Frank Gutch Jr: Tin Soldiers and Nixon Coming; The Beginning and End of War; The Professor (Brady Earnhart) Is Back; and Notes…..

FrankJr2I was drafted in 1969 to fight a war I did not believe could even happen yet was embraced by the US of A as a way of stopping the dreaded Red Menace.  I knew it was coming and would have most likely headed for Canada but for a father my doing so would have destroyed, so I didn’t go.  I spent the previous four years at the University of Oregon with flammable draft card in my pocket (a 4-A college deferment marking me a coward in many people’s minds) and a growing hatred for conservatives willing to talk but not willing to go.

 

I suffered the verbal assaults from them while marching in anti-war parades and attending anti-war rallies.  I wore my Resistance button all the time and always with pride (I had purchased it at one of David Harris‘s appearances at the Student Union).  I was one of them draft-dodgin’ hippies the Right was always anxious to point out and according to them not worthy of breathing the super-oxygenated air provided by America and General Bullmoose, the comic strip character cartoonist Al Cappcreated as the icon of everything corporate and, therefore, evil and wily.  I always thought Bullmoose a satirical takeoff on General Motors, the accepted leader of conglomeration-run-amok at the time.  This might give you an idea.  Not only is it funny, it is as applicable to corporations today as it was back then (except government is portrayed as a separate entity, something very debatable in today’s political landscape).

The war and its media presence had been kicked up a notch by 1969, but there were signs early on about war in general if not the USA’s future presence in Viet Nam.  Folk music was anathema to the militaristic mumbo jumbo being handed out by the Right which started their new propaganda war right after WWII.  The Communists were our enemies, they stated, just before adopting the if-you’re-not-with-us-you’re-against-us philosophy which the Right would use as argument from that point on.

The Left wasn’t buying it, of course.  They adopted instead a philosophy handed down by hundreds of years of lessons the Right had shoved down people’s throats.  They had the momentum of the results of past wars, not pretty in spite of claimed “victories,” as well as a union movement growing like bacteria in a Petri dish.  Music was, in fact, a tool of that movement and, quite naturally, became a tool against war.

I first noticed it in the mid- to late-fifties when rock ‘n’ roll finally made it into the jungles of Oregon.  Hot on its tail came the folk movement.  While rock ‘n’ roll was making its statements about society, the folkies began making statements against it.  While I knew about Woody Guthrie, the first singer of protest songs who made a real impact on me was Pete Seeger.  His legend may not have been as great as Woody’s at the time, but his presence was, and moreso.  When he released his We Shall Overcome album in 1963, it seemed like every kid in Sweet Home bought it along with less political albums by folkies such as The Kingston Trio, The New Christy Minstrels, Bob Dylan, Peter Paul & Mary and The Limeliters, to name only a few.  Sure, it wasn’t about war, directly, but us youngsters could not help but feel that something was afoot.

It soon became more specific.  By the time I got to college, the war was picking up.  Every night, the news had footage from Viet Nam or Washington, if not the Front.  Bullets were flying and Americans were being injured or killed and the draft became a political weapon in itself.  Television reported it but radio felt it.  Even generic songs about war took on new meaning.

The different sides— anti- and pro-war— became entrenched.  Slogans were written.  Make Love, Not War.  America, Love It or Leave It.  No More War.  Hell No, We Won’t Go.  My Country, Right or Wrong.  Hair grew on the one side.  Anger grew on the other.

Meanwhile the war, appearing to grow louder each day, began to overwhelm.  For all of the protesting and soul-searching I was doing, I could feel the sound of combat boots on the march.

I received my notice from the Draft Board and was requested to report to the Armed Forces Induction Center a few days before my birthday in September of 1969.  There were maybe fifteen or so of us there and they handed each of us a bus ticket, though the bus was right there.  For the next one year, nine months, two days, four hours and thirty-five minutes, the military would provide, I knew.  As much as I wanted to run, I knew I couldn’t.  All I could do was trust in myself and hope for the best.

I won’t say it was the best but it certainly was not the worst, though basic was close to unbearable the first two weeks.  They deprived us of sleep, starved us by making us eat walking through the chow line and dumping whatever food was left at the end of the walk (and there was plenty of food left, even for the fastest eaters).  They yelled at us and had us doing pull-ups (when the bars were handy) and delighted in catching us in front of mud puddles, of which there were many at Fort Lewis, to make us drop and do pushups.  We had inspections daily and if they weren’t up to par, we would have to stay up cleaning with lights out until it was clean enough.  We marched and double-timed and ran with full packs on our backs, sometimes until many of us puked.  Even with all of that, it could have been worse.  Much worse.  They let us at least clean to music.  A couple of the guys had transistor radios and while we spit-polished boots and made and remade beds, we reveled in the music.

My duty station after I left North Fort of Fort Lewis was the main base, a simple two or three mile drive on the main road.  As soon as I was signed in to my company, I headed down to the PX to pick up a stereo— one of those ones with speakers you could detach from the main console and spread a good four feet to the side.  I also bought two albums:  Spooky Tooth‘s Spooky Two and an album by a band I had seen at the Eugene Pop Festival just a few months earlier, Rockin’ Foo.  That pretty much wiped out the ol’ paycheck and I put those two albums on heavy rotation until I could afford more.

Christmas of 1969, I was settled in, living in not the small wooden barracks but the large open bays at Headquarters Company.  There were probably 50 or 60 of us living there on bunk beds and out of our footlockers.  One of the guys there, Robert Hall, took leave to go home to Florida for the holidays.  When he returned, he tossed a couple of albums on my bunk, saying they were two of the best albums I would ever hear.  One was the first Allman Brothers Band album.  To my knowledge, no one had heard of them yet on the Left Coast.

The other was an album by some guy named Steve Young titled Rock Salt & Nails.  Both of those albums would become yardsticks in my album collection— albums by which most others would be measured.  (Please forgive me for using a later version of Rock Salt & Nails.  It is from an album titled Honky Tonk Man released in 1975 and has the best version of the song I’ve ever heard, thanks to incredibly understated pedal steel by one Cal Hand and vocals by Betsy Kaske).

One day, I hope to make contact with Mr. Hall and tell him how much I appreciate those albums.  Today, buried as deep as I am in the Indies, they are two of only a few of the old-timers in my collection I make the time to listen to.

As the months passed, I picked up as many albums as I could afford.  At first, other than the PX, I bought albums from the White Front in Tacoma and, when I ventured down to Portland, Long Hair Music Faucet downtown and The Sun Shoppe out in Lake Oswego.  At the two latter, I would walk in with a handful of twenties, throw them on the counter and say “point me to albums I need to hear” and they would, letting me know when the money ran out.  Among my first purchases were The James Gang‘s first (We had been driving around Portland and the station we were listening to played Fred.  I was sold after the first few chords), Brinsley Schwarz‘s first, The Small FacesFirst Step, Jeff Beck‘s Beck-Ola, Neil Young & Crazy Horse‘s Everybody Knows This Is Nowhere, and Jethro Tull‘s Stand Up.  God, those were good days!

The last album I bought before getting out of the Army was The Rolling StonesSticky Fingers.  That was, coincidentally, the last Stones album I ever bought.  And, in fact, the last Stones album I thought worth buying.

Army70 001There is an addendum to this behind-the-scenes look at music and the war, because every one of these artists and songs/albums mentioned will always bring back memories of those times.  It relates to Crosby Stills Nash & Young‘s Ohio.  I was in the training room the day after the shootings at Kent State and quite emotional and in shock, truth be told.  I felt that it a tragedy and believe most of us at Fort Lewis did, too.  Sure, there were the typical asswipes making tea-party type comments, but they were mostly ignored.  Except this sergeant assigned to G-2 at Battalion (G-2 is “military intelligence,” and I put it in quotes for a reason— think about it a moment.  You’ll get it) (Battalion is one step up from Company in the military hierarchy).  This sergeant knew I was anti-war (I never made a secret of it) and when he swaggered in, he made a statement to the effect that he thought they should line up all protesters against a wall and shoot them, too.  I saw red.  I vaulted the desk and decked him.  The guys dragged me out of the room and took me to the mess hall for a cup of coffee while they tried to sort out everything that had just happened.  Smart move.  Like I needed caffeine.  The sergeant, as I knew he would and had every right to do, was calling for a court-martial.  Every guy in the room when it happened, though, claimed that I was provoked.  The First Sergeant told the G-2 sergeant that he could file a court-martial but that he would have to file one against him, too, for whatever technical reason.  The sergeant backed down.

Have you ever done something you regretted?  As much as I hated what he had said, I regretted hitting him.  I have never been a fighter.  I hope I never have to become one.

Partially because of that, from the moment Ohio hit the streets I was a fan.  When my old Army buddy Dave Gray and I went to the original Red Robin later that summer, I spent every quarter I had in the jukebox punching up Ohio over and over until Dave had had enough and dragged me out of there before the other patrons cold cocked me.  To this day, it remains my favorite of all the CSN(Y) songs.  That, my friends, was a protest song!

Sage Run:  The Beginning and End of War…..

sagerunwarOn the Introduction Page to this album, David Stace-James writes “This album is not a single story.  This album is not one time period.  This album is about war.”  That is no introduction at all, really.  It does not prepare you for what comes next.  Not a whit.  Except perhaps the last statement because the album is about war.  But what the hell do we know about war, those of us who have never fought in one?  Not much.

I don’t know if Stace-James does but listening to this I don’t really care.  He knows music and he layers ambient sounds with the music so well that it creates something quite astonishing.  This is, after all, war and if war is nothing else it is unworldly.  It is tragedy and fear and bowel-gripping.  It is frightening.  It is death— real and horrific death which could come from anywhere at any time and when you are participating, it is ever-present.

At its best, war is delay.  You wait and wait and you wait some more until you almost want to get in there just to get it over with.  At its worst, war is your worst nightmare, everything of comfort dashed to pieces.  Even surrounded by other soldiers you are alone, especially when the battle begins.  You are born helpless and alone.  You die that way, too, so they say.

I sit here late at night, the album playing at low volume, and I am awestruck.   It is quite unlike anything I have ever heard.  Well, not “ever.”  I have heard the sounds.  I just haven’t heard them put together in quite this way.  I haven’t experienced the mysterious and sometimes frightening scenes which pass through my ears to create God knows what.  It is beautiful and yet so— intense, I would have to say.  So intense that at moments my mind goes blank and all there is is the sensation of music, of life, as fleeting as it sometimes seems.

It will take me a long, long time to absorb this… this… monumental work.  I know it sounds a bit over the top, but I can think of no other words to describe it.  Mark the name.  Sage Run.  You will be hearing that name in the future.  Guaranteed.

You can stream/download The Beginning and End of War here.  I heartily suggest you do.

The Professor Is Back and Recording…..

  1. bradyearnhartCharlottesville’s Brady Earnhart is back after a somewhat eviscerating illness and is heading back into the studio (he actually, already has) to record his fourth album.  They call him The Professor back there (like I do out here) and he has been pretty much accepted as a leader in what was once C-ville’s Acoustic Mafia scene which spawned a horde of musicians such as Devon Sproule, Danny Schmidt, Keith Morris, Sarah White, Paul Curreri and a string of others into the music world.  Indeed, I use Brady’s quotes all the time when writing about C-ville’s music scene, the last time in a May column about Devon Sproule and Paul Curreri (click here).  While Brady and I barely know one another, having only traded emails a handful of years ago, we are colleagues.  Maybe more than colleagues.  We think alike, as do most of the C-ville musicians.  We carry not only music as our core but the ethics and values that music promotes.

earnhart2That illness put Brady out of commission for about three years.  He could barely get around and needed help a lot of the time.  Recently, though, he began feeling stronger and his strength returned to a degree.  To the degree that he wanted to write songs and then, after seeing the songs he had written, wanted to record them.

Brady is the kind of guy you have to talk into going outside his existence for help, but I have to tell you that something like he is going through changes your perspective.  His friends, I am sure, have urged him to grab the brass ring while he can and have kicked his reservations about asking for funds to the curb.  I mean, it’s not like you get nothing for your contributions.  You get his new album, for instance, and while I have yet to hear the new one, I heave heard the others and can attest to the quality of those.

So, yeah, I am possibly stretching the goals of this column by bringing this to your attention, but I believe it my prerogative to do so in this instance.  Brady is a good man and has given so much of himself to Charlottesville and the music scene there.  Time to give back.  To give back and reap some Brady Earnhart music.  The man has earned it and you know what, you have too.  Just remember.  What Brady gets, we get.  And with Brady, it’s always more than just music.  The man is a philosopher and a wizard and a comic and a list of other things.  Mostly, though, he is just a plain good man.  Everyone in my purview has spoken nothing but praise for Music Notes smallhim.  That speaks volumes. You can access Brady’s Kickstarter page by clicking here.

Notes…..  The new Sam Morrow album has been sucking me in.  Doesn’t hurt that he has an impressive new video to help it along.  This is beautiful stuff.  From his new album, Ephemeral.

Holy Smoke!  Or Hood Smoke, in this instance.  If I was at the Double Door this night and saw this, my head would have exploded.  A lot of power and a bit of funk with touches of Allan Holdsworth during his Tempest/Soft Machine phase on guitar.  Who is that masked guitarist, anyway?

Toronto!!!  Mariana Bell is heading your way!  Check the NXNE calendar to catch one of Charlottesville’s ex-patriots, if that what she be.  I love this lady!

Man, all of a sudden, I am swamped with bands and videos, this time courtesy of Oami‘s Thea Morton Vorass.  Man, I love it when people lead the way!  Here is one powerful, weird and impressive video by Teach Me Equals.  I honestly don’t know what I would think if I saw this live, but I know I would be impressed!

I think I’m becoming a cynic, but the Columbines are becoming psychics.  Do I trust policemen anymore?  My faith is shaken what with all of the abuses I have observed both in the media and personally.  There is something in Nightstick that strikes a chord.

The things you find on the Net when you should be working.  Here is an ad for Ivar’s, a very popular seafood chain up in Seattle when I lived there.  The band playing is Jr. Cadillac, a band which pretty much owned the tavern circuit in the late 70s, just before Skyboys, Annie Rose & The Thrillers, Red Dress and a handful of other bands began making waves.  I only wish they could have filmed Herb & The Spices.  Those guys cracked me up.

If you don’t know the name Jack Endino, you don’t know much about recent Seattle rock history.  Endino has put in time working with Sub Pop Records as well as a handful of bands including Skin Yard.  Here is a three-song EP which was posted on FB recently you might want to pick up.  Supposedly available on vinyl, too.  Good stuff.  Click here.

Gary Minkler, now heading a band known as The Gary Minkler Combination, was once fronting Seattle’s legendary Red Dress and putting out music quite outside the accepted lines of the time.  Here is a video showing just how far outside the lines they were.  Set the Wayback Machine for 1981 and take a listen…..

I’ve been awaiting the new Honeycutters album for too long and evidently that band’s lead vocalist, Amanda Anne Platt, knows it.  She is putting together a few videos, rough and raw, of songs that she has written and on their way to the studio.  Eventually.  Kind of reminds me of the Hank Williams radio transcriptions of old, when Hank would stop by and record a sing or two while he was on the road.

UK’s The Soundcarriers have evidently released a new LP (am I out of the loop?) and it’s another good one.  How many does that make?  Five?  Six?  I love them all, but then I got into them early.  Here is the latest.

This the one which first caught my ear.  Psych is as psych does eh?

Guitarists, take note!  This could be the answer to your travel problems.  The Strobel Rambler guitar breaks down into pieces, easily!  Watch this!

Here’s something Fin Records is releasing in the near future.  I like!  Low Hums.

=FGJ=

Frank’s column appears every Tuesday

Contact us at dbawis@rogers.com

DBAWIS ButtonFrank Gutch Jr. looks like Cary Grant, writes like Hemingway and smells like Pepe Le Pew. He has been thrown out of more hotels than Keith Moon, is only slightly less pompous than Garth Brooks and at one time got laid at least once a year (one year in a row). He has written for various publications, all of which have threatened to sue if mentioned in any of his columns, and takes pride in the fact that he has never been quoted. Read at your own peril.” 

 

One Response to “Frank Gutch Jr: Tin Soldiers and Nixon Coming; The Beginning and End of War; The Professor (Brady Earnhart) Is Back; and Notes…..”

  1. Those were the days. It took me back to my space and time. As a high school senior I couldn’t believe these were the same folks that expected us to fight their damn war. I hopped a bus for downtown after school the day after the Kent State killings to attend the 2nd Seattle protest march. We ended up shutting down I-5 southbound just in time for rush hour. They marched all the way to the UW campus. I shot more than a few pix that day. One I’m really proud of.

    It’s funny (or not) that we were listening to most of the same music.

    I don’t know if you can truly tell of all the things going through our generations minds at the time, but you did a pretty darn good job here.

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