Music

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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 creating commercial records from 1968-1975. The first of my many journeys into creative storytelling. I look back on this time and it was a golden age of experimentation and emergence. The sixties revolution was in full swing  and music was the soundtrack for these 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. Since the beginning of college I had created rock and roll "cover" bands with friends. 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 band was named the Habit, then the Cirkus and then Pacific Grass and Electric. We made enough money to pay for school and I actually learned how to run a small business.

 

Before I get to the records though, my dad took an interest in what I was doing at this point. He had always been interested in technology and music and 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, but the music not only helped me heal, but it also began my circling back with my Father. A true gift.

 

I liked playing others songs, but I was called to write. In the beginning I would just copy other songs, but eventually I did develop a style of writing that was my own. The writing was my first expression of storytelling. 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 was called “This is Love” a teenage heart throb song about a girlfriend of mine. The session my Dad arranged took place in the back of an electronics store. I think the guy had a four track recorder so 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 made copies of to help us promote the band for gigs. 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 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 on 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 the next year with a completely different band.

 

In 1968 I decided to stop messing around and put together the best musicians and singers I could find to try to take it up a notch. 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. I walked into a coffee house in SLO 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 we had a distinctive 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 later changed to the Yankee Dollar 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 in Ventura at a beach auditorium, a record producer named Frank Slay came to hear us. I had been sending him demos for two years. (all rejected politely) We had 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 two solo albums on Capitol and 20th Century records 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 icons 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 born after 1946. Later when I realized that I appreciated these pathfinders 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 rock and roll and then solo artist. The Story Catcher 2012 collection of songs was a blip that occurred many years later. Following the 9-11 tragedy for some reason 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…