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Blue Max staff remember magical Elton John concert in Lahaina

By Staff | Feb 17, 2011

Elton John played at the legendary Blue Max on July 17, 1977. Photo from the Blue Max Archives.

LAHAINA — “In the 1970s, Maui was a special, exotic place the world was just finding out about,” Bobby Lozoff recalled.

It was laid-back chic, where rock musicians and movie stars could ramble unmolested, immersed in the local lifestyle.

Peter Fonda was an “Easy Rider” regular anchored in the Lahaina Roadstead aboard his golden, 81-foot yacht “Tatoosh,” while Crosby, Stills and Nash sailed through as they navigated across the Pacific on the 59-foot Alden schooner “Mayan,” using the “Southern Cross” as a guide.

Lahaina was the magnet, the historic playground of kings.

At that time, however, the main attraction was the Blue Max at 730 Front St., now Lahaina Pizza Company.

Lozoff was the manager of the popular gathering place owned by Sharon and John Lawrence.

“It epitomized the relaxed but stylish, sophisticated way of life on Maui,” he said.

Lozoff was recruited from the Bay Area, where he managed the trendy Trident in Sausalito, then owned by the Kingston Trio.

“There was a small music scene in the Bay area, which was real well known. I knew Bill Graham, and I had a lot of music come in via that way. That’s what established me (with the musicians). I was known at the Trident, and they came and visited me over here,” Lozoff explained.

Unmatched, the 25-year-old transplant from California corralled the club music scene on Maui for a thrilling eight years beginning in 1976, booking star acts like Kenny Loggins, Boz Scaggs, Elvin Bishop, George Benson, Steely Dan, Walter Becker, Stevie Nicks, Cheech and Chong and Linda Rhonstadt.

“This place was so much fun for all of us. We were kids in a candy store just having the best of times,” Coco, a well-known Blue Max waitress, described the high times she experienced at the infamous club.

There was one Sunday night, however — July 17, 1977 — that rocked Lahaina like no other, with Elton John on piano and the town at his feet.

Lozoff remembered how the spontaneous happening evolved, coconut wireless style.

“He had retired from show business at that time. He was visiting Lahaina. He kept coming in, and we made it real comfortable. We did more than a couple of nights where he stayed behind with the staff, which was illegal, of course. You know, that pau hana hour when everybody settles down after work and has a drink or two. Anyway, he hung out there for several nights, found it more comfortable, said he hadn’t done anything in a long time and would like to perform,” Lozoff said.

There was no fanfare, no charge involved, just a donation to Green Peace. His only requirement was a grand piano.

There were rumors he was in town, but the first clue that he would perform, according to Coco, was the transporting of that grand piano through town and up the Blue Max double staircase.

“I was working that night,” Coco added, “and people started calling me that day asking me if I could get them in, and I’m like, ‘Get you in? I don’t work the door; I can’t get you in.’ “

“Once it became apparent, it was crazy, and I had the door roped off early,” Lozoff said.

The sidewalks filled. Parking spots were claimed early. Cars were passing up and down at a slow pace. Coco described the scene:

“The restaurant was packed; the stairway was full out onto the street. They were starting to crawl in from the balcony of the store next door.

“When he started playing, the town just stopped. You couldn’t move on the sidewalk. It was packed; and, as far as I could see, when I looked up and down the street, there were people,” she continued.

“The cars could not move anymore. They were either parked or stuck where they were.

“Everything that was popular, he sang that night. Everybody knew the words to all of his hits. They were dancing, rock and rolling, yelling, singing, hugging and carrying on. The people outside were having as much fun as the people inside,” Coco recalled.

“The music was fabulous. He had a fabulous time. I remember him standing up on top of the piano. He got close enough to the ceiling fan that I think it knocked his hat off.

“At one point, they couldn’t hold the crowd back on the stairs, and people poured in, and then there was no movement. You couldn’t move in there, because the place was packed. At that point, you realized you were participating in something fantastic.

Fellow waitress Anne Haley was standing on top of the hostess station with John Lawrence.

“The piano was just thumping, and we were just wild-eyed kids jumping up and down. Oh my Lord, it was just magical — it was,” she confirmed.

“It was special,” Lozoff agreed. “This was a great act of aloha.

Sir Elton John is returning to Maui and will be performing at the Maui Arts & Cultural Center on Thursday and Friday, Feb. 24 and 25.

Tickets for the Thursday night “Greatest Hits Live” concert are still available. Call (808) 242-SHOW.

As MACC CEO/President Art Vento aptly stated in a press release, but for a different reason, “Hana Hou, Elton.”

Hana Hou, indeed!