Paul Liberatore has been one of the Bay Area’s best music journalists for decades, earning intimate access to a who’s who of Bay Area legends.
But sometimes even the best stumble upon an unexpected gem.
In a conversation last week with Ben Harper, the headliner for the Mill Valley Music Festival on May 7th at Friends Field behind the Mill Valley Community Center, Liberatore off-handedly mentioned the possibility of Harper sitting in at the Sweetwater Music Hall while he was in town.
Harper then delved into his connection to Mill Valley that dates back nearly 30 years. “Harper was an unknown young singer-songwriter when the late Jeanie Patterson, Sweetwater’s legendary grande dame, believed in him enough to have him open for blues great John Lee Hooker, handing him his first big break,” Liberatore writes in the Marin Independent Journal.
“I was a nobody,” Harper told Liberatore from his home in Southern California. “My first record (1994’s “Welcome to the Cruel World”) wasn’t even out yet and she put me on that stage when I had no business being on it. That was one of the early indicators that I might be able to get somewhere in music. One of the early high points and honors of my career was Mill Valley and Jeanie Patterson and Sweetwater.”
“Sometimes you get lucky,” Liberatore says.