A Fresh of Breath Air II (Part 2 of an indeterminable number of parts)

“How much deception can you take?

How many lies will you create?

How much longer until you break?

Your mind’s about to fall

And they are breaking through,

They are breaking through,

Now we’re falling,

We are losing control”

From the song “MK Ultra” by Matt Bellamy, on the album The Resistance by Muse, 2009

While this is a continuation of my re-exploration of my documentary, spoken word, and other related  albums, I want to delve into a bit of history to provide some perspective before I continue. Here I will also describe some essential music releases of the era as well as spoken word. So here goes:

Hallucinogenic plants and fungi have been with us for as long as humanity has existed. Many cultures have used them for medicinal and spiritual purposes for thousands of years. As alchemy evolved into chemistry, additional substances were created out of plants, fungi, and other chemical compounds in the interest of finding cures for various ailments or to otherwise improve the human condition. It was always hit and miss, and laws were created to restrict use or production when it was determined that a substance was more of a danger than a benefit. Few know that cocaine was used in Coca Cola and lithium in 7Up before being prohibited. While some religions and cultures continue to encourage the use of mind-altering substances, such as peyote in the Native American Church, most Western religions condemn their use as a temptation from the devil or a form of witchcraft. Most Eastern religions tolerate, or are indifferent to, their use.

Ergot, which is a fungus that grows on the rye plant can produce vivid hallucinations but also can destroy body extremities and often results in violent death. The name given to the effects of ergot poisoning is St. Anthony’s Fire. It is often suggested that Joan of Arc may have eaten rye bread with this fungus, which would explain the visions she claimed guided her to victory in battle, but also caused her to be burned at the stake for witchcraft. Likewise, the victims of the Salem, Massachusetts witch trials may have suffered from St. Anthony’s Fire. Ergot is the fungus from which LSD is derived.

Albert Hofmann

But let us zoom up to November 18, 1938 at Sandoz laboratories in Basel, Switzerland. This is the day Swiss scientist Albert Hofmann synthesized LSD while looking for a treatment for headaches and respiratory problems. When Sandoz decided not to pursue treatment for these ailments, Hofmann set the compound aside until April 16, 1943, when he decided to re-examine it. He accidentally spilled some on his fingertips and somehow absorbed it into his system. He then grew ill, went home, and for the next two hours he experienced vivid hallucinations. On April 19, three days later, he decided to confirm these effects were from the LSD by ingesting 250 micrograms in a glass of water. As he rode home on his bike, he began to experience hallucinations. The day April 19 is now known by some as “Bicycle Day” to commemorate the date of the first intentional LSD trip. Pink Floyd’s co-founder guitarist, Syd Barrett,  composed the song “Bike” in 1966 to commemorate the event and in 1967 the song appeared on their first LP “The Piper at the Gates of Dawn.” The songwriters Keith Hopkins and Ken Burgess of the band Tomorrow composed “My White Bicycle” in 1967. It was their first single, appeared on their only album “Tomorrow,” and was one of the first songs to use backward guitar phasing. While “My White Bicycle” has been associated with this event, the writers later claimed it was inspired by a Dutch anarchist group’s bicycle sharing system in Amsterdam. This song was covered by Nazareth in 1975 and by Neil the Hippy in 1984.

Hofmann was also the first scientist to identify, create, and name the primary hallucinogenic mushroom compounds, psilocybin and psilocin. He later wrote the book “LSD: My Problem Child” and in the early 1980s recorded a lecture, in English, of the same name. He referred to LSD as a “sacred drug” and continued to use it personally throughout his life. On his 100th birthday, Hofmann said in a speech “It gave me an inner joy, an open mindedness, a gratefulness, open eyes and an internal sensitivity for the miracles of creation…I think that in human evolution it has never been as necessary to have this substance LSD. It is just a tool to turn us into what we are supposed to be.” Hofmann died April 29, 2008 at the age of 102.

Albert Hofmann – LSD: My Problem Child (1983) This was a lecture by Hofmann in English at the Psychedelics and Spirituality Conference II in Santa Barbara, California on May 13-14, 1983. It initially was offered by cassette, but I was able to obtain a CDr copy sometime around 2008. Also speaking was Humphrey Osmond, 30 years to the day that he administered mescaline to Aldous Huxley.

Humphrey Osmond – The Early Days: Mescaline Opens Huxley’s Doors of Perception (1983) Lecture at the Psychedelics and Spirituality Conference II in Santa Barbara, California on May 13-14, 1983 by the man who coined the term “psychedelic” in 1956. Among those speaking at the conference besides Hofmann and Osmond were Ralph Metzner, Terence McKenna, and Andrew Weil. In attendance but not speaking were Timothy Leary, Joan Halifax, Kathleen Harrison McKenna, Peter Stafford, and many other scientists, psychologists, and spiritual leaders. The conference speakers were recorded, and a complete six audiocassette package was available, as well as each individually. I obtained CDr’s of both Hofmann’s and Osmond’s talks from the same source offering the cassettes.

The CIA and MKULTRA

LSD was first synthesized just a month before scientists succeeded in nuclear fission. The first LSD trips by Hofmann occurred just a month before designs were developed for the first atomic bomb. As war seems to corrupt many things, so it goes with mind-altering drugs. Japan, Nazi Germany, the US, and the USSR military and intelligence took an interest in the use of such drugs for the purpose of mind control and biological warfare. In the US, the CIA was officially sanctioned in 1953 with the creation of the secret program now known as MKULTRA. Only those involved at the CIA knew about this mind control program until it was investigated by Congress in the 1970s. The public was clueless, yet they were often the guinea pigs in this later-declared-illegal program. Techniques included dosing unsuspecting as well as volunteer subjects with LSD and other hallucinogens, electroshocks, hypnosis, sensory deprivation, isolation, verbal and sexual abuse, as well as other forms of torture. It was conducted in colleges, hospitals, mental institutions, and prisons in the US and in Canada (with the Canadian government’s blessings.) Some of the cruelest practices were conducted by the US in Canada. Wherever these experiments were conducted some died and others were permanently scarred as a result. The program was supposedly ended in 1973 but some have claimed it never ended. In fact, there is evidence from 1974 that some experiments continued at various US college campuses with unsuspecting students.

From 1959 through 1962 Harvard University participated in these CIA MKULTRA experiments, under the guise of being run by Harvard’s Department of Social Relations, headed by psychologist Henry A. Murray. One of the 22 undergraduates in the experiments was Ted Kaczynski, later known as The Unabomber. I find it interesting that many of his bombs were sent to scientists and other academicians.

In 1973, the Director of the CIA, Richard Helms, ordered all files related to MKULTRA destroyed so that Congress could not investigate. Thankfully, some documents had been misfiled and were later discovered in 1977. They provide some of what we know today, but there is still much missing from our understanding of what went on from 1953 to 1973 including the magnitude of the project and who all was involved. Most information we have comes from victims or their families and retired members of the CIA who grew a conscience.

Timothy Leary

I wrote in my last post that Timothy Leary involved professors Richard Alpert and Ralph Metzner from the Harvard psychology department in running experiments. In 1962 Leary and Alpert formed the International Federation for Internal Freedom (IFIF) to continue studies on the religious use of psychedelic drugs outside of their Harvard University research. After Leary and Alpert were fired from Harvard, they continued their “religious” experiments at Millbrook in New York. Was Leary enlisted by the CIA to conduct any or all these experiments? We may never know. We know he lived as a fugitive after being arrested several times, beginning in 1965 and continuing into the mid-70s. Nixon called him “the most dangerous man in America.” Being that Leary had a history of going rogue dating back to the late 50s were these arrests efforts to keep him quiet about the CIA experiments? Note that LSD and psilocybin were legal at the time of his first arrest. His arrest was for possession of marijuana and resulted in an excessive 30-year prison sentence, which he successfully appealed. His story involves more arrests, escapes, apprehensions, and eventually a sentencing in 1973 to Folsom Prison where he was placed in a cell next to Charles Manson. He was released early in 1976 due to his cooperation as an FBI informant regarding the Weather Underground. The government ceased their harassment after this. His interests shifted from psychedelics to cybernetics and cryogenics in the 80s and 90s.

Also noted in my last post is that Leary released his first three LPs in 1966. All three were recorded at the Millbrook mansion. Despite arrests, appeals, and escapes he continued to record three more LPs.

Turn On, Tune In, Drop Out Soundtrack (1967) – Not to be confused with his 1966 spoken word LP of the same title, this album is filled with music utilizing veena, guitar, and tabla in the style of the music of India but it is Westernized in a psychedelic style. The movie never received a public viewing, yet the soundtrack was a big seller. It has Leary guiding Ralph Metzner through an LSD trip, with sound effects, echo, and an eerie female voice floating in and out with various admonitions. By the end of the album, Ralph’s trip has ended. I have the CD reissue.

You Can Be Anyone This Time Around (1969) – This was recorded as part of Leary’s 1969 campaign for governor of California. Ronald Reagan won that election. Stephen Stills, Jimi Hendrix (on bass!), John Sebastian, and Buddy Miles were part of his back up band. The first side was taken from a Leary campaign press conference with music in the background, and the second side has Leary rapping over music on two pieces. The first is about using drugs to become anyone you want; Leary says “you can be John and Yoko this time around.” The second is about turning on to music while taking drugs and the biological effects that go on while this is happening. He also used short snippets of the music of Pink Floyd but mistakenly credits it to The Grateful Dead on the album cover. I have the CD reissue.

Timothy Leary and Ash Ra Tempel – Seven Up (1973) While Leary was a fugitive living in Bern, Switzerland in 1972, he connected with the German space rock band Ash Ra Tempel and they recorded an LP. It consists of two side-long compositions titled “Time” and “Space” respectively. Music was composed by the band, with lyrics written and partially sung by Leary. The music is typical of the space rock meanderings Ash Ra Tempel is noted for but with a little more bluesy feel than usual. This is the only recording where Timothy Leary sings. I have this on CD.

Mel Lyman

Another notorious person who participated in experiments at Harvard in 1963 was folk musician Mel Lyman. It is uncertain whether he participated in the MKULTRA experiments that may have secretly extended beyond 1962, or Leary’s experiments, or both. For years Lyman traveled through the country honing his skills on harmonica and banjo. In 1962 he spent some time in New York City and became familiar with Andy Warhol’s group at The Factory as well as the Greenwich Village folk scene before moving to the Boston area in 1963. This is where the facts get muddy. In 1963 he supposedly joined Boston-based Jim Kweskin and The Jug Band on harmonica and banjo. However, he does not show up in credits until their second album. On the first album, Bob Siggins plays banjo and Bruno Wolf plays harmonica and sings. Bruno Wolf, or Wolfe, is a pseudonym for David Simon. Both Lyman and Wolfe are credited in the band lineup when they performed at the Newport Folk Festival in 1964. Both appear on the second Jug Band album credits in 1965.

Ironically, according to Kweskin, David Simon was replaced by Mel Lyman because David had a drug habit at that time. But Lyman had been busted in Tallahassee, Florida for drugs after breaking up with his girlfriend. She had participated in LSD experiments with Mel against his wishes. As he had anticipated it messed her up, and she freaked out and moved back home to Kansas. At Lyman’s sentencing he was to either get a regular job or go to jail. So, he joined the Kweskin Jug Band. It is hard to believe that Kweskin didn’t know Lyman’s drug or arrest history.

From everything I have read Mel had been using morning glory seeds and LSD long before joining the Jug Band and was a firm believer in the benefits of hallucinogens. Later he began to believe he had a higher divine calling and that maybe he was God. He formed a cult-like community in 1966 known as the Fort Hill Community, and members were referred to as The Lyman Family. According to former members he ruled the community with an iron fist, hated hippies, and demanded male members wear their hair short and women dress conservatively, and all were to serve him as some divine avatar. They published a newsletter called Avatar.

Neither the Kweskin Jug Band’s 1963 LP nor subsequent releases show any indication of hallucinogenic influence. However, there were three albums where The Lyman Family was credited in some respect and while there are no lyrical references to drugs, and no “psychedelic sound effects,” the mood of the albums could be the result of mind-altering substances. The last of the three albums was not released until 2002 on CD but supposedly was recorded in 1970 and has a dreamy, almost depressed spiritual bluesy feel. My impression is that this album sounds like the band was on Quaaludes. No credits of performers are given other than Mel Lyman and “The Lyman Family.”

Two notable members of the Jug Band were Geoff Muldaur and Maria D’Amato. Maria joined for the second Jug Band album and married Geoff (divorced in 1972) and later had a successful solo career as Maria Muldaur. Jim Kweskin and Geoff Muldaur continue to perform as an acoustic duo. I met them a few years ago when they performed at the Adams Avenue Unplugged festival in San Diego.

Mel Lyman disappeared in the late 70s and the Lyman Family announced in the early 1980s that he had died in 1978. Other accounts say he died in 1980. Some say he took a drug overdose; others say his body simply vanished. It is still a mystery. Mel Lyman and The Lyman Family had a colorful but notorious history. A Rolling Stone two-part series said the group was somewhat like the Manson family except for the murders. There was a bank robbery in the 70s that was attributed to Family members, and there were reports of mind control, and mental and physical brutality in the group. The group still exists as a sophisticated construction company and founding members claim the Rolling Stone articles were an exaggeration with many untruths. There are many Mel Lyman stories that are only tangential to this post, but there is plenty of information about his music career and The Lyman Family on the Internet.

And what about David Simon? Because of similar looks and musical style, he was often mistaken for Norman Greenbaum, famous for the 1969 hit “Spirit in the Sky.” Greenbaum had previously led Dr. West’s Medicine Show and Junk Band from 1966 through 1968, famous for the minor hit “The Eggplant That Ate Chicago.” It is confirmed Greenbaum and Simon are not the same person. Simon got into macrobiotics and scientology. He became a naturopathic herbalist trainer and researcher. He was supposedly influential in the Incredible String Band members converting to scientology. David died in 2014. Greenbaum also got out of music for a while but now he is again performing.

The group, Jim Kweskin and The Jug Band, had an original sound but based on good-time music in the folk and blues tradition. While it never had any hit songs, it was immensely influential in the creation of jug bands around the country that soon evolved into The Grateful Dead, Country Joe and The Fish, and The Lovin’ Spoonful.

The following is a list of significant Lyman-related albums. Unlisted here is the Jim Kweskin & The Jug Band CD, “Greatest Hits!” which I purchased when meeting Jim Kweskin and Geoff Muldaur. I obtained their autographs on the inside cover at that time. Jim thought I was younger than I am, a bit in disbelief when I told him I had heard them back in the 60s via a friend whose older brother had one of their albums. I first heard them in late 1967 or early 1968 in my high school freshman year.

Jim Kweskin and The Jug Band – Unblushing Brassiness (1963) The first album by this band. This was before Mel Lyman and Maria D’Amato joined. David Simon, under the pseudonym Bruno Wolf played harmonica and sang. Bob Siggins was on banjo. Fritz Richmond played jug and washtub bass. Geoff Muldaur was on mandolin, guitar, and vocals. I have this on CD.

Jim Kweskin and The Jug Band – Jug Band Music (1965) Here the band is credited with both Bruno Wolfe (note the added “e”) and Mel Lyman as well as Maria D’Amato. It is assumed that Maria joined some time in 1963 or 64 before the Newport Folk Festival of 1964 since she is part of the band at that event. Siggins was replaced by Bill Keith on banjo. So, the band at that point was Kweskin, Muldaur, Lyman, Wolfe (Simon), D’Amato, Keith, and Richmond. I don’t have this.

Jim Kweskin and The Jug Band – See Reverse Side for Title (1966) Here the band loses Bruno Wolfe and Maria is now credited as Maria Muldaur. Mel Lyman is in the fold on harmonica. This indicates that the songs were recorded in 1965 before the Newport Folk Festival that year, because it is said that Lyman’s last appearance with the Jug Band was at that Festival. I don’t have this.

Jim Kweskin Jug Band – Garden of Joy (1967)  The name changed slightly, and a drummer and viola/violinist are added. Mel Lyman had left by then. The band soldiered on until May 1968 when they did their last show. Geoff and Maria Muldaur then headed to Woodstock, New York and recorded two LPs together. The surviving members of the band reunited in 2013 for a 50th anniversary reunion tour. Mel and Fritz had died, so the surviving four: Kweskin, Geoff, Maria, and Bill Keith were the 2013 touring unit. I have this on a CD that also contains the Jim Kweskin’s America album.

The Lyman Family with Lisa Kindred – American Avatar (1969) According to Lisa Kindred, this was supposed to be a Lisa Kindred album called “Kindred Spirits”. It was recorded in 1964. Lyman plays harmonica and produced the album, and band members included Jim Kweskin and Geoff Muldaur from the Jug Band. Others credited were Bruce Langhorne and Terry Bernhard.  Lisa shelved the project because she did not like the mix. So, five years later Lyman decided to take the recording and remix to put Lisa’s voice in the background. He released it as by The Lyman Family with Lisa Kindred. Lyman originally wanted to call the album “Love Comes Rolling Down” but then changed it to “American Avatar.” Ten years later Lisa learned that it had been released and was furious but did nothing about it. The music is deliberately slow and soft, with harmonica in the foreground rather than the vocals. It is unlike the Jug Band sound, more a mellow spiritual and folk blues. I have this on CD.

Mel Lyman and The Lyman Family – Birth (1970) This album was not released until 2002. It has no credits except Mel Lyman and The Lyman Family. I suspect that this was recorded sometime around the 1964 recording of the Lisa Kindred album with the same people and that the 1970 date is given due to the release of American Avatar being 1969. The female vocals sound like Lisa Kindred and Maria Muldaur, which supports my suspicion. There is no percussion. The music is mostly blues and spiritual covers, similar to the Kindred album. Everything is slowed down to the point that makes one feel restless for the tempo to pick up. But it never does. I have this on CD.

Jim Kweskin – Richard D. Herbruck Presents Jim Kweskin’s America Co-starring Mel Lyman And The Lyman Family (1971) Here is a whole new lineup. All Jug Band members are gone, except Kweskin and Lyman, and a new set of performers are credited. In the liner notes, Kweskin defers to Mel Lyman as being the creative power behind the album and comes close to declaring Lyman to be the savior of the world. The sound is unlike the Jug Band. It is folk blues and spiritual, and some Americana standards; a bit more upbeat than the other two Lyman Family releases. I have on CD; see Garden of Joy above.

Maria Muldaur – Waitress in A Donut Shop (1974) This followed Maria’s first solo LP release from 1973 that contained the hit “Midnight at the Oasis.” For this she is backed by a big band on most songs. Lots of swing jazz and folk standards. After the success of the first LP she was able to gather some of the top folk, jazz, and Black spiritual artists in the business for this outing. I have this on both LP and CD.

Ken Kesey

In the late 1950s Ken Kesey became a graduate student in creative writing at Stanford University. Sometime in the early 60s psychology graduate student, Vik Lovell, who knew Richard Alpert and Allen Ginsberg, invited Kesey to volunteer to take part in psychology department sponsored experiments at the Menlo Park Veterans’ Hospital where Kesey worked nights as an aide. These experiments turned out to be part of the CIA’s MKULTRA project but that was unknown until a decade later. Kesey agreed to be a guinea pig, as it would provide him with some extra cash. The experiments included administering various hallucinogens and cocaine to the volunteers to study their effects. As a result, Kesey became an advocate of the use of these drugs.

After graduation from Stanford, Kesey wrote One Flew Over the Cuckoo’s Nest which was published in 1962. The book’s inspiration came from his work at the Menlo Park Veterans’ Hospital. All the while, Kesey continued to participate in the drug experiments to supplement his income. After the book’s success in 1963, he purchased a ranch in La Honda and moved there, just fifteen miles west of Stanford University. He began to have parties inviting various bohemian types he met while at Stanford, including Neal Cassady and Ken Babbs. This group became known as The Merry Pranksters.

In 1964 after completing his next novel Sometimes a Great Notion, Kesey’s publisher required his presence in New York City. So, Kesey purchased a bus and the Merry Pranksters helped him prepare it for the trip. They painted, wired for multi-media, provided for sleeping areas, and provided for an observation deck on top of the bus. The entire group then headed for New York in the bus, now christened “Furthur,” (spelling later corrected). There were several stops along the way to visit friends. The trip was filmed, and audio taped. The audio focused on the wild raps by Neal Cassady, who drove. After going to New York City, they stopped by Millbrook to see Timothy Leary and Richard Alpert at the invitation of Allen Ginsberg. They then headed to Canada and eventually back to La Honda, California. Journalist Tom Wolfe, who documented the trip in The Electric Kool-Aid Acid Test was not on the bus but used the videotape Kesey filmed during the trip as the material for his book.

After their return, the parties continued, and involved the consumption of LSD and other hallucinogens, while experiencing sensory bombardment by multi-media and live music supplied by the Anonymous Artists of America and The Warlocks (later renamed The Grateful Dead.) These parties began to be called “acid tests” and were totally unstructured events. In 1965 Kesey began hosting these acid tests at various locations in the Bay area but also in other western US cities on into early 1967. He had many of them recorded from late 1965 through 1966. Sound engineer and supplier of the LSD was local chemist, Augustus Owsley Stanley III (aka Owsley, aka Bear). Bear became the official sound engineer for The Grateful Dead for many years. The best description of these acid tests would be to think of a regular party of young adults talking and laughing, with a live band performing as well as someone playing with echo and sound effects with a microphone plugged into a sound board and with an elaborate PA system, plus multi-media and wild lights. Then imagine all these people high on various substances. That is exactly what it was when you hear recordings of these events.

Kesey was busted for marijuana possession in 1965 (sound familiar?) and faked suicide, fleeing to Mexico. The acid tests that were held while he was in Mexico were held in the Los Angeles area and were led by Ken Babbs and Wavy Gravy (Hugh Romney). He snuck back into the US eight months later and continued his acid tests. In January 1967 he was sentenced to six months jail time at the San Mateo County jail in Redwood City. Two days after sentencing he was arrested again for smoking marijuana. A final acid test was held at Rice University in Houston, Texas on March 16, 1967 and hosted by Kesey and Babbs friend Larry McMurtry (novelist and father of present-day Americana/folk rock singer-songwriter James McMurtry). Kesey began his sentence in May 1967. After his release he moved to the family farm in Pleasant Hill, Oregon and spent the rest of his life there, continuing his writing and operating Key-Z Productions until his death in 2001.

Kesey-related recordings

Neal at the Wheel: Neal Cassady driving Further into NY on the NJ Turnpike June 25, 1964, Parts 1 & 2 – In the late 90s Kesey edited audio tapes of the trip to New York on two CDrs, which I was quick to purchase when they were made available. Audio is not top quality as the sound of the bus and traffic sometimes drowns out Neal Cassady’s raps. It is more of historic significance giving an audio account of what it was like being on the bus and listening to Neal.

The Acid Test – the official LP released in 1966 on Sound City Productions, and 2005 on Acadia label CD, was of the Sound City Acid Test of January 29, 1966 in San Francisco at Sound City Studio. I only have the CD.

The Acid Test, Volume 1 – Issued on CD in 1998 on the King Mob label in the UK and is probably a bootleg. This is the Sound City Acid Test that was released on LP in 1966 but it wrongly states that the event was in 1965. This CD includes additional material from “Red, White and Blue Meet the Black, Vietnam Day 1966” (which happened October 16, 1965). Ken Kesey reissued it on CDr in 1999 with the same date errors and liner notes. Both issues are credited to “Ken Kesey, Ken Babbs, and The Merry Pranksters.” I have both.

Hogs are Coming b/w Peggy the Pistol – credited to “Ken Kesey with Ken Babbs and The Merry Band of Pranksters.” This was a seven-inch 45 rpm issued in 1997. The two selections come from the Sound City Acid Test LP. I have this and burned it to CDr.

Excerpts from The Acid Test – Issued in 1966 on the Sound City label as a radio station promo on a seven inch 33 1/3 rpm. The selections taken from the Sound City Acid Test LP and slightly edited in places. Extremely rare and I do not have this.

The Acid Test, Volume 2 – CDr issued by Ken Kesey in 1999 of the San Francisco State Acid Test on October 1, 1966. This version is the longest version of this acid test available. Issued with both color and black and white covers. Mine is black and white.

The Electric Kool-Aid Acid Test (1988) – This was a bootleg LP, supposedly issued in Sweden, but now thought to have originated in the US. This is a unique version of the San Francisco Acid Test of October 1, 1966. This LP says October 1 & 2, 1966, which may be more accurate if the event began the evening of the first and into the morning of the second. This recording has excerpts inserted at the beginning and end of each LP side that originated from a television interview by Tom Snyder with Ken Kesey and Jerry Garcia. The program was NBC’s Tomorrow Show and the date was May 7, 1981. The full interview can be seen on YouTube. I have this LP and burned a copy to CDr.

The Acid Test Reels – This is a set of downloadable files that have been available on the Internet, mostly from sites dedicated to archiving Grateful Dead related recordings. Each volume fits on an 80-minute CDr. There are now six volumes. It had begun as a three-volume set exclusively of recordings made during various acid tests but has expanded with three more volumes to include recordings that are related to the acid tests.

The following gives a description of what is found on each volume:

Volume 1 – The Fillmore Acid Test, Fillmore Auditorium, San Francisco, January 8, 1966

Volume 2 – The Pico Acid Test, Danish Center, Los Angeles, probably March 19, 1966; and The San Francisco State Acid Test, Whatever It Is Festival, San Francisco State University, October 2, 1966

Volume 3 – The San Francisco State Acid Test (continued), Merry Prankster Sound Collage Sequence, and End of Whatever It Is Festival, all from October 2, 1966; and Acid Test Graduation Jam, Winterland, San Francisco, October 31, 1966

Volume 4 – Related Recordings: Neal Cassady & The Warlocks, 1965; Neal Cassady Raps excerpt from Straight Theater, Haight Street, San Francisco, July 23, 1967; Jerry Garcia from Acid Test audio, 710 Haight Street House, San Francisco, Summer, 1967; Jerry Garcia one hour interview circa 1967

Volume 5 – Supplementary #1: The Watts Acid Test, Youth Opportunities Center, Compton, February 12, 1966; and Pico Acid Test expanded version, Danish Center, Los Angeles, March 12, 1966

Volume 6 – Supplementary #2: San Francisco State Acid Test and Kesey/Garcia Interview on Tomorrow Show, May 7, 1981. This is an exact copy of the 1988 bootleg LP mentioned above.

Neal Cassady Raps (1967) This is a 10-minute version of the June 23, 1967 recording excerpted on Volume 4 of the Acid Test Reels above. Sold as a seven-inch flexi disc to accompany “The Dead Book: A Social History of The Grateful Dead” by Hank Harrison in 1973. Cassady was live onstage with The Grateful Dead. Recorded before he left for Mexico. He returned briefly only a couple more times before going back to Mexico where he died in 1968.

Neal Cassady – Drive (1965) Two CDs of these tapes were released by Kesey in 1999. Cassady was recorded by Kesey and Mountain Girl on the La Honda ranch, while sitting in a Plymouth station wagon rigged with earphones, microphone, and a “girlfriend” (so he had someone to rap to) with music provided by Robin and the Hoods in one ear and engine sounds in the other. He was taped from midnight until dawn. The music is often mistaken to be The Warlocks.

That concludes this post. I am exhausted. I am sure you are too if you read the whole thing.

Thanks a lot; see you later.

Like a Fresh of Breath Air

“Ooo, have another hit of fresh air, ooo, have another hit”

From the song, “Fresh Air” by Chet Powers (aka Dino Valenti, aka Jesse Farrow) on the Quicksilver Messenger Service LP “Just for Love,” 1970

I just kicked my Facebook addiction by closing my accounts and removing the app from all my devices. What this means is that Facebook is not where you go to find out if I have added a new post here. While I do not use Twitter, I still have an account there and if you have an account you can find me there if you link to mine. I am under my birth-given name on Twitter. You can also find my Twitter posts via my Twitter handle, @7st0nes. The only thing I post on Twitter is when I have a new entry here.

I feel great after getting rid of Facebook. For the past few years, it has been a love-hate relationship. And now it feels like a breath of fresh air to be rid of it. It used to be the way I kept up with the local music scene and my friends around the country but now I know other places where I can go to find out who is playing at my favorite venues and where my favorite artists are performing. Facebook made it easier, but that is okay; I can find my way around without it. And people who want to keep in touch can do so by contacting me via email or phone. If they did not take me up on my request to ask me for contact info in Messenger before I pulled the plug, then it was not important to them, so it should not be important to me either.

Recently I have been immersing myself in my collection of spoken word and related recordings with themes regarding the hippie and drug cultures from the mid-fifties to the mid-eighties. These include a variety of recordings both pro and con as well as scientifically objective perspectives. I am not advocating for the use of any substance, whether it be alcohol, marijuana, or anything else. The point here is that I am a collector as well as a student of the era spanning the period from my early childhood to my early 30s. Some are of historical significance, but others are just rare and collectible.

This has been evolving as I write and will be broken into digestible pieces and may involve several posts reflecting what I have been listening to recently. So here goes:

Various Artists – Peyote Ceremonial Songs. (undated/1998) This includes recordings from Kiowa, Cheyenne, Cherokee, Omaha, and other tribes. It is noted that David Apekaun, of the Kiowa tribe, was recorded in 1953, and most others were recorded in the 1950s and early 1960s. Apekaun’s recordings may be the earliest recordings related to the use of hallucinogenic substances. The 1998 CD is from an undated LP that appears to be no earlier than the mid-1960s (based on the use of a zip code in the label address) and is subtitled “Music of the Native American Church of North America (Indian).” It is uncertain whether any of these recordings were conducted while the performer was under the influence. To the untrained listener, this may sound like many other Native American recordings totally unrelated to the use of peyote. Various Native American percussive instruments are used with singing.

Mushroom Ceremony of the Mazatec Indians of Mexico

Maria Sabina – Mushroom Ceremony of the Mazatec Indians, recorded by Gordon and Valentina Wasson in Huautla de Jimenez, State of Oaxaca, Mexico, on July 21, 1956. Maria Sabina was a curandera (witch doctor) under the influence of hallucinogenic mushrooms, in a trance state, during the recording. This recording was released in 1957. Three years later, Timothy Leary, PhD traveled to Cuernavaca, Mexico to experience the effects of these mushrooms himself. He thus began his exploration of other hallucinogenic substances through the early 1960s, bringing his colleagues at Harvard, Richard Alpert, PhD and Ralph Metzner, PhD into these explorations. On May 13, 1957 Life magazine published an article by Gordon Wasson about the use of these mushrooms in religious ceremonies by the Mazatec people. One person who read this article at the age of 11 was Terence McKenna, and I will have more to say about McKenna in a later post.

Aldous Huxley – Visionary Experience

Aldous Huxley – Visionary Experience, from a 1962 lecture addressing a Los Alamos scientist crowd where he mentions his experiences with the use of LSD and mescaline. This was volume two of a two album series with the first volume being called “Human Potentialities” with no reference to hallucinogens. These were not released until 1969.

Aldous Huxley – Speaking Personally

Aldous Huxley – Speaking Personally, from a 1961 interview by John Chandos with Huxley. There are references to the benefits of research into the use of LSD. This was not released until 1973 and later was issued as a CD. Huxley had first taken mescaline in 1953 with the assistance of psychiatrist Humphrey Osmond, M.D. This experience resulted in Huxley writing the book, “The Doors of Perception.” Osmond had been experimenting with the use of LSD and mescaline with schizophrenic patients since 1951. Osmond was the person who coined the term “psychedelic” in letter exchanges with Huxley and introduced its use in a meeting of the New York Academy of Sciences in 1956. The term stuck.

Alan Watts – Haiku (1958), Zen & Senryu (1959), and This is IT (1962) These are the first three albums by British philosopher, Alan Watts. The first two examine Asian poetry forms with Watts reading the poem followed by a brief musical interlude on Asian instruments and the reading repeated in Japanese by Sumire Jacobs. The last album is more “musical” but in an extremely broad sense of the term, with several participants playing instruments without any understanding of how to play them, as well as chanting, gibberish, and wild howling. It is a free-form cacophonous experience, and the participants may have possibly been under the influence of hallucinogenic substances. At one point one of the chants sounds like it included the acronym “LSD”. “This is IT” parallels Watts’ book, “The Joyous Cosmology”, which discusses experiences on LSD.

Gerald Heard – Re-Birth

Gerald Heard – Re-birth (1961). Philosopher, author, and historian Gerald Heard recorded two spoken word box sets containing 3 LPs each, the first in 1959 and the second in 1961. The focus in this blog is on “Re-birth”,  the last LP in the 1961 box set titled “Explorations Volume 2: Survival, Growth, and Re-birth”. The first two LPs are lectures and devoid of any reference to hallucinogens. This third LP stands out in its invoking of the Tibetan Book of the Dead and is seen as a guide for an LSD trip where the subject is initiated into the trip, symbolically dies, and is then reborn. While this also follows the process of being born again in Christianity, the close following of references from the Book of the Dead indicates Heard was not referring to Christianity. This third LP also includes ominous-sounding minor key musical interludes on church organ and occasional choral vocalists providing advice to the initiate.

This same process is noted in the 1964 book and supporting 1966 LP “The Psychedelic Experience,” by Timothy Leary, Richard Alpert, and Ralph Metzner. Later in 1966 in The Beatles album “Revolver” the song “Tomorrow Never Knows” incorporates a quote from “The Psychedelic Experience” in the lyric, “Turn off  your mind relax and float downstream.”

Timothy Leary, Ralph Metzner, Richard Alpert – The Psychedelic Experience

Timothy Leary, PhD, Richard Alpert, PhD, and Ralph Metzner, PhD – The Psychedelic Experience (1966) An abridged audio version of their 1964 book of the same name, this followed the same process as Gerald Heard’s “Re-birth” LP except that instead of a church organ signifying the steps in the process, there is a singular ring of a bell at each step. Leary, Alpert, and Metzner take turns reading, alternating readers with each bell ring, but with Leary doing most of the reading. This LP is not nearly as interesting as the Heard LP despite covering the same topic. Heard was a much more expressive speaker and the use of church organ and vocalists accentuated the intensity on “Re-birth”. But this 1966 LP was more important in its day since Leary and Alpert had garnered national notoriety for being fired from Harvard University in 1963 due partly to their LSD experimentation using undergraduate students. Gerald Heard’s album, unfortunately, was not widely known despite the fact that it preceded this release by five years and was the more interesting of the two.

Millbrook

After being fired from Harvard, Leary rented the old Hitchcock Estate mansion in Millbrook, New York for a dollar per year, where he and Alpert continued to explore the spiritual component of hallucinogens. They formed the Castalia Foundation to conduct this research. Visitors included poet Allen Ginsberg, jazz artists Charles Mingus and Maynard Ferguson, philosopher and author Alan Watts, psychiatrist R.D. Laing, and other curiosity seekers. In 1964 Ken Kesey and the Merry Pranksters visited Millbrook on their way from New York City to Canada in their bus “Further” driven by beat ikon, Neal Cassady. Although Kesey and company had been invited to Millbrook by Allen Ginsberg, Leary refused to meet with them, feeling that they missed the spiritual point of the Castalia Foundation’s research and that they showed disregard for the required controlled setting.

Timothy Leary, PhD – Turn On, Tune In, Drop Out

Timothy Leary, PhD – Turn On, Tune In, Drop Out (1966). This is a spoken word album recorded at Millbrook. It is where Leary coined the term calling on the youth of America to “turn on, tune in, drop out.” Here he reflects on his various experiments with hallucinogens as well as where human society should go from here. For me, Leary’s dry delivery with little emotion and long pauses between statements makes for difficult listening but it does contain a wealth of interesting ideas. It was originally released on the ESP label and the LP is quite rare, however about 10 years ago a revived ESP label reissued it on CD and finally provided me the opportunity to hear this historic release.

Dr. Timothy Leary, Ph.D. – L.S.D.

Timothy Leary, PhD – L.S.D. (1966). This is another lecture only LP, recorded at Millbrook. This lecture conceptually takes a little from his other two 1966 releases. I have both the original LP and the CD. The CD version includes extra material from a dinner party attended by Leary and G. Gordon Liddy in the late 60s and a 1967 interview referenced as “at the height of the hippie movement.” This is probably the least interesting of the Leary recordings but the extra tracks on the CD version provide a slight redemption to this rather dry album.

I think I will stop here, with some of the harder but rewarding listens. These are not recordings that you put on in the background while doing something else. They demand full attention to get the most out of them. More to come, perhaps later in the week.

I am back!!!

And what do I find? I find that WordPress has changed. It has only been a year since I’ve been here last. Pretty sad, ain’t it? But I am back. I nearly got used to using Facebook exclusively to post my my music interests and now I am about ready to kick my Facebook addiction. So WordPress supposedly gives a new look and more power to the blogger. I shall see. But whatever it does, it will take getting used to. So please bear with me.

I will be expanding my interests here to include anything I find as interesting with the exception of political stuff. I will save that for ranting in my home and throwing things at my TV. So this is just a placeholder. I figure that my posts will be shorter (and hopefully sweeter) since all the time tied up with Facebook will be transferred to my blog.

It doesn’t look that different when I preview. But we shall see as time goes on. It was quite easy to figure out how to select and post a photo. This one is from 2009, at the San Pasqual South trail apex. Just picked this at random to see how this works. Popeswami is surveying his domain and declaring superiority to all onlookers…all one of them (the one holding the camera). It remains to be determined exactly how superior he is.

I am insane, I am not ashamed.

“Two kinds of people in this world

Winners, losers

I lost my power in this world

Because I did not use it

And I go insane like I always do

And I call your name, she’s a lot like you

Two kinds of trouble in this world

Living, dying

I lost…”

(From “Go Insane” by Lindsey Buckingham, title track to his 1984 album)

It seemed appropriate to end mid-stanza in the Buckingham lyrics, because it fit my style. And style is everything, isn’t it?

I have been absent from the blogosphere for far too long. But is that unusual? Suddenly echoes of Tom Jones rattle inside this addled brain. Let’s just say it’s not.  I will not make excuses. There have been opportunities to write but it just never occurred to me.

In the meantime, I have been adding to my music collection like a voracious aardvark. Yes, I have been to a few shows, but I have passed up the opportunity to attend more  – be it age, or what…I just don’t know. Music friends that I have longed to see just took a back seat to other “needs”.

Mercedes Moore

I did get out to see Mercedes Moore last night at Proud Mary’s. I had not been to one of her gigs in well over a couple years. When we walked in, I noted there were drums and a keyboard set up, and I thought “What? No guitar? No bass?” and then I realized as I looked around the room and spotted two people having dinner – Taryn Donath and Danny Campbell…and my heart began to accelerate. I simply adore Taryn’s playing and while I knew that Mercedes and Taryn had done many a show together, I had never had the opportunity to attend one. And now that opportunity was here.

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L to R:  Mercedes Moore, Danny Campbell, Taryn Donath

What a great time! Unlike the other times I have seen Mercedes, she really worked the audience. It was fun to see her conversationally having fun with the people, including the little conversations between her and Taryn between songs. I also liked that she gave credit to the artists she was covering, such as Little Richard, Irma Thomas, B.B. King… The songs were not the most popular from these artists, and I liked that too. My whole thing is that there is a boat load of treasures hidden on obscure 45s or B sides of the more popular releases, or songs hidden away among the grooves of LPs. It is always a treat to have a performer share these little gems with the audience.

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I had forgotten what a terrific singer Mercedes is. I don’t see all that much about her in local media – maybe I have been looking in the wrong places, but I get the feeling she has been overlooked among the wealth of talent we have in San Diego. And what an amazing artist to be paired with! Taryn Donath knocked me out the first time I saw her perform. I still remember the late afternoon on Adams Avenue on the Blues stage. I had no idea what I was in for. Taryn is a little ball of energy that literally attacks the keys like there is no tomorrow. More ideas and styles are packed into a solo than I can process in such a short time. And thankfully, Mercedes gave her lots of room to show her talents. Now, I haven’t said anything about the drummer, Danny Campbell. He was certainly no slouch. Always right with Taryn, you could tell they were having a helluva lot of fun, Mercedes included here too. And, Danny was also given opportunity to show off a bit in some solo work.

Dave Humphries

Working backwards, the last show we had seen before last night was in mid-June at the Downtown Café, where we saw Dave Humphries (guitar & vocals) with Mike Alvarez (electric cello & backing vocals) and Wolfgang Grasekamp (keyboard). Jimmy Graham, also joined them for a few songs on harmonica. There was a bit of magic in the air that evening, for while I have always enjoyed their gigs, this time they were exceptionally “on”. I just don’t know how to explain it – maybe they were tighter than usual, the singing was stronger, who knows? I just know they were damn good. Lots of self-penned songs from Dave, nothing unfamiliar to me but they sounded great. There were a few new covers but lots of the regular selections – things I never tire of hearing. Stories about various songs preceded many of them – connecting the dots between himself and The Beatles/Tony Sheridan, Badfinger, Beach Boys – lots of real history here. While Dave played lots of rockabilly and British invasion covers, he isn’t stuck in the 60s. His solo work and work with The Hollywood Project are contemporary in sound and spirit.

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L to R: Mike Alvarez, Jimmy Graham, Dave Humphries

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L to R:  Jimmy Graham, Dave Humphries, Wolfgang Grasekamp

Plow

I was fortunate to not be on the road when Plow performed at their Sunday brunch – now at Tio Leo’s on Napa. All the usual suspects – Chris Clarke on vocals & mandolin, Jason Weiss on banjo and backing vocals, Doug Walker on string bass, Alex Watts on guitar, Dane Terry on harmonica and backing vocals, and Mark Markowitz on snare. After the closing of Urban Solace it was uncertain if we would see them close by. I know we have gone up to Wynola to see them perform, but those trips are few and far between, so I am glad they have relocated to Tio Leo’s – with thanks to RosaLea Schiavone’s Wicked Harem Productions. If you like bluegrass and old time American music, this band will certainly please. It’s always fun to hear them.

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L to R: Doug Walker, Jason Weiss, Mark Markowitz, Chris Clarke, Dane Terry, Alex Watts

The Swing Thing

It was either the last Thursday in May or the first Thursday in June we saw The Swing Thing duo at Riviera Supper Club. Consisting of Liz Grace on vocals and Jon Garner on guitar, their focus is on pop standards and torch songs from the late 30s and into the 60s, with a jazzy twist. I have  said much about Liz and Jon in the past – two top quality performers. While Liz is fluent in several languages, Jon is fluent in Django and Wes. So there you go. And if you get the chance, both have other bands: Three Chord Justice featuring Liz on vocals and guitar, is a country band which rumor has it is working on a new album, and The Garners, where Jon and his wife, Lorelei, play gypsy and other jazz and blues songs from the 20s and 30s. Sorry I did not get a photo that evening – we were seated too close and it was too dark.

In Other News

Like I said earlier I have been gathering a huge batch of vinyl and cds. One interesting find was an obscure 45 by The Bulldogs performing “John, Paul, George and Ringo” backed with “What Do I See?”. All self-penned from 1964 with an attempt to ride the coattails of the Fab Four. Obviously, they didn’t succeed, but nice effort, boys. Talking about 45s there were several 60s garage/psychedelic releases from 1965 through 1969 that bring four-digit prices in the 45 market that have sparked my interest but are just too out of reach for my shallow pockets. So, the next best thing was to look to compilation LPs and CDs, and there are many. Filling the Gap is a 5-cd set with rarities from the likes of Teddy & His Patches, The Human Beinz, The Magic Mushrooms, Crome Syrcus…this set just arrived and I cannot wait to dig in. Another 5-cd set that arrived here recently was The Ultimate Acid Dreams Collection. This collects all the Acid Dreams series (Acid Dreams Testament, Acid Dreams Epitaph…) and adds even more. Songs by The Remaining Few, The Stereo Shoestring, the “A” side of the Teddy & His Patches 45 (Zappa’s “Suzy Creamcheese”) whereas the “B” side is on the other box set – is there a conspiracy here to get you to buy both sets? In any event the other box did have the Peanut Butter Conspiracy 45s. Hmmm. There’s something happening here but what it is ain’t exactly clear. Besides 60s 45s I scooped up a 45 by late 70s Australian punkrockers, The Psychosurgeons that features 45 collector guru Mark “Boss Hoss” Taylor. Now how cool is that?

I won’t bore you with my other vinyl acquisitions but let’s just say quite a few were spoken word and one actually brings back memories of my son’s early childhood.

But you know, I had a week’s vacation in late June that just ended and what do I do? I end up waiting until my vacation is over to begin this blog entry. Not so cool.

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I keep putting off writing about the beginnings of Christian rock, so I promise that before the end of Summer I will get this done. Hold me to it. And with that, I am outta here, ‘cause I got a lot of listening to do.

 

The Adventures of Burt Tee and Quan Lapose

“There’s danger on the edge of town

Ride the King’s Highway, baby

Weird scenes inside the gold mine

Ride the highway west, baby

Ride the snake, ride the snake

To the lake, the ancient lake, baby

The snake, he’s long, seven miles

Ride the snake

He’s old and his skin is cold…” 

Jim Morrison, from The Doors song, “The End”, 1966, released 1967

Adventures are typically exciting experiences. Sometimes they involve risk. Sometimes there is danger lurking for those living on the edge. There were so many layers of meaning in The Doors song, “The End,” that represent adventure: the excitement of taboo sex, of murder, and the exhilarating freedom experienced from defying the norms of a civil society; norms that are in place to guarantee the survival of a species. But Morrison questioned everything. He pushed the envelope to the point that it became unrecognizable as an envelope; merely a tattered piece of paper. And in the end, his life became that tattered piece of paper. For Morrison, adventure became misadventure, providing him a seat at the table of the 27 Club.

College Freshman Adventures

 Not all adventures are extreme. When I entered my freshman year of college, my dormitory roommate, John, was a member of my high school graduating class. We were high school buddies and agreed to room together. John was a bit socially awkward (probably I was as well, but I didn’t see myself that way). He did not do drugs, nor alcohol but he was inclined to some peculiarities such as buying a medium-sized jar of maraschino cherries and consuming them in one sitting. I recall that after doing so he went into an episode of nearly convulsive laughter to the point that the dorm floor counselor stopped by and asked me if John was tripping. I said “no” as I pointed to the empty cherry jar, at which the counselor just shook his head and left, while the intensity of John’s laughing orgy took an exponential upturn.

Back in 1971 there were no co-ed dormitories at my university. Our eighth-floor dorm room was surrounded by a variety of colorful individuals. There were two other normal guys, Rich and Ron, who came from a high school in New Kensington, Pennsylvania. They were a bit on the reserved side; clean-cut kids who were serious about their studies. We became good friends. Then further up the hall was another freshman, Lorenzo, who was a philosophical Brainiac and the floor cynic. Lorenzo had an acerbic wit. He verbally pulled no punches. We got along great. Directly across the hall from me was Joe from Erie, Pennsylvania. Joe was quite a character. He had two high school friends who were in a different dormitory on the other side of campus who spent a lot of time on our floor. So, we hung out together a lot. I remember Joe admiring my Gibson SG and often asking to play it. Together we all did some innocent but crazy pranks, like dropping a water balloon down the stairwell from the eighth floor to the basement when someone came through the basement door. We also had a group participation on each floor in bouncing super balls down that stairwell. Right next door to my room were Woody and Wayne, sophomores who returned to school with the plan to stay high on acid the entire year. One time when they were tripping the rest of us had squirt guns and freaked them out. Thinking they were real guns, Woody and Wayne stayed in the bathroom shower stalls and refused to come out for hours. Innocent stuff.

I hung out with Woody and Wayne because they had some terrific music albums – everything from Soft Machine and Van Morrison, to Luciano Berio and Karlheinz Stockhausen. We got high together. The difference was that their adventure was to drop out and mine was to graduate, so I was a bit more balanced than they were in my use of interesting chemicals and entheogens. Joe and his Erie buddies, Dennis and Chuck also partied with us but not as frequently. I remember that Lorenzo took huge amounts of acid at a time. A year later I remember that while his sharp and biting comments continued to flow from his mouth on a constant basis, he no longer had the ability to concentrate, and could no longer grasp complex ideas, whereas in the prior year we had some excellent discussions regarding the existential philosophers we both loved. The contrast was startling to me and an assurance that I was on a better path by being more balanced in my adventures. Of course, hanging out with Jesus freaks who were there the moment after I had had a very bad trip helped to steer me away from self-destruction. Joe’s roommate was a senior who invited me to The House of Light, which was a refuge on the outskirts of town for wayward acid heads and heroin addicts who had found Jesus. But that is a topic for another blog post.

I am getting away from the main idea for the title of this post. When I returned to my dorm room after class one day, I found a magazine photo cut-out of two refugee children taped to my door. Joe had labeled one as Burt Tee, and the other as Quan Lapose. Burt’s mouth had a hole punched through where Joe had placed a lit cigarette. Now, he must have timed this for when I was expected back from class, because the cigarette was not burnt down very far. Somehow, I became associated with the name Burt Tee while my roommate was Quan Lapose. Those names stuck. But let it be known that I did not smoke tobacco. Since my parents had been chain smokers until they quit when I was 11 years old, I detested the smell of cigarette smoke.

By the end of my freshman year, Joe’s roommate had graduated, Joe and his Erie entourage never returned for the sophomore year. My roommate, John quit school and married his high school sweetheart. Woody and Wayne dropped out, but Wayne returned two years later and was much more serious about his education. Mid sophomore year Lorenzo dropped out. But Rich and Ron continued and graduated. To them I continued to be Burt Tee.

Later, I would take up various aliases in radio or writing personalities: Ray Cathode, Harry Face, I.M. Intoxicated, and Popeswami to name a few.

My Recent Adventure

Over the past two years I have dropped 50 pounds but gained about ten pounds back in the past six months. My work involves travel throughout the US and 2018 seemed to have me out more than in past years. This left me with few days of free time to blogpost, and fewer days to attend local music performances. Anyone following my posts will see that there has been a great decrease in describing local music events.

The weekend before Thanksgiving, I was supposed to get home late Friday night from Tallahassee via Miami. Well, once my flight arrived in Miami mechanical problems with my connecting flight necessitated a stay in Miami until Saturday morning, with only a couple hours sleep before the morning flight. When I arrived home, I felt “fluttery” in my chest. I thought it was due to the combination of the excessive amount of caffeine I had consumed the past few days, dehydration, and lack of sleep. But it did not let up. All through Thanksgiving week I just felt weird. The week following, I was on the road again. Then the next week, in Chicago, it was bitter cold, and my quarter mile walk from the hotel to my worksite caused my chest to hurt. Again, I assumed it was the cold air irritating my lungs. The next week I was in Kentucky and still the flutters in my chest continued.

When I got home from my Kentucky trip that Friday night, I was feeling very strange. I called the nurse on call through my medical plan and she told me to immediately go to the emergency room. The next morning, after several irregular EKGs and foreboding blood work results, they scheduled me for a stress test by injection. Later that day they told me I had had a heart attack some time ago and they prepared me for angioplasty the next morning. They thought they would be putting one or two stents in arteries to the left side of my heart. But once they were in and cleaned-out the blockage, no stents were necessary. According to the cardiologist my heart is strong with no significant damage. While undergoing the angio, my mind faded out until they were done, but I do remember the pain as they pushed further into my arm with the line. Apparently, I was conscious enough to follow instructions, but I am mostly amnesic regarding this experience. It left me with a very painful arm where nerve endings were irritated, and even though the procedure was done a week before Christmas, I still have some pain in my elbow now and then.

I was off the road the month of January and will not return to travelling until February 18. With one break the week of March 4, I will then be out every week for the remainder of March, all the way through mid-June. While home, recovering from my stay in the hospital I finished my last blog post, and in January we went to three music events. Two of these events were to see Robin Henkel with Horns, and the other was to see the Now Time Jazz Quartet, featuring Alicia Previn on violin. Venues were Lestat’s West, Proud Mary’s, and Tio Leo’s.

This adventure has taught me to appreciate the here and now, and the people and things that I love. I love live music – the hear and now. I have some wonderful friends. I love good food a bit too much. That is where moderation comes into the picture. That will be the most difficult transition to make – eating healthy. Well, maybe exercise is going to be a tough one, too.

Between Thanksgiving and my trip to the hospital we obtained a shelter dog. On December 8, when she became a part of our life, she was 11 months old. A very cute and lovable chiweenie (that’s a cross between a chihuahua and a dachshund). She can be quite mischievous and playful. The day the foster family brought her to our home, she bonded with me immediately. Nancy named her Gracie. Her name had been Victoria, so I suggested we have her proper name as Gracie Victoria. She looks like she could be part fox, with her long legs and tail. The mix must have been with a long-haired dachshund. She is much more weenie than chi. A long body but big eyes like a chihuahua. She is very fearful of new experiences. We are taking her to dog (owner) training, and much of my free time is spent interacting with Gracie. We need to get her out and about more so that she can get more used to traveling in a car and seeing people and other dogs in public places. She has been great therapy for me getting over my big adventure.

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Live Music

My first outing was on January 13 to see Robin Henkel with Horns at Lestat’s West. Jodie Hill was on string and electric bass, Troy Jennings on baritone sax, Steve Ebner on trumpet, Kevin Koch on drums, Michael Yates on congas, and Mark Lessman on tenor sax. The selections were largely from the mid-40s through 60s cool and cool bop jazz. These were songs I’ve heard Robin and his group do on many occasions but there is always something a little different and delightful each time I hear them. Also, Robin has a story to tell about most of the songs played. Slim Gaillard and Mose Allison were two of the great artists covered that night.

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Robin Henkel with Horns, l to r: Jodie Hill, Robin Henkel, Kevin Koch, Troy Jennings, Michael Yates, Mark Lessman, Steve Ebner

A few weeks later, on January 26, Robin was appearing with his horns at Proud Mary’s. We wanted to go to dinner, so why not hear some music as well?  And the taste of New Orleans cuisine sounded good. This evening instead of Troy Jennings we had David Castel de Oro on sax and clarinet, along with Jodie Hill on bass, Steve Ebner on trumpet, and Toby Ahrens on drums. Again, fine playing, including many of the same songs heard at Lestat’s and one with a bit of Sonny Rollins rolled-in. Always great fun.

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Robin Henkel with Horns, l to r: Robin Henkel, Toby Ahrens, Jodie Hill, David Castel de Oro, and Steve Ebner

January 31, we headed to Tio Leo’s for some Mexican food and to hear a jazz group we had not heard before. The Now Time Jazz Quartet surprised me with their 70s easy jazz, with a bit of funky improvisation added in for good measure. The band features Adam Wolff on keyboard, Michael Oletta on bass, Jeff Dalrymple on drums and Alicia Previn on violin. I’ve seen Alicia perform with Mundell Lowe as well as Bart Mendoza’s band and was surprised to see her yet again in another band with an all together different style. Accessible, popular tunes with enough improvisation to keep them interesting, as well as some self-penned numbers. Another fun evening.

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Now Time Jazz Quartet, l to r: Adam Wolff, Jeff Dalrymple, Michael Oletta, and Alicia Previn

This past Thursday we had intended to see The Swing Thing featuring Liz Grace and Jon Garner at the Riviera Supper Club but a problem in the gas line at the restaurant caused it to be closed. The Friday prior we had wanted to see Dave Humphries, Mike Alvarez and Wolfgang Grasekamp at the Downtown Café in El Cajon but it was pouring down rain and the closest parking space was several blocks away, so after circling the block three times I decided to go home.

On February 10 we went to Urban Solace for the bluegrass brunch where Plow was performing. It was a great show as usual with Chris Clarke on mandolin, Jason Weiss on banjo, Doug Walker on string bass, Dane Terry on harmonica, Alex Watts on guitar and Mark Markowitz on snare drum. Vocals by Chris, Dane, and Jason. Good harmonies and great picking from this accomplished group of musicians, exposing San Diego patrons to historic bluegrass and old-time sounds.

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Plow, l to r: Jason Weiss, Mark Markowitz, Chris Clarke, Doug Walker, Alex Watts, Dane Terry

Acquisitions

I have acquired some nice vinyl lately. One is the 1973 release by Robb Kunkel titled “Abyss”. This album was one that I discovered via the former Lysergia website (note that through the Wayback Machine website you can still find this amazing site with a treasure trove of obscure artists who should have been better recognized in their time). I was very pleased that someone took the time to re-release this LP in 180-gram virgin vinyl. The label is Future Days Recordings/Tumbleweed Records, Inc. It is also available as a digital download in lossless FLAC. The vinyl is in sky blue with clouds, and the cover is the original gatefold, and includes some history about the late Robb Kunkel and the original label, Tumbleweed Records. Only 500 copies were originally pressed, and the album received no promotion because the label was falling apart at the time. Beautiful melodies, lyrics of a pensive quasi-spiritual nature, a West Coast vibe, sounds of the ocean waves and seagulls as well as jackhammers (not in the same song), a country style ditty thrown in for good measure – everything about this album screams 1973 at the crossroads of new age and Southern California easy peaceful feeling. I love this album. And Kunkel was a fine guitarist and singer. The studio musicians backing him were top rate. Crazy thing, the repress from the original master tapes is also in a limited release of 500. But at least the digital download is limitless, provided it continues to be available. Highly recommended here at the Popeswami ashram.

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The other vinyl arriving recently are 45 rpms. The one is something I thought would never come to pass. It was the rarest non-Residents release on Ralph Records; Schwump – Aphids in the Hall b/w You’re a Martian/Home. I had obtained a digital copy many years ago from the artist, but now Psychophon has obtained the original masters and re-released it in three variations. Mine is the red vinyl numbered limited edition, with only 100 released. The original pressing in 1976 was 200, and most went to friends, radio stations, and others in the music industry. An original today averages $700 but I have seen it go for over $1000. Schwump was backed by The Residents on this release and their influence is obvious. But I must say that Schwump was a kindred spirit to The Residents. His real name is Barry Schwam, and he was a DJ at Portland, Oregon radio station KBOO when he discovered The Residents, or should I say they discovered him. My understanding is that an album’s worth of material was recorded in 1976 but Barry decided he did not want it released, so the only effort to reach the ears of the public is this 45. What does it sound like? Melodic but slightly off key with strange progressions, slowing and speeding up of rhythms on purpose, raspy creepy singing, pseudo-schizoid-childlike lyrics, untuned piano – very much like early Residents recordings. I am so glad to hear this as it was originally put onto tape.

The remaining vinyl to come my way was a 2014 re-release on Superior Viaduct Records of The Residents’ Santa Dog double 45 from 1972. The original was the first release on the Ralph Records label. The music is from the original master tapes, made to sound fresh and crisp. The only drawback is that they did not put the sides in the original order. Sides two and four have been reversed. Also, the label artwork on the 45s themselves is different from the original Ralph Records artwork, but the gatefold cover is identical except for saying it was issued by Superior Viaduct. Again, this was a limited edition, but no fancy vinyl colors – just black. Originals are in the $1000 range while this limited edition often goes for over $100. I did not have to pay that much, but I was lucky. Another 200 pressing limited release, just like the originals. This is probably the most Avant Garde of Residents releases, with many found sounds, clips of old obscure recordings, musique concrete, acid drenched nonsensical lyrics but somehow out of the bubbling chaos comes organized insanity that makes sense. Does that make sense? I don’t know. My head hurts.

Well, that’s it for now. See you in a few.

The Authentic I (aka Eye, aka Aye)

One two three / A little fool I want to be /

Two three four / You can give me more /

Five six seven / I don’t want to wait for heaven /

Nine ten eleven / Going back to seven /

Seven eight nine / Kann den das noch sein?

We love it’s… / We need it’s… / Excess

We hate it / We want it / Express

We feel it’s… / We get it’s… / Not less

We need it’s… / We love it’s… / Excess

Title track from the Yello album “You Gotta Say Yes to Another Excess” by Boris Blank and Dieter Meier, 1983

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Intro – Intergalactic Stardate Sometime in October 2018

Just as Snakefinger wrote “This is not a Disco Song,” I can say this is not a music post. It may involve music and lyrics, but it is not a music post. It is an “I” post.  This will follow me through time, as I piece together different pieces of the fabric of my “I”.

Right now, “I” am listening to Bill Heid’s CD release “Wylie Avenue”. Bill was the organist in the Super Blues Band, along with drummer/brother George Heid, and Tony Janflone, Sr. They played around the Washington & Pittsburgh, PA area. I heard them at the Jefferson Mall in Washington around 1969/70, at the grand opening of Chess King men’s clothing store. I took guitar lessons from Tony. This album is from 2009, and while there is a Wylie Avenue in Washington, Bill was referring to the Wylie Avenue in the Hill District of Pittsburgh, where he mastered his organ chops playing the local pubs and bars of the chitlins circuit. On this album the guitarist is Peter Bernstein, with Mike Petrosino on drums and George Jones on congas. Of course, Bill is on the Hammond B-3. George Heid co-produced and did the recording, mixing, and mastering at Heid Pro Audio in Pittsburgh in the Spring of 2008. This is the jazz of organ-based combos of the 60s, done with warmth and dexterity.

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Well the above was written yesterday. Tonight, I am listening to NRK Klassisk, in Oslo, Norway. Right now, I am hearing Debussy. I miss the times I would sit at my dorm room desk at Indiana University of Pennsylvania reading Husserl, Heidegger, Kierkegaard, or Russell, with the college radio tuned to the classics. Of course, listening to Velvet Underground or The Mothers would not have been helpful when reading phenomenology or epistemology. At this point the station has become erratic so I moved to Radio Sarajevo in Bosnia and Herzegovina. They are playing an Afro-Latin selection with a mixed chorus, lead singers, and some great percussion. I hear no other instruments except percussion. The voices fill everything else. This is great stuff! Now comes a flute and some jazzy scat singing with the choral and percussive background. You can always rely on the stations in what was the Eastern Communist Block during the Cold War for interesting music that is never heard here in the states.

Intergalactic Stardate November 24, 2018

The year is nearly over. Tomorrow is the last Sunday in November. Thinking back on all the music discoveries of the past year, there have been many – local artists as well as CD and vinyl acquisitions. I have been a real slacker in writing about what I’ve heard around town. I have heard many new artists thanks to Ken Rexrode’s Six String Society shows, as well as the Adams Avenue music events. The problem is that I have had to travel immediately after attending these music events and then the moment is lost. One performance I will mention here, although not of a local artist, is that of 60s legend, Jesse Colin Young (of Youngbloods fame) at the Belly Up Tavern in Solana Beach. He presented a mix of solo acoustic guitar songs as well as full band with his son. With his son’s band he has taken a jazz/rock fusion turn in his sound. The music spanned his entire career from his first release in 1964 to selections from his upcoming release, and included the obligatory performance of Chet Powers’ (aka Dino Valente’s)  “Get Together”. It was a memorable and uplifting evening of music.

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Jesse Colin Young
As for CD releases by local artists, there is one that has risen above all the others. It is Whitney Shay’s “A Woman Rules the World”. This album has received rave reviews internationally and anyone who loves rhythm and blues should really consider adding it to their music collection. Here is one of my favorite reviews of the album, by JD Nash: https://www.americanbluesscene.com/whitney-shay-professes-a-woman-rules-the-world/.  I won’t attempt here to repeat the accolades it has received – if you are curious, Google it and you will see. Then go out and buy it. Better yet, if you are in the San Diego area, go out and see Whitney with her band, Shay and The Hustle.

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I have added many albums and singles from my home town area of Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania. Seven-inch 45 rpm records acquired include The Electrons, Napoleonic Wars, and Time Stoppers. An album by Groov-U suddenly popped up in the collector’s market and I immediately scooped it up. Groov-U and The Electrons used to play regularly at the Psychedilly Lounge in McKees Rocks when I, as a teenager, was listening to what was happening in the tri-state area.

There were other recordings, not from my hometown area, that received frequent airplay on Pittsburgh’s “Underground” program on WAMO-FM that came available in 2018 at the right price for me – Ten Wheel Drive – Construction #1; Battered Ornaments – Mantle-Piece; Peter Lemer Quintet – Local Colour; Charles Lloyd Quartet – s/t; and Brute Force – s/t. These groups are a mix; some are of psychedelic rock and others are cool jazz.

 

Ten Wheel Drive was more of a horn rock band, sort of like Blood Sweat and Tears except it featured a female lead vocalist and was a bit more r&b in style. Genya Ravan, the singer, is soulfully powerful and often compared to Janis Joplin. Her earlier band, Goldie and The Gingerbreads, was one of the first female rock groups. And, there is an Off-Broadway musical about her career, “Rock and Roll Refugee”.  The station always dug deep into obscure contemporary rock and folk while mixing it with just as obscure jazz selections. If it wasn’t for WAMO-FM I would have never had the privilege to hear the likes of the Dave Pike Set or Jeremy and the Satyrs. At that time the program director of WAMO-FM was Ken Reeth, who hosted a show, The Underground, as “Brother Love”. His music selections provided a gateway to a deeper knowledge of the unsung music heroes of the 60s.

I purchased more box sets in 2018 than ever before. These included the latest Led Zeppelin – Definitive Collection, and Pink Floyd – Discovery box sets. Great care had to be taken to avoid the Chinese bootlegs, and to get both sets at a reasonable price. After several years of watching, it all came together. Other sets included The Rolling Stones mono box set of their 60s albums, plus the Kinks and Turtles career spanning box sets. While I generally go after unknown or at least lesser-known artists, there are some groups you just cannot overlook when they come in career-spanning sets of remastered recordings.

Intergalactic Stardate December 7, 2018

It is now December 7. My grandmother, who died in 1941 on December 6 would never know the USA became involved in WWII and that her four sons would enlist in the Army, Navy, and Marines. Fortunately, they all survived, and I enjoyed their presence in my life, and although they rarely talked about it I did hear them describe a few of their experiences in the war. I never knew this grandmother. My mother used to say that it was a blessing that her mother died the day before the bombing of Pearl Harbor.

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USS California sinking – Pearl Harbor
I am on an American Airlines jet, traveling home from Chicago. I will connect with another jet in Phoenix to my destination of San Diego.  This past week in Chicago was miserably cold. Living in San Diego these past 19 years has thickened my blood. When I return to the cold climates of the Midwest, I experience a more intense cold than those who live there. I had to walk three blocks, a little over a quarter mile, from The Blackstone to the offices where I was working. Having to leave at 7:30 a.m. each morning and return at 5 p.m. provided an opportunity to experience the coldest times of the day for my walk to and from work. It was so nice to enter O’Hare Airport and be out of the cold (except for the walk down the jet bridge where I once again faced the cold.)

This weekend will be busy with paperwork before I head out again – this time to northern Kentucky, along the Ohio River. The holiday season hasn’t hit me yet. It will, once my vacation time begins after next weekend. I will try to squeeze in some performances. However, I have some shopping to do and we are on a quest to adopt a shelter dog.

As I sit here listening to my music library on the iPad in shuffle mode, I notice that Apple has updated some of my selections with versions that were re-recorded. This is disappointing, since I never asked them to make these changes. If I paid for the songs, I paid for the original versions. If I had uploaded from my CDs it would have been an original version. Now, I must check to see if the versions on my PC have been changed; hopefully not. When I recently purchased this third generation iPad, it had several desirable features. I had been using an iPad 2 since late 2011. But this feature is not welcome. I am a bit fussy when it comes to my music. It is the original version that was popular that I want. I can hear the subtle and not-so-subtle differences. It reminds me of the alterations Frank Zappa made in the late 80s and early 90s to his albums by the original Mothers of Invention. I was glad that his family restored his early works to their original sound after Frank’s passing. I also remember when the Ultimate Spinach second and third albums were first reissued on CD and how original producer, Alan Lorber, changed the order, cut several minutes and lyrics from songs and even cut entire songs from the albums and then called it the “producer’s cut”. He must have received several complaints because he later restored everything to the original versions except one song on their second album, Behold and See. I see no merit in doing these alterations and do not understand why someone would think they have the task of “improving” on the past. Regarding the Behold and See album, Sundazed did release a fully uncut version of the album on 180-gram vinyl, however it is in mono and many of the special effects lose their impact in mono. I realize that Lorber has a tight grip on the Ultimate Spinach recordings, but I do not understand why he would not permit a stereo version of the original album to be released. Perhaps he has plans to later release it himself to milk as much money out of the project as he can, but it does a disservice to the listeners who remember the original album from 1968, and to those newer listeners who would like to hear exactly how it was released in the 60s. Perhaps Alan Lorber resents Ian Bruce-Douglas, the band leader, songwriter, lyricist and arranger, walking out on the band after the completion of the Behold and See album. Lorber did a fine job of remastering the first Ultimate Spinach album, and the contents were left intact, in the proper running order, and with no tinkering with the music. I can only think he did the butchering of the second album to piss off Ian. I must admit, regarding my own interactions with Ian over a period of about 10 years that he can be difficult to tolerate at times. Generally, I found him to be a nice guy, and quite intelligent, but with a lot of resentment about his experience with Ultimate Spinach, Alan Lorber, and the music industry. He often referred to the band as his “Frankenstein’s Monster”. Yet, it is hailed by many today as one of the great psychedelic bands of the 60s, capturing the psychedelic experience better than anyone else.

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Another thing I have noted about the shuffle system on this iPad is that they seem to pick one album and play several selections with other random artists in between. This time it is Lightstorm. Last time it was TapWater. So, I am not sure how random it is. The old iPad was random. Apple, what have you done?

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Lightstorm – Creation
I am so glad my four-hour flight from Chicago to Phoenix is over. Middle seat in bulkhead due to the late scheduling of the assignment during the holiday season. No chance of an upgrade even with Executive Platinum status. And this time I had a morbidly obese woman in the aisle seat. Bulkhead seats have solid arms between seats. She overlapped the arm between us and made it impossible to open my tray table, so I could eat. I had to wait for her to struggle to get up, so I could pull out my tray, and then had to do the same to put it away when we were arriving in Phoenix. I was leaning against the poor guy in the window seat for four hours resulting in a stiff neck. Thankfully I am in a first class seat from Phoenix to San Diego. But, as usual, the flight was delayed getting to Phoenix, so we left 45 minutes late. Another trip getting home later than expected. That seems to be the norm now. Currently, I am listening to “Your Lucky Day in Hell” by The Eels. Seems appropriate. https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=oyQCOrVIRIg

In an hour I will be in San Diego, waiting on luggage, then getting my ride home. Then I will sleep in tomorrow. A working weekend.

Intergalactic Stardate December 11, 2018

Back on a jet heading to DFW. Will then go to Evansville, Indiana.

Intergalactic Stardate December 14, 2018

I’m on my way back home; right now, I am in transit from Evansville, Indiana to DFW in an American Eagle regional jet. It is always a worry if my roller bag containing thousands of dollars of equipment will fit in the overhead. It did.

Passwords are a real hassle. On occasion my iPhone requires my password rather than my thumb print. This morning it was quite early, not even 5 a.m. yet – I had to wake up the person at the hotel front counter to turn in keys and get my receipt. Once in the car, I needed my phone for directions from Henderson, Kentucky to Evansville Regional Airport. Sure enough, I couldn’t get into my phone because every password I used did not work. Finally, one worked. What a relief! It was still dark and raining heavily, making it very difficult to drive on strange roads. I missed my exit to the airport because I couldn’t even see there was a road there, although Siri was telling me to turn. I had to go to the next light, a mile away, to do a u-turn and this time, due to the lights of other cars I could see the road to the airport.

American Eagle spares nothing to provide first class travelers with an excellent breakfast – an açaí bar and a bag of mixed nuts, downed with a cup of coffee. The connection for my next flight is tight. But I should be able to get something more substantial to eat on that flight. We will land around noon, and then I will probably get home by 1 p.m. And then I must get to the office. I’m on vacation beginning next week and I have reports to finish before returning on January 2.

While writing I have been listening to music on the iPad in shuffle mode. Quite a variety but this time the shuffle is fixated on the compilation Bringing It All Back Again on the Shroom Angel label. Another couple discoveries about the music app on this new iPad – I had been a bit irritated with the old iPad cutting off songs about a minute before they end, and this iPad doesn’t do that. It had been a random thing, and primarily happened to music that had been transferred from downloads on my PC. The other discovery is not so pleasant. It doesn’t let you see what you had just listened to. So, if I wanted to go back to write about what I had heard, I would have to rely upon memory since I cannot go back on the app to see.

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Bringing It All Back Again
Well, we arrived early in DFW and I was able to grab a bite. I had not patronized McDonald’s in ages, but a sausage McMuffin with egg sounded so good and they were right beside our arrival gate. Just so you all know, I did not get the hash brown; just a coffee. Once that was accomplished, I headed for Terminal C via Skylink. Now I am on board awaiting take-off. Wouldn’t you know we are delayed due to not having our pilots. They are arriving on a flight that was delayed. We are ready to go as soon as they arrive. Forty-minute delay. Pilots arrived. Ready to go.

We have a new dog, purchased last Saturday. It is a mix breed shelter dog, known as a chiweenie, which is a mix of chihuahua and dachshund. It is a tough adjustment. She was as gentle as can be until she bonded with my wife. Now she is super possessive when my wife is around. We will have to do a bit of training to get her adjusted. Our new addition, named Gracie, had bonded with me before I took off for Kentucky, so I am hoping she will remember me when I get home today.

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Gracie Victoria

Something else is waiting for me at home; the Wings – Wild Life/Red Rose Speedway/Wings Over Europe deluxe box set. Last month I had received The Beatles’ “white album” deluxe set, so my investment in recorded music has met its quota. Next year will have to be a much more conservative year in purchases. At this point the music shuffle on the iPad is focused on the Forum Quorum album from 1967. There seems to be no rhyme nor reason for this.R-4215477-1358775438-2791.jpeg[1]

So, as we move through the holiday season, I become more contemplative; thinking about the ghosts of Christmases past, present, and the future. Then I begin thinking about how I have often been Scrooge as well as Santa, or the child Scrooge or the child recipient of Santa. In fact, I have had many iterations, many shapeshifting moments, melting into the environment, losing identity, as well as becoming the people around me – entering their heads so to speak. Always the observer; the spectator. Yet, always being the court jester, the prankster, the comic. A catalyst. Memory holds the pleasant and the unpleasant. Imagination creates the pleasant and the unpleasant. It is a question of being… what is being? What is creating? Are we creating each moment or are we experiencing a moment created outside of ourselves? Or, are we the moment… or are we inside the moment? How much are we separate, and how much are we a part of It All? How much control do we have? When we exercise what we think is control, is it simply our imagination…or are we controlling? When we think we are letting go, are we? Or are we puppets controlled by an outside force? Or is the force simply our collection of experiences and the interpretation of those experiences? Am I writing this? Or is something outside my being writing this through me? Or is it a mix? Is what is outside “I” really outside “I”? How do I know? Who holds the truth? What is the concept of “truth”? Is it simply veracity? Fact? Is “being” fact? Could “being” be “truth”? How much of my perceptions are shared and how much do I assume my perceptions are shared?

Perhaps I should just leave it there. But where is “there”? And what is “just”? Oh no! This is going to be an ongoing conundrum in my mind. If we just “be” is that just hocus pocus bullshit, or is it “truth”? Is it here, there, or everywhere? Let’s just say that this is becoming excessive. But I am often visiting the House of Excess, and then I leave to return to the House of Guilt. Perhaps this is simply a form of the pleasure/pain continuum? Is it a continuum? Is there a you, a me, a we, and do we travel to each other? Do our thoughts travel? Or is it just our physical selves that do so. And what is the concept of “with”? If I say I am with you, how close in physical proximity do I have to be to be “with”? And what about touching? Can we really touch? That would mean our cells touch. But there are an infinite number of points between any two points. So, touching can only be the pressure applied to nerve endings enough that our brains become aware of the pressure and interpret it as contact. While asleep or unconscious, I do not have any awareness of contact or touch. And when returning to consciousness I do not have a recollection of such experience. So, to me it did not happen unless there is some evidence to verify that it happened. Or is it just a set-up by those controlling the situation? Sounds paranoid, doesn’t it? It seems we have all sorts of ways to describe supposed experiences.

In our minds we map our happenings and place them on a time continuum to keep them from appearing random and chaotic. We attempt to make sense of it so that we can move about in time and space. But there is no time or space in our thoughts. When thoughts travel, there is no respecting of physical boundaries because thoughts are not in the physical realm. And we really do not know if thoughts travel. But thought does control the physical. Or is it vice versa?

In short, since my flight is approaching its end, and I will be gathering my things and heading home, I will wrap this up. What you have been reading is a collection of time-thought-experience by my “I”, but as you read it, it becomes an influence mixing with what is already in your head. Is it control? Who knows? But there is an “I” and it really doesn’t hold much significance for there to be anything else on a mental level. However, on a physical level it does. So, you are you and I am I, and we are we, and I U We Be; whatever the hell that means. All I know is that we gotta say yes to another excess.

Post Script

After getting home Friday, late that evening I had some chest discomfort and pain in my left arm and neck. I checked with a nurse Saturday morning and was told to go to the emergency room. From there I found I had experienced a heart attack. But with some luck there was no heart damage, no clots, and when I underwent angioplasty there was no need for a stent. They cleaned out the arteries going into the left side of my heart. As a result I just needed some changes in medication and some changes in diet (coupled with exercise) and I should be around for a few more nanoseconds, give or take a few decades. The moral of this story is to listen to your body. When it acts weird and the weirdness persists, get it checked out. I am okay now; I will heal from the medical intrusion into my body and will make some lifestyle changes. I want you to be okay too. I need the readership. Hahaha! Really, I want the best for you regardless. Until next time, happy holidays!

 

 

The Meaning Of

“What’s it all about, Alfie?                                                                                                                  Is it just for the moment we live?                                                                                                What’s it all about when you sort it out, Alfie?                                                                            Are we meant to take more than we give                                                                                        or are we meant to be kind?                                                                                                           And if only fools are kind, Alfie,                                                                                                    then I guess it is wise to be cruel                                                                                                      and if life belongs only to the strong, Alfie,                                                                                what will you lend on an old golden rule?…”

By Burt Bacharach and Hal David, performed by Dionne Warwick, 1967.

What is this all about? I mean, this blog? Why do I keep doing this? Why does it take so long for me to roll one of these posts out?

The problem with maintaining a blog that lives up to the title “Mapping Happenings” is that you must write about the moment at hand…otherwise that moment is lost; the happenings become stale. For example, I attended one day of the Adams Avenue Street Fair the weekend of September 29 and I wrote down my observations and impressions immediately afterward, but then had to go back on the road for work before I could finish. I had finished the writing, but importing the photos (and hopefully this time videos) became an impossible task for my PC. Technology is advancing to the point that my 2013 PC is now unable to handle the tasks it once handled easily, let alone adding something new. My iPhone videos and photos do not transfer as quickly as they used to, and the PC slows to a near grinding halt. I had to sacrifice posting videos because I could not get them copied to the blog without getting the dreaded BSOD (blue screen of death).

Now I am back from Miami and will be home for two weeks. But it is now two weeks since the street fair. Despite the stale nature of this information I refuse to trash what I had written. Keep in mind I have been attending some wonderful and memorable performances throughout 2018 at various venues such as The Belly Up, Tio Leo’s, Riviera Supper Club, Covo La Jolla, and others, but I don’t want this read to turn into another book. The nature of my life right now is that I travel about 40-45 weeks of the year, and when I get home there are “home things” that require my attention. My blog is a lower priority as it is a hobby, and not a necessity.  But when I can I do post. And here we are. So here is a rundown of the Saturday, September 29 events my wife and I attended.

Adams Avenue Street Fair

With all the craziness in the world I needed to get totally away from it all. Fortunately, we had the 37th annual Adams Avenue Street Fair. This was a great escape for me.

This year the street fair was confined to Normal Heights, with Adams Avenue closed-off only seven blocks for both Saturday and Sunday. In prior years it covered a two-mile stretch from University Heights to Kensington. Now the street fair has fewer stages. Not all the performances were at the one indoor (Lestat’s) and five major outdoor stages and the music schedule only listed artists on these stages. So, if it had not been that we knew Dave Humphries and Mike Alvarez, we would not have known they were performing in the DeMille’s beer garden.

Nevertheless, there was some amazing music-making happening at this street fair. We only attended performances at four of the seven major stages. Cloning would have been necessary to see any more than we did. We saw eight artists and eight brilliant performances.  The only big drawback was the parking. We parked over a mile away after searching for a space for about 20 minutes. This caused us to miss the first half of the set by the first band we wanted to see – Jake Najor & The Moment of Truth.

Jake Najor
Jake Najor & the Moment of Truth

Najor is a Grammy nominated drummer who has worked with several nationally known artists, including De La Soul – one of my favorite hip hop groups. The group played a 70s style funky jazz reminiscent of The Crusaders, Headhunters-era Herbie Hancock, and early 70s Herbie Mann (the Push Push LP is a good example). Jake’s band consisted of Matt LaBarber groovin’ out on electric bass, David Carano on funky guitar (with a style somewhere between Larry Carlton and David Spinoza), Tito Frescas on fantastic keys, and Andy Geib who brilliantly played fluegelhorn, trombone, and flute (not at the same time) and of course Najor, with jaw dropping beats, on drums. We got spoiled from the beginning with this hot, tight, funky band.

 

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Karl and The Hornets

We moved from the Groove Stage over to the Blues Stage to hear Karl and The Hornets. Karl is Karl Cabbage who has performed in other blues bands such as West of Memphis, The Smokin’ Knights, Red Lotus Revue and The Holla Pointe. This was straight-ahead greasy blues, heavy on the harp and soulful singing. This was a basic four-piece unit with drums, electric bass, guitar and Karl on harmonica/vocals. Impressive to say the least.

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Jonny Wagon & The Tennessee Sons

From there we moved on to the Roots Rock Stage to hear Jonny Wagon & The Tennessee Sons. I was not expecting anything like what we saw. I did not read the bio for this band before seeing them. This was a large band with drums, rhythm guitar, lead guitar, electric bass, keyboard, trumpet, baritone sax, and lead singer Jonny Wagon. Jonny reminded me a lot of Bruce Springsteen in vocal style, and surprisingly I could see comparisons between this band and the E Street Band. I enjoyed watching the trumpeter who sort of danced to the rhythm in a unique manner that I thought was cool. And then another surprise happened when they closed with Paul McCartney’s “Maybe I’m Amazed” and the band nearly did the Wings’ original recording note-for-note; quite good.

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Charlie Chavez y Su Afrotruko

We then headed for food, but on the way, we took in Charlie Chavez y Su Afrotruko at the Groove Stage. This was another larger band with an Afro-Cuban style that reminded me of Mongo Santamaria’s early bands; lots of percussion and brass; excellent musicianship. It reminded me that I was going to be heading to Miami in a couple of weeks, but with little time to look for great music like this.

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The Fremonts

After lunch at DeMille’s we moved back to the Blues Stage to the watch award-winning band, The Fremonts; another basic line-up of drums (Al West), guitar & electric bass (Patrick Skog & Tony Tomlinson interchanging duties), and vocalist “Mighty” Joe Milsap, who played washboard, woodblocks, and a small djembe. There was a deep South – Gulf Coast swampy feel to this band’s blues. The band’s emphasis is on the lyrics, with straight forward playing and no “look at me do this” moments. At this point we noted many people dancing – more than with the other groups. Perhaps the beer was kicking in, but we also noted that about this time, late afternoon, the kooky and the crazy seemed to become visible both dancing and meandering through the crowd. I love to watch people and had to be mindful to pay attention to the great sounds coming from the stage.

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Robin Henkel & Whitney Shay

We stayed at the Blues Stage for the set by Robin Henkel and Whitney Shay. Both individually are San Diego Music Awards winners. Now here they were together, once again, performing some old r&b and delta blues standards from Big Mama Thornton, Elmore James, Sun House, Etta James, and the like. Robin on guitars and vocals; Whitney with shakers and on vocals. Some great fun! Later we learned that Whitney performed with her band, Shay and The Hustle, earlier in the day at The Rabbit Hole, another Adams Avenue venue, that was not posted in the street fair schedule.

Humphries Alvarez
Dave Humphries (l) and Mike Alvarez (r)

We broke free for a bit to head back to DeMille’s Beer Garden to see Dave Humphries and Mike Alvarez perform some 60s British invasion rock and Humphries-penned songs of a similar style. Dave was on vocals and guitar and Mike was on electric cello and backing vocals. Unfortunately, we got to our destination mid-set, so we only heard less than a handful of songs.

Schizopphonics
The Schizophonics

Once Dave’s and Mike’s set ended, we headed toward the car, but not without stopping at the Casbah Rock Stage to hear The Schizophonics. This is a three-piece, with Pat Beers on guitar and vocals, Lety Beers on drums, and an electric bassist (name unknown to me). Pat is a crazy man on guitar – about 20% Hendrix, 20% Pete Townsend, 10% Jackie Wilson and 50% Iggy Pop. He jumped, twirled, did splits, somersaults, and raced from one side of the stage to the other, and occasionally he got to the mic to let out occasional yelps as well as lyrics…all while still playing guitar. The guitar pickups were at top volume, so his one-handed playing came through clearly. Strings were broken – luckily no necks were broken (neither his nor his guitar’s). He wrestled with the mic stand and sometimes the stand won, but he kept going. Lety is a fantastic drummer and she and the bassist kept things moving which only fed fuel to the fire of Pat’s guitar pyro techniques. We were exhausted watching him, but I just had to quietly sing along to “Red Planet”. Worn from a day in the sun, we did not stay for the second half of their performance and headed to the car which was a great distance away.

We had good intentions of heading to the Riviera Supper Club to hear Three Chord Justice but decided to go home to change first. Well, when we got in the door, we decided we had enough music for the day. Nancy had to volunteer at the blood bank the following day and I had to begin writing what you see here as well as get bills paid and other home-related activities before flying to San Antonio.

A Not-So-Stale Bit of Happening

Casey Hensley
Casey Hensley & band

Friend and super music supporter, poet, and former music promoter Molly Lynn McClendon had her birthday party on October 6 at Proud Mary’s. Performing that evening was Casey Hensley with her band. Casey put her heart into this, as she always does. She is the closest in style to Janis Joplin I have heard out of San Diego. The only thing missing was the Southern Comfort. Her power and vocal range are phenomenal. Her sense of the blues and emotive delivery are delectable. The way she can go from a low growl to a sensitive and sustained high is amazing. She is only in her mid-20s. If she keeps growing as a singer, she will easily become an international star. Casey was complimented with a wonderful backup band featuring Steve Wilcox on flame-throwing guitar. With Mark Campbell on electric bass and Evan Caleb Yearsley on drums holding things together in the rhythm department, Casey blew the roof off the building and Steve burnt it down.

Molly Lynn
Molly Lynn (foreground left) with Casey Hensley (foreground right)

Molly Lynn is known for doing live feeds online from her phone at music events over the past two or three years and here she is doing it again, even at her own birthday party while dancing with Casey who was taking a break while the band stretched out on some heavy blues.

In Other News

Some great acquisitions have been received this year. I’ve also been upgrading some of my CD collection that had been purchased prior to 24-bit remastering technology. So now, my Hatfield & The North, Matching Mole, Daevid Allen & Euterpe and other CDs are much clearer and crisper. Box sets arrived recently including The Turtles complete album collection, Small Faces box set with all three Immediate label albums, and Yardbirds 5-CD box set, Glimpses, which includes career-spanning musical selections and several short interviews by Keith Relf, Jim McCarty, Chris Dreja, Jeff Beck, Jimmy Page, and Eric Clapton of this ground-breaking band.

I have also been completing some vinyl holes in my Pittsburgh area collection: Groov-U, The Electrons, Napoleonic Wars, The Time Stoppers, and other rarities. I will have more to say about many of these as time permits but not here.

And Finally

I am deeply saddened to report the demise of Hardy Fox, aka Chuck Bobuck, of The Residents/Cryptic Corp.  Hardy was the musical genius behind The Residents music and performed in their live shows until 2015 when he decided to stay off the road for health reasons and simply compose the music. In 2017 he revealed himself as the group’s co-founder and primary composer. He also began releasing solo projects under the name Chuck Bobuck around 2012, and later under his real name, Hardy Fox. In early September, 2018 he posted a strange note of confusion on his Facebook page that nobody understood. Shortly after that he posted on his own Website the dates 1945 – 2018. He made comments about his impending death. Here is the quote “Yes got sick, making my pass out of this world, but it is “all” okay. I have something in my brain that will last to a brief end. I am 73 as you might know. Brains go down. But maybe here is my brain functioning as I’m almost a dead person just a bit of go yet. Doctors have put me on drugs, LOL, for right now. Anyway. Probably the last of seeing me. Thanks for checking in. Love you all.” He also later made the comment “Almost dead. So what.” This comment, as well as his goodbye statement and his entire Facebook account have been removed. At present, the dates of his birth and “death” have also been removed and it simply says he no longer writes music. This last entry was written by Rebecca Rothers on Hardy’s website. She refers to a novel, The Stone, written by Hardy which is available for free that perhaps reveals what is going on “by the end of the book.” On Facebook, his sister posted to correct those who presumed he died on October 1, that he was still alive at that time.

I had some email communication with Hardy in the early 2000s regarding advice on promotion of an iconoclastic artist from the late ‘60s I had worked with regarding a Terrastock event. A year later, Nancy and I attended the Demons Dance Alone performance by The Residents at the Anaheim House of Blues and we had a nice conversation with Hardy where he subtly let me know he was one of The Residents.

It appears that just as in life, Hardy continues in mystery, perhaps even in death. My belief is that he is not yet gone. He may be gone from being an active participant in the world of music but is still around. I do believe he is gravely ill, perhaps unable to communicate effectively and is simply waiting for the end to come. I have my doubts we will know when he really does pass on to the other side of this life. His long-time associate with The Residents, Homer Flynn, posted a photo of himself with the obviously ailing Hardy in late September. I have copied it here. R.I.P. in this and the next life, Hardy.

Hardy and Homer
Hardy Fox (l) and Homer Flynn (r) Photo by Leigh Barbier

 

 

Unsolved Minor Mysteries

“You live your life in the songs you hear

On the rock and roll radio

And when a young girl doesn’t have any friends

That’s a really nice place to go

Folks hoping you’d turn out cool

But they had to take you out of school

You’re a little touched you know, Angie baby…

…Angie girl, are you all right?

Tell the radio good-night

All alone once more, Angie baby”

Lyrics excerpted from “Angie Baby”, Written by Alan O’Day, performed by Helen Reddy

From the Helen Reddy LP, Free and Easy, 1974

 

I grew up “out in the sticks” of Southwestern Pennsylvania. A pre-teen kid growing up in the country has no stores within walking distance. My major stimulus was nature. For me, media was confined to my parents’ Life Magazine subscription, our radio and television, and a stack of 45s with music primarily from the 1940s. My family did not own a stereo until I was in junior high. Before that, all we had was a record player designed for 45 rpm singles. I played their 45s to death, and unfortunately ended up ruining many. Our television was black and white and there was no such thing as cable TV. Our station selection was limited to the six local stations in the tri-state area that our roof-installed antenna could capture on our 13-channel Motorola set. Our radios had AM but not FM. The only musical instruments in the house were my older brothers’ trombone and clarinet that they played in the high school band, and after they grew up the instruments left with them. I was only nine years old when the youngest of my brothers graduated from college and moved out. Until my teenage years, my resources for contemporary music and art were quite limited.

There were not many kids on the unpaved road where I lived, and houses were far apart. Farms bordered our 1.6 acres on three sides. Radio became my friend. Sometime in my junior high years I became interested in hearing radio stations outside our local area. I became excited that during the day I could hear the hit songs that were playing on WKYC in Cleveland, Ohio, and that some of these songs were different than what was playing on local Pittsburgh stations. In the evening I was amazed that I could hear stations as far away as KMOX, St. Louis, Missouri, or WRVA, Richmond, Virginia. I began writing down what I was hearing, by location on the radio dial. Soon, I was hearing stations further and further away from my rural home outside Washington, Pennsylvania. There was XEG in Monterrey, Mexico, CBJ in Chicoutimi, Quebec, and CBA in Moncton, New Brunswick. At that time, I had no idea there were others like me all around the world who were interested in hearing distant stations as a hobby. But there actually is such a hobby and it covers the entire radio and television spectrums. I soon learned about this hobby when in 9th grade my parents bought me a radio that covered AM, FM, and shortwave, coupled with a subscription to the now-defunct magazine, Radio-TV Experimenter which included White’s Radio Log. Soon I was listening to stations around the world, including Radio Ghana, Radio Brasilia, Radio Moscow, Radio Australia; I logged stations on every continent, including Antarctica. Listening to radio provided exposure to regional differences within our country as well as cultural differences throughout the world. I heard different perspectives on world and local news as well as different music.

I have written before about my attraction to music that is strange, obscure, or rare. That attraction seems to be hotwired into my DNA and affects more than music. It affects all my interests, including radio. I was not just interested in hearing the huge powerhouses across the globe like the BBC, Radio Moscow or Voice of America. I wanted to hear the flea powered stations in obscure locations like Radio Saint Helena from that tiny island in the middle of the Atlantic Ocean. What really excited me was the obscure, and the mysterious; stations not only of low power in remote locations, but stations that are on the air but a fleeting moment – enter pirate radio.

The first time I heard a pirate radio station, I had no idea what was going on. The station announced as “The Voice of the Purple Pumpkin”. I heard it on shortwave in 1970. It was a countercultural station playing cuts from The Beatles’ Sgt. Pepper’s album and Simon and Garfunkel’s “Mrs. Robinson”, and it used the famous intro to Beethoven’s Fifth Symphony in their station identification. They had a risqué comedy skit about “the establishment” and they spoke against the Vietnam war, claiming they were broadcasting from Hanoi, then capitol of North Vietnam. I later learned that they had originated in Maryland and were closed-down in 1973 by the FCC. My next pirate station was from a ship far across the pond, in the North Sea, named “Radio Nordsee International.” This was soon followed by another ship station off the coast of the UK, “Radio Caroline.” This was in the early ‘70s. A decade later I was hearing several more pirate stations, both from Europe and North America. While difficult to hear due to distance and signal weakness, the European stations were quite regular in their broadcast schedules. What made the American pirates interesting was that you had no idea on what frequency they would appear, or at what time they would appear. To avoid detection from the FCC they would only appear for 15 to 30 minutes at a time. One had to be familiar with propagational characteristics and sunspot patterns to know where and when to listen. Stations began to announce “mail drops” (an address of a third party) to communicate with listeners. They would reward verified listeners with what ham operators call a “QSL-card” verifying reception. At one brief point in the early 1990s I held the international record for verified pirate radio stations. But my interest in such stations waned in the late-1990s when the US pirate radio scene began to be increasingly populated by people with a right-wing extremist political agenda and with little interest in quality content but more interest in hatred and vulgarity. It also waned because much of the “mystery” had been removed when I began to discover who the real operators of these stations were. In some cases, one person could be responsible for as many as 10 very different but well-produced “stations” at a time. Some pirate operators were DJs of legitimate stations where they felt stifled from exercising their creative juices in their real jobs. Pirate radio gave them that creative outlet that was lost when most US stations began airing nothing but network affiliated programs. Of course, these DJs also had to have a knowledge of radio electronics or have a friend who had such knowledge to be able to set up their own broadcast station. It is surprising how with only some low cost used amateur radio equipment, a mixer, microphone, and some tape, one could produce and broadcast a professional-sounding show. But the mystery was gone for me.

But, the mystery is never gone in music. From my ongoing research I am constantly being rewarded with new and exciting sounds from rare and unusual music. Once one mystery is resolved there seems to be a never-ending source of new mysteries to discover. That is because I haven’t heard all the old music and new music is constantly being created.

My interest in radio and music intertwined. And the mysteries of both were mixed together in some unexplainable way. Of course, being exposed to the latest and greatest top 40 hits I eventually succumbed to enjoying them all. In fact, due to the sense of nostalgia, I think I appreciate some of them more today than I did when I first heard them – not that some have withstood the test of time, but because they provide flashbacks to the early stages of my life’s development. They have become forever attached to fond memories.

I turned 13 in February 1966. Officially I was a teenager. Around that time my parents purchased our first stereo that played LPs. Of course, their first LPs were things like Al Caiola, Herb Alpert, and Percy Faith. But, I found myself gravitating more to rock than to my parents’ musical interests. It was also the beginning of the psychedelic era, and the experimentation found in psychedelic rock. I immediately found a kinship with these psychedelic rock pioneers. At first it was the hit-makers like The Beatles, Spanky & Our Gang, Count 5, and Blues Magoos; just their hits. My parents continued to purchase music gifts for me from Herb Alpert, Baja Marimba Band, and Pete Fountain. Finally, for my 15th birthday, they relented to giving me the “Incense and Peppermints” album by Strawberry Alarm Clock; my first rock album. While my interest in this album originally was their title track hit, I soon became fascinated with the myriad textures of their more “psychedelicized” songs on the LP.  This opened the door to more explorations. I remember going to K-Mart with my folks and while they shopped for other things I hung out at the LP racks, staring at the album covers of “Freak Out!” by The Mothers of Invention, “Tenderness Junction” by The Fugs, “After Bathing at Baxter’s” by Jefferson Airplane, and the eponymous albums by Silver Apples and Ultimate Spinach. The thing that really drew me in was that none of these albums listed song titles on the outside jacket, neither front nor back. I thought “How could this be? How do I know what is in these interesting and weird looking albums?” It was just too much mystery for my teenage mind to bear. I had to hear them. So, with the little money I received from chores and gifts I began to accumulate a small collection of this psychedelic music. I purchased that Ultimate Spinach album and loved it to death! I also bought “The Beat Goes On” by Vanilla Fudge, which is considered by some critics to be the worst rock album in history. But I still loved it at the time. Of course, I still liked many of the hits in both the rock and pop world, so I was still getting music by Richard Harris, Sergio Mendes & Brasil ’66, as well as Steppenwolf, Cream, Jefferson Airplane and the like.

Yet I seemed to be hotwired into gravitating to that which is unusual, obscure, or challenging more than the hit sounds. At first, I rationalized that some of the lesser known artists I loved were as good as, if not better than, the hit makers. But in all honesty, while this is true for some, it is not true of others. I know quality when I hear it, for sure. But for some artists, it isn’t quality or virtuosity that draws me in; it is something nebulous and hard to describe. If you have ever heard “Hungry Freaks, Daddy” by The Mothers of Invention, or “White Light/White Heat” by The Velvet Underground you will note that the vocal harmonies are intentionally dissonant, seemingly executed poorly, but on purpose. Now, I didn’t laugh at this, but it clearly caught my attention and it worked to draw me further into the music of these artists. By the way, there were less than a handful of 45s issued by these two groups combined, and only at the insistence of their managers at Verve Records. Their singles never hit the charts. At my most rebellious time, not having hits was a badge of honor in my book. I have since seen the flaw in this thinking, but also recognize that having hits does not guarantee the music is worthy of interest.

I am by nature also a collector. This is something that I share with my brothers.  Some of our interests are the same, such as collecting Native American prehistoric artifacts and the salt-glazed pottery made by our ancestors’ businesses back in the 1800s. But we also collect many different things. Vinyl and CDs have become a big item for me. Adding to the music, itself, I find that rarity is a factor in my interests. This has led me to an interest in private press LPs from the 60s and 70s.

We often talk about the hit makers, and sometimes we talk about the ones who came close but never became well known. For example, let’s look at the San Francisco scene of the 60s. You had the big guns like Grateful Dead, Quicksilver Messenger Service, Jefferson Airplane, Country Joe & The Fish, and Big Brother & The Holding Company. Those are the bands that people often think of when you mention the music scene in San Francisco during the “Summer of Love”. So, let’s call them first tier groups. You had a second tier, which included some hit makers. Some of these bands were formed elsewhere but made the Bay their home and became quite popular. Santana, Steve Miller Band, Moby Grape, Beau Brummels, Sopwith Camel, and even Blue Cheer would fit the tier two category; there were quite a few.  Then, there were third tier groups who were considered interesting due to the quality of their work. These would be The Great Society, The Charlatans, It’s a Beautiful Day, Mystery Trend, The Vejtables, and Sons of Champlin. Digging deeper you find a fourth tier including Indian Puddin’ & Pipe, West Coast Natural Gas, Tripsichord Music Box, Frumious Bandersnatch, and Ace of Cups. You can continue peeling the onion into fifth and sixth tier groups as well. Keep going and you will eventually get to the private press recordings of groups so obscure that nobody remembers, nor wants to remember. Here you will find The Ethix, which later evolved into the fourth-tier San Francisco group, Fifty Foot Hose. Another would be Christian Yoga Church’s only LP, with some of the artists moving from San Francisco to Tennessee to form the longest active commune in the US, The Farm, and subsequently forming The Farm Band. These private press albums were usually only issued in pressings of 1,000 or less, many in the 100 to 500 pressing range. There are even some with as few as 50 or even 25 pressings. From Pittsburgh there is the band, Fresh Blueberry Pancake, that only had 25 of their only LP, Heavy, pressed. Thankfully, within the past two decades, Shadoks, a record label in Germany, located a clean copy of their album (master tapes for such rarities are usually never found) and reissued it on both CD and LP. They also gave it artwork that somewhat fits the band name and the heavy, guitar-laden music within.

Then there are recordings from more famous artists that were never intended for public consumption. Or, they were released before the artist became popular. Perhaps there is an acetate, a test pressing, or a cassette that has been duplicated and circulated to appreciative listeners and collectors. Many of the recipients of these rarities are other artists who find inspiration from them. Some have been withheld by the artists because they do not feel they are worthy examples of their work. I have been privy to some of these and can tell you that perhaps where the artist did not think it worthy, I found it to be a gem. There are a couple recordings that I possess where the artists insisted that the music they shared with me was only to be enjoyed by me and never to be shared with anyone else. I’ve honored their wishes and will continue to do so.  Unfortunately, some of this work is worthy of mass consumption by those who would appreciate their talent, but by restricting my ability to share, it robs me of the joy I get from sharing. For sharing is the other side of the coin to collecting rare and interesting music.

So now that I have laid the ground work, please entertain my efforts and the joy I receive from sharing some of my “finds” of the past few years. Note that photos were taken by the author, and not from stock photos. Please excuse the lack of centering on some.

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Cardinali Brothers – More Than Luck (1971)

I had been on the lookout for this southwest country rock album for years. The music is like early Eagles, or more like Glen Frey’s earlier band, Longbranch Pennywhistle. There is a folky flavor with beautiful vocal harmonies and top-notch songwriting. Last year, on a lark, I did a Google search and found the brothers have a music store in Ojai, California. After making contact, they offered to send me a digitized copy if I provided them the CD-R. I now have in my possession a CD version of their album, in great sound.

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Dick Watson Five – Baker Street (1966)

I had lusted after a copy of this rarely seen album for well over a decade. It never appears on eBay, Discogs, or any of the other Internet music sites. This was an album of pre-psychedelic, British invasion influenced rock by a bunch of New Jersey teenagers. It is based on a Broadway musical about Sherlock Holmes, hence the name of the band, “Dick Watson Five.” They had taken the music from this show and put it into a rock format, with somewhat convincing success, albeit their fake British accents. The band also can boast that one of their members, guitarist Jim McCarthy, went to a Fugs concert in 1966 and as a result he decided to quit the Dick Watson Five and form underground NYC band, The Godz with some of his work buddies from Sam Goody’s. Well, I located the drummer for the Dick Watson Five, Carmen Deligatti, who had moved on to bigger and better things. When I found him via the Internet, he had sold his only copy of the Baker Street album, but he had made a digital recording before selling it. This digital recording was made early in the development of mp3s, so it is not of the digital quality which can be achieved today. However, it is obvious he had kept his LP in pristine condition based on the digitized version that I received. Whoever was the lucky person to purchase the original LP, I sure hope they some day contact one of the labels releasing rarities such as this. It deserves a wider release, even if only for historical purposes.

The Music of the Santa Cruz Mountains (1974)

Another seldom seen album, with four artists (J.J. Johnson, Kai Moore, Bruce Frye, and Bahia) from the Santa Cruz mountains in the early 70s. I found someone who had an original copy for sale in excellent condition. The front cover has an attractive painting of a forest scene, but it is glued onto the album jacket and has some ripple effect to it. This only adds to the private press aspects and the rural hippie vibe of the music. This has a very enjoyable, laid back ambiance with some Laurel Canyon influences; a very professional sound without getting commercial.

Dennis the Fox – Mother Trucker (1972)

Dennis Caldirola (aka Dennis the Fox) is a crooner. But Dennis wants to be a rocker. He does not succeed at either, but is somewhere between the two, or perhaps just out there somewhere. He is not at all a bad singer. And his descriptive and colorful songwriting, emotive vocal delivery, along with excellent studio musicianship carries the album. These qualities are somewhat convincing that Dennis the Fox has been around and knows things. But it is not enough to make him a star in any respect. Like Mistress Mary, who I discussed in a previous blog post, he gives the appearance of someone with unbridled talent that has not been reigned in enough to become a top shelf artist. Despite it all, I love this private pressed album and was very happy to see it reissued on the Modern Harmonic label. Originals, like the others above, command big bucks (unless you are lucky like I was with the Santa Cruz LP). The reissue has been remastered from the original tapes and is well worth the listen.

Hawaiian Spotlighters – Mauna Kea Breeze (1965)

This was an LA based family affair, producing a Hawaiian-based recording that is perhaps one of the rarest exotica albums ever pressed to vinyl. Their origins are Hilo, Hawaii, when they were known as Al’s Spotlighters; Al being Al Pabilona. He and his family moved to Hayward, California and recorded this album in the family garage in 1964. Only 200 copies were pressed, and few exist today. Using top of the line restoration, the album has been reissued on Bacchus Archives. Placing this LP on the turntable one needs to sit back on the recliner, sip a mai tai, and let the Mauna Kea breeze float by.

Canaries – Flying High with The Canaries (1970)

Who would name a rock band after a small yellow bird? Well, someone from the Canary Islands, of course! In their home base, they were known as Los Canarios. The album was recorded and released in the United States while they were on tour, trying to strike it big in the States. Unfortunately, that did not happen for them. But we have this lasting recording of teen beat sounds to enjoy. Originals were on the BT Puppy label but mine is a 1982 reissue on Spanish label, Cocodrilo.

The Minister and The Nuns – When the Heart Sings (1966)

Imagine a Presbyterian minister from South Charleston, West Virginia doing missionary work in Brazil, teaming up with a group of Brazilian Roman Catholic nuns to record an album of eclectic sounds to minister to “who knows”. This is what you have with this very limited released album. Musical style varies from late 50s easy listening to bossa nova to a very tame rock sound. They all sing, and the nuns provide the instrumentation. There is simply nothing like this unclassifiable sound, but it is interesting and pleasant and the religious message in inobtrusive. The album is quite scarce, yet I was able to find a copy, autographed by Rev. David Wayne Smith, in near mint condition. Before acquiring this LP, I was able to find and download a recording of the minister talking about his missionary work and how it came about that he recorded with the nuns.

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Minette – Come to Me at Tea Time (1968)

Another album that brings four-digit figures when it even appears on the market is Come to Me at Tea Time by real people female impersonator, Jacques Minette. Usually such albums are full of sexual innuendo and nothing more. But this album is full of social commentary about the Vietnam war, overthrowing the government, and even psychedelic drugs. The cover has Minette encircled by marijuana leaves. Maybe the title’s reference to “tea” means tea of a euphoric nature? I will leave the other double entendre in the title alone. The slightly out-of-tune piano fits perfectly with Minette’s unusual vocals. I was very fortunate to locate a download from a near mint copy.

In Other News

I wanted to mention that in 2017, there were three album releases from artists living in San Diego County, that in my opinion deserve recognition.

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The Hollywood Project – Olympic Boulevard

The Hollywood Project is a collaboration between Dave Humphries, who wrote the music and some of the lyrics, and Stephen Kalinich, who wrote most of the lyrics, and was produced by Wolfgang Grasekamp. The music is performed by Humphries, Grasekamp, Tom Quinn, Todd Sander, Mike Alvarez, Gus Beaudoin, Sven-Eric Seaholm, and Jacques Mees. The style is in the category of post-Beatles Harrison, Harry Nilsson, Brian Wilson…well you get the idea. Beautiful melodies, pensive lyrics, and impeccable performance. They bring to the table subjects we don’t like to talk about but leave you hopeful and optimistic at the end. A touching, beautiful bouquet of songs.

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Cindy Lee Berryhill – The Adventurist

This is Cindy Lee’s first offering since the death of her husband, Paul Williams, who had founded Crawdaddy magazine. In this she writes of her loss and her life in poignant, emotive lyrics that at one moment can bring you to tears and the next get you laughing. The album is a musical painting, skillfully crafted, sung, and performed by top shelf musicians. The music can be challenging, quirky, and yet beautiful. It kept me on the edge of my seat upon my first listen. This is an album you want to really sit quietly and listen to, as you would an intense classical piece. The Adventurist was nominated for album of the year by the San Diego Music Awards in 2018, and has received enthusiastic national attention, including from Rolling Stone.

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Marie Haddad – Stories from Atlantis

This is an amazing album. Marie’s vocals have never been more intensely emotive. The music is exquisite. There is a mystical element to the music, perhaps due to the Middle Eastern element in her writing, both lyrically and musically. With the collection of eastern European instruments mixed with typical pop instrumentation, there are a variety of styles going on, and they are all neatly woven together to make it an experience full of wonderment. It was no surprise to see long time recording artist, Jeff Pekarek contributing on bass and bouzouki – his 1982 album To Each Their Own, has always been a favorite of mine when I am in the mood for Asian-influenced cosmic musical travels. I am tempted to write about each song on Marie’s album and how it affected me, but it would make this post go far too long. Just let me say I LOVE THIS ALBUM! I was so happy when it won the 2018 San Diego Music Award for best pop album.

And so, I will end it here. There have been many music events and new artists I have heard since the beginning of 2018. Maybe I will write about them next time. But, I’ve been promising to get this out the door for far too long. Stay safe. Blessings!

And So It Goes

“I spoke to you in cautious tones. You answered me with no pretense. And still I feel I said too much. My silence is my self-defense. And every time I’ve held a rose, it seems I only felt the thorns. And so it goes, and so it goes. And so will you soon I suppose.” Billy Joel, from the album, Storm Front, 1989

If you haven’t noticed, I have been silent for nearly a year. It is not that I have had nothing to write about. I have been to several music events, and they were all uplifting and refreshing. I have also made some great purchases and acquisitions that I cannot wait to talk about. But in the first couple months after my last post, which was in January, there had been moments when I had an idea that could blossom into something to write, but the will was not there. Generally, I am not a person who suffers from depression. But the best way I can describe it is…depression. This began around November 8th of last year, and became increasingly worse after January 20th of this year. But I am slowly getting back to being my abnormal self.

When I finally gathered the motivation and presence of mind to write this, it was a cold and wet May day. There was nothing playing in the CD player. I heard the traffic in the distance, a few birds announcing their territorial boundaries, the hum of the fan in my PC, and the clicking of the keys as I typed. I heard my breath, sighing occasionally as I considered my words and avoided painful thoughts.

Then, just as I do now, I wanted to feel hope. I wanted to live hope. But it is difficult to hope. I think if I write, it will give me hope. But I am not so sure about that thought. I am not certain I can count on that to be true. But I must get on with it; buck up. Put one foot ahead of the other and lean forward. Press one key at a time, complete a word, hit that space bar and keep it moving. Hep, two, three, four! Hep, two, three, four!

I am thankful that there have been some awesome events to attend. And looking back I have attended quite a few. Here are some.

Music from ‘The Nutcracker’ – A Jazzy Exploration of a Holiday Classic, 2016

During the December holiday season, there was a jazzy musical event with violinist, Jamie Shadowlight, at Café Bar Europa in Pacific Beach including the usual suspects of Mikan Zlatkovich on keys, Kevin Higuchi on drums, Will Lyle on bass, and PJ Ortiz (PacificYO) on beatbox. The highlight for me was hearing Grammy nominated jazz flutist, Lori Bell.  Lori’s 2016 album, Brooklyn Dreaming, has won accolades from Downbeat Magazine, Huffington Post, and others. It was a great evening of holiday jazz, fine food, and hanging with friends.

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L to R: Lori Bell, Kevin Higuchi, Jamie Shadowlight, Will Lyle, Mikan Zlatkovich

Pre-Beatles Fair Promo Show at the Queen Bee, 2016

Between Christmas and New Year’s Eve there was a show at the Queen Bee to promote the upcoming Beatles Fair in March, 2017. The three mainstays, Dave Humphries Band, The Rollers, and The Baja Bugs performed, but in addition there were some duos and solo acts. The one that stands out for me was “Fast Heart Mart” Martin Stamper on banjo doing “Norwegian Wood”.  Another great evening hanging with friends and hearing some great 60s music. That evening, the Dave Humphries Band was the expanded 5-piece consisting of Dave Humphries on guitar, Wolfgang Grasekamp on keys, Greg Gohde on electric bass, Make Alvarez on electric cello, and Todd Sander on drums.

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Dave Humphries Band

 

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The Rollers

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The Baja Bugs

Other Performances

Sometime in January we saw Cadillac Wreckers at Proud Mary’s doing many familiar songs plus some I had never heard them do before. Dana Duplan on guitar and Dane Terry on harmonica and vocals are the main Wreckers. I did not catch the names of the drummer and electric bassist. A tight bluesy band that are always enjoyable to hear.

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Cadillac Wreckers

We have made several excursions to the Riviera Supper Club on Thursday nights to hear Liz Grace and the Swing Thing duo, consisting of Liz and guitarist, Jon Garner. Great songs from a great era, and Liz is such a versatile singer. Jon is also an exceptional jazz guitarist.

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Liz Grace & Jon Garner

One evening in February, we went to Rebecca’s Coffee to experience a rare performance of The Flip Side / The Pink Floyd Experience. They perform B-sides of hit songs from the 60s and early 70s. Todd Sander was on drums and vocals, Wolfgang Grasekamp was on rhythm guitar (used to seeing him on keys), Tom Quinn on lead guitar and vocals and Gus Beaudoin on bass and vocals. A strong unit handling songs from a variety of 60s bands and styles. Also, Dave Humphries Band played some songs as sort of a rehearsal for the Beatles Fair, where their set would concentrate on the songs of George Harrison, including his time with the Traveling Wilburys. Todd and Wolfgang (on keys this time) were part of the band along with Mike Alvarez on cello and Tom on lead guitar.

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The Flip Side

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Dave Humphries Band

It was a thankfully rainy winter and the desert wildflowers were in magnificent bloom. We made it a point in March to experience this desert splendor, and coming back from Borrego Springs we stopped at Wynola Pizza to hear Plow and to get some great pizza. Dane Terry was not with them on harmonica, but recent addition, Alex Sharps, was with them on vocals and fiddle. They also had some young fiddlers, who have been students of Alex, show their stuff on what they have learned. A truly fun evening.

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Plow

The Beatles Fair

Lineup at this year’s Beatles Fair at the Queen Bee in North Park included Francisco Gomez, The Phoenix Band, Mojo Working (featuring Scott Mathiasen), The Dave Humphries Band, The Baja Bugs, True Stories with a Ringo Starr tribute featuring Nico, and headliner Billy J. Kramer with Liberty DeVitto on drums on the Kaiserkeller Stage. There were three other stages, but we did not spend much time at these. All local acts did a fine job, but I was a bit partial to The Dave Humphries Band, who really knocked it out of the park with a George Harrison tribute, featuring songs “Isn’t It a Pity”, “All Things Must Pass” and “Beware of Darkness” from his first (3-LP) album and “Handle with Care” from Travelling Wilburys, including Mike Alvarez handling the Roy Orbison parts, among the highlights. They also did an assortment of 60s Beatles and British invasion tunes as well as some penned by Dave Humphries. This was an expanded band with Dave Humphries on guitar and lead vocals, Todd Sander on drums, Greg Gohde on bass, Wolfgang Grasekamp on keys, Mike Alvarez on cello and vocals, and Tom Quinn on lead guitar and lead/backing vocals. The Billy J. Kramer set started out promising, but he seemed to be having trouble with the monitor and he often moved off-key. For those of you who are unfamiliar with Billy J. Kramer, he toured with The Beatles on several occasions in the 60s and had a minor hit with “Little Children”. I got to meet him after his performance and secured an autographed copy of his recent CD.  Liberty DeVitto was the drummer in Kramer’s band. He had been the tour drummer for many years backing Billy Joel, but now is touring with Kramer. My better half got a photo op with him. It was a fun evening, especially hanging with good friends.

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The Phoenix Band

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Mojo Working featuring Scott Mathiasen

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Dave Humphries Band

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Billy J. Kramer featuring Liberty DeVitto on drums

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True Stories featuring Symea Solomon and Normandie Wilson

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True Stories featuring Nico as Ringo Starr

Baja Bugs at Riviera Supper Club

I ventured out to see The Baja Bugs at the Riviera Supper Club sometime in March (or was it April?) with friend Randall Cornish. We also met up with George Rubsamen while there. The Bugs not only covered Beatles music, but also other 60s bands such as Rolling Stones, Kinks, Zombies, plus some self-penned songs. In great form, as usual.

Revival of the Singer-Songwriter

Produced by Ken Rexrode, March 26, at the Belly Up in Solana Beach. Hosted by Whitney Shay, with performances by Whitney Shay, Wish & The Well, The Moves Collective, Mimi Zulu, Karina Frost and the Banduvloons, and Taylor John Williams. This was a great show with a variety of music styles performed by amazing people. For me, the standouts were Whitney Shay, and The Moves Collective, both of whom were winners at the 2017 San Diego Music Awards.

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Wish & The Well

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Taylor John Williams

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Whitney Shay

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Karina Frost and The Banduvloons

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Mimi Zulu

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The Moves Collective

Spring Harp Fest

This was my third or fourth time to attend the harp fest, at Harry Griffen Park in La Mesa, held this year on April 4. Performers were Phillip Fauquet with Chet Cannon and the Committee, Karl Dring (replacing Jeffrey Joe Moran, who could not make it due to an injury), Billy Watson, John Clifton, Eric Von Herzen, Harmonica John Frazer, TJ Klay, and headliner Kellie Rucker accompanied by Robin Henkel on guitar. The highlights for me were the Billy Watson and Kellie Rucker sets. Kellie used to reside in San Diego but now lives in Florida. It was a beautiful day for music in the outdoors.

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Phillip Fauquet with Chet Cannon and the Committee

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Karl Dring

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Harmonica John Frazer

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John Clifton

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Billy Watson

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Eric Von Herzen

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Kellie Rucker accompanied by Robin Henkel

Mundell Lowe 95th Birthday

Dizzy’s hosts the birthday performances for Mundell Lowe. This year, on April 21, Mundell was accompanied by Bob Magnusson and Rob Thorsen on bass, Jim Plank on drums, Bob Boss, Jaime Valle, Ron Eschete, and others on guitar. From New York City, jazz guitarist Tony DeCaprio did a solo set, and Mundell’s step-daughter, Alycia Previn, performed with him on violin. Mundell still had his chops, providing competition for all the other players. I was pleasantly surprised when Tony DeCaprio performed. I had not known about him prior to that evening and he totally knocked me out. This was an evening of jazz mastery from some of the finest players to be found anywhere on the planet.

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Tony DeCaprio with Bob Magnusson and Jim Plank

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Mundell Lowe

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With step-daughter Claudia Previn Stasny

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With step-daughter Alycia Previn

NOTE: Mundell Lowe passed away on December 2. He was one of the greats, working with such major artists as Billie Holiday, Charlie Parker, Frank Sinatra, Andre Previn, Dinah Washington, Peggy Lee, Carmen McRae, Marilyn Monroe, Sammy Davis, Jr., Marlene Dietrich, Johnny Ray, Bill Evans, Charles Mingus, Benny Goodman, the Everly Brothers…the list goes on. He was self-taught in guitar, and became a composer and arranger of movie and TV scores and a member of NBC’s staff orchestra, playing on the “Today Show” in the 50s and 60s. He appeared on the Grand Ole Opry in the 30s. He wrote music for shows such as “Hawaii Five-O”, “Starsky and Hutch”, “The Wild Wild West”, and even Woody Allen’s film “Everything You Wanted to Know About Sex (But Were Afraid to Ask)”. Adjectives used to describe him include “versatile”, “elegant”, “sophisticated”. I consider myself fortunate to meet and talk to him at his 93rd birthday performance at Dizzy’s and again to attend his 95th birthday performance.

Carlsbad Flower Fields Blues Day

This was held on April 23, at the Carlsbad Flower Fields. We had just missed Chickenbone Slim & The Biscuits, but got there in time to hear Robin Henkel with Whitney Shay, with Troy Jennings on sax, Caleb Furgatch on bass, and Marty Dodson on drums. We have seen this configuration of artists before, and they never disappoint. It was another enjoyable outdoor performance. And we got to talk to Larry Teves (Chickenbone Slim) even though we missed his set. We also spent time walking about the variety of beautiful flowers on display.

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L to R: Marty Dodson, Whitney Shay, Caleb Furgatch, Robin Henkel, Troy Jennings

Adams Avenue Unplugged

This year at the Unplugged event on April 29, I finally got to see Marie Haddad perform, as well as Sven Eric Seaholm. Both are quite talented performers as well as capable songwriters. Marie is a very expressive quality singer and keyboardist. She did some self-penned songs as well as covers, leaving me wanting to hear much more. She will be releasing a new album later in the year and I will be in line to obtain one, for sure. Sven did an acoustic guitar set, but the environment was not conducive to a musical performance. The Adams Avenue Business Association needs to rethink using that noisy location with poor acoustics as a venue. However, we were up close to enjoy his covers of 60s and 70s songs, along with some self-penned songs. We ended the day at DiMilles’ Pizza to hear Robin Henkel doing a solo country blues set followed by the Dave Humphries Band, which was a three-piece consisting of Dave on vocals and guitar, Greg Gohde on bass, and Mike Alvarez on cello and backing vocals. I have written much about both in the past, and cannot add anything more regarding their prodigious talents. After the Dave Humphries set, we decided to leave the Unplugged event and headed over to the Riviera Supper Club to hear some twang with Three Chord Justice before calling it a night. This was the last time for me to hear the band with guitarist and long-time member, Jeff Houck. Jeff has since moved on to other ventures.

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Marie Haddad

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Sven Eric Seaholm

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Robin Henkel

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L to R: Dave Humphries, Greg Gohde, Mike Alvarez

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Three Chord Justice

Six String Society – 27 Club

The Six String Society, at the Belly Up on April 30, presented a tribute to the artists who died at the age of 27. Among the members of the 27 Club covered in this production were Robert Johnson, Jim Morrison, Brian Jones, Janis Joplin, Jimi Hendrix, Curt Cobain and Amy Winehouse. Taylor John Williams did a brief set to warm up the crowd. Then the fun began. Beginning with a tribute to country blues legend, Robert Johnson, presented by local country blues legend, Robin Henkel, a slide presentation created a multi-media environment as Robin told the mysterious story of Robert Johnson, playing some of Johnson’s classic songs as well as other country blues songs. Following this informative set, Rock n’ Roll Hall of Famer (with Steve Miller Band) guitarist Greg Douglass and singer Louis Patton performed a tribute to Brian Jones of The Rolling Stones. Then Gregory Page did a musical introduction to guitarist Jimmy Patton with a tribute to Jim Morrison of The Doors. The next 27 Club member was Janis Joplin. For this set, the phenomenal Casey Hensley sang Janis’ songs accompanied by a band fronted by Greg Douglass on guitar and Johnny Viau on sax, with Evan Caleb Yearsley on drums and Mark Campbell on bass. I kept looking up to see if the Belly Up roof was still intact after hearing Casey tearing it up. Next was a tribute to Curt Cobain of Nirvana by Canadian/San Diegan alternative band, Sister Speak, fronted by Sherri Anne on vocals and acoustic guitar, Jacob (Cubby) Miranda on bass, and Zach Guglin on drums. Greg Douglass also joined in on electric guitar. I really liked their sound. Sister Speak is another San Diego Music Awards winner. They were also joined by Jimmy Patton and Taylor John Williams on their last Nirvana song. For the Amy Winehouse tribute, Whitney Shay literally was the incarnation of Amy, with her hair style, red flower in her hair, and voice. Whitney was backed by her band, The Hustle and accompanied again for some songs by Greg Douglass. This led into the final tribute, for Jimi Hendrix, with Greg Douglass doing some pyro techniques on guitar, accompanied by Mark Campbell on bass and Evan Caleb Yearsley on drums. Vocal duties for Jimi’s songs was handled by Louis Patton. And, of course, all performers gathered on stage for the last song. It was a tremendous night of legendary music and fantastic performers.

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Taylor John Williams

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Robin Henkel: tribute to Robert Johnson

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Greg Douglass and Louis Patton: tribute to Brian Jones

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Gregory Page

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Jimmy Patton: tribute to Jim Morrison

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Casey Hensley with Greg Douglass (guitar), Johnny Viau (sax), Evan Caleb Yearsley (drums), Mark Campbell (bass): tribute to Janis Joplin

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Sister Speak with Greg Douglass: tribute to Curt Cobain

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Shay and The Hustle, featuring Whitney Shay performing a tribute to Amy Winehouse

Mother’s Day at Urban Solace

We went to Urban Solace for their bluegrass brunch on Mother’s Day, May 13. Plow, represented by a trio of Doug Walker on bass, Jason Weiss on banjo and a guest guitarist/vocalist that I cannot recall – that’s what I get for not writing this as soon afterward as I should have. Chris Clarke, Mark Markowitz, Dane Terry and Alex Sharps were not available as they were celebrating Mother’s Day and if I recall correctly, Chris was also ill that day.

Joshua Tree Music Festival May 18-21

Prior to the music festival, Todo Mundo had mentioned via a Facebook post by Jamie Shadowlight that they were giving away two free tickets to the festival and all one had to do was to give the reasons why they thought they were deserving of the tickets. On a lark, I responded. Little did I know that I would win. I was not out of town but had not reserved those days as vacation days. I then got an email from Todo Mundo that they wanted additional information in case I won. I had not yet responded when Jamie told me I won the tickets and needed to get this info in ASAP. I had to quickly request the days off and then responded. The tickets would be at the front gate for the festival. I was amazed. These are $240 tickets each! I booked the hotel using my points. So, the only cost to us was food and gas, plus anything else we wanted to buy. It was an awesome experience with several performers from around the world. That first evening began with Canada’s Sasha Rose doing a DJ set followed by local artist, Chris Unck with his high desert band. Chris’ music reminded me of the German space rock of the 70s. It was an instrumental set, and they performed as the sun was setting. Todo Mundo, including Jamie Shadowlight, was the featured artist of the evening. This was my first time hearing them and they knocked me out of my socks! How do I explain them? World music including reggae, Caribbean, gypsy, and you name it, all with a Latin flavor; with guitars, percussion, drums, bass, sax, trombone, trumpet and violin; all this with the powerful and soulful vocals of band leader, Santiago Orozco. Their performance is high energy with a powerful message of world unity and love, and all players were dressed in white. We headed back to our hotel room musically sated but anticipating more the following day. We met up with Jamie, Santiago and his wife, and others, and relaxed to the sounds of local artist, Philip Rosenberg in the background. After checking out the merchants we settled into listening to a band from Wonder Valley, The Adobe Collective, with a psychedelic Americana style, and La Inedita from Peru, with a Latin harder edged pop-rock style throwing in a bit of Spanish rap. For the sunset performance, Kraak and Smaak from Netherlands did a disco/pop-electronica set that would be suitable for a rave, complete with light show effects. Later in the evening we heard another local artist, Gene Evaro, Jr. with a funky yet folky style including roaring guitars on some songs. While there was one more performer to go that evening, we called it a night and headed back to the hotel; the desert heat had worn on us and I wanted to be ready for the next day. Our Saturday morning’s arrival was greeted by an acoustic set by Sasha Rose, who had DJed on Thursday evening. Later we heard the wonderful acapella harmonies of Sirens of Soul, who hail from all over – three female artists with beautiful voices and one guy on bass. Their music and stories were uplifting, affirming, and for us, a great way to end our time at the music festival. As we were leaving the Desert Rhythm Project was just beginning their set. We had things we had to accomplish on Sunday, so we needed to get home. Keep in mind that the music is just one (but central) aspect of the festival. There were a variety of artisans, healers, and a place for children’s activities. This will not be the last time at the festival for us. Next time, we will plan so that we can take in all four days’ music. We also learned that there was a hotel much closer where I could still use my hotel points instead of staying in Palm Springs and driving an hour each day from the hotel to the festival.

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Sasha Rose, as opening DJ

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Chris Unck and his High Desert Band

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Todo Mundo

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Todo Mundo, featuring Jamie Shadowlight

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Philip Rosenberg

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A rare photo of the Popeswami seen with Nancy Provance, Jamie Shadowlight, and another friend

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Mt. San Jacinto as seen from the Joshua Tree Music Festival

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The Adobe Collective

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Visual arts at Joshua Tree Music Festival

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Kraak and Smaak

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Gene Evaro, Jr.

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Sasha Rose with acoustic set

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Sirens of Soul

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Sirens of Soul

Art Around Adams

Art around Adams has been reduced now to one day, which this year was Saturday, June 7. First up was a performance by True Stories, including Bart Mendoza on guitar and vocals and Dave Fleminger on keys and guitar. We then walked across the street to see the tribute to Dick Van Ransom, owner of Mariposa Ice Cream, who passed away a year ago after a car accident. Dick was a huge promoter of the arts and all the street fairs on Adams Avenue. The first artist during the tribute was George Rubsamen on acoustic guitar and mandolin, who was accompanied in part of his set by Nico Peters on percussion. George’s set was primarily 60s pop and rock with an Irish flair. Next set was by The Baja Bugs doing primarily Beatles tunes but a few other 60s artists were covered. The tribute ended with The Dave Humphries Band performing more Beatles songs as well as songs by other British invasion artists and some self-penned tunes. A presentation was made by a local government official to Dick Van Ransom’s wife. We then headed back to the other stage for The Joyelles, consisting of bandleader, Normandie Wilson, on keys and vocals, Symea Solomon and Maggie Taylor on vocals, and backed by Dave Fleminger on guitar, Danny Cress on drums, and Martin Martiarena on bass. The group are well-steeped in 60s pop and soul, covering artists such as Petula Clark, Burt Bacharach, and Dionne Warwick, and more esoteric artists of the 60s, including some French ye-ye pop stars such as France Gall. There are also many songs penned by Normandie Wilson; songs that one would be surprised to find are recent and not from the 60s. Normandie, Symea, and Maggie take turns with lead vocals. This band has a vibrant sound which got a lot of people dancing at the Blindspot stage. I was surprised at the size of the crowd gathered for their music – it gives me hope that 60s pop still rules! We then ventured over to DiMille’s for some pizza with many of our friends. After dinner we moved over to the DiMille’s Beer Garden stage to hear Alvino & The Dwells with their supersonic surf music. This power trio consists of Dave Fleminger on guitar, Tony Suarez on bass and rhythm guitar, and Didier Suarez on drums. This band is reminiscent of the great surf bands of the 60s. We also ran into visual artist/drummer extraordinaire/instrument maker, Owen Burke, enjoying their set.

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True Stories

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George Rubsamen (mandolin) and Nico Peters (bongos)

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The Baja Bugs

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Dave Humphries Band

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The Joyelles

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Alvino & The Dwells

Bar Pink CD Release Party for The Joyelles & Alvino & The Dwells

I attended the CD release party for The Joyelles and Alvino & The Dwells at Bar Pink on June 9th. This was a well-attended show, with The Joyelles doing the first set and Alvino & The Dwells doing the second. All that was said about these fine bands regarding their performances at Art Around Adams can be repeated here. While enjoying the music I ran into many familiar faces. We all had a great time.

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The Joyelles

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Alvino and The Dwells

Other Shows Attended in June

Once again, we made our pilgrimage to Rebecca’s Coffee in South Park on Sunday morning, June 11, to hear The Dave Humphries Band. On Thursday, June 15, we celebrated Mark Markowitz’ birthday at the Riviera Supper Club listening to Mark play drums for Liz Grace & The Swing Thing, which was a four piece that evening with Mark on drums, Liz Grace on guitar and vocals, Jon Garner on electric guitar, and Doug Walker on bass. Later, on June 17, my son and his girlfriend accompanied us to Wynola Pizza to hear Three Chord Justice with an acoustic set, featuring their new lead guitarist, Alex Watts. Alex has played with the band on many occasions when Jeff Houck was not available, but since Jeff has left the band Alex has become a full member. Another fun evening with great music.

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Liz Grace & The Swing Thing

 

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True Stories

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Plow

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Three Chord Justice

The Music Box

We had an opportunity to hear Todo Mundo at The Music Box on June 16. When we found out that The Moves Collective would also be playing we just had to go. We had dinner at Buon Appetito, just a few blocks away from The Music Box. While standing in line to get in we ran into Carmelia Toot Bell. Little did we know that Carmelia would be performing later that evening. Soul Brigade opened the show with some high energy electric blues and funk. They were followed by The Moves Collective performing some high voltage Americana. Todo Mundo, featuring Jamie Shadowlight on electric violin and on a few songs Carmelia Toot Bell on vocals. It was another uplifting evening, with Todo Mundo bringing it to a beautiful conclusion.

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Soul Brigade

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The Moves Collective

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Todo Mundo

Revival of the Singer Songwriter

June 18 at the Belly Up in Solana Beach, Shay and The Hustle, Greg Douglass, Israel Maldonado with Dante, Patric Petrie and Jillian Calkins, Shane J Hall Trio, and Steph Johnson with Rob Thorsen put their talents out there to bring on another wonderful evening with a variety of music styles. Patric Petrie and Jillian Calkins have joined forces to present a world folk music duo with an emphasis on Irish and French styles and culture. Their voices blend beautifully. They are now going by the name, J’Adore. They are planning a musical tour of France sometime next year. Shay and the Hustle, with vocalist Whitney Shay, provided a set of funky electric blues that was truly invigorating. There were some great guitarists at this event: Greg Douglass, Israel Maldonado and Steph Johnson. Douglass presented more of a hard-edged blues rock style reminiscent of Clapton, Page, and Hendrix. Maldonado provided acoustic stylings with a Latin flair. Johnson played a funky jazz set of originals with an uplifting, socially conscious theme. Shane J Hall Trio was a new treat for me, with a bluesy Americana style. It was an enjoyable evening of music.

A bit about the Six String Society/Revival of the Singer Songwriter events at the Belly Up, and now the Wednesday night events at Tio Leo’s near Old Town as well as the long-standing Fallbrook open mic events. These are organized and produced by Ken Rexrode. Ken has put tons of time and energy into promoting and supporting music and musicians in San Diego County. I highly recommend any of these events as well worth your time to experience.

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Greg Douglass

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Patric Petrie (l) and Jillian Calkins (r), aka J’Adore

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Israel Maldonado (l) with Dante (r)

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Steph Johnson and Rob Thorsen

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Shane J. Hall Trio

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Shay and The Hustle

Cirque Du Soleil Beatles Love, June 22

The Beatles. The Mirage Hotel, Las Vegas. Cirque du Soleil. Breathtaking. The Beatles’ music and the wizardry of George Martin. Superior talent and skill. What more is there to say? We attended this for my wife, Nancy’s birthday, which was June 22. It was Love.20170622_232151490_iOS

The Hollywood Project prerelease party at Rebecca’s Coffee, June 25

Representing The Hollywood Project were Dave Humphries, Greg Gohde, Mike Alvarez, and Wolfgang Grasekamp. This was the San Diego prerelease party for Olympic Boulevard, the second album by The Hollywood Project. If this appears to be an iteration of the Dave Humphries Band, you are correct. There were others involved in the production of this release, however, who were not available for this performance. Stephen Kalinich wrote the lyrics for many of the songs, Tom Quinn played guitar on many of the tracks, Sven Eric Seaholm played on the album as well as providing production and engineering along with Wolfgang. There are others I am probably missing, but these are the primary individuals responsible for this excellent release. After the performance, Dave Humphries and his wife Robbie Taylor, along with many of us regulars at Rebecca’s ventured down to The Station for lunch and tasty conversation.

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The Hollywood Project/Dave Humphries Band

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L to R: Mike Alvarez, Wolfgang Grasekamp, Dave Humphries, Greg Gohde

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At The Station, l to r: Randall Cornish, Popeswami, Nancy, Katy Allen, Robbie Taylor, Dave Humphries, Molly Lynn McClendon

The Garners at Riviera Supper Club, August 3

The Garners, formerly known as The Strivers, are Jon Garner and his wife, Lorelei Musique. Jon plays guitar and sings, and is an essential part of Liz Grace and The Swing Thing. Lorelei plays ukulele, guitalele, and sings. Together they dig into the music of the 20s through the 50s, with songs from Tin Pan Alley, classic pop and jazz, including a good dose of Django Reinhart and other early guitar greats. Lorelei is an accomplished vocalist with an expressive vocal style reminiscent of Billie Holiday, with a touch of Ella Fitzgerald. And, her work on ukulele and guitar compliments Jon’s playing nicely. I’ve written earlier about Jon’s excellent guitar work – he stays true to the early masters while adding his own unique twist to classic guitar jazz. It was another evening of great food and great sounds.

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The Garners: Lorelei Musique and Jon Garner

August through December

We visited the places we regularly frequent such as Wynola Pizza, the Alano Club in South Park, Riviera Supper Club, and Rebecca’s Coffee to see the bands we like to see such as Plow, Three Chord Justice, Liz Grace and The Swing Thing, and the Dave Humphries Band.

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Cadillac Wreckers at Proud Mary’s

 

 

Dave Humphries & Mike Alvarez with friends Mike Evans (left circle) and Will LaFond (right circle), last time at Rebecca’s Coffee on Sunday morning before they close

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Plow at Wynola Pizza: Doug Walker, Jason Weiss, Alex Sharps, Chris Clarke, Dane Terry

Lestat’s West on Adams Avenue, October 13

We attended a performance by Marie Haddad at Lestat’s West where she played songs from her latest album, “Stories from Atlantis.” I consider this album to be an all-time favorite of mine. While over the years I have thought highly of many releases by many local artists, this year there were three that were in my opinion jaw-dropping excellent, and this is one of the three. I will have more to say about the three albums in a later post. Of course, the songs sounded different at Lestat’s because it was just Marie on her keyboard, but her beautifully emotive voice and the exceptional lyrics and songwriting made for an enjoyable performance. Following Marie was Isaac Cheong on solo voice and guitar. His self-deprecating humor and sensitive songwriting has left me wanting to hear more. Isaac was followed by a husband and wife duo from Tucson, Arizona (originally from Chapel Hill, North Carolina) calling themselves Birds & Arrows. This was a guitar and drums performance with Pete Connolly on drums and backing vocals and Andrea Connolly on guitar and lead vocals. They wrote their own music, which was a mix of Americana and hard-edged alternative rock. Andrea was amazing how she held up the rhythm and lead to make this performance sound like a full band. In talking with them at the break, they said they really like playing in San Diego and plan more gigs here in the future. I surely hope so. We did not stay for the other two artists performing that evening, Lisa Sanders and Mary Scholz. I am sure they would have been worth our time, but it was getting late after a tiring day.

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Marie Haddad

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Isaac Cheong

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Birds & Arrows

Rebecca’s Coffee Farewell Concert, December 16

On a sad note, after more than 25 years providing coffee, scones, and a venue for music and poetry as well as promotion for animal rescue, Rebecca’s Coffee is closing at the end of the year due to new ownership of the building and a doubling of the rent. A farewell concert was held at Rebecca’s on December 16. This featured several artists who had been regulars performing at the coffee shop over the years. Included were Dave Humphries accompanied by Mike Alvarez, and Tom Baird and Friends. A bittersweet evening.

 

 

San Diego Troubadour Holiday Party and Fundraiser 2017, Grassroots Oasis, December 17

While my better half suffered from the flu, I attended the Troubadour Holiday Party meeting up with friends and enjoying the music of Bayou Brothers, Tom Baird and Friends, Dave Humphries and Mike Alvarez (and featuring Owen Burke on drums, and with Liz Abbott on vocals on “Bluebird”), Robin Henkel with Whitney Shay, Asspocket of Whiskey, Nina Francis, among others too many to mention. All were in the holiday spirit and it was great seeing everyone and hearing some wonderful music.

 

 

The Nutcracker: A Jazz Exploration, Café Bar Europa, December 22

And here we are full circle. Performed by Jamie Shadowlight on electric violin, Mikan Zlatkovich on keys, Will Lyle on string bass, Monette Marino on percussion, Russell Bizzett on drums, with special guests PacificYO on beatbox, Carmelia Toot Bell on vocals, and Albert Lin throat singing. It is exactly as described, Tchaikovsky’s Nutcracker put into a jazz format with tons of wild improvisation and experimentation; much was done impromptu by super talents who can pull this off with ease.  Plus, it is always a joyful event to be with Jamie. It is beginning to feel a lot like Christmas.

 

 

In Conclusion

Despite the flu and other infirmities, despite a government gone insane, despite a monstrous work load this past year, and despite fighting a downer regarding the uncertainty of our future and retirement under the current American leadership, this has been a good year for music and for experiencing music in San Diego. In fact, the music is what has kept me going. I have made many friends in the music community, and many of those friendships have grown deeper in the past year. As we look to 2018, I can know that despite what natural or human disasters occur in the next twelve months, and despite what calamities our government throws at us, we have the joy of music and of friendship, and that will get us through.

Before we leave 2017 I will be writing a second and hopefully shorter post regarding some recorded music discoveries during the year that I would like to share with everyone. In the meantime, try to avoid this nasty flu that is going around and value one another! Happy Holidays!

 

Make America What, Again?

“No fun, my babe, no fun. No fun to hang around. Feelin’ that same old way. No fun to hang around. Freaked out for another day.” 

By Dave Alexander, Ron Asheton, Scott Asheton, and Iggy (Stooge) Pop, from the song, “No Fun” on The Stooges first (eponymous) album, released in 1969.

Happy 2017. Really. My excitement for a “new beginning” overwhelms me. Whoopee. Happy days are here again. (yawns pessimistically) But of course, we must make America great again, right? We will do this while we make America straight again, make America fake again, make America gray…and make Americans afraid again.

But this time the fear is not from without; it is from within. Well, far be it from me to swallow up or destroy… the party. After all, it’s my party (no, it’s not), but I fear all tomorrow’s parties. Now if you close the door I never have to go to parties again. I am peaceable and faithful to the “new King”, for I am scared shitless of him. Now let me be clear that when I use the term “party” I am not thinking of a political party (lies, lies, lies). I am thinking about the kind of party where cake is served. You know, let ‘em eat cake? Ummmmm, boy!

So, readers may ask, “Popeswami, where are you going with this?”  I am going nowhere. I am nowhere, man. Can’t you see? Perhaps you should tell me what you see. I will hold out hope that you see something different. But I can see for miles and miles and miles, yet all I can see is a river of shit. And I’m getting tired of it. But enough of the cheap efforts to be clever, using snippets of songs or song titles to make a point. There is no point. Pretty dull, eh? Well, happy 2017, anyway.

Seriously, America enters 2017 with more uncertainty than ever. It is difficult to remain optimistic, but I will attempt to continue to be a Ray of light and spread any joy I can muster. So, let’s talk about music! Hell, I quoted enough lyrics and esoteric Biblical references above!

Isabel Baker – I Like God’s Style

Speaking of the Bible, let me start out with what may be the earliest American Christian rock album ever recorded, Isabel Baker’s “I Like God’s Style”. This LP (in the form of a limited issue pressing on Harkit Records in 2015) was one of my prize acquisitions of 2016. While parts of this album sound like music from a Jimmy Swaggart revival, there are excellent examples of garage-rockabilly stylings coupled with down-home, real people singing and songwriting. All songs on the album were written by the mysterious teenager, Isabel Baker, who also sings and plays rhythm guitar. Not much is known about her. The liner notes, written by a certain Naomi E. Fieldstad, reveal that she was 16 years old when she recorded the album. Her father was an evangelist named George Baker. Besides Ms. Baker, the album includes Joe Utterback on piano (adding revival tent flourishes on the ivories that would make Jimmy Swaggart proud), Bob Garvey on lead guitar, Don Nunn on bass, and Jim Kincaid on drums. Per album notes, the original album was recorded in two days, on June 18th and 19th, 1965, in Wichita, Kansas. It was issued on the Kansas-based Romco Records label, with only 100 to 500 being pressed. They were primarily sold at her father’s church and prayer gatherings as they traveled the West and Midwest. It was produced by her father’s organization “The Challenge of Calvary Ministry, Inc.,” headquartered in Garden Grove, California. The front cover shows Isabel with her Fender Jaguar guitar. Upon hearing, it is obvious that Isabel has no formal music or vocal training. An insert in the reissue package says that Joe Utterback, who provided some recollections of the recording event, later became an annual performer for the Tony Awards gala reception and has recorded several solo jazz piano albums. On the other hand, efforts to track down Isabel Baker over the years have proven futile. People have posted several songs from this album on YouTube. Here is the title track: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=FbXz2Z5_WN0

 Michael Angelo – Michael Angelo

Another acquisition this past year was the self-titled LP by Michael Angelo. His album was issued in 1977, on the Guinn label from Kansas City, Missouri, in a limited pressing of 500. Michael Angelo Nigro was a studio musician at the Liberty Recording studio in Kansas City at the time. Late at night and at other times when the studio was not being used, he would record the songs that would become this album. Liberty was not interested in issuing it, so he did the final mastering at Big-K Studios, a smaller studio in Kansas City, that issued it on the Guinn Records label. All vocals and instruments except drums were performed by Michael Angelo; all songs were written by him. Drums were provided by Frank Gautieri. The master acetate was destroyed shortly after the album was released and the record company went out of business. Original pressings sometimes go for over a grand. There were a couple reissues in the late 90s and early 00s using the needle-drop method with lots of Cedar noise reduction, which literally ruined the sound and ambiance of the album. A South Korean label, Big Pink/Beatball, issued a CD taken from one of these reissues and should be avoided. When I communicated with Michael in 2010 he was not aware of the Beatball release. Fortunately, a pristine original Guinn LP was located and provided for an excellent reissue by Anthology/Mexican Summer in 2015, with full permission of Michael Angelo Nigro. This release was also limited to 300 copies and includes an accompanying 7” record with three songs, one of which did not appear on the LP. Later in 2015, Lion Productions issued a double CD, again with full authorization of the artist, which includes both this album and a never-officially released second LP, “A Sorcerer’s Dream,” plus a third LP, “Nuts”, which was released under the name Michael Nitro. This double-CD release of the three LPs was made possible with the assistance of the late Patrick (The Lama) Lundborg (Acid Archives editor and author of the book, Psychedelia), Aaron Milenski (contributor to The Acid Archives book), Mike Stax (Ugly Things magazine), and Vincent Tornatore (Lion Productions).

So, how does it sound? It sounds both retro and ahead of its time all at once. Keep in mind this was recorded and issued in 1977. It did not fit that period, musically, hence it went nowhere. Besides, it was very limited in its exposure with such a small pressing.  There is a Paul McCartney influence both in voice and melodicism. Perhaps this is an indirect influence, since he sounds even closer to Emitt Rhodes, who himself, was influenced by The Beatles, and McCartney in particular. However, that is where the similarity ends. Michael Angelo’s songs are more “dreamy” with references to Greek mythology and a darker, romantic, and even suicidal longing. There are flashes of the late 60s Los Angeles sound but then there are new innovations overlapping Middle Eastern scales with 60s Donovan-like psychedelia coupled with an aggressive guitar, pointing to a newer sound from which perhaps Big Star and REM in the 80s and My Bloody Valentine, Lush, and other shoegaze bands in the early 90s took their cues. Yet, the album is significantly an understatement through-and-through; beautiful, but not flamboyant, leaving a sense of longing for some form of resolution. His second album, “A Sorcerer’s Dream,” sounds like an extension of the first. His Michael Nitro album is a bit more aggressive but it certainly has his trademark sound and songwriting style. Here is “Future,” the closing track from his first album:https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=TwnNML4uyy0

Mistress Mary – Housewife

A few years ago, I watched a cache of original copies of this LP in sealed, mint condition go for nearly a half a grand each at various online auction houses. In the meantime, Companion Records had been promising for years to obtain permission to re-release it, making it more accessible to those of us who were curious to hear what all the fuss was about. My waiting paid off. In 2016, Companion Records released the LP, along with a digital download of the album with three bonus unreleased tracks. The original album was issued on the Afton Co. Records label, from Hacienda Heights, California, in 1969. Note that Mistress Mary’s real name is Mary Afton. It is rumored that Roger McGuinn and other members of The Byrds are the backup band on the tracks “And I Didn’t Want You” and “My Country Boy”. We now know that the 5-day session was conducted at Darrel Cotton’s Ion Studio, and the session was led by Cotton and steel guitarist Carl Walden. Also, one Byrds alumni is identified as Clarence White. Early rockabilly artist, Johnny Redd, also participated in the sessions. It is said that Mary was dissatisfied with The Byrds’ treatment of her songs, making them sound more rock than country. While her singing isn’t on the level of the leading country singers of her day, it isn’t bad at all. And, her songwriting, while a bit quirky and definitely unique, is solid. Being from Southern California, her singing has a softer touch than most country artists of the era. Mistress Mary – Housewife rides the picket fence line between a real people vanity recording and a commercially viable country sound. The back cover shows her being a true “Los Angeles housewife,” sporting a black negligée while mopping the floor and preparing a meal.  The liner notes are hand-written, and Mary describes herself as “Wife – Mother – Civic Leader – etc. – Artiste,” and she refers to “the more intelligent and perceptive of her in-laws.” This should give an idea of what her lyrics are like. The original pressing was only 500 copies, with about 50 of these going to key people in the music industry, including Elvis Presley. Mary Afton’s efforts to break into the country charts were met with little interest. So, after a couple years with no “bites” she moved on to other interests, including auto mechanics instructor for women, female self-defense instructor, belly dance instructor, and disco dance instructor. She continues to live in Southern California, and she loves throwing huge pool parties for hundreds of people at a time in her back yard. Here is “And I Didn’t Want You” from her LP:  https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=9Dnd94lsrBs

Palmer Rockey – Scarlet Love/Rockey’s Style

In the “anals” of recorded music, the Palmer Rockey story is one of the most amazing and incredulous. I was amazed, and quite pleased to find that Trunk Records located a mint copy of the first version of this album, Scarlet Love, and re-issued it on both LP and CD in 2013 (but using the third release, Rockey’s Style, title). I purchased the CD version soon after it was issued. This past year I was very fortunate that the Mr. Weird and Wacky blogsite had the other music version for download, and it is a crisp, clear copy. The original pressings of this album were in 1979, 1980, and 1981, all on the AB-Rock Music label. It is unclear how many were pressed, but with the scarcity of originals, it could not have been many. There were three pressings but as far as I can tell, only two variants of the music. The first version is what was re-released on the Trunk label in 2013. This version has two songs that do not appear on the other two versions, “Sunday Love” and “Are You Lonesome Tonight”. The second and third versions are musically the same but the second retains the “Scarlet Love” album title while the third release is retitled “Rockey’s Style” and both have slightly different sleeves. The latter two versions have a slightly different mix of some of the songs that appear on all three versions, and have two songs that do not appear on the first release, “Love, Love Rock” and “Love Is Deep Inside,” and one song title was changed from “Rock It Nice N’ Easy” to “Rock It”. There are three variants of the sleeves but none of them match the songs and sequencing on the first release. And to further the confusion, the album sleeves provided no guarantee which version of the LP would be found inside.

The music is what would be considered Twilight Zone crooner lounge, with some lounge rock thrown in for good measure. Little is known about the sessions. According to liner notes on the CD, it is rumored that the recording “sessions were fraught with tension and madness.” The session musicians are professional. Palmer Rockey’s singing is not. It is obvious his voice is untrained, but he tries to sound hip, sometimes attempting to imitate Elvis, and at other times attempting to sound like classic crooners such as Dean Martin. His singing is unique and some lyrics sound like they are improvised. All songs were written by Palmer Rockey. The songwriting is fair to good musically, but corny and weak lyrically. Sometimes the lyrics are just weird, meaning it is right down my alley! One song, “Rock It,” sounds like it was designed to be used in aerobics classes. We don’t know if Palmer Rockey played any of the instruments during the session, but my bet is that he didn’t, otherwise he would have stated it on the album cover.

The album is supposed to be a soundtrack to his second movie, “Scarlet Love.” It is suggested that this movie evolved from his first, “It Happened on Sunday,” also titled in some sources “It Happened One Weekend,” from 1974. He was working on edits to the second movie for years, even after the last release of the LP. On his Lysergia Website, the late Patrick Lundborg provided many hilarious and interesting details about the making of the movie. It seems Mr. Rockey swindled many wealthy, elderly Dallas, Texas women to obtain the money for his endeavors. He maintained a post office box where he was known to read “mail from Hollywood” out loud for those passing by. When approached in the 90s about the album and movie, he informed the inquirer to never contact him about this again. He passed away in 1996. He was married to Mary Ann “Cookie” Carson in 1968 when she was just 21 and he was 47. They were divorced in 1977, prior to the release of the movie and soundtrack. Cookie Ann Rockey recently wrote a book about her life with him, “The Rock: The Life and Crimes of Palmer Rockey.” Here is the song “Scarlet Warning” from the LP:  https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=UdsJ1greKh8

Frunk – If at First…

Another rarity that sells for a grand today is an album that could possibly be the first karaoke album ever produced. It contains the music of five young women in their 20s singing along to some popular songs of their era. It was recorded in the private studio (Vampire Studio, Haddonfield, NJ) of Peter Graulich, who was the brother-in-law to one of the singers.  It was pressed in a limited quantity of 25 on the RPC label. This would have been beyond all possibility of being heard let alone being owned by this Popeswami if it had not been for Peter Graulich discovering that he had 8 original Frunk LPs stashed away. He came to my attention when I saw him selling them on eBay for around $600 each. He used the funds to reissue the LP, again in limited quantity. It is one of these re-pressings that I was able to obtain. In his own words, here is how the recording came about:

“The album was released in the Summer of 1972. There are 8 copies available and we believe the initial pressing was 25 records, not 100. We have also located the original Master as received from Frankford-Wayne Recording Labs at 212 N. 12th St. in Philadelphia PA. I have also located the original master tape on which I recorded all of the sessions, then mixed them down via a TEAC 4 channel mixer, to the final set. The record was recorded on a Teac 3340 10 1/2″ reel 4 track recorder. The tape is exactly as it was when it was delivered to the pressing company. If you would like details of how the record was created and the group formed: Back in 1971 I was just getting into serious electronics and high end audio was my current compulsion. I was living in Haddonfield and I build a recording studio in my basement. One day my sister in law and her friends were visiting and I was playing “500 miles”, Peter, Paul & Mary in the studio and they came in and started singing. It sounded interesting, so I suggested we record. Over the next few weeks we recorded many takes on my Teac 3340 4 channel recorder. As there was no karaoke in those days, I dubbed the girls voices over the original music from the turntable. Eventually we got “acceptable” material. I mixed it all down and created a 10” reel with the master on it (which I still have) and took it to Frankfort Recording Labs and had 25 copies made. We created covers, pasted them up and poof! We had a record. I gave the girls each a 3 copies and asked if they could sell them (for $5 each to help off set the cost of the project. I think my Mom bought the only copy sold, but I felt sorry for her and gave her a refund)…”

The five singers were Dee Graulich, Mary Anderson, Kathleen Anderson, Mary Anna Baptiste, and Terry Wadlinger. Peter Graulich was audio engineer and producer. Larry Viarengo was responsible for the cover design. The music sounds a bit eerie to me, hearing the original music with different singers. But there are a few giveaways such as hearing Paul Simon singing in the background on “El Condor Pasa”. Their singing is not always synchronized with the recording, but it really was never intended to be a commercial release. It was definitely for themselves, their friends and family. Here is Frunk singing along with Karen Carpenter on “Close to You”:  https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=HXMHSJjUrDY

In Closing

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I did not discuss any local outings in this post. But believe me, I have been seeing some great stuff in San Diego. I will write about it later. This will be my final post before the presidential inebriation. In the meantime, stay safe and warm.