--- Random Stories ---
Audition at the Fillmore
"As we were getting more and more gigs around the city and feeling tighter, eventually we thought we were ready to go big... so first step was an audition at the Fillmore West. As I recall, audition night was Tuesday night. First thing I remember is it was the biggest stage I'd ever set foot on and it was a full house (which I think meant about 1,200 more or less stoned people sitting around on the floor). I don't remember who went on before us, but when we went on, it wasn't exactly party central... clouds of smoke and everybody just sitting there... I think we kicked it off with a tune we'd written about getting out of Carbondale... "I'm getting tired of hanging around this dirty old coal town..." and by the end of the second song ("Morning Glory" I think it was) half of the crowd was up and dancing. We were really feeling great by the end of the set (I think we only did 4 or 5 songs), the crowd was screaming and cheering and we'd had them on their feet nearly the whole time. We thought we'd really made it.
Then the next band came on - it was the Santana Blues Band, a home town favorite - and by the time they finished, I don't think anyone remembered us..."
Except, of course, Bill Graham who really liked our band and tried to help us out. He set us up with a recording date at Pacific Sound to record some demos and suggested to Chet Helms that he hire us to open up his new "Family Dog Ballroom"...
Farm Bust Blues
The story that goes with the song...
"We were livin' in a house in the country..." and so we were. The country being the outskirts (these days more like the suburbs) of Carbondale, IL, complete with a Rural Route # address. Robbie had graduated from high school and like all young men his age, he couldn't wait to get out of the house, so he rented a house outside of town where he could party and with a little luck, get lucky... His buddy, Bucky, also the bass player at the time, moved in with him, and the rest of the band, Om at the time, hung out there quite often.
"And all we wanted to do was to get our heads on right..." Well, this may be a bit of a euphemism, we were trying to write some songs and get our act together and perhaps enhance our creativity a bit in the fashion of the day... one of the band members (I won't say who) dealt a bit to friends and family, as it were, and had his stash downstairs even though he didn't live there.
"No matter how hard you try, they're goin' to try to put you right..." well, this is definitely where point of view comes in to play... the whole group was hanging out after a particularly intense rehearsal and everyone was relaxing in accordance with their own personal preference, which means naturally, that there were women there and several psychedelic type intoxicants. In the living room we were listening to some laid back jazz as I recall, some of us playing along now and then. Robbie was taking a "nap" with a "friend" downstairs.
Unbeknownst to those of us still in the house, Bucky had dropped some LSD and felt particularly free and easy and had gone outside and somewhere decided clothes were not only an encumbrance, but totally unnecessary out here communing with nature. Then he took off running through what turned out to be a farmer's fields and jumping off a bridge into a creek, all the while screaming “Lucky Bucky! Lucky Bucky!” . The farmer reported to the local police that there was some long haired naked man running through his fields screaming nonsense, and naturally they investigated and found that the boy apparently had come from that house up the road where the "hippies" had moved in.
So, Officer Friendly and his partner Officer NotSoFriendly called at the house. They knocked politely and someone (it was the drummer who was high as a kite) opened the door and invited them in... then went back and sat down on the couch and called me (the arch criminal who shall not be named in this account). I walked into the room and found myself face-to-face with Officer Obie and Deputy Fife who pulled out a notebook and said "Who lives in this house?" I said, "Why, my good friend Robbie who is out at the moment but will probably be right back. What seems to be the problem, Officers?"
They told us about our friend Bucky being taken to the local hospital apparently under the influence of some of that there LSD stuff that we've all heard so much about. They said that they thought that we were in possession of drugs and wanted to search the house. I said "As much as I would like to, I can’t give you permission to search my friend’s house since I’m just a guest here myself. What makes you think we have drugs here, Officer?" and he said, "Well, you look like your high as a kite". Now why would you think that, sir? "Well, for one thing your pupils are dilated and that is a sign of being high". Well, sir, there are any number of things that can cause one's pupils to be dilated, among which is fear - like when one is suddenly confronted with police officers with guns in one's house. "I suppose that could cause dilated pupils too", he said. Well, why don't you two go ask Bucky where he got those drugs? I'm sure he will tell you that it wasn't here. We were just playing music, sir. And, I don't think you can search our house without a search warrant, can you? "Well, your friend there invited us in." Well, it isn't his house and he didn't think you would be accusing us of having drugs either. So please leave.
Amazingly, they did. The police just left and we all breathed a sigh of relief. So, I went downstairs to get my stash and get it out of the house. But what I found was Robbie frantically stuffing bags of pills into the toilet and flushing it. And then we all noticed the sweet smell of burning grass permeating the premises. Seems Robbie's first reaction was to start shoving bags of pot (a bit over a pound) into the furnace. So he had burned and flushed a couple hundred dollars worth of psychedelic delights. The adrenaline that the incident had produced in us had totally overpowered whatever mellow we had previously been enjoying and we started yelling at each other until our screams turned into laughter. And we al stood around the vents from the furnace trying to inhale whatever was left of the stash.
The finale was that Bucky's mom made him move back home and stop playing with the band. And we recruited Bob for the band, and then wrote the song "Farm Bust Blues" although in fact none of us had been actually busted, except poor Bucky.
On one of our return "tours" to Carbondale, we played a gig at Carrie's in Murphysboro. Our manager had arranged for us to record some demo tapes there and the engineer who did the recordings was a young Tim Hollman... the guy who later went on to create the standard for movie & theatre sound, THX... not that we had anything to do with that, but it's just cool to know... (thanks John)
Tripping up the Belly Dancer
Event producers often experimented with "alternative" acts of differing kinds in those days to add a little variety to the shows - a break between intense sets of rock & roll. We played several gigs at the legendary Ludlow Garage in Cincinnati and for one Halloween weekend, they had a Belly Dancer, Schehera, who performed with a 12-foot python. She also danced barefoot... We were on right before her and for our standard setup, the roadies always had to stabilize the bass drum with a few heavy nails so that the set wouldn't start moving forward or fly apart when Steve got going... but they forgot to remove the nails when we cleared the instruments from the stage... we were all watching her perform and realized that the nails were still there about halfway through the set, but there was just no way to warn her. She didn't react when she hit the nails, but afterward her foot was bleeding. She said she'd hit the nails at the beginning of the act and had just moved closer to the front of the stage and hoped she didn't hit anything else. We took a lot more care after that... especially with the nails... ouch... (thanks Scott Carter)
U-turn in Palo Alto
"I remember playing in Palo Alto at the Poppycock, after the gig (3 or 4 am), I was driving the band’s old Post Office truck with everyone - band, roadies & friends, equipment too, - on board, all exhausted, some of us stoned… and I made a U-turn to save a little time - cause there were no other cars on the road… and a cop pulled us over and had us pull into the Palo Alto Police Station – as I remember it, a very high tech place for the times – where they put me in a kind of big enclosed booth and had me empty my pockets into a drive-in bank-teller-like metal drawer. I just did as they said without even thinking about it and the cop behind the glass window cracked up because I’d put a big hunk of hashish and a pipe, a couple joints and some miscellaneous pills in the bin… he called all his buddies over, saying "Hey, come look at this!". When they got control of their laughter, the lead guy said something like, “Well now, sonny, if I have to put these in an envelope and write down your name and the contents, I think we might have to keep you here for a long, long time. On the other hand, if I just get rid of this stuff for you, you can just deal with that little traffic misdemeanor… hmmm?” And, naturally, I said “Gee, I’d appreciate it if you’d get rid of it for me then, Sir”… then after spending the night (what little was left of it) in a cell, they let me go… "
The Big One
"The Big One", i.e., the great San Francisco Earthquake, the one that would have the coast from SF south sliding into the Pacific Ocean and Atlantis/Mu rising from the depths of the Pacific and other various phenomena, was supposed to happen on Nov 9th 1968 (Saturday) according to a lot of local Edgar Cayce fans and others... the stories got so heavy and with so many people getting so high, some folks got quite paranoid about it. Our buddy, roadie and all around band support guy, Carl Rozycki (see photos page) got so buzzed about it that he actually left town, got on a plane to St. Louis and hitch-hiked to Carbondale to be "safe". And, that night, there was a 5.4 magnitude earthquake -- in Southern Illinois that knocked him out of bed!!! True story!!!
The band, on the other hand, not only stayed in San Francisco, some of us drove up to the top of Mt. Tamalpais to join in the "end-of-the-world party" which was a wild affair with some folks actually expecting to see the coast south of us slide into the ocean (it didn't unless you had ingested some particularly potent psychedelic and you "thought" you saw something like that) and most of us just had a lot of fun dancing, singing and "pairing off" over the mountain..."
The Gas Chamber
Any time two or more of us gather, inevitably this story comes up...
So, we drove across country to do a bunch of gigs in the Midwest and to touch home base in Carbondale in the spring of '69. Our first set of gigs though were at the famous Ludlow Garage in Cincinnati. Now it was very much in vogue among San Francisco hipsters to try special diets. I think all of us at one time or another restricted ourselves to either macro-biotic, vegan or vegetarian diets and variations thereof. Bob had been the most confirmed, strict and dedicated vegetarian for quite a long time. For him it wasn't a fad and I would not be surprised if he still adhered to a severe vegetarian diet today. Anyway, he had apparently a fairly normal Midwestern middle class upbringing however.
As we were driving into Cincinnati, we saw a White Castle hamburger emporium. Now you just don't get sliders like White Castle out in California and we were all howling and salivating at the thought of sliders and it was a unanimous decision to stop and grab a couple bags of those delectable White Castle square, garlic laden, mini-hamburgers... I wasn't counting and can not verify it, but one band member is certain that he saw Bob down an entire bag of a dozen or two sliders all by himself.
Whatever amount it was turned out to be a severe disruption to the alimentary canal and digestive processes of a up-to-now die-hard vegetarian. The end result of that was unbelievably large amounts of the most noxious overpowering flatulence that any of us had ever encountered before or since... we couldn't continue driving in the van as no one could drive because the natural reflex to being engulfed in these clouds of vapors was to cover your mouth, pinch your nose and try not to heave your guts up... each of us was taken over by a horribly, frighteningly monstrously uncontrollably strong urge to throw up, to run, to escape this poisonous fog of terror... I am not exaggerating here, and some may say I am being too euphemistic.
These farts went on and on for hours. We somehow managed to get to the theater and setup although instead of our usual floor plan, Bob was completely on the edge of the stage on one side and all the rest of us clustered in a huddle on the opposite. During our first set the audience which at first had been crowding the stage now was gradually fading farther and farther backwards and over to one side. After the set someone asked us if there was a dead body under the stage or something.
This went on into the night. We were being housed at the club owners home, a slightly remodeled old stately mansion in an old part of town which fortunately for all of us and everyone else staying there had 4 floors. Bob was given a sleeping bag and told to sleep by himself on the fourth floor in the middle of the old ballroom. Thankfully, the next day, he was recovered and we resumed a "normal" rock band life.
Now some of you may doubt that this attack of extreme flatulence was as bad as I am saying, but consider this... that was 40 years ago and it is still one of the most vivid if unnerving memories that a group of acid-head stoner musicians retains... that should give you some idea of the magnitude... a word of advice, if your girlfriend or buddy is a vegan/vegetarian, do NOT let them near a White Castle.... (pretty much everybody contributed to this one, it's an event burned into our memories and probably our lungs and nasal passages too)
The Last Gig
Our last gig was at the Kickapoo Creek Music Festival in Hayworth, IL. There is a huge mythology surrounding the Kickapoo Festival and you can catch the vibe at Incident at Kickapoo Creek or at the YahooGroups KickapooCreek site devoted to folks sharing information about that weekend. But basically, it was the Midwest's attempt to experience a Woodstock like event and over 60,000 freaks, hippies, wannabes and just normal kids showed up for a weekend of fun and about 60 bands and lots of dope, sunshine, mud, nudity, partying and confusion. We weren't on the original lineup, but then almost nothing that was planned for that weekend worked out the way they expected it to...
Our managers (John Loyd and Harvey Morrison), having done the real thing all up and down the West Coast had been recruited by Bob Heil to run the sound system for the event. Hiel had about 48 Voice of the Theater speakers and a whole bunch of semi-obsolete Sunn amplifiers to work with which was almost adequate for the task at hand. Anyway, John and Harvey talked to the guy booking the event and got him to add us to the roster. We were originally booked to go on right before the closing act (REO Speedwagon), but when bands started canceling and things were getting all fuzzy, they had to shift us around and we went on Saturday late afternoon, early evening instead. Steve had left already and gone back to San Francisco. We had a new drummer, Randy Bradle and it was only the second time he's played with us, but he handled it beautifully (catch one of his drum solos in the movie about the festival).
Playing on that big cobbled together stage with people covering the rolling hills as far as you could see, huge speaker towers pushing out really big powerful sound... what a gas... it was a lot of fun and kind of reminded me of playing back in Golden Gate Park but much bigger... we had a great time on stage and got a wildly enthusiastic response from the crowd... it started to drizzle about the middle of our last song and the next band up, the Joe Kelly Blues Band, borrowed out gear so they wouldn't have to take the time to switch out equipment... that gave us some down time to have a few smokes and party with people backstage (which was actually right behind the scaffolding) and several of our friends and old girlfriends and other bands joined us... it was a good way to go out... a really big final gig at the biggest hippie party going.. we felt like real rock stars up there...
and then after packing up all our stuff and all of us into our old postal van, we hit the road and the engine conked out about half way back to the farm where we were staying... we wound up stuck there in between noewhere and nothing on a two lane blacktop country road somewhere in Southern Illinois overnight and we slept in the ditch by the side of the road waiting for a tow truck -- back to reality and that was pretty much the end of the band...
More stories coming...probably