When Don McLean Served Up ‘American Pie’ on New Bedford Pier
A little-known singer-songwriter named Don McLean changed music forever in 1971 with the release of "American Pie," an eight-and-a-half-minute single from the album of the same name.
Donald McLean III, born on October 2, 1945, in New Rochelle, New York, started as a folk singer in 1965. He released a folk album Tapestry in 1969 on the Mediarts Label. The album was rejected 72 times by other labels before Mediarts put it out.
Tapestry did nothing, but a couple of McLean's songs became hits later, including "Castles in the Air," which he recorded, and "And I Love You So," which was a hit for Perry Como in 1973.
"American Pie" made McLean an international star.
"American Pie" topped the U.S. Billboard charts for four weeks as the No. 1 single in 1972. It topped the charts in Australia, Canada, and New Zealand, too. The song was No. 5 on the Recording Industry Association of America "Songs of the Century" project.
When Don McLean closed out the Rediscover New Bedford Days Festival on Leonard's Wharf in the Summer of 1979, an estimated 10,000 people turned out. I was among them.
Not bad for a Tuesday night.
The four-day festival also featured folk singers Barbara Carns and Vic Wortherspoon. Dillon, Kennedy, Foley, & Lewis, the Cape Verdean Folklore Dance Group, The Harpoon Harmonizers, a Your Theater production of Alice in Wonderland, and ventriloquist Harold Crocker also entertained.
McLean was such a hit festival organizers invited him back the following summer.
McLean canceled his scheduled 1980 festival appearance due to illness. The duo Couto (Mike) and Mulligan (Billy) filled in at a moment's notice and played to a crowd, again estimated at 10,000 people.