Unless you have been dead or asleep all week, you already know that (a) David Letterman ended his run on The Late Show, and (b) @ohkiv added a great new feature to the weekly lineup at BGS, which can be read here. What you may not know, however, is that before Letterman began his twenty-two year run on CBS, his Late Show had an eleven year run on NBC. Thus, Letterman’s “final show” this week was his second “final show”.
In the summer of 1993 Letterman parted ways with NBC (some would say acrimoniously) and moved his show to CBS. To avoid copyright infringement, Letterman changed the name from Late Night with David Letterman to Late Show with David Letterman. There were also a few minor changes cosmetically and thematically, but for the most part the CBS show was essentially the same.
On August 25, 1993 David Letterman hosted his final show on NBC. Several days beforehand, he promised that a “secret” musician would be featured on the show. Somehow, amazingly, the secret was never leaked, thus heightening anticipation of the event. This was 1993—no DVR automatic record functions, no streaming, no YouTube, no social media–so if you wanted to see a show “live”, you had to be sitting in front of the TV at the specified time, plus you would not be able to see it again until they showed what was called in the Stone Age a “re-run”, which might be months later. You had only one sure chance of witnessing a memorable moment. So there I sat, in front of the television, late on a muggy Friday night in my modest house in Montgomery, Alabama. SRB and his sister had long since been tucked into bed (their little brother not yet born). My wife’s parents were visiting for the weekend, and they had all gone to bed not long after the kids, so I had to lower the volume and crouch close to the screen. What happened next seemed like a miracle to me. I was completely stunned when I witnessed it then, and it remains to this day one of my favorite musical performances ever. That eight minute miracle is tonight’s featured video.
You may or may not like David Letterman. It doesn’t matter. You may or may not like Bruce Springsteen. It doesn’t matter. This video is less about a television host and a rock star than it is about a singular moment in time that just happens to occur at the intersection of a popular TV show and a popular musician. You cannot script such a moment any better than how it played it out in real life. The right guy, the right place and time, the right song choice, the appropriate mutual respect between entertainers of this caliber, the unexpectedness of who the “secret” guest turned out to be, and the sheer unbridled joy of the musicians onstage. This is how God and Elvis and Jerry Lee intended live performances to be.
There are a couple of surprises along the way, but I won’t deny you the opportunity to discover them for yourselves. Ignore the poor quality of the tape, and just watch it.
Glory Days indeed.