By west coast emmet
Those were the days, my friend. We thought they would never end.
For reasons unexplained, Facebook (the biggest time waster since Solitaire) has been celebrating Jimi Hendrix and Janice Joplin. Since I joined the Otis Redding Fan Club, it is no mystery why “Big O” is on my screen each morning.
All of which brings me back to my personal Good Old Days.
It was so long ago that the years didn’t have numbers yet. I had fled the Boston Insurance industry (Aieeeeegh!) for the snow field of Mount Snow, Vermont, then the Miami docks, where the mighty Patria was berthed. When I determined that I would never be climbing 75 foot masts in a storm or even at the dock, I lit out for the coast, which was always in fashion.
I engineered a repossessed Cadillac for the trip and went in style, to see my good and great friend Robert A. Marino. All right, he didn’t live in Haight-Ashbury but he did have a very cool apartment overlooking a parking lot in Oakland, only a bus ride away.
I was filthy rich, collecting a $45 weekly unemployment check from my beloved state of Massachusetts. Mr. Marino handed me a joint driving home from the San Francisco bus station (what a story) but I of course declined, being the classic uptight white boy, fresh from the land of underwriting. This became an everyday occurrence at each house visited, much like offering a cup of coffee or a beer.
This was different.
It might not have been the first night, but it was the first week when Marino said we had to go to the Avalon. I had no idea what that was, but since I had my $45, I was up for anything.
That was the night I discovered Janis Joplin. I had never heard of her and you didn’t either. At the end of her ferocious set, someone gave her a man-sized bouquet of flower and she screamed like Little Richard. I was in love.
It might have been a few weeks later when Marino had another surprise. We went off to the Avalon to see the Jimi Hendrix Experience, the loudest band who ever lived. I remember when I saw the Lovin’ Spoonful in a Boston Basement bar, they were so loud, I almost left. I was used to the acoustic volume of hootenannies, for God sake.
That was nothing. These three guys were so loud that I looked around for their hidden backup band. I swear to God that when I looked down, the buttons on my shirt were moving in time with the bass. There were holes in my mind created that night that have never healed.
Are you experienced?
Naturally, I have lost all track of time. But it was not much later when I saw that Otis Redding was playing about a mile away. Naturally, I made that trip. I would guess that the ticket cost about $3 a princely sum at the time. I knew Otis from years before in Boston on radio station WILD but never saw him live. This time I got there early enough to get a stage side seat. My man, Otis did a few songs before he stuck the microphone in my face so I could sing the “Fa-Fa” chorus of “Sad Song.”
I sang with Otis.
Another night, I stumbled into a tiny dive to see (honest to God) Sonny Terry and Brownie Mcghee, blues legends. I bet there were not 50 people there. I tipped lavishly everywhere because I had that $45 burning a hole in my pocket. On a slow night, I would hop the bus from Oakland to the Avalon or the Fillmore where you would see two, three or four fabulous bands for $3. I think I saw Wilson Pickett, but that might be wishful thinking. There were so….many!
Now, I can’t even get to Thomaston or the Time Out Pub in Rockland to see their fabulous bands. Those were the days, my friend.