Monday, July 29, 2013

Chapter 58 - Last Autograph part 1

I was watching Monday Night Football alone in my apartment on Radford on December 8,    1980, most likely settling in for the night with Peppermint Schnapps on crushed ice. There was an interruption and, of all people, Howard Cosell made an announcement that John Lennon had just been shot outside his suite at the Dakota in New York City. Oh MY GOD! I flashed back to when I was eleven years old and they announced over the loudspeaker in the schoolyard that JFK had been shot. My first thought then, as was on that cold night in December that he was probably shot in the arm and would be recovering. JFK didn't recover and neither did John Winston Lennon and later John Ono Lennon. My musical mentor and hero was dead, brutally and premeditatedly murdered by some insane twerp who was trying to emulate the pop/rock icon. He lived in Hawaii and had a Japanese girlfriend and he wore the same round glasses as John. He tried everything possible to emulate his idol but there was one thing he could never do—he could never be John Lennon the man, the icon was still alive—so he shot him.
Mark David Chapman had gotten an autograph a few hours earlier (Lennon signed a copy of the Double Fantasy album) and was waiting in the courtyard of The Dakota on 72nd and Central Park West for him to come back from a recording session. At around 10:50 pm on that fateful day, as Lennon and Ono returned to their New York apartment, Chapman shot John in the back four times at the entrance to the building on 72nd  Street. He was taken to the emergency room of nearby Roosevelt Hospital and was pronounced dead on arrival at 11:07 pm. Yoko issued a statement the next day, saying “There is no funeral for John”, ending it with the words, “John loved and prayed for the human race. Please pray the same for him.”
I was more than devastated, I was in shock. Even though Howard Cosell is long gone, I don’t think I can ever watch Monday Night Football again without being reminded of that horrible evening— the evening the music really died. I stayed in my bed on Radford for a week only getting up to stagger down to the liquor store to buy more Kessler’s whiskey, being the only booze I could afford. Even though Marly and I had broken up, she felt so sorry for me, and knew how much I had adored and looked up to John Lennon, she decided to take care of me. We actually got back together for three months and I spent time at both my place on Radford and her place on Shadyglade, about two miles to the west down Moorpark. We finally broke up for good after realizing that we were better at being friends than lovers, still is was a very kind thing for her to do, knowing how I felt about John Lennon and what a complete mess I was after his death.
I had to write a song about Lennon’s murder. Not a gruesome detail of the crime, but more of a tribute to his life. I had one verse and part of a chorus when I called Stephen. He had just spent more than a month sleeping on a cot in my kitchen listening to the electric hum of the refrigerator which, he said, put him into a hypnotic state. I think he was living back in Santa Monica, or maybe it was on Lloyd Street with his mother, Mary. With the receiver wedged between my left shoulder and my chin and a guitar balanced on my lap, we had finished the chorus and the song was really starting to take shape. After we hung up the phone, I worked on it some more but I knew it needed a bridge so I called Larry. He wrote the musical portion of the bridge and later, Stephen and I had written the lyrics to his musical passage. The song was finished in three days. Was this going to be a Silverspoon reunion all brought about by the death of Jon Lennon? It looked possible, but I was going to take it one step at a time and not try and project anything other than we were going to record this song the best we could and then see what happened.  We called the song, Last Autograph. Here are the words:
He was a lost and lonely child
Growing up like a hurricane running wild.
And then a meeting with a boy named Paul
Began the dream that would soon be heard by all.
He had the love of the world but he felt alone.
Until his wife and boy became his only home
Another meeting that was set by fate
Ended the dream point bland with a 38.
It was his last autograph
Hey mister, won’t you sign your name?
It was his last, last autograph
Cut down, in the prime of his life.
Now the singer’s gone but the song remains
With words of love and peaceful change
He was a man the whole world cried for
Can’t you see it was the world he lived and died for.
It was his last autograph
Hey mister, won’t you sign your name?
It was his last, last autograph
He became a victim of his fame.
We may have lost our innocence that cold December night.
It’s got to be a lie I heard a young girl cry
We’re wounded in the battle, but we haven’t lost the fight.
(Double chorus and fade)

            In early January of 1981, after the song was completed, we booked a studio in Hollywood and hired some of the best musicians we worked with in the past. Beau Segal on drums, Chuck Fiore on bass, Larry on keys, Stephen on guitar and myself, who played electric guitar and sang the lead vocal in my best Lennon snarl. Joey was slated to sing the high harmony but he had to wait around until I had finished my vocal, and then overdub his part on top of that. It was beginning to get late, but we wanted to finish the song, even if we had to go all the way until dawn. We had enough of the white powdery substance to sustain us, and I was doling it out to everyone there, especially the recording engineer, who had invested some of his own money in the stimulant. Joey was frantic and bored—not a good combination. He knew soon it would be time for him to sing, so he asked me for my “stuff”, and then went into the bathroom to prepare himself for his vocal. While this was happening, I was in the control room with Larry, Stephen and the rest of the crew putting the final tweaks on the track, you know, adding echo delay to the vocal to make it sound more like John. With that being done, it was time for Joey to do his thing.
All he had to do was a harmony a third above mine, some ooh’s and ah’s etc. We called out his name—no answer. We looked down the hallway—no Joey. He was gone and had taken every grain of the white powdery substance with him. We were pissed, but no one more so than the engineer who was part owner of the drug. The session was over. We did finish it with Brent Nelson singing the high harmony at some other studio in the San Fernando Valley since nobody heard a thing from Joey after that.
I did see Joey one last time in the middle or tail end of the eighties. He had married a woman named Faith who had a young daughter, Nina, and he was an instant family man. I was hoping the stability of married life would straighten him out, and it did for awhile, but it didn't take. He left Faith and Nina, or he was released, and once again he was a wild single man on the loose and left to his own destructive devices. He was trying and failing miserably at getting sober. I myself was having a rough time and was at an AA meeting in Hollywood when I recognized that chipmunk smile and machine gun laugh of Joey’s. We thought it would be great to catch up on some old times so we decided to go to the Café Figaro to talk and just hang out. He said he had been in and out of rehabilitation centers so often they had his name permanently attached to the door—the Joseph Hamilton wing. He was having a really rough time and I felt bad for him. Even though he had almost single-handedly ruined the session for Last Autograph, I forgave him. What else could I do? He was a poor lost soul who was too caught up in his own self destructive patterns he couldn't escape from. I was bad enough, and Stephen and Larry had their problems, but Joey’s problems were more than all of ours put together. He went in and out of rehab center for the next few years and sadly passed away in 1993 from complications of hepatitis—he had all three kinds, A, B and C. His brother Jeffrey died at the same age in 1995 from the same disease—both at the tender age of 41. I was greatly saddened by Joey’s death (and Jeffrey’s too), but more so by the fact that I never really got to know him. He was a bit of a loner and ran around with a select crowd of people that I never wanted to associate with—nobody in the band did. Joey was stoic and, as I said before, he was harder to read than Finnegan’s Wake by James Joyce. Joey was a great singer and a great athlete, but as a person he never did reach his potential and was a disappointment to not only his friends and family, but to himself. I guess it was hard for him to live up to the expectations of his father, Joe, and his step mother, Carol Burnett. I wish that he had tried a little harder to push through his pain and deal with his demons, which were more than plentiful. I still think about him from time to time with an air of sadness and regret.

Back to Last Autograph. The song turned out better than expected, and in late January or early February, Larry and I drove up to San Francisco in Jeff Hamilton’s VW bug to mix the record with Richie Moore at the helm. He was teaching recording techniques in a studio on Hayes Street at the north end of the city. After we were done mixing, we headed out of town but there was an unusual amount of traffic and we couldn't understand why at that time in the evening, especially on a Sunday. We figured there must have been an accident up ahead because cars were at a standstill. We turned on the radio to get a traffic update and we caught the tail end of the sports report announcing the Super Bowl had just concluded in Oakland and we were driving right trough it’s immediate aftermath.
Everyone thought the song was great; maybe the best thing Silverspoon had done since You Hurt Me So at the Record Plant back in 1974. We pitched it to a few record companies but everyone thought that it sounded too much like John Lennon and it was so near the time of his death nobody wanted to touch it with a ten foot pole. Not long after that, Larry went back to his house on Mammoth with Jeffrey and decided he had enough. He knew, as well as everyone else, that Last Autograph would be the swan song, the last hurrah for Silverspoon. With Joey’s antics and the rejection of the song by the music industry, I also knew it was over. Stephen was the only one who still kept the candle burning in his heart for the band. It was so much a part of his DNA that he found it next to impossible to let go. Sometimes I think he still holds out hope against hope the band will re-unite, even though over one third of the members are no longer on this planet.
            In September of 1981, after seeing Bruce Springsteen at the Forum, Larry and I decided to form a duo called Two Guys from Van Nuys. We had a gig at the Sidewalk Café in Venice the next night. Stephen, as I said before, had just come back from Carmel with a guitar and amp with designs on joining the Two Guys, but Larry and I wanted to keep it as a duo. Stephen was dejected and it was a year or two before I saw him again. He was, like the rest of us having a tough time with alcohol and it was becoming a real problem for him—not to mention his strict diet of coffee, donuts and cigarettes. One day in 1982 an event of which most likely saved his life occurred while smoking his usual Marlboro light and drinking his coffee hot, blonde and sweet, Stephen looked out the window and noticed a yard sale in the alley behind Jon Marr’s apartment on Fourth Street in Santa Monica. He wandered down to see if there was anything interesting to buy at a meager price, because, at the time, meager was all he could afford. He saw a Smith Corona manual typewriter and had a notion that he would write the next great American novel. Standing next to the typewriter there was an attractive brunette who happened to catch his bespectacled eye. He began talking to her and before they knew it they were falling in love. Her name was Portia, and it still is, and she has been there by his side ever since and still live together in Venice. God bless them.
           




Monday, July 22, 2013

Chapter 57 – Mr. Accessory Becomes Mr. Extravagant


Chas had party after party in his house on Milner Road and later in his villa on Queen Victoria Drive in Woodland Hills. Did Chas single-handedly change the course of American history? It’s possible—anything was possible with him. I remember once his grandiose imagination had gotten the better of him and he was going to hire a 747 jet to fly to Africa and transport a studio full of vintage gear that was up for auction. It almost became a reality but soon realized that it wouldn’t be cost effective, and besides I think George Martin or Geoff Emerick had gotten the jump on him and procured the sought after studio equipment for Abbey Road Studios in London. Yes Mr. Accessory (or as my Mom used to call him Mr. Accoutrement) was now known as Mr. Extravagant. He was blown up out of proportion, in more ways than one and was travelling in some fairly heavyweight circles. Every night was an event of outlandish proportions, each night outweighing the next until it seemed like there was nowhere else it could go but down—but it didn’t. He would always be at the head of the table at the Rainbow and would run a tab that must have reached into the hundreds if not thousands of dollars. I was happy to participate and get my complimentary151 Bacardi rum and cokes. He was the new BJ Taylor, but at least he had the talent to back it up. How he kept it together was one thing I could never figure out. He would be one day from disaster and eviction when a check would mysteriously appear in his mailbox and save his ever-loving hide. He would be lying face up under the dangling Sword of Damocles and would always escape unfettered and unscathed.
All this schmoozing, boozing and bamboozling finally paid off. He had a hit with Missing You by John Waite of the Baby’s and now was courting Stevie Nicks after she had recorded his song, Talk to Me, a song he had written for his girl, Elise, who always confided in me about her trials and tribulations with him. I can’t tell you how many of his girlfriends I fulfilled that role for. Let’s see, there was the sexy Bonnie B. who I would pick up five mornings a week and drive her to central Supply in Van Nuys so she could earn a living and on the way I would have my ear bent off from stories of how Chas did this or that and what was the best way to handle him. Before that it was Pam B., who would pick my brain like a vintage Telecaster about his inner most thoughts—like I knew what they were. I don’t think anyone knew that—not even Chas.
That was my position in life, according to Chas—to be his best friend and confidant but (in his eyes) never to be his equal when it came to guitar playing or songwriting. He thought because I was the son of a character actor that my songs had a tendency to sound “Broadway-like” to him. I guess I could have taken it as a compliment, but it wasn’t meant as a compliment and I knew it. Yes, I liked a good melody and interesting chord changes, but all that I had learned from John Lennon and Paul McCartney, not Sammy Cahn or Irving Berlin. I guess I could do a lot worse if I remotely reminded folks of the latter two.
 Looking back, I wonder what people must have thought of me always tagging along and riding on his coattails. Was I a Sancho Panza to his Don Quixote? Was I a Tonto to his Lone Ranger, or maybe a Lou Costello to his Bud Abbott? At the time I didn’t seem to mind, but I was usually high or drunk and that state of mind clouded my judgments. I guess I must have thought that by being around Mr. Extravagant, some of it would rub off on me, but it didn’t take. There was that old competitiveness or jealousy rearing its ugly head again. We only wrote a couple of songs together; I had to practically twist his arm to make those songs a reality. The only compliment he ever paid to my guitar playing was my solo on the final Silverspoon recording of Last Autograph— as if complimenting me would take away from his abilities. It made me feel unappreciated and unimportant but I would cover it up or light up a joint or drink a shot of Jack Daniels and chill. Did it all stem from my criticism of the song he wrote in Larry Gordon’s office in 1974? Was it because we and Mal Evans fired him from Silverspoon a few months after that?  I could never be sure and I also could never understand this aspect of our friendship. There is now a lot of water under that proverbial bridge but sometimes I see the waves crashing against the pylons and it makes me wonder. I spend a lot of time wondering these days, especially after immersing myself in this Silverspoon saga.
 How did Chas get that song to Stevie Nicks, you might wonder? He had sent a demo of the song to Jimmy Iovine, famed producer of many rock icons and more notably, one of the judges or mentors on American Idol. What a sad commentary on the state of things in the world when a person is more noteworthy for being on American Idol than producing records by Bruce Springsteen, John Lennon and Tom Petty. Anyway, Jimmy was driving around for over a year with a cassette of Talk to Me trapped between the seat cushions and floorboards of his Porsche, and one day, after slamming on the brakes to avoid a collision, the tape surfaced at his feet near the clutch pedal. He popped the cassette into the player and, after hearing it, called the phone number on the label of the cassette. Chas wasn’t home but when he did arrive he played back the almost indistinguishable message of some raving lunatic with a grating tenor New York accent. He got the gist of the message. Jimmy was producing a record for Stevie Nicks and thought that his song would be a major hit for her. Chas was basically producing the record since Jimmy was always off somewhere doing something else. The original basic track of Chas’s demo was used for the record and Stevie’s vocal was “comped” (a composite vocal) into one final and finished vocal performance, which, according to Chas was no easy task. He had to fly in some of her vocal from another take of the song which was also in another key. This all happened in the days before computer programs and digital recording allowed one to manipulate, change the key, and auto-tune the vocal. He had to do it manually with a VSO, or variable speed oscillator. There was even one section where he had to punch in his own vocal and make it sound, as much as he could, like that warbling, nanny goat of a songstress.
It in the spring or summer of 1981, (right after I had my close-up in the Robert Altman film, A Perfect Couple), I was invited down to the video shoot of the record and was sitting in the trailer with Chas and Stevie when Tom Petty stumbled in. He was wearing a multi-colored, patchwork suede jacket that I admired greatly. When I mentioned how I liked the jacket he said, “How much will you give me for it?” I had no intention of making him an offer on it, so I smiled and said that I only liked it. He wouldn’t let go of the notion. He kept on and on about the jacket like a used car salesman trying to pawn off an old vintage Camaro and went on and on about it like he was on some kind of cocaine induced rant. After what seemed like hours of deliberating and proselytizing he got onto a new tangent which relieved me no end. I never bought the jacket.
Moving the story forward to April of 1987, former Senator Gary Hart announced the beginning of his second presidential campaign and somehow ended up at one of Chas’s opulent parties. There were dozens upon dozens of beautiful women, rock stars and rock star wannabes mingling and mixing around the living room while Chas blasted his latest demos from the state of the art sound system. Gary Hart had focused his attention on one woman in particular and asked Chas to introduce her to him. Chas smiled and said it was no problem. “Gary, I would like you to meet my friend, Donna.” Yes, it was that Donna.

 Less than a month later, the Miami Herald published a photo of a young woman leaving Hart's residence. The candidate expressed outrage at the paper, but within a week the Herald received tips that Hart had visited Bimini with a woman who was not his wife, then published photos showing a 29-year-old model, Donna Rice, sitting on Hart's lap. Less than a week later, Hart announced he was dropping out of the race (he would later re-enter, unsuccessfully). Chas was, and still is an enigma, a one-of-a kind character and a big part of the drama played out in the crazy but true-to-life story of my life, pre and post Silverspoon. I must say, he was a lot of fun to be around, most of the time—so I got plenty out of being his best friend. It was like the old Woody Allen joke in Annie Hall about the guy who had a brother that thought he was a chicken. When a friend suggested he go see a shrink about the problem the guy said “I would, but I needed the eggs. Like Woody Allen, I guess I also needed the eggs.


Monday, July 15, 2013

Chapter 56 - Avon Street




I had re-connected with Beau Segal and Chuck Fiore, who had heard some of my demos and they agreed to produce a couple of tracks in Electra Records studio in Northridge or Van Nuys. Electra had the right of first refusal, meaning that they had the first option to sign me as an artist on their label. It was now January 27, 1979 (I remember because it is my brother, Robbie’s birthday) and we all decided to take a break in recording. Chuck had heard of this fantastic BBQ place not too far from the studio and he was going to meet his girlfriend there. We sat at a long red and white checkered table in the back with Chuck, Beau, Jimmy Eingher and Josh Leo (who played lead guitar on the tracks). She walked in and sat down next to her boyfriend, Chuck, and across from me. I tried my best, but couldn't take my eyes off of her and I would catch her sneaking looks at me. She was beautiful—looked a lot like Kate Jackson from the show Charlie’s Angels. I knew it was wrong to be interested in her since she was Chuck’s lady, but I couldn't help it— we knew it was bigger than both of us. We became friends and I would go over to her house on Avon Drive in Burbank or she would visit me on Gould in Laurel Canyon. At this point our relationship was purely platonic, but Chuck felt uncomfortable and so did I. I knew things were changing with me and this lovely brunette and soon I would have to make a choice between career and love. I chose love. Her name was, and still is, Marly Wexler—my only Jewish girlfriend, ever. The deal with Electra fell through after that as I knew it would. Chuck and Marly broke up and I’m sure he blamed me for that break-up. If I had to do it all over again I would probably do the same thing. “Love is all there is and cannot be denied,” as Bob Dylan said on his Nashville Skyline record, and it certainly wasn't denied. Thanks, Bob.
We loved to smoke pot on her white flowered couch with the navy blue background, and watch Kung Fu with David Carradine in the role of Kwai Chang Caine. We were fine—as long as we never left the apartment. Marly, a quite opinionated, mostly on the subject of health of body, and mind, department, was a runner. She wore those yellow Nike shoes and had long, chestnut hair down past her waist. I had a lot of fun with that hair—I wasn't sure about the shoes. Running was okay with me, but I found it hard to keep up with her. It was good for my competitive spirit to try and, eventually I did keep up. I wasn't long before I started getting those pains in the knees, runner’s knee, I think it’s called. That was it for me with running. She still went on her afternoon runs with her old black dog with the white muzzle she called Marou. I was very romantically in love with her, I thought, but that jealousy was too hard to bear. Hey, I was a little jealous of her when she got a job at Bizarre Bazaar on Ventura Blvd. selling exotic jerkins and robes from the Middle East and India. She had met a game show personality by the name of Geoff Edwards there and had made plans with him to go to San Francisco with him on a day trip. I was not living with Marly yet, but I felt that we were getting to be close to a relationship—a monogamous one. I guess my feelings were a bit premature.
There was a signing party at Capitol Records for The Knack and I took her there with me—a big mistake. She thought all the people there were insincere posers and took every one of them apart with criticism. I was only trying to promote my career and be seen at, what I thought was, an important function. We left after an hour and went back to her apartment on Avon, most likely to watch another episode of Kung Fu.
Marly was getting involved with an organization called Lifespring and had gone through the initial seminar training program. I followed suit, like with the running; I didn't want to be left behind. Lifespring was another off-shoot of the EST movement. They would probably be insulted to be put in this category, but I can’t help but say it was very similar to EST without the harshness— a little dash of love thrown in for good measure.  There was a young woman sitting across the room from me by the name of Toolie (a nick-name for O’Toole) with ash blonde hair and soft lovely features—I couldn't take my eyes off of her. It was better than sitting there listening to a bunch of new age holy rollers speak about whatever it was they were speaking about. She was furious with me over this. Hey, I was only looking, which I felt was a man’s God given right. I wasn’t making any plans to go to bed with her or anything, only indulging an innocent fantasy. Marly said I should forget about her and go ask Toolie out on a date and marry her—she said I was destined to be with a blonde, not a dark haired woman like herself. I laughed, even though she ended up being right. I did end up marrying a strawberry-blonde Scottish woman ten years after (not the band)—I’ll get to that a bit later.
Marly, after completing the initial training was slated to become a trainer in Lifespring. It is required for a trainee to attend an advanced course which would last over a period of one month, five days a week. She was going for it all the way, and I went along for the ride. Knowing that I really wasn't too interested in becoming a trainer myself, I only wanted to share the experience and be able to spend more time with her. This was a mistake. One of the requirements of the training was to go out and talk to people about the benefits of Lifespring and get them signed up—the more the merrier. I had a resistance to this. I felt that if, in conversation, someone would ask me if there was any organization that would help a person to get in touch with their inner feelings and such, I would be more than happy to introduce them to Lifespring, but to try and sell a complete stranger on the seminar was way beyond my comfort zone. I didn't sign anybody…nada. At the next trainer meeting, they more than intimated they were not happy with my performance, all this was acted out in the room with over fifty other Lifespringers, I was voted out for the sole reason of not making people aware of, or what I thought was, proselytizing the benefits of their organization. Marly was furious at this personal attack on me, her boyfriend, and with resolve, strode up to the podium where she read the group of people the riot act. It was one of the best things I ever saw her do. She actually quit Lifespring after that. It was back to a joint on the couch and Kung Fu at last.
There was another party in Burbank at Ernie’s house. Ernie was a good friend of Rick Springfield before his monster smash album, the one with Jessie’s Girl on it. Before this party Rick would come over to the apartment on Avon to visit Marly even though by now I had moved in. I had a sneaking suspicion that they were having an affair, but I didn't pursue it any further. Maybe she was the girl in Jessie’s Girl and I was Jessie? One day I needed a lift to Hollywood to hook up with Chas or Doug Fieger, and I asked Rick if he would give me a ride there. He had an old VW bug with a funky cassette player. On the way to Hollywood he played me the basic tracks to his new album (the one with Jessie’s Girl) and asked me what I thought of it. I told him it was really good and commercial sounding and that it should do really well. I was right—it did. Anyway back at the party, it was a nice little get together with some of the Lifespring folks and a few other musician and actor types—maybe fifty people in all. There was a big table set up with all sorts of delicacies and I had a plate of spaghetti marinara. I was standing up while eating my spaghetti and looking around the room at some of the beauties when, from out of nowhere, Marly had reached from under my paper plate of pasta and pushed it into my white, high collared shirt. I was mortified. The shirt, which was once white, was now red with marinara sauce. It was a food fight, like the kind you might see in a movie, but we were the only participants. I then took the remainder of my plate and smushed it into her hair. She threw a salad on my head. It was out of control now and I wasn't going to let her get away with that so I upped the ante and retaliated at a higher (or lower) level. I did something that was horrible and still feel badly about. I took a sip of my Chivas Regal scotch and shot a thin stream of the whiskey at her and it found its way to her left eye—she was in dire pain. I took her into the bathroom and tried to wash out the alcohol but she seemed incapacitated. After a few minutes the pain in her eye had subsided and we left the party with our tails between our legs. I was reminded later that Rick had told Marly at the party to leave me and be with him. He also asked her if she was wearing underwear, hoping she wasn't. Marly thought that comment was extremely inappropriate, but she told me anyway. I guess that's why I wanted to leave. The more I think about it, the more I really believe that I was Jessie. I should contact him now and ask for a piece of the action.
Three times we tried to make it to Magic Mountain but never succeeded. The first time, her Volvo had overheated on the Interstate 5 and we had to call triple A. The second time, we had a fight in the car, probably over Toolie or some other jealousy and we turned around and went back home. I know I am getting a little ahead of myself in the story, but the third time was on July 16, 1980, her thirtieth birthday. I said, “Why don’t we try to make it out to Magic Mountain again?” She agreed and we drove out there in her navy blue Volvo 144. I was staring at the clear multi-faceted crystal that hung from her rear view mirror, not really thinking about anything in particular. We had stopped at a gas station not far from Avon to fill up when somehow another fight was in the works. I had enough. I was fuming and got out of the car and I guess I slammed the passenger door a little bit too hard—the glass in the passenger window had shattered and pieces had fallen into the interior of the car. I told her to enjoy the rest of her birthday without me and I would walk back to the apartment and proceed to move out—back to Oakhurst again. I walked up the stairs to the second floor flat, and once inside a found a few paper grocery bags, since I had no luggage there, and packed my things. I called my mom to come pick me up in her Mercedes which she did. An hour later she had arrived in Burbank and I saw that my brother Robbie was in the back seat. By now it was about dinner time and Robbie said, “Hey Jimmy, let’s go down to that great Chinese restaurant on Fairfax you always went with Marly, the one across the street from Cantor’s Deli.” I said, “Sure, why not.” But I wasn’t really hungry—I had a sick feeling in my stomach. We parked the car on the street and I followed behind Mom and Robbie into the restaurant. I heard a familiar voice. “Hello James.” It was Marly who had gone to “our” restaurant with her friend Debbie Bombe to celebrate what remained of her birthday. Interestingly enough, before Marly, I was always Jimmy, but she insisted on calling me James. So if you knew me as Jimmy, you knew me before January 27, 1979, after that you most likely knew me as James. Anyway, after recognizing her voice at the table in the front, I went over to her and apologized for my outburst. I knew it was over between us but, after seeing her only hours after out last fight, I figured we were destined to be friends. It’s better off that way. Maybe it was fate that brought us together since the instant I looked into those familiar deep brown eyes—like looking into another version of my own eyes, I knew we were connected. Either, as the writer of this story titled his 2010 album, Timing is Everything, (available on iTunes) our timing was wrong; we were not too great as lovers, and she never really considered me as marriage potential. God as my witness I asked her to marry me seven times and she refused me each one. She said I wasn't ready or some other thing of that nature, but it was the green eyed monster of jealousy that has a choke-hold on us and we couldn't let the beast go.
I may have made the wrong choice, maybe not, but I was caught between two such diametrically opposed ambitions, and it’s too late to go back and re-do it, get a mulligan, in a manner of speaking. It turns out how it turns out. Stay tuned. We still are in touch and she now lives in San Diego—she never did get married. Not yet, anyway.





Monday, July 8, 2013

Chapter - 55 - Mammoth Avenue



It was 1980 and the television sets of America were inundated with ads for Ronald Reagan or Jimmy Carter for president. Larry had moved into a house on Mammoth St. in Van Nuys with Jeffrey Hamilton, who was making a name for himself as a make-up artist in LA. Larry got involved with a The Palmer Drug Abuse Program or PDAP after being introduced to it by Jeffrey. They both had a desire now to be sober; Larry, because he felt that he would like to experience life without being high, which he hadn’t done since he was fourteen, and Jeffrey because he was over the top with substance abuse and was suffering with hepatitis. PDAP is a twelve-step program located in Houston and joining is relatively easy. There are no forms to fill out; there weren’t any interviews or registration process to complete, and families are not required to pay anything. This was perfect for Larry since, at the time, he didn’t have two dimes to rub together.
In Houston, Larry and Jeffrey met the Paschal brothers, Mark and Mike and they had come back to Van Nuys to hang out in the house on Mammoth. Another Robin, this time it was Larry who would have dibs on her, also followed the merry gang of PDAP alumni and before too long there was a whole host of people living at the three bedroom house in Van Nuys. Mark had a girlfriend by the name of Hilary, who was absolutely beautiful, reminding of a French Julie Christie, with big brown eyes and dark blonde hair and too cute to be a minute over seventeen as described in the Chuck Berry song, Little Queenie. I had a bit of a crush on her—so did everyone. I think I was the only one who didn’t sleep with her after she arrived at the legal age in California.
Mike’s girlfriend was a New Jersey girl by the name of Martine—also a member of the tribe that Larry and I belonged to. She had short dark hair and big brown eyes and I liked her a bit. I was single and fancy free and just because she had a boyfriend, it wasn’t really a big deal if I flirted a bit—nothing serious, mind you. I remember Martine giving me the best back rub after I had been up all night with Larry recording. I think it felt so good I had non-chalantly asked her to marry me. I had later asked Marly to marry me and was rejected seven times. I didn’t ask anyone to marry me after that until right after my father died. It was Thanksgiving of 1988 and I finally asked the right woman, Donna Smollett— she said yes. I’m proud and happy to say we are still married with three sons and live in an old farmhouse with four dogs, two cats and two turtles named Phil and Tiger that we brought back from Florida two years ago.
 Martine laughed and knew I wasn’t serious—and I think she may have been considering it herself. She just laughed and said, “Right, James,” or something to that effect. Everyone was after Hilary and I think most everyone got what they wanted with her, especially after Mark went back to Houston and she stayed behind. Hilary and Martine were becoming best friends.
After a relatively short while, Larry and his Robin broke up. A few week later, Larry was standing in line smoking a Marlboro (these were the days when you could smoke in public places) when a darling, freckle-faced, red-head recognized him from behind. She knew it had to be Larry by the way he smoked his cigarette, with an aggressive manner of holding it tightly between index and middle finger and the thumb, flicking ashes on the floor while his thoughts were focused on where, what or who was happening that night. Her name was Patricia and she was his old girlfriend from Baltimore from almost ten years earlier. She used to come down to his rehearsals in Pikesville, Maryland, and listen attentively to his soaring Hammond B-3 organ, the one he had to carry to the basement inching his way down a narrow suburban staircase, in his first band, Lucifer’s Mother. They would hang out together listening to Cat Stevens. It was Patricia who had turned Larry on the song “Father and Sons” which had greatly influenced him in, not only his music but his entire life. They hit it off there at the bank like no time had passed at all. I don’t know if it was on a sudden impulse or if it had been discussed at great detail, but Patricia went back to Baltimore and made plans to move out to LA to live with Larry and Jeffrey at Mammoth Avenue. The rest of the gang had moved on at this point. Mark and Mike went back to Houston. Hilary had run off and married some French dude, had a baby, and was nowhere to be found and Martine had gotten her own place in the valley near Coldwater and Magnolia.
Patricia was an enigma and I really thought she was great. She was totally in love with Larry and would do anything in the world for him. She was a first class chef and made some of the best dinners (when I was invited to dinner, which was usually most of the time) I had ever tasted. She got a job as a bar-maid at Roger’s on Beverly Drive and when Larry and I came in to visit her she would always have a glass of Frangelico waiting for us at the bar. She was a walking contradiction—the type of girl who would get high on coke and then do yoga— but she was as lovable as the day was long. Her father, Huck, owned a music store back in Towson, Maryland by the Baltimore docks, and when Larry and I formed a duo later in 1981 called Two Guys from Van Nuys, she would have her father mail her guitar strings and harmonicas, which she would be more than happy to dole out for the cause. I think I have one or two of those harmonicas laying around my studio still here in Tennessee. Larry, Patsy (a name Larry had called her, but I always called her Patricia) and I were constantly together. She would come with us to all of our gigs at places like The Natural Fudge in Hollywood and the Bla Bla Café in Studio City, where we had a regular gig once a month on Wednesday nights. She was there when we recorded our first demos at Creative Space, a studio where you paid ten dollars an hour and they would throw you into a room with a four-track cassette recorder and leave you to your own devices. It was really a great idea and ahead of its time, since now everyone and his mother can do home studio recordings, which is what Creative Space, in fact, really was. I think that Patricia even paid for those sessions. She was the best!
 Soon things would take a turn for the worse between her and Larry, and she got a little bit insane. She would bang her head against the wall trying to make Larry react or respond to her cries of love, but he couldn’t deal with it, or her. It was too hard watching her disintegrate before his very eyes. She was sent to a mental ward and, much to Larry’s displeasure, took great joys in weaving baskets. He got her out of there after a week or so, but they eventually broke up and it would lead, or at least contribute, to her total demise. After awhile, the Two Guys from Van Nuys had decided to call it quits and Larry was playing music now with Jon Lowery, who had a cover band and they had a gig in some dive on Western Ave. near Third Street. Patricia had moved into an apartment in West Hollywood with a room-mate, an actor and stunt man by the name of John, and they were completely platonic. I started visiting her there and our friendship was turning into something more—we started falling in love. I wasn’t sure if she really loved me, or if it was because I was Larry musical partner and friend, as if just being with someone so close to Larry would be like having a piece of him there with her.
When I drove up to John’s and her apartment complex on La Jolla I would park my car on the street and instead of ringing her doorbell, I would stand outside her balcony and play the intro to Thunder Road on my harmonica and beckon her to come out. It was very romantic, reminding me of a modern West Hollywood version from Romeo and Juliet. I can still see her in my mind wearing those Flashdance leg warmers over black leotards, low cut t shirt that exposed one of her shoulders nicely and her hair tied back in a fiery ponytail. Her face was a constellation of freckles interspersed over milky white skin, her top lip pointed sharply upwards making a pronounced V as it lay a perfect distance from the bottom of her nose. Patricia was classically beautiful in a French way. I could almost see her beneath a parasol drifting in a boat upon the Seine in a Matisse or a Monet painting as she stood on the balcony indicating that she would be right down to meet me.
 I was in two minds about our relationship and felt guilty that I was involved with Larry’s old love even though they had officially broken up. I went down to the dive on Third Street where Larry was playing keyboards for Jon Lowery, and was determined to tell him I was now seeing his old girlfriend. I didn’t know how he was going to take it, but I had to tell him. If it were me, I would have been devastated, but not Larry. He was not only happy about it; he was relieved that someone he knew and trusted would be looking out for her. I had built up all these scenarios in my head for nothing.
I’m going to skip ahead in to late 1982. I had an apartment on Highland Avenue not far from the Hollywood Bowl. It was an older house that was dived into three separate apartments and mine was on the northern part of the house. The apartment was taller than it was wide; I think the ceiling was fifteen feet high. It had a living room, bathroom and a small kitchenette. I had asked Patricia to move in with me and she tentatively agreed. That night when we went to sleep, we were awoken by scratching noise coming from the wall. As soon as we turned on the lights to investigate, the noises stopped. This went on for an hour or two and we eventually saw the cause of all that scratching and clawing—it was a rat that had chewed a hole in the wall and was staring at us from the foot of the bed. She freaked out and decided not to move in and we thought we should remain friends instead of lovers. She found a place on Wilcox in Hollywood with— yes it is true, a self-proclaimed warlock named Robin (yes, another Robin—but this time he was a male) as a room-mate. He was a quiet and calculating young man who dabbled in the black arts and Patricia ended up marrying him at a witch’s coven on Ivar just south of Hollywood Blvd.—it was a white wedding and I, of course, didn’t go. She had shaved her head except for a red tail that protruded from the back of her shiny cranium. She claimed having a bald head was freeing up the highest chakra so she could be closer to God. I would still visit her, bald head and all, and would ask her jokingly to put on a hat. She had changed, losing her sense of humor which was always so prominent. I didn’t like her husband in the least and I didn’t think he was good for her, but ever since her break-up with Larry she was treading on thin ice. I was a happy distraction for awhile, but I knew things with her were going very dark and I didn’t know what to do about it. The last time I ever took a psychedelic, I was with Patricia in a park near Santa Barbara. I told her with presentiment that after she died I wished for her ghost to visit me. She told me in all seriousness, like it was a foregone conclusion; she would do that very thing.
A little more than a month later a letter came to Larry. It was from Patricia and it was addressed to nine people, Larry and I being two of them. It stated that she and Robin had grown tired of this crazy world and had planned to shoot each other with pistols at point blank range and their bodies would be found in Griffith Park. Was she bluffing? Could she actually do such a thing, such an insane desperate thing as mutual suicide? Their house was left with everything still intact except for a suitcase that was assumed to contain clothing, guns and food— but they were gone. For ten years the mystery of her disappearance was scrutinized by the local police and her mother and father had hired a private detective to find her. They were gone without a trace. I had a dream one night about her. I saw her riding in what looked like a miniature train circling through the Painted Desert or California Sierra forests, I couldn’t be sure—you know how dreams are, they can change locales in a split second. It was like that train ride in Disneyland—the western one under a blue sky streaked with cotton candy clouds thinly scattered like they were being pulled by young children trying to see how far they would stretch before breaking apart. The train kept circling around a mountain pass never seeming to get any higher or lower—just going around and around into oblivion. It seemed like a message to me. I knew she was somewhere near a train. But where? For ten years they searched every square inch of Griffith Park, but they must have missed the area, at the north end of the park. In a ravine near a grove of twisted trees their bodies were finally recovered—about a hundred yards from the kiddie train. Was Larry jinxed or doomed? He was lucky in all aspects of his life but one—his love life. First it was Christa, then Caroleen and now the lovely Patricia. There would be one more tragic loss of love for Larry in the near future that goes beyond the boundaries of this story. If I were a girl I would stay as far away from him as humanly possible. Patricia was damaged goods and maybe it was wrong for her to come to LA where, as Ogden Nash once said, “the United States in built on a slant and everything that is loose rolls to Southern California”, or would the same thing have happened if she stayed in Baltimore. God only knows; but he’s not telling me—or maybe I’m not listening. Sometimes I don’t—but other times I do.



Monday, July 1, 2013

Chapter 54 - You Bette Your Life



At this point in 1978, Chas and I used to hang out a lot together, being neighbors and all. I remember one time we took a walk out past his house on Walnut into the more underdeveloped regions of Laurel Canyon. It was a beautiful sunny day in LA (aren't they all like that?) and we stopped at a clearing where I could finally try to explain astrology to him using a walking stick I had found for emphasis. I drew an astrological chart in the dirt with the walking stick and divided the circle into twelve equal parts. As I was engrossed in my explanation, I didn't notice a small black cloud was forming directly over our heads, but Chas noticed and said, “Maybe this is not such a good idea, James.” I told him not to worry so much about it and I was almost through. He was not convinced, especially after a giant of a man, who looked like an overstuffed version of Grizzly Adams, appeared on the horizon as was walking at a rapid pace in our direction.
“Let’s get the hell out of here,” Chas pleaded, but I needed to finish. As the beast of a man came closer I did begin to feel like we had overstayed our welcome. The behemoth was casting a giant shadow over us as the cloud grew darker above.
“What are you boys doing here? This is private property,” he said in a deep gravelly voice. We left before I could finish my explanation of his chart and I don’t think he ever had any intention of finding out about it in the future.
Chas was on a roll. His band, Romanse, was hired to perform in the Robert Altman film, A Perfect Couple, with Ted Neely (from Jesus Christ Superstar) and Paul Dooley, a wonderful character actor. I went down to visit him on the set of the film and I sat in the audience of the Greek Theater where they shooting a scene with the band playing. There were a few other people in the audience but it hardly, if it were filmed without effects, seemed like a full house. A little while later Chas was watching the rushes of that scene and he was amazed to see a full screen shot of me that lasted for more than ten seconds. My face on the silver screen drinking a coke was all you could see. I have to rent that film and see if I made it to the final cut.
After seeing this band of Chas’s in the film, Bette Midler auditioned them and they passed with flying colors. They performed to a sold out crowd for over a week at the Greek Theater. One night, after a performance, I was there backstage with him and we had stayed a little too long. When we went back to his Rover in the parking lot, we found it was locked in behind a chain. Chas called a few people for a ride, I guess he wasn't a member of triple A, but nobody was around. He finally called Bette, and her and her not entirely virtuous friend, Tanya Tucker, rescued us in a silver Rolls Royce limo, where the white powdery substance was passed around. Bette did not partake of the powder but did crack open a bottle of Dom Perignon champagne and we all drank as we headed off to the Rainbow. Where else? At this time Chas was on top of the world, or so he imagined and was very generous in picking up tabs at the afore mentioned night club. I was happy to tag along and have him spend his money thinking when my ship came in I would return the favor. So far I haven’t been able to reciprocate, and if I did find success, I wouldn't be buying drinks for the crowd since I have eliminated alcohol from my diet over fourteen years ago. I would maybe buy everyone a round of golf instead—or a set of golf clubs. I remember for my birthday he bought me a CD player and a complete Beatles set of CD’s. This was one of the first CD players ever released to the public. He always had to have the newest, best and most expensive thing on the market. I had a nick-name for him—Mr. Accessory.
Bette was really a wonderful person and so approachable. A few evening’s later Chas, Bette and I were sitting in the kitchen of her Bel-Air home. She handed me a nylon string acoustic guitar and we sang Beatle songs together. She reminded me of a girl I went to high school with, so relaxed and without any airs of superiority. She’s down home—I guess her being raised in Hawaii had something to do with that—or maybe it was just the way she was. I could tell there was something more than friendship going on with her and Chas and I was right. They continued on tour and were staying together in one of the fancier hotels in Manhattan for a few months while her show, The Divine Ms. M had an extended stay on Broadway. He was connected in a big way now and I thought it would be beneficial to my career to hang on his coattails. Maybe we could write some songs together or he may ask me to play in his band. He didn't  I think he felt, since the demise of Silverspoon, that I was too controlling, and way too stuck in my own way of thinking to be a side man, or even a co-writer. I also think Chas thought my songs were too Broadway influenced and he was Southern Rock. Maybe it all came down to his being fired from Silverspoon by Mal Evans, and he thought I had something to do with it. I wasn't even there that day, but I guess I could have gone to bat for him—I didn't  thinking it may rock the boat and jeopardize our chances for success with an actual Beatle associate at the helm.
He might have had other reasons. When he got a gig in 1979 with Steppenwolf and then The Association , either of which had none of the original members, he went out on the road with the later and asked me to keep an eye on some of his things. He had a set of Auratone speakers and I kept them for him on top of my piano. One day my cat, Gretel, or maybe it was Bosco, jumped up on the piano and knocked one of the speakers off. It had a two inch scratch on the side, nothing that affected the sound of it, but it was scarred for life. He never forgave me for that. During a gig with The Association, the band was somewhere in Texas or Oklahoma and had just wound up the last set in the club. For some reason or other, Steve Green, the agent, had not paid the club owners and they had confiscated all the band’s instruments and locked them in a storage closet in the back of the night club. Early the next morning, Chas and the rest of the band broke into the storage closet, stole back their instruments and headed out of town. They didn't get far before the cops caught up with them and threw their sorry asses into a holding cell. I guess he called his mom and she wired the police station the money by Western Union. It wouldn't be the last time she would bail him out of trouble. Hey, beside love and nurturing their children, that’s what mom’s are for. Right?
Another time he had lent me his Guild acoustic guitar for a showcase I had at the Troubadour, on Santa Monica Blvd. in West Hollywood. There was a special cable that attached to a miniature microphone in the body of the guitar. I was trying to be as conscientious and careful with the guitar as I could, but in the aftermath of the gig, me being caught up in exhilaration, I forgot about the cable and left it there. I went back there the next morning to see if anyone had turned it in, but nobody had. It wasn't just any cable, mind you, it was specifically designed to fit that guitar and a replacement would cost a few hundred bucks, which I didn't have. I think he eventually sold the guitar and never forgave me for that either.
 Although we remain good friends to this day, I can’t help but feel there are some hidden resentments on both of our parts. It took more than thirty years, but I did finally confront him about my amplifier that was left in his mother’s garage back in 1974 that disappeared. He said it wasn’t him who took it, it was his brother, Richard (we also fired him from Silverspoon) who had sadly died on December 8, 1985, five years to the day after John Lennon was brutally murdered, from a drug and alcohol overdose which was deemed to be a mistake. He was trying to get sober and had slipped in big way with Vodka and Codeine. It’s a shame that Richard couldn’t be here to defend himself.
I tried my best to console my friend as he was going to blow off his ski trip to Aspen. I told him I would help him drive his Chevy Blazer to Colorado, and try to lift his spirits. He agreed. The first night we made it to Las Vegas we got a room at the MGM Grand where we did a little gambling and I won a few hundred bucks at the craps tables. We procured the company of some local female talent and after they left, Chas and I wrote a song called, It Ain’t Love, But it Ain’t Bad. I guess you can imagine the details. We were driving through Grand Junction, Colorado the next day when Chas had an uncontrollable urge for a burger from Burge King. MacDonald’s or Wendy’s wouldn't do, it had to be a Burger King Whopper. We had no idea where in Grand Junction a Burger King was located and I said we should pull over and ask someone. This was 1985 and there were no GPS’s. He was a man on a mission and said we would find one. Just when I was losing hope, we did find one and a few minutes later we pulled the Blazer into the parking lot. While standing in line, Chas noticed a girl behind him wearing a button on her coat. As he looked closer he could see it was a Great Buildings (the band his brother Richard played drums in) button. Great Buildings was a wonderful group but they were not very well known outside of Los Angeles and for this girl to be wearing it on her coat seemed like more than a coincidence, it was fate. It served to remind Chas, and myself, that there are more things out there than meet the naked eye or as old Bill Shakespeare wrote in Hamlet, “There are more things in heaven and earth, Horatio, than are dreamt of in your philosophy. He was so right.
I must confess, with all of Chas’s evasiveness and self oriented lifestyle, he still calls me his best friend, well at least I’m his oldest friend. Later, when we were living across the street from each other for the second time, he on Milner Road and I on Camrose drive. One evening, maybe a year a so after the time of our demise, I had a dream about Maria. She was an almost eighteen year old, European, blonde beauty and, unbeknownst to me at the time, when she knocked upon my door on El Cerritos in May of 1984 we were going to get involved. But that is a whole other story (the sequel?) which includes a baby (not mine) being born and eventually being put up for adoption—taken back from the adoptive parents in Los Angeles—the baby leaving for Germany with her mother in the care of her step-grandmother—then being abandoned in a car in Berlin by Maria, her nineteen year old confused birth mother—then adopted again by a loving family in Dusseldorf. It all ended up in another painful break-up I would chalk up to experience late, but for now the only thing to numb the pain was alcohol and tobacco.
The dream was very lucid. I saw a magnificent sky of blues, bluer that I had ever seen in my red-green colorblindness of waking reality. It was fairy-tale-like in feeling and I woke up with a melody in my head reminiscent of ‘Til Tuesday’s— Voices Carry. At eight AM, I called Chas, played him the melody and, even though he hadn't had his morning cup of coffee yet, he told me to come right over. We recorded the demo in his little 16 track studio through the Trident board, and it sounded pretty darn killer. About a month or two later, it appeared on Maria Vidal’s 1987 self-titled record and was released as a single by the familiar name, Make Believe—check it out on you tube— I still like it, you might too.
Later Chas told me there was a movie soundtrack song needed for Maria to submit for the movie, Once Bitten starring Lauren Hutton—a teen-age vampire romp. I wrote a David Bowie influenced song with the same title as the movie and recorded it on my four track cassette machine, the one I had to bang on in the exact spot every time to get it to playback without being distorted. I gave it to Chas to pass on along to Maria. He said she heard it and was not impressed, but I still don’t know if he ever played it for her. He may have been embarrassed by its amateurish sound quality. It was a double edged sword when Protools came along a few years later and, although certain frequencies were lost in translation and the soul of music was wrung out to dry, it made it a helluva lot easier for the layman to make a professional sounding recording.
Chas and I would live in the relative same vicinity two more times after that. In the nineties, my wife Donna and I bought our first home in Woodland Hills when she was expecting our first of three sons. Chas had moved about three miles away a few months prior. Before the Northridge quake, Chas had the presence of mind to move to the Nashville area in the more residential and slower paced Williamson County just outside of Franklin. Donna, our twenty month old son, Jonathan and I were not so forward thinking. At 4:28 in the morning, right after I had coaxed Jonathan back to sleep and I was just about to rest my weary head, the house starting rocking—not the good kind of rocking. I shielded my wife, who was sleeping on my left; she woke up to the convulsing room and screamed, “Jonathan.” I got up and my feet swayed like I was walking on the deck of a ship caught in a tidal wave. I crawled my way into Jonathan’s room and somehow lifted him out of his crib just before the substantially sized framed picture of a teddy bear painted by his Nana fell on his newly formed head. We all staggered to the dining and midst the crashing glass figures on the shelves, televisions flying off the stands to the wooden floors below, we hunkered down under the dining room table. Of course I didn't have any batteries in my flashlight or for the portable radio, so I got my keys off the kitchen counter, went to the driveway and turned on the Jeep’s radio. I heard that there was 7.1 earthquake in Los Angeles (tell me something I don’t know) and it was not the big one California had been expecting for some time now. “NOT THE BIG ONE! I am so out of here.”
Two months after that, in March of 1994, we went on a vacation to Nashville for three basic reasons. One, to scout out a place to move to where I could still have the opportunity to pursue my musical endeavors, two, to visit Chas and see what he is up to now, and three , I had registered to attend a writer’s seminar at the Loew’s Vanderbuilt Hotel near Music Row. We stayed in Chas’s rented, historic, antebellum house where Hank Williams Sr. used to let the cattle roam freely, in March of ’94 and by July, after our earthquake damaged house sold in six weeks, bought an old farm house with three acres in Thompson Station, about thirty miles south of Nashville in the prestigious Williamson County. The only person we knew there was Chas. We were in culture shock. I used to tell my L.A. friends that it was more redneck than the Beverly Hillbillies.
Chas had a plethora of parties there on Bailey Road between Leiper’s Fork and Franklin. I’ll never forget the Halloween party he threw on November 2. It was a little late for Halloween, but it fell on a Saturday and it also happens to be my birthday. The inside of this palatial mansion had a large formal entry hall which led to a spiral staircase you could imagine Scarlett O’Hara walking down to greet her ruefully beloved, Rhett Butler. At the rear of the foyer was a baby grand piano and I sat down to play a tune. Little did I know that in the dining room, one room adjacent, were Stevie Nicks, Billy Burnette and host of other local renown musicians. As they gathered around the piano to join in, somebody mentioned it was my birthday and they all wanted to sing Happy Birthday to me. Not knowing the best key, I played a G chord thinking that would be a good place to begin. It was the worst rendition of Happy Birthday I have ever heard in my life. It was awful—nobody, and mind you these are professional in their trade, could find the key. One would start with the opening words in one key then, as another virtuoso entered their not in another key, than a third in another, before too long it was utter cacophony. Maybe they were a little wasted, but hey it was near mid-night on Halloween and we were approaching the new millennium.

Although in Silverspoon Chas had a minor but significant role, our friendship didn't expand until after the band’s demise. He still lives in Franklin, barely survived two marriages and two divorces, the second much worse than the first which provided him with four children all under the age of thirteen, three boys and a girl. I tried to pin him down to record some of these stories but, as usual he is going a billion miles an hour. He did tell some of his stories to me over the phone but I was never recording it. I had to rely on my memory of these conversation and my experiences, which were many. I think he still calls me his best friend.