the Peppermint Trolley Company – ‘It’s a Lazy Summer Day’ in the Summer of Love

August 31, 2016 in Events

During the winter of 1967 my brother Jimmy and I continued to drive into Holly wood

Three weeks later...

Casey Cunningham, Jimmy Faragher, And Danny Farsagher

on the week-ends to record with Producer Dan Dalton. In addition to cutting three sides
as the Peppermint Trolley Company, we sang and played background for other artists.
A 45 single of ‘She’s the Kind of Girl’/’Little Miss Sunshine’ was released on Dalton’s
Kelly label before being picked up by Acta Records.

In the meantime the world around us seemed to accelerate. Along with our drummer
friend, Casey Cunningham, and new found buddy, Patrick McClure, we became active
in the Peace Movement and, dare I say it, slightly psychedelicized.  We were listening to
a wide range of artists, including the Doors, the Jefferson Airplane, the Paul Butterfield
Blues Band, Phil Ochs, and Laura Nyro.  We understood that Acta had signed us with the
expectation that we would deliver light pop fare (a genre that is now refered to as sunshine pop).
Although we were confident we could provide that kind of sound, we were filled with creative
energy and chaffing at the leash. Our dream was to form a real band with Casey on the drums
and to come up with an original sound.

In May Jimmy wrote a song that seemed to encapsulate the moment. It was called ‘It’s a Lazy
Summer Day’.  Melodic, dreamy and innocent, it was like a flower-child anthem. The three
of us played it for  Dan and his wife, Lois Fletcher, and they both loved it. Within the week
we were in Moonglow Studio to lay it down before summer. It was the first PTC record on
which we cut our own basic track, which was recorded live with Jimmy on bass, Casey on
drums, and me on the Hammond B3. Danish singer/songwriter James Fleming Rasmussen
played the acoustic guitar. The vocal arrangement was done on the spot as we stood in frontLazy summer Day(2)
of the mic.

As we listened to the rough mix, the excitement in the room was palpable. By God, we had
our own sound! The harmonies and counter points were sophisticated and psychedelic, while
the organ intro and outro gave it a baroque flavor.Yes, it was light and breezy but it was also
organic and honest. Amidst  the song’s carefree innocence a darker reality was implied – ‘No
one wants to start a fight/ So let’s take a walk tonight.’   It was like a blossom in
the barrel of an M16. We’d managed to stay in the ballpark while pouring a little magic
mushroom powder into the soda.

Acta president, Kenny Meyers, was crazy about it and decided to do a rush release. By July,
‘It’s a Lazy Summer Day’  was pressed and ready to be shipped (Listen here.) One
morning, three weeks later I received a phone call  on my folk’s phone. On the line was Bob
McCormack, the program director for radio station KMEN 129 in San Bernardino. He had
just read the rave reviews of our record  in Billboard, Cashbox , and Record World. Man, was
he pumped.  ‘Danny, we’re going to bring this one home for you guys!’ he told me. That
day we heard ‘A Lazy Summer Day’  on the radio. The Summer of Love was in full swing.

PTC with T. Michael Jordan

Peppermint Trolley Company with KMEN DJ, T. Michael Jordan

 

Fiftieth Anniversary of the Peppermint Trolley Company Recording Debut

August 26, 2016 in Happenings

Selma and Cosmo, Moonglow Studio and the infamous 1966 Hollywood Sunset Strip Curfew Riot

 

Hard to believe, but it has been a half century since my brother Jimmy and I
stepped into Moonglow, a small studio that stood at the corner of Selma and
Cosmo in Hollywood, California, to record the P.F. Sloan penned ‘Lollipop Train’

The Mark V line-up: Danny Faragher, Dave Kelliher, Brad Madson, Dick Owens, Jimmy Faragher, and Steve Hauser

The Mark V line-up: Danny Faragher, Dave Kelliher, Brad Madson, Dick Owens, Jimmy Faragher, and Steve Hauser

and our own ‘Bored to Tears’ for Valiant Records. It was to be our first record
using the moniker ‘ThePeppermint Trolley Company’. At the time the two of us
were members of the Mark V, a band that had been together since 1962. Having
already released three singles for Impression Records, we weren’t complete novices,
but we were still pretty green. At the urging of producer Dan Dalton, we changed
our name and began to focus in a new direction, striving for a more polished sound
with the accent on the vocal arrangements.

When we arrived in the summer of 1966 the city teaming with creativity. With new
sounds emerging from L.A based bands like Love, the Buffalo Springfield, the Doors
and Frank Zappa’s Mothers of Invention, it was an incredible year for popular music.
The Beatles, Beach Boys, and Rolling Stones had recently released ‘Revolver’, ‘Pet
Sounds’, and ‘Aftermath’, respectively, pushing the boundaries of rock music. There
was a buzz in the air, and the Hollywood music scene was alive and well with numerous
rock clubs like the’Trip’, ‘Pandora’s Box’, and  ‘Bido Lido’s’. Oh, it was such an exciting
time to be in town. We were jazzed just to be playing a part.

By February of the following  year, the others members of the Mark V would choose to go
their separate ways, and  Jimmy and I would continue to record as the PTC . In the fall of
1967, with the addition of Casey Cunningham, and Greg Tornquist, the classic Lollipop Train 45 1)line-up
of the band would be in place. In November we would set to wax the haunting ‘Baby,
You Come Rollin’ Across My Mind’ which would change everything, and give us the
green light to record the critically acclaimed Peppermint Trolley Company album
in 1968. Over the years the LP would gain cult status as a classic of psyche rock, baroque
rock and sunshine pop (terms that would be coined decades later). In 2009 it would be
gloriously reissued under the title ‘Beautiful Sun’ for Steve Stanley’s Now Sound Records.

As of this writing, Jimmy, Casey, Greg and I are all still alive and well, as are the former
members of the Mark V.  Sadly we lost Patrick McClure a few years ago. Though Pat had
been in PTC  only briefly (He appears with us in the‘Beverly Hillbillies” episode), his song
writing was essential to the artistic success of the album. He is dearly missed.

It warms my soul to know that fifty years after we pulled up to the curbside at Selma and
Cosmo to embark on a new adventure, the music of the Peppermint Trolley Company is
still rolling across people’s minds. Long live the PTC!

Love and Harmony,

Danny Faragher

 

 

Peppermint_Trolley_Company _album

Bones (the rock band) video of hit – ‘Roberta’

March 3, 2016 in Happenings

Bones cover

Album photo and design by Phil Hartman

 

My brother Jimmy and I led four different bands.
Although each group was fun to be a part of, the experience as a member of Bones was probably the most exciting. We were four young guys chasing a dream full throttle in a rapidly changing world. Oh, those halcyon days!

The four of us, Jimmy Faragher, Casey Cunningham, Greg Tornquist, and myself, were already a seasoned studio band, having charted a hit record in 1968 with Baby, You Come Rollin’ Across my Mind, and recorded a future cult classic with the eponymously titled album,  The Peppermint Trolley Company.  However, there is no resting on one’s laurels in the music business. We were creatively restless, and felt boxed in, confined within the four walls of the studio. Full of fire and eager to take our music to the streets, we chose to walk away from our contract and not look back, changing both our moniker and our direction.scan

It took us a couple years of wood shedding and playing dives to find that direction, but find it we did. We became a great live act. Crowds flooded to venues like Gazzarri’s, the Whiskey, the Topanga Corral, and the Venice Beach House to listen and dance to Bones. In concerts as an opening act for artists like Little Richard,  Alice Cooper, Canned Heat, and the Eagles, the band always projected a visceral excitement that was contagious.

Through it all we remained a tight recording unit, always arranging  our songs as if we were making records. We great material to work with. Jimmy, the main writer in the group was churning out quality song after quality song. In 1972 the groups first album, Bones, produced by Richard Perry, was released on Artie Mogul’s Signpost label. The following year, after adding our former Trolley mate, guitarist Patrick McClure to the band, we released a second LP,  Waitin’ Here, produced by Vini Poncia (Future producer on three of the four Faragher Brothers albums), on MCA.Bones - 1973 - Waitin' Here

 

Roberta, the hit single, and first release, was the result of  a spontaneous and unrehearsed rendition of the Huey Piano Smith song at the suggestion of producer Perry. He’d heard me singing the tune and thought it might capture some of that live excitement.  It’s the rock and roll side of Bones.

The band’s hybrid sound, an amalgamation of rock, power pop, and soul, was way ahead of it’s time, and provided a template for the Faragher Brothers to step into. The music biz connections the band had cultivated didn’t hurt, either.

So why does Bones seem to be lost to history? I believe part of it is the lack of visual documentation. There are simply very few photos and, unlike both the Peppermint Trolley and the Faragher Brothers, there is no footage of the band (Strange to contemplate a world where folks aren’t catching every moment with iPhones or video cams!). Being more of a counter culture phenomenon Bones never appeared on television. Thankfully, the music still remains.

With pride I recall how committed we were to the idea of peace and social justice. We not

Bones - Opening for Peace Rally - Oceanside, CA - May, 1970

Bones – Opening for Peace Rally – Oceanside, CA – May, 1970

only talked the talk, but in performing pro bono at numerous peace rallies for the cause, we walked the walk. We were a band of brothers. On a mission. Committed to the power of rock and roll and its ability to bring people together. We lived together, made music together, and at times,  starved together. Through the good times and the hard times we had each other’s backs. Bones lives!

Watch Roberta video.

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Former Peppermint Trolley Co. and Bones Member, Greg Tornquist recalls meeting B.B. King

May 18, 2015 in Events, Happenings, Thoughts

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Received an email yesterday from Greg Torquist, my former band mate in both the Peppermint Trolley Company and Bones in which he recalls our opening for B.B. King at the Whiskey a Go Go in the early seventies,  as well as a later chance meeting with the great man.

Hey Bones Brothers!

I was saddened to learn that BB passed away yesterday.  Age: 89.
We met twice.
The first was when we opened for him at the Whiskey.  Maybe 1971 or 72 ?
Shook hands with him in the dressing room.  I’ve never forgotten his catcher mitt handshake.  After our set when we were heading up the stairs and he was coming down he stopped and complimented me on my playing.  May have been the slide on ‘He Said’.  BB knew songs.  We played good ones and he couldn’t have escaped our roar because you could hear the band on stage in the dressing rooms.  I think he just dug good music.
I wore that compliment like an invisible badge of honor.  Still do.
Then we were introduced by a friend in LA about 3 or 4 years ago.  We met in an optometrist office.
Spoke for around 20 minutes.  Privately.  I explained that I had written a musical called Mississippi and asked for his advice.  He was encouraging.  Enthusiastic even.  Told me to send a copy to his bodyguard so he could actually listen and read it.  
I never did.  Writers angst that it wasn’t quite good enough.  I am rewriting even now.  Oy!
What a wonderful man.  Not just a trail blazing iconic musical hero but a great man.
Peace
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BB and Greg and Nic   11:11:11 copy

Peppermint Trolley Company on Boss KHJ Aircheck – June 5, 1968 -UPDATE

June 13, 2014 in Events, Happenings

Luxuriapng

Gary Schneider, host of the show, Open Mynd Excursion  (Luxuria Music, Wednesday, 9:00 – 11:00 pm PST) delights listeners each week by playing a recording drawn from his vast collection of radio air checks.Recently he featured an air check from June 5, 1968 of Boss Radio KHJ, in which the Peppermint Trolley Company’s hit “Baby You Come Rollin’ Across My Mind”  was aired.(approximately 15 minutes in) The DJ was L.A. radio legend, the Real Don Steele. The artists on the program represent a myriad of styles, from the Fifth Dimension to Cream. from  the Stones to Tiny Tim. It is a fascinating time capsule in sound.

Click play below to listen to this blast from the past:
Courtesy of Gary Schneider of Luxuriamusic.com

 

KHJtop30

Back in the sixties 93 KHJ was king of the L. A. airwaves They were the biggest, baddest top forty station on the West Coast. If your record got played on Boss Radio, you had  a very large foot in the door. That this giant would put our little ol’ 45 on their playlist was was like manna from heavden.

We had recorded “Baby, You Come Rollin’…” in November of 1967, and the single was released early in ’68. Though we believed in the record – it was heartfelt, honest, and catchy as hell –  It hadn’t caused much of a stir, and by May we had all but given up on it. In the meantime, we were living in a rat infested band house in Silver Lake. In spite of being poverty stricken and undernourished, we’d managed to maintain a creative regimen of writing, arranging, and rehearsing new material with the intention and hope of releasing an LP. Our manager/producer , Dan Dalton tried selling ACTA president, Kenny Myers on the idea, but Myers, being an old school record man,  was reluctant. I remember sitting in Dalton’s tiny office, when Dan got the call from Myers that nixed the idea. Talk about feeling dejected, it looked like the end of the line for the Trolley. Then something strange happened, something out of a feel-good fantasy  movie.  The phone rang  again  a couple of minutes later.  It was Myers,once more, but this time he was eager to green light the album.  Why? It seems that , just like its title, “Baby You Come Rollin’ Across my Mind” had been quietly rolling from region to region over the past four months, gradually picking up steam. It was a number one hit in Louisville, Kentucky. Bill Drake, the top forty consultant with an uncanny knack for picking hits, had fallen in love with the record. To a number of stations located in major cities, Drake’s word was gospel; they trusted him implicitly. KHJ was putting our single into rotation as of that very night, and  not only was Boss Radio jumping on the record, so was the entire Drake Chain.

Baby You Come RollinjpgThat night we heard our record played on the radio. A few days later we were appearing on television.  By June 5, the date of this air check,  we were still holding our own among such classics as Sunshine of Your Love, Jumpin’ Jack Flash, and Mrs. Robinson. It’s sad and eerie knowing now that tragedy was about to strike. On the following night of June 6, having wrapped up a recording session at Moonglow Studios (probably for the album cut, Put Your Burden Down), we heard the heartbreaking news over the car radio that Bobby Kennedy had been shot. To quote Dickens – ‘It was the best of times. It was the worst of times.”

Peace,
Danny Faragher

One Last Time in Harmony

May 1, 2014 in Events, Happenings

banner_one-last-time-in-harmony

In 2008 we five members of the bands- the Peppermint Trolley Company, and Bones – Jimmy Faragher, Greg Tornquist, Casey Cunningham, Patrick McClure, and myself, Danny Faragher (We affectionately refer to ourselves as Bones Brothers) were reunited. It was the first time in thirty-five years. Though the decades had passed, our friendship bond, based on a unique shared experience was as strong as ever.  Oh what a joyous occasion It was! We played and sang Jimmy’s beautiful tune – Harmony from the album – Waitin’ Here. Little did we know that it would  be the last time we would stand together. In March of this year we lost Patrick.  Here are some moments from that day caught on tape combined with some rare photographs compiled and edited by Bryan Faragher into this touching video, a moving tribute to Bones Brother Patrick McClure. Our thanks to Michael McClure for supplying many of the superb photographs.

‘Broken Hearts and Hopeful Dreams’ – Remembering Patrick McClure

April 18, 2014 in Events, Happenings, Thoughts

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I Remember Long Ago

It was the spring of 1967. A whirlwind of change was in there air. The art scene, music  in particular, was exploding with creativity. Conversely, the war in Vietnam continued its steady escalation, and the draft hung over young males’ heads like a sword of Damocles. Having become increasingly distressed by the conflict, and  committed in my opposition, I planned and carried out a one-man anti-war protest at the school  I was attending. San Bernardino Valley College was a very conservative campus, and as I stood on the walkway with homemade placard in hand, very few students offered any words of encouragement. Most were apathetic, and an angry few met my demonstration with outright contempt and hostility. Some were even confrontational, yelling point blank in my face – the spittle flying. I was feeling truly alone in my forlorn folly when I was approached by a guy with an easy going manner. The eyes behind the wire rimmed glasses were intelligent, inquisitive, and friendly. He introduced himself. His name was Patrick McClure. Right away he let me know that he was in solidarity with what I was doing. As we became engrossed in conversation, the act of chatting served to break the tension.

“Fuckin’ commie lover!” a passerby shouted, extending a middle finger.

The insult was like water off a duck’s back. I was otherwise engaged – thank-you much!

My friendship with Patrick appeared like an oasis in a vast wasteland, and In the weeks that followed, we became fast buddies. I learned that he and his family had moved to Redlands from Santa Cruz, and that they lived just several blocks from my folks. In addition to similar political views, we also shared a passion for music. Being from the Bay Area, he was much more exposed to the San Francisco scene. He had a copy of the Jefferson Airplane’s Surrealistic Pillow.  I remember lying on the floor in his room, listening to the record, marveling at the sound which seemed to encapsulate the spirit of the time. He’d figured out and could play Embryonic Journey on acoustic guitar. I could see that he liked to tinker with music: Take it apart, analyze it, understand it. I admired this immensely. We also hung out at my little pad in Riverside where I introduced him to my brothers and friends. We jammed, talked,  and, I’m embarrassed to say, even tried smoking banana peels, getting nothing but headaches and charred throats for our trouble.

I discovered that Patrick not only talked the talk – he walked the walk. In June, he was with us to share the beautiful  experience that was the  Monterey Pop Festival, and one week later stood alongside my brothers and me as the police mounted their vicious attack at Century Plaza. These seminal events served to strengthen the bonds. We developed a strong sense of knowing we had each other’s backs.

A Lazy Summer Day

peppermint_trolley_company_bio_8

Rehearsing for first concert. From left to right, Patrick, Danny, Casey and Jimmy.

My brother Jimmy and I had a recording contract as the Peppermint Trolley Company, and had brought our friend Casey Cunningham into our group to play drums. In July, our single, A Lazy Summer Day, was getting some airplay locally and our manager booked us on a concert as the opening act for Big Brother and the Holding Company featuring Janis Joplin at the Kaiser Dome in San Bernardino. We needed a guitarist, quick, fast, and in a hurry, and asked Patrick to join the band. To our delight, he agreed. Pat’s parents and siblings were out of town so we holed up in his house and woodshed like crazy for a week straight, managing to put together a set of perhaps eight or nine songs. Try as we may, there was just no hiding the fact that we were green. I know that it was difficult for me, so I can’t imagine how daunting a task it must have been for Pat. To have never even played in a band before, and to be suddenly thrust on stage in front of five thousand kids is a scary proposition. That takes balls – or naiveté… or both! (read more at the Peppermint Trolley Company bio)

On the night of the concert, we managed to complete a very jittery performance that was largely held together by Casey’s solid drumming.  I’m sure we were dreadful, but at least we’d gotten through it and survived. To top off an absurd night, Big Brother was a no show. The promoter, a program director of a local radio station, pleaded with us to get back on stage.  We replied that we had no more material worked up, that we’d shot our wad, and weren’t eager to repeat the experience. By serendipity, some musician buddies of ours, a band, were in the audience at the time and took the stage to perform some covers. This appeased the crowd somewhat, but then our friends began cracking smart ass jokes about the incompetence of the radio station. As a result, the promoter, who was livid, dropped our record from the play list.

A few weeks later we opened for the Buffalo Springfield at the Swing Auditorium. This time the headliner showed up! I felt a little better about our performance, but knew we were no great shakes as an act. Shortly after this we made the move to Los Angeles. There is a photo of the four of us posing in front of Casey’s Chevy van. The picture was taken in Redlands just minutes before we took off. We look like babes in the wood.

Sadness Within Your Eyes

In front of Buster. Redlands boys L.A. bound

In front of Buster. Redlands boys L.A. bound

No sooner had we settled into the Silver Lake rental house, when our manager landed us a featured spot as a hippie band on the Beverly Hillbillies. There we were on the tube all decked out in whatever silly wigs and mismatched apparel the Paramount costume department could find. It was a kick, and we made a little cash, but there was always that nagging feeling that we needed to get to work and  come up with some new material to keep it all rolling. Patrick was pretty disciplined about sticking with a musical idea and developing it until it was a completed song.  Jimmy has spoken about how much he was influenced as a songwriter by Pat’s dogged example. I recall our trying to work up a couple of his tunes, but deciding they weren’t quite right for the band.

In October, Patrick shocked us all by announcing he was leaving the group to get married. Shortly after this Greg Tornquist joined to take over the guitar slot. Sounds like the end of the story, doesn’t it? The irony is that Pat would have much more creative input to the PTC after he left than before. He continued to be a frequent presence at the band house, and both he and Jimmy began what was to be a creative surge. The first collaborative effort was Pat’s Song – a beautiful and deceptively simple melody. Jimmy, after being frustrated with his first attempts to put words to it, decided to write the lyric about Pat’s leaving. It was a perfect match. The result was both sophisticated and poignant.

You don’t have to tell me. I already know.
Sadness within your eyes says it’s time to go.

Many more tunes were to follow. I still carry the image in my head of Patrick and Jimmy sitting in the living room , guitars in hand,  facing each other as a new song came to life. Patrick would be involved in the writing of seven of the band’s nine original songs on the1968 Peppermint Trolley Company album.

Pat wasn’t one to come up with a chord progression first and write a melody over it.He would start with a fragment of a melocic idea, and let everything ripple out from that center, exploring different chord progressions and key modulations along the way It was a process that seemed to be driven equally by emotion and intellect. The result was something interesting, but always honest, and straight from the heart.

Sunrise was  penned solely by Pat.  It is a song that spoke to me, and which I had the good fortune to sing lead on. Years later he provided the back story of its creation. He’d been up north dealing with the draft, and had driven back through the night. Just before dawn he pulled off to the side of the road, grabbed his guitar, opened the back door of his bread truck, and sat there strumming as the sun rose. The words and music came simultaneously, and the song was completed within minutes.

Today let me down but I know that the sun will shine.

These lyrics bear the imprint of a McClure song: Sad, but always hopeful. In my opinion these tunes are timeless. In a just world they would be recognized as the musical gems they are.

Harmony

Pat also became a good guitar player. I think his strongest suit was acoustic finger picking, and a lot of his songs were based around this style. He was floored by Mason Williams’ Classical Gas when he heard it on the radio, and after figuring the song out, he went on to compose his own piece in the same style (I wish I had a recording of it). A finger picker, yes, but he also grew as an electric player and became proficient in the blues slide style.  In 1972 he became the fifth member of Bones (Same band, different name).  The Waitin’ Here album features some great guitar licks by both Greg and Pat.  The cut, Harmony, features the duo of Greg on acoustic, and Pat on electric slide backing Jimmy’s haunting lead. It is a beautiful example of Bones’ ballad sound. (Read more at the Bones Bio)

Patrick also played electric guitar on several tracks of the Faragher Brothers first album – the ‘Yellow Album’ This was a completely different style –  R&B and soul – but he’s right in the pocket, scratching out solid and exciting rhythm on tunes like Best Years of My Life.   (Read more at the Faragher Brothers Bio).

I deeply regret that after the mid Seventies we fell out of touch. One thinks – “Oh there’ll always be time to reconnect.” –  but time melts away. Thanks to his brother Michael we got in touch with each other about seven years ago and began corresponding via email.Patrick mailed me a CD of original songs. I loved it!  As a songwriter he still had the goods.  In 2008 the five of us Bones brothers were reunited for Greg’s wedding where we performed Harmony. Sadly, it was to be the last time we would all  be together.

He fought valiantly for years to beat the odds in his battle with cancer.  I believe he fought so hard because he loved life so dearly. It was inspiring to hear family and friends testify to his loving and unique character at the event celebrating his life. He was a wonderful brother, father, friend and colleague.  He possessed an artistic soul, a keen intellect, and a generous spirit. He was also a man of action, a man who loved biking, playing baseball and soccer, and traveling the world. In short, he was a renaissance man.

I look at a photo of Pat and  I see a person who engages the camera, just as he engaged the world – with confidence, energy, and curiosity. Someone who is comfortable in his own skin. Someone who is able to reconcile the yin and yang of being both a realist and an optimist.

I thank my lucky stars that he approached me that spring day so many years ago. He was a friend, band mate, and fellow activist. Oh how we sang the good song and fought the good fight.  We were young artists driven by the creative urge, and the world was our oyster.  How  I cherish those memories. How I will miss him. He was a brother, and I loved the man.

MoreOrLessLyrics

On the Waitin’ Here LP there is a song written and sung by Pat. It’s called More or Less. It has become my favorite cut from the record. The tune hearkens back to that Northern California sound of the mid to late sixties. It begins with a fingered guitar weaving a woodsy spell  followed by Greg’s mystical flute part answering the call before Patrick enters to sing the simple and direct words that say so much.

Love in life is all I want
Not a car or a restaurant
And so I love you more each day
You help me find my way

 The rain will fall upon the land
No matter where you chose to stand
The sun will come again one day
To help us find our way

And it’s more or less as it seems
The broken hearts and the hopeful dreams
My question is – Will our dreams come true?
Come true

 We are all stardust.

 

 

 

My Fifteen Minutes with Andy Warhol

December 18, 2013 in Events, Happenings, Thoughts, Uncategorized

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It’s November of 1971. Danny, Jimmy, Greg, and Casey – ‘Bones” – are getting ready to play for a gathering of Hollywood elites for the first AFI Film Festival. The gig turns almost surreal in a most unexpected way. For Danny, issues arise concerning  image, performance and staying true to oneself.

 

 On ‘Standby’

We were gathered in back of the stage behind a wall of speaker cabinets. I sat on the left rear corner of the riser behind a P.A. column, facing the back of the hall. We’d already done our sound check, playing to a sea of linen covered tables as young men and women, attired in black slacks and white shirts, scrambled to set out the dinner ware and flower arrangements. The amplifiers were now switched on ‘standby’, their backsides illuminated by the warm glow of power tubes. The horn on my Leslie speaker circled steadily. It brought to mind a ball player pin wheeling his bat as he waited for the first pitch.  I turned my head to the left to look at my band mates. Greg, his head wrapped in earphones, sat slumped over his black Les Paul guitar as his fingers pulled and hammered the strings. God, he was diligent! My brother Jimmy, the group’s main lead singer and songwriter, held the top end of a ball point pen to his mouth, deep in thought,before scribbling some words on a piece of paper. He was mapping out a set. Our drummer, the ever cagey Casey Cunningham, stood with drumsticks in hand, laughing and kibitzing with Skip, our new manager.

I loved these guys. We’d been together for four years, the first year as the Peppermint Trolley Company and the following three as Bones. We were tight – both as a band and as friends. Through the good times and the bad times we’d had each other’s backs. Yea, we were survivors. The previous year we’d sequestered ourselves in a Marin County pad intent on wood shedding until we found our own sound. In January we’d moved back down to L.A. and right away, people had begun to take notice and respond. It was exciting to see fans lining up at the local clubs, and to be wooed by record companies and managers. The pace had accelerated palpably. Oh what a heady few months it had been!

Bones Poster 2-001

Casey, Jimmy, Greg, and Danny. Bones in their prime.

In April, we’d moved into a house high on a bluff in Malibu. The view of the blue Pacific through the large bay window was spectacular. On our first day in the place we saw a whale surface, dive and surface again as it stitched a pathway northward. That spring held some of the happiest moments  of my life. It was just the four us – gigging nearly every night  (still schlepping our own equipment), rehearsing every day, and making the rent payments. Our lives were totally immersed in the music.

By summer,  we’d tossed the dice, made our choices, and signed on the dotted lines. We had a record deal, a production deal, a publishing deal, and a management deal.  A lot of our future now lay in other people’s hands. We knocked on wood and held our breath.

 

Chasing the Dream

It was now November and no longer was it just the core of the band living in the Malibu house. We’d taken on two school buddies, Ron and Billy as a road crew, and brought in a P.A. guy, Bill, and his assistant, Bruce. On top of that, Jimmy and Greg had each fallen in love with a woman who had a small child, and their girlfriends and the kids had now become part of the household. Casey’s ‘on-again-off-again’ relationship with his high school sweetheart was  ‘on-again’ , bringing another female face to the mix. In addition, we  usually had a house guest or two… or three, and many friends  who frequently popped in.  Don’t get me wrong. For the most part, it was an amiable bunch of people, and there was a lot of mirth to go around, but I missed the simplicity and singleness of purpose that we had known.

An inevitable feeling of transition hung in the air. It’s funny how we can chase after the future while at the same time fearing  what it will bring. I sensed that a fork in the road  lay ahead. My brother had recently written a song  that expressed what I know we all felt.

Changes comin’! I don’t know if they’re good or bad..                                                                                                                                                              Changes comin’! Make you happy or make you sad.

Skip glanced at his watch. A glint of light reflected off his upturned wrist and caught my eye. Pueblo Indian jewelry was very much in vogue with the counter culture at the time, and his watch band was a fine specimen of stamped silver and inlaid turquoise. He was also sporting several  turquoise rings on his fingers.

“They should be arriving any minute.” he said.

We were expecting a crowd of people  to be coming from Grauman’s Chinese Theater across the boulevard where they’d  been attending the AFI Film Festival’s first ever screening. It was a movie called “The Last Picture Show”. Skip had been at the theater and seen most of the flick before ducking out early.

“It’s really cool.” he said. “It takes place in this West Texas town and they use a lot of old Hank Williams recordings in it.”

“Wow! ” I said.

“Yea.  I know you guys like Hank. You’d dig it.”

Jimmy broke into song.  – ‘Hey, good lookin’. Wha-t ‘cha got cookin’?’

Greg and I joined in with harmony, “How’s about cookin’ somethin’ up with me.”

Bones Misc 301

The Malibu band house.

Skip laughed. He wasn’t your typical music biz guy. Oh yea, he was smart and savvy. He’d come up through the William Morris Agency. But he didn’t have the edginess that so many of these guys seemed to thrive on.  I don’t think I’d ever seen him get riled or lose his cool. He was pretty mellow, and with his beard and long hair he looked more like a hippie than a high powered manager.

” I was just telling Casey, ” he said. “we’re working on lining up a short tour for the band in December. Concerts and club dates. Mostly in the Midwest, including a big concert extravaganza in Indianapolis with Alice Cooper, Canned Heat , of course, and Dr .John the Night Tripper.”

“Yea,” Casey added. “Apparently Alice remembers us from when we opened for him at U.C.L.A. and digs the band.”

“We know we remember him!” Jimmy responded.

“Yea, it’s hard to forget a guy in drag kicking a doll’s head into the twenty-fifth row!”  I said.

We all laughed.

The idea of Rock as theater had been bantered about by music critics for years, going back to the Doors and Jim Morrison. Now, bands like Alice Cooper ,and Iggie and the Stooges were making their mark. Although I was cool and open minded about the concept, I knew that the four of us came from a different place. For us it was all about  letting the spirit move us, being in the moment, and above all – being real. We were counter culture cats at heart who hated phoniness. We’d performed pro bono at so many peace rallies, sometimes putting ourselves in precarious situations because we believed in the cause.  After walking away from our record contract as the Peppermint Trolley we’d vowed never  to ‘sell out’. At the same time, in order  to keep the creative train rolling, we needed to be commercially successful, which required our dealing  with the phony Hollywood music biz scene. It was a dichotomy, and a confusing situation to be in.

Skip continued – “We’ll start spreadin’ the word about the band.”

“Bones hits the road, Jack!” Greg exclaimed.

Bones - Opening for Peace Rally - Oceanside, CA - May, 1970

Peace rally in Oceanside – 1970

“And don’t you come back no more, no more…” Casey answered.

Suddenly I heard  laughter,  and a rustle of fabric wafting in through the open door at the front of the hall.  I peered through a gap between two speaker cabinets and saw people beginning  to trickle in. They were elegantly dressed – men in tux’s and women in evening gowns. I ran a finger nervously over the embroidery on my vest, stared down at my feet, and wiggled my naked toes. How was it that I’d started performing barefoot? I couldn’t recall, but the bare feet, along with a wide flat brimmed hat had become part of my stage persona.  What’s wrong with this picture?  I mumbled to myself.

We were to play for about a half hour as the dinner guests were served cocktails and hors d’oeuvres. It occurred to me that the Mark Five, Jimmy’s and my old prom band from high school would be a more appropriate match for this event, providing some nice non-threatening dinner music.

“Hey, Jimmy,” I shouted.” Shall we open with Moon River?”

He laughed. “No, I think … um…  I Left my Heart in San Francisco.”

“Hey, don’t sweat it.” Skip said “They knew who you were when they hired you. Just go on and do the show you always do.”

 

Filling the Void

We took our places on stage. Greg, stage right, me, stage left and J.P.  in the center. Jimmy turned to make eye contact with me, then turned to Greg, and finally to Casey in back. “One, two , three…” he counted, bobbing the neck of his bass. We all entered on the one and off we went with a blast of sound. The song –Honey Baby– which could best be described as rock n’ soul hoedown music, was a number guaranteed to get crowds up and dancing at venues like the Topanga Corral. It was our standard opener. After the four bar intro, Jimmy snuck up to the mic.

“Well, I don’t know why these other women have to treat me low down dirty.” he sang.

I turned my head to face the tables and my eyes began sweeping over the crowd.  I  liked to work the audience, engage them.  Some faces looked  a little shocked or perplexed by our performance, while others seemed to dig it.  I noticed a smiling young woman bobbing her head to the beat. That was reassuring.  I recognized a few actors  I’d always admired. There sat Lee J. Cobb, and Gregory Peck,  and, oh wow, there was Bette Davis.

bones_bio_2

Lost in a stream-of-consciousness jam.

“Honey Baby! Oh, Honey Baby. . .”

Jimmy finished the chorus and gave me a nod as he stepped back from the microphone. I pulled out some of the Hammond’s upper draw bars, switched the Leslie to tremolo and swept the palm of my left hand up the organ’s keys in an aggressive glissando that climbed to a wicked right hand flare. I bent at the knees and stamped my feet as the phrases poured through the circuitry from brain to keyboard, some driven by yearning and others by rage. When the solo reached its climax I leaned my head back and gave out a wild cat scream. Casey played a ’round-the-horn fill and Greg picked up where I’d left off.

I lived for the expression that music and performing offered me. I didn’t have much of a personal  life. My wife and I hadn’t lived together for two years. Although the marriage was in its last throes, I still clung desperately to the idea of being married. It seemed to stabilize me as I negotiated my way through an environment that was fluid and even chaotic at times. Oh, I’d tried playing the field, but a string of one-nighters with women I had little in common with had left me feeling hollow. Only music could fill the void.

” Cause I’ve got the strangest feeling , girl, I don’t believe you’d ever hurt me. . . ”

Up north I’d gotten into a disciplined regimen of stretching ,exercising, and eating healthy food. I was limber and fit – in the best shape of my life. I’d found myself experimenting with moving and dancing on stage, each night trying out something new and daring. It had gradually evolved into a routine. Lately, though, I feared I might be losing my mojo, that my performance was in danger of turning into shtick.

“Well I’ve been in love before but this love just ain’t like the last one.” Jimmy sang with conviction.

 

Hear No Evil

I checked out the tables directly in front of me. One face stood out. The man’s pale white skin was almost washed out by a shocking flash of bleach blond hair. His eyes were hidden behind sunglasses, but those dark lenses were focused on me like a laser beam. He began shaking his head with obvious disapproval. Unmistakably, it was Andy Warhol, the artist. No…no…no.” his body language said,  “This does not please me.”… “This cannot be allowed.” 

Needless to say, it was a bit disconcerting. I felt like a fly in the ointment , a pimple on the Mona Lisa.  

I didn’t know that much about Warhol. I remembered seeing him interviewed on television by Louis Lomax, the late pioneering African American journalist. He was frustratingly uncomfortable and reticent, allowing  the women in his entourage to do most of the talking. When I was still in school my roommate had a copy of the Velvet Underground LP, which featured  a Warhol rendering of a banana on the front cover and a photo of the artist’s face framed by a tambourine on the back. We’d listened to the record quite a bit, and  I did dig the song – Heroine, which featured Lou Reed ‘s hypnotic, and intense monotone.

“Honey Baby!. . . ” We were in the last chorus heading toward the finish.

My eyes fell on Andy once again. In addition to shaking his head, he was now sticking his fingers in his ears to telegraph his displeasure, as if to tell  all the world – “I refuse to listen to this”.

“Yea, it’s all about you, Andy!” I thought to myself.Andy_Warhol

The ridiculous image of this guy plugging his ears with his fingers  reminded me of the  ‘Hear-no-evil monkey’. In my mind I could see a picture of his face in a Warhol style repeating panel. The idea made me chuckle. On an impish impulse, feeling I had nothing to lose, I smiled and gave him a wink.

Jimmy and I turned to look at each other and started laughing. We played another couple of tunes before Skip told us to wind it up. All the while Warhol stared at me, shaking his head and plugging his ears.

Backstage, we gathered around Skip. “You know,” he said with amusement. ” Warhol  was threatening to leave the dinner if Danny didn’t get off the stage.”

“You’re kidding!” I said.

“No, honest to God.”

“We’ll never work in this town again.” Casey said in mock admonishment.  “And It’s all your fault.”

” Yea, Danny! Why did you have to go and piss Andy off? Jimmy joined in.

“What’d I do?” I pleaded with palms up, suddenly  feeling in the hot seat.

“Our career …” Casey piled on – “up in smoke.”  He snapped his fingers.”Just like that!”

“You know what you should do?” Greg said.

“What?”

“You should take a chair up on stage, sit there, and stare him down.”

We all began laughing.

“Maybe he’ll start pelting you with soup cans!” Casey added.

“Isn’t it interesting how quickly everyone wants to kiss Andy’s ass.”  I said.

Greg began shouting like a carnival barker. “This way, folks! Form a line! Okay, now down on your knees!” 

“It’s like a little kid who threatens  to take his ball and go home.” I declared. “What a jerk!”

“Think of it this way, Danny,” Jimmy said.  “You’ve managed to be the focus of this little shit’s attention for a quarter of an hour or so. Do you know how many assholes would kill for that opportunity?”

Bones Live San Bndo College Oct 71 copy

Greg and Jimmy get down as Danny mounts the B3

I nodded and laughed. “Yea. Fuck him!”

All the while we’d been talking, Skip had been cutting lines of coke with a razor blade on the woofer speaker of the P.A. column.  This business was hidden from general view by the tweeter which sat on top. He handed me a tightly rolled twenty dollar bill and said – “I think you should get  the first toot.” Cocaine, new to us, seemed to be ubiquitous in the music biz in 1971. Everyone was doing it. So there we were snorting  and partaking the illicit drug behind the PA speakers at a Hollywood gala. It was bizarro world!

Skip informed us that we would start playing again after the guests had finished dining. I felt hopped up and antsy. I couldn’t wait to get back on. But wait we did.

 

A Crowd Pleaser

After desert and coffee we again took the stage. I looked out. This time there was no shaking white head. No doubt, Warhol  had probably been among the first to split. People were rising to their feet, many shuffling their way to other tables to say hello and schmooze. We’d only have time for one tune. Better cut to the chase. Jimmy called Potatoes., Although  a throw-away as a musical piece, the instrumental was always a high energy crowd-pleaser.

An RMI piano sat atop my B3, and the tune was basically built around a funky left hand figure on this instrument.  I kicked off with the left hand into. After another four with the band I began punching out the horn- like lead on the organ with my right hand. When we got through the head of the piece Jimmy, Greg, and Casey dropped down into a one chord killer groove as I danced to the front of the stage with a hand held mic. Strutting like a rooster, I began to deliver rhymes in the time-tested braggadocio tradition. After the vocal, I shouted ‘Watch me shake a tail feather!’ and tore into my wild, crazy legged dance. Steaming  to a frenzy, I mounted the organ with my right foot positioned on the one inch ledge in front of the keyboard, and my left  foot planted on top in the space next to the piano. I slipped a small piece of cardboard in between the organ keys to allow the chosen pitches to continue screaming as I played piano with my left hand. To the audience it gave the illusion that I was playing with my feet. On top of this I began to swivel my hips. I turned my head to caste a cocky glance out at the audience the way I’d seen Jerry Lee Lewis do.  Instead of the multitudes Jerry Lee would encounter, however,  there were perhaps a dozen or so people standing in front of the stage taking it in. The rest of the crowd had made an about-face to the exit.  The room looked like a flood of dresses pouring out the door.

After I dismounted,  we played the head one last time, and ended the song with an aggressively sustained chord. As the decibels rumbled,  I climbed back up and on the closing hit leaped from my perch to land near the front of the stage. By now the room was nearly empty. The people who’d stayed gave us a small but heartfelt applause. As I stood there trying to catch my breath, a woman approached. I recognized her as an older character actress whom I’d seen many times in film and television. She took my hands in hers and looked  directly into my eyes. Surprised  by this warm and unexpected human connection I felt the tears begin to well.

“That was wonderful!” she said. “You… are a marvelous performer!”

Bones cover

Bones first album cover.
Photo by Phil Hartman

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Art work by Bryan Faragher

 

I was recently contacted by Bill Brown who was the sound man mentioned in the story. He writes…

Hi Danny,

 I am hoping you remember me from long ago when we all shared the house in Malibu …  (the house was slipping off the hill, empty swimming pool).  I was the guy who had the sound system Bones used.  I shared the front room with Casey Cunningham.I read some more of your website and saw myself mentioned ( Chasing the Dream)  my assistant was Bruce Darling.  We had Earmouth Sound, an off shoot of Bob Luly’s Solid Sound.  I ended up going to work as a sound man for Earth Wind & Fire.

I have thought of you guys over the years; hope your brother is well.  I remember a brief potential producer relationship with Richard Perry.Anyway, just reaching out…hope all is well!!  Best for 2014!!

 Regards,

Bill Brown

Incidentally, our two buddies who handled the equipment and busted their asses to make a Bones show possible were Ron Smith and Billy Funk.

D.F.

 

A Plunge into the System – Part 1

November 13, 2013 in Happenings, Thoughts, Uncategorized

banner_plunge

It’s the fall of 1967. The ‘Summer of Love’ has come and gone.  Jimmy, Casey and Danny of the Peppermint Trolley Co. set out to recruit a new guitarist. A carefree act of celebration plops Danny and a buddy into hot water.  Strong bonds of friendship and a sense of humor helps to get the boys through the ordeal. 

Another Fine Mess

The mattress was thin. I could feel the cold cement floor beneath. I’d unrolled it a few minutes before, just prior to the lights going out. Now, in the dark I could hear the low muffled breathing and shuffling of forty other men – men I would be spending the night with behind bars. It was quiet, but it was not the silence of serenity, for everyone’s brain was probably humming like a high tension wire.  No, we were mum because one of the guard’s had yelled  “Lights out! And I don’t want to hear a fucking sound!”

I told myself, Hey, this is just an adventure into the unknown. Disassociate yourself from what’s happening, and you’ll be fine. You might even learn something. I tried looping a comforting melody in my mind.  It was no use.  I kept hearing the metal door being slid shut behind me, and the keys jangling as they turned the lock. I felt like a caged puppy. I longed to be in my girlfriend’s arms, and to feel her hand gently stroking my head.  As I lay there in agitation, my mind flew back over the chain of events of the last thirty hours. It had begun one hundred twenty-five miles north in Los Angeles.

 

In front of Buster. Redlands boys L.A. bound

In front of Buster. Redlands boys L.A. bound

Fade to Black

Jimmy, Casey and I sat watching the little rabbit-eared black and white television. Joe Pyne, a locally syndicated talk show host had brought one of San Francisco’s Diggers on his program as a guest. Angry, narrow minded, and right wing, Pyne was years ahead of his time. As usual, the host was acting the boorish bully, hurling epithets at his guest as the peanut gallery laughed and applauded each familiar insult. “Why don’t you take a bath, dirt head?!” Pyne asked. “Ah go gargle with razor blades!”

“How much would you pay to watch Joe Pyne and Al Capp run a three legged race together?” Jimmy deadpanned.

Capp, the cartoonist, once a liberal, had made a hard right turn, and was now a rabid conservative. He, like Pyne wore a wooden leg.

Casey and I cracked up. It was one of those off color, slightly shocking jokes my brother liked to throw out. One could not help but laugh, but always with a twinge of guilt at being complicit in its inappropriateness. Jimmy’s dark and caustic sense of humor was in sharp contrast to the idealism, and romanticism of his song lyrics.

We were a band. Jimmy played bass and sang lead, I handled keyboards, harmony and second lead, while Casey played drums. My brother and I had been in bands together for four years, and the three of us had been a unit for about eight months. Just recently, we’d added our buddy, Patrick, on guitar. We may have been green, but we possessed what few young groups ever acquired –  We had us a record deal.

We’d moved from sleepy Redlands, California, just a few short weeks before to try our luck in the big city. The Silver Lake rental house we lived in may have been a rat infested dump, but it was our rat infested dump, and we were excited about our new direction. Life, though, always seems to throw you a curve when you least expect it. Pat had come bearing bad news. Our spirits sank with the late afternoon sun, as he informed us that his girlfriend was pregnant, and that he was leaving the band to get married.

After he left, the three of us had sat there in the retreating light, feeling numb. Many minutes passed before one of us flipped on the lights to break the gloomy spell. We began to brainstorm, going through a list of possible replacements. No one available from back home was up to the standard required, and none of the musician’s we’d  met in the Hollywood recording scene seemed to fit. I dreaded the thought of auditioning strangers. Feeling exhausted, and needing diversion, we’d turned on the idiot box.

Without saying a word, Casey suddenly got up and turned off the TV. Joe Pyne’s angry face disappeared into a tiny white dot which soon faded to black.  Knowing he had our attention, he wiggled an index finger vertically and declared “I have the solution. We’ll recruit Greg.”

Greg was our dear friend from Redlands. He and Casey had played together in a Stones cover band in high school. A folkie, he was great at finger picking, and could sing harmony. Yes, I told myself. Greg just might work out. True, he hadn’t played much lead guitar, but, hell, he could pick it up. The problem was –  he’d just started the semester at San Diego State. He was living in the dorms for which his dad had probably had to shell out for.

Jimmy was quick to respond. “Hey, man, Greg’s in school. Why would he want to chuck everything and join us.!”

1968 Party at Benton Way

House warming party for the Silver Lake band house. August, ’67
Jimmy mugging in front. Patrick standing 2nd from right. Greg, 4th from right. Emily in straw hat.

“Hold on!” Casey replied with a calming downward motion of the palms. “I think we have an excellent shot, especially in light of what’s happened in his love life recently. You know Greg.  He’s capable of making sudden sharp turns.”

He was referring to the fact that Emily, the love of Greg’s life, had thrown him over for another guy just the week before. The word was he was heartbroken. After all… Emily, who was a student at UCSD in La Jolla, had been the reason Greg moved to San Diego. Casey was always analyzing, always strategizing, and always several steps ahead.

“Well, I guess it’s worth a try.” Jimmy said.  “Okay, let’s give him a call.”

“Absolutely not!” Casey shot back. “We’ve got to drive down there tomorrow and talk to him in person”

“I agree.” I added. “On the phone he could just say no, or tell us he’ll think about it, which would amount to the same thing.”

“That’s right! We need to do some friendly persuading. We’ve got to sell him on the idea.” Casey said.

Jimmy laughed – “Yea, anyone thinking clearly would have to say no.”

We all agreed on the plan.

 

A Breeze Down the Coast

In the morning I awoke to the delicious aroma of pancakes. I threw on some clothes and ran down the stairs. Stepping into the kitchen, I saw Casey pouring batter, and flipping cakes on the electric griddle.  Jimmy was brewing  a pot of cowboy coffee.

“Eat ‘em while they’re hot and hardy, boys, we’re taking a little drive” Casey declared.

The three of us descended the steep stairs, which were so typical of the Silver Lake neighborhood in which we lived, and jumped into Casey’s silver ’66 Chevy van, which we called ‘Buster’. Giving names to inanimate objects, be it a car or a coffeepot, served as a reminder  that life should be an adventure. Jimmy had called shotgun, so I sat on the engine cover between the two bucket seats. It was always a butt warming experience, but as it was late October, and the air was cool, it would be just fine. At the bottom of the hill we made a left on Sunset Boulevard, skirted around downtown and caught Interstate 5. Within minutes we were slicing southeast through Orange County, ground zero of the country’s conservative movement. We’d started with a full tank of gas, so there would be no need to leave the safety  and anonymity of the freeway, and risk our being hassled by overzealous cops.

“We should have an old ‘Reagan for Governor’ sticker we could put on and take off.” I said.

Suddenly, Jimmy cranked down the window, extended his right arm toward the windshield, and turning his face to the right with raised chin, began yelling… “Heil Reagan!”… “Heil Reagan!”

Casey and I joined in with gusto. “Heil Reagan!”… “Heil Reagan!”

South of Dana Point the highway drew closer to the ocean, hugging the coastline. I looked to the right. Beyond marshy wetlands, the blue Pacific came into view.  A brown pelican was scanning the sea. The sight took my breath away.

“There she is… Ah… Mother Ocean.” I said with a sigh.

“Yes, and Father Sky!” Jimmy joined in with a quasi reverent tone.

“Oh. Brother Mountain, Where art thou?” – Casey chanted.

“Shut up!” I shouted with a laugh.

Jimmy reached into his pocket, pulled out a joint, and lit up. He took a hit, and passed it to me. I partook and passed it on to Casey.

Releasing my breath, I said – “I hope Greg will be open to it.”

Jimmy and Casey both nodded in agreement.

It was unspoken, but I knew all three of us felt a bit manipulative. After all, we were carrying out an ambush, albeit a friendly one. Using the element of surprise and a spirit of camaraderie we intended to get him on our bandwagon.  A cynical observer might  look at the situation and say to Greg “They just want to get you down in the same hole that they’re in.” to quote Bob Dylan. Indeed, Greg would surely lose his student deferment from the draft like the three of us had. But look at the opportunity we were offering. It was chance to make records, to be creative, to live the life of an artist, outside the system. Hey, the four of us were all on the same wavelength!  We knew it, and soon he would, too.

Casey took a drag and turned his head our way. His face was framed by wiry black hair, and sunlight danced in his light blue eyes. “I just hope he doesn’t fall in love with someone else. Have you ever known Greg not to have a girlfriend?”

We pondered for a few moments until Jimmy broke the silence,

“Hey! Don’t Bogart that joint!”

“Whadya mean…‘Don’t Bogart that joint’?” Casey asked.

“Well, what do you mean…’Whadya mean… Don’t Bogart that joint!’?”

“Well, what do you mean…’Whadya mean, Whadya mean…Don’t Bogart that joint!’?”

They carried this out several more times, getting broader with each extended line. It was definitely pot humor, but I couldn’t stop laughing.

Jimmy and Casey

Jimmy and Casey

 

Selling the Idea

 We pulled into the Cal State San Diego campus, around 2:00 p.m , and soon located  his dorm room. We knocked on the door. No answer. A student in the hall said he thought Greg was in class, and would probably be back soon. We walked around, killing time until shortly after 3:00, when we spotted a dark haired figure coming down the walkway. It was Greg!  We hid behind some shrubs, and just before he reached the steps, Casey, donning crazy google-eyed glasses, popped out from behind, and tapped him on the shoulder.

“Pardon me, but could you kindly direct me to the R.O.T.C. headquarters?”

Greg turned. Caught by surprise, he shouted “Casey?!  Casey! What the hell are you doing here?”

I approached from the other side. “Have you heard the good news about the kingdom Christ has in store for you?”  I asked with the creepiest smile I could muster.

His brown eyes got bigger. “Danny!”

Jimmy appeared from behind a tree, showing an open wallet.  “F.B.I.! We’d like to have a few words with you, if we might.”

“Oh my God! Jimmy? You guys. I can’t believe you’re here.”

After he’d calmed down, we began to talk seriously. We gave him our spiel. Patrick had left the band. We needed someone to fill the slot, and he was the perfect fit. We were scheduled to begin recording in about ten days. The record company was excited and totally behind us. We had a great producer. We’d met  a community of creative people – singers, songwriters and musicians. It was an opportunity to make music and be free. The only caveat was that we needed to know right away.

Danny

Danny

“Take all the time you need.” I said. “Take  five minutes!”

Everyone laughed.

His mind in high gear, Greg suggested that we go for a drive, get away from the campus, and let the information sink in.

“I was planning on going over to Emily’s in La Jolla to hang out. Why don’t we go there?”

“Emily’s?” I said. I thought you two were…”

“Split up? Yea, we are,  but we’re still close. She’s the only real friend I have here. Man, you don’t know how lonely it gets in that dorm room.”

I realized I’d been harboring a slight resentment toward Emily. My instinct was to circle the wagons around a buddy. The split, however, seemed to be mutually accepted. If Greg was cool with it, then I’d sure better be.

We all hopped into Buster. Greg, receiving the V.I.P. treatment, rode shotgun. I retained my spot on the engine, while Jimmy lay down in the back.  We were off  to La Jolla.

Emily lived on the UC San Diego campus, sharing a dorm room with Betsy, another high school friend from Redlands.  Some curious co-eds eyeballed the four of us as we walked down the dormitory hall. We crowded into the room, feeling slightly awkward at bringing our male scruffiness into the clean and tidy feminine space. We greeted and hugged the girls.

Emily sat in front of her desk. With her short strawberry blond curls, blue eyes, and porcelain skin, she was as pretty as an old fashioned doll, but she could hold her intellectual ground with anyone. Betsy was kicking back on the bed. Her honey colored hair was cut in bangs that nearly reached her big brown eyes. She had a wicked sense of humor, and those eyes lit up as she joked about a horny professor.

“He’s definitely a ‘hands on’ kind of teacher.” She said, using air quotes. “He really ‘reaches out’ to his students, especially those wearing  skirts.”

We cracked up.

After some chit chat, Emily turned to Greg and asked, “Are you up for going for a swim at Black’s Beach?”

She explained that it was a great beach. The location also happened to be a notorious nude bathing spot. One had to descend a high bluff to access it, so it tended to be more private than most.  It was nearby, and lots of students went there to skinny dip, especially after dark.  It was a thrill just walking down the trail to get to it.

Greg turned to us and said,  “You guys want a little adventure?”

“Sure!” we said. “You only live twice.” Casey added.

 

Black’s Beach

 We followed the girls’ VW Bug the short distance to the sea,  and parked on a bluff.  Standing near the edge, I could see the waves rippling frothy white to the shore, and  hear the water hissing as it retreated  back to the sea.

Emily called out, “The trail ‘s over here. Watch your step!”

By now it was dark. It was a moonless night and the pathway was steep. I imagined that we were Eighteenth Century smugglers trying to evade and outwit the Red Coats. The trail twisted and turned, inevitably winding its way down to the beach.

I saw the figure of a man running into the surf.

 Who was game?

 The girls passed on taking a dip. I think they were put off by the fact that we were not alone. Casey, who, surprisingly, had a strong streak of modesty in him, declined, as well. Jimmy, who was always fighting a cough or cold,  thought it best to take a rain check. That left just two of us.

Greg turned to me, “I’m going in!” he said.

“So am I!” I replied. I was genuinely eager, but I also thought that the act might serve as a symbolic ritual to seal the deal.

In the dark, Greg and I shed our clothes, stashed them behind the railroad ties at the foot of  the bluff, and made a dash for the surf. The water was cold, and my breath quickened at the shock, but to my naked twenty-year-old body it felt all the more invigorating. There was always something restorative about jumping into the Pacific, something that brought clarity of thought, and moments of epiphany. The dark, moonless sky delivered an extra thrill to the game. I dug my toes into the sandy bottom. God, I felt free!

We dived beneath a wave, emerging to a surface that foamed, and shimmered in the starlight. We found ourselves next to the man we’d seen running into the water. He was extending his arms for balance, and keeping his head above the waves. Older, perhaps thirty-five, he was wearing wire rimmed glasses, and a cigarette dangled at the far corner of his mouth.  His few words of greeting told us he was British. His name was Paul. We made small talk as we caught our breaths.

Black's Beach

Black’s Beach

Suddenly, we saw two flashlights making their way along the beach to the right. We gasped. Oh God! It was the cops, and they were approaching our friends. The three of us got low in the water. Perhaps they’d ask a few questions and move on.

The minutes went by. Had they found our clothes? I began to shiver. I hugged myself  to get warm. Greg and I looked at each other. More time passed. Had they seen us? At one point the flashlights turned seaward, making a sweep over the waves. We ducked lower into the water. What the hell was happening? Had they found Jimmy’s stash? Were our friends being arrested? My instinct was to stay put, to wait it out, but my teeth were beginning to chatter. I turned to Greg.  In his eyes I could see the same deep fear that I was feeling. His lips were turning blue. All three of us were freezing. We were trapped, naked in the water with our backs to the sea, and nowhere to run.

Paul suggested that he go speak with them, adult to adult. Perhaps it would smooth the way for us to get out, and possibly get off with just a reprimand. Not knowing what else to do, and thinking that the cops had spotted us, and were just biding their time, Greg and I gave our nod to the idea.  Paul began wading to the shore.

Greg turned to me and whispered, “Danny, whatever happens, I’ve decided I’m coming with you guys. I’m going to join the band.”

The story continues on Part 2

http://www.dannyfaragher.com/a-plunge-into-the-system-part2/

 

 

 

 

 

 

Graphic Design by: Bryan Faragher

In the Studio with The Peppermint Trolley Company – Part I – Moonglow Studio and the Hollywood Recording Scene in 1966

August 21, 2013 in Happenings, Thoughts

Selma and Cosmo, Moonglow Studio and the infamous 1966 Hollywood Sunset Strip Curfew Riot

At the Corner of Selma and Cosmo

There are moments in life when a specific place takes on great significance. For me the corner of Selma and Cosmo in Hollywood during the sixties is such a location. I remember it fondly. Indeed, the memory of it holds an almost mythical place in my mind. Looking back decades later, I can see that this corner represents a crucial intersection in my life, and the road I ultimately took.

Corner of Selma and Cosmo, home of Moonglow Studios

Corner of Selma and Cosmo, home of Moonglow Studios

Moonglow Recording Studio stood on the northeast corner.  Revell’s Coffee Shop was right next door on Selma , and around the block north on Cosmo was the underground rock club, Bito Lido’s, where Love, and later the Doors performed.  Moonglow was just a stone’s throw from numerous other studios : Jesse Hodges’ Hollywood Sound Recorders, Wally Heider’s, Gold Star, Sunset Sound. A block south on Ivar, was the headquarters of Bob Keene’s Mustang  Records. A little brass figure of a galloping horse hung over the door. Keene, who had released Richie Valens’ hits in the fifties, was riding high with the Bobby Fuller Four. Sadly, Bobby’s mysterious demise (Murder? Suicide?) would soon pull the reins in on Mustang.  Rene Hall, the great  African-American guitarist and arranger, famous for his work with Sam Cooke, had an office on the next block east on Selma. It was a scene, the tail end of the golden age of Hollywood studio rock, and my brother, Jimmy, and I were fortunate to have played a small role in it.

Moonglow Studio is where we spent countless hours honing our musical craft between the summer of 1966 and the summer of 1968. We were just a couple of green, but ambitious kids from the hinterlands drawn by the allure of the big city and the dream of making records. It was such an exciting, fertile time, and we met so many interesting and creative people. Music  was all around us, and all our focus was on making sonic magic and striving to capture those good vibrations on tape

Moonglow had had its beginning in 1958, when an enterprising Belgian émigré, R.J. Van Hoogton, a.k.a. Ray Maxwell, decided to try his hand in the music business, building the studio, and starting a record label of the same name. In the early sixties he signed a duo from Orange County called the Paramours, who went on to have several hits on the Moonglow label as the Righteous Brothers, including Little Latin Lupe Lu,  and My Babe. Bobby Hatfield and Bill Medley moved on to bigger things, however, and the label folded in 1963. When we entered the picture Moonglow was a studio for hire. The room  was small, but comfortable. with a warm, clean sound, and like most of the other studios in the area it had an Ampex four track machine.

 

A Lesson in Simplicity

Dan Dalton pictured far right. Lois Fletcher  beside him.

Dan Dalton pictured far right. Lois Fletcher beside him.

July of 1966 was when we hooked up with producer, Dan Dalton, a tall Irish-American with fire red hair, a gift of gab, and charm by the bucket load. Dan had heard our band the Mark V when we auditioned for him over the telephone. We were rehearsing with a local folk singer named Mickey Elly whom we occasionally backed. Mickey, upon hearing us do a rendition of our latest original was so jazzed that he thought the producer he had met and recorded some demos with should hear it. He immediately phoned Dalton. The tune, Bored to Tears, penned by Jimmy, was an unusual hybrid of folk, rock, and…yes… Dixieland. Digging what he heard , Dan put his wife, singer Lois Fletcher on the phone to take a listen as we played the song again. The couple had then driven from their pad in Silver Lake to West Covina to meet with us. They were as impressed with us and we were with them, and within the week , Dalton had booked a session at Moonglow.

Dan, who played tenor banjo and twelve string guitar, had been part of a folk trio with brothers Jack and Wally called the Dalton Boys, and more recently, was a member of the Randy sparks ensemble, The Back Porch Majority, a group which  also included his future wife Lois, and Kin Vassy (who later worked with Kenny Rogers, Frank Zappa, and Elvis). The Dalton’s had paid their dues in the urban folk music circuit, rubbing  elbows with a lot of musicians and singers who were now crossing over into and changing mainstream pop and rock.

For the previous year and a half, Dalton had been in partnership with Daniel (Danny) Moore. Together they had produced twenty-five acts, and had secured record deals for fifteen of those acts, including Moore’s brother, Mathew, with the Capitol release – Another Face in the Crowd . For our date, Dalton brought in studio musician’s to record the basic track – Danny Moore, Buzz Clifford,  and James Fleming on acoustic guitars, Mathew Moore on the piano, Larry Brown, a protégé of Hal Blaine’s, on drums, and an old school Fender bass player, who’d brought along an acoustic bass and tuba, just in case (sorry, I don’t have names for the last gentleman). The engineer on the session was a young cat named Phil Yend. In those days, most of the instrumental parts would go on the basic, which would be pre-mixed before cutting and recorded on to one or two tracks, leaving two or three tracks open for lead, background, and any solos.

Buzz3images (2)

Buzz Cifford – What a voice!

We watched  from the booth as they recorded. It was a lesson in simplicity. The emphases was on laying down a cookin’ little two beat rock and roll groove. Matt pecked out an intro on the piano, and off they went. The drums popped and the guitars jangled with rhythmic propulsion. Within a couple of hours the basic  track was down.

We came back the next day to overdub the horns and vocals. Dave, Steve, and I gathered around one  mic with trumpet, clarinet, and trombone respectively. We were pretty good at blowin’  Dixieland, and within an hour we’d waxed the parts. Dan wanted me to add a hooky glissando smear with the bone. My sense was that it was a bit much, but who was I to say?  Ask and ye shall receive. The lick, along with some Herb Alpert hits on trumpet, was most likely combined with the other horns as they were “ping ponged” to an empty track.

It was then time for Jimmy and I to do some singing.  As a producer, Dan favored vocals that were clean and precise, which was no surprise, given his folk background. We’d been used to the loose atmosphere at Impression, where our records could best be described as garage rock. Three or four of us would gather around the mic to sing our parts without much direction from the booth. At Dan’s request, only Jimmy and I would be singing on the record. We simplified and fine tuned the parts, and began doing takes. When we got a keeper, we doubled it, using the remaining track. We had us a record, boys!

 

Lollipop Train

Now we needed something for the flip side. Around this time Dan had gotten hold of a song called Lollipop Train. It was written by P.F. Sloan, a hot songwriter who’d had a string of hits, such as Eve of Destruction by Barry McGuire, the Turtles You Baby, and Where Were You When I Needed You? by the Grass Roots. Dalton had already recorded a basic track for the tune, and tried out several singers on the lead, without success. He thought it might be a good fit for our band, and played it for us. Upon hearing it,  Jimmy and I liked the song, which featured a time signature change from 4/4 to 3/4 at the end of each chorus. A date was booked  to add instrumental overdubs.

When we arrived for the session, we found horn charts already written out on music stands just waiting for us to play. Dalton had hired a professional. The arranger, a friendly middle aged gentleman with glasses who looked like a college professor, had recently charted the arrangement for Bobby Hebb’s smash hit, Sunny. We were duly impressed. As we played, I could hear in my earphones how well the parts worked over the basic. It was exciting and dramatic, and I loved every second of the process. With the horns now in the can, our pianist, Brad, began fiddling with the drawbars on the Hammond organ, and quickly came up with a calliope like sound that worked well with the theme and time signature. In one pass it was printed. There was one last thing. The track featured a two bar drum turnaround after each chorus with a four on the floor from the kick. Dan, wanting to fatten up the sound of the bass drum, asked our drummer, Dick, to beat a steady four using a mallet on his drum case. It did the trick! Making records in those days required ingenuity, and a willingness to fly by the seat of one’s pants. When it worked it was outasight!

James (2)

James Fleming Rasmussen

To record the vocals, my brother and I drove into town alone a few days later.  It was decided that Jimmy would sing the lead. I observed from the booth. The engineer clicked the start button on the machine. “Rolling” he said. Jimmy  cupped his hands around the earphones, closed his eyes, and out came this edgy voice that perfectly captured the song’s angry tone. It was a ballsy, snarling lead in the folk rock bag, and I must say, it took me a bit by surprise. I’d never heard him sound quite like that before. I was proud of him, no end. The record was coming together!

All that was left were the background harmonies. I was paired with Buzz Clifford to work out the parts. The singer /songwriter had already been in the business for a decade, and had played a part in rock and roll and doo wop’s wild early years. In 1960 he’d had a crossover million seller with the novelty record Baby Sittin’ Boogie, which I remembered dancing to in junior high, and had survived years of disappointment and obscurity by staying creative, and keeping current with what was happening in pop music.  I was both overjoyed and intimidated to be working beside such a pro. Buzz was cool, though, and really put me at ease. The man was relaxed yet so focused, a truly great studio singer. He knew exactly what direction to go in, and I followed. I learned from Buzz to pinpoint my concentration like an archer, yet at the same time to jump in and sing with abandon, holding nothing back, and having unbelievable fun in the process.

 

Coffee at Revell’s

Valliant Records promotion for the Peppermint Trolley Company

Valliant Records promotion for the Peppermint Trolley Company

After the session, we all went next door to Revell’s for a bite. The old style coffee shop was owned by a Greek family. Mr. Revell, the amiable white haired patriarch manned the cash register. Like so many Greek owned restaurants, the food was fresh and delicious. Jimmy and I shared a booth with Buzz and James Fleming Rasmussen. James was a bespectacled Dane with a Beatle’s haircut. in his late twenties, he had been a pop star in Denmark, having started the first Rock and Roll band in that country, James and his Jamesmen in 1955. He’d only been in America for a year, and spoke with a heavy Danish accent, which we found amusing.

The waitress, who addressed me as “Honey”, brought us our coffee. Buzz, who was in the middle of one of his stories, grabbed the sugar jar and, talking all the while, began pouring what seemed like an endless stream of white granules into his cup. James’s head began to bob up and down as his magnified eyes followed the sugar flow. Jimmy and I started to laugh. Buzz finally ended the pour with a twist of the wrist. Noticing that we were cracking up, he asked  with a puzzled look – “What?”

James, turning his head to look directly at Buzz, said ” I can see you like a little coffee with your sugar. I thought that would never end.” the Danish accent added to the hilarity of the situation.  I sipped my coffee and savored the moment, enjoying the company of our new friends, whom we learned had met each other in this very cafe about a year before.

At Dan’s request we changed the name of the band. The moniker was chosen by committee, but I remember Jimmy piecing it together. Regrets about the name? Absolutely, but one must keep in mind that in the pre counter culture, pre hippie days of July, 1966, the Peppermint Trolley Company was a much hipper sounding name than it would appear to be later.

Dalton had decided that Lollipop Train was the stronger of the two,  and should be the A-side. There was no disagreement there. He shopped the disc, and got us a singles deal with Valiant Records, a small L.A. based independent, and the home of the Association, whom we had met when we played Disneyland the previous June. We loved the band, and were thrilled to be on the same label.

Strip_Protest2 (2)

Young club goers protest police harassment.

Dan Dalton and Danny Moore were no longer working together  as co producers.  We weren’t privy to what exactly went down between them. Perhaps Dan’s decision to produce us alone had something to do with it. I can say that Jimmy and I respected and liked Moore, and would continue to have some relationship with him for several  years.

 

“Hippie Riots” on the Sunset Strip

During this time that we were recording at Moonglow, the Hollywood Rock club scene was in its apex.  Teens were flooding the sidewalks of  the Sunset strip and elsewhere to get into places like The Trip, Pandora’s Box, and Ciro’s. This manifestation of a burgeoning youth movement really freaked out the established elites and their enforcers, the L.A.P.D., who never seemed to miss an opportunity to escalate a situation and ultimately come down with a heavy hand. The cops began an intense crackdown on the kids. We witnessed some police harassment around the corner at Bito Lido’s. A teen-age girl  wearing the straight long hair that was all the fashion had just exited the club singing the Lovin’ Spoonful’s Summer in the City.”Hot town, summer in the city.” she sang as she snapped her fingers, “Back of my neck’s gettin’ dirty and gritty”.  Her happy mood must have pissed off a nearby cop, because he promptly threw her against a squad car, cuffed her, and pushed her into the back seat, no questions asked. Arrested on suspicion of having too much fun.

Throughout the late summer, we felt an exciting momentum. We shopped for stage clothes, had photos taken, auditioned for agents , and played some gigs. In September  the record was released. I remember gripping the 45 in my hand and eyeballing with satisfaction the red Valiant Label with our band’s name on it. The local inland Empire radio stations, KFXM in Riverside, and KMEN in San Bernardino put in into rotation. It sounded absolutely wonderful on the car radio.

 

Label for the 45 Single of Lollipop Train

Label for the 45 Single of Lollipop Train

Autumn

I’m afraid I got my hopes up too high, though, and put my eggs in one basket yet again. Just as in the previous year when our record I’m Through With You was released and got airplay at the end of summer, so it was with Lollipop Train. And just as the Mark V single fell out of rotation as summer  turned to fall, so it was with the Peppermint Trolley Company release. I was in my second year at community college, Jimmy was a freshman at UC Riverside, living in the dorm, no longer at home. All the other guys were in college as well. I went through a period of deep disappointment,  and looking back now I can see just how seriously depressed I was.  I was lost, lonely, and without direction. We continued to do the occasional gig, but that fire was gone. Music was not a hobby for me. I wanted it to be my life. I wanted swim in it. I yearned to get back into the studio, and found it difficult to concentrate on my studies. I  would go for long walks through the streets of Redlands and take solitary hikes into the hills.

In mid October, Dan called to say that he and Lois would like Jimmy and I to come to town and be their house guests  for a week-end.  Jimmy and I hopped into the family’s green ’58 Plymouth station wagon with the huge vertical fins, and headed for the city. Interstate 10 was to me as the Mississippi was to Mark Twain. It represented entry into a wider sphere. Yes, it was a world filled with potential pitfalls, but it was also a world ripe with possibilities. Riding the freeway’s westward flow always got my adrenalin going. My heart would race as we passed the old Brew 102 plant, which stood at the edge of downtown L.A., with its huge sign, and its aroma of malt mash.

We had a productive stay with the Daltons. Dan emphasized that he could see a future for Jimmy and me as artists. The two of us had a great blend, he said, like the Everlys or the Beatles , and he believed in us. He pitched some ideas and songs. It was a nice pep talk and really gave a boost to my flagging spirits.

K/MEN Chart - September, 1966

Our record in rotation on San Bernardino’s KMEN

In November, I came down with a serious case of mononucleosis. Man, was I delirious! Psychedelics got nothin’ on mono for hallucinating like a fiend.  I was confined to bed for weeks, and had to drop out of school.  After the fever broke, I settled into recuperation mode.  I listened to a lot of music, from Simon and Garfunkel to James Brown and everything in between. I read books: Henry David Thoreau’s Walden Pond, Kahlil Gibran’s The Prophet, and the words of Jesus. I also watched TV, mostly junk, but did happen to catch a rock musical written by Burt Bacharach and Hal David called On the Flip Side, which starred Ricky Nelson and Joanie Somers. It was inspiring to see characters who looked a bit like me singing “Fender mender,  fix my guitar. I want to be a real big record star.” It made me wish I was back in the studio.

 

New Beginnings

By mid December, weak but recovered, I was able to get up, get out, and move around. It felt so good just being alive and healthy. Our drummer  friend, Casey Cunningham, urged Jimmy and me to rehearse with him and a couple of great local rock musicians, Bobby Anglund on guitar, and Pete Sampson on bass. I moved from trombone to keyboards. Though this unit was short lived, and didn’t go anywhere, it was a great experience and whet my appetite for putting together an original rock band with Casey and Jimmy.

The year was coming to a close. The Mark V had been together since 1962. It had been a great run. At the time I didn’t know, but in a few weeks Dave would leave the group, leading us to disband shortly thereafter. On New Year’s eve 1966, we played one of our last gigs, a private party in Beverly Hills. On the drive back home in the family’s ’59 El Camino, seated between Jimmy at the wheel, and Brad riding shotgun, in a sleep like state, I stared at the glowing AM dial as it filled the cab with beautiful sounds – Pretty Ballerina by the Lefte Bank,  and Ruby Tuesday by the Stones.  Ah,  I thought – Jimmy, Casey, and I could make music like that. We were driving through the night, and into the new year. I vowed that 1967 was going to be a year of change, of growth, of pursuing the dream. The radio began playing a new record by the L.A. band, Love, a strange, and dreamy song called Orange Skies.

 

Back on the Corner

My mind drifted back to the summer, to the corner of Selma and Cosmo …

I was hanging out in front of Moonglow. The sun was going down. A figure came walking up the street. He was an African-American, dressed in wild clothes. He wore tinted granny glasses on his nose , and a blue scarf draped around his neck. I recognized him right away as Arthur Lee of Love. He rounded the corner and headed north on Cosmo, on his way to Bido Lito’s.

Forty -six years later my mind would again drift back to the moment and I would write a song about this brief experience:

Arthur Lee (2)

Arthur Lee of Love in shades.

In the twilight a figure approaches
Blue scarf flowing wild and free
On the corner of Selma and Cosmo
I cross paths with Arthur Lee.

Shades of Love
Colors of the moon
A voice in the wilderness
But who’s to hear the tune?

In the twilight the music is playing
A mystic chant so wild and free.
On the corner of Selma and Cosmo
I crossed paths with Arthur Lee.

 

1966.07.xx3

Danny with brother Johnny and friends in the summer of 1966