I was in my senior year at Beverly. Stephen and I had put together a group to compete in the "battle of the bands". There was the two of us on guitars, Greg Rom on drums, Tim Weston on bass and Tom Dunstan on electric banjo. That was a Rickenbacker banjo and it was so jangely and bright giving us a country rock sound so we called the band "Tumbleweed". We did a twangy version of Merle Haggard's Mama Tried and if I'm not mistaken, we attempted a Buffalo Springfield tune or two. There was some pretty stiff competition that year especially from a blues band headed by a toe-head singer/ guitarist named Steve Tetsch. I didn't think we were going to win, but we DID! Reasons? Either we were actually good or our friends stuffed the ballot boxes with extra votes, maybe both.
It was convenient that we could practice up at Greg's pool house in Trousdale Estates. That was the good life - after rehearsing for a couple of hours we would take a cool dip in the Olympic size swimming pool. Greg's father was one of the top insurance people in the area and had an office down there on Wilshire and Canon called Rom and Associates. Tim's father was Paul Weston a famous orchestra leader that performed on the Jackie Gleason show many television show in the 60's including his wife, Jo Stafford's show. Yep, by doggety, there was a lot of talent there in the hills of Beverly. There was one guy who wanted to be in Tumbleweed but Stephen and I really didn't think it would be right for the band. He was Steve March or Torme, the son of Mel Torme and stepson of Hal March. it's not that he wasn't talented because he was and still is, it was that we thought too many cooks would spoil the broth, a theme Stephen and I should have listened to later in our careers.
In June of 1970 I graduated Beverly with Stephen and Debbie and she went off to Hawaii to live with her mom and step father. I'm not sure what happened to Stephen but I think he was busy with his Debbie. I went to San Fernando State College which later became Cal State Northridge and hated it. The classes were boring and antiquated. There was absolutely no music scene and all I could do was think about Debbie and how nice it was for her on the golden sands of Makapoo Beach. In December of that year I went on a two week vacation to visit her on Oahu. Her mother had married a Colonel in the Army or Air Force and was living on Hickman Air Force base not far from Pearl Harbor. I remember packing a few joints in a deck of playing cards barely concealed in my shirt pocket. Who in their right mind would attempt to do this kind of thing today? Once more the folly of youth but that time it had worked out. That's more than I can say for other times both in the past from this vantage point and later on in my life.
It was beautiful there on the island with the warm gentle breezes, clean air and water contrasting from the ugly smoggy skies and polluted looking oceanside of western Los Angeles. I think it was there when Debbie convinced me to stop blow drying my hair and let it go natural. I had no idea I had such curly hair. The vacation was over and I was back in LA and Debbie wouldn't be coming back for a couple of months. I retreated to the sanctum sanctorum of my back room.
It was 1971 now and I had transferred to LACC (Los Angeles City College) from San Fernando State College which is now University of California at Northridge. I was driving that 1967 yellow Kharman Ghia my sister had left me to borrow when she took a year abroad at the University of Birmingham, England. She will never totally forgive me for the way I let that car go downhill and I don't mean just rolling down an incline, but I was broke and couldn't afford to fix things like a busted trunk lid hinge or a hole in the seat. So inadvertently, the car was a bit of a wreck. It still ran though and gas was only twenty five cents a gallon. I could fill the tank for about three dollars which would last me all week or more. That was a cool car indeed.
I met another guitar player at school who was a few years older than I named Jim Stanley. I believe he is still making records in Woodland Hills, California and goes by the name of James Lee Stanley. He had this rustic cabin like tree-house in Silverlake or Echo Park and he invited me over to partake in some of the more popular libations of the period. He had a pretty blonde girlfriend named Claudia who he met on campus, or so my hazy remembering will allow. He used to sit in the archway of his bathroom with an acoustic guitar in his hands and write songs. He said the acoustics were the best in that spot plus it had the "vibe". He had written a song called "Running After You" and was keen on getting it properly recorded. I helped him add to the feel while playing my 1952 red Telecaster through a Vox Royal Guardsman with Top Boost.
I think it was Gold Star recording studios on Vine where we ended up cutting the record and this was my very first recording session. It must have been eight track or maybe sixteen I'm not sure because I spent most of the time in the recording room with the likes of Leland Sklar on bass, Russ Kunkel on drums and the two Jimmies, Stanley and Haymer. It all went down live to tape. There was this part in the song where I held a feedback note on the guitar with my left hand while my right hand was turning up the volume on the amp so it would sustain throughout the whole second verse. I guess my left hand knew what my right hand was doing back then.
Meanwhile that thought of needing a band in the back of my mind was coming to the forefront. I was wondering what my old friend Gries was up to. We always worked well with one another with our differences and similarities in style and influences. We both loved the Fab Four of course but he seemed to be more the McCartney type and I was John and later George. Stephen was now living in his van in the driveway of one Carol Burnett and one Joe Hamilton. There was a guest house on this palatial Beverly Hills estate where Joey and Jeff Hamilton called their own.
I heard Stephen was washing dishes at the Black Rabbit Inn off Melrose near La Peer. I hadn't seen him for a few months so I parked the Ghia next to his old aqua blue/green Volkswagen van and walked in through the back door to the kitchen and I couldn't believe what I saw. There in front of me was this tall, skinny blonde dude with hair down to the small of his back wearing those prescription glasses with the tinted polarized lenses. I didn't know anyone who could possibly grow their hair so fast( I guess it had been about six months since I had seen him last) but it was Stephen alright.
The day I went over to that Hamilton Back House and heard Joey and Jon Marr singing and playing his Martin acoustic with Stephen playing some nice Harrisonesque fills on his Martin. I had brought my trusty D-18 over and played along. I thought it sounded great and what a cool little tune with some interesting chord changes. I think it went from G to B seventh to E minor to C. If you are a musician you can appreciate this if not trust me, it's a little different from the typical 1, 4 , 5 progression everybody else was playing at the time. I had finally found the band to join if only they would have me.