June 24, 1960: Painters Mill Music Fair opens as a summer tent
theater with a production of "South Pacific," under management of a
Pennsylvania-based company operating a handful of similar East Coast
1967: Painters Mill becomes a year-round enclosed
structure and begins booking pop acts along with Broadway-style shows
and Hollywood stars.
Painter's Mill is a quiet community in Owings Mill.
Tiny venue, theater in the round, there was no separation between stage proper and aisle.
Tree Frog Productions had Elton John open for Leon Russell, Derek and the Dominoes, Cheech and Chong, Emerson Lake and Palmer and many more in '70 and '71.(3)
Kiss performed here on 3/24/74 and Aerosmith 3/30/74.
Quicksilver Messenger Service 2/21/76
Allman Brothers Band 10/17/71 and 1/3/82
Muddy Waters 6/7/81
Alice Cooper 8/21/81
Frank Zappa performed here on November 15, 1981
Humble Pie performed here in 1981.
One of the strangest shows I’ve ever attended was a 1981 George Jones
and Tammy Wynette show at Maryland’s Painters Mill Star Theatre. The
couple had divorced in 1974, and now they were both managed by Wynette’s
current husband, George Richey. She insisted that Richey come out of
the theater’s shadows and into the spotlight where she could show him
off. “It takes a heck of a husband,” she crowed, hugging his arm
tightly, “to work with an ex-husband.” Later in the evening, Jones would
refer to Richey as “my husband-in-law.”
Here was a classic country song about a romantic triangle played out
in full public view. Here was a woman who wanted to do right by her
current man—stable and dependable, if no star—but couldn’t entirely let
go of her former man—an unreliable drunk, perhaps, but still a
charismatic charmer. After Wynette, primly attired in an ankle-length
white dress, coasted through a lackluster first set, Jones came out and
showed why he’s the greatest pure singer country has ever known. On “If
Drinkin’ Don’t Kill Me (Her Memory Will),” he reached deep into his big
Texas voice to explore the pain of living after losing the one you can’t
live without. One can only assume that it was the nearby presence of
his ex-wife that pushed Jones into a performance that transcended the
recorded version. The line, “Lord it’s been ten bottles since I tried to
forget her,” was kind of a joke on the record, but he wasn’t joking
Midway through his set, Jones announced, “Give a big round of applause
to my favorite lady, the first lady, Tammy Wynette.” He greeted her on
stage with a suspiciously warm hug. When they duetted on the old Flatt
& Scruggs hit, “Rolling in My Sweet Baby’s Arms,” Wynette sounded
like a completely different singer. Apparently stimulated by her
partner, her first-set stiffness evaporated and her soprano started
dipping and darting as if chasing his tenor. When he ad-libbed, “I’m
gonna lay around the shack till ol’ Tammy comes back,” they both broke
into big grins.
At the end of “Near You,” Jones gave her a big kiss. During their old
duet hit, “Golden Ring,” she altered some lyrics herself: “He’s standing
there with Linda on his mind.” “How’d you find out about her?” he
complained. “At least I keep mine legal,” she retorted with a nod toward
Richey. Jones came back with, “That’s why we could never get along.”
There was just enough tension behind these rehearsed jokes—and behind
their gorgeous duets—to let the audience know they were seeing more than
an act. We were witnessing an actual, unresolved relationship unfold a
little further in real time.(2)
Bobby And The Midnights 2/2/82
Jan Hammer with Al Dimeola performed here on 2/3/82.
Revival of Painters Mill concert hall ends in arson
yesterday morning, Nick Massoni and his employees stood before the
smoldering black hole that was once the green facade of the Painters
Mill Theatre and cried.
"There's not much else you can do. It's
totaled, its all gone," said the theater manager, who watched a year's
worth of hard work to restore the luster to the once-fabled concert hall
go up in smoke. The hall began holding shows 13 months ago after being
closed for more than five years.
Dozens of employees came to see for themselves whether anything was
left of the building, which was set ablaze Monday when burglars used an
acetylene torch to break open the safe in Mr. Massoni's office, the
manager and police said.
"The didn't just kill a building, they
killed a theater . . . it's a living entity," said a tearful Robin
Parker, the theater's crew chief.
The fire spread rapidly through
the front office and -- if it were not for a fire wall -- would have
consumed the theater, where just last Saturday the Kentucky Head Hunters
played to a sold-out crowd of country music fans.
quickly concluded that the fire was deliberately set because the
burglars left behind a hole seared out of a metal grate in a dressing
room window where they entered, along with the acetylene torch and
oxygen tanks near the office safe.
Police said they were
investigating tips that may lead them to the burglars, including a theft
at a Car roll County construction site where the oxygen tanks used in
the Painters Mill fire were stolen.
Inside the 2,400-seat theater,
smoke and water damage turned the red velour, cushioned seats into row
after row of blackened stumps. Nearly a foot of water covered the
rotating stage and loose rigging and cables dangled everywhere.
building is in very bad shape," said Ed Snell, general manager of
Painters Mill Theatre. "It will be difficult, but not impossible, to
Mr. Snell said Painters Mill Theatre leased the
building from Diversified Investment Associates Inc., a real estate
investment firm whose principals could not be reached yesterday for
comment on whether they plan to rebuild.
With the concert hall's
future in doubt, those who reveled in its revival as a showcase for
nationally known acts lamented the loss of a place that helped to fill a
void in the Baltimore music scene.
"It had its advantages over
the club circuit," said Russ Mottla, program director at WIYY-FM (98
Rock). "It was a sit-down theater, rather than a bar, and it was an all
ages access venue."
"This was the best place in Maryland to see a show," agreed Mr. Massoni.
acoustics were great," Mr. Massoni said. "You were never more than 70
feet from the stage. It was like being in a jam session."
also left Chesapeake Concerts scrambling to find places to stage seven
events on the Painters Mill calendar, which ranged from the rock group
Great White to country singers the Oak Ridge Boys and the modern dance
"We are trying to place all of them in different
venues," said Jeanne Wagner, director of public relations and
advertising for the Northern Virginia-based company. "We should know in a
couple of days."
Ms. Wagner promised "there will be refunds" for
tickets sold to any show not rescheduled, although she said no procedure
had been formally established.
The fire came just as Painters
Mill was rebounding from one of the most difficult periods in a storied
history that began when it opened in June 1960 as a summer tent theater
offering Broadway-style shows and Hollywood acts.
operators, Music Fair Inc., of Pennsylvania, decided to abandon the tent
concept in 1967 in favor of an enclosed, year-round facility.
Painters Mill continued to draw crowds but was beginning to experience financial problems.
In 1973, it reported losing more than half a million dollars on revenues of $8.6 million.
January 1980, the operation of the theater was taken over by Maryland
Theatrical, a company whose principals included two well-known local
promoters, Richard Klotzman and Lee Silverman. It's name is later changed to Painters
Mill Star Theatre.
Its last show of the decade would turn out to be a performance by Ashford and Simpson in December 1984.
next month, a flood, blamed in part on the construction of Interstate
795, forced the theater to close, canceling several concerts.
1985: A major flood, blamed in part on the construction of Interstate
795, causes the closing of the theater and the cancellation of several
March 1985: The Maryland attorney general's office
begins an investigation of the theater after dozens of ticket-holders
complain they cannot get refunds; it is revealed the theater owes over
$200,000 in federal, state and local taxes, penalties and interest.
May 1985: A principal in the operation personally guarantees the refunds to "assure" the theater's future credibility.
The concert hall got a new start in December 1989, when Painters Mill Theatre signed a lease to operate the facility.
first concert was a Feb. 14, 1990, show by country singer k. d. lang.
Since then, the theater has hosted nearly 20 acts, including shows
earlier this year by Bob Dylan and heavy metal group Slayer.
"Things were going great," said Ms. Wagner of Chesapeake Concerts. "We were just now getting our feet planted in the market."(1)
Jerry performed here on
11/3/81 Jerry Garcia Band
"Tiny venue, in the round, there was no separation between stage proper and aisle. As a young lad I danced almost right onto the stage, bouncer gently 'caught' me with one arm and whirled me back towards the crowd...Jerry got a chuckle out of that one."
Painter's Mill Star Theatre, Owings Mills, MD
1.)^Greeneand, Deborah I. and Siegal, Eric, Revival of Painters Mill concert hall ends in arson, http://articles.baltimoresun.com/1991-03-19/news/1991078125_1_massoni-mill-theatre-painters-mill
2.)^Himes, Geoffrey, Band Romance, Musical Couples Through The Years
3.)^Fodder, Dr. Cannon B., 2012-08-25, Comments, http://jerrygarciasbrokendownpalaces.blogspot.com/2012/08/painters-mill-star-theatre-owings-mill.html?m=1
4.)^digby, deadnetcentral.com, http://www.thejerrysite.com/shows/show/1504