tickets go on sale for four more San Diego concerts: ex-Ultravox lead singer Lou Reed, April 21 at the California Theater downtown; Midge Ure, April 28 at the Spreckels Theater, also downtown; rock upstarts the Replacements, May 4 at the California Theater, and reggae bands Third World and the Wailers, May 21 at the Starlight Bowl in Balboa Park. And, on Saturday, tickets go on sale for hard rock heavyweights Bon Jovi’s April 21 show at the San Diego Sports Arena. . . . Four months after they played Golden Hall to a near-capacity crowd, blues revivalists the Robert Cray Band will be back in San Diego on May 19, this time at the Starlight Bowl. Tickets go on sale April 7.


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