Power Pickers
of the '60's

Musicians of the Flower Generation


Archive for May, 2009

Reports of Manny’s Death Exaggerated

For a retailing corpse, Manny’s, the legendary music store on West 48th Street, in New York, looks awfully healthy. At least it did to me when I went there over Memorial Day weekend, glad to be insulted by the surly sales staff one more time.

The New Yorker ran an article in last week’s issue (May 18, Pg. 23) marking the closing of the one shop most synonymous with “Music Street,” Manny’s Music. Altho’ Manny’s sold all kinds of instruments, most of the players I know, or knew, were guitarists, and electric guitarists, at that.

Eric Gale shopped there, as did Hugh McCracken, David Spinoza, John Tropea and bassist Will Lee. I met Will there one day, about 20 years ago, when he was doing the Letterman Show. Tropea, who could just be Lee’s best friend, introduced us and got Will to play on a jingle track Tropea arranged for my company, AR Music.

Another super bassist, tho’ not the star Will was, Chuck Rainey, got most of his equipment there, as did fellow Harry Belafonte band member, Ralph MacDonald.

(I know these are not household names to many of you, but they were the Power Pickers of the New York studio scene, anonymous but real, from the middle ‘Sixties into the ‘Eighties. They played on well over half the hit vinyl of the era, backing up many artists and acts not out of LA or San Francisco.

Simon & Garfunkel, John Lennon, George Benson, Carly Simon, Steely Dan, BB King, Barbra Streisand and too many others to count counted on New York session men to help them mold unique musical personas. This pool has pretty much dried up from the hot breath of technology that’s blown over music for the last 20 or 25 years, esp. synthesizers and computer softward.)

These musicians and a few others of their kind were the guys who, once established, were allowed to test amps at higher than the no. 2 volume setting on the amps. Anyone else had to stay at that level or below, or get the amp they were probably going to buy turned off by a sour salesman or other staff member.

Anyway, Manny’s was also home, at least in this country and it’s East Coast, to many monster acts, like the Beatles, Stones, The Who, Jimi Hendrix, Bob Dylan, the Loving Spoonful, Carole King, and, again, too many to list here. Read the New Yorker article for a brief mention of a tiny number of ‘50’s, ‘60’s and ‘70’s super-acts who dropped by for Martin D-28’s, strings and gossip. Better yet, go to Manny’s Music on 48th Street a block or two up from Times Square.

And since that will be impossible for most of you, look for Manny’s Virtual Wall, an Internet social-networking project Kodak is backing that will scan Manny’s walls of pictures of important people who shopped there and upload interviews with many of them still playing.

It’s hard to tell what’s in the future for Manny’s. As everyone in the business knows, they’ve been owned by Sam Asch, New York’s 800-lb. gorilla of music stores, for at least ten years. The people who work there say they’ll continuing doing just that, expecting the place to remain in business, in some form, in the future.

Jody Hill, Computer Numeric Control specialist.

(Jody Hill, Computer Numeric Control specialist)

Jody Hill, a guitar technician at Gibson for six and a half years, and at Manny’s for the last couple as computer numeric control specialist, says he’ll continue doing that in their new incarnation, whatever that will be.

Andrea, in Acessories, figures the place will become, “…more frankly a Sam Asch property, but that will be the only difference.” And what is that difference I wanted to know.

“The people who come to Manny’s already know what they’re doing,” she said. “If George Benson wants to try out a Gibson ES335TDC (the same guitar, by the way, I had Chuck Erikson at Duke of Pearl inlay ‘Mother of Pearl’ in the neck of) he goes to Manny’s. But if someone is just starting or not very advanced, they go to Sam Asch, where they can try everything in the store and get expert advice on how to find what looking for.”

But it’s hard to see why Sam Asch would keep Manny’s open under any name or condition, what with their own flagship shop sitting directly across the street. I asked a tall, balding guy I’d seen for a long time in Manny’s sound department, but who wanted to remain anonymous, if he knew why.

He dodged the question, saying he was “just moving down the street” to work in Sam Asch’s retail sound store there, and that that was confidential information, anyway. Actually, he said, “Go fuck yourself, it’s none of your fuckin’ business.” Ahhh, now that’s what I needed to hear to really know where I was. I had the feeling he knew something most people didn’t.

Me, when it comes to Manny’s future, I dunno. It’s hard not to think it’ll just be absorbed into Sam Asch, perhaps as part of a location consolidation necessitated by the drastic rise in property rents in Times Square over the last couple decades.

But I don’t want to rush to the worn-out judgment that we’re all going to hell in a hand basket, and the disappearance of independent businesses is just part of our decline. Sam Asch, for one, has been a great music store to buy, sell, trade or rent instruments and equipment. Their integrity and honesty, especially the way they guarantee what they sell and provide support for it, are a credit to any retail business in any industry.

If Asch takes over Manny’s and lets them continue to provide quality goods to knowledgeable customers and guidance to non-professionals, snarls and all, we’re in good shape. Asch is a class act. Let’s see what they do next.

Doc Watson Swings Western

Article in last Sunday’s New York Times about TIME JUMPERS, a group of plus-or-minus 11 Nashville heavies doing ‘30’s and ‘40’s Western Swing just for fun of it. Their music’s good and they’re getting media exposure and recording ops. Read the [Times, Sunday, May 14, 2009] if you want to know more about them.

But if you want to get a taste of how DOC WATSON handled Western Swing, listen to this clip from [Steel Guitar Rag] It’s from my personal, unreleased trove of Doc and me playing together around 1966 or ’67 (I was his back-up guitarist when he played Southern California). We were rehearsing in guitar-maker Roy Noble’s workshop for a show that nite.

Actually, we didn’t play Steel Guitar Rag on stage then, so I guess we weren’t technically rehearsing it. In fact, I have a slew of Doc’s Western Swing stuff, some of which never made his set-lists.
In the mid-‘60’s, Doc was still feeling his way around working solo. He’d been playing with Clarence Ashley for a couple years before he went on his own. Clarence Ashley’s band, with Clarence on banjo and vocals, Fred Price on fiddle, Clint Howard on backup guitar and vocals, and Doc, is still my #1 Hall of Famer in the string band category. I recorded them at the [Ash Grove in, I think, 1965] on my workhorse Wollensak, because I knew I’d want to listen to them again and again, for the rest of my life.

Anyway, when Doc decided to go it alone he wasn’t sure who his audience would be. He knew it would include folkies, as well as hard-core devoteés and scholars of Anglo-American genre music. But he wasn’t sure about Western Swing; maybe not folky enough, too corny, etc.

Many fans saw, and probably still see, Doc as one of the last men standing to play “mountain music.” But Doc could and did play electric guitar in bands that worked bars and such around Deep Gap, NC, where he lives. These bands played the popular music of the day, plus tunes like Steel Guitar Rag and Rose of San Antone, both Western Swing faves. But I doubt if Doc ever played old-timey music with them. And even if he did, he didn’t make enough money on that circuit to “get off the dole,” as he put it.

So, when the opportunity to join Clarence Ashley’s band and be part of the folk music revival he jumped in with both feet.

But that band did play the traditional stuff, banjo-fiddle duets, reels, work songs-your basic old-timey canon, which Doc did and does play better than any other guitarist I can think. But this is about him and Western Swing, and Clarence Ashley’s band was no place to be playing Step It Up and Go or Sheik of Araby.

Anyway, something went down between him and Clarence in the middle-‘60’s and Doc found himself a solo act. And that’s where I came in. He stayed at my house, and, in an old guitar mentor-disciple tradition, I was his lead-boy. Among my duties was helping him decide what to play or not play on stage.

He had a vast repertoire of material and styles, including Western Swing, but he was reluctant to put songs from that genre in his master set-list. But one afternoon, well into his run at the Ash Grove, we decided, together, that he would play Step It Up and Go and I’ll See You in My Dreams that nite.

He did. The reception was thunderous. In retrospect, how could it have been otherwise? I mean, I’ll See You in My Dreams finger-picked on a Dreadnought guitar with high action, jumbo strings, the right chords and everything? Give me a break.

Yes, I know, Merle Travis and Chet Atkins did it, but that’s just the point: they did it on electric guitars, although with awesome technique. But they sounded more or less like Les Paul, breathtaking but dated and fusty. In other words: Dexterity 10, Charm 0. Doc’s version and his medium-acoustic guitar-oozed charm.

I’m pretty sure that was an important night for Doc. For one thing, it gave him the high sign to go ahead and expand his repertoire by a whole other musical world. For another, it allowed him to demonstrate his deep knowledge of music not usually associated with fiddle tunes and I-IV-V chord progressions.

It was sure a big nite for me. Playing with Doc on and off stage was always nothing but thrilling. But feeling like I might have had something, no matter how small, to offer the man who was, and still is, the dominant music figure in my life, makes me smile even now, more than 40 years after the fact.

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Remembering Skip Battin (Batten?) (Battyn?)

I don’t know if this is National Alzheimher’s Month or something, but this demoralizing disease is getting more print and TV space than ever.  Today I read in the NY Times that HBO will air a four-part series called “The Alzheimer’s Project,” starting this coming Sunday, May 8. Their marketing slogan is “Hopeless, ” with a line struck thru the last four letters.  I guess it’ll be upbeat.

Whenever I hear something about Alzheimer’s I think of Skip Batten, my once-partner in a band we started together in the late ‘60’s. Skip was stricken with the disease in his later years and passed away at the age of 75. Long before that he had played bass and sung with the Byrds’, the New Riders of the Purple Sage and, I think, the Flying Burrito Brothers. But before he did any of these things he was co-leader, with me, in a band called Evergreen Blueshoes (q.v. all over this blog).

Skip’s having Alzheimer’s is ironic because he was almost obsessive about with staving off the ageing process.

Skip Battyn (R), Al  Ross (Center Front) And The Shoes

Skip Battyn (R), Al Ross (Center Front) And The 'Shoes

Skip felt he was ten years older than he should have been, whatever that meant. He hennaed his hair at least as early as 1967,  when we went around the bars and beer joints of LA looking for other potential band members. He would have been 33 at the time the counter-culture didn’t  trust anyone over 30. This was the music revolution of the ‘60’s, and it belonged to us, not the establishment.

To be in the thick of it was Skip’s dream and the reason he’d opted out of the Top 40 copy-band trap he’d been in since having a hit record, Cherry Pie, in 1959 with Gary Paxton, his partner in Skip and Flip. He wanted to be part of the underground movement percolating just below the surface,  like the Incredible String Band and Frank Zappa’s Mothers of Invention.

And he was. EGBS did that for him. And although the band fell apart before we sold many records, we had some direct influence on several other groups, including the Buffalo Springfield and, by extension, Steven Stills, Neil Young and Richie Furay.

But more important for Skip, he’d now become steeped, if not skilled, in “the underground mentality,” as he called it, trying to write offbeat songs and off-the-wall arrangements (like me, but less successfully,  people said) and playing at places like the Ash Grove and the Topanga Canyon Corral.

I never knew exactly how old Skip was for the entireand intensetwo and a half years we were together. And it was intense. We ate our meals together at his house in Laurel Canyon, went on trips (as well as “trips”) together, co-composed and co-arranged songs, quit smoking together, tried to pick up women together, blah blah blah. He even occasionally let me watch him and his wife, Jackie, shoot up with vitamin B, which he thought was a youth rejuvenator.

Once, on a road trip to Vegas, we were stopped by the Nevada Highway Patrol, rousted out of our van and told to “spread ‘em.”  They looked inside the van for dope, found none, decided we were harmless and just asked us for our I.D.’s, probably as part of the drill.  They seemed perfectly relaxed–until they got to Skip’s.

They looked back and forth between the Skip in front of them and the one pictured on his driver’s license.  Now, this happened a lot in those days, because  our driver’s licenses were often gotten before we grew our hair long and oozed beads and fringe from every place on our bodies.  If you don’t believe me just check out the photos of Skip in this blog when he was Skip and Flip, and later,  on EGBS‘ record jacket.

But what really got the cops going was the D.O.B. on Skip’s license. They couldn’t believe it. He was older than they were, but dressed like a hippie, who’da thunk it? They called whoever cops call and found out the I.D. was legitimate. They handed it back to him, laughing, while he pleaded with them not to rat him out to the rest of the band. They didn’t. They were Nevada cops, not CHP.

More than anything else, Skip found his youthfulness in the groupies he bonked. He would shoot for the freshest, dewiest nymphet in the room no matter where we were: the Cougar Lounge in Reseda or the Whiskey a’GoGo on Sunset Blvd. He was good at ferreting out the youngest chick in the crowd, and, in the wildness of the ‘60’s, that could be pretty young.

And no place was wilder than the Topanga Corral.  That was the only real roadhouse I’ve ever played in, and I’m going to do a post on just the Corral. But for now I will only say there was probably more pussy available to any guy with a guitar and a dick than any other place I ever worked

Skip had a simple technique: he would pick out one girl in the audience and romance her with his eyes and body language all nite long. And he just couldn’t pick a female demographic low enough: Chicks? Teeny-boppers? Bubble-gummers? It didn’t seem to matter to him or the rest of the world. It seemed like everyone was more or less homeless in those days, i.e., all the home & family stops had been pulled.

But even more important was the prevailing zeitgeist.

For many people,  expressing themselves was the highest form of perfection  a person could attain. And for a certain kind of groupie, fucking the leader of an underground band in the back of the band’s van was the heaviest thing she could think of.  For  Skip,  the youth of his conquests seemed to be the anti-ageing agent he needed to keep doing the thing he thought he was a decade too old to do.

And,  listen: if the guy was able to confound cops and maybe a dozen or so feminine youths in the 30 months I knew him…hey, I don’t  judge, I just report.

As I said, it seems the ultimate, leering irony that Skip should spend his last years suffering from the affliction most identified with advancing age. I hope he didn’t realize it, or, at least denied its hold on him. I knew Skip pretty well. He was a philosophical guy, and quite reflective. It’s just possible he was grateful for the many yearsincluding the extra ones he got by demanding themthat he was young and potent. I don’t think this was a frustrated man.


This is huge, especially if you want to know something about the history of how today’s music got where it is today. The official site of the L.A.’s legendary Ash Grove, ashgrovemusic.com, now offers concert recordings from the 50’s‘70’s to fans and students of the ‘60’s music revolution, the musicians who made it and the influences who made them:

You say you don’t know what’s so earth-shaking about this? Well, honey, you came to the right place to learn.

Ed Pearl’s The Ash Grove was the Los Angeles folk and roots-music club that was not only front and center when the revolution caught fire, but lit the match and fanned its flames for much of the country and the era. Dig:

If Jerry Garcia hadn’t heard Bluegrass would the Grateful Dead have done Rain and Snow for at least 20 minutes every time they went on stage?

And if Clarence White didn’t hear Doc Watson would he still have played those amazing guitar licks with the Byrds?

And would the Byrds have recorded Turn, Turn, Turn if they hadn’t been introduced to the music of Pete Seeger?

Hard to tell. These performers, as well as Ry Cooder, Taj Mahal, Bonny Raitt, Linda Ronstadt, the Nitty Gritty Dirt Band, Canned Heat and many, many more (look at Performers under Ash Grove History at the site) would have played something, but I wonder if it would have resonated as much as their music finally did? As I said, hard to tell.

I know what these concerts meant to those of us who were trying to find our way through Rock ‘n Roll and folk music to something of our own that was new. Sometimesusually, in fact—we had little or no idea what we were trying to do. There was no strong, silent hand that said, “Hey, you with the nylon string guitar! Listen to Muddy Waters and Lightnin’ Hopkins.” Or, “Yo, you, with the Christy Minstrel Singers! Get a banjo and listen to Flatt & Scruggs.”

But there were places—clubs, cabarets, concerts—that young players and performers could hear music they hadn’t heard before and later rework it into their own musical vocabularies. There weren’t many of these places willing to take chances hiring acts that nobody except record collectors and die-hard insiders knew about: Clarence Ashley, the New Lost City Ramblers, Reverend Gary Davis, Freddy MacDowell, John Fahey, Rose Madox, Bukka White, Mississippi John Hurt and scores more. Look, go to the site, click on History of the Ash Grove, Original Ash Grove 1958-73, List of Performers, and see for yourself.

It’s hard for me to keep my ego out of the way as I write this, since I was around LA and the Ash Grove much of the time I’m talking about. I watched and learned from these performers, and when the time came threw my modest two cents worth into the mix. [To learn just how modest see “Evergreen Blueshoes” and earlier posts in POWER-PICKERS.COM. Leave a comment and you’ll get a free POWER-PICKERS flatpick.]

I don’t want to belabor the news that these recordings are finally being released. If you’re at all interested in what the music movers and shakers of the ‘60’s listened to and learned from, go to the site.

‘Nuff said.

Seeing (the) Taj Mahal Again

I expect to be jellin’ and pickin’ between his sets with old friend and fellow Ash Grove music teacher, Taj Mahal, when he comes to the Rochester Jazz Festival this June.

Taj and I go back almost 45 years. We both taught guitar, and in Taj’s case, mouth harp, at LA’s premier roots-music club, the Ash Grove, while trying to start our careers. For Taj this meant developing his one man blues/songster act and then co-founding and leading, with Ry Cooder, the Rising Sons. This was a band that had every right to expect success, but came a cropper nonetheless. Never knew why for sure, but had suspicions it might have had something to do with…well, see my post of Nov. 15, 2008.

Taj was the first performing African-American I met who recognized blues, jazz, calypso, R&B and African music as expressions of Black culture worth nurturing by the musical establishment (e.g., academia), as well as being able to play convincingly in several of those genres himself. He is as much responsible for bringing the artists in the Blues 67 poster (pictured here) to popular attention as anyone, except for Ed Pearl, the owner of the Ash Grove. He’s also the first Black person among my contemporaries, that I knew of, to play the banjo.

That said, let me try to reconstruct a couple moments I had with Taj, one-on-one and/or shared with others. Remember, these aren’t earth-shaking, watershed events, just little personal snapshots showing up in my memory like old photos you accidentally find when you’re looking for something else.

I remember one time when he was having a problem with a small growth on his cheek that was threatening to become The Monster That Ate Taj’s Face. This was during the time he seemed to be living at the Ash Grove while he found a place of his own. That would make it ca. 1964 or ’65.

Anyway, he kept worrying this sore bump like many of us did/do with stubborn zits. Finally, as I watched it get worse day after day ‘til it started to infect, I offered to take him to a dermatologist I knew to check it out. We went to a guy that had once helped me with a stubborn rectal itch that had been driving me crazy for years. (No, smartasses, it wasn’t psychological; it was a fungus).

The doc diagnosed Taj’s angry eruption as an ingrown hair, not uncommon, he told us, in certain African-American complexion-types. He gave Taj some lotion for it and in a day or two Taj was his old, handsome self.


That recommendation gave me some hefty credibility with him a few years later when he was having voice problems. By no coincidence (remember, I am a Jew; doctors R us) my godfather, Henry Rubin, was a renowned ENT specialist, with many singers and actors as patients. I got on the horn to “Uncle Henry,” as my family called him, told him about Taj and started what I think was an important relationship between the two men. Like many pros, Taj has had to be very careful with his voice.

This would have been long after the morning I was rehearsing some songs with Dave Cohen in the Ash Grove’s darkened main gallery. Dave had left to go to the bathroom or something, and suddenly a pile of something on the stage stirred and shifted, then humped up and rose several feet in the air, right next to my head. I jumped a mile.

And it lasted more than a second, too. The pile (costumes? a fallen stage curtain? I frantically prayed) didn’t i.d. itself for a long, long minute. How long? None of your fuckin’ business. Let’s just say I felt like a real wuss when it turned out to be just Taj waking up. He’d been sleeping on the Ash Grove’s stage for a few nites while he got his act together, and I’d forgotten about it.

There’s another memory I have, a weird and strangely telling one, of a heckling campaign a local folkie, mandolin player Herb Steiner, leveled at Taj for a while. It was ostensibly about Herbie’s feelings that Affirmative Action was a joke, but really it was about him trying to convince himself and others that he was an authentic Bluegrass musician by mock-insulting Blacks and trying to get a reaction from Taj.

For sure, it was pretend-vicious game, and was sometimes pretty entertaining; Taj could be a good foil for Cowboy Herb. But I was always suspicious of Herb. He was pretty fat, had a Groucho Marx nose and wore Groucho glasses. He was very funny, in a George Costanza-with-ukulele way, but often viciously so. He once turned my amplifier off on stage during a set with cowboy singer Doye O’Dell, because he, Herb, didn’t like what I was playing.

Anyway, one time—and there’s nothing momentous about this, I promise; no zinger or anything, just something that I remember for no good reason—during a bull session with several of us in the dressing room at the Ash Grove, Herb unleashed this little gem: “T-T-Taj,” he said (Herb was a stammerer), “have you ev-ev-ever smelled a Negroe’s a-a-armpit?”

The room was filled with stagey “Ooohs” and “Uh-ohs,” probably to mask the general feeling in the room that this time Herb had gone a little too far. I watched Taj begin physically to draw back into what looked like a defensive, even angry, posture, then start chuckling in spite of himself. I guess, in the moment, Taj was willing to give the court jester his due, because the jester was funny, and there was no denying it.

And, as I said, I can’t tell you why I remember the incident, but I know I decided something about Taj at that moment: he had his eyes on the prize, and deep down the mock insult wasn’t worth a gnat’s ass compared to that


This new site, www.ashgrovemusic.com, is where you can finally get recorded concerts from LA’s famous Ash Grove during its heyday in the 1960’s and ’70’s. The Ash Grove is the club I’ve talked about so much, where legendary folk and roots music performers influenced the “kids” who heard and learned from them. Listen to Lightnin’ Hopkins, Doc Watson, Bill Monroe and Odetta, the same legends that Ry Cooder, Bonny Raitt, Taj Mahal, and Clarence White listened to. Then go out and kick some ass with your new chops.

See my next post for a FIRST HAND (I was there for many of these concerts) appraisal of the ashgrovemusic.com releases, which I thought would never see the light of day.

Mother of Pearl – The Movie

Got some comments from the “Dishin’ wid da Duke of Pearl” thing I put up two posts ago. Most of it was from people who got the joke pearl-paster Chuck Erikson (pictured here in full regalia) cracked when he inlaid  “MOTHER OF PEARL” in mother of pearl (actually, it was  pale pink Red abalone shell,”  not MOP) in the neck of my guitar. But the story behind the story is at least as funny as the story in front of the story behind the story, or the story in front of the story, and here it comes.

I was playing guitar as a sideman in a band in a club in the San Fernando Valley in LA. This was in 1969 or ’70. In the middle of a set this drunk redneck comes up to the stage between songs and says, “Why does your guitar say ‘mother of pearl’ in the whaddya call it?-”neck,” I say, “Yeah, neck,” he says.

And it does. The words “Mother of Pearl” were inlaid in the neck of my Gibson ES335 in big “Merle Travis” caps (pictured below in a publicity photo he gave me himself, but was too, uh, indisposed to sign). I laugh and say something like, “I guess they ran out of the real thing, so they

“Hey, asshole,” he says, “I asked you a question.”

“And I’m trying to answer it,” I say.

“You’re making fun of me,” he says, and he isn’t really wrong, but… “I asked you a question and you lied, you homo commie draft-dodging hippy.” That gets my attention.

Then he goes, “Now I’m gonna ask you one more time: why does it say”—it comes out, why duzzhh ish shay—“‘mother of pearl’ on your guitar throat, and you better answer, faggot.”

For not the first time in my shortish life as a ‘Sixties rock asteroid I am suddenly aware of what I look like, and not in a good way: long hair, striped bells, tank top with a picture of Che on it, etc.

“I don’t know,” I say. That is a lie, too, which I’ll get to soon. Meanwhile…

“You’re making fun of mother, aren’t you, you little motherfucker,” the redneck says. Now he turns to the small crowd of dancers and listeners and says, “He’s making fun of…,” raises his voice, “Hey, everybody, he’s making fun of everybody’s mother. Everybody’s! Your mother, too, asshole,” he says to a guy standing pretty close to the stage trying hard not to laugh as he waits for the next song to start. The drunk turns to the guy’s table. “What are you laughing at?” he says to the guy. “Don’t you care about your mother?! What are you, another chickenshit queer?”  The crowd goes silent. The hum of  tube amplifiers is the only sound in the whole club.

The guy doesn’t say anything. He’s about average height, but he looks a little scary now that he’s stopped laughing and taken his arm back from around the girl’s waist. He is wearing worn cowboy boots, but in no way is he a hippy.

“What’d you say, shit-fer-brains?” he says to the redneck. He shuffles his feet a little and lightly plants them, lets his arms hang loose, humps his neck and shoulders.

“I said this guy’s not showing respect for our mothers,” the redneck says, back-peddling a little. “See? He’sh got mother of-“ he turns to look at my guitar neck again, “pearl, ‘Mother of Pearl’ written on his guitar.” He turns back to the cowboy, reeling. “Why don’ we take him outside and kick the shit outta—“

“Whyn’t you shut the fuck up, dirtbag, and go back to your trailer,” the cowboy says, but relaxed now that he sees how wasted the redneck is. “If anyone’s gonna be kickin’ any shit, it’s gonna be“ but the redneck’s legs have suddenly turned to Jell-O, and the cowboy reaches him just in time to break his fall. He sets the drunk down at an empty table with his arms and head splayed across it.  The redneck will soon vomit without waking up. It looks like I will not be thrashed for dissing mothers tonight.

I stop hyper-ventilating. Everyone else in the band and I have been in suspended animation for the whole drama, and we slump in our places, almost woozy with relief. This is all happening about ten or fifteen feet in front of the riser that passes for a stage at the club, and I’m able to thank the cowboy profusely from there.

“Let me buy you a drink,” I say to him while the rest of the guys fuss with mikes and instruments to work off the tension that just broke.  I’d really like to tell him I want to have his baby, but I settle for getting him a drink and asking him to make a request.

Now, I’m guessing he’s going to ask for some big C&W hit like Buck Owens’ “Looks Like I Got a Tiger By the Tail” or Porter Wagoner’s “That Was the Last Thing on My Mind,” while I hope against hope the other guys in this rock–not Country–band know it. It is definitely not cool to not know big Country hits in bars in the San Fernando Valley.  But the cowboy comes thru for me once again.

“Louie Louie,” he says. Another sigh of relief from me and the band.  Louie Louie is the Paul Revere and the Raiders song every band playing in the United States and United Kingdom in the 1960’s has to know, expects to play and totally reviles. But we play it now, and happy to.

Bom bom bom. Bom bom. Bom bom bom. Bom bom, goes the band on the unison line. “Louie, Louie,” goes the lead singer, please don’t ask me to remember his name. I played another week with that band before going back to ruining my career.

* * *

I know I said I’d get back to the story about how “Mother of Pearl” actually did come to be inlaid in my guitar neck, but I’m out of time. I’ll get to it in the one of my next posts, I promise. But please do yourpart and…

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