Wheels

September 27, 2013 in Happenings, Thoughts, Uncategorized

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It’s the summer of 1962. Fifteen-year-old Danny sets off on an excursion accompanied by two other boys and a Driver’s Ed. instructor.  During the course of this brief trip he makes an unexpected human connection, and finds inspiration in a song.  California car culture, baseball, rock and roll, and teen-age tragedy all intertwine in this coming-of-age story.

 

Stealing Second

The July sun was climbing to its zenith, as the ’62 Valiant headed southeast through the low rolling hills toward the desert on old Highway 99. I could feel the heat in my nostrils as I breathed in the new car smell. My madras shirt was already soaked with sweat, and my back was sticking like adhesive tape to the vinyl seat cover. I leaned forward, peeling away from the back seat, and cranked the window open a crack. I felt instant relief as a flood of air rushed down to cool my spine. This was my second summer spent in the relentless inland heat. I was growing accustomed to it. My family had relocated from the California city of Long Beach to the inland town of Redlands, and the cool breezes of the coast were becoming a distant memory.

In front of me sat Mr. Hoppe, the Driver’s Ed. instructor. Thirty-ish and handsome (I thought he looked a bit like the actor, Cornell Wilde), the congenial Mr. H. was considered one of the cooler English teachers. We’d really lucked out. We could have been teamed up with Coach Baird… “Big Bad Baird”, the former Marine sergeant.

“Well done Ted.” Hoppe said, adjusting his sunglasses. “Pull over, and let’s give Billy a shot.”

Ted looked carefully over his right shoulder, flipped the blinker, and, began to maneuver the car to the right lane. He down-shifted the column stick to second gear, but his timing with the clutch was slightly off, and the metal teeth scraped.

“Hey! Grind me off a pound!”  Mr. Hoppe chuckled. We all laughed. This was our group’s little running joke.

1962 Plymouth Valiant, Classic Car in the early sixties

I’d already had my turn behind the wheel, negotiating the vehicle through the sleepy streets of Redlands and out on to the highway. Not a perfect run, but no white knuckle moments, either. Once on the road I’d begun to relax my grip on the wheel and enjoy the sensation of moving through the landscape under a bright open sky.

The three of us were about fifteen, and going in to high school. Learning to drive was definitely a high priority, and the high school Driver’s Ed. classrooms were filled to capacity with girls in summer dresses and boys in white Levis and cotton plaid shirts – all eager to learn. It was a rite of passage. Each of us knew that on our sixteenth birthday we would be taking the test and getting our license. Driving meant freedom and a bigger world in which to play. There was also a strong sexual component. I fantasized about parking with a girl somewhere under the stars…making out…maybe more. At the moment, my girlfriend and I were still on first base, but there was this irrepressible urge to steal second.

We stopped along the shoulder, and the boys swapped places. Billy was shorter, so he needed to adjust the mirror down a little. I could see his face reflected in the rear view. His light green eyes contrasted strikingly with his olive complexion and dark hair, and gave the impression of an inner intensity. Ted and I were casual friends. He was a drummer, and we’d played in the band together. I didn’t know Billy that well. He’d only just moved to town about six months prior. He was a quiet kid, but he seemed completely comfortable behind the wheel. He started up the car with a calm authority and wasted no time getting back on the road, steadily accelerating until the speedometer clocked at 65. He eyeballed the meter and threw a quick glance at the teacher, who kept looking straight ahead.

“Smoothly done. Keep it right there.”

The Valiant’s Slant Six engine purred steadily; the white lines scrolling quickly by.

Hoppe began making conversation as if to avoid any awkward silence.

“Did anyone catch the Dodger game last night?”

This question opened a gate to a small wave of conversation.  I loved baseball, and the night before I’d sat on the porch with my dad, listening to the game. The smell of my father’s cigar and the comforting lilt of Vin Scully’s voice calling the play-by-play always seemed to epitomize a summer evening. Word was… the rival Giants had watered down the first base side of the infield at Candlestick Park in hopes of slowing down Dodger shortstop, Maury Wills. The wily and speedy Wills was on fire. His base stealing ability was bringing energy and excitement to the game. The whole car agreed it was an unsportsmanlike and a dirty prank for the Giants to pull. The words “chicken shit” came to my mind, though I didn’t speak them.  Our Dodgers had won the game, and we were sure they would go on to take the pennant. “Take that San Francisco!”

After this brief spike, the conversation again subsided, trickling back into silence. I knew some boys who could converse with an adult on an almost equal footing.  I was not one of them, and neither were Billy and Ted.. Mr. Hoppe always did his best, though, to keep a pleasant conversation going, asking questions about what was happening in our lives, talking about sports, or whatever else came to mind. He genuinely wanted to make our little outings a fun experience.

We’d gone about fifteen miles, when Mr. H. said “Hey, You guys thirsty? Let’s stop and get cokes. It’s on me. There’s a burger joint right up ahead.” Turning his head toward Billy he said “Hang a right at the next turn off.”

Billy made the turn, but hadn’t braked early enough, and the car swung into the drive with a little too much torque. We were jostled to the left in our seats and the Valiant bounced as it entered the lot.

“Easy does it!”

The rubber tires met the gravel, making a loud satisfying sound, both slippery and crunchy, as we coasted to a parking spot.

We got out and stretched our backs. I was struck by how quiet it was. Looking around, my first thought was “Man, this is nowhere!” The restaurant was a white stucco, backwards ‘L’ – shaped structure.  An arcade, supported by wooden posts, ran its length. The waist high windows were cranked open; their green painted frames peeling in the dry air. In red, above the arcade appeared the name “The Ranch Stop”. The green Seven-Up sign on the door looked vintage 1940’s.

It was surprisingly cooler inside. Several standing fans were humming, constantly moving the air. We ordered our drinks from the service counter, and walked to the right, turning left into the rectangular dining area. I took note of the red and yellow juke box which sat in the angle.  The room was set with picnic style wooden tables and benches. There were a dozen or so people sitting and eating. We found a spot on the window side and settled in, straws in mouth and paper cups in hand. Flies buzzed in the window screen.

 

The Fat Man and the Kid

The conversation flitted about and eventually settled on automobiles: the new line of Fords and Chevys in particular. “I think the Galaxy is an outstanding car for the price.” Mr. H. was saying. Although I was excited by the thought of driving and all that came with it, cars in and of themselves held little intrinsic interest for me, and I began to tune out and focus on the sounds now emanating from the juke box behind me. I recognized the singer immediately – the one and only Fats Domino. My brothers and I had bought his singles back in the Fifties and had literally worn out the grooves. The Fat Man’s voice was full bodied masculinity combined with a playful tenderness … and sweet as honey. The New Orleans piano, and driving rhythm section, made me want to jump up out of my seat and start dancing. “How could anyone sit still and not zero in on the music?” I thought.  The song was “My Girl, Josephine”, one of my favorites. The heroine’s French name alone conjured up a Creole world in my mind and I was transported from the California desert to the Louisiana Bayou.

Fats Domino, 45 Imperial My Girl Josephine“Hello, Josephine, How do you do?

   Do you remember me, Baby, like I remember you…”

 The record ended, but twenty seconds or so later, it started up again. I turned my head to see who was playing the song. In front of the Wurlitzer stood a boy who was probably a year or two older than me. Tall and thin, he was wearing a black bowling shirt with silver trim, blue Levis, white socks and black leather shoes with pointed toes. His dark brown hair was greased into a jellyroll, and a black comb was visible in his right back pocket. Two or three years earlier he would have been considered the height of cool, the picture of teen-age rebel chic. It was a style popularized in the mainstream by James Dean and Elvis Presley. But times had changed …. The surfer look was on the rise. It was as if teen fashion had emerged from the dark alley and into the California sunshine, leaving this kid hopelessly out of style. More than that…. Although adults had long associated the image with juvenile delinquents and switch blade knives, young people were now turned off  by it, as well, but for reasons that had more to do with class snobbery than fear.

Boys like this are not college bound. They fill the auto shop classes, join car clubs, get in to trouble, settle for jobs pumping  gas, and ultimately wake up one morning and, seeing their future as a dead end street, march themselves to the nearest Navy recruitment center,  signing up to “see the world”. The kid is low class… a greaser… a loser.  

 He planted his palms on either side of the juke box, and leaned in, as if to get the sound resonating in his chest. Closing his eyes, he began to sing along…

“You used to live over yonder by the railroad track.

  When it rained you wouldn’t walk.   I used to tote you on my back”

 I was surprised. The kid was good. He knew the whole song, all the words, all the phrasing, his voice was on pitch, and he put a lot of feeling into it.

When the tune ended, he took a pack of Winston’s out of his shirt pocket, tapped out a cigarette, and lit up, pausing in thought as he took a deep drag. Then, with cigarette dangling out of the corner of his mouth, and eyes squinting, he pushed the buttons. I could see the record being pulled out from the stack. I recognized the black labeled Imperial 45. The disc was slapped on the turn table. Needle met groove, and the song started up again. He sang along in full voice, and after the first chorus, began to shuffle his feet from side to side, and snap his fingers, as he backed away from the juke box. He wasn’t performing for anyone. The kid was in his own world. He inhabited the song. I wondered if he had a particular girl in mind, his Josephine; someone he was yearning for…

45 Record Juke Box“I used to walk you home; I used to hold your hand

“You used to use my umbrella every time it rained…”

“You gentlemen ready to hit the road?” Mr. Hoppe’s voice snapped me out of my dreamlike state.

As we filed out the door I could hear the song playing yet another time.

Mr. H. put on his sunglasses and, looking at Billy, said “I know you’ll study hard, and get that dream car you talked so passionately about.”

I‘d been oblivious to their conversation, and I realized that they’d probably not even noticed what had unfolded at the juke box.

I started up the car, turning left at the drive-way; back toward home. Shifting into second, the gears scraped a touch. “Hey, grind me off a pound!” I laughed along with my passengers, but in my mind I was singing along with Fats and the kid.

 

A Sharp Turn

The following May, on my sixteenth birthday, I took the test and gained the much prized California Driver’s License. I now had third dibbs on the family wheels, behind my Dad and my older brother, Johnny. Through the summer of ’63 I felt high on the freedom of zipping around town in the sleek silver toned ’59 El Camino with the cool ‘V’ shaped wings in the back, or even lumbering through traffic in the green ’58 Plymouth station wagon with the gaudy vertical fins. It felt cool to be the one driving when my buddies and I would pull into the Burger Bar parking lot. I still drew inspiration from the memory of the kid at the juke box, and would take breezy drives out through the San Timeteo Canyon, singing at the top of my lungs.

Indeed, there were a few passionate moments spent under the stars, the windows steaming up… and, yes, stealing second base. However, it seems I was destined to graduate with my virginity still intact: at the time I considered it a dubious honor for an eighteen-year-old male, and one I was not eager to brag about.

As for my two Drivers Ed. mates; Ted and I played a couple of gigs together. We were also in some of the same classes, and remained acquainted. I never really got to know Billy very well, although we would talk on occasion. In our junior year, I was surprised to see him playing bass guitar in a surf band at a Friday night stomp. The bass looked huge on him, but he plucked the strings aggressively, if not lyrically, and I found myself yelling “Go, Billy” when he played a two bar cadenza.

The fall after graduation, during Thanksgiving break from college, my brother, Jimmy, dropped the local newspaper in front of me as I sat at the kitchen table. “You’d better take a look.” I unfolded the paper. There on the bottom half appeared Billy’s senior picture. Never a good sign. My heart sank as I read the short article. He’d apparently been speeding in the foothills. He’d taken a curve too fast, too aggressively, and had sailed over the edge, the car rolling down the slope. He’d been killed instantly.

My throat dropped to my stomach. I imagined the horror he must have felt as he lost control of his Corvette (The one his folks had bought him upon his graduating); the panic of feeling the forces pulling him to the right, skidding away from the safety of the highway; too late to take back the reckless choice he’d made.  As the car became airborne, was there a millisecond of acceptance … of resignation to his fate? Was there a realization that the white lines would continue on, but his road was destined to end “right here and right now”?

 

Wheeling OnClassic California Car Culture

I dream at night of being constantly on the road… in a car, on a bike… running, trying desperately to get somewhere, but never arriving. I dream of searching for something, but never finding it. “What?” I wonder. Perhaps I yearn to get back home. But what is “home”? It occurs to me that we are all wheeling down a highway that stretches through our own desert landscape – some of us in donkey carts, some of us in Cadillacs – each of us a small speck under a vast sky. Sometimes we pull off the road and are surprised by our connecting with another, finding inspiration, having an epiphany. Mostly we play it safe, following the white lines as they stream by.

Decades later I think back on that seemingly insignificant little road trip, and realize that it’s a memory that triggers multiple layers of thought and emotion. Like the hub of a spoke wheel, it connects with the whole. As the moment circles back around in my mind, I feel it, see it, hear it all again… The wheel rolls, the car glides down the highway, the record spins on the juke box, and so many issues get stirred: growing up; sexual awakening; the smell of freedom; class distinctions; the transcendent power of music; the inevitability of death. I remember swinging vainly at the curve-balls life threw me. I think of the kid at the juke box, who was singing his heart out in the middle of nowhere, and I wonder what became of him. I ponder Billy’s death. Cut short at eighteen, never to experience a career, a cause, marriage, children… all those things that bring us joy and bring us tears. The road had rolled on, events and cultural touchstones had flipped by: Sgt. Peppers, the Summer of Love, Vietnam, the draft, the assassinations of Martin Luther King and Bobby Kennedy, Watergate, punk rock, disco…

I remember my speeding around canyon curves, and wonder – “How is it that I am still here, and Billy is not?”

I grow old…

In a waking dream I drive through the desert night on old Highway 99, a moon on the horizon, my fingertips on the wheel of the ’62 Valiant.  As I pull off the road, I hear the familiar sound of tires slipping and crunching on gravel. I park, kill the ignition, and sit for a moment. I open the door and start walking. As I approach the warm amber glow of the roadhouse door, I hear the sound of crickets cross fading into a rolling piano groove. It’s Fats! I enter and turn to the right. There, palms on the juke box, head cocked back, the Kid is singing. I stand there for a moment, spellbound… then, closing my eyes, I join him, singing in full voice, throwing out a harmony line as I snap my fingers …

Hello, Josephine. How do you do?

Do you remember me, Baby; like I remember you?

You used to laugh at me, and holler woo, woo, woo.

 

 

Additional Editing by: Kathryn Albrecht
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

 

A Blur of White Helmets – The 1967 Century Plaza Police Riot & Brutality in the Summer of Love

August 4, 2013 in Happenings, Thoughts, Uncategorized

banner_century_plaza_protest

On Friday,  June 23rd, 1967, in the beginning of what came to be termed ‘The Summer of Love’, I, alongside my brothers, my friends,  and tens of thousands of other citizens marched in Century City to protest the war in Vietnam. What ensued was a shocking and horrifying example of law enforcement going berserk.  In the immediate aftermath, the media  shamelessly turned the riot on its head, blaming the demonstrators. Sadly, this historic and tragic event is seldom mentioned today.  I was at ground zero, however, and remember it as if it were yesterday. Here is my story…

 

We Are But a Moment’s Sunlight

helilimo

President Lyndon Johnson arrives by helicopter.

Jimmy, Patrick, and I rode to the event in my best friend Mike’s coffee-colored VW, the one with the peace symbol white washed on the side. Jimmy’s and my older brother, Johnny, and his fiancé, Judi, followed in his black ’55 Bug with the small rear window. As we rolled west on Interstate 10, I imagined we were a humble Beetle motorcade for peace. President Lyndon B. Johnson was being honored with a thousand dollar-a-plate fete at the Century Plaza Hotel, and we were traveling the eighty miles from Redlands to West Los Angeles to voice our opposition to his war in Vietnam.

When we arrived at Cheviot Hills Park that Friday afternoon, we were surprised by how festive the gathering was. Vendors were selling hot dogs and lemonade. Giggling children romped and played on the grass as kites bobbed overhead in a summer breeze.The good vibes reminded me of the Monterey Pop Festival which Jimmy and I had been to exactly one week before. But whereas that happening reflected a burgeoning counter culture, this one had a distinctly middle class face. The crowd, mostly white, was multigeneralization. It included people of all ages, from little tots to grandparents. I remember thinking,“This could be a Fourth of July Picnic. Hell, it could be a Norman Rockwell painting!”

At the beginning of the Protest

At the park before the march. From left: Patrick, Jimmy, unknown, Danny, unknown, Johnny, Mike. Judi is behind the camera.

The rock band that was set up on a stake bed truck was putting out some solid sounds. The lead singer, an African American, had a soulful voice which reminded me of Stevie Winwood. I noticed they were performing a lot of songs that featured the word ‘Love’, like the Deon Jackson tune, Love Makes the World Go ‘Round, and the Beatles’ The Word. It seemed ‘Love’ most definitely was the word on people’s lips.

I was digging on the music, when Jimmy tapped me on the shoulder. “Look, there’s that couple we saw at the Peace March in San Francisco!”

I turned and recognized the middle-aged hippie couple who were dancing at the edge of the crowd.The man’s dark eyes and eyebrows matched his long black hair and mustache. He was wearing black tights and pantaloons, a black shirt, and high heel shoes with silver buckles. A bright red cape which he swung theatrically was draped over his shoulders. The image brought to mind Captain Hook, or perhaps Salvador Dali. His partner was dressed in a mid-calf cotton skirt and peasant blouse, and wore a feather headband around her long, graying blond hair. The silver bangles around her wrists glistened in the sun. While the man’s wild and jerky movements were decidedly unfunky, the tall, willowy woman seemed to float like a hanging sheet in the breeze.

A TV camera crew was soon Johnny-on-the-spot to catch the action.

“Guess who’s going to be the public face of this demonstration,” Jimmy predicted.

“WILD HIPPIE PROTEST!” I pronounced in quasi news anchor tones. “Film at eleven.”

“Yes,” remarked Mike. “We can always count on the establishment media to keep us informed.”

“The medium is the message,” Patrick added, with air quotes.

 

Men of Words

As the sun began its plunge to the horizon, the speeches commenced. First on the roster was Dr. Benjamin Spock, the famed pediatrician and peace activist. He was my grandmother’s age, yet here he was taking a stand against the war.

PG_03165“We do not consider the Vietnamese people, North or South, to be the enemy,” the dignified, bespectacled Spock said. “They wish no harm to the United States. The enemy, we believe in all sincerity, is Lyndon Johnson.” Oh, did this ever get the crowd fired up.

When the next speaker was introduced, he was immediately met with roaring acclamation. The Champ jumped on to the stage waving and smiling to the crowd. Muhammad Ali was the country’s most famous conscientious objector. His words that evening — off the cuff and from the heart —were a plea for peace and for justice.

Before saying good-bye, he added,”I hope there’s no trouble, but if there is, I know it won’t be coming from you.”

Muhammad ali at rally(1)

Muhammad Ali inspired the crowd with his message of nonviolence.

The Champ’s affirmation of nonviolence reflected perfectly the spirit of the crowd, which responded with wild applause. He smiled and extended his arms as if to embrace us all. To feel wrapped in his brotherly hug gave one courage,and we all yelled and cheered at the top of our lungs.

“Damn!” Johnny said. “Isn’t he somethin’?”

After Ali, H. Rap Brown addressed the audience. His was a very different message.There were nods of agreement as he made the correlation between the fight against racial discrimination and the struggle against the war. But when, further into his speech, he said, “If the pigs meet us with violence they can expect us to respond with violence.” the audience reacted with an audible “No!” Brown, taken a bit by surprise, paused to look out at the sea of faces, shaking his head and smiling, as if to say, You poor saps!

“Y’all may have some hard lessons in store for you,” he declared.

 

C’mon People, Now!

When evening began to fall we marchers prepared to take off. Our group of five was positioned fairly close to the head of the procession. As I stood waiting, a young woman approached me. “Weren’t you at the Monterey Festival?” she asked.

I returned her smile. “Yes, I was.”

protest-sitShe said she had seen me doing my crazy-legged dance in the middle of a drum circle.

“My friend and I thought that was really cool,” she said.

I had actually felt a little embarrassed about that impulsive raving moment, but was flattered by the compliment.

Her name was Lauren, and with her medium-length, sandy blond hair and sparkling blue eyes, she was an attractive girl. She was wearing a sleeveless top, with a long skirt, and a flower in her hair. I learned she was from West L.A. This was her turf. I felt a bit like a small town boy beside her aura of calm self-assurance.

“I love this,” she said, pointing to the bright yellow sunshine button pinned to my shirt. “Where’d you get it?”

I told her that my thirteen-year-old sister, Patsy, had crafted it out of paper mache. “It’s become a kind of talisman for me, a reminder to tap into the flow of positive energy.”

Suddenly Johnny, who with his cavalry hat and moustache looked very much the leader, called out “Let’s go, Danny! Time to march.”

“Do you mind if I walk with your group?” Lauren asked me.

“Of course not. The more the merrier!” I responded.Century Plaza

The plan was simple: We were to walk from the park to the hotel where we would respectfully file past its opulent facade on Avenue of the Stars, and return by way of Santa Monica Boulevard. The organizer’s had gotten a city permit, so no one expected any trouble. After all, this was Southern California, not Selma, Alabama.

We walked north on Motor Avenue. To the west the last vestiges of sunlight had all but disappeared. The bells around Lauren’s ankle jingled with every other step of her sandaled feet, producing a cheerful, uplifting sound. As we marched, we were cheered on by scores of normal-looking folks hanging out of their doors and windows. Many of these people spontaneously joined our ranks. I was struck by the empowering thought that we were fifty-thousand strong, united in a common purpose, and on a mission to deliver our message of peace. Who could ignore such a throng? Oh, what a glorious summer evening it was! We made a right onto Pico Boulevard.

There was such exhilaration among the marchers. Folks carrying signs or American flags proudly held them high and pumped them to the cadence of our tramping feet. Jimmy began singing the title song from the Beatles’ new album. “We’re Sgt. Pepper’s Lonely Hearts Club Band,” he sang; “We hope you will enjoy the show.” Patrick and I joined in and soon our whole group was singing at the top of our lungs. Our spirits were sky high. After a short distance we swung left onto Avenue of the Stars.

centuryplazahotel1967ebAs the 20th-century Modern structure of the hotel appeared on the hill up ahead, butterflies began dancing in my stomach. Drawing nearer, I could see that there was a strong police presence. White helmets were everywhere. I tried to calm my nerves by reminding myself how cool the Monterey police had been.

 

The Hard Lesson

Everything went without a hitch until we got to the bridge which extends over the Olympic Boulevard underpass. There, the police had closed off three of the lanes, and were funneling everyone into a single lane on the right. The pace slowed to a crawl. We were about three-quarters of the way over the bridge when the march came to an abrupt halt. We waited. I truly believed that it was probably a traffic snafu of some kind. “Be patient,” I told myself; “they’ll soon sort it out, and we’ll be on our way.”  We were just short of the hotel. We could have filed past and been done in ten minutes.We continued to wait.The elegant fountains that bisected the avenue up ahead filled the summer air with a fine misty spray. Meanwhile, more and more marchers streamed in, swelling the ranks.

“They’ve completely blocked the street,” I heard someone say.

An eerie murmur rolled through the crowd for about half a minute before we started to sway. The motion grew with violent crescendo until we were rocking like a turbulent sea. The sound of a thousand gasps and cries was overwhelming. People were packed so tightly that at times both my feet were off the ground and I felt as if I was caught in an undertow. Lauren fell. I reached out my hand. She grabbed it and I pulled her back to her feet.

Century_PlazaThen came a sudden, violent surge from the left side as if we’d been slammed into. High pitched shrieks of terror and screams of pain pierced the air. I could hear what sounded like dozens of baseball bats bouncing on a field, and my stomach turned at the realization that each ‘clunk’ was a nightstick whacking a human skull or shoulder. I got on my toes and stretched my neck . A phalanx of white helmets was just a few yards away, and alongside each helmet was a swinging baton. We were under attack! The cops were stepping over the wounded to penetrate the next layer of humanity.  Clubbed heads splashed a fine bloody spray. For a moment I was frozen with disbelief at what was happening.

“They’re going to kill us!” a woman shouted.

A voice within my primitive brain cried out, Run! Run for your life! But there was nowhere to run to. We were flanked by cops on our left and in the front. To the right was the bridge railing and a precipitous drop, and to the rear more marchers kept coming. We were boxed in! Trapped!

Relentlessly, the L.A.P.D. carried out their vicious attack, prodding and pushing us back against the railing. As we gradually inched forward beyond the bridge they channeled us down a steep dirt embankment on the right to a vacant bean field that lay at the foot of the hill. Scores of folks, including seniors, and mothers with children, were pushed or slipped and tumbled down the slope. How the seven of us managed to descend unscathed will always be a mystery to me.

lapl_century_marchThe bean field offered no respite from the onslaught. In fact, the situation there was even worse than above. Cops, high on the adrenalin of the chase, were running people down and beating them mercilessly. I thought I saw a figure fall from the bridge. We watched in horror as three motorcycled officers riding in ‘V’ formation intentionally plowed into a group of people. It was a surrealistic, nightmarish scene beyond my wildest fears.  People lay bleeding on the ground, as traumatized children bawled. The seven of us huddled close to one another and kept moving forward. It sounds strange to say, but It almost felt as if we were invisible as we made our way through the pandemonium and horror.

We passed a middle-aged housewife with a badly skinned knee and elbow. She’d gotten back up and was brushing the dirt off her torn and blood soaked dress when she suddenly sank her face in her hands and began weeping uncontrollably. It was all just too much — the pain, the terror, the humiliation. Her husband wrapped a consoling arm around her.

The police had formed a continuous line that snaked down the hill, around the bean field, and far out along the underpass. They stood with billy clubs in hand, sneering and making mean comments to the passing protesters who were forced to walk this gauntlet. On angry impulse, Johnny aggressively approached the line of white helmets.

“Johnny, no!” Judi screamed.

My brother, seething with rage, got up close to a cop and, pointing an accusing finger, shouted, “Fascist!”

Clash of Police and Protesters at Century Plaza HotelBeneath the helmet, the young face flinched and his bottom lip quivered. I could see that he was frightened, just like the rest of us. In an instant, Jimmy grabbed Johnny by the shirt and whisked him away before something terrible happened.

 

The Angels Cry

The return trip was a solemn one — the slow retreat of the defeated.People moved as if in a sleep-walk, and the sibilant sound of whispers and sobs washed through groups of marchers.  Lauren and I walked with arms around each other’s waist. The bells at her ankle now rang a sad knell.

Back at the park, the band on the truck was playing a song which I hadn’t heard before nor heard since. Perhaps it was an original. Its refrain repeated the word ‘Love’ every two bars. People in the crowd began chanting along. Lauren and I clung to each other and swayed to the beat as I closed my eyes and joined in the chorus. ‘Love’ – I sang with heavy heart -‘Love’.  The word echoed back to me like a forlorn plea.

“Hey, look who’s here!” Jimmy exclaimed. It was Kathy, a good friend from Redlands who was a student at UCLA. What a welcome sight! We all gave her a hug. She and her boyfriend invited us over to his apartment in Westwood after the rally wound down.

Just then, dozens of black-and-whites with sirens screaming and red lights flashing, began converging on the scene, intent on adding insult to injury.

protest-hit“Fucking pigs!” I heard myself say.

“We’ve got to split, you guys!” Johnny shouted.

Lauren and I looked into each other’s eyes for a moment, then hugged and kissed. This had been an extraordinary way to meet someone, and we both wanted to see each other again under happier circumstances. She offered her phone number but there was nothing to write with. The cops were already rousting people, and we needed to fly. I told her I’d commit it to memory.

She recited the number and I repeated it back to her twice. My friends were waving me to come.

“Good-bye,” I said.

“Good-bye,” she whispered back.

I was sprinting away when she called out to me. I turned and repeated the number one last time.

Century_Plaza_Protest_LA_TimesWe got in our cars and beat it. Just in the nick of time, too, for the police were corralling everyone in the park. We soon put distance between ourselves and the barbarians and headed for Westwood.

“God! I thought we were going to be killed!” Mike said, gripping the wheel with hands trembling.

“Yea, so did I, “Jimmy responded. “I now know what they mean by ‘police brutality.'”

Mike paused for a moment in thought, then continued. “Most of those people at the rally were just citizens, just regular middle-class people. And the cops tore into them with absolute savagery. Can you imagine what they would have done had we all been black?”

 

We Were Talking

Kathy and her boyfriend, Rod, welcomed us at the small apartment. Everyone gathered around the kitchen table to look at photos they’d taken at Monterey, while in the distance, sirens wailed through city streets. Someone switched on the eleven o’clock news, and suddenly there was footage from the afternoon in the park. Captain Hook appeared on the tube, rocking back on his heels as the missus willowed in his wake.

CenturyPlazaprotest-blur“Shit! I knew it!” Jimmy exclaimed.”What’d I tell you?”

Everyone laughed, but when the reporters went on to describe the event as a riot by protesters, the mood turned to anger.

“What march were they at?” Mike shouted.

Judi’s jaw dropped. “It was the police who did the rioting!”

“Don’t you know?” Johnny quipped. ” If it’s not on the TV, it didn’t happen.”

Suddenly there was a clip of Police Chief Tom Reddin congratulating his men on a job well done. “Thanks, Chief.” replied the men-in-blue with pride.

“It’s just a fucking football game to them!” said Patrick.

“Yea,” I added “and they just won one for the Gipper!”

One of us noticed a copy of the Sgt. Pepper’s album lying on the coffee table.  Kathy picked it up and passed it around. The cover held the sweet, pungent smell of marijuana.”Have you heard this tracked all the way through on a great stereo system?” she asked.

None of us had.

“Prepare to have your minds blown!” she exclaimed.

We smoked a couple of joints and lay on the floor as Kathy put the disc on the turntable. For the next thirty-seven minutes or so, I was in a different world, and not for a second did the terror of the police riot enter my mind. It was amazing! Just a short time before we had been in fear for our lives, and now here we were mentally waltzing with Henry the Horse. No one but the Beatles could have carried us away like that.

LATimes_Headline_Century_PlazaAnd the time will come when you see we’re all one,” George Harrison sang as I entered a mild hallucination. I was peering out through the window of a space capsule. The Earth below was achingly vibrant in swirls of blue and white. I saw a world with no boundaries, no divisions.  We were all connected —my family, my friends, all of humanity. At the close of the last track,  A Day in the Life, as the E chord on the piano slowly faded away, I felt the urge to call out, Please don’t leave. Don’t let this end. I longed to stay in this musical universe. The needle entered the looping inside groove, and the speakers hummed with a warm, scratchy sound.

So much had happened that day. My mind was overwhelmed. The rally in the park now seemed like a distant memory, an idyllic moment fading in the waning summer light. I remembered fondly how that light had sparkled in Lauren’s eyes.

On the turntable the needle continued its loop.

A replay of the attack suddenly flashed through my brain like a blur of white helmets. I clenched a fist in anger as I recalled the brutality and stupidity of the act. Why did they have to do it?

Kathy made her way to the stereo and lifted the hinged acrylic top.

“Hey, Kathy,” I said. “Play it again!”

 

 

Additional Editing by:  Kathryn Albrecht
Special Thanks to: John Mack Faragher, Jimmy Faragher, Mike Fouch, Patrick McClure, Kathryn Albrecht
Graphic Design by: Bryan Faragher

 

 

Setting the Record Straight on the Peppermint Trolley Company

November 16, 2012 in Thoughts

I was recently on redtelephone.com, and was pleasantly surprised to discover an article on the Peppermint Trolley Co. Although I dug the spirit of the piece, and continue to be delighted at people’s interest in the music, I found that  it contained some misconceptions which I run into now and again. I thought I would take the time to respond, and share my first hand knowledge of what took place some forty plus years ago.

The following is my comment to article which you can find here:

 

This is Danny Faragher. I, along with my brother, Jimmy, was one of the founding members of the Peppermint Trolley Company. Hey, I’ve enjoyed reading the blog, and the comments, especially Cy’s “in-real-time, stream of consciousness” take on the album. It occurred to me, however, that I could add something to the discourse.

I’d first like to correct a couple of errors. The band was from Redlands, not Redding, CA, which is about 70 miles east of L.A. in the Inland Empire. The group evolved through a number of members and names from it’s early formation in 1961. Although Bob Cheevers, a friend of ours, was part of the replacement group after we walked away from our contract with Acta, he was never a member of the authentic band, which consisted of: Jimmy Faragher, bass, Danny Faragher, keyboards, and horns, Greg Tornquist, guitar, and Casey Cunningham, drums.

We came up with the name in the summer of 1966, when it was a bit more hip. This before “Good Vibrations”, before “Ruby Tuesday”, “Sgt. Peppers”, and the Strawberry Alarm Clock. The hippie movement was yet to go mainstream. In the summer of 1967, we moved to L.A. to pursue our recording career full time, moving into a rat infested house in Silver Lake. We didn’t have much to eat, we were broke, and didn’t have a TV to distract us. What we did have was a record contract, access to the studio, and time. Time to write, arrange, and rehearse. Which we did.

We were far from being bubblegumers, Our politics were left wing. We didn’t just talk the talk, either, we literally walked the walk, participating in many anti-war marches, getting in some scary situations, and witnessing police brutality first hand. We considered ourselves part of a rising counter culture, and got our news from the L.A. Free Press, an underground paper. The music reflects this. Our song “Fatal Fallacy” is anti-war, but recognizes the dark side of humanity with its embrace of jingoism, a warrior culture, and the cynical part organized religion serves in propagandizing. “Free” is about racial inequality. “Reflections” deals with the inevitability of death.

Our record company, Acta, whose president, Kenny Meyers, was an old school record man, was geared around the 45 single. We knew the market was changing. LP’s were becoming more important. We really had to fight to get the go ahead to record the LP. Fortunately, our single, “Baby You Come Rollin’ Across My Mind” broke. With a hit record under our belts we got the green light.

We came from musically eclectic backgrounds, and the album shows this. Because we were so young, I think we were more open to being experimental.

Three months after the album’s release, we walked away from our contract, changed our name to Bones, and altered our musical course, rocking a little harder. In 1972 and 73 Bones released two LPs, and had a chart single. After the group broke up, Jimmy and I reinvented ourselves once again to join forces with brothers Tommy, and Davey and from the blue-eyed soul band, the Faragher Brothers, which released four albums.

Speaking for myself, I could not listen to the Peppermint Trolley album for thirty-five years. It wasn’t until people began to contact me a few years ago, and tell me how much it meant to them that I let myself sit down and listen. I was surprised by how well it held up. A bit naive in places? Yea, but, hey, we were still in our late teens. I think above all that it is honest. It’s also unafraid of being vulnerable.
I can now say I am proud of the record.

To read more about the Peppermint Trolley Company, visit the website http://www.dannyfaragher.com/bio/the-peppermint-trolley-company/

Sincerely,

Danny

 

Danny on Purple Haze Radio

October 23, 2012 in Events

Purple Haze

In a recent broadcast of 88.3 Southern FM radio show, Purple Haze, radio host and DJ, Nick Black, devoted the entire show to the music of Danny Faragher, Jimmy Faragher and the Peppermint Trolley Company. The show also features an interview with Danny.

Danny discusses the the story behind the music. He explains how the band was formed and even where they get their far out moniker comes from. If your a fan of Danny, the Peppermint Trolley Company or are just fascinated with the music of the 60s, you’ll dig it.

Purple Haze – January 27th, 2010

 

Special Thanks to Nick Black.