Did you know I was a folk singer?
>Chill out with the best Australian band on the planet, the ideal
>antidote to all the manufactured, cynical drivel.
>Click on 'The Waifs.'
Ahhhhhh. My kind of music. Brings back pleasant memories. Did you
know I was a folk singer in the 50's and early 60's? That was half
of it. The other half was sort of Folk/Country, which doesn't exist
anymore. It's become Country Rock now, or something of the sort.
Believe it or not, the Folk scene in Texas was pretty good. I held
down Saturday night at the Rubaiyat in Dallas for a year, before my
girlfriend asked me to go to San Francisco with her. So I arrived
there in the summer of '63, with this pretty girl and my guitar, and
got me a job in a place on North Beach called Coffee and Confusion.
It wasn't my kind of place, so I moved over to The Drinking Gourd on
Union Street, performed free with all the other folk singers, and
got me a day job selling Volkswagens in Daly City. Sometimes we
played at The Holy City Zoo on Clement, where all the Russian
restaurants were. They're gone. All Vietnamese and such now.
I had about $90 when we got to San Francisco, so with $65 of it, we
rented a flat in one the top floor of the old Victorians on Clay
Street, at the top of Pacific Heights, with a bathroom down the hall,
a view of the Bay, the Golden Gate Bridge, and Alcatraz out the back
window, and a two burner electric hot plate on the table. I went out
to buy a bag of rice and one of beans and other absolutely necessary
provisions with as little as I could get by with of the remaining
$25, and down the street met Stu Goldberg, sitting on his front
stoop, playing a five string banjo. He had a guitar beside him, and
invited me to join in, so I did. Janis Joplin lived upstairs. Nobody
knew her yet. She was just known as the fat lesbian upstairs. She
vanished a few months later, and after awhile, we heard she had made
it big in New York or somewhere. None of us folk singers paid much
attention, because we were ~Folk~. Totally different world. Funny
thing is we thought of the Dead and Airplane as folk, too. Folk was
merging into Rock, and the line between was indistinct at that time.
The Dead, Jefferson Airplane and others, sometimes put on
extemporaneous concerts in Golden Gate Park, within walking distance
of our flat. They lived in walking distance, too. There was another
group living on a houseboat at Sausalito, across the Golden Gate. I
forget their name. Hey, it was long ago. But they were good.
Sausalito was not the incredibly expensive upper crust place it later
became. Neither was SF, of course. That $65 flat has been spiffed up
and now rents in the range of $4K to $5K a month. Musicians ... there
were others, whose names I can't remember right now, but some of
whom later became moderately famous as musicians. Barry Mellon. He's
an attorney now, but he played the guitar and sang back then. Later,
he joined a group called Country Joe and the Fish. Another guy I
knew played banjo for that group, but he dropped out before they
became well known. Nevertheless, when he died a few years ago,
without insurance, which he had been unable to afford because of his
heart, Country Joe and the Fish put on a concert to raise money to
pay off his house so his wife would be able to keep it. It was just
like old times all over again. There was so much music in San
Francisco in those days, it seemed like the place was made out of
it. It was everywhere. The IRA wasn't thought of as a Terrorist
organization at that time, at least not in San Francisco, and there
was an IRA hangout not far away, where we used to go put away a few
beers with a couple of Irish friends. They'd all get pleasantly
sloshed, and sing IRA songs, like " Kevin Barry" (aka "Mountjoy
"Shoot me like an Irish soldier,
Do not hang me like a dog,
For I fought for Ireland's freedom,
In the cold September fog.
All around the little bakery,
Where we fought them hand to hand,
Shoot me like an Irish soldier,
For I fought to free Ireland."
And the tears would run down cheeks, and the beer would run down
throats, and we'd order another pitcher and sing another song.
Anyway, I sat there on the porch with Stu, picking out a melody, when
my girlfriend arrived, and he asked if we'd like to go get some
dinner. I admitted I was nearly broke and couldn't afford it until I
got a job, so he offered to treat us. We went to an inexpensive,
upstairs all you can eat family style Basque restaurant. Delicious.
When my girlfriend went to the restroom, he said he didn't have much
money either, but would $25 help. I allowed as how it sure would, but
he didn't know me and how did he know I'd pay him back. He replied
that he thought I would, but if I didn't, that would be on my soul,
not his. So I took it, and a few weeks later paid him back, of course.
We used to eat at a little Russian restaurant on Geary, near
Divisidero, where we could get two piroschkis and a big bowl of beef
and cabbage borscht with a dollop of sour cream for 85 cents. That
was when we had money. When we were broke, we bought a can of
mackerel for 19 cents, a couple of onions and some potatoes for
another ten or fifteen, and stir fried them on the electric hot plate
in our flat, seasoned well with herbs, and it fed us both.
One day, the girlfriend took off, but I've still got that guitar.
Stu is a building contractor now. He moved to Sacramento about
fifteen years ago, and comes over to our house every Thanksgiving for
dinner. Afterward, we sit around and pick and sing again.
Thanks for the introduction to this excellent group. I'm still listening.