Tuesday, March 21, 2023

The Elders of Green Valley, The Silent Generation


View from our patio

Katie and I moved back to Arizona, but this time as snowbirds, splitting our time between Washington and Green Valley. We were in our sixties when we lived here before and the folks of the WWII Generation were the elders in this community of people 55 years and up. The youngest of that generation would now be 97 years old, so there are not many left, and those who are, don’t get out a lot. The Silent Generation, those people born between 1928 and 1945, was the dominant group, while Baby Boomers, born from 1946 to 1964, were the youngsters.

Now Boomers are the dominant group, the youngest is 59 and the oldest 77. The evidence of this Boomer take-over is everywhere. Walking the desert trails, I’m occasionally flashed the two-finger peace sign by another walker. It always takes me by surprise and I usually just give a normal wave. Many men still display their “freak flags”, with tiny thin pony tails or facial hair. The other day, I was standing in line at the grocery store and the elderly woman in front of me had long straight white hair and was wearing a colorful skirt down to her ankles. She reeked of patchouli oil, which transported me mentally back to the Oregon Country Fair in the 70s, where the dominant smells were patchouli and cannabis. We’ve attended three different music venues since we’ve been here and all the music was 50s and early 60s rock & roll.

The youngest Boomers have more in common with Gen-Xers. They were too young to remember Watergate and when the boys came of military age, the draft had already ended, so, unless they lost a loved one, the Vietnam War had little impact on their lives. The oldest Gen-Xer would be 58 and they are beginning to show up here as well. I see them holding hands, walking with a spring in their step, newly retired, hopeful, bright-eyed and bushytailed.  

The Silent Generation(SG), also referred to as Traditionalists, are the elders now. They were children during the Great Depression and the end of WWII. Couples during this time were not having a lot of babies, so they are a comparatively small generation.  As children they were strictly managed by their parents (seen but not heard) as opposed to the later more promiscuous Boomers and Gen-X children. Radio was their dominant form of entertainment. Women entered the workforce in record numbers and unions became strong and dominant in the work place. SGs inherited the values of their parents-- conformity, hard work, religiosity and early marriage. But times were changing and for the first time in American history, divorce became legal and more culturally accepted, so this generation has the highest divorce rate in US history. Communism was on the rise in the world and Joseph McCarthy attempted to root out communist leaning individuals in all walks of life. SGs made up the majority of soldiers in the Korean War. Because of these national events, this generation is described as being conservative and cautious.

And yet, this cautious and conservative generation had a rebellious undercurrent that erupted in the 1950s.  In the 1953 movie “The Wild One”, Marlon Brando’s character, the biker gang leader, was asked by another character, “Hey Johnny, what are you rebelling against?”, and he replied “What have you got?”. The 1955 movie “Rebel Without a Cause”, starring James Dean, captured the alienation, angst and confusion felt by teenage SGs. From this generation sprung the civil rights movement, which later morphed into the 60s peace movement and protests against the Vietnam War. Martin Luther King and John Lewis were SGs. The Beatniks were a 50s phenomenon, a counter-culture movement whose expression was seen in literature, art and music. They laid the foundation for the Hippies of the 60s.  

The “Beat Generation” or “Beatniks” were anti-establishment and anti-materialism. Their music was jazz by musicians like Charlie Parker, Dizzy Gillespie and Miles Davis and their writers were Jack Kerouac, Allen Ginsberg, William Burroughs and Gary Snyder among others. They embraced eastern philosophy and adopted the lifestyle of the “Lost Generation” writers and French existentialists of the 20s. Some dressed in black tight outfits, horned rimmed glasses and berets and they gathered in coffee houses and listened to poetry readings or acoustic music with accompanying bongos.  My introduction to Beatniks as a child was the Maynard G. Krebs character on the TV show “The Many Lives of Dobie Gillis”, played by Bob Denver. Later I read Kerouac’s book “On the Road”. In Greenwich Village, the coffee house scene transformed in the early 60s into the folk revival movement of Silent Generation musicians like Bob Dylan, Joan Baez, Judy Collins, Phil Ochs, Tom Paxton, Eric Andersen, Tom Rush, Tim Harden, and Leonard Cohen as well as John Sebastian(The Lovin Spoonful), Roger Mcguinn(The Byrds) and Cass Elliot(Mamas and the Papas).

Ken Kesey, an SG, was a direct bridge between the Beatniks and the Hippies. In 1964, he and the Merry Pranksters drove a psychedelically painted 1939 International Harvester school bus they named “Further”, across the country, smoking marijuana and dropping LSD. They stopped in small towns and visited with (or more like intimidated) the locals along the way. Neal Cassady, who Kerouac’s side kick character was based on in “On the Road”, was one of the Merry Pranksters. The “trip” was immortalized in Tom Wolf’s book “The Electric Cool-aid Acid Test”.

All the early rock & rollers were from the Silent Generation, Chuck Berry, Jerry Lee Lewis, Little Richard, Carl Perkins, the Everly Brothers, Buddy Holly, Bo Diddley, Ricky Nelson. All are dead now. Don Everly just died in 2021.

I was surprised to learn that even the second wave of rock & roll in the 60s was launched by a bunch of Silent Generation artists--the Beatles, the Rolling Stones, Jimi Hendrix, Janis Joplin, Jim Morrison, Crosby, Stills, Nash & Young, Jerry Garcia, Surf Music inventor Dick Dale, as well as the Beach Boys(except the youngest of the Wilson brothers Carl was a Boomer) and Jan and Dean.   

Even though rock & roll was invented and carried on by individuals of the Silent Generation, it was the Boomers who made up the majority of the audience and claimed the music as their own. By the time of the British invasion in 1964, most of the SGs were married and working at their jobs, too busy to pay much attention to the music. But the hordes of Boomers just coming of age, latched on to the music and it became the sound track of our lives.   






Saturday, November 12, 2022

John Sebastian and the Lovin' Spoonful


This drawing was inspired by the album art of Chrystal Russell

In the mid-1960s, I bought records by a few musicians as soon as their latest albums were released-The Beatles, The Rolling Stones, Bob Dylan, The Beach Boys, and The Lovin’ Spoonful. Unlike the other groups, The Lovin’ Spoonful’s popularity only lasted about two years, from 1965-67. They were a New York city folk/rock band, a musical genre that dominated the music scene in the late 60s and early 70s. The Byrds are widely credited with the invention of folk/rock, but one could argue that the Lovin’ Spoonful were equally instrumental in launching this new genre. The Byrds’ “Mr. Tambourine Man” (a Bob Dylan song that he gave them the OK to record) is thought to be the first folk/rock hit. It came out in April 1965. The Lovin’ Spoonful’s first hit song was “Do You believe in Magic” which was released in July. Even though the Byrds were from LA and the Lovin’ Spoonful from New York, both bands sprung from the early 60’s folk scene.

 John Sebastian grew up in Greenwich Village. His father was a professional concert harmonica player and his mother, a radio script writer. His godmother was Vivian Vance (Ethel Mertz on I Love Lucy), a close friend of John’s mother. His family hosted many musicians at their home, Burl Ives, Woody Guthrie, Lead Belly, Sonny Terry, and Lightening Hopkins. John got to know them and their music intimately. I attended a John Sebastian concert in Tucson in the early 2000s. John said Mississippi John Hurt stayed with his family when he was in New York and John learned Mississippi’s finger picking style. He confessed and demonstrated how the Lovin’ Spoonful song “Loving You” was a direct rip off of Hurt’s musical style.

As part of the folk revival, John was in a group called the Mugwumps along with Zal Yanovsky, Cass Elliot and Denny Doherty. In 1964, they put out one album and two singles. When the group broke up, Cass and Denny joined with John and Michelle Phillips to form the Mammas and Pappas and John and Zal recruited bass player Steve Boone and drummer Joe Butler to form the Loving Spoonful. The Mammas and Pappas 1967 hit song, “Creeque Alley”, tells the story of the formation of the two bands.

After their first hit song, “Do You Believe in Magic”, the Lovin’ Spoonful had a string of hits with “You Didn’t Have to be So Nice”, “Day Dream”, “Did You Ever Have to Make Up Your Mind”, “Summer in The City”, Rain on the Roof”, “Younger Girl” and “Nashville Cats”. They had seven consecutive top ten hits. John Sebastian was the main song writer and lead singer. He often played the auto harp on their recordings and was/is an excellent guitar and harmonica player. Even though the other members of the group were good musicians, John was the dominant force behind the group.

The band was flying high throughout 1966. Joe Butler was in the Broadway production of “Hair”. The group composed and performed the music for Woody Allen’s film “What’s Up Tiger Lily?”. Sebastian composed the music for Francis Ford Coppola’s second film, “You’re a Big Boy Now” with the band performing all the instrumental background. And they scored another hit song from the film, “Darling be Home Soon.” The producers that created the TV show “The Monkeys” built the show around the Lovin’ Spoonful, but "dropped the band from the project due to conflicts over song publishing rights". 

In May of 1967 Zal left the group after getting busted for marijuana possession. He was a Canadian citizen and the police pressured him to either give up the name of his drug supplier or be deported. Zal was afraid he wouldn’t be allowed back in to the U.S. so he complied. After this incident, there was a counter-culture movement to boycott all of the Lovin’ Spoonful’s records and performances. In an interview Zal said he left the band because he didn’t like the direction John’s song writing was taking it. Zal was replaced by Jerry Yester from the Modern Folk Quartet, but the band was hurt by the drug controversy and only had a few minor hits after that. In 1968 Sebastian left the group to pursue a solo career. I love his first solo album titled “John B. Sebastian”.

I attended a benefit concert for fire fighters at the Tacoma Dome in the 90’s. The bands included America and the Lovin’ Spoonful. America sounded great, with the two remaining members. The Lovin’ Spoonful consisted of Boone, Butler, Jerry Yester and his brother Jim. Joe Butler sang all of John’s leads. The music sounded the same, but Butler was no substitute for Sebastian on the lead vocals. In 2000, the original band got back together for their induction into the Rock & Roll Hall of Fame.

In the summer of 1969, Sebastian performed at Woodstock and some of it is captured in the “Woodstock” movie. In an interview John said he was not scheduled to perform. He had hitched a ride on a helicopter and attended the festival as a fan and to support his musician friends. He didn’t even bring a guitar with him. After a fairly long bout of rain, the crew needed to sweep down the stage to make it safe for the electronic equipment. They needed someone who could fill in with just an acoustic guitar, so John borrowed a guitar from his friend and fellow folk singer, Tim Hardin, and performed a totally improvised acoustic set.

In talking about the performance, he said it was a magical moment for him. He was wearing a self-tie-dyed outfit and pretty high on pot. In the middle of the set, the clouds parted and the sun came out. His solo career got a big boost from that performance. John had his biggest solo hit, “Welcome Back” in 1976, the theme song to the television show “Welcome Back Cotter”.

When we saw him perform in Seattle, John still had his voice and put on a great show in the small club. I was determined to speak to him. During the break he went to the bathroom and I followed him. I didn’t want to be creepy, so I waited outside the door. When he came out, I said, “John, thank you for your music.” He said, “You’re welcome.” And that was the extent of it. He got back on stage and finished the show. When we saw him in Tucson years later, he had all but lost his voice. He still put on a good show, but his croaky voice did not work well singing the old “Spoonful” songs but sounded appropriate for the early folk and blues songs. 

The Lovin’ Spoonful was truly an authentic American band that pioneered a genre of rock & roll that is still popular to this day.

Wednesday, June 1, 2022

The "Girl Groups"


I was in middle school when early rock & roll all but died out and “girl groups” began appearing over the radio airwaves. These groups sprung out of the male dominated Doo-Wop era of the forties and fifties. The “girl group” phenomenon lasted from about 1957 to 1966.The early groups were mostly teenagers who sang together in school and church. “Mr. Lee”, by the Bobbettes was the first song to make the pop charts. These five teenage girls from East Harlem, originally called themselves the Harlem Queens. They grew up in the projects and like the Doo-Wop groups before them, practiced in the hallways and on the playground.

“Maybe”, by the Chantels, was the next song to become a hit. It was a million seller in 1957 and re-released in 1969 after Janis Joplin covered it. The Chantels were five high school girls, ages 14 to 17, who attended parochial school in the Bronx and sang together in the school choir.

My favorite “girl group”, and the act that solidified the “girl group” sound was the Shirelles, four teenagers from Passaic, New Jersey. They began singing together at high school shows and parties, initially calling themselves the Poquellos. They had a sweetness and innocence to their sound, with back-ground harmonies like the earlier Doo-Wop groups. Their first single “I Met Him on a Sunday” was a song they wrote themselves and sang at school parties. Their second single, “Dedicated to the One I Love”, was a cover of a 1957 “5 Royals” song. The Shirelles version was released in 1959, but without a national distributer, only charted at #83 on the Billboard Top 100. In 1961, after they had several hits, the song was re-released and shot to #3. In 1967, the Mamas and the Papas covered the song "Dedicated to the one I Love" which went to #2. This was the first song that Michelle Phillips sang lead on instead of Cass Elliot.  

“Tonight’s the Night”, the Shirelles next hit single, was co-written by lead singer Shirley Owens. “Will You Love MeTomorrow” written by Carole King and her then husband Jerry Goffin was their first #1 song and the first #1 by any “girl group”.  Both of these songs would later make Rolling Stone magazine’s list of the greatest hits of all time. “Mama Said” reached #4 and in early 1962 “Baby It’s You” (co-written by Burt Bacharach, Hal David and Barney Williams) went to #8, It was recorded by the Beatles and put on their first album “Please Please Me” along with another Shirelles’ song, “Boys”, sung by Ringo. In 1969, a group called Smith had the biggest hit with “Baby It’s You”, but I favor the Shirelles’ version. The Shirelles second #1 hit, and their biggest selling single was “Soldier Boy”. Even though they continued to record new material until the late sixties, the Shirelles’ last hit single was “Foolish Little Girl” in 1963, charting at # 4.

Following in the wake of the Shirelles, came a host of other “girl groups” and 1963 was their most successful year. The Chiffons had hits with, “He’s So Fine” and “One Fine Day”(another Carole King/Jerry Goffin song),  The Ronnettes (Phil Spector’s Group) with “Be My Baby”, Martha and The Vandellas (a Motown act) had two hits, “Heatwave” and “Come and Get These Memories”, the Chrystals with “DaDoo Run Run”, and the Angels had a hit with “My Boyfriend’s Back”.

The most popular “girl group” was the Supremes (another Motown act). In 1964 they had two hits, “Where did Our Love Go,” and “Baby Love”. They went on to have 12 number one hits and for a time rivaled the Beatles popularity.

But in 1964, after the Beatles came to America, popular music became dominated by British groups, pushing out and replacing many musical styles, including almost all of the “girl groups”.



Tuesday, February 1, 2022

Surf Rock



When I was in high school in Ferguson, Missouri in the early sixties, I dreamed of traveling to California and living the lifestyle of a surfer.  The southern California mystique was in the minds and hearts of many young people at the time. Rock & roll had nearly died in the early sixties. The hard-edged originality of early rockers, like Elvis, Jerry Lee Lewis, Buddy Holly, Chuck Berry and Little Richard was gone and the airwaves were filled with clean cut white singers; (lots of Bobbys--Vinton, Vee, Rydel) and Fabian, Shelly Fabre, Connie Francis etc. Most sang well, but it was mainly sanitized pop music. Two major styles of music sprung out of the void, Motown and Surf Music.

Surf Rock is a southern California phenomenon integral to the surf culture of the early sixties, originating mainly in Orange County. Dick Dale is credited as the creator and pioneer.  His family moved to Orange County when he was a seventeen-year-old senior in high school. Dick began surfing and wanted to play music that represented his experience. He was influenced by the instrumental rock music of Duane Eddy, Link Wray and The Venturers. He played a Fender Stratocaster electric guitar and worked with Leo Fender to invent an amplifier that could increase the sound and get a reverb effect that emulated the sound of the waves. This reverb, called the “wet sound”, was built into the fenders amps.  He also made use of the vibrato arm of the guitar to bend the notes and he added tremolo picking, rapid picking that became the signature sound of surf bands.

            Dick Dale and the Deltones song Let’s Go Trippin’ is thought to be the first Surf Rock song. The group introduced it in 1960 at a dance concert at the Rendezvous Ballroom in Newport Beach on the Balboa peninsula. These concerts became known as “Stomps” because the surfers who attended would stomp on the floor in time with the music causing the old dance hall to shake. The dance, “the surfer’s stomp” was born from this.

            The Beach Boys were by far the most popular surf rock band, even though the surfers at the time would not have considered them to be authentic. Surf music was exclusively instrumental until Brian Wilson and The Beach Boys borrowed the basic sound and added the rich harmonies of the late fifties college circuit groups like the Four Freshman and the Hi-Los.  In 1961 the Beach Boys came out with Surfin’, but probably the first surfing song I heard in Missouri was Surfin’ Sufari, followed by Surfin’ USA and Surfer Girl.

Surf music splintered into two genres, instrumental surf rock and vocal surf pop. By 1963 both types of surf music were getting airplay across the country with hits like, Pipeline by the Chantays, Wipeout by the Safaris, and Surf City (co-written by Brian Wilson) by Jan & Dean. Many non-surfing musical groups jumped on the bandwagon and surf music began to fill the airwaves.

During those long, cold winter months in Missouri, intoxicating waves of surf music entered my ears and washed over my brain. I could only dream of the surfing scene of southern California, but it was a dream that enlightened my imagination and warmed my soul.

Tuesday, November 16, 2021

The Nevada Lineman

Returning home to Washington from Arizona on highway 93, Katie and I had an experience where an everyday worker came to the rescue, and became the “hero” of our story. We were on our way to Boise, Idaho after spending the night in an RV park in Ely, Nevada. Highway 93 is a long desolate highway. You have to make sure your gas tank is filled before starting out, because there are stretches of over a hundred miles with no gas station in sight. In 2001 I traveled this highway on a motorcycle, and had not calculated my gas correctly. I coasted on empty into a farmer’s driveway and begged him for enough gas to get me to Las Vegas. He was reluctant, but finally sold me some at an inflated price.

This time we had plenty of gas in the RV to cross Great Basin country. Each basin we entered was greater than the last, big open, expansive areas with mountains off in the distance on all sides. There were few cars or trucks on the highway, but about four hours into our trip, I noticed a small brightly colored car approaching in my rear-view mirror. Quickly it grew bigger and bigger and then blew by us, doing well over the speed limit. It was a new, orange, Audi TT. I wished it would have been going slower, not because of any danger factor, but because I wanted to look at the car. It looked really cool.

I had plenty of time to admire the car just a few minutes later. As we came over a rise, the TT was stopped, dead in the road and a Nevada Sheriff’s car was right in front of it, parked sideways, blocking both lanes. We slowed down and stopped behind the TT. The Sheriff must have just gotten there. There seemed to be no reason why he was stopping traffic. We waited, not knowing what was going on for quite a while. Finally, the deputy got out of his car. I sarcastically commented to Katie that he probably had to finish his coffee and donut first.

He was heavy-set and moved like a giant sloth. Opening the trunk of his squad car, he took out a bright lime green work safety vest and put it on. Then he took two stacks of orange cones out and began placing them on the highway around his vehicle. Bubba, as we referred to him, was straight out of casting for a Smokey and the Bandit movie. He never looked over at us, even though we were just one small car away from him.

Cars and trucks began to stack up behind us and on the other side, coming toward us. Still wondering what was going on, we suddenly saw the top of a telephone pole across the road burst into flames. It continued to burn, until the cross piece that held the wires toppled over and fell to the ground next to the pole. The wires it was holding were attached to a pole on our side of the road. So, when the cross piece fell, the wires lay strewn across the highway. If Bubba hadn’t arrived, we would have driven by unknowingly and without consequence. But somebody behind us or in front of us, would have plowed, right into the live wires. I don’t understand how Bubba knew to arrive when he did. He never acted like he was in a hurry or gave any indication of what was going on. The cones he placed around his car, were in the exact right place after the wires fell.

At least now we knew why we were stopped. A couple of fire trucks and another Sheriffs’ car showed up. All of the first responders got out of their vehicles and gathered in groups to talk. Nobody did anything concerning the still burning telephone pole, or the wires lying across the highway.

We waited for over an hour. Long lines of cars and trucks now waited along with us. Then the cavalry arrived or I should say, one utility truck. We watched as it drove along the line of cars and then went off the road and over to the telephone pole on our side of the highway, not the one that was on fire. Only one worker emerged from the vehicle. He put on a harness and pulled out some tools from the truck. Katie and I were elated. We had just driven over 4 hours and had been waiting an hour, while the firemen in full fire-fighting gear chatted with the deputies. The utility worker didn’t chat with anyone. He just methodically did what needed to be done.

We were happy to be waiting in our RV as opposed to a car. We had a place to pee and plenty of snacks and drinks in the frig and cupboards. As we watched the utility worker do his job, I plugged in my I-pod. I had just the right song to play for the occasion, Wichita Lineman.  I had three different versions. The most popular by Glen Campbell, a cover by James Taylor and a version by Jimmy Webb, who wrote the song. I chose Glen’s. What a great song.

We were traveling with our friends Nick and Suzanne. They were in their own RV ahead of us and probably getting close to Boise by now. They are dedicated Birders and have taught us to always have binoculars handy. You never know when an interesting bird might show up. So, I was watching Nevada lineman, through our binoculars. He climbed into his cherry picker and maneuvered it up close to the wires. He put some sort of clip on each wire, I assume to stop the electric flow. I noticed that he was a young handsome guy with jet black hair and beard. I mentioned this to Katie and she grabbed the binoculars and I had a tough time getting them back.

The lineman lowered himself back down, walked across the street, cut the wires and pulled them off the road, one at a time. None of the firemen or deputies helped or even spoke to him. When the last wire was removed, Bubba sauntered back to his car in front of the TT, removed his vest, folded it and placed it in the trunk. He ambled around, picking up each cone, stacked them, and put them back in the trunk. The Nevada lineman was putting his tools away. Just when I was getting ready to play Working Class Hero by John Lennon, Bubba pulled his car to the side of the road and began waving the cars through.

The TT took off like a shot. As we started up, Katie told me to honk the horn to thank the lineman, whose back was toward us. I honked and he turned around and gave us a wave in reply.  He truly was the hero.

It was after dark when we finally pulled into the RV resort in Boise.

Thursday, September 16, 2021

The Birth of Folk Rock


My 17-year-old grandson recently told me he was getting into early 70s music. He sent me his playlist of fifteen songs, which included songs by America, Crosby, Stills & Nash, Joni Mitchell, Paul Simon, the Grateful Dead, and Carole King.  He asked if I could recommend any songs, artists or albums. It was a baby boomer grandfather’s dream question. He had discovered the “Folk/Rock-Singer/Songwriter” era.

Folk/Rock was the background music of the “Hippie” era. Lasting about ten years, from 1965 to 1975, it was formed out of two main musical movements, the Folk Revival music of the late 50s and early 60s, and the British Invasion. In this new evolving genre, song lyrics became more topical and personal. The protest songs of the civil rights movement morphed into anti-Vietnam war songs. Electric guitars of rock & roll joined the acoustic instruments of folk music with a drum backbeat and two or more harmony singers. The musicians dressed in street clothes and didn’t try to be dancers or showmen. Folk/rock was all about the music.

The leading edge of the baby boom generation grew up listening to rock & roll. But in 1959, it almost completely died out. The hard-edged rock & roll of Elvis, Little Richard, Jerry Lee Lewis and Buddy Holly was replaced with cleaned-up pop versions, by the likes of Pat Boone, Fabian, Bobby Rydell, Bobby Vinton Frankie Avalon and many more. In January 1964, when the early boomers were in high school or college, the Beatles released their first US single, “I Want to Hold Your Hand”. In February they appeared on the Ed Sullivan Show and after that, the floodgates opened for the “British Invasion”. The British groups loved American rock & roll and rhythm and blues. They brought the raw energy of early rock & roll back to us, reinterpreted. For the next three years, British rock & roll dominated the American radio airways.

Music historians credit the birth of folk/rock to the Los Angeles group, the Byrds. The group was hailed as the American answer to the British invasion. Roger McGuinn, co-founder of the Byrds, was already an accomplished folk musician by the time he met Gene Clark and David Crosby at the Troubadour in LA and formed the Byrds.

Roger grew up in Chicago. In an interview, he said that when he heard Elvis singing “Heartbreak Hotel” on the radio, he knew what he wanted to do. He got a guitar and practiced diligently. He loved the folk music of the time and in 1957 entered Chicago’s Old Town School of Folk Music. There he learned to play the five-string banjo and continued with the guitar.

As a teenager he played around in the local clubs and his musicianship was so good, that he was asked to be a sideman for the popular folk group, the Limelighters. He was then hired to play behind the Chad Mitchell Trio. You can watch him as a teenager accompanying the Trio on you tube. Bobby Darin wanted to put more folk music into his repertoire and hired Roger to help him. Roger accompanied Darin for a year and a half, until Darin got sick and retired from singing. Darin then hired Roger as a song writer for his TM music in New York’s Brill building. At the same time, Roger also worked as a studio musician and recorded with Judy Collins, Simon & Garfunkel and others.

In 1963, Roger heard the Beatles, who were then popular in England and He began including Beatles’ songs in his solo act and experimented with fusing their rock & roll sound folk songs. He got a call from Doug Weston in LA and was hired to play at his nightclub, the Troubadour. Roger said that his Beatles style folk music was not very popular with the audience. One night Gene Clark was in the audience and loved Roger’s music. Gene asked Roger if he wanted to start a band.

Clark also had a background in folk music. After high school in Kansas City, he formed several folk bands. He was recruited by the New Christy Minstrels and recorded two albums with the popular folk group. After hearing the Beatles, Clark quit the folk scene and moved to LA.

Clark and McGuinn formed a duo and sang Beatles covers and Beatle-esque folk songs as well as some of their own compositions. David Crosby introduced himself to the duo after hearing them perform at the Troubadour and began singing with them, putting on a third part harmony. The trio became “The Jet Set” and through Crosby’s connections hired a manager named Jim Dickson.

They added Michael Clarke to their group as a drummer. According to Wikipedia, Clarke didn’t have much skill playing drums, but he had a haircut like Brian Jones of the Rolling Stones and looked good. Chris Hillman was the last member to be added to the group as a bass player. Hillman had a background in Bluegrass music as a Mandolin player. The group bought instruments just like the ones the Beatles used, including Rogers’ 12 string electric Rickenbacker guitar like the one George Harrison played. This gave the music that electric “jangly sound”. They changed their name to the British sounding “Beefeaters” and put out a single on Elektra records, “Please Let Me Love You”. It’s a pretty bad song in my opinion, but you can hear the Byrds’ signature sound taking shape

 Roger wanted to fuse the jangly rock sound with lyrics like Bob Dylan’s. Dickson acquired an acetate disc of the unreleased Dylan song “Mr. Tambourine Man”. Dylan had recorded the demo for his album “Another Side of Bob Dylan”. Ramblin’ Jack Elliot sang harmony on the demo, but sang off key, so the song wasn’t used on the album. At the time, the Byrds were still calling themselves “The Jet Set”. They invited Dylan to hear their version of the song. Dylan loved it and it is conjectured that this influenced Dylan to “go electric”.

With back up harmony and a rock beat, the song launched the Byrds’ career and opened the door for a host of American groups to challenge the popularity of the British groups that dominated the airways.

The Byrds’ “Mr. Tambourine Man” was produced by Terry Melcher (Doris Day’s son), who had also produced songs for the Beach Boys. Terry used the same production style for the song that he used for the Beach Boys’ song “Don’t Worry Baby”. McGuinn wanted his lead vocal to sound like a cross between Dylan and John Lennon. Only three of the Byrds were actually used on the record. Roger sang lead, and David Crosby and Gene Clark sang harmony. Melcher used four members of the “Wrecking Crew” to play the musical instruments, Bill Pitman, Leon Russell, Hal Blaine and Larry Knechtel. They had also played on the Beach Boys’ recording. Chris Hillman and Michael Clark grudgingly did not play on the record.  The Byrds became a regular band at the Troubadour and in a short period of time their musicianship was up to the task of playing on their own recordings. Mr. Tambourine Man was the only song they didn’t actually play on.

In April of 1965 the song shot to number one on the U.S. Billboard Hot 100 and on the U.K.’s Singles Chart. It proved to be the template for a new style of music labeled, folk/rock. In addition to the Byrds, the Lovin’ Spoonful, the Turtles, Sonny and Cher and Barry McGuire all had folk/rock hits that year. The Byrds second number one song of that year, “Turn, Turn, Turn” was written by Pete Seeger. Before Pete recorded it, the Limelighters recorded their version in 1962, when Roger, who went by Jim at the time, was playing guitar with them. By the early 70s, folk/rock had become a dominant genre in American music.







Tuesday, January 28, 2020

Standing on the corner in Winslow Arizona

On our southwest road trip, we stopped in Winslow Arizona. I wanted to spend the night in La Posada hotel. I’ve been doing research on the Fred Harvey hotels and restaurants and wanted to experience one first hand. La Posada was built in 1930 and designed by Mary Colter. It was the last Harvey hotel to be built.
When the railroad expanded across the country from East to West in the late 1800s, Fred Harvey opened restaurants and hotels all along the Acheson, Topeka and Santa Fe train routes. They were classy establishments with fine linen, china, silverware, crystal, gourmet food and impeccable service. Fred Harvey died in 1901, but his hospitality business was carried on by his family.
Harvey employed thousands of young women from all parts of the country, and many from Europe, to serve in his establishments. They were called “Harvey Girls.” In the development of our nation, Fred Harvey is credited with bringing lots of eligible women out West, where men drastically out-numbered women. Working in a Harvey hotel or restaurant was a great opportunity for a young woman at a time when women had few options for employment, travel and adventure. The western cowboys, shop keepers, buffalo hunters, gamblers, ranchers, farmers, miners and even some bandits were enchanted by these well-trained, sophisticated women.
Harvey girls had to sign a contract to remain single and on the job for at least six months. If they lasted that long, they were given a vacation and free travel on the Santa Fe railroad to anywhere of their choosing. They lived in dormitories with an eleven o’clock curfew. On Friday nights the hotel/restaurants sponsored a town social, and this was the only time the young women were allowed to wear street clothes in the hotels. It was also the only time the local men had a chance to get acquainted with them. Very few women were employed for more than a year or two. There was too great a need for women out West at the time.

We booked a room in the historic hotel. The inside of the hotel was as beautiful as the exterior. They took great care in keeping things in period. Many famous people stayed there over the years, Einstein, Truman, Jane Russell, Spencer Tracy, Sinatra, Roosevelt and Errol Flynn to name a few. Each room had a picture and biography of the celebrity who slept there.

At the restaurant we ate dishes from the original Harvey House menu like their corn and black bean soup. The waitress instructed me as to how to eat it. “First take a bite of the corn side, then the bean side, and after that you can eat them together.”  I followed her guidance, and it was delicious. 
On the morning we left Winslow, I thought it would be cool to get my picture taken “standing on the corner”, like in the Eagles song, “Take it Easy”. I didn’t have to look
very hard to find a corner to stand on, because there is a sign on a corner in the middle of town that reads “Standin' on the Corner” and there was a bevy of couples, all in their sixties and beyond, taking each other’s pictures standing next to the sign. The town of Winslow has created a major tourist attraction out of the first hit single by the Eagles. There is even an annual "Standing on the Corner" festival. Originally the song was written, but not completed, by Jackson Browne for his first album. Glen Frey heard it, liked it and encouraged Jackson to finish it. Glen wanted to record the song with his band, but months went by without progress. Finally, Glen asked Jackson if he could finish the song for him. Jackson agreed and the rest is rock & roll history. It is the first cut on the Eagles first album and was their first hit single in May 1972. Jackson recorded it also as his first cut on his second album “For Everyman”.
The morning was cold and overcast and I had to wait my turn to get my picture taken. Next to the sign is a statue of a young man with a guitar, his shoulder worn smooth and shiny from all the tourists putting their arms around him. He does not resemble Jackson Browne, but another statue not far away, of a long-haired hippy dude, does sort of look like Glen Frey. Murals on the building behind depict the reflection in a hotel window of a young woman driving by in a flatbed Ford and in an upstairs window, a young man and woman are in an embrace. There is even a real flatbed Ford pick-up strategically parked on the street in front. They went all out to replicate the second verse of this early seventies’ song.  
The woman running the gift shop across the street told me that in the warmer weather there are people from all over the country and around the world taking pictures and buying mementoes. She said it’s a big deal for tourism and the Winslow economy. One line out of a song, who’d of thought, but then again, baby boomers like myself are nuts about our music.
Katie and I poked around the gift shop for a while and then continued on our journey.