Eva Cassidy’s manager Al Dale passed away on Wednesday March 8th at the age of 80.
Al Dale was manager of several bands in the Washington DC area in the eighties and a regular at Chris Biondo’s studio. On one occasion he arrived to pick up some tapes just as Chris was recording with Eva. “Who the hell is that?” Al asked and he stayed a bit longer to listen to this incredible voice. After the recording Eva introduced herself to Al. “Are you the girl that was singing a few minutes ago?” Al asked and Eva nodded her head modestly. Al was shocked: he thought he had been listening to a black woman.
Several days later Al called Chris. “This girl is really great, she can have a great future in showbusiness.” Chris agreed, but he made it clear that Eva didn’t believe in her own potential. Al offered his help.
He started by working on her extreme shyness. She could also be stubborn, making it doubly difficult for Al to prise her away from her old self. Marketing would present another problem altogether; Eva liked to do a bit of everything, taking influences from many different genres and making them her own. However, the fact that she would never become a typical pop star didn’t intimidate the manager – in fact, it was an advantage that Eva took herself seriously, since so many female artists in the pop industry used their femininity to degrading effect. Yet, she still despised the stage. “Let me make a few records and then you can sell them,” she suggested. Despite her obvious talents, Eva had no desire for fame and was often heard to say: “I don’t need to be famous. What I would like is to have a cottage at the oceanside, where I can make music and create art.” This was ultimately far more important to her than fame and fortune. Al Dale did his best to convince Eva to use her youth and looks to win an audience over, but she wasn’t interested in the glamour of showbusiness. He discovered just how difficult it was working with Eva when he arranged some publicity shots. When they received the results of the shoot – glamorous photos that could be used on a future album cover or as promotional posters. Eva was asked to choose her favourite. She looked at the photographs, hesitated for a few seconds and concluded: “Nice pictures, but I don’t think that’s me.” She didn’t want to use her body to sell music and at her wishes only her face from the images was used. In spite of Al’s attempts to dress Eva fashionably, she preferred her shorts, jeans, baggy T-shirts, clod-hopper shoes and hair tied back in a ponytail.
Al Dale introduced the Eva Cassidy band at Blues Alley, saying: “I want you to know that this is recorded live tonight. It’s gonna be heard all over the world. And if you want to tell people, ‘Hey, that’s me right there!’ you know, you’ve got to make noise in all the right places. So let’s start it out right now and give a Blues Alley welcome to Miss Eva Cassidy!” His voice can be heard on the Live At Blues Alley album.
When Al Dale heard about Eva Cassidy’s serious illness he took it on himself to organise a concert at The Bayou, then the most prestigious club in Washington, D.C. His intention was for the concert to become a tribute to one of the greatest talents Maryland had ever seen ‘A Tribute To Eva Cassidy.’ On September 17th, 1996 Eva Cassidy sang her last song: What A Wonderful World.