Source: 21. WORDS TO THE WISE
WORDS TO THE WISE
So, Emmylou, Linda and Joni walk into a bar.…
There is no punch line, and sadly Kajsa walked into too many bars and frittered away her chances at stardom.
On the other hand, was there really any chance? Now, in old(er) age, she finds it necessary to examine some realities and pass them on, perhaps to save some other ambitious musician from making the same mistakes.
What DO you have to do? Honestly? The answers are as painful to me as sitting on a cactus. Some of them I didn’t have much control over, but some I damn well did, woe is me. This list is nowhere near all of it; I’ll just jot things down as they come to me.
- You have to love what you’re doing, so much that you really don’t let anything interfere.
- You have to love yourself doing it, so much that you can’t be knocked down.
- You have to love everyone else who’s doing it, so you can learn from them, work with them, enjoy their company, and maybe even influence them.
- You have to (ideally) have a car, a baby-sitter, the ability to change strings and tires and cherished plans.
- You have to thrive on the unexpected.
- You either have to have had a supportive family who rooted for you all the way, or, lacking that, you have to forgive the one that tore you down, competed with you, abandoned you, ridiculed you, starved you, or whatever your particular sad fate was.
- You have to thank everyone who ever helps you.
- You have to remember people’s names. How? As a teacher who remembered the names of hundreds of students said, ‘You listen.’
- So you have to listen. Always. Everywhere. To everyone. You have no way of knowing who or what will turn out to be important.
- You have to keep learning, even when you think you pretty much know it all.
- You have to consider advice and criticism very carefully, though you do not have to accept it.
- You need to not take anything personally.
- You need to understand that your genre, your taste, your idiom could not possibly be the only right one.
- You need to stay young in your heart and your opinions, and it’s never too early to start.
- You have to be on time for appointments, return calls and mail, and maybe get a secretary.:)
- You need to keep your personal life in order. Well, plenty don’t—but it really helps if you are not bogged down by domestic strife, slovenliness, addictions, neuroses, demons, woolgathering, or any of the deadly sins. Since there is no living example of any star avoiding all these things, I only include them as food for thought.
- You need to treat competitors (and that’s what they are, in a way) with kindness and tenderness, because their skins are probably not as thick as you think. Yet your own skin needs to keep thickening.
- You have to ride along with your mistakes, steering and correcting as you go. A horribly wrong note can lead into a fantastically creative solo, so don’t just grimace and apologize. Own it.
Oh, there are so many more. But perhaps they all fall into one or another of the above.
I did want to continue writing my blog, and I probably will, but first I had to get this out of the way. Reading back over my own stumbling, emotion-strewn path made me kind of sad for a while, and I thought, who would want to read this? Who wants to read about the people I almost knew, the show I almost got to play, the record I almost made, the manager I almost got, the song I almost sold?
You, maybe. My reader. You are probably not Emmylou, Linda or Joni. You probably have struggled and suffered and stumbled, as I have. You are probably thrilled if anyone remembers a single thing you did back in your glory days—days which were very likely not that glorious.
And like me, you probably have had a wonderful ride anyway, success or no. If you have had a wonderful ride, of course, then that—according to today’s life coaches—is success.
The beautiful CD (mine) arrived. You can get it. You should get it; it will improve your life, if only by a small margin. Read on to find out how. How, that is, to get it and also how it will improve your life.
>>Orders before 12/25/12 will receive two CDs for the price of one, which means two lives being marginally improved. 🙂 Think about it, this means that if you do not order the CD very soon, at least one life will not be enriched, and that loss will be on your shoulders. 😦
How will your life be enriched? The thirteen songs on this album will take you out into the desert or into a dangerous bar, back to an old love or forward to a new one (if the new one works out, there’s even a wedding song, ‘Boom Boom,’ which has served that purpose several times); they will show you a time when traveling penniless was not an unreasonable way of life even for a young family; they will cause your lips to smile and your feet to dance. If you are a musician, you’ll be rewarded by new surprises with each listening.
This particular album–No Need To Hurry–is not the full collection of my music over 6 decades of writing. There are also what I think of as the Misty Mountain songs, the Desperate Irish songs, the Insane Lunatic songs, the God songs and the I’m Just Learning How To Write Songs songs. No Need To Hurry is an arbitrary grouping of Bittersweet Love songs, accompanied by some very high-test musicians who totally understood the atmosphere of each number and nailed it. In my opinion. I’m extremely proud of what we did and eager to share it with all of you.
How to order: 1) Use Paypal. Send me an email, firstname.lastname@example.org and I’ll send you a PayPal invoice.
Or, 2) Write check or MO to Kajsa Ohman. Send to Helios Records, Suite #1, 1616 E. Howell St., Seattle WA 98122. Price of $19 includes S&H. If you live outside the US, please add enough additional postage. NB, don’t make check out to Helios Records.
Remember, order before Christmas and you will receive two CDs for the price of one. And enrich someone’s life.
We interrupt this broad to bring a special bulletin. NO NEED TO HURRY, the new album by Kajsa Ohman with Johnny Harper, Mayne Smith, Gavin McGeorge and others, is actually in manufacture and will be available a few days before Christmas. This baker’s dozen of her original songs is—she has said so herself—one of the best albums you will buy all year, no matter which year we’re talking about.
To order, contact her on this blog or at her email, email@example.com, and by that time she will have figured out how to accept your payment. (She does have PayPal, for example.) She is tremendously excited about sharing her music with you, particularly those of you who’ve been following the blog but have no idea what she sounds like. She’s even considering offering two-for-one at first, just so you will give the extra to someone who will love it. Yes, if you ask her to do this, she certainly will.
The $19 includes S&H, unless you live out of the US, in which case you probably know how much extra postage you’ll need. Despite the title of this CD (see above), respond now; operator is standing by.
John Fahey is—was—a triple water sign. I was one of those sign-askers, and he told me. I said, “Whoa! Triple water! That’s a lot of—of—of—” “Yeah,” he said, eyeing me sideways with dark, watery eyes. “It is.”
John was busy tuning at the time, the guitar across his knees. He changed his strings before every show, possibly before every set. He was dressed in old jeans, a black T shirt and ordinary sneakers. He wore his hair neither overly combed nor overly long; he was not about his hair. He had a lot of forehead and a round, cleft chin that he tended to tuck inward. At his feet was a carton of bottles, destined to go on stage with him. “People like to think it’s beer, or booze,” he said. “It’s not. But they enjoy thinking it is.”
So maybe it was water. His playing was like water. It was like the headwaters of a little creek that went winding its way down a mountain, forking off here or there to become something else, sometimes almost galloping where the terrain was rocky, sometimes spreading out in warm shallows. It didn’t exactly ‘get anywhere;’ it didn’t have a plot. It was water.
Maybe this was why he was struck—submerged?—by my song, ’Golden Apples,’ which I played the first time I opened for him. While that song is very structured and does sort of get somewhere, it is very long, mellifluous, hypnotic and watery. [See, I have these two kinds of fans: the ones who like the rollicking, clever songs (these folks are the God Bless the Hippies) and the ones who like the beautiful, artistic, slightly melancholy songs (these are the Golden Apples). John was a Golden Apple for sure.]
In short, he wanted to put me on his record label, right away. His label was called Takoma—after his home town in Maryland—and if you check its discography now, you will see why it would have been a fantastic thing.
I accepted; we signed a contract; I became rather his protégée. This happy state didn’t last long, but it is really fun to be a protégée. I remember once being in the dressing room of a large Berkeley venue, waiting to go on stage; the room was full of people—industry people of various sorts—and John was in a temper. [He did have a temper; it was all that water, and his overflow valve was set low.] So he roared around the room dragging guys up by their sleeves, yelling, “Out! Out! Everybody get out of here, now! All of you!” Then, “Not you,” he paused, patting me briefly on the head. “You’re good.” *
. I was good until I wasn’t. This basically happened when I went off to his studio to start recording my album, and he wasn’t there, and maybe people were there who shouldn’t have been. At any rate, for some reason he’d thought all my songs were going to be like ‘Golden Apples,’ and they weren’t. (By that time we’d played maybe five shows together, and it seems as though he’d have become somewhat familiar with my material…………) “You don’t have any more ‘Golden Apples’?” he asked, his disappointment dripping down the long-distance wire.
And needless to say, this isn’t the whole story. The whole story is in a piece of fiction called ‘Deep Diver,’ and pretty soon I will put it on this blog, with a whole pile of caveats: that fiction, while it may and should contain the essential heart of a matter, can play fast and loose with details, characters, etc.
With that contract scrapped, I went cheerfully on with my career, which apparently was going to be providing opening act for other people forever. This took me to THE ICE HOUSE, a really nice club BOB STANE ran in Pasadena. (Now he has a coffee house.) And at the Ice House I met the next person I was to sign a contract with. This was LES BROWN, JR., son of LES BROWN AND HIS BAND OF REKNOWN.
Les was a tall, lank, rather graceful man with a flop of brown hair, a pixie-ish smile and the air of someone who has grown up in the entertainment world and has little intention of knowing any other. He wasted hardly two minutes in letting me know he had a production company and wanted to sign me. I didn’t (and still don’t) know exactly what a production company was. For this reason I was hesitant to sign anything; I wanted to see something clearly spelled out, like, “We will make a record of YOU singing YOUR SONGS and then we will give you some MONEY.” But Les seemed nice, honest, and famous, so with these three considerations in mind I agreed.
The signing ritual took place on the thousandth floor of some downtown Hollywood building like Capitol Records or something, in an office containing five guys I’d never seen, and of course Les, who I guess did remember what I was doing there, maybe. My own entourage included my husband, my 4-year-old son who was having some kind of furious fit, and my baby who was hungry and howling. I was forced to stick the baby under my blouse and nurse him while signing with my free hand. This was obviously not a Professional Scene, and the chaps felt obliged to look away.
Worse yet, I was in one of my really cranky moods, and the conversation turned into a rave about Leon Russell and how completely unstudied and spontaneous he was and how he didn’t care the tiniest speck what anyone thought of him, and they just kept on in this vein until I squawked, “Are you kidding? He’s fully conscious of every move he makes, every wrinkle in his clothing, even whether his beer label is turned toward the audience! He’s a professional, for God’s sake!” Which, considering I didn’t know Leon Russell at all, was a great deal to assume. I see now my nose was out of joint because at that moment I should have been the star, the subject of excitement, so why were we talking about Leon Russell? I should have just shut up, because it was none of my business what they thought. But was I not signing a production contract with them? In which case, I certainly hoped they were not as gullible as they seemed, because I was putting a whole lot in their capable hands.
No worries, though! I went off (with my entourage) to Montana for a few weeks; when I came back, the production company had dissolved, and presumably with it my contract.
So, kids, what did we learn from today’s lesson?
1) Don’t bring your family along when signing contracts.
2) Have money! So you can hire baby sitters and such.
3) Don’t go bellowing your opinions as if they were of great or even small importance; they are not.
4) Probably not a good idea to impugn Leon Russell’s naïveté, unless you know Leon real well, and even then!
5) Being a pleasant and cooperative person with nothing but good things to say about others is probably a better idea.
There will be a quiz, later, so study these points diligently.
* Later on, LEO KOTTKE became John’s protégé, and that worked out well.
“This body never goes to the beach,” he smirked as he unbuttoned his flamboyant shirt and laid it carefully aside. Underneath he wore an ordinary white T which revealed—more than anything else—that his body did in fact never go to the beach. Or the gym. No matter; the way he lounged back into Sandy’s sofa cushions—leggily, armily, snakily—suggested he had no need of such stimulants as sunshine or barbells to have a plenty adequate social life.
Kim Fowley is kind of a Hollywood icon—although Hollywood has wall-to-wall icons so that isn’t much of a description. Okay, in the music world of Hollywood, Kim Fowley is one of those people that when you say his name people will raise an eyebrow, snicker, whistle, bow with pressed palms or in some other manner show recognition of his iconery.What has Kim done? (You see, I know that among my readers, not many have heard of him.) Well, I really don’t know. It’s a funny thing but I’ve never run that down. He hit the world as a boy genius and didn’t stop running. He truly is a brilliant and creative mind. Recently there was a long article honoring him in the Los Angeles Times; if I’d read the article I would know so much more. It was his birthday, so I saw he was 2 months younger than me. But you really should Google him. I pretty much guarantee it will be worth the effort.
It was Kim who organized and produced THE RUNAWAYS, I know that much. Wasn’t JOAN JETT one of them? And LITA FORD?
He has also written a lot of hit songs. He’s produced other famous people, like HELEN REDDY. Perhaps MEAT LOAF—Good God, I’ve got to start checking my facts pretty soon.Moreover, he has cultivated the smarmiest possible reputation for kinky acts in kinky situations; mayonnaise and whips are often mentioned in this context. And whether truth or hype, he emanates the air of a person who knows no limits whatsoever, except maybe to his patience.
It was with Kim that I signed a contract giving away the rights to “God Bless the Hippie.” He was buying and selling songs in those days, matching up artist and material. So guess who was matched up to play “God Bless the Hippie”? THE BYRDS! That’s because Clarence White was now with The Byrds, and Kim had naturally thought that this nifty flat-picking number would be perfect for Clarence. (According to Kim, when Clarence heard the tape of me doing it, he smiled outright.)
And so The Byrds would buy it, and Clarence would play it. But who would sing it?? I kept trying in my mind to reverse the roles—male hitchhiker and female hippie?—or to think of the story in third person, but I couldn’t make myself like it. Selling a song is as bad as selling a child. But Kim had said it would work, and one thing is for sure, if Kim says something will work artistically or commercially, it will work.
This piece of luck was Sandy Getz’s doing. Her doing, too, that Kim was now on her couch eyeing me straightforwardly across the coffee table, and I was sitting primly on a straight-back chair with my guitar, eyeing him with similar directness, and one thing we were recognizing in each other was a lot of intelligence. [Is this a grandiose thing to say? That I might be even remotely on a mental level with someone like Kim Fowley? Sure. But I give myself such low marks in so many areas that it might get really boring if I didn’t have anything going for me. So if I rate low in social skills, awareness, courtesy, self-discipline, confidence, bra size, modesty, and money matters, let me boast an abundance of talent and brains, eh?]
He set a running cassette player in front of me and said, “Go. Play me all your songs.”
“All that would be of interest to me—as in, would make me money.”
So I sang. And sometimes he’d cut in after one line, no, this is basically a folk song, or no, this is about nothing. Sometimes he’d hear an entire song. At “Banks of the Yangtze” he said, “Yes. This is great; Nixon’s just gone to China, so China’s big right now. And drop the last verse, it’s just more of what you already said.”
This project didn’t really take all that long, as I’d only written maybe twenty songs then—and as I said, a few were only on stage for ten seconds. I felt really sorry for the ones that were so summarily dismissed, since I like them all equally and have no favorites. But it was a crash course in songwriting. After that, I’ve never added a last verse unless it takes the song somewhere new and nails it down. I hope this is so. And I can see that while I love all my songs, others don’t necessarily, unless I’ve made it somehow worth their while. Meaning, it’s not about my personal sensitivity, it’s about commonality of experience—and a tune that sticks. If I really think about it, I probably learned more about songwriting in two hours with Kim then at any other time.
We signed the contract (“G.B. the H.”). I signed with my customary slap-dash, as if I were far too busy signing contracts to take this one seriously. He signed slowly, methodically, mounding the tops of the ‘m’, looping the tall ‘l’ as if his 3rd grade teacher were watching. “Wow,” I said, “you really have neat penmanship.” “Yes, I do,” he answered. Then he gave me that look, the look anyone knows who’s ever been lookedat by Kim Fowley, and said, “I don’t want any mistakes. I want everything to be absolutely clear.”
So there was another mini-lesson, and the fact that I’ve never taken it to heart doesn’t mean it isn’t true. Therefore I pass it on. The mileage you get out of illegible handwriting and unintelligible, off-the-wall comments mostly isn’t worth that much. If you write and speak clearly, you will save yourself an incalculable amount of grief. Have I made myself clear?Alrighty then: The Byrds did not do “God Bless the Hippie.” Instead, Clarence died.
And what would be the fate of my song? And what about “Banks of the Yangtze,” that only weeks earlier had been so promising? I tried to call Kim. This was hard to do, as I didn’t have a phone. Every day or so I would trudge up the steep, poison-oak lined path to my neighbor’s house, put through a long-distance call to Hollywood after using the hand sanitizer left by the phone for that purpose, and hear Kim pick up. As soon as he realized it was me (no caller ID then) he would start disappearing, as, “Can’t….crrrwwk….breaking u……cccptk…..nother time……ghhhhhh………gotta g…………………………” Then the line would go dead. (At first I would actually try the call again, but I learned.) Then I would ask the operator for the charges and jot it down on the pad provided for that purpose. After an amazingly long time, I finally stopped calling, so to this day I don’t know anything about my song.
Well, yes, I do know something. I know that I own it Montana-style. This means I have a berserk husband, two fanatically loyal sons, some rifles and a shotgun. Now all I need is a running car and GPS. Although, if someone did steal it I’d feel kind of proud.
“Hiring folksingers does nothing but encourage them. It’s like letting cockroaches into your house.” –John Sandford, Moral Prey.
“Even if she turned out to be a folksinger, he was going to screw her.” —Kingsley Amis, I Want it Now.
Well, I’m back. (I was so mortified at having confused John Prine with JJ Cale that I wasn’t going to write any more. But I got over it.)
So, the Golden Bear, then. I played in all of the south coast beach towns, but some of those gigs were unmemorable and many of them featured only a single act—me. I think the dynamic was better in the larger clubs; more quality of Show and less of the folksinger having stumbled by accident into a room full of beer-drinking surfers.
Certainly it was dynamic when ERIC BURDON was the headliner at the Bear. This was The Eric Burdon Band, not the Animals. The band was small and Eric was the extreme feature of it. I had never, at that time, seen an entertainer pour so much into a performance, although I was reminded of back when I was a teenager and peeked through the door-window of the hungry i to see Josh White doing a very intense solo act. I was unaccustomed to musicians bathed in sweat, which seems odd considering that my future would hold nothing but sweat-bathed musicians from that time till the present.
I was sick. Come to think of it, I was sick when I played the same club with Elvin Bishop; I remember Elvin earnestly recommending a recipe for some kind of guaranteed flu cure his whole band swore by. If I could remember what it was, I would tell you. Come to think of it, I was sick for an awful lot of gigs. I found the pressure almost unendurable; for a showboat, I am amazingly timid and often wish I could just go home and curl up with a volume of Anthony Trollope.
My sickness this time was that I had no voice, only a croak. But there is something about Huntington Beach, and all those surfers. It was a young audience, extremely unjudgmental and extremely ‘guy.’ I was thirtyish, which in my case was very young also. And I had this dress. Crocheted out of white package twine, it was barely long enough to cover whatever needed covered. Oh yes, and I was barefooted, and tan, and long-haired, and mildly stoned.
My set only really had to be three songs, once Nick, the owner, realized I couldn’t sing. So I played all the blues guitar I could—never my strong point—and talked and croaked my way through Leadbelly’s ‘How Long Blues’ and ‘I got the Key to the Highway’ and ‘Trouble in Mind’ and one I invented on the spot because it turned out I got a huge encore. Now today I think that if I’d made this show my stock-in-trade I would probably have found that superhighway to success. It was exactly, exactly what those people wanted. And because I couldn’t possibly do a very good job, I was relaxed, as in hopeless. As in, roll my eyes back into my head and go for it. Rarely had I been so popular.
After Eric’s next set I went back to the dressing room. He was sitting alone, dripping into a towel like a worn-out boxer. “You’re really something,” I ventured. I felt like a dope, like a fan. He wiped his face and looked up under wet eyebrows and said, “Yeah, you’re really something, too.” After that, there seemed nothing more to say. I went away with that gem in my heart: Eric Burdon had said I was really something, and for once I knew it was true. That’s how convincing he could be.
So how about those DILLARDS at McCABE’S in Santa Monica? McCabe’s was a particularly fun club. By day a well-known folk instrument store, on the weekends it was transformed into one of the best folk venues around, with a classy and knowledgeable audience. I played there quite a few times—once with DOC WATSON and his son MERLE. I recall that Merle liked to drink quite a bit, and his father wasn’t at all pleased with him over that. So he’d drink vodka, with the vain hope that his father couldn’t smell it, and he’d carry the bottle in a plain brown wrapper, which was a surprising strategy since Doc was blind and couldn’t see the bottle anyway but could surely hear the rattle of the paper bag. But mostly, Doc was incredibly proud of his talented son and worked hard not to show it too much on stage. (Merle eventually died in an accident, and now Doc is gone as well.)
The time I opened for the Dillards was one of the better gigs. They had BYRON BURLINE playing fiddle with them that night, and they were hot. I loved their rambling story about how hilarious it was that Joan Baez sang ‘Old Blue’ like she knew anything about hound dogs, how back home all their hounds would crowd into the outhouse to keep warm in winter so that if you wanted to take a dump you had to elbow sixty pounds of dog-flesh away from the hole, and how their hounds would keep getting run over on account of them living so close to the mill, so there’d be these flat, dried-out hounds in the road and they used to sail them like Frisbees. ‘You good dawg youuuuu. . .’ they sang, and the audience couldn’t help howling along.
It was such fun, in fact, that at intermission Doug Dillard, their banjo player (now gone as well), got drunk or something-or-othered, tried to climb over the chain link fence behind the club and smashed to the pavement where he lay out cold like those flat hounds and had to be carted off to the hospital.
But the show must go on. So each musician moved over one, since everyone could play everything. Dean the mandolin player moved over to the banjo, Rodney the guitar player played mandolin—and who was left to play guitar? Why, that’d be me. Of course. I was glad to. Delighted. Honored.
With no further negotiation they announced they would just kick things off with the old standard, ‘Uncle Penn.’ As soon, that is, as the guitar player played the old standard kick-off, the bluegrass run in D, which starts on the open low E and works its way up to Penn’s-Your-Uncle. Simple. Nothing easier.
I can play that run. You can probably play that run. Joan Baez can probably even play it.* But I stood there like a granite ass and couldn’t play it. See, it has to be played with strong authority, like you mean it. Well, heck, I can play it with strong authority. I just couldn’t then. I couldn’t make my hand reach down and make that bold move, and the boys waited and waited, not looking at me, then staring meaningfully at me, then whispering what I was supposed to do, then exchanging anxious lord-what-now glances until finally Byron, with a grunt of terminal impatience, ripped it off on the fiddle.
Okay, so I didn’t do my job. This doesn’t sound like high drama, does it? Yet these are the moments of show business when you realize awful things, like maybe you don’t quite know what you’re doing, or maybe you really do ‘play like a girl,’ or there’s simply something genetically wrong with you that means you will never make it but will spend your old age in the poorhouse telling boring stories of a life you almost could have lived. I have a lot of these stories. I’ll try to tell cheerier ones, or ones that make me look better, since I carry the burden (no pun, Eric) of being this book’s heroine.
Like, back at the Ash Grove. That was always good. Good in the sense that there was always a strong sense of theater, combined with community and—yes—a sense that somehow we were bringing something very fine to the whole world. Some thought it was a political message. Some thought it was freedom. Some thought it was intellect, or imagination, or culture, or beauty. Some thought it was folk music.
Not that I was a folksinger any more. Now I was a song writer. Now my costumes could be really outrageous. For instance, it is significant that one night at the AG I didn’t even know who I was playing with. That’s because there really wasn’t anyone else, not in my mind. See, I had this dress. Sewed (by me) out of black lace, it resembled a Barbie doll slip and wasn’t much larger. With it I wore black suede shoes with chunky high heels and a criss-cross of strap around the panty-hosed ankles.
Wearing this outfit, I strolled out into the anteroom. Hm! There was my photo in a glass case, lal la la! The place was filling up, buzzing. I thought I might find out who I was opening for, if it mattered. And who should I encounter but Ed Pearl, my boss. He stopped short. I said, “Howdy.” He said, “Howdy.” He looked at me. “What?” I asked. He said, “Well aren’t you going to get dressed?” I said, “What do you mean?” He said, “Like put on your dress?” I said, “This is my dress.” He blinked and said, “Oh.” Because there’s really no arguing with a Barbie doll.
The next person I met was TODD EVERETT, one of my longest-lasting Hollywood friends. Todd was (is) a freelance writer who made the rounds of all the clubs and reviewed the acts. He had come to review Jack. He stood holding his notebook, regarding me quizzically through rather thick glasses, asking questions and jotting my answers. I stood wearing my dress, which was honestly the only thing I was doing at that moment—some things require total attention—and wondered why answering questions seemed so uncomfortably narcissistic. Then next thing I knew, there was a little article in Cash Box, a Hollywood trade magazine, hailing my debut as something worthy of notice and claiming me to be a dead ringer for Joni Mitchell. Signed, Todd Everett.
Todd, of course, didn’t know that few things could irritate me worse than being a dead ringer for Joni Mitchell**, except being a dead ringer for Joan Baez.* And I do not believe Joni Mitchell would perform in that dress, although she did have some very leggy outfits. Anyway, this proves that you can say something about me I really hate and still be my friend forty years later. Should you wish to know Todd better, I highly recommend his blog, Wisdom of the Aged, which is full of fun interviews and stories about people a lot more famous than me. [Used to be if you called him up you’d hear, “Hi ‘y’all!!! This is Dolly Parton! Todd’s not in raht now, but if y’all leave yer etc., etc.”]
Continuing in the spirit of telling self-congratulatory anecdotes, I remember that as soon as I got on stage I found my guitar was out of tune, probably because I’d been too busy wearing my dress, and for some reason I couldn’t locate the guilty string. I just stood there tuning and tuning, getting more and more flummoxed, until finally I said, “What I really need is a roadie to travel with me and tune this damn guitar.” And lo, after the set an extremely earnest youth came up and said he was applying for the job. I was so sorry to have to tell him there was no such job–but yes, I was gratified that someone actually wanted to take it. And by the way, in the same spirit, I can tune the bejesus out of a guitar, if you want to know.
This wasn’t the time I played with RAMBLIN’ JACK ELLIOTT, anyway; I remember, because when I did open for Jack, I wore a different kind of dress—long, silky, whitish, very moonlight. That would be in contrast to Jack, who would certainly be wearing a flamboyant cowboy outfit and big hat. As indeed he was. I came into the dressing room to find him bent over, carefully adjusting his pant cuffs so one was inside his boot, the other raffishly out. He looked up, acknowledging my smirk: “Yes, we have to take our moments to create the illusion.”
After his set we had a long conversation; I know it was about selling snake oil, but I can’t remember why. However, this time I was the one who needed to make certain self-conscious adjustments to my outfit, do something artless with a lock of hair, try to look as though I’d just picked myself up off the floor of a waterfront saloon. Seeing how I was peeking in the mirror without seeming to do so, Jack said, “I’ll leave you alone now, so you can gather your magic around you.”
I was surprised by his straightforwardness on this subject. As much as I loved dressing up for the show, it hadn’t really occurred to me to see myself as a product. I was more like a chick. Now I was forced to reflect: If we (entertainers) really do everything we do with full consciousness of the effect, than it should be possible to choose. Some things I was doing were working, some obviously weren’t. Mightn’t it be a good idea to identify which was which and act on this information? Wow. This was a terrific insight–though I gave it no more thought and kept on making misjudgments.
Always, though, there is a certain instinct—like wearing a romantic long gown when playing with Jack Elliott. To this day I have not come to terms with the concept of Entertainer as Product. I’ve always wanted people to hear, see and understand the real me. Of course this is an unrealistic expectation, perhaps even undesirable in the long run. But of all the things I dread being called, ‘insincere’ is probably the worst. I want to tell everyone my life story (as I seem to be doing), I want to spill my teary memories, I even want to live my life in full view of others—but I don’t want to see myself as a product. And I’d like to take a moment here to say sternly to myself, that is wrong! Because actually, what you, the reader or listener, want from me is the illusion I’ve taken the trouble to weave for you. You don’t want to get that close to the real me, and I don’t blame you. And by the way, everything I just wrote is totally contrived, so you can relax and enjoy it. It’s product.
*Please forgive my constant snarks at Joan Baez. It’s mildly fun for me, and she will survive.
*+One problem is that these girls were cuter and more talented than me, which is kind of a drag to have to admit. I have been trying to add photos to prove this, but aparently I’d need to upgrade to Pro if I want any more pictures in my blog, so phooey.
The list of famous acts with which I like to sprinkle my resume mostly came from the next three years working with Sandy Getz. She didn’t fool around. I had no idea how lucky I was.
Before she could do much, though, she needed a better tape than the garbled one I’d sent Ed Pearl. And I just can’t describe how difficult things like tapes and photos were to come by in those days if you didn’t have any money. In this case, since I didn’t know anyone with a tape recorder, I looked in the Bay Area yellow pages and finally found a small studio over in Oakland that would be willing to record six songs for $25, and I’d end up with two copies of the tape. This was hard, but possible.
So we paid the toll and crossed the bridge and found the house—yes, it was a house, with clapboard siding, a teeny lawn yard full of un-mowed grass, and a rusty doorknocker. The person who answered was kind of a surprise to people who’d been living in Montana: tall, lean, hairy-bodied, wearing a flowered dress with nylons and British walking shoes, thick glasses, gray hair in a hair net, that kind of thing. He went about his business efficiently, so efficiently I couldn’t believe the songs were done being recorded and that was that; I guess I’d hoped to work with them a bit. But I ended up with two actual tapes in green Shamrock boxes, and they were my future. Perhaps later down the line I might get lucky and find someone who could make another copy while that was still possible.
I say that because already when Gavin was 2, we’d left him sitting in the bus with the tape recorder, and when we came back he had it up and running, but he didn’t know about take-up reels, so the tape was in a giant pool around him, this being obviously the third tape he was auditioning, and this not only was a defining event in Gavin’s life, as he’s been doing essentially that ever since, but it also warned of the possible fates that might befall a tape.
So what’s this list, let’s see how many I can remember. ELVIN BISHOP. ERIC BURDON. JOHN PRINE. JOHN FAHEY. MARC-ALMOND BAND. JOHN LEE HOOKER. JOHNNY SHINES. DOC WATSON, DOC AND MERLE. LOGGINS & MESSINA. BROWNIE & SONNY. RAMBLIN’ JACK ELLIOT. SPIRIT. THE DILLARDS. MOSE ALLISON. MIKE JANUSZ. ALBERT COLLINS. HELLO PEOPLE. CHEECH & CHONG. JIM KWESKIN. . . . Well, I’m really starting to be annoyed by my memory loss, since I would love to dazzle you with my name-dropping. Let’s say it included just about anyone who was medium well-known on the west coast in the early ‘70s.
And my job, of course, was Opening Act. Sometimes I barely spoke to the main act; sometimes I played on stage with them. Some noticed me, some didn’t. Here are some typical scenes of being an opening act:
THE GOLDEN BEAR in Huntington Beach. Elvin Bishop was the headliner. The Golden Bear was right across the street from the pier; you could go hang out and watch the night surfers straggling onto the beach with their boards, peeling off their wet suits under the streetlights. If you were me, you could accost them, invite them over to hear your show—and often they would show up. Afterward one of them might venture backstage and say, “Hi, remember me? I’m that one guy?” and I’d say, “Oh! Of course! Thanks for coming!” and away he would go, looking like that wasn’t exactly how he’d imagined this scenario would play out.
Elvin and his chaps would always be back in a corner, doing what bands do in corners before going on, and I’d sit in another corner doggedly warming up, wishing I didn’t have to do this in the presence of these rather dominant musicians. But Elvin was a man of considerable sharpness—kindness as well, I’d say. He sat with his back to me, so as not to be listening, and then he came and told me I had a really great right hand. I am so naturally cranky that of course my first reaction was to think, so my left hand is not so good? It’s always been true, though, that my rhythm hand is much stronger than my note-selection hand. Elvin said, “Will you be playing in Chicago? If you are in Chicago, there are some people I want to introduce you to.” I thanked him and told him there was almost no chance I would ever go to Chicago, since I had a husband and two small children. He shrugged and said, “Well. If you do. I’d give you some lessons, be glad to.” So why did I not follow through on that? You tell me.
With JOHN PRINE, at TULAGI’S in Boulder. John’s style was to play in the almost dark. He was intensely laid back, and so was his band. From the audience you’d just see these ghostly forms, a bit of sleeve moving slowly up and down across the strings, a momentary glimpse of someone’s profile. I don’t remember but am willing to bet they dressed in black. “Magnoliaaaaa,” he sang, like a night bird in a magnolia tree.
I, on the other hand, wore a strappy aqua dress covered with brilliant red blossoms, red shoes to match, and my style was as up-front as John’s was laid-back. “I didn’t know God made honky-tonk angels,” I sang, twanging and grinning through one of the two songs we did together in a spontaneous moment. (I’d made sure to choose songs we all could play, at least I knew that much.) The contrast must have been electrifying. The first two rows of the audience began climbing up on the stage—I can still see their faces, with frankly open mouths, and their outstretched arms.
EBBETS FIELD in Denver. The dressing room was upstairs, an elevator ride, and it was a large, modern, well-equipped place indeed, with armchairs and wall-to-wall carpeting. I did not mingle with the MARC-ALMOND BAND, or maybe they did not mingle with me. I remember underdressing and underplaying, considering what a very posh club it was. The band was so sharp, so talented—what on earth was I doing there? Horns, keyboards, brilliant solos, wow. John Marc, though, underdressed as well, in a plain, faded black jersey, open at the throat to reveal city-white skin.
On the last night, I wore a long, slinky red gown. Then suddenly I was mingling like mad. All the band members became friendly as could be, and John Marc said, “My, you’re looking awfully dishy tonight.” “Oh,” I said, “well, hm. Yes. Sorry. It’s Saturday night.” He said, “Sorry? What do you mean, sorry? Why shouldn’t you look like this? You’re an entertainer, aren’t you?” I said, “I don’t know, am I?” He assured me I was, and then he allowed that he hadn’t liked me much at first, I seemed too snobby and distant, but now he could see that I was warm and dishy and he liked me just fine. I took advantage of our cozy new relationship to point out that one of his theme phrases—‘the good green earth beneath my feet’—was not good imagery, was city imagery, should be the brown earth, earth being brown and not green, and he said he liked his phrase very much, thank you, and was certainly not going to change it. “Well, it’s wrong,” I said.
Even after this snippy little exchange, he asked me if I would like to attend an after-hours party with him, since I was certainly dressed for it. I said I had a husband and two children back at the motel. He said, “So what? Come anyway!” I said it would be nice but probably not. He said, “Please. I want you to. At least think about it, eh?” I said I would think about it. Later, having gone back to the motel as was proper, I did think about it, for hours. I thought, see? See? It’s always this way. No wonder I will never get anywhere, since I can’t hang out. You have to be able to hang out. Linda Ronstadt would have gone. Boo hoo.
Now we’re at JOE’S BAR & GRILL in Boulder, a poorly-attended venue featuring ALBERT COLLINS as well as the SAN FRANCISCO MIME TROUPE. Albert has, evidently, one mode of performance, no matter what the crowd. He’ll strut across the stage with arched back, right knee and then left knee raised toward the ceiling, head thrown back in a fearsome grimace involving stretched lips, squinted eyes and clenched teeth, his guitar alternately cradled against his breast or thrust away as if it were a hot potato. I can see this working well before five hundred people. When it’s five people, huddled at their tables in a cavernous barn of a room, the effect is absolutely startling.
One of those five people was a man called ‘The Silver Fox.’ I remind my readers that Silver Fox is an extremely popular name for gents whose hair has turned white before they feel ready to cash in their youth chips, and that I’m not referring to the singer of ‘Behind Closed Doors. I met the Silver Fox when the club manager came to me after my set and told me The Silver Fox was waiting in the office to meet with me. When I went in, the manager introduced us, “Kajsa Ohman—the Silver Fox.” Consequently I never knew what to call him and so didn’t call him anything. And what did he want with me? To be my manager! He’d fallen in love with my song, ‘Come All My Old Boyfriends,’ a number I’d considered a throwaway and have since forgotten.
“You need to come to Chicago,” the Silver Fox said. What’s this with Chicago all of asudden? I told him I really couldn’t operate out of Chicago since I had a husband and two small children. “You don’t have to move there,” he insisted. “Just come out for a brief business visit. I’ll pay your airfare.” It did cross my mind that while in Chicago I could go take a guitar lesson from Elvin Bishop—and by the time I was back home in Santa Barbara, Gene and I had decided if the guy was for real it could actually be arranged to send me to Chicago.
The question was finessed, however, when the Silver Fox phoned to say he was now in Ventura, a half hour away, and I should meet him at the Wagon Wheel where we could discuss my future. So I drove down and sat with him in a booth and drank, well, really a lot. It seemed like we were talking a bunch of bullshit. I remember thinking I’d better let him know something about me. Maybe everything about me, from childhood on up. Except I had to go to the ladies’ room, where I threw water into my face and tried unsuccessfully to force a quick vomit. I’ve never been easy with this sort of interview. At any rate, I collected my wits and went back and sat across from him and continued my story.
After a few minutes, he said, “Ma’am, this is interesting stuff, but I think you were with the gent in the next booth.” I stared. Two Silver Foxes in one lounge? And I couldn’t tell the difference? So I lurched over to my own Silver Fox and suddenly realized I was not going to Chicago, or anywhere else except back home to our little trailer to subsist on mortification for the rest of my life. [Yes, a patrolman did stop me on the drive home. He made me get out and recite the alphabet. This is something I can do at lightning speed any time of the day or night in any condition, and I think the officer was stunned. Anyway, he let me go, which he should not have done. Things were different back then.]
And this is quite enough for today. It is exhausting to relive, even superficially, the events of one’s life. Try it some time. See you soon, with more of the same, or maybe it will be different. At least we know there’s a common element to all the stories, which is the fact of my being an idiot. Thanks for listening.
16—GOD BLESS THE HIPPIE
While waiting for the Boardinghouse to open—living in my mother’s apartment, on a pile of blankets on the floor, with husband, boy and baby—I wrote a few new songs, including ‘God Bless the Hippie.’ This was/is a hectically fast flat-picking song in typical C chord progression, and as it has been so omnipresent in my life ever since, I’ll just lay it out right now.
GOD BLESS THE HIPPIE @KAJSA OHMAN 1970
In a ’57 Chevy 6 that Richard loaned to me,
With a burned-out generator, out on Highway 93
I was all alone and stranded as the shades of night drew nigh—
With the snowflakes whirling ’round me, lord, I knew I’d surely die.
I stepped into the highway to extend my freezing thumb
And I could have stood that way, my friends, till the day of Kingdom Come.
Many cars went roaring past me in a cloud of mud and snow
Till an old Dodge panel truck pulled up, and a hippie said “Hello!”
God bless the hippie, wherever he may be—
He’ll be a friend to you—oooooo, he’s been a friend to me.
His hair hung down like feathers upon his velvet coat,
He jingled when he walked and smelled of incense when he spoke.
He was covered with medallions, to protect him from the cold,
And he handed me, in a friendly way, a joint just freshly rolled.
He looked into my engine, and he told me in a flash,
“I’ve an extra generator this dude traded me for hash!
I’d be glad to lay it on you, if you’d be so inclined,
’Cause these ’57 Chevy sixes really blow my mind.”
God bless the hippie………..
I asked, “What do I owe you?” and he said, “The pleasure’s mine.”
As he stood there smiling down on me, the sun began to shine,
And many happy hours we spent in Richard’s Chevrolet
Till the breaking dawn reminded us we must be on our way.
He wrapped me in his jacket and he held me by my hand
And he promised me we’d meet again up in God’s golden land.
He gave me half a dollar and he gave me half a lid,
Climbed aboard his panel truck and shouted, “So long, kid!”
God bless the hippie………………..
Okay, keep this song in mind, because the spirit of it gives the flavor of the next few years. The spirit, that is, of Hippie-dom, which despite sensational exceptions that were featured in the news was always based on Love. Love the one you’re with. Love the trees and flowers and the open highways, the home-baked bread, the home-written songs, and the home-grown leaf—though you didn’t necessarily have to love club owners, rival musicians, or people in Cadillacs who would not stop to help you when you broke down, which you would, because we really did drive a bunch of sorry wrecks back then.
While waiting for the Boardinghouse to open, an event that was put off again and again while days turned to weeks, I was delighted to run into John Cohen of the New Lost City Ramblers. John said they were playing right across the bay at THE LION’S DEN, and I should come over and see the show. He’d leave my name at the door. In fact, I should bring my guitar and do a song.
The next day, accordingly, was a busy one for me. First, I needed to finish ‘Hippie,’ memorize the lyrics and learn to play it. I also needed to sew a dress, and for some reason it had to be a complex one. [For those interested in such things, I already had three yards of Kelly green silk splashed with roses, and I made it up into a form-fitted gown, ankle length with a scoop neck and scalloped hem, scallops also along the edges of the short, ruffled sleeves. With a side zipper. So I had to learn, or devise, how the make a scalloped hem, and this is a thing I’ll doubtless never attempt again.]
After I got whatever sorry wreck we were driving then across the Golden Gate Bridge and managed to find the club, the rest was gravy. The Ramblers were doing a terrific show, and the audience was in fine fettle. In the break, I came out in my rosy green dress and played and sang ‘God Bless the Hippie’ as if I’d been doing it all my life. The crowd cheered and hooted for a long time, banging their fists on the tables, which as I recall were wooden barrels on end. The Ramblers hugged and kissed me and shook my hand. For that night I was golden.
They thought I should stay and meet the owner later and see if I could set something up. But I couldn’t stick around. Good though it would be to stay on this superhighway to success, I was pretty worried about driving back home by myself. Not only that, I’d been too long away from my baby, and milk was starting to seep out and soak the bosom of my new silk dress. Enough was enough—but thank you.
Now, about this superhighway to success: Can it possibly be that it exists in many forms? It occurs to me that moments like that one are the success. So it doesn’t happen again the next night, so what? Even the best superhighways in the land are occasionally broken by roadwork, or some other problem of discontinuity. You find yourself lost on a detour, or maybe you like this place you’ve driven through so much you decide to live here for a while. You take a scenic route, your generator goes out, and suddenly there’s the Hippie, who you never would have met had you kept on succeeding in whatever you thought you wanted.
At any rate, after playing the Boardinghouse, which I suppose was some kind of success (a review of opening night by Phil Elwood of the Chronicle said I got off to a shaky start but redeemed myself eventually), we drove down to Santa Barbara where we would live in a very small trailer in a friend’s canyon for a long time. There was more mileage to be gotten out of the Scragg Family; Peter and his wife were now running THE BLUEBIRD CAFÉ, a railroad-car-shaped room with beer and wine and a stage. As long as there’s a stage, I’m in. Except right away I managed to get the flu and hang on to it for three weeks, losing some weight and hair and confidence. Photos taken at the Ash Grove by PHIL MELNICK after that showed me looking fragile, dyspeptic and pale, la bohème wrapped in a fur coat and smiling wanly. Hardly the heroine of ‘God Bless the Hippie.’
We went back to Montana in the Scragg bus, followed by Peter in his own VW bus. It was early May, meaning it was cold, windy and snowing. But a warm welcome awaited us at the ANTLERS BAR, one of six serious drinking establishments in this 1,000-population town. We landed a gig there just by showing up; word had gotten out that these Californians—musicians, hippies, crazies, whatever—had bought the old Tom Day place, so the Antlers was packed. Everyone was overwhelmingly friendly, and not shy about dancing.
The thing all of us remember most vividly about the Antlers is the row of shots of Jack Daniels that lined up for us on the piano during the course of the night. Peter claims about a hundred—but then, he polished off quite a few of them, which might have affected his counting abilities. Anyway, it was a lot—way more than the three of us could finish though we went at the job like warriors. Maybe forty.
In the middle of the second set the crowd parted to let a mysterious man approach the stage. He was in his sixties, almost seven feet tall from his (very tall) hat to his (very tall) boots, and dressed in a navy blue suit; his nose was thin and aquiline, his hair white, his eyes bright blue and direct. He squinted up at us, extended his hand and said, “Well, I guess we’re neighbors.” He didn’t look totally happy about this assessment, but he certainly looked prepared to deal with it. It began to occur to me that when you buy land, there’s a lot more to it than putting out some money; you are essentially claiming to throw your lot in with a community of people you probably don’t know and maybe have never known the likes of. They will change your life—you will change theirs. For good or bad? Everyone will wait and see.
As it turned out, we couldn’t throw much of our lot in with this community, not yet, because there didn’t seem to be any way to make a living. The thing to do in a case like that would obviously be to go back to Santa Barbara and make a record, quick while we were all still speaking to each other, so that’s what we did. It was called Nobody Knows You When You’re Down and Out; we took two afternoons to record it, and I remember that Peter decided, on the spot, to pick up a Dobro that happened to be leaning against a wall in the studio and really quickly figured out how to play solos on two of our songs in time to record them.
Eventually the record came out on the SONYATONE label, which was Peter’s own company, named after his second child, and when the heck did he manage to get married and have two kids in the midst of all this?! With each chapter I find I struggle harder and harder with the timeframe problem.
But: >>>>This record, with new liner notes by MARY KATHERINE ALDIN and several extra live songs, is now available on CD, having been re-released by Peter, and I have actually looked at (though not yet listened to) it. It’s the damnedest thing I ever saw. There’s even a nude centerfold in it. If you want a copy, you can write me at firstname.lastname@example.org and we will negotiate a deal.
Just as I didn’t really know anything about the CD until it was out, I also didn’t know about the record until it was old news. Shortly after the session, Gene and I went back to Montana, to experience our first -30 winter in the city of Missoula. RODNEY CROWELL wrote a song about leavin’ ol’ Missoula, so you know it is a place of considerable romantic importance. And so it was. Loggers, miners, ranchers, cowhands, Indians and truckers mingled more or less cooperatively with University of Montana students who, in 1968, were a handful. RICHARD HUGO had been, until that very minute, the hot local writer; the arts—and the bars—were hopping
The local hip music scene was very open to us. We were fresh blood, we were the new catalyst, we were from that elusive place many of the musicians wanted to go to: Someplace Else. This right here could have been that superhighway to success. I didn’t want to be hip, though; I wanted to be country. I’d been learning songs like mad—songs by NORMA JEAN, CONNIE SMITH, PORTER WAGONER and LORETTA LYNN—and figuring out how to play this new Fender guitar of mine, starting with plugging it in and cranking up the tremolo. I got a job barmaiding, then another. (I see my spell check wants to claim there is no such word as ‘barmaiding,’ and I suspect this is due to the agenda that would have us be ‘wait-persons.’ If I’d had to be a waitperson instead of a barmaid I wouldn’t have taken the job. I barmaided in a short, ruffled skirt and Maja cologne, and the hell with you, spell check.)
Gene and I went out dancing often. Our favorite was the CABIN LOUNGE, in East Missoula, where the truckers went. One night the DAVE KNIGHT BAND was playing, and they ended up asking me to do a few songs with them. I did a bunch—like five—because I think they were kind of tired of doing the same thing every night and I was something different. Gene was impressed: “When did you learn all that?” He wasn’t the only one. There happened to be a woman in the audience—JEANNETTE–who owned a club in Missoula called the GAY ‘90s, and what she wanted me to do was put together an all-girl band. I did, and she hired us. We really stank. I don’t think we lasted long—I can’t even remember those girls’ names, but one kind of played bass and the other kind of played drums. The bass player had a horse that used to walk into her kitchen all the time. She had a joke, too, her one line on stage: “My husband is a boxer. He works at the supermarket boxing groceries.”
A couple months after we disbanded, I rambled back into the Gay ‘90s on impulse and behold, there was a piano bar where the stage had been. ROSEMARY was holding forth at it, in a middle-aged, half-hearted way. The new management was Jeannette’s husband, LONESOME JIM; lovely, red-haired JOYCE, who once bought Lonesome Jim a brand new suit out of love, was barmaid, and so here we have everything necessary for a soap opera. I replaced Rosemary—well, I’m sorry. Jim asked me to, and I was glad for the job, which was every weekend, but I was sorry that Rosemary had to be carried out in full, yelling protest by two men the night of my first show.
I was strained for repertoire. I did all the folksongs that were appropriate, a little bluegrass, all the country songs I’d been learning, and the four songs I had written. Joyce liked my written songs the best. Especially one; she would drape her cleavage across the bar and cry big, drippy, real tears and tell me that song killed her and I should do it again because it made her think of Jim. Since Jim was always right there, thinking of him was probably not hard to do, but anyway, she wasn’t supposed to think of Jim, on account of Jeannette, who occasionally popped in to see who was thinking about who, and sometimes Joyce would just have to leave really fast, hands over her face. Her heart was being broken every minute. I admired her greatly; she resembled TAMMY WYNETTE (another of my sources for songs) in her ability to fill all the air around her with the pulsating fumes of her constantly breaking heart.
One time, a customer wanted to hear ‘Yellow Bird,’ and I couldn’t oblige him. The song came to symbolize, for Jim, all the songs I couldn’t do, countless thousands of songs. Maybe he was starting to belatedly appreciate Rosemary, who had a cheat book and certainly could have made that customer happy. “If you don’t learn ‘Yellow Bird,’ said Jim in one of his very rare fits of unpleasantness, ‘I’m going to fire you.’ So I learned ‘Yellow Bird’ and can do it to this day, should anyone ever request it, which no one ever has since. And kept my job.
I kept my job even when I got started on another kid. Gene had taken a teaching job up north in Eureka, so we drove down every weekend and I kept playing—drinking a White Russian or a Rusty Nail between each set, with a cigarette to go with it. Lonesome Jim kept smiling, Joyce kept crying and buying him things, Jeannette kept popping in like a harsh shaft of light, and I kept being a guitar bar until I was sick of it and the roads had become too wintery to make the drive. Finally I quit and spent the rest of the year growing that baby and writing songs.
Then it was summer. Nils was born; Gene’s teaching was over; we were broke—but I had sent a homemade tape of my new songs to Ed Pearl, and he had played the tape for SANDRA GETZ, who was working at the Ash Grove, and the two of them thought I was onto something. They were way exited. Ed wanted me back at the AG; Sandy decided she should be my manager. So back we went—at least to San Francisco, because the first gig Sandy had booked for me was THE BOARDING HOUSE, which wasn’t even open yet.
One tidbit that sticks in my mind is that my mother met a psychic at a party. She began telling the psychic and everyone else that her daughter was on her way down to California to start performing, and she asked the psychic, “Is my daughter as good as I think she is?” The lady went into a trance, so claims my mother, and said from that distant place of all knowledge, “Your daughter is much, much better than you think she is.” Whoa.