Segarini: Frazier Mohawk – Send in the Clown Part Two

Part One can be found here.

Paxton Lodge was a remote mountain retreat that became a famed legendary gathering place and recording studio for some about-to-be well known musicians of the late 1960’s and early 1970’s, including Jackson Browne. Frazier Mohawk (Barry Friedman), with support from Elektra boss Jac Holzman, was the moving force behind the lodge. At times the lodge began to take on the quality of a commune, with musicians and visitors constantly moving in and out for brief and longer stays.

To call Paxton ‘remote’ is to call Kate Upton ‘attractive’; the adjective doesn’t come close to describing the subject.

As you can see from the picture, Paxton Lodge (its brown roof barely visible at the upper end of the road on the right) was on a virtual island perched in the Feather River accessible only by a bridge from the 2 lane highway that wended its way around the property. The closest outpost of civilization was miles down the road in Keddie, California, a gas station, general store, and little else. Add to this a phalanx of libertarian hippie intellectuals, musicians, and Cadets of the Space variety, and you get what amounts to Lord of the Flies as a sit-com. The Elektra Rock Ranch was a moment in time that hovered somewhere between Friday the 13th and Meatballs, A summer/winter camp that could have gone either way. It was The Shining with a laugh track.

How, you have to ask yourself, did this outpost of hipness come to be, how did these young, city-dwelling revolutionaries end up on what might as well have been the dark side of the moon? The answer is a combination of the vision of Frazier Mohawk, and the intuitive and resourceful (not to mention supportive and artistic), Jac Holzman, that’s  how.

On top of that, there was Jackson Browne’s innocent, angelic good looks that helped populate the place

From Jack Holzman’s wonderful book, Follow the Music:

JANICE KENNER: How did I get to Paxton? I’m in Laguna Beach with Connie Di Nardo, and Jackson calls.

CONNIE DI NARDO: We were in this commune that had something to do with Timothy Leary—

JANICE KENNER:—The Brotherhood of something. They had the first head shop in California, called Mystic Arts, incense and paraphernalia and clothes and beads. I didn’t know I was on the cutting edge, all I knew is that I just happened to be there. I worked in the bead store. I took so many psychedelics—I mean I was just hallucinating. We had these little trays of beads, beautiful, they were constantly flying through the air.

So Jackson calls: “Come to Paxton.” I said, “How am I going to get there?” Jackson says, “It’s all arranged, your tickets. Just go to Elektra and pick them up.” I said, “Well, I’m not coming unless I can bring Connie.” He says, “Bring her, the more the merrier.” So I say to Connie, “What do we have to lose? Let’s go up there. This’ll be fun.” And I was so in love with Jackson.

I had fallen in love with him when I was just at the end of high school. I was obsessed with him. That’s all I wanted to do, was be with him. I was living with my parents in Seal Beach and he would come down. He had nothing, just a Volkswagen bus. He had big holes in his shoes. He slept on our couch one night, and my mom was like, “Oh, the long hair; oh, my God, what has she brought home now?”

We were just two people who fell in love very young. When we lived together he weighed about ninety pounds, wet, and he had his guitar, and he got his first piano and taught himself to play, and he stayed at home writing songs, from the moment he woke up to the moment he went to sleep. He was a musician, and I kind of feel that was his destiny, there was nothing else he could have done.

CONNIE DI NARDO: We would go see him sing in these little guitar shops, and there would be like twenty people, mostly women of course. Just Jackson and his guitar, and we would all be in tears, because he would be singing these sad songs that he wrote that would be just beautiful.

JAC: We had signed Jackson as a songwriter when he was seventeen.

JANICE KENNER: I always knew in my heart that Jackson was incredibly talented. To me that was such a special gift, magic, and I have to admit I was like a moth to a flame, before Paxton and again after Paxton. While he was writing I would draw all these pictures, and I wore these beautiful vintage Eighteen Nineties clothes, I got them at thrift stores, I had a real collection, and I would walk around like Greta Garbo, Jackson saying, “Take them off and throw them on the floor and draw nude,” and he’d be there playing the guitar. It was so amazingly romantic.

We were on and off, off and on, but always passionately drawn to each other. When he called to say, “Come to Paxton,” we were apart, but it took me about three seconds to decide.

JACKSON BROWNE: It was kind of like bringing in the dance hall girls for the miners.

CONNIE DI NARDO: They did their music, and we did our little housekeeping thing. They ate and we cooked.

MARTY RICHMOND: The first thing, when the girls got here they baked enormous batches of cookies which, when we went to town, we would hand out to the merchants, all prettily wrapped, and the sheriff wouldn’t touch them, he was sure they had marijuana or acid in them.

JACKSON BROWNE: The girls liked to scandalize the people in Quincy by going into town wearing leopard-skin tights.

CONNIE DI NARDO: Leopard Capris, and aviator sun glasses and high heels. We didn’t wear underwear, at least not all the time.

JACKSON BROWNE: They would go there in all their glory. Janice—really beautiful, incredibly kinky blonde hair like a lion’s mane—looked like Jean Harlow just got out of the car and is now shopping in your mini-mart. Gorgeous open-faced beauty. A wildly exquisite girl. She imparted such goodness, like a Marilyn thing, this goodness-and-badness sexiness, but cleverly. She dazzled you. There was like a trail of open jaws as she left the market and got back in the car.

JANICE KENNER: They would cross the street not to pass us, because we were not the norm up there at all, we were an aberration.

JACKSON BROWNE: There was sort of a legend in Quincy about the goings on up at the old hotel.

CONNIE DI NARDO: A lot of us wanted to sleep with Ned. One time we told Ned his room was on fire so we could get up to his bedroom. I think he knew his room wasn’t on fire.

NED DOHENY: After I moved out of a cabin and into the house, I selected one of the rooms in the attic because it had gables. We labored and dragged in a tub. We discovered that by moving several of the boards in my bathroom you could look down into the bathroom below. So not only did I have my own tub, I had a commanding view of the other tub. And I saw things that were real showstoppers.

WILLIE MURPHY: There were all these hippie girls and stuff that would wanna give guys baths.

CONNIE DI NARDO: Lottie Olcott was there when Janice and I came. Pale skin, blue eyes, turned-up nose, straight blonde hair. Small-boned, like a bird—she had the tiniest wrists in the world, you could put your finger round it. Real long legs, all legs, real ballerina-looking. She had always been a dancer. Her room was on the top floor, and they had fixed up a barre and a mirror for her. She was really just light and airy, sweet and gentle. Real hippie.

DAVID ANDERLE: I have a picture from Paxton, of a couple of the girls that were real friends, and they were, like, nude, posed and happy, and, you know, this is it.

WILLIE MURPHY: There were a lot of people’s friends there, people I’d call hangers-on.

MARTY RICHMOND: Friends of Frazier’s who came up from LA mainly on the lure of a free party.

FRAZIER MOHAWK: There were a couple of motel maids. There was one girl who wrote some of the strangest songs, who was a librarian.

JACKSON BROWNE: Annie the Junkie came up. She lived in Laurel Canyon. She was married to a jazz musician. He basically lived in New York and sent her money. She had these beautiful mulatto children. She was responsible, she always had someone looking after the kids. The kids didn’t know she was a junkie. She was smart, so smart and good, a soulful woman, but strung out, a casualty of having been exposed to jazz and drugs, beautiful, soulful, with pancake makeup on the back of her hands. She was going to kick at Paxton.

NED DOHENY: It was the first time I had really been away from home. My parents probably pictured some sort of organized summer camp situation, people in cowboy hats and horses. It was definitely a lot more than that. It was a strange time for a human being to try and figure himself out. Most of us had the discipline of children. Our attention was grabbed by all sorts of strange things as we were seduced first in one direction and then another. Traditionally the late teens and early twenties are spent in college. We were in a very strange college. A big fireplace filled with roaring logs, nymphets dancing around, ferocious marijuana.

WILLIE MURPHY: In the middle of the living room table there was a great big wooden box that was always full of hashish and pot and stuff. It was a lot of fun hanging out, staying up to seven or eight or nine in the morning, talking to people, getting high.

MARTY RICHMOND: Roger Di Fiore was the champion joint roller as well as being the official chief cook. Roger was a friend and confidant of Barry Friedman throughout many of his early Hollywood exploits; at one point they had a direct phone line between their houses to eliminate the effort of dialing.

The Paxton “inmates.” (back, left to right) Lottie Olcott, Sandy Konikoff, Jack Wilce, Marty Richmond, Jac. (front, left to right) Steven Solberg, Jackson Browne, Ned Doheny, Rolf Kempf, Peter Hodgson. and just out of view, Frazier Mohawk on the right holding a rifle.

Roger was one of the great road managers for rock and roll bands. He could keep the group on the road, in the right city, at the right time on the right day—difficult—while keeping them out of jail after the destruction of a motel room—more difficult. The last tour had turned his hair prematurely grey. He was in early retirement. He came along to Paxton for the rest and relaxation he sorely needed, spending many a long hard day lying on his bed listening to his large collection of audio tapes of WC Fields movies over and over, laughing in the same places over and over. And he could and frequently did spend hours rolling joints, turning out as many as fifty at a sitting, each a perfect clone of the last.

He introduced us to the morning joint syndrome by each night placing two freshly rolled joints by each of our beds, one for before bed, one for upon waking. Often this meant trying to get up several times, each time smoking a little more and drifting off again. It’s amazing that neither the lodge nor any of us were burned to the ground. Awaking in this way certainly does put a different light on the day. Following the morning joint, the after-breakfast joint, then the mid-morning joint, then the lunch joint . . . The day is in effect over before it begins. We went through a kilo and a half of grass a week.

JACKSON BROWNE: To tell you the truth, I don’t remember making much music. I suppose we must have, but I don’t remember. It wasn’t wild drugs all the time, mostly just a daily haze, but I don’t remember making much music.

NED DOHENY: If Frazier Mohawk had been smart, he would have broken the Paxton day up into a boot camp—nice, but a boot camp. He would have infused it with a sense of discipline. But Frazier was a campaigning loony who wanted to draw people into his orbit.

MARTY RICHMOND: We felt we were actors in a movie with a slightly deranged director.

JANICE KENNER: It was always kind of an amazing phenomenon to me. What is going on here, really? Occasionally you’d lapse into consciousness and you’d go, “Wow!”

NED DOHENY: Like the time Sandy recorded a percussion track with a microphone up his ass.

JACKSON BROWNE: Sandy Konikoff was a great drummer. He had toured with Dylan, he had played with Ronnie Hawkins and the Hawks, he hung around with the Band. This older, wiser, crazy, great guy. Probably the craziest and sanest of us all. Kind of like the Neal Casady hipster drummer—Sal Mineo as Gene Krupa. Always talking about a tailor he knew in Montreal or something Ronnie Hawkins had done. Those guys were famous revelers. We needed a drummer, and Sandy didn’t have a gig, he was cooking hot dogs at a stand in Orange County. He was a handsome guy. Had a beard. His hair was thinning. He wore this great Nigerian police officer’s helmet, almost like a Shriners thing. Around the lodge at midnight you would hear a knocking sound outside, and it would be Sandy naked except for his Ray-Bans, baying at one of the girl’s windows.

JOHN HAENY: We used a very narrow microphone in a plastic bag. I put the Cornhusker’s lotion on, and found the masking tape, and got Sandy to take his clothes off and go out in the middle of the studio and play hand jive while we recorded him with the microphone up his rear end. ‘Los Stimulantos,’ we called it.

JACKSON BROWNE: I had been to the movies in Quincy, I came back, and in the dining room they’re doing an overdub on somebody’s tune, they’re motioning us to be quiet, and there’s Sandy with a cord coming out of his ass, and he’s hamboning—

NED DOHENY:—Slapping his leg and chest alternately. It’s a rural American rhythm. Glen Campbell does it real good, Mac Davis does it real good. A most unusual sound, coming out of Sandy. He looked like an electric rat.

JANICE KENNER: Tape and hair and balls, and I’m thinking, “This is Dylan’s drummer?”

JACKSON BROWNE: The playback sounded pretty good, actually. When Sandy went with the Joe Cocker tour, Mad Dogs and Englishmen, they put it on the poster, where they had a bit about each person: SANDY KONIKOFF—PURVEYOR OF THE SPHINCTERPHONE.

JOHN HAENY: I have the stereo mix. The track is called ‘?.’ You can hear when the mike fell out and we put it back in.

JACKSON BROWNE: Of course it was Haeny’s idea. Haeny was having the time of his life.

JOHN HAENY: Actually I believe it was Frazier’s brilliant idea. Typically Frazier came up with the idea and then went into his bedroom and locked the door.

And it all came crashing down…

MARTY RICHMOND: The boys felt they were ready to record.

JANICE KENNER: The equipment was all in the dining room. Connie and I were the big cheerleaders, running up and down the dining room table. “Go, boys, go!” And they were all whang, whang, whang.

MARTY RICHMOND: Frazier decided to send Jac a telegram saying the time was ripe. We phoned the telegram in as a night letter to be delivered to New York the next morning. And the following afternoon, who should come strutting through the front door but Jac. It was his first visit to the lodge, and for that matter most of the Paxton people had not the vaguest idea of who this overdressed dandy was. Someone actually challenged his right to come walking into our house. He replied that it was his party. Frazier came to the rescue.

JAC: He handed me a brownie. I should have known better. It was tasty and loaded with grass.

JANICE KENNER: When Jac was coming—it’s like, what do you do? Here the grownup is coming, you know. I only had one experience with him before this, coming back from a concert, and somehow it ended up that I had to be in this sports car with Jac. I was so uncomfortable, because he was—I had tons of respect for him, but it was impossible to know this man, he had this pale skin, this dark hair, these dark eyebrows, he had on this dark jacket, and he was just stiff. I was so intimidated. So now, do you try to impress him, or what do you do? I was really like beside myself. My role, being the Cancer that I am, I fell right into the mommy thing. “Oh, he’s coming! We’d better serve something nice. Or should we serve bologna sandwiches so he doesn’t think we’re being extravagant? Nah—we’re going to have Cornish game hens.”

Cornish game hens—why this particular menu was chosen, I don’t know. They just arrived. There were like a million of them, these little dead raw chickens, they were like frigging everywhere. All I knew was this better look good. It was kind of a groveling thing, almost, kowtowing. I’ve never been more intimidated or uptight in my whole life, than at that moment when I realized I had to serve a meal to this man who was paying for all this, and who I felt some compassion for, and guilt. I was probably one of the sanest ones there, I still had this little tiny sense of responsibility in my mind: “Somebody’s footing the bill for all this, and I’m having too much fun. Something should be done. I should organize.”

The kitchen was huge, hotel size, everything was Flintstone size. Three sinks like horse troughs. Every pan—if you fried eggs, you had to fry fifty eggs. The oven. So the Cornish game hens didn’t take that long to cook. It was a timing thing. But I can’t tell you the stress.

JAC: The cooking aroma that hit my nose was terrific. I looked into the industrial oven. Row upon row of Cornish game hens, like toy soldiers, browning away. A lot of them. More than should have been there, considering the fifteen or twenty people I thought were at the lodge. But by that time I was beginning to see doubles of everything, so I couldn’t be sure.

JANICE KENNER: I think probably everyone, by the time dinner was served, was too uptight to eat. I have a vision of Jac sitting there alone with this Cornish game hen, and twenty-five of them on either side, with no one sitting there because everyone was too fucked up to sit down, or too embarrassed, or no one wanted to explain what we had gotten done or hadn’t gotten done.

WILLIE MURPHY: Frazier went all out, whole hog, put on this huge dinner. The understanding I got was that it backfired because Jac was rather taken aback at the way Frazier was spending his money. Jac seemed very quiet, didn’t say a lot. That night he had a long private meeting with Frazier, with people going around, mugging, “They’re in the next room,” wondering if it was a big heavy thing.

MARTY RICHMOND: I found Jac on the second floor, leaning up against the wall. I said, “Is everything OK?” And he said, “Well, I’m kind of afraid to move.”

JAC: I thought a bath might help, the healing power of water. Marty had installed me in a corner room upstairs which had a tub, and ten minutes later a young lady came in, climbed into the tub with me and started to wash my back with serious soap and a stiff brush.

JANICE KENNER: Let me just think if I can really recount what happened that evening. OK, here we go. We decided to ply Jac with drug-filled Cornish hens. There were dancing girls, then there was a bath, and there were women with no clothes on, and Jac was like, “No, I can’t, I can’t, wait, please, no,” and they cajoled him, I swear to God he fought, he was so resistant, but somehow they managed to get him in this tub. Now, little did anyone know that Ned Doheny had a hole in the roof and was watching the whole time, peering down into this tub where Jac, completely naked, stoned on Cornish game hen, was being bathed by naked nubile young girls.

JAC: I have absolutely no memory of this, Your Honor.

JANICE KENNER: I was told it happened. It doesn’t surprise me. Barry would have done it. Barry would have dressed up like a girl and bathed him, I swear to God he would have, and I swear to God I think that probably happened.

JAC: A few hours into the evening, I regained my equilibrium and finally got down to my purpose for being there. I wanted to hear some music.

MARTY RICHMOND: The boys sat down to play for Jac. It was in effect an audition, because Jac carried with him the ultimate veto power from which there was no appeal. Already impressed by the speed with which he had answered their summons—in fact Jac never did get the telegram, he was coming anyway—they played their hearts out.

JAC: Paxton was an extension, on a very grand and loopy scale, of early Elektra—recording artists in their own environments, in homes that looked similar to the lodge, old houses with stuffed furniture and lamps with their orange-brown shades askew. That’s how I made my first records. This was not a foreign scene to me.

I sat quietly and listened deep, the Big Listen, with all the concentration I could muster. It was the kind of bravura performance that comes when artists are eager to please, and know in their gut this is make or break. I had to sign off on the music or it was over, the good times would no longer roll. What I heard was extraordinary, and I was much relieved. Laurie Anderson once said that writing about music is like dancing about architecture, but here are some words for what I was hearing: a solid variety of music, good melodies wrapped around real poetry, and the performances, especially Jackson’s, had sweetness, spontaneity and energy. Just terrific.

That evening was one of those moments when I felt deep down that I would have liked to be a musician, able to be in that room and play something easy, perhaps a bass, where I wouldn’t make a fool of myself. The best thing I could do was stay out of the way. I wasn’t their age, or living that life, and I wasn’t a musician. But I could give what they needed, permission and support.

MARTY RICHMOND: Jac loved it so much that he fell down, literally. Victory! The boys were all aflutter with plans of how they were going to spend the millions that their music would generate.

JAC: I had nibbled on another cookie while listening to the music. Suddenly I realized that I hadn’t called Nina in the last few days. The Paxton phone was a rotary dial, and I remember working very hard to recall my New York number, 1 plus the area code, plus the number. Putting those three elements together demanded concentration. There were some 8s and 9s in the number, and the springloaded rotary dial would return very, very slowly, each click, sharp and distinctive, taking f-o-r-e-v-e-r. I had chartered a plane for the next day, and I had no idea if I would be in shape to crawl aboard and travel.

NED DOHENY: In the morning we got up and staggered down to breakfast, and Frazier decided he would eat fire for us, having been a fire eater in the circus. So he fashioned these batons out of coat hangers and wrapped them with twine and got white gas, which burns the coldest of any petroleum-based lighter fluid, and he put it out in his mouth. We were all hugely impressed. Then he walked out into the middle of the room, took an enormous mouthful, and blew a great ball of fire. Well, he had gotten too much in his mouth, and it came down the stream towards his face, and he was backing away with look of horror, and all of a sudden his face burst into flame. I was transfixed. When he came up from behind the couch, he looked like he had been out in the sun for an hour and a half, and his luxurious Pancho Villa mustache was singed down to a little triangle.

FRAZIER MOHAWK: Jac put me out. He threw something over me. It might have been a fat person.

NED DOHENY: Jac was so pale he looked bloodless. He was the color of powdered snow. He went out on the front porch for some time, while his composure returned.

Now I ask you, if you had just seen the producer of your recording project light his face on fire. . .

MARTY RICHMOND: I drove Jac out to catch his charter, to this tiny airstrip in the mountains. He was strutting around in a leather coat—he could strut great. It started to snow. There was a little office, locked. Jac got it open and went in and turned on the radio so he could talk to the pilot, who was wondering was anyone there. The mountains were socked in, and the pilot said he couldn’t land unless he could see the runway. So Jac went out and stared at the clouds. And suddenly the clouds parted. The plane came down through the hole, Jac jumped in, they went back through the hole, the clouds smacked together and no one could land for another two weeks. I was impressed—this guy can part the clouds.

JACKSON BROWNE: I think Frazier was a flawed guy in that he resorted to manipulations and so forth that he didn’t have to do. He was into being the guy that controlled the scene. It was all to do with some plan, but it didn’t have anything to do with me. It was all about himself. He would give you a little bit of this, keep something back. Not good for anything that was organized around people’s interactions. Music is a hard thing, and command in music is a hard thing to pull off, to put people together, but at the same time let it breathe.

FRAZIER MOHAWK: It wasn’t very well organized. Everyone kind of decided where they wanted to go on their own, and the general consensus was everyone would just kind of go along with it. That was the concept. But everybody wanted to go to a different place at a different time. And there were a lot of people in different—a lot of creative people in a lot of different moods at different times. So it made it very difficult.

JANICE KENNER: There were all these little cliques. There was a Jackson team, each person had their team, either a musician who had bonded with them, or someone they brought up who was with them. There were moments when everyone would kind of go off in their own little groups, going, “I can’t work with this person,” or “This is not happening.” But as far as everyone in the entire place sitting down and saying, “OK, what a joke, this isn’t working, let’s let him off the hook and get outta here and go home”—that never came up. Everyone wanted to stay. Because why wouldn’t you stay? What young musician in their situation wouldn’t have stayed in that place? And they were just blaming it on each other or on someone else. (Pictured above: Jackson, Sandy, Ned, and Rolf. December 1968)

DAVID ANDERLE: And it wasn’t just about the music. There were certain hatreds, certain bitternesses, and people playing games with each others’ heads. Multiple group situations where you put groups together, and there’s multiple romances, and all those games start coming, and so much of the day is spent figuring out what you’re going to do at night, and playing the games of position and possession and domination. It was just rampant. What was the blonde girl’s name who was causing everybody the grief? Janice—oh, beautiful Janice. Everybody loved Janice. And Frazier Mohawk, who’s like a master of the macabre, is in charge of this circus . . .

MARTY RICHMOND: Hanging on a thread of distant reality, life in the country began to take on its own shape and design, and more and more we all felt that we were caught up in events beyond our comprehension or ability to control. Time had flown away and we were in limbo. You had to hope that at any moment a little door in the hall would open and someone would jump out and yell, “Cut!”

FRAZIER MOHAWK: I don’t know if it was any different than a health club is now. At that time it didn’t seem like a bizarre idea, or a novel idea. To me, anyway. I mean, there were a lot of dentists taking acid then. It was a good place, maybe, to unwind and to puke out all of those things that you had been sort of saving up in the Fifties.

There were a lot of people who came up to kind of look at it. There was a guy, a psychologist who was a contributing editor to Psychology Today. We invited him up and he stayed for a weekend and just observed what was going on. We thought he might be interested in looking at it from the standpoint of—of whatever the creative hope of the place was. But we never heard back from the guy. He kind of fled in the night.

NED DOHENY: Winter was coming on. I was from LA. I had never seen snow. I watched the first snowflakes coming down and the snow banks piling up with my mouth wide open.

MARTY RICHMOND: We adopted a Christmas tree, a perfectly shaped fir, growing out of the hillside by the side of the road. We got icicles and some balls and decorated it, then got lights and hooked them to a car battery. We went back and forth into town, turning it on and off, till some trucker rammed it.

JANICE KENNER: When it snowed, the dogs would burrow in the snow. They were Alaskan, this is their instinctive thing, genetically. But these are LA dogs, what do they know? They’re instinctively burrowing in the snow, but they’re freezing their LA asses off, so we’d go find them, and they’d be like, “Brrr, we don’t know why we’re here, get us outta here.”

MARTY RICHMOND: With the cold weather, more time was spent inside. Cabin fever made its appearance, and some had more severe cases than others. Then there was a biblical forty-day period when it rained or snowed every day. And a ten-day period when, had we wanted to, we couldn’t leave. A slide took out the railroad track, and it filled in so much of the river with rubble and rock that the river took out the road. And the phone was along the railroad, so it was down. And the electricity.

So we entered the winter of our discontent. Outside, days of great beauty. Inside, nights of dark dreadfulness.

MARTY RICHMOND: One of the conclusions I came to about Frazier was that he had a great fear of success. As soon as it looked like a project was destined to succeed, he began to throw up hurdles in its way, either bringing it down around him or having it slip through his fingers. After Buffalo Springfield was put together, they grew tired of his antics and in effect fired him. Frazier probably provoked them into it because he knew how good they were. This happened so many times as not to be the fates acting upon him. The law of averages is often fickle, but rarely perverse.

JANICE KENNER: Barry was always trying to be a professional in the music business, and do what was right, but he didn’t have the talent of music, he had the talent of manipulation and fancy, and there was this side to him that was so down and dirty, and he could kind of keep them separate, but so often they meshed.

JOHN HAENY: I was up there to record, to do the engineering, and Frazier was up there to produce. But Frazier at this point realized he had bitten off too much, he could not chew any more, and he retreated to his bedroom. He is the producer, and he is abandoning the whole recording project. I go up there. I tell him, “They’re saying, What’ll we do?” He says, “Record.” Many sessions he doesn’t come down, doesn’t grace us with his presence.

JACKSON BROWNE: If I tell you that was irresponsible, I would really mean it.

JOHN HAENY: Frazier would issue edicts from his room and you would come up. This meeting he was taking his bath. He said, “John, I want you to produce Jackson.” I said, “No. You shit in this bed, you’re gonna sleep in it. I would love to produce Jackson, but I’m not going to walk into a mess that’s this screwed up, this late in the game. I refuse. I will not do it.”

JANICE KENNER: Everyone knew it wasn’t working. No one wanted it to end, but yet everyone wanted—it was like, shoot the dog and put it out of its misery, but yet—

NED DOHENY: On New Year’s Eve Frazier had a nervous breakdown. I remember driving with Marty in The Mouse, Marty’s old grey 1948 Chevrolet, blankets across our legs, snow coming down, blinding, hitting the windshield, making it to the doctor’s to get a bunch of downers so Frazier could keep it together.

It was a pretty devastating period of time. Remove people from all things familiar and put them at the mercy of what was both a peculiar error and the company of eccentric people in a galaxy far, far away—there isn’t a lot of reality in that. It had no center.

We all imagined that we were the Beatles on some brave adventure. That part became tarnished, because if Frazier was the captain, the ship was in trouble from the start. I just couldn’t participate in it any more. And I was bounced from The Good Ship Lollipop. Jackson was sent by Frazier to ask me to leave.

JOHN HAENY: Jackson was thrown for a loop, everybody was thrown for a loop. Jackson and I used to have conversations. One night late, we sat up on the railroad track. An amazing experience. There had been an accident and they were having to redo a big stretch of track, and they were burning railroad ties, every fifty yards a pile of burning railroad ties in the night, as far as the eye could see. We were a little loaded too. Jackson talked about his confusion in life and the mess he was in at Paxton, and what was my advice. It was a magical night.

JACKSON BROWNE: There was one time I sort of bolted. I split. I ran down this driveway, across the bridge over the river, down the highway. I got about three miles down the road and turned around, completely out of breath, and looked at this thing. Years later, I thought maybe I should have just kept on going to LA and told Jac, “I can’t work like that. I’m part of the good people who had this smart idea, but this is not what anybody had in mind, and I don’t want to do this.” But I didn’t keep going. I went back and toed the line.

JOHN HAENY: I couldn’t see the album ever getting finished. It was pandemonium. I was through. I sat up for two days mixing down what was there, packed up the tapes and my dogs and went back to LA.

MARTY RICHMOND: Never to return.

JOHN HAENY: I was met at the airport by David Anderle. I fell into his arms in tears, went home, shut the doors, pulled the phones out, turned off the lights, and curled up in bed in the fetal position for about four days.

DAVID ANDERLE: I went up on a final fact-finding mission. It was a mess.

JAC: The music I had heard that night at Paxton was never going to make it onto a record, and if that was the case, it was time to put the wounded animal down. Most of the recording equipment and lights came back, but I’m sure there were items bought and paid for by Elektra, the ownership of which, shall we say, was deemed ambiguous by the Paxton participants.

MARTY RICHMOND: Somebody drove Frazier to Reno. There were commercial flights to LA all day long. But he chartered himself a private jet.

MARTY RICHMOND: We were told the album wouldn’t be put out.

JACKSON BROWNE: It was badly played and badly realized. We named it “Baby Browning,” after a stillborn child’s tombstone that we saw while we were walking around the local cemetery.

CONNIE DI NARDO: Janice and I saw the gravestone and thought, “Boy, what a weird thing.” But it was old, and maybe that’s what they did back then. So we wanted to take the others and show them. And we couldn’t find it anywhere. We looked everywhere, the place wasn’t that big, and we asked the caretaker. He was like a hundred-twelve years old, and he said, “I’ve been taking care of this place fifty years and I’ve never seen a Baby Browning.” One night at the lodge they were recording, and when they played the tape back there was what sounded like a baby cry. I thought, was it the cat? And they’re saying, “No, no, the cat is in town”—there were two cats, and they were both getting shots. We’d play it back, and there was the baby cry, and that’s when they were going to call it “Baby Browning.”

JACKSON BROWNE: Each of us was let go and given our publishing back. We all went down together, and Jac was out a lot of money—the lease on the lodge, months of food and drink and gasoline, the cost of building the studio and renting the remote truck, on and on.

JAC: Suzanne Helms had kept a running ledger. Still, it took almost a month to fully calculate the cost. We had to pay for repatriating people and shuttering the place.

FRAZIER MOHAWK: There was a bill for ten thousand in damages. I thought we had painted some of the rooms in a quite unique and colorful manner. One of the colors was Hashish Green. Truly. Imagine finding that in a store in Quincy. But I suppose for a hotel, an old hotel, they didn’t think that was appropriate. That was part of the bill. And we had sawed their big pink neon sign down. The guy was really upset about that.

JACKSON BROWNE: It was humbling to be back on the street and not have a record deal. I hung around my art school friends down at Pico and Vermont. I hit the Troubadour, the Monday night hoots. I’d show up and play, maybe sit around a bit, but I didn’t want to hang out. I wanted to be taken seriously.

My stopping smoking dope had a lot to do with my becoming serious as a musician. For many others, and lots of my best friends, it is not a factor in their musicianship. But for me, I think I had a huge identity crisis. It was after Paxton, after two or three years of walking barefoot around Laurel Canyon and sleeping in people’s living rooms and smoking the best dope on the planet at the time. I had this huge self-conscious flash. It was in Paul Rothchild’s house. Who the fuck are you, really? What are you doing? All these incredibly accomplished people—here Paul is one of the absolute best producers in rock and roll, Haeny is like this miracle engineer. And what do you do? What are you, some kind of hanger-on or something? This is bullshit. I haven’t done anything apart from sitting here getting loaded. What am I to these people? They’re nice to me, they think well of me, and they’ll get me high. And so what? Who am I? And what am I going to do in this life? A terrible paranoid flash. It made it really hard for me to continue getting high the way I had been, which was to stay blitzed. Smoking a lot of dope is a way to avoid coming to terms with work. So Paxton was actually a very instructive time.

JAC: Before the roof fell in at Paxton, two fine records did get produced there. One was Dave “Snaker” Ray’s “Bamboo,” with members of the house band and Will Donicht sharing vocals, guitar and tack piano. The other became a classic of the slightly spaced-out stomping school of roadhouse music. With Frazier producing, “Spider” John Koerner and Willie Murphy created “Running, Jumping, Standing Still,” named after a British short film of great charm that was a favorite of Spider’s. Allan Emig engineered, with Jack Wilce and Sandy Konikoff of the house band beautifully integrated. The credits read: Recorded at Elektra’s Paxton Lodge on the Feather River, Keddie, California.

Barry/Frazier was like a rascally remittance man. You’d send him an ocean away, saying, “Never darken my door again,” but there’s a secret delight when he shows up unexpectedly at the old country estate, and you are forgiving, because he brings an excitement to life. What I admired about Frazier was his ability to set up a good game. That was my talent too: to provide the atmosphere, direction and support for people to play in a game of my devising, that worked for me and for them.

Paxton was a Potemkin village. Without honesty the music never could have worked. I was smitten with the idea and never saw the subterfuge. It was a form of arrogance from which I learned, and with time’s passage the memory has softened. The Paxton tab came to seventy-five thousand dollars, the equivalent of perhaps a quarter million in late-Nineties dollars. Not a huge amount and not very big considering what could have been the reward had it worked. My long-standing friendship and affection for Marty Richmond and Jackson Browne are not to be calculated. And there was some terrific music, if only for one evening.

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Roxy, the band I had formed along with Jim DeCoq out of the ashes of The Family Tree, was invited up to Paxton to rehearse and relax for as long as we wanted. Most of the people that had been there from the beginning and through the stories you just read had already gone back to L.A. We probably passed some of them on the highway.

What was left were a few of the musicians (I remember meeting Sandy Konikoff there and hearing the Sphicterphone story from him first-hand), 2 women who had followed Koerner and Murphy from Wisconsin who considered themselves witches, but also managed the kitchen and baked fresh Cinnamon buns damn near every morning, and a few others. We heard more tales, told around the giant dining room table in hushed tones, spun with the reverence and awe of having been there, and always, always preceded and followed by a bow toward Frazier (and Jac) for making what can only be describes as a living hallucination actually come to pass. Other than the wild weekends and free love parties at Alexander Woolcott’s retreat during the heyday of the Algonquin Round Table, had any moment in Pop Culture been so clearly defined by a small group of people whose vision and fearlessness combined with a separation from the herd, by both acting out and predicting the relevance of social change, the audacity of youth, and the expansion of the borders of taste that was taking place, an experiment in a remote petri dish that can only happen through the confluence of the perfect opportunity, participants, and timing. This was literally a preview of the Woodstock Nation, which, of course was doomed to failure the same way the Rock Ranch was. Time in a bottle.

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Nevertheless, even though the principles were already out the door, Roxy felt the psychic repercussions and cosmic waves of the Frazier Mohawk Grand Experiment. A few instances….

There were two giant dogs. One night they were howling in the snow outside the door to the kitchen. Opening the door to see what the problem was, revealed that they had brought down a full grown buck deer and dragged it home. “Here, thanks for all the kibble”.

Waking up in the morning to the aroma of fresh baked goods and strong coffee. Wonderful. We rarely saw the women, they kept to themselves for the most part, only came out at night, and wore black and a lot of jewelry. A couple of the guys were afraid of them. I thought they were incredible. I remember one of them having beautiful long legs and a headful of flowing, thick, hair.

There was a killer sound system in the Main Lodge great room. DeCoq found a copy of Coltrane’s Ascension, considered a watershed album and as deep a jazz experiment as any before or since. For many nights, straight or fucked up on drugs, we listened to this thing. DeCoq, being a trained musician’s musician (who played miraculous guitar and above average French Horn), seemed to understand the cacophony. To me, it always sounded like a high school marching band trying in vain to get in tune and searching for a key to play in. Every time I see the opening for The Simpson’s, and it cuts to Lisa leaving the band room, I am reminded of Coltrane, this music, and those nights. Listen at your own risk to the link above.

The opening track on Frazier’s beautifully produced Koerner/Murphy album, Running Jumping Standing Still is called Red Palace. Most people on hearing this track would assume that Red Palace is just a metaphor for what the lyrics are talking about, but no, visitors to the Rock Ranch know it was a direct reference to the Main Lodge where this was recorded in the dining room/studio. Why the Red Palace? Well we found out the first time we dropped 140 mics of righteous Owsley acid one night. One of the residents directed me to a light switch on the wall. It was around midnight and big, fluffy flakes of snow were falling outside, drifting amicably down to the pines and property, as gently as snow can fall and in abundance. You could cup your hands over your face and, nose to a window, make out the ballet. On acid, it was a thing of beauty. My guide is grinning like a 5 year old at Christmas. “Flip the switch”, she says. I flip the switch. Suddenly, the landscape explodes in the brightest hot pink/red light I have ever seen. From almost total darkness to a fairyland forest as the light slowly built to intensity after I flipped the switch. Frazier and company had chopped down the main neon sign for the old railroad company resort, but they left the neon tubing that circled the building about 10 feet above the ground. It was attached to the lodge in plain sight, but we had never noticed it before. Watching the snow float down, the majestic snow covered trees, all bathed in an impossible red spectrum of ethereal light surely not meant for mere mortals…fuck yeah!

The top floor of the main lodge had been outfitted with a floor to ceiling mirrored wall with a room length Barre for one of the girls, who was a dancer. It was in this gabled room that Frazier and company had set up a ‘movie theatre’ with a projection screen at one end and a 16mm projector at the other. Various couches and pillows were scattered about for your viewing and reclining pleasure. Among the films were a raft of those Ludwig Von Drake Disney science documentaries hosted by the animated duck, and the Bell Science series hosted by Dr. Frank Baxter, usually with great Sci-Fi movie icon Richard Carlson. In this particular episode, they were joined by character actor Sterling Holloway, another Disney staple, who voiced (among others) the stork in Dumbo, and yet ANOTHER science related Disney character, Gyro Gearloose. When it comes to being completely wasted on drugs and unable to move, these films were outstanding entertainment. Sometimes, the screen was hard to see thanks to the fog of marijuana and hashish smoke that filled the room. There were 3 or 4 steps that led up to the open room from the hallway, and a bathroom just at the bottom of those stairs. One night, while watching Ludwig Von Drake explain jazz as only a duck can, one of our bunch, road manager (and DeCoq’s cribbage opponent…they once played to a million points…David Hanley, had to shed a tear for Nixon, so he headed to the bathroom. Being that almost all of us were on acid, plus smoking up a storm, I hazily wondered how he was even able to stand up, let alone leave the room. When David returned a few minutes later, he was as white as fresh snow. He didn’t say a word. When the reel ran out, I turned to him and asked what was wrong. He told us that he had walked into the stall, shutting the door behind him, took aim at the bowl, and relieved himself. After he zipped up, he reached behind him without looking, to open the stall door and come back to the movie. Instead of the hard wooden surface, his hand closed on what felt to him like a corduroy coat, the pliable, soft cloth giving and comfortable in his grasp. He thought someone had come into the bathroom after he had. He turned to see who was there.

It was no one.

Just the closed stall door.

He looked down at his hand. It was clenched around nothing.

Years later I was told of an old miner who was murdered with an axe in the basement of the main lodge and whose ghost is occasionally seen or sensed by visitors. Another tale told of an old woman who died in the rocking chair in the great room waiting for her husband to return home from a trip to Oroville…he never did, and she died waiting for him in that chair.

In 1981, there was a brutal murder of a family in Cabin 28 of a similar resort down the road in Keddie. The murders were never solved, and the tales of ghosts in the area still persist. Some say the murders were done in a cabin at the Rock Ranch, but they would be wrong.

We listened to Dave’s story, rolled a couple of joints, and put on the next reel of Ludwig Von Drake’s documentary, and carried on. We ain’t afraid a’ no ghosts….

Also in that bathroom, someone had posted a family tree chart of who was doing who at the Rock Ranch. Meticulously laid out and carefully hand lettered, it had entries like “Don – Mel and maybe Zoe. Several times – Bathtub  – bed – chair by window. Crabs.”

You had to be there. Feather River Canyon

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Back in L.A Frazier had been let go by Elektra, (the reasons why are legion, but only Jac knows for sure) and met Sandra Hurvitz, originally discovered by Frank Zappa and recorded by him on an album called “Sandy’s Album is Here at Last”, while producing her ground breaking LP “Primordial Love” for Reprise Records. They fell in love, they married, and Sandra became Essra Mohawk. She and Frazier remained friends even after they split. Born to Love.

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From Martin Melhuish’s Frazier Mohawk Bio: “After the time spent at Paxton Lodge Mohawk drifted northward to Canada. “All the people I had met who had come from Canada at that point- folks like Neil [Young], songwriter Rolf Kemp and producer Dennis Murphy- were people I was impressed with. I liked them and I wanted to go someplace that was safe and had nice people that weren’t crazy. I thought I was escaping to a saner world.” Mohawk spent time in Toronto initially with Rolf Kemp- he had written Hello Hooray for Alice Cooper- and, in his words, slept for three months. When he did emerge, he met the members of Toronto rock & blues band McKenna Mendelson Mainline, and ended up producing their album recorded as part of the infamous Mainline Bump and Grind Revue held at Toronto’s Victory Theatre in the early 70s.

During this period, Mohawk went into Montreal to produce a record with a band that featured Bob Yeomans, later with Jackson Hawke, and Tim Ryan at André Perry’s church studio. In the end, he decided to stay.

A Personal Note from Marty….

Andre and Yael Perry, who were the owners and operators of the legendary Le Studio located in the Laurentian Mountains just north of Montreal, have said that they don’t remember the circumstances under which they met Frazier Mohawk. He just arrived one day at Good Noise Productions, a company that they operated out of Old Montreal, which had been a magnet for a cast of colourful characters drawn to the inspirational creative energy of the place. Last October, during a three-day sojourn I had with the Perrys in Saint-Sauveur, Frazier came up in the conversation a number of times. They affectionately recalled that Frazier struck them as a talented and extremely brilliant young man. They also remembered being more intrigued by the fact that he had attended the Happy Valley School in L.A., co-founded by futurist Aldous Huxley, as much as his involvement in the formation of legendary ‘60s group Buffalo Springfield featuring Neil Young and Stephen Stills.

Frazier had arrived in Canada from Los Angeles and found his way to Montreal. He had no place to live at the time and the Perrys adopted him, allowing him to occupy the small apartment attached to the office. They enjoyed his eccentricity and propensity for thinking up strange and original ideas and named him in-house producer and A&R that played to what they saw as his strengths: his inventiveness and creativity. Frazier would certainly agree – and in fact wore it as a badge of honour – that he wasn’t the most commercial-minded producer in the music world.

But that was part of his charm. Frazier didn’t set up The Studio at Puck’s Farm with the idea of recording million sellers. He was committed to working with talented artists with a niche following, recording analog rather than digital. He hated the sound of CDs and I remember a call from him after he had heard the digital version of the classic, yet largely undiscovered, album Running, Jumping Standing Still by ‘Spider’ John Koerner and Willie Murphy which he had produced for Elektra back in 1967. Though to the average ear it might be hard to tell the difference, Frazier was appalled by the sound and I remember spending an hour on the phone with him while he vented.

Frazier’s abode at Puck’s Farm was right out of the Laurel Canyon scene in L.A. of the late ‘60s as though the house had been transported – wood stove, rustic interior and all – to the rural setting of Schomberg, Ontario. I spent a lot of time on that front porch or inside around the big wooden table with dozens of cats underfoot, drinking wine and tripping on ideas and concepts which Frazier would serve up after summoning me urgently to drop by for a chat on some sure-fire scheme he had cooked up. Can’t remember one of those “schemes,” which usually involved a recording or media project, that wasn’t at least intriguing enough to explore. But, Frazier was a concept guy, content to share his ideas but not necessarily interested in any hands-on involvement. The farm and that studio were his domain and he really had little desire to stray far from either. Martin Melhuish

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About Frazier’s decision to stay in Montreal…

From Martin Melhuish’s Frazier Mohawk Bio…

Frazier: “I really had nowhere to go at that point and André Perry and his wife Yael Brandeis actually gave me the chance to produce in a studio where I wasn’t always watching the clock. André and Yael became dear friends and their attitude to life really had a profound effect on me. When I had to go into hospital during my stay there, they were always there in support.”

Martin: “The stories that flowed about the recording environment at Paxton Lodge in California surely became part of the inspiration for Perry’s internationally renowned Le Studio in Morin Heights just north of Montreal in the Laurentians. There were some good times for Mohawk in the predominantly French city and some notable creative accomplishments including the production of Lewis Furey’s critically-acclaimed Lewis Is Crazy album with Jon Lissauer, but there were some hard times as well.”

In Toronto, Mohawk had met Gary Howsam with whom he put together the group Blackstone Rangers, a virtual reincarnation of Rhinoceros, which ended up being spirited away to Los Angeles by producer Paul Rothschild who produced their album On The Line.

Martin: In Montrèal, Howsam had opened Greenlight Rehearsal Studios with partner Dave Donald. It was here, while living at Howsam’s Montrèal home, that Mohawk became extremely ill and was admitted to hospital for a lengthy stay. Though his memories of the period of vague, Mohawk does recall that a couple of musicians he had met in Montrèal “kidnapped” him and carted him off to a campground in Oshawa where they fed him milk shakes and peanut butter sandwiches.

He ultimately ended up back in Toronto where he rented a place on Madison Ave. It was here that he met Mark Parr with whom he started the company Rent A Fool. That enterprise evolved to Puck’s Canadian Travelling Circus with 35 employees, nine semi trucks on the road and a Big Top tent. Pucks Canadian Traveling Circus

A Personal Note from Sandy Keane…

I met Frazier when he first moved to Toronto, and during the time he was starting a circus themed performance group called “Puck Rent-A-Fool” which morphed into Puck’s Canadian Travelling Circus, and eventually into life at the farm/studio .
Frazier was living in a house on Madison where he either didn’t have a doorbell or didn’t like the doorbell, and had rigged a mannequin’s hand with an articulated index finger that would beckon him to his door when someone pulled on the string he had rigged down the staircase and through the front doorjam. I also never met anyone else who sold advertising on the side of a cow. He was a unique and fascinating character.  Sandy Keane

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Frazier: “We did that for four years and ended up parked behind a movie studio on Lakeshore Blvd. in Toronto called Studio Centre. That’s where I met Anthony D’Atri, my former partner. He was the maintenance guy at the studio. That’s how we got into the animal rental business for commercials with our company Cinecritters. Actually, one of our cats wandered on to a Kellogg’s commercial. He jumped through the window, they kept it in the shot and they ended up paying us for that. We then did a Kellogg’s Raisin BranTMcommercial for which they rented our whole circus for the day. It was about that time that the city of Etobicoke told us to move on because they don’t allow farm animals there. We moved to Harbourfront for a while, right there on the lake next to the ferry docks that go to the Island Airport, before we moved up to Kleinburg, just north of Toronto.”

Martin: By that time, Anthony had trained a team of horses and a dog, and the circus expanded but this time it was parked in one place. Mohawk was the ringmaster, Mark Parr was the clown and Anthony D’Atri was the person who worked the act with these various animals. They were in that location for six years and during that time, they began attracting classes of school kids. A pony ride was added and then a cow, which suddenly drew the partners into a whole new business. “As it turns out, to keep a cow milking, they have to have calves. At one point we had six cows and had gotten quota to ship cream from the Cream Marketing Board. So in the end, from what had just been a permanent circus and petting farm, we were shipping cream, selling a load of pumpkins and sweet corn, doing thousands of dollars a year in pony rides, scooping 18 tubs of ice cream a weekend and barbecuing up a storm. People’s cars were lined up and down Highway 27.”

Martin:At one point, Mohawk and his associates were handling the Kleinburg operation as well as the farm which came to be known as Puck’s Farm in Schomberg about 45 minutes north of Toronto. It was here that they moved the dairy herd which was in the top third in the country for small herds and they were winning awards for the highest quality milk in their region. Mohawk attributes that success to Anthony who, even as a former city slicker, learned how to be a dairy farmer. Soon they moved their whole operation to Puck’s Farm and here the circus was modified to a petting farm where families could bring their children for a day out in the country. There was entertainment as well, as Anthony became more proficient as a musician and singer and found he could keep the attention of 300 restless kids.”

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And so it would seem that Frazier, totally invested in his new life, the chaos of the music industry and Los Angeles far behind him, was ready to let the curtain fall and the credits roll on this very upbeat, happy ending, a freeze frame of Frazier in his overalls, rolling a joint on the porch while the huge tom turkey they used to have chased delivery men and strangers down the dirt and gravel driveway, snapping away at their genitals while Frazier sat on the sidelines, content, fulfilled, and at peace with the world.

There’s an old saying; “If you’re in the music business for 2 years and you get out, you weren’t meant to be in it. And if you were in the music business for 50 years and you get out…you weren’t meant to be in it.” Frazier didn’t much care for the business of music, but the music…well, that was a different story. When it came to music, Frazier was a lifer.

Martin: Mohawk had been away from the music business for quite a while and about a year into arriving at their current location, he built a little four-track studio above the main barn. Eventually, it was upgraded to 24-track, the cows were moved out, and it took over the main barn on the farm to make music.

Frazier: “This is a fine music room and it’s here mostly so my friends and I can play. Usually what you find in studios is a whole bunch of outboard gear to make poor instruments or a poor room sound good. What we did was approach it in a more traditional way. We built a room that sounded good and put in equipment that reproduces that sound. We built a room in which people would want to play music, a room in which we could sit and play music.”

…and boy, did they ever. Northern Canadian Hillbilly Boy

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So Frazier’s gone. The mudball is light by one fantastical wizard, a sprite of high intellect and base desires, whose contribution to the world’s betterment was not only a rich legacy of music, entertainment, and joy, but the memories and experiences shared by everyone whose lives he touched. A face in the crowd to most, but an Imp of magical powers with the gentle soul of a child who could sometimes display the roar and ferocity of a dragon, and the kind of genius that borders on madness to those of us who, however briefly, fell into the same orbit around the sun. He may be physically missing from the stage, but those of us who carry his memory and spirit with us will always keep him remembered well enough to spread the word, take the risks, and fuel the fire of creativity, outlandishness, and eye-twinkling pranks and legerdemain. A magician of no little flair, our Frazier, and even though the Genie is back in the bottle, he has left us parts of him that will carry on. The farm, the studio, the stories, and the music. When St. Peter finally calls God (after Frazier spends a certain amount of time paying penance in purgatory), I know God will speak into his celestial cell phone, just 4 short words.

“Send in the Clown”

With gratitude, thanks, and love to Jac Holzman, Martin Melhuish, Mark Paar, and all of you who contributed so greatly to this rememberance. 

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Some correspondence from a few friends….

A Personal Note from Rolf Kempf 

I suppose the most pivotal story is how I wound up at Frazier’s house. He was Barry Freidman then, producing projects for Elektra in LA, and just taking care of the house for Paul Rothchild, who, besides producing the Doors ongoing, was also initiating projects like Ars Nova and Clear Light, but alternating between New York and LA. My band had broken up after a fisticuff between the drummer and the producer-to-be, and in the process of looking for a new producer, the guys found Barry. I was still just the fledgling lead guitar player, even though we had recorded one of my songs before leaving Toronto. As it turned out, Barry wanted only me anyway, and when I went to him for help after losing the apartment and any visible means of support, he moved me into his TV room, sleeping on a foamy, and scrounging food out of the fridge. Night after night, different people would hang around getting high, like Danny Cootchmar (Kootch), Jackson Browne, David Crosby, Neil Young, playing new songs and generally enjoying the company of their peers. This was in Laurel Canyon, where at the time, most counter-culture stars had a house, and various groups of them would move around visiting, tasting the newest weed and hash. No coke at the time, thank God. There was always the latest mixes people like John Haney would drop off, and a constant stream of new Motown, as well as Big Pink. Alan Gerber had just arrived as Paul’s new songwriter, slated to lead a new supergroup, made up of Danny Weiss from Inagaddadavida fame, Billy Cobham from the Mothers of Invention, and eventually Michael Fonfara, Peter Hodgson, and John Finley from Jon-Lee and the Checkmates from Toronto. Alan and I hit it off, and after my guitar was stolen, lent me his Epiphone 6-string, which I used one day, sitting around the swimming pool, to write a kind of rock-opera opener called “Hello, Hurray”. Barry invited Judy Collins over, since she was looking for material for a new folk-rock album, and that was the song she liked. The rest is history, as they say.

Fast forward to 2005 as I’m motoring from the West Coast down Highway 400, and I call Frazier to ask for a place to stay. He puts me up in a trailer first, finds me a gig, then lets me set up camp in the drum booth of his studio for 6 weeks while I go on playing that gig as well as a few others in Toronto. In the meantime, Rhinoceros, the band Alan Gerber started, but now with John Finley as the lead singer, is rehearsing in the studio for comeback shows that summer. It was a bit of a deja vu for us all. I should stop there, although there is much more. The original version of Hello Hooray

~~~Rolf~~~

Billy James….

Bob — thanks for your thoughts, for your music, for your reminiscences that take me back to those times and places — in a way, the Grand Woozle’s taking of Barry has brought us back together — even if only through a bunch of zeros and ones…Billy James

Mark James….

This from Billy James’ eldest son, Mark:

I remember one sunny Laurel Canyon afternoon in the summer of ’67 at Paul Rothchild’s and Barry Friedman’s shared house on Ridpath Drive, a few doors up from mine.

As was the custom of the time, we smoked Afghani hash ( this kept rather prominently in a Planter’s Peanuts can on the fireplace mantle for all to partake ) and a song blasted out from the ceiling mounted JBL monitors from this newer “FM” format our local ( kppc?? FM? ) radio station. Upon hearing this record, Frazier ( although, possibly still “Barry” ) began a tirade marked by an unimaginable vehemence, all directed at this record being played by the local DJ.

As he was truly aghast, and would not let this go unchallenged, Frazier demanded I call up the station, and ask the DJ what exactly he was smoking that might induce him to play this particular record, and that it was unlistenable and how he needed his ( the DJ’s ) ears examined etc. The DJ, rightly suspecting someone put me up to the call (I was Ten years old, give or take ) demanded that I put my “father” on the phone, and as Frazier and this DJ began to argue the relative merits of this record over another, I slinked away to rifle the Planter’s can or hunt for errant playboy bunnies ( remember, it was Frazier and Paul’s house ).

Upon my return, the phone was handed back to me, and the DJ told me in no uncertain terms, to tell my “father” ( Barry, nee Frazier ) to  ( direct quote ) “lay off the sauce”. Paul thought it was hysterically funny, and I felt I was “inside” and very in on the joke. These guys made the records this other guy just played.

The record was Pink Floyd’s debut’s release. Still not a fan.

Then there were the demo’s we cut for Elektra… never mind…

RIP Frazier Mohawk

Mark James

Chris Darrow….

I was in the Kaleioscope recording Side Trips when I met Barry and got back in touch with him a number of years ago after he moved to Canada. It is sad when any special friend passes on. You did a wonderful job of capturing his spirit, which was his greatest contribution. Chris Darrow

Jerry Hopkins….

Just a footnote to the Springfield story. I was working for Rolling Stone and had known Barry from his circus days, when I booked him onto “The Steve Allen Show” as a fire-eater. Well, on this day I joined him at what I thought was Doug Weston’s house on Fountain Avenue (the one with the bathtub in the living room). Anyway, Barry was there with Steve Stills and on the phone. They were trying to find Neil (or maybe Bruce Palmer) in Canada, calling all over the place. Barry had just left Randy Sparks and was using Randy’s credit card to pay for the calls. So, Randy, if you’re reading this, take a bow. And, yes, the steamroller was parked outside. Barry/Frazier was rock and roll’s Forest Gump. He was always in the right place at the right time and none of us forgot the experience. —Jerry Hopkins

Ray Materick….

I worked with him as my producer on an album around 2000…he imported his old buddy Tim Drummond (Dylan, Neil Young)…to play bass and the 3 of us did some damage….thanks again. Ray Materick

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Frazier Mohawk, [Barry Friedman] 1941 – 2012
Memorial Celebration

Please join us in a memorial, celebration to remember our friend, co-conspirator, collaborator, colleague. On Saturday, June 16th, we’ll raise a glass or two to his passing, share stories and hear performances from a few of the musicians whose lives he touched.

Crest Theater Green Room at P.A.L.

110 The Esplanade

1 block south of Front St West

1.5 block west of Jarvis.

Toronto.

4:00 pm until 9:00 pm.

Please excuse the short notice – we simply can’t believe Frazier is gone.

In lieu of flowers, donations towards Frazier’s end of life expenses are appreciated.

Please RSVP to

Mark Parr
arealdwarf@yahoo.com
1 905 939 7036

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Segarini’s column appears here every Monday

Contact us at dbawis@rogers.com

Bob “The Iceman” Segarini was in the bands The Family Tree, Roxy, The Wackers, The Dudes, The Segarini Band, and Cats and Dogs, andnominated for a Juno for production in 1978. He also hosted “Late GreatMovies” on CITY TV, was a producer of Much Music, and an on-air personality on CHUM FM, Q107, SIRIUS Sat/Rad’s Iceberg 95, (now sadly gone), and now provides content for radiothatdoesntsuck.com with RadioZombie, The Iceage, and PsychShack. Along with the love of his life, Jade (Pie) Dunlop, (who hosts and writes “I’ve Heard That Song Before” on RTDS), continues to write, make music, and record.

2 Responses to “Segarini: Frazier Mohawk – Send in the Clown Part Two”

  1. Hey Bob, I was waiting with baited breath for part 2. I’m pasting in my blog about Fraz below – it might fill in some of the gaps about his time in Canada for anyone who was interested enough to read this far down. But you have the best life-altering story that will never be told… See you Saturday!

    This weekend I played the Orangeville Blues and Jazz Festival and on my last night I played “See That My Grave is Kept Clean” in rememberance of my old buddy Frazier Mohawk who passed away on Saturday. Then I did a short reprise of the song in the last set because Frazier was never satisfied with the first take. On Saturday afternoon, I had a nice long coffee with Alan Gerber and all we talked about was Frazier and all he had done to help us out at crtical times in our lives/careers. I hadn’t seen Alan since this time last year (also at Orangeville – he is a staple at that festival and now they’ve made him an honorary citizen of Orangeville). Then we both got the news that Fraz had passed away during the night.

    I had gone to see Frazier in the hospital on the previous Wednesday and Alan had dropped in on his way to Orangeville on the Thursday. We both just wanted to hold his hand and say a final thank you. Both of us had our gripes with Fraz over the years but it’s easy to put aside the little tiffs when you consider all that he did to enrich our musical journeys. I almost wrote “help and encouragement” but the fact is he was never big on encouragement. Maybe he encouraged some others I don’t know about but in my case I always felt he was always working around whatever intrinsic talent I may have brought to the table. For a music producer, he never got really excited about any music. I thought it was just me, but Brad Spurgeon mentions the same thing in his blog. You never heard him say “come in here, you’ve got to hear this”. Actually, I do remember one time now that I think about it. It was in Montreal where he (and I) had been taken under the wing of the legendary Andre Perry and Fraz came in with this old vinyl recording of the Swan Silvertones and played me a track called “Saviour Pass Me Not”. That track lit him up but I don’t even know how he felt about the rest of the tracks on the album but I can imagine him dissecting the harmonies or the choice of microphones.

    Alan talked about meeting Frazier (then Barry) in Paul Rothschild’s office at Elektra Records and how later in California he took him around to meet Joni Mitchell, Neil Young and Carole King, where Alan spent an afternoon at the piano swapping songs with her. Barry pops up in Carole’s recent autobiography and also get’s name-checked in many recently released bios where the backdrop in the LA music scene of the 60s.

    When he arrived in Toronto in 73, there seemed to be an element of intrigue in his exit from LA and though he sometimes referred to some unsavory characters, I never got the real story. I think there may have been many reasons for him the change his name, I made his acquaintance when I came to work one morning at a brand new studio in Toronto (Manta Sound) where I was producing an album for Fraser & DeBolt on behalf of Columbia Records in New York. Frazier had dropped in to the studio earlier that day and left behind an album he had produced on the recording console. I don’t think we listened to the album but when I picked it up I couldn’t quite make out the abstract artwork until I held it back and could see it was a close up of two naked intertwined bodies. It was called “Primordial Lovers” and the artist was ex-wife Essra Mohawk, formerly known as “Uncle Meat” when she was in the Mothers of Invention. It was only a matter of a couple of days later when I was introduced to Frazier in the kitchen of 127 Hazelton, a legendary hang-out/crash pad in Toronto’s Yorkville district and I said “You’re the guy that left behind that album at Manta.” I’m not sure how much time elapsed but at a certain moment he said he needed an “assistant” (nowadays we’d call that an intern because there wasn’t any money changing hands though he may have uttered some variation of that old Ronnie Hawkins pitch “…but you’ll get more pussy than Frank Sinatra”). We certainly got more drugs than Frank Sinatra and there were a few liasons the last of which ended when one young lady’s older brother, who was a police officer, came from Nova Scotia to fetch his little sister from this den of iniquity.

    Frazier had rented a huge space on Richmond Street, an old house that had been completely gutted and painted black inside. It had previously been a photographer’s studio. Fraz built himself a sleeping loft with a wobbly ladder that would discourage any curious visitors and the main project was a group called the “Blackstone Rangers” which was essentially a reincarnation of Rhinoceros minus Alan Gerber. This was a pretty glamorous bunch of rock stars and they made a big impression on this kid from hills of Quebec. The band was set up in the middle of this big room with a huge concert PA (“Voice of the Theatre” speakers) and they rehearsed a bit and partied a lot. Frazier wanted me to “supervise” a second group that he was going to produce. They were called “Flying Circus” and had just arrived from Australia where I think they were a pretty big deal. I don’t think I had more than a couple of sessions with the band when I had to extricate myself from that crazy scene. I don’t think they ever made a record and only one of those Aussies stayed in Canada but he has been a profound influence on the Toronto music scene and that is bassist Terry Wilkins.

    Then we fast forward a couple of years to Montreal where Frazier introduced himself to another recording studio and this time he hit the jackpot. The studio was built by Andre Perry (a Quebec music industry titan but best known outside Quebec as the man who recorded “Give Peace A Chance”) and – as luck would have it – André had just sold the studio for big bucks and now had plans to start a record label and break out of the Quebec market. When he saw Frazier’s credentials and connections he immediately set him up in a cute little apartment in Old Montreal and gave him free reign of the studio (where he still had thousands of hours of credit as part of the sale). Frazier immediately showed him how to set up a big-time record label, starting with a succession of full-page teaser ads in Billboard magazine announcing the birth of “Good Noise” Records. They printed oversized/overpriced stationary and business cards, hired the most expensive publicist in the music business, Connie deNave and started flying people in from New York and LA. I’m not sure that they had signed a single artist at that point but around that time, Andre heard me sing a song called “Don’t Forget Your Mother” with a country-rock group I was playing with that included Sue Lothrop, Russ Kelley, Wayne Rose and I think a couple of brothers from Wilmington Delaware. I can’t remember Frazier’s initial involvement but André was totally smitten with that song if not with the group. He convinced me to go into the studio with Frazier producing. First we did a demo with a lot of local players including Sue, Ronney Abramson, Ron Dann and many others. Then for the “real” recording, he brought in John Lissauer as music director, Laurel Masse and Jance Siegel from Manhattan Transfer for vocals, and top-session players like Tom “Bones” Malone (later of Blues Brothers fame and much more) on horns and Jim Gordon on drums. At the time Malone and Gordon were part of Frank Zappa’s Mothers so Andre was seeing this as a great “tie-in” – The Mothers recording “Don’t Forget Your Mother”. The Mothers were performing at the Montreal Forum as part of their “Petit Wazoo” tour and most of the other members of the band came to the studio – some played and some just hung out, but try as they might, they couldn’t get Zappa himself to participate. I believe the quote was “Frank doesn’t help other people make their rock and roll records”. As a further aside, drummer Jim Gordon, hot off a Derek and the Dominoes tour, ended up in an institution for the criminally insane for killing his own mother in a psychotic rage. I think I noticed he was not having a good time when he was laying down that drum track. I wondered if it was just that I might have not been laying down the most confident guitar track – after all this was probably the third or fourth song I had written and I had never sung on my own till then. I hardly sang any vocals with the group but “Mother” was my little “feature spot.” And I had my doubts about my performance on that track but I was surrounded by so many brilliant players it had to be OK.

    Well many months were spent mixing and remixing and overdubbing – they hired a whole string section from the Montreal Symphony under the direction of Otto Armin, then a boys choir from an elite private school. Everything but the proverbial kitchen sink. You can hear it for yourself here.

    Up to this point thousands of dollars had been spent on this recording (as well as a daily allowance for me) and yet nothing had been signed. Alas, when I was called in to a meeting, I sat down with Frazier across this beautiful antique pine table with nothing on it but a big fat (unsigned) recording contract. I was humming and hawing about how I wasn’t really happy with my performance on that recording when Frazier lurched across the table grabbing me by the throat and screaming “Sign the contract, motherfucker!). I think anyone who has since tried to produce Brian Blain has had the same impulse. Anyway I hastily scribbled in a short rider that offered me some guarantees and I signed. This was old Hollywood-style negotiations. I think if he’d had a gun he would have pulled it out.

    This story goes on, but to wrap up this chapter of my adventures with Frazier, suffice it to say the “Mother” was never released, though the B-side, “The Story of the Magic Pick” did get released on Good Noise/Polydor but had the misfortune of being released in the same week and on the same label as that monster hit “Spiders and Snakes” and there was not room for two “novelty” releases in the Polydor promo man’s bag of tricks that week. Despite some choice gigs (mostly arranged by Frazier) like opening for Lou Reed and Seals & Crofts, a hi-profile benefit show with Joni Mitchell and Loudon Wainright and a tour with April Wine, I disbanded the Blainettes and went on the road for five years as a “bassman-for-hire”. Well I didn’t really disband the Blainettes, because another Frazier prodigé, Lewis Furey, scooped 2 of them to be in his band but in a delicious turn of karmic retribution, they were soon hijacked from Lewis by his friend Leonard Cohen who decided he wanted to try having female back-up singers,

    After being on the road for 3 or 4 years I settled back in Toronto briefly and Frazier hired me to be part of his “Rent-A-Fool” clown troupe. I would wear a sequinned tuxedo and play incidental music as Mark Parr, Brad Spurgeon and the lovely Lynne Cavanaugh frolicked around. At one point, he was taking “contracts” to attack people with cream pies. We were a pie-hit-squad. I think that’s about the time I went back on the road. But it was a great diversion, as was every adventure I had with Frazier.

    Fast forward another decade or two and I land in Toronto, not quite on my feet, and one of the first people I look up is Frazier – who is back in Toronto, living a in a caboose on a farm in Kleinberg. He gives me $200 and says he’s sure we can find a way for me to work it off. Well first he wanted me to be a “wrangler,” shuttling ponies to rich kids’ birthday parties. I managed to get out of that but ultimately became an occasional “sub” for Anthony, the Singing Cowboy. I’ll always remember trying to play guitar on very bumpy hayride where I would sometimes get airborne with nothing to hold onto except my guitar. I also helped with some desktop publishing projects and mailing promotional material – I remember one time that I was running a little late and had him screaming at me “You just lost me twenty-thousand dollars! You owe me twenty-thousand dollars!” but he never fired me. In the end I did him one great favour when I noticed that several recordings he had produced were now being sold on CD and I asked him if he was getting any royalties. He hadn’t thought of that and when he contacted Warner Brothers they sent him a big fat cheque (and apologized for the delay because they couldn’t find his address (??). Since that money came from his musical endeavours he decided to put it back into music and that was the beginning of the Studio at Puck’s Farm. And once it was operational, he offered me some complimentary studio time that provided me with my first CD, “Who Paid You To Give Me The Blues?” For that and more I will always be grateful to Fraz.

  2. Bob, A rough video will be uploaded to youtube [will take another hour to load]. http://youtu.be/_pNZXcDismU Great to meet you.
    Nora

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