Thursday, May 27, 2010

The Beatles

The weird thing was that during this time, 6th to 8th grade, is that an amazing thing happened that made my surf music and Jerry Lee Lewis obsolete. And that thing???? The Beatles.
I have always been on the wrong side of current fashion and this was that in spades. I don't remember learning any Beatles songs except maybe Money which was a cover tune for them as well, done by all the surf bands, until 9th grade at least.

First I heard of them was a little tiny picture in Life magazine of bobbies carrying fainted girls out of a hall in England. Within a few weeks they hit like gangbusters. I remember laying in the dark and having I Want to Hold Your Hand Coming on KXOA. When it hit that part at the end of the bridge with John's chugging Rickenbacker rhythm I just went nuts. I had never heard ANYTHING so cool. Within a few more weeks the Beatles just dominated pop music. I remember a week when they had 7 of the Top 10 hits. Soon they were on Ed Sullivan. I also remember going downtown to see a close circuit broadcast at the Fox Theater of The Beatles, The Beach Boys and Leslie Gore(It's My Party.......) Being a natural contrarian I was waving the Beach Boy flag right up to the point when the Beatles came on, when they hit it was all over. I remember getting caught up in the hysteria and screaming my head off like a little girl!!!!! They were just overwhelmingly great. Pretty soon the rest of the invasion hit and I got turned on to bands like The Rolling Stones, The Kinks and the Who all who have stood the test of time but also I dug Jerry and The Pacemakers, The Searchers, Peter and Gordon, the Dave Clark 5 and a bunch of others. My world and the whole world changed then, but little did we know what was right around the corner.

Monday, May 24, 2010

The Nameless Ones become "The What?"

Back at school in 8th grade,Paul, ever the instigator found some more guys for us to play with: Jim H(bass player, I was playing lead); John, guitar; and Jim S., vocals.

We started rehearsing at Jim H's house. His step father was a professional bass player, the first real picker I knew. He let us use some of his gear and would hang out when we were rehearsing and would smack Jim with magazine when he messed up. With Dad's direction we learned a bunch of tunes he knew by Jerry Lee Lewis and maybe some Elvis. I remember being in the car when Jim's Mom dropped him off at a North Sacramento dive bar for his gig. One time they took us to Travis AFB where his friends Sandy and the Showcase where playing at the NCO Club. We got to listen to a set then get up and play a couple tunes. What a thrill!

Now we just needed a name. Our first draft was The Nameless Ones but after seeing the Who on TV we changing the name to "The What?" and got some business cards made. Apparently we had identity problems.

I don't remember a lot of gigs, but we did play a school dance on a bill with the Transients, the the other band at school. They inherited the name from one of the better bands in the neighborhood who just changed their name to The Working Class. I remember them kicking our butts because they were playing a lot of hip stuff like Secret Agent Man and Keep On Running.
We were hopelessly behind the times playing Great Balls of Fire.

We entered a battle of the bands and made it out of the first round. We got to go to an agent's office and have our picture taken. When it came time for the second round my guitar quit working just as we hit the stage and our set was just a disaster.

I got a call the next day and the band imploded amongst great finger pointing. Now that could have been a wake up call, if I realized at the time that all this stuff was show biz as usual, I might have made an informed decision to find another life path.

Probably not!!!!!!!!!!!!

Saturday, May 22, 2010

16 years!!!!!!

Today TJ and I celebrate our 16th wedding anniversary!!!!! 16 years ago I married my best friend and our love has only grown!! We are headed up to Nevada City, our stomping grounds back when we were courting(do people still court?)

Life is good, my friends!!

Thursday, May 20, 2010

Music Store Rat

So the Pursuers lasted for most of 7th grade. That summer Robert and i discovered Sherman-Clay Music. I it was basically a piano store but it had a good sized combo department. The guy who worked there, JW was(and still is) a classical guitar player and teacher. He kind of talked like a beatnik, very hip. He called his guitar his "horn" which I thought was the coolest thing ever.

JW took a liking to Robert because it was becoming obvious that he was piano prodigy. At one point JW lent us a bass(St. George with the pistol grip cutout) a guitar(a Kapa I think) and a bass amp right out of the store.
I think we had them all summer. I remember playing at the teen center with Paul and a bass player not Robert. I guess I had custody of the gear. These were my first gigs, we would split the KoolAid money, maybe $3 between us. I think I may have commandeered my brothers amp for these shows when he was out on a Kerouacian road trip or went surfing somewhere.

Paul and I spent that summer hanging at the Teen Center, playing music in garages mostly and hanging out in music stores. There were a bunch of music stores in town then, more than now, but no big box stores like Guitar Center. We would hang a Sherman Clay, then go to Jacks House of Music across the street and gaze at the beautiful Gretch guitars. Some days we would take the bus downtown and make ourselves nuisances at Melody Land(I think that was it's name), C and H Music and the Sherman and Clay main store. I just loved being around all the guitars and just the music store smell. I would read catalogs and play when they would let me.

to be continued........

Monday, May 17, 2010

Surf Music

So my next big music hit was surf music. I remember being maybe 11 years old and hearing some sounds out in the living room. I go in there and my brother and a few of his friends are dancing to the Beach Boys singing "surf bop dip dip, bop bop dip dip" I thought it was the coolest thing ever.

Soon after that Brother Ben(4 years older than me) brought home a Fender Musicmaster and a Silvertone 2-12 amp. Pretty soon we had surf bands rehearsing in our garage. I just loved it!!

One day Ben said "hey do this" and showed me how to make an E chord on the guitar, and how to bar it into an A and a B.

Then he showed me what a "progression" was, what we now know as "blues changes". We played songs like "Surf Beat" and "Wipeout". Pretty soon I had my own guitar, an unplayable Kent, and I had my own band. My first band was the Pursuers, with my good buddy Paul on drums, Chris Petersen(he went on to play with the Pure Prairie League) and Robert Schwartz, my musical genius friend on piano.

We practiced a lot and I remember playing at school talent shows and a pancake breakfast. We probably knew 30 surf songs, most of them had the same rhythm guitar part(my part). We lasted through the school year and then broke up, I don't remember why.

Years later, I re-encountered Paul(he has a continuing role in this story). He hired TJ to take pictures of the Surf Liners his instrumental surf band. he was totally obsessed with the music, pure surf, not the vocal kind that the Beach Boys and Jan and Dean did. Now another 15 years has passed and he is still at it leading the Vibro Counts. You might see them at a car show or grand opening

Thursday, May 13, 2010

Towards Blues and Rock

I spent many hours with my parents record collection, I would put a stack of albums on the changer(remember changers?) and let the wonderful sounds just take me away. I remember loving the Weavers, the famous folk group that included Pete Seeger. They played with such energy and conviction and I already idolized Pete.
Other records I dug were by Sam Hinton, a folk singing marine biologist from San Diego who we got to know, Ed McCurdy and Oscar Brand. Another record I just loved was called Sandhogs. It was a folk opera written by Earl Robinson about the poor Irish immigrants who built the tunnels under the East River in NYC.

One day I discovered a record on the Folkways label whose name I have long forgotten. But it was a blues record featuring Brownie McGee, Sonny Terry and Big Bill Broonzy being interviewed by the incomparable Studs Terkel and performing songs. The first song was Key to The Highway and it just blew my mind. I must have listened to that record 100 times that month. Somehow the music just grabbed me and the interviews as well. When Studs said "Charlie Parker said you got to live it or it won't come out of your horn" I had no idea who Charlie Parker was but I wanted to LIVE IT too.

Thus began my life long love for the amazing art form of blues music.

Sing on brother, play on drummer............

Wednesday, May 12, 2010

Still here......

I'm in the midst of 2 real busy weeks hence no blog posts. Got 4-6 gigs each of these weeks. Next 2 weeks not so much so I promise more flashbacks and some posts on what I am doing now.

Thursday, May 6, 2010

Folk Music

Folk music is the source, Big Bill Broonzy or someone said "It's all folk music
you never heard no cow singing it"

My first musical memory was seeing a Pete Seeger children's concert. It made a huge impression on me when Pete took an ax to a log and sang an old chain gang song:Take this hammer(whup!) carry it to the captain(whup!).....

My parents were part of the big folk music scare of the late 50s and early 60s. My Mom studied guitar at the Old Town School of Folk Music in Chicago with Frank Hamilton, a replacement for Pete Seeger in the Weavers. I remember going backstage at a Frank show and seeing how entranced I was he told my Mom "Get that boy a banjo".

We moved to Sacramento when I was 6, and we joined the newly formed Folk Music Society. My folks soon were officers and we went to concerts, workshops and hootenannies.
I remember them dressing me up in my little wool suit to hear people sing about sharecropping, gambling, drinking and women of ill repute. Sitting in the dark I was captivated by the magic one person with a guitar, some stories and good song could weave.

The FMS grew into producing concerts I remember Brownie McGee and Sonny Terry pulled a no show(my introduction to the world of the blues. I saw Judy Collins, Sam Hinton,Walt Robinson, and many more great folk singers.

The high point was bringing the then blacklisted Pete Seeger to American River College. I don't remember how it happened put Pete ate dinner at our house and asked for desert. The concert was a sell out at $1 a ticket and Pete tried to give back some of the 90% of the door he got.

Exposure to real folk music(we hated the cheesy Kingston Trio/New Christy Minstrel kind)led me to fall in love with songs. They just took me away, each one was like a little 5 minute novel that came to life between my ears.

I was exposed to so much great music that laid the foundation for all I have done since.

Sunday, May 2, 2010

Blast from the past- Kairos Coffee House

The other day I went to visit my folks. They still live in the house I grew up in. Driving through the neighborhood always gets the memories flowing. I will do a continuing series of full blown flash backs from time to time.

I drove by Congregation Beth Shalom, obviously now a synagogue, but in the years 67-71
it was Kairos Coffee House, our own slice of Haight St style weirdness right in the middle of suburban Carmichael.

In 67, a couple guys convinced the pastor of this church, United Church of Christ or some such thing to open up in the evenings to have a little coffee house type scene up in what i guess was the cry room.

My friend Paul said to me "hey I found this coffee shop where we can play". So we went over and climbed the stairs. We walk in and there is a a tiny bandstand with the Samuels brothers playing their guitars. A half dozen spool tables were full of earnest college students mostly discussing art, politics, sex,dope what have you..

I say to Paul:" Eff you man, this is a coffee house not a coffee shop."

So I started goin there every night they were open, 3 or 4 times a week. As time went by the coffee house grew and the church shrunk.Pretty soon when it was open it took up the whole building. We had bands playin on the pulpit and we used the former cry room to project San Francisco style lights shows above the band.

Things got weirder and weirder, street people taking refuge from Haight St would hang around and prey on the sheltered hippie kids, tons of dope (weed and acid) were around. A lot of bona fide mentaly ill people hung around, which we we endlessly romanticized.

Some of my first gigs happened there. early on it was a folk concert with the folkies I played with Ethnic Soul, then rock bands. I remember playing there the night Jimi Hendrix died. As my band (Buckwheat) got better and better we played more visible gigs there, opening shows and headlining.

The amazing thing is that this wide open scene, basically unsupervised ( the inmates ran this asylum for sure) lasted for 4 years or so. I remember the county sheriffs raided one time. Or county sheriff was totally obsessed with hippies and his cops were charged with keeping us in line. I remember going out each night with the expectation of getting jacked up and I usually did.I remember the cops had dossiers on us. When the cops did raid (only one time I remember)the toilets got clogged for a week from people flushing their stash.

These days a scene like that would last maybe a week, maybe a few hours. But we were different. I don't remember any violence, not even a fist fight, let alone the shootings that are common now when teenagers party.