Frank Gutch Jr_ Gott In Himmel!!! Is It Christmas Already? (A Collection of Reasons I Have To Be Grateful); Drew Gibson’s Shot Across the Bow; Clips From the SF Underground; and just a bit more…..

Frank Pic

I got a message!  Yep, I got a message from someone who was not trying to steal my identity or sell me penis enhancement medication!  I mean, this does not happen as much as you would think, even with my superior intellect and excellent writing skills.  I am sure most of you picture me at a desk overflowing with fan mail— buried in it, in fact.

Well, let me assure you that the only thing burying me at the moment are scads of CDs I have yet to review, a plethora of scribbled notes written as ideas for possible future columns, bills which I should have paid awhile ago (if I lose electricity whilst writing this, this will more than likely not make it to your smart-device of choice), and an autographed picture of ex-porn star Samantha Strong who is holding what appears to be an icicle pop in the shape of a certain male organ which shall remain nameless.

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This was brought to me (the picture, not the phallic popsicle) by one Laura Preftes who did her best to keep me out of trouble when I worked at Peaches Records back in the eighties.  For those who care, she failed miserably.

Of course, when that mountain fails, you will be able to find my lifeless body, hopefully still clinging to said picture, beneath the pile of CDs and albums of artists who, awaiting reviews and comments which will then never come, will think it just reward.  And I could not agree with them more.  That humped back, sports fans, is not from age but from the guilt I feel every day.

But about this message.  This dude read a piece on Gary Duncan of Quicksilver Messenger Service I had written some time ago and it clicked with him.  The writing, to a degree, but mainly the sentiment.  Well, actually, I had little to do with the writing, a good 95% of the piece coming from Duncan’s own lips, but at least I was smart enough to stay out of the way of a good story.  We saw Duncan and band from the same angle, he and I, and he wanted to share the joy.  If it sounds like I make short shrift of him here, allow me to assure that I do not.  I appreciated his words more than you could possibly know, having the midnight-to-six shift here at DBAWIS and rarely hearing from the outside world.  (There is this funny story I could tell you about a guy calling himself Wasted Potato who sometimes pulled the late shift at the first Underground Radio station in Eugene, KZEL-FM, wherein he…  but you’re more than likely not interested)  Sometimes I wonder if anyone is out there and when I get feedback, especially feedback of the coherent and knowledgeable sort, it makes my hours of insecurity and drudgery disappear for a moment.  It is equivalent to being in a room of fellow music lovers sharing the music they have discovered all over again.  It is a form of camaraderie.  (If you’re a fan of Quicksilver and/or Gary Duncan, you can read the article here)

That form of camaraderie does not really exist these days— not on the whole.  Or does it?  Well, not like it used to (except for the odd group of individuals who actually enjoy listening and talking without the aid of electronics).  Us old farts have a tendency to blow off the kids, generalizing them into individuals glued to a screen whilst walking down the street bumping into people and parking meters or maybe checking messages while sitting at a family Thanksgiving dinner.  Generalizing is handy when you’re a writer (or a curmudgeon) but it kicks truth to the curb more often than not.  Music is still a bridge for many of us, young and old alike.  It still matters as do the people who make it or even just appreciate it.

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God knows where I am going with this, but that one message to me is the equivalent of journalist H. Allen Smith who wrote in a column some decades ago that bellybutton lint would replace goose down in pillows if only there was a way to collect enough of it, at which point readers began sending him bellybutton lint in envelopes to the point that he had to print a request that it stop, that he had enough to make numerous pillows and just did not need anymore.  I think they had to add and then shut down a whole arm of the US Postal Service when it happened.  The Republicans took note and have been actively attempting to shut down the whole department ever since, hoping to use it as a template to eventually shut down the entire human race.  Rather than use that specifically, they have now taken to bankrupting the country by allowing bankers to write laws and Monsanto to slowly poison those of us who are not butterflies, which they have perfected a way to poison quickly.

You see how this works?  When one portion of my brain shuts down, another opens up, which is good for me because I couldn’t put two sentences together today if I really had something to say, but when I don’t, voila!  Those ping pong balls have been carefully placed on the mousetraps.  My new friend has tossed his ball into the room.  So begins the chaotic but hopefully fun chain reaction.

Though people on the other end of that held call are important to corporations which repeat the message over and over until the next drewgibsonrepresentative is available, they are truly important to me.  Take, for instance, Drew Gibson, a musician who has an album coming out soon.  I know it’s soon because over many months he has told me.  Soon, he says, over and over until it has almost become a chant.  I found Drew through Paul Curreri, who produced Drew’s last album, The Southern Draw, which I think was released in 1985.  I’m kidding, but it seems that long ago.  Well, ol’ Drew has a new one on the way (unlike Chloe Albert who has a different kind of new one on the way— congrats, Chloe, but when’s the next album coming out?) and he has tried to convince me by sending me three files of songs which are somewhat done or maybe all the way done, depending upon what you want to believe.  After hearing them, you can color me convinced.   He has titled the album 1532 and told me the reason but the second I heard the beginning of When the Vinyl Scrapes, I forgot pretty much everything, the tears welling up in the ol’ eye sockets, visions of my father in my mind because Drew wrote this about his.  My father and I loved music and we listened together on occasion, especially in later years, The Seldom Scene‘s Baptizing, an album of hymns and religious songs.  The first time through, when Drew sang the second verse (“Are you alone?  Are you all alone when the music plays? / Does the road beyond lead to a place you can look down at me just in case / I need your love when my heart’s gone to waste? / I am not alone.  You are not alone when the music plays”), I am not ashamed to admit that the tears flowed freely.  The two other songs were excellent, too, but there are no words to describe that one.  No words I can come up with, anyway.  Drew and Charlottesville’s Bobby Read have been working on the album for what seems like forever.  As far as I can tell, not a second has been wasted.  Albums like this are a gift.  (Devon Sproule, how do you end up singing harmony on so many of my favorite songs?)  Here is a video from his last album.

I worked at Licorice Pizza in Pacific Beach (a suburb of San Diego) back in the mid-seventies and I look back to those days fondly.  We were an odd lot, both the people who worked in the store and those who frequented it.  Kym Kittell worked there— we called her Kymba— as did Larry the K and Dyno, a dude so called because “Dyno!” was his form of “Groovy!” or “Cool!”.  Dave the Bread Man stopped by regularly as did a guy we called Smirk Alvin Dinkle (his real name is Mark Allen Tinkle— get it?).  Turns out, Tinkle, with the help of friends, put out an album.  He asked for a shipping lovemonsters 001address some months ago and I provided it and the next thing I know, I have a copy of a CD by The Love Monsters titled Monster Tales and have been playing it since.  Smirk told me upfront that it was no big deal, that he put it together for fun.  Well, fun it is— if not straight out parody of style, for the fifties and sixties retro feel.  The music reminds me of the stuff Herb and The Spices were dishing up in the late-seventies in Seattle— music so reliant on humor and lyrics that the music was almost irrelevant.  I mean, the music is good, but it’s the beat, man— and listen to the words!  The titles should give you an idea— I Like Girls, California Boys, Big Fat Uncle, I Don’t Care If You Don’t Wanna Dance— songs to dance to!  I should check with him to see if this puppy is even for sale.  It sounds a bit like Toronto band The Dementians (who ask the question that has been haunting us all— How come so many clown pictures are evil?) if electronics weren’t a crucial part of their sound.  Okay, “his”.  (It’s a one-man-band.)

I will be piecing my Best of 2014 list together soon and few of you will be surprised— those of you who read my columns, anyway.  A number of albums waylaid me this year but one completely floored me.  And there is no Grammy category for it.  That would be the (re)issue of Jaimie Vernon‘s Nightmare @ 20,000 Watts, a futuristic look at radio as it was in my lifetime.  I won’t go into detail here as it will head my Best of column, but if you want to hear what I think is a major accomplishment in the media, you can hear it here.  And stay tuned for the 2014 rundown!

searchlightsI had no idea about the impact certain things have on local and regional culture until one night in 1974, to promote a store-wide sale, Licorice Pizza rented a pair of searchlights.  They had put cones in parking spaces in front of the Wilshire Boulevard store in the morning and I was a little more than interested when Daryl, our manager, told me the space was reserved for a nighttime push.  The sale was only to last for one night and we had been gearing up for it for the past week, putting what we thought were prime sale items in the most prominent places.  It was to start at 6 PM and last until 6 AM, but I think the owner, Jim Greenwood, opted to extend it for a day if not a few more hours.  Needless to say, the place was packed with customers looking for the deep catalog bargains (indeed, there was little left in our Import LP section after the carnage) and we had little time to do anything but breath before midnight, which seemed to be a regional time for customers to breathe or actually go home.  From midnight to six, business was evident but sparse, comparatively, and I took a few minutes to stand besides the lights and talk with the guy who operated them.  As the lights pierced the sky with their conical movements, the guy told me that this was what he did for a living, that rarely a weekend went by that he was not working, and that the money was good.  Especially for what he had to do, which was turn them on and off and stand guard, smoking cigarettes and drinking coffee.  Was it successful, this sale?  Pretty much, he said.  You could always tell by the distances people would drive.  We had people there from Reseda, Long Beach, Anaheim, East L.A.  Mostly young couples out for something to do on a weekend night.  Part of the culture.  Ah, for the days when music really meant something to people.

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Speaking of Licorice Pizza, I spent two or three days of my first Christmas with them bent over.  I somehow hurt my back and wouldn’t take time off because we were short-handed as it was.  Daryl, in his brilliance, gave me the job of writing down customers’ purchases (this was pre-computer) for reorder.  He figured being’s how I was already bent over, it would be easy for me to read the spines of the album jackets customers held in their hands.  He was right.  Not only that, I got a lot of sympathy from some pretty girls and a few cool (but obviously stoned) dudes.

I just ran across this this afternoon.  More quotes from Gary Duncan:

On Jerry Garcia:  “He is now among the uncreated— one step to the left and two steps forward.”

On the SF Music Scene:  “I think at the time that a lot of it had to do with geographic location because I knew damn well that somewhere else in the country there were a lot of good bands which would never get heard.”

“In those days, there were bands starting up on every corner and it was actually a pretty neat scene until all of the publicity came along.  In the beginning, there wasn’t any scene the public knew about— it was all underground— and nobody really had any ambitions about making records or making a lot of money.  They just wanted to smoke a lot of pot, have fun and play.  There was The Avalon, then The Fillmore came along and all of a sudden everyone in town was playing at least two or three nights a week.”

On Quicksilver’s recording of Bo Diddley‘s Who Do You Love on the Happy Trails album:  “The reason the song was broken into sections was so we could get paid for it, as well.”

On John Cippolina:  “Cippolina liked those solid state Standel Amplifiers.  He would put drivers and horns on top of them and they would get so high-pitched onstage it felt like the sound was going to kill you.  I used Fender Amps for the most part.  At one point, I was using eight Twin Reverbs, each with a Showman bottom, all going at once.”

I had the great fortune to write for Austin’s Pop Culture Press a handful of years ago.  Editor Luke Torn needed some help interviewing musicians for an issue commemorating the 40th anniversary of the Summer of Love and I grabbed at the chance.  It was because of PCP that I was allowed access to Duncan, Bob Segarini (The Family Tree), Peter Albin (Big Brother & The Holding Company), Dehner Patten (KAK), and Tracy Nelson (Mother Earth).  Here are some excerpts from those interviews.  I haven’t cleared this with Luke, but I think he wouldn’t mind.  That was a momentous issue (#65, Fall & Winter 2007).

family-treeSegarini:  Seeing that SF Nuggets box (Love Is the Song We Sing) really brought some stuff home.  What is really amazing is that (Family Tree) song that they have… is one of the few tracks I have not been able to find.  “Live Your Own Life”.  We used to call it “The Airplane Song”.  It was my tribute to Jefferson Airplane.  Alec Palao is amazing.  Anyway, we saw and played with The Airplane very, very early on.  Signe was still in the group.  At some gig we played, I remember sleeping on the floor at Darby and Grace’s place when they were still together.  I remember staying there, sleeping in Janis’s bed more than once, with her and her girlfriend.  But just sleeping.  We all knew one another.  It’s funny.  I used to drink with Jim Morrison, Harry Nilsson was my best friend for years.  At the time, you don’t feel a sense of history or anything like that.  You’re just in the moment, you know?

Duncan:  Recently, I had an interview with somebody who took me over to Haight Ashbury where we took photographs and I walked around, and it’s still the same.  It’s amazing that Haight Ashbury is still is still just like it was.  Kids sleeping on the sidewalks— drunk, stoned, obnoxious.  That’s pretty much the way it was.  I don’t know what people think it was like, you know.  They call it The Summer of Love.  I didn’t really feel a lot of love.  I saw a lot of kids being victimized and a lot of people victimizing kids.  When I was younger, I hung out a lot with the Beatniks with whom I got along much better.

Albin:  (Big Brother & The Holding Company) was still in the formative stages, but we considered ourselves a band.  We actually worked—- (though) I don’t think we worked more than once during ’65.  We were rehearsing all the time.  That ’65 gig was at a place called The Dirty Bird on Clement street and we hadn’t named ourselves Big Brother yet.  It was still Blue Yard Hill.  That was (the band’s) first name.  It lasted for only a very short time, but that was who we were when we played our first gig.

motherearthlivingNelson:  Travis (Rivers, Mother Earth’s manager) came up to us one day and said, “I found a perfect rhythm section.”  Our problem had been that we couldn’t find anybody who played blues or R&B.  I mean, all of the musicians out there had just started playing, literally.  Pigpen had gone from being a shoe salesman to playing piano.  Everyone was just learning their craft and nobody was particularly interested in playing R&B, nor did they have any history in that.  But Travis said that it was a really good R&B section from Texas.  And I said, “Great.  Where did you find them?”  And he said, “Well, it’s Doug Sahm’s band.”  Doug, after Sir Douglas had done what it was going to do, had put together a band I think called— I want to say The Funky Blues Band or some name like that.  Anyway, it was an R&B band and he had brought them up to SF for the same reason we were all there, which was to get discovered.  I said, “We can’t just take somebody else’s rhythm section!  Isn’t Doug going to be kind of pissed off?”  And Travis said, “Fuck him.  He just ran off with my wife.”  We definitely got the better end of that deal.

Barry Melton (The Fish):  I’d like to take credit for being a great musical genius (only joking), but we were just kids and in some ways our sound was totally accidental;  I think if we had the skill to play what we actually intended, the music would have been a great deal less creative.

Nelson:  (Back) in the day, Bill Graham used to get— and I still hear it today— a lot of stupid criticism.  Number One, for making money.  Well, sue me.  Early on, it was that he was a crass materialist and all that bullshit.  Even today, from people who were there in the day, I hear stupid negative things about him that just don’t ring true on any level.  It sounds like so much carping and bitterness, which musicians frequently indulge in.  (Bill) was a brilliant and very significant man in terms of modern popular music.

Segarini:  …about Bill (Graham).  You would look at the bills of who was playing and it was always so diverse.  It wasn’t three bands that sounded the same.  It was maybe a folk artist, a rock band, and an R&B band.  It was about the music.  And the fact that the fruit when you walked in was laced with acid didn’t hurt.

Albin:  Chet Helms directed us in a pretty good way.  He brought in not only James Gurley, but also helped to find Janis Joplin.  Some of us had seen Janis perform before and had performed along with her at some gigs— particularly myself, during the folk music era.  So after we got James Gurley and started playing some at The Avalon Ballroom, which Chet Helms had started running– we were the house band— we were pretty comfortable.

barrymeltonMelton:  I don’t remember precisely when I first saw The Dead or The Airplane, but I am pretty sure it was at a very early stage in each of those bands’ development.  Country Joe & The Fish’s first show at The Fillmore was substituting for The 13th Floor Elevators on a co-bill with The Great Society, whose lead singer was Grace Slick, and I know that I saw The Airplane in the Signe Anderson days.  In the beginning, I had no idea any of the bands would become known outside of the Bay Area.  For a few short months, we were a relatively small counterculture that, if anything, was the antithesis of commercial success. 

Nelson:  The radical thing was cool in San Francisco.  What wasn’t cool was the male/female thing.  Women were really second class citizens in this whole hippie scene.  They would argue that it wasn’t so much second class, but women were expected to be traditional, old timey, take care of the kids, make tea, cook organic food…

Duncan:  When they had the Human Be-In, David (Freiberg) and I were living together with our families somewhere in the city and he said, “We have to go play this gig in the Park today.”  I said, “Really?” and he said, “yeah.  It’s free but what the hell.”  So we drove down there and as we got closer, there were more and more people.  Finally, we had to park the car and walk.  Suddenly, we came upon all these people— thousands of people— at the Human Be-In.  And news people, cameras and people from the press.  David looked around at the whole thing and said to me, “It’s over.”  He said, “When those guys get involved, it’s the end.”  And it was.  There was no more underground scene in San Francisco.  It was all out in the open.

——————————————————————————————

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I will be putting together a piece on the early days of Cargoe soon.  They were the first of the Ardent Records acts back in the early seventies and what I call the “flipside” of Big StarCargoe beat #1 Record out of the gate by a couple of short months or so.  While Big Star gained cache in the eighties, Cargoe remained pretty much unknown except to collectors and the Japanese (the only country, to my knowledge, which reissued the album on CD in later years).  Their story, which began in Tulsa, Oklahoma, is one I found fascinating— enough so that I made an attempt to write it.  It involves a teen scene, a teen club (The Machine), an evolving band (from What For? to Rubbery Cargoe) and a move from Tulsa to Memphis and, at first, Dan Penn and his Beautiful Sounds Studio before the band signed with Ardent.  I have written the whole story, which can be read here, but thought people might be more likely to read it in short gasps.  Stay tuned.

Calgary musician Toni Vere mentioned that her fourth studio album, Unrest, will be released right after the first of the year.  I have no specific information, but Toni said she has placed a couple of the new songs on her Reverbnation page (click here).  I do, know that it was produced or co-produced by Greg Godovitz, who also plays on it.  I am hoping that former Hashmagandy mate Carla Olive is on it also.  Coming soon!

universalbaseball1I panicked the other day.  I had been thinking about my favorite book on baseball, The Universal Baseball Association, Inc * J. Henry Waugh, Prop., and started a search for it through my voluminous racks of books (yes, I am as voracious about reading as I am about listening to music) and had not found it.  My stomach began to have the feel of a stone as I searched because the more I searched, the more certain I was that I had to read it one more time before I tripped off this mortal coil, that moment creeping up on me as it has for many of my friends and favorite music artists the past few years.  By the time I reached the last shelf, I was certain it was lost, possibly given away in a fit of generosity or lost in a move.  But the gods were with me.  On the last shelf, on the very end, it was, a simple paperback and worn at that but holding an important part of my life in its pages.  I have read it twice, have leafed through it countless times and have wished that I could write at least one short piece as well written.  When I first finished reading that book, Robert Coover‘s name shown in neon lights in my imaginary list of authors and their worth.  As it does today.  I hate to take the time to reread books, on the whole, because there are so many I have yet to read, but I will make the exception.  You see, it isn’t really about baseball.  It is about the thin line between illusion and reality.  I lately find myself on that line more than I ever thought I would.  Today, I did a search.  I found a review of the book on the pages of the New York Times written by another writer of consequence, Wilfred Sheed, who found the book almost as impressive as did I.  If interested, you can read that here.  And if you love baseball (and sports in general), might I recommend Sheed’s My Life As a Fan.  American sports as viewed by a Britisher.  Good stuff.

Think I’ll quit.  Not much else to say, but here are a couple of…

NotesNotes…..  Talk about a dead week for videos!  Man, no one is uncovering anything!  Or so I thought until this popped up in my inbox.  This is my childhood in Sweet Home, Oregon wrapped up in a summer holiday fest they called Frontier Days.  If men watching the parade did not have a semblance of a beard, they would put them in jail, a wagon with bars constructed like a cage, and make them part of the parade.  There were very early versions of The Shriners putting around in their tiny motor-driven cars.  One year, the Grand Marshall was Tex Ritter, who made me cry at The breakfast at Sankey Park by refusing to sign my napkin.  True, he was drunk (I mean after all, it WAS 8 AM or so, way past his drinking time), but my mother lit his ass up.  Another year, the Grand Marshall was a former Madam(e) from, I believe, Skagway who had settled in the Valley.  Ah, good memories.  By the way, these films were taken by Marie Bradley whose husband Bill owned the Flying A gas station on Main Street next to Ames Creek.  My dad did business with Bill for years, regardless of gas prices.

I tried to post this video months ago but by the time my column was posted, they band had pulled it.  Things have been worked out though and here it is.  Digging the Byrds jangle and the sixties feel.  Song by Gary Heffern.

=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.”  

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