The Road Trip Continues…

Hi There! I thought we’re long overdue for another installment from my book – Road Trip

Hope you enjoy it! Please, I’d love to hear your comments!

The urge for goin’

We were getting itchy to hit the road again. We had heard there was a music scene in St Louis and an arts community in Gaslight Square – a semi restored Victorian Western ambience with gaslights on the streets, fine restaurants and theaters and a folk music venue of some notoriety at the time. This venue had the unlikely name of the “Laughing Buddha” and was a major stop for touring folk musicians. Yes, we were touring, but not in the finer sense of the word – like Bob Dylan touring or Gordon Lightfoot touring, etc. We were not the elite guard, so to speak – but touring none the less. So, we set sail for St. Louis.

It was warm and breezy with all the windows open in the car. Gif and I were in the backseat “strumming” away on our guitars – the miles seemed to drift by quickly. We hit a few rest areas and set up our busking at the picnic tables – playing for food, drink and cigarettes. I remember it was quite amazing how many people our age were out on the road searching for something or themselves. So we always had an audience and other musicians joining in. Quite festive on occasion as well. It really was a wonderful summer – filled with hope and adventure – the humming of our wheels was the rhythm of it. Our music was our soundtrack. Our laughter echoed for miles! The free spirit actually realized, lived and enjoyed. Southward we sped. I remember that I wanted to stop in Springfield Illinois to visit Abe Lincoln’s house – I think we did drive by it and maybe it wasn’t open for tourists at the time so we didn’t stop.

We stopped under a railroad trestle late one afternoon to spend the night. The road was barely more than a dirt one and there was no one around.

The area was all cornfield, but there was a sign announcing a small village just a few miles up the road. Being low on gas, we decided to walk the distance hoping gas might be available there. We meandered in and out of the cornfields eating our share of fresh uncooked corn, wandered by distant farm houses and barns, eventually coming upon the small village – whose name I can’t remember – seemingly entering into another time – maybe 100 years in the past. So quiet, really quiet. Neatly kept homes all shiny white with shiny black shudders and rocking chairs on antique front porches. I figured that we must be in Amish country – actually it was Menonite country. The store was wonderful! A few horses tied to the porch posts in front and we were unlikely visitors upon entering the store. There were two men and the storekeeper inside to greet us. They did not look down their noses or appear to be afraid of us, but greeted us with smiles. There were wooden barrels with soda crackers in them and a wheel of cheese sitting on the counter. We were offered cold glasses of iced tea! YES YES! Cold glasses of iced tea!! We had our guitars with us, so we sat and played for them and we were rewarded with hearty cheese and tomato sandwiches made with homemade bread. So we sat cradled in the past on the front porch of the store eating our sandwiches and drinking our iced tea – telling our new friends about our travels – and when we left to start our walk back to the car, we felt rested and well fed.

 The next morning was bright and sunny and we were awakened early by the glare of the rising sun. We found out at the little store, that gas was available right at the entrance to the thruway – so we were off once again.

1961 – Beatniks

Beatnik – the “nik” derived from sput-nik – implied an out of this world or out of society group of free-thinking people who congregated with like kind at coffee houses and jazz joints during the late 50’s and early 60’s. I soon discovered that I was different from the other kids at school – I wasn’t into sports and flashy clothes – I was into James Dean and the pack of butts rolled up in my T-shirt sleeve, a Brylcreamed slickened DA haircut – hot rods and early rock and roll. In Rhode Island, if you appeared in that James Dean style, you were called a “Mondo” – from where that term came, I haven’t a clue.

Probably a huge influence on me was the TV show Peter Gunn. The theme song still runs through my head from time to time. This marvelous piece of music was written by Henry Mancini and featured the emblematic guitar of one of my favorites, Duane Eddy. His Rebel Rouser hit became an anthem of mine and was one of the first things I learned to play on guitar, and then, of course, the Peter Gunn “lick”.  I fell immediately in love with the smoky bar – Mothers – on the Peter Gunn show as well as the smooth jazz accompaniment. Mancini’s Take Five came out around that time – I had the 45 record of it. My first LP was Charlie Mingus – Mingus Ah Um – it was his first album. All I wanted to do was find a place like Mothers, sit around and smoke cigarettes, drink coffee and listen to jazz – my parents were not too pleased, although my father heartily encouraged my guitar playing.

Well, a friend of mine discovered the ideal place. A second floor coffee house in Providence up by Brown University called the Tete a Tete Coffeehouse. A carful of us would go up there – usually on a Saturday night. You would climb the stairway and then encounter the very striking proprietor Justine, with her flaming red hair, sitting behind her counter, glaring at you with superstitious eyes and asking for the 50 cent cover charge. True to form was the smoke filled room with an array of “beatniks” sitting around reading or having hushed conversations, or someone would be reciting poetry from the small stage. If there was no live music, Justine would be playing jazz on her record player which was tucked underneath her counter in the front. There was an enticing menu serving up ginger beer and my favorite, a whisky flavored espresso. I think baklava was also on the menu. And she did it all – it was her joint all the way. And we sat around trying to be cool, but the beatniks – who were older than us and probably students at Brown University, would have little to do with us. 

In the next few years, she would soften the jazz and turn to folk music as an attraction – which doubled the popularity of the place. Later, at the University of Rhode Island where I was enrolled, I found out that the Tete a Tete was having hoot nights and hiring folk singers. So Sam – my Café Innisfree partner – and I headed up for a hoot which was on a Friday night. I should note, that at the time, there was no microphone or PA system – just the small stage with a stool on it. People were actually quiet and would listen. That’s when I ended up playing most of the night, because only a few showed up to play. I was received well, asked Justine for a gig, hesitantly, and she hired me to play the following Saturday. I felt like I had made the big time!

A greater influential experience happened a year later – Summer, 1965 – when I heard Eric Andersen for the first time at the Tete a Tete!

 Next time – see ya in St Louis!

All the best, Bill

                 

 

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Happy Holidays!

Wishing you all a very happy and exciting Holiday Season! To celebrate, I am offering a special on two of my favorite CD recordings!   Give the gift of music!  Both CD’s only $12 and free shipping within the United States.

Holiday special! (2)

 

To purchase, just click on the link below and then click on “merch”   And I thank you for your support of my music!

https://billmadison.bandcamp.com

My favorite track on “All She Wanted” is my cover of Gerry Rafferty’s “Baker Street”! This track features the great guitar solos by Dave Cochran. I’d like to share that with you in case you haven’t heard it.

And my favorite track on “Rogues” is “Old Oak Tree”!

I sincerely hope that my music brings you great pleasure! Best to you and yours, Bill

 

 

 

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My new Album/CD Rogues is being released!

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This is my newest studio album which is now in final production. I came up with the concept about a year ago. I wanted to write and compile some songs that were descriptive of romantic outlaw characters.   I even put my father’s picture on the cover because he was certainly a “rogue” in his youth and somewhat beyond that period in his life.   I even fancy myself a “rogue” in some ways!   Good outlaws who are just victims of life’s circumstances.

I have been collaborating with my friend and fellow songwriter Scott Roby for quite a few years now and recently our collaborations have resulted in several of the songs on this album.   Scott is an awesome lyricist and he can create the “movie” in a song with very few words.   I enhance and create the musical arrangements for the songs.  

I have to thank Suzie Litton Wood for her wonderful “Victorian” lyric for the song  Drifting.  It creates such a fanciful mood!

Also, John Dudli – drummer in my band Them Fargo Brothers – sat in and played drums on “Bluemoon’s Waltz.

The addition of two great traditional songs – “Days of 49” and “Let No Man Steal Your Thyme” round out the mood of the album.   It is intended to be listened to in a sitting – allowing yourself to become absorbed in the stories – it is 11 songs – less than an hour – but long enough to intake a cocktail or two! Here’s one of my favorite tracks from the album – Old Oak Tree!

https://soundcloud.com/bill-madison/old-oak-tree

You can get a copy at my web site:

http://www.Billmadisonmusic.com

 beginning November 7th!

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Road Trip – Stratford Town – Summer 1966

And another installment of Road Trip!

“Yellow is the color of my true love’s hair…” Gif sang as we drove off on a trip to Stratford Ontario – Commenting on how much he liked Donovan and that he thought I sounded like him – which made everyone laugh!

We heard of a nice coffeehouse in Stratford called the Black Swan which we wanted to go to and play at. So filled with enthusiasm we made our way. We had made some money in Yorkville. We acquired a small amount of fame gained by playing open mike at the Riverboat and we noticed more people showing up at the No Name to hear us play. We even got a paying gig at the Mousehole – the second most famous venue to the Riverboat. We also played at another venue called the Seven Of Clubs, which I can’t remember to much about, but I think it had a full bar and paid quite well.

Stratford was about 2 hrs. northwest of Toronto. The town was known for putting on plays by Shakespeare – ala Stratford on the Avon in England.

They even had a reproduction of the Elizabethan theater in England. So the town had quite a bit of magic going on at the time. I was such a severe romantic at the time, that I imagined myself transported back to the Elizabethan era. It wasn’t hard to do in that town.

It was early evening when we walked through the door of the Black Swan. The décor was certainly Elizabethan in style – with heavy furniture, candlelight and stained glass. We, of course, looked kinda under-dressed, standing there in t-shirts, jeans and cowboy boots, long hair and guitar cases. There was a poster advertizing the entertainment.

“Appearing Tonight! Sonia Fricker, sister of Sylvia Tyson of Ian and Sylvia!” 

Still standing in the doorway, this beautiful woman approached and invited us in. It was Sonia Fricker. Gif started a conversation with her immediately and offered to back her up on guitar for her show. She wanted to play a few tunes with him first before committing to that. She was playing solo and doing mostly original songs, which we later found out were really good songs. She was a finger picker and what with Gif’s great finger picking style, they blended together just great.

I was feeling that old twinge of insecurity looming over me and when asked to play an opening set, I reluctantly agreed. I felt she was far superior to me – her voice was incredible as was her guitar playing and songwriting.

When I played my set, I was so nervous that I didn’t play guitar very well and forgot words to the songs.

The rather large crowd even laughed at my mistakes and refused to applaud. I was quite devastated and totally overwhelmed with insecurity and left the building. Rory and Mac came after me asking what the hell happened to me. It took some doing on their part to even convince me to go back in – but I joined them in the shadows in the back of the room and listened to the amazing set that Sonia and Gif presented.

I don’t remember much else about Stratford other than the fact that we played two other venues there called the Three Ravens and Oh No John – probably basket houses.

It’s terrible sometimes how our emotions can bring out the worst in us. Insecurity in me has cost me much over my lifetime and still rears it’s ugly head to this day. But I learned how to deal with it a long time ago. I wrote this at the time: A song called Stratford Town: 1st verse:

    “I lost my mind in Stratford town in the year of 66

  Where people stood accusin’ and saying I’m sick

   Shallow voices crawl and sneak beneath my feet

   And slur the basic roots of which I can’t conceal.”

 I must have felt so bad and that is why to this day I don’t remember too much about it.

Thanks for the spirit of comradeship – the one for all and all for one. As they scraped my remains up off the floor, threw me in the backseat and headed back to Yorkville!

 

Hope you stay tuned for more installments as I write them.!    

I’m excited about my new studio album which will be released this Fall called “Rogues”!

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That’s a picture of my father on the cover taken around 1935 – he certainly was a rogue in his youth!

Here is one of the songs, called Bound to Lose,  that will be on the album:

http://clw.ee/cq6gl0

So until next time, thanks for stopping by!

Bill

 

 

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The Archives of a Country Rock Band – Kilgore’s Trout Saloon

Kenneth G. Cross ’71 took an alternate route from many other Harvard graduates. After travelling around for a few years after he graduated, Cross and four friends opened up a saloon in northern Vermont. “There are an amazing amount of crazy people here,” Cross said last week from Kilgore’s Trout Saloon in Montgomery Center, Vermont. “It’s a small town–you know everybody.”

Them Fargo Brothers became acquainted with Kilgore’s in 1976.

More about Kilgore’s:

“Tim Murphy came to Montgomery in 1973 with a Harvard degree in political philosophy and a new graduate degree in urban planning.

He opened a saloon.

His partners were four college buddies. The men’s academic pedigree became a point of local pride, or perhaps puzzlement. In any case, they are still universally referred to in Montgomery as “the five guys from Harvard.”

It was the 1970s, baby boomers were fleeing urban areas, the skiing was great and Montgomery, improbably, was rocking. Kilgore’s Trout Saloon (the name is a double allusion, to the Kurt Vonnegut character Kilgore Trout and to the Trout River that ran behind the saloon), became a gathering spot for locals and newcomers.

Murphy and his partners served a $1.25 breakfast. They stayed open from before dawn till after midnight. They spouted ideas that founded new town institutions and traditions, a shot of adrenaline that further invigorated town life.” (The Burlington Free Press)

We, Them Fargo Brothers, were hired for the first time to play on St. Patty’s Day at the Saloon. We were billed as Them Farg O’Brothers!

This is Them Fargo Brothers at that time!

MountainBackground

Left to right – Brad “Buck” Cardoza – lead guitar and vocals; Dave Allen – drums; Myself – guitar and vocals; Bruce Geiger – steel guitar and Bill “Slim” Rost – bass guitar and vocals. 

The ride from North Conway, New Hampshire to Montgomery Ctr., Vermont was about 3 hours. We piled into Dave Allen’s 1971 Ford Van with all the equipment and headed out on what was a “4 sixpack” journey. We always stopped at the first convenience store we saw to get provisions.

When we reached the mountains of Vermont, there was quite a bit of snow still on the ground and it was noticeably cooler. The sun was beginning to set over the mountain peaks and we all had to pee – really bad. Dave pulled the van onto the shoulder which was all snow and we immediately sank deep into the snowy crust – up to the rocker panels – we were stuck bad. This is a small two lane winding road and there was no one on it besides us. So we sat there – no cell phones at the time. And waited and waited. Finally a pick up truck approached and slowed down to check us out. The passenger in the truck wound down his window and said – “Looks like you’re stuck pretty bad!” Yup, we are. “Where ya headed?” We were heading to Montgomery Ctr. We’re the band playing at Kilgore’s Trout Saloon. “Well, Can’t have that! We’re about 15 miles out from there! We’ll head over there and have the tow truck sent out to pull you out!”

Sure enough, about a half hour later the tow truck showed up and pulled us out of the snow. There was damage to the left front tie rod so we couldn’t drive the van. So we were ceremoniously towed into town and deposited right in front of Kilgore’s. We exited the van to the front porch of the Saloon and were met by Gordon Cross and Tim Murphy holding a tray full of shots of Jameson’s Irish Whiskey! And a hearty welcome it was!!!

Kilgore’s remained our favorite place to play and for the next two years, we played on St. Patty’s Day. On one occasion, Gordon arranged for us to open for an Elvin Bishop concert in Burlington. That’s a story for another episode – Stay Tuned!!!

I thought you might enjoy listening to a new song I just finished in the studio – here’s the link:

http://clw.ee/cp6ub0

See ya for Bill’s Happy Hour Saturdays at 6PM EDT on Street Jelly!

http://streetjelly.com/

Thanks!

 

 

 

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The Archives of a Country Rock Band 1980’s

First off, I’m dedicating this post to the memory of Tex Goldberg!   The early 80’s was quite a time for Them Fargo Brothers. That was the time when outlaw country and country rock were very popular – partly because of the popularity of the “mechanical riding bulls” and all the clubs that opened up because of that. We had a built in touring circuit that filled up quickly by booking ourselves in all these clubs. We had to upgrade our PA system quite a bit to fit these somewhat large venues. “Billy Jacks” in Rochester, NY, held more than 2000 people for example. Here we are onstage at Billy Jacks in the late 70’s.

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We purchased a cube van which we had to modify for our touring. We divided the actual cube in half. We had a steel angle iron partition welded in the middle to create the halves. The back half was used to store the equipment and the front half we set up for ourselves to sit. We built two benches on either side with storage under neath and we paneled and insulated the walls and ceiling – with a small roof vent for ventilation. There was no AC in the truck at all. On the benches we had bean bag cushions and such and over head lighting for reading like you see in an airplane. Fairly comfortable but chilly in the winter and stuffy in the summer.

It was at that time also, that we were working on our first recording release – on a 45rpm at that! – Ain’t No UFO Gonna Catch My Diesel – which was recorded by Harry King and Bill Chinook at Bill’s studio outside of Portland, Maine. We released quite a few and got a fair amount of airplay out of it. Here’s a link to the song:

Here are a bunch of photos from that time that I recently found in the back of the dregs of my closet in an old dusty box!

Harry King engineering - UFO session.

Harry King engineering – UFO session.

John, Mike and Bruce - Whittier Concert.

John, Mike and Bruce – Whittier Concert.

Bruce on the steel guitar - Whittier Concert.

Bruce on the steel guitar – Whittier Concert.

On stage at Whittier.

On stage at Whittier.

Tex, Me and John

Tex, Me and John

John Dudli - Drums

John Dudli – Drums

Tex, Me and Mike.

Tex, Me and Mike.

Tex and Jim Merrill in the van. Jim ran sound and lights for us and also filled in on bass and vocals.

Tex and Jim Merrill in the van. Jim ran sound and lights for us and also filled in on bass and vocals.

Bruce with his new repro Sharps carbine.

Bruce with his new repro Sharps carbine.

Mike Casserly, our bass player on the left and Bruce Geiger, our steel guitar player in the van!

Mike Casserly, our bass player on the left and Bruce Geiger, our steel guitar player in the van!

Tex and i at setup before an outdoor concert at Mt. Whittier, Ossipee, New Hampshire

Tex and i at setup before an outdoor concert at Mt. Whittier, Ossipee, New Hampshire

L-R - John Dudli, Mike Casserly and Tex Goldberg doing vocals in the studio - UFO session.

L-R – John Dudli, Mike Casserly and Tex Goldberg doing vocals in the studio – UFO session.

Me doing vocals in the studio - UFO session.

Me doing vocals in the studio – UFO session.

Here I am driving the "cube van."

Here I am driving the “cube van.”

Here's Tex Goldberg - our lead guitar player - relaxing in the van.

Here’s Tex Goldberg – our lead guitar player – relaxing in the van.

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New video to share!

Hi – I wanted to share new video I made of three new songs! The first video contains the two songs – Barefootin’ Boogie and South Dakota Town.  The second video contains the song Bluemoon’s Waltz written by my good friend and collaborator Scott Roby.

Hey!  Don’t forget my “Spring Into Spring” offer!

 

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https://billmadison.bandcamp.com/

And please join me for all the fun on Street Jelly for Bill’s Happy Hour!

http://streetjelly.com/

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Thank you so much for your continued support!

Have a great weekend! Bill

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Announcing the release of my new CD – “Sweet Jelly”

I have been playing music on Street Jelly.com for almost two years now! From time to time I have recorded my performances and I have compiled some of the better tracks onto CD’s. The first was “Old Five and Dimers”, and now “Sweet Jelly” is the sequel! When I released “Old Five and Dimers”, Toni Taylor-Helser – the Barefoot Baroness – wrote a great review of it.  And she has now written a great review of “Sweet Jelly”!  She has a wonderful radio show on Sunday nights on Mixposure – Hard to get a word in edgewise on that chat page! Fantastic music to be heard over there!!! 

 http://www.mixposure.com/barefoot-music/action

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This Barefoot music listener and fan of Bill Madison received a message from Bill a couple of months back that put a smile on my face.  Bill said he had woke one morning with his song “Barefootin’ Boogie” in his head. Recording it and including it in his message saying he thought of Yours Truly. Soon this became the intro track to his new CD “Sweet Jelly”.

From this intro track and throughout the album’s collection of tunes Bill keeps your feet doing a definite boogie with his rich acoustic guitar accompaniment, and his distinctive vocal quality full of natural expressions.

Bill is the first artist I experienced with Online Busking on his Saturday shows on www.streetjelly.com, happily so, as I quite like Bill’s style and sound. His latest album/Cd is a 13 track collection from his Street Jelly shows. I find the natural feel of this album as easy and comfortable to listen to as it is to experience his shows online. It is a venue made for an artist like Bill Madison, and I am delighted that his was my first experience with concerts in this format.

This collection begins with his original tune Barefootin’ Boogie that absolutely sets the tone of ambiance for the listener. Bill takes us through a journey of classic cover tunes that will have you feeling you have been time warped in the most of nostalgic ways.  Bill has an easy flow to his vocal tone that he compliments so nicely with his acoustic guitar which creates a rich full sound as a soloist.

From his inspiring epic “All Along The Watch Tower”, to the romance of Eric Clapton’s ?Wonderful Tonight”, to the closing track “Forever Young” this album will certainly inspire memories from days gone by as well as inspire new memory making today.

Get yours inspired today.

Available at http://www.Billmadisonmusic.com ! Part of my Spring Into Spring Special! Happy Spring, by the way!

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Yorkville Village

Hey! Surprisingly more “Road Trip”!

Everybody wore cowboy boots – everybody. I think it was due mostly to Eric Andersen’s song – Thirsty Boots and, of course, Bob Dylan’s – Mr. Tambourine Man.  I remember, in Boston back at that time, that Walker’s Western Wear was selling a lot of boots. At the time, a pair of boots cost around $30.  Walker’s always had a big add in Broadside Magazine. It was a big event when it was time to get a new pair of boots.

 

And there was the folky buff out leather jacket with the sheepskin collar! And also, the pea coat – cheap at the Army Navy store. Oh yeh, denim shirts. The uniform of the folk musician!

 

Something about walking down the street hearing the click of your boot heels and carrying your guitar.

 

Such was the scene in Yorkville Village. We’re in the 57 Plymouth with all the windows down driving on Yonge St. and taking in the sites – a throng of denim clad boot clicking folkies and guitars everywhere.  We spotted a place called the No Name sporting a sign that read “Welcome Buskers”! Finding a place to park was not easy. We ended up several blocks away from the No Name – so with guitars in hand, our boots clicking on the cobblestones, we made our way to the No Name.

 

The place was packed – thick with smoke – with a small stage along the back wall – illuminated by a single blue light dangling from the low ceiling. There were red glass candles burning on most of the tables, where the crowd hung low over the tables quietly talking or listening to the music. To the left of the stage was a small kitchen area with a huge antique espresso machine, presided over by a tall dark haired woman wearing dark glasses and smoking a cigarette from a long holder. Classic! There was a small bar she stood behind serving Ginger Beer from a cooler underneath. There were maybe six or seven congregating there. For us, the place was love at first site. A singer, who called himself Bart was finishing a song, receiving quite an applause, and the tall lady handed out several baskets into the crowd. It looked like he was getting a fairly lucrative take. Within a few minutes of our arrival, we were talking to the tall lady – whose name was Vera – about playing there. After Bart, there was another singer and then we could have our turn. We decided to do separate sets at first and end up playing together for the last set. I was to go first.

 

This is where I have trouble – trying to remember which songs I might have played. I did always like Lightfoot’s – In The Early Mornin’ Rain; Eric Andersen’s – Dusty Box Car Wall; Tim Hardin playing House Of The Rising Sun – one reason I still play the song! I wrote a lot of songs, too – too bad I can’t remember most of them! Of course, the ones I sort of remember, the ones I might want to redo, I somehow never recorded! 

Or if I did, I can’t remember where the tapes are.

 

One I do remember is my song – St. Sebastian’s!

This was a ‘folk song’ of epic proportions – over 5min, and fingerpicking most of it. I had written it during summer school (creative writing) class. That was the romantic summer of 1963 and the Café Innisfree.  And I played the song a lot – a lot – I mean it – a lot!  I usually played it somewhere in the middle of a set – it was surprisingly well received, too.

I really don’t remember much….

 

I do remember how much I loved playing guitar – especially the finger-pickin’ stuff. I have some recordings of my finger-pickin’ from then, and upon listening now, I can’t figure out what I was playing!  I was playing constantly jamming with everyone I could. Don’t get me wrong – I still love playing guitar now – just wish I had that youthful energy again.

 

Back to the No Name Coffee House:

 

We did well there in a short time. I think Gif really became the star of the show. His red hair and blue eyes –  you could feel him looking right through you; and his amazing guitar playing was extremely captivating. We would sing together his song called –  10 cent Life – we did a great version of Tennessee Stud. Too bad – none of it was ever recorded. But, we sure did play a lot!

 

Vera offered to share her spacious two story apartment with us. The apartment was above the No Name. She was in her late 50’s and soon became our on the road house mother.  We had chores to do and she insisted on us practicing. She had an extra guitar, which Rory took a liking too, and he started learning quickly. Mac had no musical ability – AT ALL!  Sometimes, when we were singing and he was feeling a little good – which was his way to feel always – would try to sing a long much to our chagrin. He would be a great listener and had no qualms about letting us know what he liked and didn’t like. We took Mac very seriously. His main thing was keeping the car spit shined – his parents gave him the car at graduation from URI. He changed the oil on time – serviced everything on time – you could eat out of the engine compartment!

Hope you enjoyed that!!!  My friend Zelda sent me this today! I love it!!!

More again soon! Bill

 

 

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Road Trip – Toronto Bound – Summer 1966

OK! I have finally been stricken by the muse to continue on with my book – “Road Trip”!  And here is the latest installment!  Some neat history here!

Toronto Bound

A rest area sign appeared as we sped along the highway. Gif had the idea that we stop at each and every one and set up busking any place we could – a picnic table, under a tree – there was always plenty of people at the rest areas and truck stops along the way. We usually succeeded in drawing a small crowd and also succeeded in making a few bucks doing this.  This provided a small cash fund that kept us in cigarettes, beer, munchables and even helped with the gas. We would play for a few hours at each stop – even at night – not a bad deal! By the end of the second day after leaving Montreal, we had made it only about halfway to Toronto.

We also had been sleeping in the car – mostly when we were driving. We took turns at the wheel. I was driving when I pulled into a rest area just a few hours from Toronto. It was mid-afternoon. There was a party going on within a wagon train circle of camper vans and re-designed school buses. I thought, well, this is pretty cool! Looking back, it was a beginning of things to come. This was before flowers got painted on VW buses and the word hippie hadn’t been invented yet. These people were followers of Jack Kerouac and Allen Ginsburg.

From Jack’s book, On The Road, he said, “The only people for me are the mad ones, the ones who are mad to live, mad to talk, mad to be saved.” He had written the book on a 120 ft. scroll of drafting paper threaded into a typewriter – Allen Ginsburg called this new way of writing – “spontaneous bop prosody…”

(from the article written by Joyce Johnson called The Beats – Karouac Unbound – published in Vanity Fair in 8/20/07)

And yes, these people we ran across at this rest area we’re indeed living the book – living ‘on the road’!

We sure came to the right place. Getting out of the car and getting our guitars, we walked toward the large group of people sitting around on the picnic tables and on blankets – and as if on cue, they all started singing “Blowing In The Wind” and laughing at the same time. Gif and I stopped and took our guitars out of the cases and using the cases to sit on, we began to attempt to play along with the singing. There was a guy named Mitch who was playing harmonica and the whole thing blended together like it was meant to be. It was quite inspiring as I recall.  Joints were being passed around, wine was being passed around – yes in the old fashioned leather wine pouches – people read their poetry and we sang our songs. There was a huge magic in it. Mitch was kinda the leader of this tribe. He seemed to be a kind and thoughtful man and he drove the lead bus. He said they were heading for San Francisco.  He told us the place to go in Toronto is Yorkville Village – look for a place called The Purple Onion and also The Myna Bird.

As darkness approached, the mood was broken by the appearance of two police officers coming over to check things out. They were friendly enough and kindly asked us all to disperse. It was time to move on anyway. We all said our goodbyes with hugs and hearty handshakes and much well-wishing. Mac took to the wheel and pointed us into the direction of Toronto. I remember how pretty the lights of the city looked in the early evening sky.

While at the rest area, we were given a copy of Kerouac’s book – On The Road. There was a misconception about the book, in that, people thought it was a about a couple of guys on the road in search of thrills and fun, but in reality, it was about two devout Catholics in search of their true God. On the other hand, they did encounter all sorts of adventures along the way. We passed the book around the car as we traveled and it did provide some intriguing inspiration along the way. It is sad to note that Kerouac passed away in 1969 at the age of 47 from liver problems created by alcohol abuse in St. Petersburg, Florida. His influence most assuredly was responsible for the immergence of the “free love” “hippie” movement that was growing rapidly.

When we approached Yorkville Village in Toronto, we were amazed at all the lights and young people filling the streets. Here is the best description of Yorkville at the time – the center of which was The Riverboat Coffee House, which we ended up playing quite often at their Hoot Night. Never scored a gig there, however. We were in search of the “basket house” venues to make money – and in Yorkville at the time, there were many.

Nicholas Jennings writes:

 “During the 1960s Yorkville was a cultural hotspot, the Canadian equivalent of San Francisco’s Haight Ashbury or New York’s Greenwich Village. Full of clubs, coffeehouses, experimental art galleries and bohemian boutiques, Yorkville was far more than just a hippie haven. It was a vibrant artistic community of international renown, contained within several city blocks.

By far the most famous of all Yorkville’s clubs was the Riverboat coffeehouse, at 134 Yorkville. Owned and operated by Bernie Fiedler, the Riverboat opened in October, 1964 and quickly became part of a prestigious North American circuit that included Detroit’s Chess Mate and New York’s Bitter End. Situated below street level, the club seated 120 people in red booths amid pine walls and brass portholes. Every seat was in close proximity to the stage, providing an intimate showcase of the top names in popular music, including Howlin’ Wolf, Simon & Garfunkel, Sonny Terry & Brownie McGhee, Tim Buckley, Ritchie Havens, Junior Wells, John Prine, Ramblin’ Jack Elliott, Arlo Guthrie, Buddy Guy, Kris Kristofferson, John Lee Hooker, Doc Watson, Tim Hardin, Jerry Jeff Walker, Janis Ian, Steve Goodman, Odetta, Seals & Crofts and James Taylor.

The Riverboat is where the protest folk singing star Phil Ochs wrote his popular ballad “Changes.” When Eric Clapton was in Toronto with his band Cream, the Riverboat is where he went, with his hair tied in a bun as a disguise, to hear Tom Rush perform. When actor Jack Nicholson was in town shooting The Last Detail, he snuck in through the Riverboat’s backdoor to catch some late-night music. Everyone played the Riverboat except Bob Dylan, although even Dylan was rumored to have sat, incognito, in one of the back booths one night.

Most significantly, the Riverboat was home to many of the biggest names in Canadian music, including Gordon Lightfoot, Joni Mitchell, Bruce Cockburn, Murray McLauchlan and Dan Hill. Many of them got their first taste of performing there and wrote songs in the club’s tiny rehearsal room, with its graffiti-lined walls and lively acoustics. Lightfoot, who played to four full houses a night in 1965, wrote his song “Steel Rail Blues” there. “For me,” Lightfoot once said, “the Riverboat was my first taste of the big time. It indicated that you must be really doing something.”

Mitchell, who first performed at the Riverboat in November 1966, wrote “Night in the City,” her tribute to the bright lights of Yorkville there. And it was at the Riverboat where she first played her most famous song, “Both Sides Now.” Before Neil Young found fame south of the border with Buffalo Springfield, he’d appeared as a fledgling folksinger at one of the Riverboat’s “Hoot nights.” When he returned to Toronto as a solo star in 1969, he performed for a week at the Riverboat—and later paid tribute to the club in his song “Ambulance Blues,” in which he sang “back in those old folkie days, the Riverboat was rockin’ in the rain.”

But the Riverboat will not be forgotten. In 2009, Heritage Toronto recognized its significance with an historic plaque marking the site. All of the stars came out for the unveiling, including Dan Hill, Murray McLauchlan and Gordon Lightfoot. Bernie Fiedler, looking out over the large gathering, could not have been happier. The little club he had opened back in 1964 had grown to iconic status and will now be forever remembered as a major cultural landmark.”

 We drove though Yorkville – the windows down in the car, and the Stones singing – “Time Is On My Side”. We found out that there were over 40 coffee houses in Yorkville Village, and we were on our way to find a niche here.

More coming – so stay tuned!

For fun – Here’s video of my friends The Lost City Band doing one of my favorite songs!

And let’s not forget Tyrone Shulace and his Pals in this classic!

Hope you’re having fun!  By for now!  Bill

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