6,000 Pounds of Turkey and The Band’s “Last Waltz”

By November 13th, 2018

Blog No 86 

November 14, 2018 

6,000 Pounds of Turkey 

As my readers know, it is my belief that it is relevant, even important, to incorporate Americans’ words and events of humor, laughter, and “lightheartedness” into our teaching of history. Yogi Berra is rarely mentioned in the same sentence as Ronald Reagan. Johnny Carson had neither the import nor eloquence of JFK. And on and on. But they, too, were a grand part of our history, and those Americans who have shared their humor and good spirits should be remembered as well. 

Arguably, historians are just too often too serious. They are too thick in their thoughts. Maybe people would better embrace the study of history if just every now and then, we focused less upon the dusty dates of ancient battles and instead focused upon questions such as whether the Romans had a sense of humor. I don’t know. I have a sense that Huns were a snarly bunch, but the Romans? I just don’t know. The answer got lost in history.     

Thus, humor and fond recollections are an important part of a nation’s history. 

And in that spirit and in honor of our celebrations of Thanksgiving, possibly it is time to remember the famous concert, billed and commonly known as “The Last Waltz” at the Winterland Ballroom in San Francisco. It was held on Thanksgiving Day, November 25, 1976.

The following Memorable Words and commentary are excerpted from my book, Dead Serious and Lighthearted – The Memorable Words of Modern America – Volume I (1957-1976) (Pp. 363-364) (Footnotes omitted).

 concert scene

 “The examples of Jimi Hendrix, Janis Joplin, Jim Morrison …

brought home the dangers of the road”

. . .

“We needed …  to get out of the line of fire for a while. …

Self-destructiveness had become the power that ruled us.”

. . .

“6,000  pounds of turkey, … a thousand pounds of potatoes

and hundreds of gallons of gravy” 

November 25, 1976. Robbie Robertson, lead guitarist and primary songwriter for The Band, reflecting upon the group’s motivation for staging what was billed and known as “The Last Waltz” on this Thanksgiving Day, 1976. Some have referred to this event as one of the greatest concerts ever performed. The concert was even filmed by then-goateed, then-young, 34-year-old Martin Scorsese. In 1978, Scorsese released a documentary of the event, simply entitled The Last Waltz. The concert was to be The Band’s last performance for at least an indefinite period. The concert was hosted and promoted by Billy Graham and held at San Francisco’s Winterland Ballroom, the former skating rink that had become the forum for many of the great concerts of the late 1960s and 1970s. With the exception of Woodstock, the audacity of the event was unparalleled. Graham insisted that everyone in the audience be served Thanksgiving Dinner before the show― “Six thousand pounds of turkey, 200 of them! Three hundred pounds of Nova Scotia salmon, a thousand pounds of potatoes, hundreds of gallons of gravy, and 400 pounds of pumpkin pie!” were served. But it was the incredible list of performers that created “The (Sixties) Last Waltz.” For more than four hours, the amazed audience of 5,000 people watched one performer or group after another take the stage―The Band, Paul Butterfield, Muddy Waters, Eric Clapton, Neil Young, Joni Mitchell, Neil Diamond, Van Morrison, Bob Dylan, Ronnie Wood, Stephen Stills, Ringo Starr, The Staple Singers, and Emmylou Harris. There were even poetry readings by Lawrence Ferlinghetti and others interspersed between sets. Of course, the night ended with The Band playing The Weight, its greatest song ever (— and, for what it’s worth, one of this author’s favorite songs of all time). But there is no remotely precise date upon which the Rock ‘n’ Roll Era of The Sixties came to an end, and it comforting to all music-lovers that new voices and bands were constantly premiering such as Bruce Springsteen, who along with his E Street Band, had released Born to Run in 1975, just a year earlier. But for many younger Americans, the end of the Rock ‘n’ Roll Era of the Sixties came to an end in San Francisco. On this Thanksgiving Day. At the end of this concert – so appropriately named The Last Waltz.  

Dinner was served at 5:00.

The concert began at 9:00.

It lasted nearly six hours.

At around 2:30AM The Band left the stage.

And The Middle Years of Modern America came to a close. 

– – 

Have your own fun. Read and enjoy. 

Depending upon your age,

recollect and remember


read for the first time

what it was like,

oh, so many 42 years ago – in 1976. 

For your own copy of the three volumes of Dead Serious and Lighthearted – The Memorable Words of Modern America (1957-2015) and to see the new book sale specials  just go to www.mackwborgen/shop . 


A unique holiday gift for yourself or your loved ones. 

Order your copies today.




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