Music is where it began for me. As a child I had always loved listening to music, but I would have never guessed at that point I would end up writing songs and making records from 1968-1975. Music was the first of my many journeys into creative storytelling. I look back on that time as a golden age of experimentation and emergence. The sixties revolution was in full swing and music was the soundtrack for those changes. And everything was new. Nothing had been tried and the variety of blues, rock and roll, classical, jazz and folk approaches that rolled out during that time set the tone for all that was to come.
I made my first record in 1968 while I was still in college. I had created rock and roll "cover" bands with friends to make a living and pay for my education. We would play bars, parties and dances up and down the California central coast and across in the Central Valley. We played all the popular songs of the time. The first of those bands was named the Habit which morphed into the Cirkus. (With a K) I actually learned how to run a small business.
Before I get to the records though, I want to mention the healing moments with my father that resulted because of the music. After a childhood where I didn't feel particularly loved by him, he took an interest in what I was doing with my music in my late teens. He had always been interested in new technology and in my freshman year of college he offered to pay for a crude recording session of the first song I wrote. He even took promotional pictures of The Habit. This interaction began some healing for us. It was good for me to feel he actually liked something I was doing. Later he would become a super fan. So the music not only helped me heal, but it also began my circling back to my Father. A true gift.
When my music first emerged I was satisfied playing others songs. But when I began to write original songs something opened up for me. In the beginning I would just copy others songs, but eventually I did develop a style of writing that was my own. The songwriting was my first storytelling expression. I had a good, but not great voice and was a good but not great guitar player. The reason I got to hang out with some very talented musicians, is that I could write. My first song “This is Love” was a teenage heart throb tome about a girlfriend of mine. The session my Dad arranged to record this song took place in the back of an electronics store. We played all the music live in one take. We then overdubbed the vocals without headphones. The music was played back from a speaker on the wall and we could hardly hear it, but we created this lush vocal sound and dumped lots of reverb on it to make it sound professional. We walked out of there with a stereo tape that we could make copies of to help us promote the band. All our girlfriends thought it was cool.
Sometime later we were driving across the central valley to Fresno to play a dance. We traveled in those days in a VW van with our equipment and a couple of cars in caravan. I was in the van when suddenly one of the cars pulled alongside. Our friends were screaming at us to turn on the radio. There was only one station in Fresno and there coming out of the car radio was our song “This is Love”. They were promoting the dance we were playing. No recording of that song survived, but over the years I've heard many songs that I wrote or sang wafting out of the radio and TV, but there is nothing like the thrill of hearing the first one. We felt we had arrived although the first real records would come two years later with a completely different band.
In 1968 I decided to stop messing around and put together the best musicians and singers I could find on the Central Coast with the goal of making a real record. I was greatly influenced by the music coming out of San Francisco, particularly the seminal group “The Jefferson Airplane” They were all ex-folk musicians like me that had this fabulous vocal sound led by their powerful lead singer Grace Slick. This new band began the moment I walked into a coffee house in San Luis Obispo and heard a young woman sing with a voice that knocked the back wall down. Powerful and melodic. Her name was Liza Gonzalez. When we sang together with Greg who joined us shortly there after we had a distinctive vocal blend. We quickly added other musicians, lead guitar, keyboards, drums, bass etc. We called ourselves Pacific Grass and Electric. (a play on the name of the local power company but we later changed it to the Yankee Dollar at the record companies insistence because of the drug reference)
From the very beginning this band was different. We became the number #1 band on the central coast in short order and one night as we played at an auditorium situated on the beach in Ventura CA just north of LA, a record producer named Frank Slay came to hear us. I had been sending him demos for two years. (all rejected politely) We played a good set and as he greeted us afterwords he uttered these words. “I just don’t know which record label I am going to put you with”. We were stunned. We had been "discovered." What followed I will detail more in the exit interview, but suffice to say that night began my 7 year commercial music career. Lots of records, Yankee Dollar, Sweet Pain, Sugarloaf, my solo album on Capitol and hundreds of miles on the road.
A side note that I thought I would mention. Us Baby Boomers always thought of the music explosion of the late sixties as being driven by us. But in truth the musicians that began that unfolding were actually five to ten years older than us. Sort of the last of the beat generation I used to see playing their bongo drums on Telegraph Ave in Berkeley. Dylan, Brian Wilson, the Beatles, Jimmy Hendrix, the Rolling Stones, Joni Mitchel, Neil Young etc were all born in the early forties ahead of the official Baby Boomers designation of those of us born after 1946. I always admired these pathfinders who were hearing the muse just minutes before we did. In a sense, they were our big brothers and sisters, always one step ahead of us. Much appreciation to their contributions.
The songs under the commercial singles banner are the AM radio "singles" that emerged from those albums between 1968- 1974. They were played on top forty radio. "Green Eyed Lady" went number 1, others charted in the top 30. They represent the most commercial I ever got and I get a kick out of listening to my evolution from folk/rock to full throated rock and roll and then as a solo artist.
The other collection entitled "Wolf Tales" were songs I wrote many years later. Following the 9-11 tragedy I felt called to write and sing again. I had no illusion about going back into the record business. This was more just pure release for me. These recordings were done in my home studio, just me and my guitar like it all began.
I will let the songs speak for themselves. Enjoy…