Pat Blythe – Tales of Oregon and New Friendships Forged….

I’m not sure how to start today’s column. Sitting listening to Eddie Bullen’s smooth jazz and picturing Oregon in my mind. There are long pauses between each sentence I type. Wrapping up someone’s life…..it’s not easy. It’s deeply personal and highly emotional. Frank put everything he had into his writing, almost desperate to “spread the word” about the music and artists he loved.  I knew he struggled with his own demons as well so I wasn’t sure what pieces of Frank I was going to find.

Frank just after he joined the army (note buzz cut)

Day One — Portland airport…..I was meeting Frank’s sister Colleen for the first time and wasn’t sure I would recognize her although Darrell Vickers had described her as a female Frank. Hmmmmm…… I actually got to Portland a few hours ahead of Colleen and her husband Joel. Their flight had been delayed, delayed again, canceled, back on, delayed and then finally….they were in the air. I recognized her as soon as I saw her and we “welcomed” each other with a much-needed bear hug. Off we headed to the car. Dinner was in order and then the drive to Frank’s home in Tangent.

I wasn’t sure how I would feel entering the house. Colleen and Joel had already spent weeks sifting through all the flotsam and jetsam that was Frank’s life. It wasn’t until I walked into Frank’s office that I could sense him around me….a very surreal feeling. I had seen that space so many times through the other end of the computer camera…..now I was standing in it. Although much of it had been cleared out and tidied up it was still Frank. I sat in his chair with the extra two pillows, staring at his giant computer for quite a while remembering our last conversation and all that we had shared and discussed over the past three-and-half years. We weren’t supposed to “meet” like this.

…..yes he used this. Found many typewritten pages

A small sampling…..

Frank’s collection of 700 albums and about the same amount of CDs and a few hundred 45’s were stacked in his bedroom and out in the living room. Vickers was arriving from Santa Monica with his friend Steve Billnitzer on Saturday to collect all this and more. Also neatly arranged was Frank’s camera collection and photo paraphernalia. This was for me to take home…..but all that could wait until Sunday. Time to count sheep. Tomorrow (Saturday) was to be a relaxing drive and exploration of Oregon’s Pacific coastline.

Day Two — For the entire five days I was in Oregon the weather was nothing but brilliant. Sunny, warm (no humidity) and comfortable nights for sleeping. It was, in short, perfection. Considering the circumstances Colleen and Joel were the consummate hosts. I only hope they will give me the chance to return the favour. The Oregon coast is rugged and quite magnificent. I can see what Frank loved about it. Sandy beaches, huge outcroppings of rock, seals sunning themselves, beautiful vistas of mountains and trees….oh man……the trees. I took way too many photos. Colleen pointed out special places Frank liked, restaurants they dined at, holidays (including Christmas) spent in various time-shares, filling me in on the details of Franks life.

There is no shortage of seafood….

Seals sunning

Oregon coast — Frank suffered from anxiety and depression and, on occasion, deep despair. This is when he would “disappear” for several hours and head for the Oregon coast. Just to breathe, rejuvenate and clear his head. It was one of his favourite drives. We took the same route to reach the Pacific. I could see why he loved it so much.

Day Three — Sunday was the day we all convoyed up to the Quartzville Recreational Corridor. It’s about a mile past Sweet Home, the small town where Frank grew up and about an hour from Tangent where he eventually settled to take care of his parents. Quartzville Creek was Frank’s (and his dad’s) favourite fishing spot. They’d drive to the most remote and quietest spot to cast their lines, as far away as they could get from human race. Today our small group….Colleen and Joel, myself, Darrell Vickers, Steve Billnitzer, Patricia and her husband (whose name now escapes me) who was Frank’s best bud all through high school and beyond….were gathered to say goodbye. Wishing Frank a silent farewell we watched as the wind carried him away. Ashes to ashes, dust to dust….on a gorgeous sunny day in a quiet and remote spot out over the creek he loved. Frank Ormond Gutch Jr. is sharing the music and casting a line somewhere…….

Quartzville and a fond farewell…..

l-r – Steve, me, Joel, Colleen and Darrell

Back on the road and to a celebratory luncheon of sorts. Then it was back to Tangent and the culling begins. My assignment was go to through two filing cabinets full of Frank’s writings, musings and whatever else he deemed important and MUST be saved….plus all the “stuff” in his office. Honestly, I think hoarding is a guy thing. Women may have collections of fine dustables and a few chachkas here and there but the guys….EVERYTHING is saved and I do mean EVERYTHING. I’m still going through Chris’s stuff almost five years later. I mean, who needs a receipt from 1974???? Anyway, I made my way through 45 years of files, clippings, notes, paperclips, dried out elastics, teeny tiny slips of paper with bit and pieces of info, obscure photos, cards…you name it, Frank kept it. All of which added up to two full garbage bags and a rather large, tightly packed file box heading in my direction. Before the nostalgia freaks gasp and groan…..I certainly didn’t dispense with anything of nostalgic value including many pictures, writings, etc. as well as the complete contents of Frank’s hard drive. I even saved all those little notes he taped to the frame around his computer screen. His interview tapes and Dictaphone will be delivered at a later date. Treasures were also found and passed to Colleen. My favourite was the elephant drummer probably given to Frank when he decided drumming would be a good vocation. The one thing I didn’t find (and was hoping for) was a drumstick. The man has a vintage Watkins/Guild guitar tape echo machine but no friggin’ drumstick!!!!! What’s up with that???

It’s actually battery powered!

Vickers and Steve left late Sunday with a van stuffed to the rafters with the aforementioned music collection as well as a Nikon camera lens the size of a large telescope (in its own hard-body aluminum case even), Frank’s all-in-one computer and assorted odds and sods. We sent them on their way, receiving updates as their trip home progressed. As he is planning his move to Canada in October, Vickers will bring the camera gear and my one lonely LP (it’s amazing what heavy hints and puppy dog eyes can get you) up to Canada with him. He’s already told me once they sold the lens……we’ll see……The LP? The Small Faces with Itchycoo Park on it.

Darrell Vickers (l) Steve Billnitzer (r)  — notice the protective hand on that lens case….

Frank, Colleen, mom and dad (that’s his mom in the centre) and yep, that’s Frank in diapers standing in the doorway with Colleen…..

Day four….it’s Monday. Joel, Colleen and I spent the day going through the remaining items….I finished up with the office while Colleen when through hundreds of family photos and photo albums. It is a tragedy there no one to pass them on to. She is the last of her family so most of it went into “file 13”. I grabbed a few and made a collage to photograph and others were packed in my file box. There were also four rifles. Apparently Frank was a skeet shooter although I believe his dad was also a hunter. We headed to a little hole-in-the-wall gun shop in Albany where all four were purchased. Having never been in (excuse the pun) a fully loaded gun shop, I was both fascinated and shocked at the proliferation of weapons. People purchase and trade these things on a daily basis and it’s all so very casual. They’ve even got a lady’s line of oh-so-cute pistols. One guy who works up the street likes to come in once a week to browse and maybe pick up a little something. I didn’t ask what the “little something” was. I was glad to leave.

Back at the house I finished packing up the box destined for Toronto as well as my suitcase. I sat in Frank’s chair wondering what he would think of all this. What would he say to his all his important bits and pieces being divided up or thrown out. After Quartzville I no longer had a sense of him in the house. It was already sold (the closing was that Friday). Twelve hundred square feet of living gone, his entire life, in barely a heartbeat. It still doesn’t seem real……

A scenic drive to the airport along the Columbia River Gorge……SPECTACULAR!!!

Mount Hood

Columbia River Gorge

Spot the Golden Eagle!!!!

Colleen and Joel drove me back to Portland to catch my flight. Along the way we took the  Columbia River Gorge Scenic Drive and stopped to see the Multnomah Falls. Plummeting 620 feet in two stages they are the second highest waterfall in the USA. It had been almost 50 years since Joel and Colleen had been there. (By the way, they celebrate their 50th wedding anniversary December 28 this year.) The lodge adjacent to the falls was built in 1925 and houses, among other things, a beautiful restaurant. The three of us dined just inside the restaurant courtyard at the foot of the falls. A beautiful place for my last evening in Oregon. Ahead of me was a night in the airport and a fourteen hour run to get home. I had decided not to book a hotel room since my flight to Los Angeles airport was at 7am, which meant I had to be at the airport for 5am. A hotel was just a waste of money so I hung out at the airport all night. Then it was Portland to LAX, a 4.5-hour layover, a 5-hour flight to Toronto, customs, a 45-minute wait for luggage. (The flight was sold out so they asked for volunteers to check their carry-on. Big mistake). It was now almost 11pm which means I had been up almost 40 hours with a few catnaps here and there. By the time I got home I was exhausted, physically and emotionally. I didn’t open my eyes until almost noon.

Multnomah Falls

Frank was a highly respected music reviewer. He provided completely honest, thorough and thoughtful reviews which demonstrated to the artist(s) he had taken the time to listen to their songs….and he did…..not once, not twice but sometimes  up to a dozen times before he would put his thoughts on paper. As I wade through his thousands of unopened emails, I’m discovering he had a profound impact on many artists going back over 40 years. It was a big deal to have your material reviewed by Frank Gutch Jr. From coast-to-coast, he touched musicians everywhere, making them feel special….that honing their craft was worthwhile and important. He pushed to have them heard and was easily frustrated and sometimes angered at the lack of attention they were receiving. His constant question was “why are these guys not famous?” Mainstream held no interest for him. Overplayed, oversold, overpriced, overdone….there was nothing new. He was equally honest about music that did nothing for him explaining…..that a review would not be forthcoming. Frank listened from the heart, appreciating all the fine nuances in a song. The man leaves a deep and lasting legacy.

If you want to check out his work Frank’s reviews and writings can be found at:

Indie Musicologyhttp://indiemusicology.blogspot.com/  (Frank’s personal blog)

Rock & Reprisehttp://www.rockandreprise.net/  (Frank’s website)

DBAWIShttps://bobsegarini.wordpress.com/tag/dont-believe-a-word-i-say/

No Depressionhttp://nodepression.com/  (an on-line mag Frank wrote reviews for)

Colleen and Joel McCloud

I can’t thank Joel and Colleen enough for inviting me, welcoming me and entrusting me with Frank’s work. Incomparable hosts through what is a very difficult time, they were very happy to have Vickers, Steve and I there. Through the packing, the sharing of stories and the tears, new friendships were forged (thank you Frank). I hope to see Joel and Colleen in Toronto soon. They promised.

Pat

P.S. The one thing I still get a tad heartsick over is the two bags full of undeveloped film that were dispensed with before I got to Tangent. Frank was an avid photographer (B&W being his preference) beginning in the 60s continuing right up to the 90s. He never purchased a digital camera so from what I can tell, stopped taking photographs when they came out.  I can’t bear to think of what pictures are on those rolls of film. I rescued four more I found in his old camera bag and will have them developed.

All photographs ©2018 A Girl With A Camera “The Picture Taker” except the photograph of Frank

=PB=

Pat’s column appears every Wednesday.

Contact us at: dbawis@rogers.com

dbawis-button7“Music and photography….my heart, my passions.” After an extended absence —  33 years as a consultant and design specialist in the telecommunications industry — Pat has turned her focus back to the music scene. Immersing herself in the local club circuit, attending the many diverse music festivals, listening to some great music, photographing and writing once again, she is eager to spread the word about this great Music City of ours…..Toronto. Together for 34 years, Pat little-red-headed-dancing-girlalso worked alongside her late husband Christopher Blythe, The PictureTaker©, who, beginning in the early 70s, photographed much of the local talent (think Goddo, Frank Soda and the Imps, BB Gabor, the first Police Picnic, Buzzsaw, Hellfield, Shooter, The Segarini Band….) as well as national and international acts. Pat is currently making her way through 40 years of Chris’s archives, 20 of which are a photographic history of the local GTA music scene beginning in 1974. It continues to be a work in progress. Oh…..and she LOVES to dance! 

6 Responses to “Pat Blythe – Tales of Oregon and New Friendships Forged….”

  1. Peter Montreuil Says:

    Beautiful, just beautiful, Pat!

  2. cdarrell Says:

    Well done. Nice story and nice pics.

  3. Duggy Degnin says: What a beautiful article, Frank always made me feel special and gave me some awesome reviews which I treasure. For me it’s great to know more about him as we touched base infrequently. Why did Franks name lodge itself in my head? It was because his soul showed in his face, to me, kind and genuine and a great journo. This is another piece of great Journalism and a pleasure to read, thank you.

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