Archive for March, 2012

13–FLYING IDEAS!

STILL RAMBLING 13
Flying Ideas

At the end of 1965, Gavin was born in that shack. At least he was brought home to it when he was a few hours old. The Scragg Family named him BLACK DIAMOND. (In those days, if you went into an ordinary music store and asked for guitar strings, Black Diamond was likely the only brand they carried.) He crawled around among the fallen avocados and ate them and listened to Peter and Gene and me playing music.

For a short time, we moved to a nearby house that seemed to be up for grabs. Then Gene had an idea, that we could turn the avocado shack into a bar. La Cantina. This bit of anecdote isn’t music related, just cool. But I mean really cool; imagine yourself driving up into the hills—fewer and fewer houses—steep, winding roads you could easily get lost on—yeah, guess you’re supposed to park beside this row of old junkers and, what, walk down over this cliff?—down a dirt path covered with squished avocados—and suddenly there’s mariachi music playing, there are lights (from kerosene lanterns) and laughter, there’s a funny little shack, and you can walk right in there and slap down your dollar on the bar and get a generous shot of Bushmills or Cuervo, or pretty much whatever you fancy. There’s an Irish bartender smoking a cigar, his name’s Mike Lannigan and he works for shots. In one corner there’s a poker game in progress—you recognize the Santa Barbara D.A., but who are those guys with bulges under the armpits of their suits?

By 1967 this level of domesticity—i.e., state of not playing music—started to wear on me. Then I had an idea. And right now I have to say that I’ve just seen the new CD of the old Scragg Family record—yes, it’s now out and available—and I see by the liner notes there’s some dispute about whose idea this actually was. Normally it wouldn’t matter, and memory plays tricks, and all that, but in this case I would claim that this was my idea because no one else is that harebrained. And because I remember lying awake nights, thinking about it off and on through pretty much my lifetime.

“I have an idea,” I said to Gene. “Wouldn’t it be great if the Scragg Family had an old truck or something, and we’d just get in and travel all over the country, and whenever we’d get to a town we’d set up our gear and play, and people would take up collections for us, so we’d always have enough money to go on to the next town….”

As it happened, Peter was all for it—assuming, of course, that it wasn’t already his idea. He’d been going to college, but right now he wasn’t really into botany. Gene was for it, too, but the only truck he had left was a lowboy for his bulldozer, and there was no way the three of us and the baby could fit in that little cab. By next day, he’d had an idea, so he went downtown to lean on an old friend and was back a few hours later with a 42-passenger school bus.

It was a good bus, a ’53 Chevy, but it had belonged to a group with lots of kids who had painted it outside and in with rainbows and butterflies. And it had barely made it up the hill before it died. That was all right, Gene already knew he’d have to put a new engine in it. He did that over the next week, in a field, while Peter and I painted the bus—blue with a white roof, THE SCRAGG FAMILY on the side in red and gold circus letters. We took out the seats and put a stove, ice box and sink in it, what more could we want? Oh, beds, and closets. Easy.

Oh, and Peter should really find a girlfriend who would want to join us in our adventure, because it’s easier with 2 couples than a threesome, and of course we’d need someone to look after Gavin while we were playing. So a day later Peter showed up with a girlfriend. I was impressed with the speed of his courtship. Her name was Cindy. She was reasonably enthusiastic but far from passive—we were to understand that we’d have to stop every two hours because that’s how often she would have to get out and meditate, and she lived on yoghurt, and what’s more, the rust on the ice box shelves was not to be tolerated. Did she like children? Well, that depended.

Oh, and we’d need a sound system. No problem, we had a friend who would take the one Peter bought at considerable expense from a big-name L.A. outfit and make it twice as good if he could live with us while he worked on it it, and if we’d drive him downtown every day to a certain fast food place where they had the right kind of burgers and then another one across town because they poured the right size of Coke. It was the sort of rebuild where the pre-amp had to be sprayed with Zolotone or something, and the special capacitors had to be special-ordered from Libya. I flipped my lid at the guy one day, and this was the first time someone actually said to me, ‘You’re beautiful when you’re angry.’ DO NOT EVER TRY THIS LLINE. But finally the bus was done, and the sound system was done, and the only thing remaining was to give a farewell concert on the steps of the old Mission up on APS (Alameda Padre Scragg) where our new custom amp blew up in smoke and flames.

It was amazing how we didn’t get any jobs at all. We drove and drove, we stopped in every town and canvassed the bars, we felt like idiots. In Reno we even got in costume and took the elevator to the top floor of a major casino where the manager was sitting at a big desk, and he took one look at us and died laughing.
Okay, we wouldn’t be working there.

Late that afternoon we got to Virginia City and parked the bus in front of the RED DOG SALOON because it looked promising. We didn’t get out right away. It took us half an hour to put on our costumes and pretty up. (Gene had refined his outfit so he looked like a traveling preacher; trust me, this took some effort.) By the time we entered the saloon, people had pretty well talked themselves out over WTF we could possibly be. We said we wanted a job. They wanted to know if we could start tomorrow and play for all summer, and we said if the pay was okay, we would. I guess it was. Once we were hired, the owner—STEVE HENRY—asked us with great respect if it would be all right if they could hear a song right now, if we weren’t too tired. Now, see, that’s the way I like to get gigs.

We did play all summer and on through October. That’s a good run. (The previous summer, the GRATEFUL DEAD had been the house band. They’d left their light-show behind, a light-show that pulsated to the rhythm of each song, so we played our mountain music to psychedelic pulsations.) There was an available room, which Peter and Cindy took; Gene and I lived in the bus with Black Diamond. The crowd was an afternoon one, mainly tourists, a lot of them from Appalachia. They’d line up to get our autographed poster for a dollar. I always told them we were from Horn Rim, Ky., which I thought was a joke because so many scholarly types were into mountain music, but lots of folks would say, ‘Oh, I know Horn Rim, it’s just a coupla hollers over from Strangle Crick.’

1967. I was here often in 1956 with my mother and her boyfriend. He (JIM GAHAN, house pianist at THE PLACE in San Francisco) had bought a weekend house at the end of the street, and he’d play ragtime piano in the BUCKET OF BLOOD saloon. Every place in Virginia City, Nevada, is a saloon. I mean, this is mostly true, except where it isn’t. The sidewalk is plank, the building fronts are false, and behind them the hills rise in folds, dry, sagey and rattlesnake-covered. I loved to climb them while the piano-playing routine was going on—heard one rendition of ‘Bill Bailey,’ heard ’em all. Up on the hillside, the air was brittle cold, the stars close. I felt like a stranger and liked it. I sure never thought I’d end up part of the town’s ambience.

With our nights free, sometimes we’d go down to Carson City and spend some tip money on the slots. Those nights we’d camp on the Carson River. Once, another family was camping on the river, not too far down the mud flat from us. After a while the dad wandered over from their campfire to ours. He had a banged-up Harmony guitar across his back and wanted to do some picking. Turned out he was pretty good. We invited him to come to the Red Dog next day and do a couple songs. He did, with the whole family—Indian wife and several kids. Eventually one of the boys came over to say his dad wanted to ask us if we could give them five dollars, because they didn’t have enough gas to drive back to the river. JACK GREEN. The un-famous one.

Finally the season was over. We divided up, Peter taking the sound system and us taking the bus. Gene’s divorce was finalized. He sold his family house he had designed and built in Santa Barbara, and with his share of the money we drove up to Montana and bought a hunk of wilderness land. It was an idea.

What?! Was this the end of the Scragg Family then?

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12–ROY ORBISON WHO?

STILL RAMBLING 12
ROY ORBISON WHO?

Gene was a building designer and contractor, before I came along and sabotaged his career. He also had a wife and four children, so I could add ‘home wrecker’ to my growing list of credentials if that home hadn’t already become pretty well wrecked anyway.

This reminds me of another issue to be addressed. Someone remarked, on reading this book so far, “You seem awfully hard on yourself.” And several others, reading my novels and stories, have spotted the female ‘me’ character and said, “You don’t seem to like this girl very much. Why?”

So then, rolling up my sleeves: I like myself a lot. I think highly of myself, even. It’s my behavior I don’t like. Sometimes. As a yet-to-be-introduced friend once counseled, “People will like your confidence, but they won’t like your arrogance.” Alas, when confidence decides to hide behind a curtain, arrogance is quick to claim the vacancy, even masquerading as confidence—and no, no one will like it.

I don’t like it either, nor my obsequiousness, nor my obliviousness to others, nor a particular brand of aggression that comes roaring out of me when I don’t expect it, nor my perennial lack of money, nor my hair agonies, nor my fear of you-name-it…….but these are things I don’t like, they aren’t me. They are encrustations on a long-lost masterpiece; scrape them away and you have a beautiful woman of talent, wisdom, humor and music. The person who was living these pages was unfortunately still encrusted, and I can’t paint her otherwise. If you want to like her in spite of herself, it’s okay!

Gene liked me. While noticing the whole picture. That didn’t mean it was ‘happily ever after’ from that moment on. The intense drama of breakups and get-togethers doesn’t relate to guitar-playing, so I’ll skip over it.

While it was going on, I became very close friends with RITA WEILL She had a gorgeous voice and a compelling way of delivering an old ballad with no accompaniment. And her clothes! Like me, though, she had her encrustations. She was not calm. Helping her get ready for a gig, I tried not to be hit in the head by shoes flying out of the closet. Her social skills were almost as unpredictable as mine. But she was smart and funny; we laughed generously at each other’s puns and huddled together under a quilt to discuss our man troubles. She once described to me what it was like to room with the women of the GEORGIA SEA ISLAND SINGERS while their men were housed elsewhere—the mooing, bellowing and groaning of enforced abstinence caused by some insensitive concert organizer—and she raved, too, at great length about the fabulous thighs of a certain folk musician whose thighs I honestly had never observed. I needed to hear stuff like that, to gossip. We were what they now call BFFs. Since the final F stands for Forever, I assume it is still so.

As a family and business man who no longer had a family or a business, Gene no longer had a house, or credit at the bank. (Really, though, I couldn’t at that time be induced to live in a house; I’d gotten used to sleeping and cooking outside and liked it that way.) He did have a couple of major requirements of me—one, that I had to be (relatively) sane, and two, that I was apparently expected to stick around. No bolting, not even a threat of bolting. Damn. The sanity part is still interesting to me: So, growing up and taking responsibility is something a person can do even if he/she is as out of control as a junebug crashing into screen doors and knocking itself cold? As I had been raised to the ‘can’t help it’ tune, this expectation was daunting. I was game, though.

Then, soon I was working on another baby. This meant we’d have to live somewhere. Not that we were homeless; Gene had been building a boat, and we lived next to it in a tiny shelter with an open-air kitchen. Best place ever. Nonetheless, it would be necessary to upgrade. So Gene went around gathering old windows and 2×4’s and pieces of mismatched siding, and built a little shack in a friend’s avocado orchard. And next time I drove up to Berkeley, Rita was working on a baby as well. I’m talking two fine musicians in vitro. We’ll meet one in the next chapter.

Our scaled-down Scraggs never ran short of places to play. San Diego Folk Festival . . . Scripps College . . . lots of folk clubs and taverns, including one where the owner said if we weren’t packed up and out in fifteen minutes he was calling the sheriff. (The crowd we brought wasn’t always top-notch; in this case, three families showed up with all their children, shared one mug of beer and brought their own bag of unshelled peanuts.)

The Ash Grove again, of course. This was when the Ash Grove Women (MARY KATHERINE ALDIN and SANDRA GETZ, who actually ran the club) became my friends and fans mostly because of a little photo of John Lennon I’d taped to my new dreadnaught. The BEATLES had just come out with their record, Hard Day’s Night, and Ed Pearl had piqued me by saying with disbelief, ‘You don’t like them, I hope.’

You bet I liked the Beatles. After the grief years they made me feel like I was sixteen. And I was a ‘John.’ You had to pick one to like best; John was a natural for me because of a lot of physical and mental family resemblance. I also took note of the fact that he wrote songs, although it was some time before I got up the nerve to do the same.

One gig we played for several weeks when I was 6-7 months pregnant—well, I just asked Gene if he remembered the name of that club in Goleta, and he said, “You mean the one where my building foreman got hit over the head with a pipe wrench by that Appalachian nightmare who was stalking you?” “Yeah, that one.” “No.”

Anyway, one night on my break I wandered down the bar and sat beside the one customer who sat at it. He was wearing a dark blue shirt of some really quality cloth, kind of like an old-fashioned policeman’s shirt; it was pressed, professionally, in twin back pleats. And he was wearing big sunglasses, indoors, at night. His black hair was done in a ‘60s style pompadour, probably with a little dab of Brill-Cream.

He was glad enough to have company, and bought me drink. (Yes, I drank when pregnant, a little, probably why my son is so smart.) Then he asked, “Do you know who I am?” I said I didn’t.

“I’m ROY ORBISON,” he said. I said I was really glad to meet him.

“No,” he said, “I mean it. I am. I’m Roy Orbison.” I said I believed it.

“No, really,” he insisted. “Look here—” he pulled out his wallet and started taking things out of it. “See, here’s my driver’s license. See? It says, right here, Roy Orbison, and here’s my picture. (He took off his glasses so I could compare him with the license.) “And here’s my social security card. See, here’s—” I tried to stop him; he was certainly, obviously and incontrovertibly, Roy Orbison. Whether the Roy Orbison or not, he was the guy his license and five other ID cards said he was.

“You know how many guitars we used on ‘Pretty Woman?’” I didn’t. “Eleven,” he told me triumphantly. “That’s right, eleven guitars.” I said I always loved the sound of massed guitars. “Well, that’s how many we used. Eleven guitars.”

I said, “Well, I’m afraid we only have the one, which is me, but we’d be honored to have you come up and do a song with us if you would.” He said he didn’t know whether it was in his contract that he could do that. I said, “Well, there’s not very many people in here, and probably nobody who’d squeal on you. We sure wouldn’t.” He still didn’t know. The idea seemed to make him squirm.

“I’m really not in Goleta to perform,” he said. “I’m here to look at some property. I’m looking to make some investments, and this place is growing like crazy. I figure I won’t be rich forever, I know how show business goes. But, sure, yeah, I guess I could come up and do ‘Pretty Woman.’ You think you know how to play it?”

I went, “Dah-dah-dah-dah-DAAAH, dah-dah-dah-dah-DAAAH, pretty woman—”

“That’s it,” he said. “Okay, y’all call me up when you want me. Just the one, though.”

I got back on stage and told the Scraggs we were going to have Roy Orbison. “Roy who?” they asked. I said it was that guy sitting right down there at the bar, and we all looked. “What guy?” they wondered, because there was nothing but a line of empty barstools.

Maybe he was just shy. Maybe he didn’t want his song massacred by some pregnant hillbillies. Maybe he was some other Roy Orbison. But that shirt! It was straight show biz. And those glasses! That hair! Dude, if you were not Roy Orbison, then good job, whoever you were.

12–‘KNOXVILLE GIRL’

STILL RAMBLING 12

KNOXVILLE GIRL

Considering their gruesome content, it’s amazing how murder ballads capture us. Most people find them fascinating. Remember what success I had with ‘Pretty Polly’ at the hungry i? Back in high school, when I had a hopeless crush on the yell leader, I played ‘Pretty Polly’ in a talent show, and afterward that yell leader was on his knees beside my chair, asking, wide-eyed, ‘What is this music? How do you find it?’ My crush incidentally evaporated in the face of this abject admiration.]

When I was fifteen, I’d learned one called ‘False Lambkin,’ in which a gory night of mayhem unfolds while the lord of the manor is away on business. I would sing this at any gathering where there were children, and they’d climb all over me and want to hear it again. When I got to the best verse, they would all sing along with great joy:

There’s blood in the kitchen

There’s blood in the hall

There’s blood in the parlor

Where the lady did fall.

Har, hardy har!

All this is just digression, a preamble to a thing I do actually have to talk about. Those who just want a merry romp through the early folk days might want to skip this chapter about June 7, 1964…….

I need to bring up the death of my son, Christopher, which happened one afternoon during a Scragg Family rehearsal. It wasn’t a murder—though that matter is still cloudy—and there was no blood; it was a drowning. There was no one to blame, no lawsuit to be brought, no eye for an eye. What could a person do? Nothing. Accept.

Accept that this staunch, sturdy, curly-headed, argumentative little Scorpio fellow who had traveled all across the country singing ‘Limbo Rock’, who had waited loyally while I wandered in a haze, who knew all my songs and plucked so carefully at the guitar strings, attended the Grand Ol’ Opry, slept under the stars and got puffed up like a balloon from mosquito bites, was now this cold, smooth, peaceful, dead thing across my lap. His hair was still damp; his skin was marble.

I could write a whole book about the death of a child, but not this book. I said I would only write about things pertinent to guitars, guitar playing, and maybe singing. So, is this tragedy really pertinent?

I’m a folksinger, for God’s sake. I’m doing songs that come out of the real life people live. In fact I’ve already made a nuisance of myself through arguing publicly that folk music has virtually nothing to do with how well a person can handle a banjo, a guitar, a mandolin or a set of vocal chords; it has to do with rather lowly people expressing their feelings about their life in the only ways that are available to them.

And now I myself was lowly. Because death lays you low. For a brief time (don’t worry, this wisdom doesn’t last) you realize that you know nothing, are nothing, control nothing. You are dust.

I also realized I had nothing out of my own experience, or my family’s, or my community’s, that I could turn to, to make sense out of this senseless thing. I’d known almost no one who died. We had no religion. I didn’t know what to think or even how I was supposed to feel.

So I sang ‘Knoxville Girl.’ Whenever I was left alone, which didn’t happen much, I’d grab my new Martin–always standing ready in D tuning these days–and I’d sing ‘Knoxville Girl.’ Using finger picks. My arrangement was hideous, from the clanking of the picks to the shrillness of the vocal, and I haven’t ever played it for anyone. [The version I do now, and that rarely, is just dreary.]

The song itself, though, is hideous even by normal murder ballad standards. In it, a smug and self-serving young man of means tells how his parents bought him a mill, how he fell in ‘love’ with a local girl (probably one of his underpaid employees), how he lied about marrying her, lured her out of the house, screwed her, bashed her face in with a fence pole, finished her off while ignoring her cries for mercy, ripped a strip off her dress to make a rope, dragged her to the river with it, pushed her in and watched her float on down, and then asks his mom to bring him a handkerchief to bind his aching head because he had a really rough night. And plus, of course, now he’s about to be hung, which actually is pitiable for anyone. Between the earth and sky.

I was driven to sing it. I couldn’t not. It might be that I just needed something worse than the actual event that had cannon-balled into my own life. I may have found it helpful to fit chaos into the fairly rigid structure of a song. But I can tell you the song was a medicine. I sang from a new place. The song sank talons right down into my diaphragm, and when they pulled out again, they were dripping. Dripping with the very stuff of lowliness.

In consolation, I could now definitely be ‘no Joan Baez.’ My song was not theoretically sad; it wasn’t romantically sad; it wasn’t wistfully sad. It was really, honestly sad. I was starting to resemble those women I’d seen in the yards of little Kentucky houses—gray-faced, gaunt, lowly women worn to the calcium-deprived bones from disappointment and sorrow. And I was glad of it. I bared my teeth and sang the song. Over and over and over.

 Then too, ‘Knoxville Girl’ is a flogging, flagellating song, and there was my own guilt to be assuaged. There was that fun rehearsal, full of puns, musical jokes and camaraderie, while Christopher was off drowning under waterlogged leaves, and maybe the person who should have been watching him actually should have been, but that didn’t let me off any hooks. In a way, I was also the murderer of the Knoxville girl. I was even the rapist who raped me—oh, I didn’t tell you about the guy with a straight-razor who broke into my room at the Cozee Court Motel just after I last saw Clarence, did I? La la la, what a silly oversight. Anyway, I did say my life was going from disaster to disaster, and I mean it really was. So, once again, now, with raised whip—“My parents raised me tenderly, providing for me well. They brought me down to Knoxville town………”

 Whenever I wasn’t singing ‘Knoxville Girl,’ it was because some kind person or other was with me. Many people stepped forth for this job. I needed to be hugged and cooked for and told that little dead boys turned into soil that made the trees and flowers grow so it was okay because it was Nature’s way. (Wow, I feel so much better hearing that.) Peter, bless him, offered to let me drive his brand new Volkswagen bus, but I couldn’t concentrate long enough to get it out of the driveway.

 In a death, you’d expect the dead person to be the star of the show. And in a way, that’s true; the reminiscences and eulogies are ostensibly for the one who died. In reality they are about the one who died. They are no use to the deceased, who no longer has use for anything, who has no future life, who is done. So the spotlight falls next on the person nearest to the deceased—me in this case.

 It was a bittersweet, unwanted kind of stardom. And like any stardom it required certain social skills, which I had to learn on the spot. A noblesse oblige. People are sad and frightened, they don’t know what to say, they feel terribly inadequate, so your immediate job is to help them however you can, comfort them, reassure them that their condolences are satisfactory ones.

 Then, too, you are standing on an isolated patch of ground that’s kind of like an electrified grid with an electric fence around it. People try to reach you, to be close, but they are afraid of that electric barrier. Certainly I feel this way when it is my turn to try to comfort a grieving person—as if their grief might jump onto me if I get too close, and I don’t really want it.

 Enter Gene McGeorge. He was actually the first person to step forth, but his was a different kind of step. He stepped right through the fence, stood there on the grid with me day after day and accepted–shared–whatever I was feeling, without fear or embarrassment. He seemed to be the only human being around who knew anything about death, and he knew a lot about it. When I asked him, after a couple of weeks, how long he thought it might be before the pain went away, he said it wasn’t going to go away. He said it would grow into me and be a part of me.

 It did. And that probably is why I am such a really good singer—which I am. What I mean to tell you right now, though, is that all through the middle of this confusion, Gene and I were falling in love. I think that happens a lot, between bereaved and consoler. Often such loves don’t last beyond that critical period. Ours did.

 A few days after the death, the Scragg Family did a ‘Goodbye, Christopher’ concert. I couldn’t imagine having the energy or heart to perform. But it turned out to be easy, refreshing, curative, and in fact a hell of a party. (I did not sing ‘Knoxville Girl,’ of course.) By this time, we were a three-piece—Peter, Gene and me. Regrouped, refocused, not nearly as hilarious. Music itself became the core of the group. We had all grown up quite a bit, even Gene, who was 12 years my senior.

 We didn’t get a lot more serious, though. Luckily there is always another song to be played, more fun to be had, another glass to be drunk. As I’m about to describe.

11–THE SCRAGG FAMILY

STILL RAMBLING 11

THE SCRAGG FAMILY

 

Back in Santa Barbara, PETER FELDMANN had been trying to get his neighbors interested in playing old-timey music. GENE McGEORGE already was a violinist and could surely be taught ‘Bile ’em Cabbage Down;’ BILL NEELY, a potter, could play the concertina and the harmonica, plus he was good at making everyone feel that big things were happening; MARIA CORDERO could not only play guitar and sing, she could also look really good; TOM SHELDON played the guitarón—a kind of half-sized Mexican lap bass you play standing up. They named themselves the Scragg Family, after a famous street in Santa Barbara, Alameda Padre Serra, which Wild Bill always called Alameda Padre Scragg.

 All they seemed to be missing was me.

 I’ve always thought it greatly to Peter’s credit that he turned to his immediate community rather than go downtown and team up with two or three hotshots, as he surely could have done. Part of the band’s immediate appeal was the very human quality of people who were not primarily musicians, not trained ones anyway. If you heard a tape of us then, you might wonder what the fuss was about.

 I think love was what it was about. We loved each other, we loved our audience (since they were already our friends) and we were just plain loveable. We all inhabited a mountain community of eccentrics in hand-built houses on a maze of dirt roads; we lived with a sense of absolute freedom; we lived in a cloud of fun-having, where nothing seemed crucial. It was a pre-hippie time—pre-pot, pre-acid, but plenty of (home-made) red wine—and so we could live in a hippie-like way without feeling as if we were following some hippie-script. (Not to knock hippies! As soon as they appeared, I was on board.)

 Peter and I knew a lot about southern mountain music by this time; the others didn’t. We would play records for them, and they’d play the songs as best they could. We ventured into harmonies. We thought up actual arrangements, such as, Let’s start all together and do four verses and stop, okay? We delegated solos, the way the big boy bluegrassers did. We learned to say funny things between songs, and if no one said anything funny, then we’d roll our eyes and be idiots.

 We gave ourselves appropriate names and outfits. Maria became SALLY SCRAGG—short dress and tall boots, a wide-brimmed hat over her long, black hair. Tom was JOSIAH LEVITICUS SCRAGG with a kind of bandolero slant. WILD BILL SCRAGG, never without his ranger hat and red kerchief, sold his vinegar from the stage and called it moonshine. Peter was HANLEY J., from his fedora to his batwing shoes with real shoelaces. Gene was SETH SCRAGG: black engineer boots and dust-covered pants from a day on the bulldozer. I was RUBY LEE SCRAGG, in something different every night to make sure no one could pigeon-hole me like I just did all my band mates. And there were peripheral Scraggs, too–like Electron, who owned radio station KRCW and showed us how to rig up a microphone thingy to make us sound louder for the ever-increasing crowds.

In this photo, Wild Bill must already have gone on to other things.

 The Scraggs were available for events of all kinds where genuine yahoos were desired—it’s amazing how many events of that sort there are. A shopping mall opening? A benefit for abused children? A political shindig? (This one was for Governor Pat Brown, Jerry’s dad.) Get the Scragg Family, they’re really fun and they’re really cheap. And our community gave quarterly Pot Wars—not like Weed Wars, these were about competitive potters selling their wares, and they eventually morphed into the Renaissance Faire. For those venues, we’d set up on the bed of one of Gene’s trucks.

 Our longest-running revue was at a little bar down south in Summerland called THE SANDPIPER. We started off playing for the locals, but before long our fans found us and soon were lining up outside because the bar wasn’t large enough to hold them all. Sounds like the superhighway to success, doesn’t it? Well, in a way it was, because I told Ed Pearl I was playing in an old-timey string band and he said, “Bring them down to the Ash Grove!”

 We went, and it was great. Except—nothing’s perfect—one night someone sent a note up from the audience. It said, You guys are terrific. You could really make it, you just need to focus the group around that one girl, the really pretty one with the boots. Peter read it aloud in the dressing room and then there was a long moment of embarrassed silence, ’cause fer chrissake, there were TWO really pretty girls with boots in this group, yet there was no doubt in anyone’s mind that Maria was the one the guy meant. (Well, okay, I’ve just been trying to think of the various reasons we eventually went 3-piece, and I’m ashamed to say that may have been one of them.)

All this time, I’d been still playing my classical nylon-string Martin, and that was a fine guitar, but you really could not play ‘Black Mountain Rag’ on it. Or any of the other songs my new job description called for. Everybody knew by then that I dreamed of having a dreadnaught—I never stopped whining about it. The squeaky wheel. Then it got to be May, close to the 12th which was my birthday, and Electron Scragg secretly took up a collection from everyone in the community so they could buy me a D28.

 The one they found used to belong to DAVE CROSBY, and I think it cost a lot. Gene McGeorge said (I just found this out) that he’d match whatever amount was raised………well, more on him later. Meanwhile, it’s the 12th, and we are all having a picnic in the back country. The weather is already heading into deep California summer; bees are buzzing, birds are tweeting, champagne corks are popping. And they give me this card, and it says it’s good for one D28 Martin guitar which will arrive any day now.

 I poured my champagne over my head. I was pretty glad about the guitar, all right, but I was gladder about the enormous communal effort to get it. For a while, there, it seemed like I’d finally found a true home, a place where I was loved and valued. The superhighway to success was temporarily subsumed in this much larger vision. Friends—family—love! Christopher rolled around on the grass, my boyfriend kissed me, everyone beamed. This was like stardom.