Tuesday, August 21, 2012

Painter's Mill Star Theatre, Owings Mill, MD

Capacity 2400
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 venues.
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) 

Badfinger 3/3/72.
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 that night.
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
March 19, 1991
By Deborah I. Greeneand Eric Siegel
Early 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.
Investigators 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.
"The building is in very bad shape," said Ed Snell, general manager of Painters Mill Theatre. "It will be difficult, but not impossible, to rebuild it."
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.
"The acoustics were great," Mr. Massoni said. "You were never more than 70 feet from the stage. It was like being in a jam session."
The fire 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 troupe Pilobolus.
"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.
The theater's 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.
In 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.
The next month, a flood, blamed in part on the construction of Interstate 795, forced the theater to close, canceling several concerts.
January 1985: A major flood, blamed in part on the construction of Interstate 795, causes the closing of the theater and the cancellation of several concerts.
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.
Its 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."[4]

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


  1. You have omitted the greatest series of concerts ever at Painters Mill. Tree Frog Productions had Elton John open for Leon Russell, Derek and the Dominos, and many more in '70 and '71. Amazing time in Baltimore.

  2. Also, in 1970-71:
    Emerson, Lake, and Palmer
    Cheech & Chong

    If it was Sunday night, my friends and I were at Painters Mill.
    Wish I could remember some of the other groups too. ;-)

  3. It was not the Jan Hammer Group. It was Al Dimeola with Steve Gadd and Jan Hammer. See my ticket stub at

    1. This comment has been removed by the author.

    2. He is right. I was there that night and remembered it being billed as Al DiMeola with Jan Hammer. I Also saw the acoustic trio there, "Al DiMeola, John McLaughlin and Paco Delucia" 1980 or '81, which was another awesome show! J.Guy George.

    3. Just remembered too, I saw John McLaughlin and his band there about 1980-82.

  4. Hi Bruce, Thanks for the correction. Any chance you have a photo of the venue?

  5. does any one have any posters for sale from this venue. I have three, the Bee Gees, John Mayhall, and Edgar Winter ones. I am always looking for these posters

  6. Saw Bobby and the Midnites there in 81.

  7. Saw Buck Owens,Dolly Parton,Redd Foxx, Buddy Hackett,Mac Davis.Marty Robbins,Commadores.Cher and Sonny Lib eracheMac Davis was so drunk.at that time the stars weren't the way they are today. I always went to the Golden Plough for dinner before the shows and I most always took my kids with me and they have never forgotten the stars they meet most special for my daughter whose was 10 at the time was Sonny and Cher.

  8. Saw many shows there...my first was The Doors (without Jim Morrison)/Badfinger/David Pomeranz

  9. The Allman Brothers Band show of 10/17/71 at Painter's Mill was Duane's final concert. It went to the Allman's 1/3/82 show with my brother. We had seats right behind and to the side of the stage. Very intimate! When bassist David Goldflies finished his solo and the drums started their extended jam toward the end of the concert, Goldflies walked to the back and crouched down in the aisle right next to us! He smiled and nodded his head while the drummers did their thing. When they wound it up, he hustled back down the stage, strapped on his bass and started jamming! It was a good show, but Jaimoe had unfortunately left the band by then, and the music just wasn't quite the same...

  10. Did the Highway Men ever perform at Painters Mill music theater?

  11. I saw Sonny & Cher there, Tom Jones, ShaNaNa, Wayne Newton, Johnny Cash and June Carter Cash, and Charlie Rich, and KT Oslin. It was a fantastic place for live concerts. No seat was too far and a lot of times we we at the end of the row where to stars came out from their dressing rooms and went on stage. Cher had a lot of changes in costume during her performance. My father-in-law almost fell off his seat when he saw one outfit she was wearing. I sure wish they were still operating. Miss the small type venue!!

  12. I also remember in the early 70s were the children's fairy tale performances. The Temptations, Roberta Flack, Chic and Roy Ayres performed at Painter's Mill.

  13. I went there with my father and his boss...late 60's/early 70's to see a country crooner who yodeled...can't remember his name. Anyone know?

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  15. Went there once. Around 1976 saw Grover Washington, Jr. There were some Caribbean players in the group. No set arrangements, they wove and traded leads and rythyms throughout the show. Unforgettable performance. Great venue. Never could find any recording of that particular group.

  16. Saw many great bands there: Aerosmith/Kiss, Police, UK, Three Dog Night, Al Dimeola, Nighthawks, Crack The Sky, Dixie Dregs, Chuck Mangione, Maynard Ferguson, Red Hot Chili Peppers.

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  18. I saw sonny and cher at Oainters mill after they had sepsrated or divorced. I was a kid but remembered that someone in the audience booed or made a remark about their break up and Sonny kind of stopped an chastised him.

    Anyone know what date they played? Mid 70s i believe.