I appreciate your interest. Have a question or a comment? You're an avid audiophile; you were in the audience; maybe we jammed. Cool. So shoot me an email. Or, if you prefer, use the form at page bottom. (A confirmation will appear after you click "Submit.")
Q & A
[The next several writers refer to the songs Gone to Richard's and Thanks for Stoppin' - Bye, both released 10-15-20.]
Hi Steve! You have no idea what you’ve done for my heart! My name is Donna M. I was a waitress at Richard’s Tri-County Lanes for many, many years. As he was to ALL of us who worked for him and loved him so dearly, Richard was like a brother. We cherished him. It was a very tragic time in our lives when Richard passed. My sister recently made me aware of [your songs] and told me that I could hear Richard’s voice in one of them. I couldn’t believe that I would be able to hear his voice again. I knew it would be emotional to listen…. and it was. It brought me to tears, but I loved it! The clip of his voice in the interview in the song was very brief, but for those of us who know him well, it is evident by his voice the exact scenario of the moment: it was late at night (after the Jack Blake Wednesday night league), and he was drinking OV splits and playing cards. You can hear it in his voice! His happiest place to be! By the way, “The Jack Blake League" was named after another historical event. Jack Blake died on alley 7 during the Wednesday night league. Many of us will never forget the sight of that grief stricken event, which was very hard on Richard. Jack had bowled on that league for many years. The mention of Junior Camel in the songs and of the double rainbow on the day we found out Richard had passed also conjures memories. It is yet another memory that will always be with me. I was at my parents house. Junior had died a few days before. News came to our house that Richard had passed. It was a highly emotional moment. I looked out the window and saw the double rainbow, and out loud I remember saying, “That is Junior and Richard shining down on us!”
Thank you, Steve. It is artists like you that helps local history stay alive. It means so much! “Thank you” isn’t enough for all the work that goes into your art. I hope there is satisfaction for you knowing you have spoken to the hearts of others, and in this case, allowed the people who loved Richard to hear his voice once again and to hear the memories you’ve archived in your lyrics.
A. My Dear Donna, Bless your music-lissnin’, table-waitin’, loving good heart. Speaking for all here, your email made our day and will for days to come. We pour heart and soul into this audio art form, and your words validate the effort more than anything else possibly could. You envision the ‘interview’ scene correctly: it was very late after the season-ending JBWN banquet. Richard & pals were playing poker at a large round table in the southeast corner of the dining room. I had been walking around with a microphone and recorder, but had gotten scant little from others, so I waited until the hand folded and ad libbed that question. I knew his response was gold, so I retreated before anybody got irritated with me, and that one line was the whole interview! Little did I know it would be used this way. Thanks also for the story behind the namesake ABC-accredited league. (Had I kept bowling, I may have met a similar fate!) I recall one Wed. night Mrs. Jack Blake came into the lanes area, watching and talking to Richard amid the general roar of twelve 5-man teams in active competition. Both were standing just behind lane 7. I went over to show respect and briefly say hello; many of the bowlers did, but I never understood the whole backstory, so you have added to the archived history. Yes, the double rainbows… I’ve seen some since, but never like those two that day!
Understand that, in a time where music has been reduced to 3-second soundbites going to and from the commercial, when the download of a song pays less than a dollar, and, if streamed, pays us a fraction of one cent, your words have made us rich. Donna, it is folks like you who listen, appreciate and then actually take time and effort to communicate your thoughts that really keep me going. Whether it’s music, painting, sculpture, acting or dance, it doesn’t qualify as ART until someone hears, sees, or experiences it - and it makes them feel something. Heartfelt thanks for your heartfelt thanks.
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Junior Camel's niece wanted to know about the musicians involved [on those songs], and remembered many good times at both local establishments, especially, of course, when the Camillus family ruled Camels on Main St. in the 'Burg, (going well back to the days of the original Rongovian Embassy). Thanks for getting in touch, Eleanor, and get this: The farmhouse studio recently acquired the long-lost original Camels pool table lamp! We plan to deploy it in the mixdown room.
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Then Donna U. wrote: Hi Steve! Richard Updike of Richard’s Tri-County Lanes was my brother-in-law and I spent many hours in that establishment! Obviously I have many stories... Both of my children worked there too and love telling their children about what it was like to work for their uncle!! It broke our hearts when he passed, and the demise of his iconic business was almost as heartbreaking. [This burg] has not been the same! Thank you, Steve, for paying homage to Richard’s!
A. Hi Donna! Very happy to hear from you. Yeah, Richard was a class act. As a regular occurrence, he would visit competing establishments, hang at the bar, schmooze with the owner, and buy a round for the house before moving on. The guy cut a big swath.
Some lyrics in the songs were lifted verbatim from life and even from the last time I saw him – the previous ‘Jack Blake’ Wed. night league. Sitting next to him at the bar as patrons thinned, he spoke of the new sound system (that I recently installed). The dining room speakers had already been – shall we say – compromised by application of excessive volume. Then the conversation turned uncharacteristically personal, and we talked of things I had never envisioned discussing with him. And he summed it up by saying ”The time of your life, you can never get it back again... so ya work hard, ya play hard, I’m tellin’ you, an’ ya die payin’ taxes…” and I added “So what else is new?” after which he slapped me on the back, leaving a large handprint for several days.
Another bit of trivia: the ‘bowling ball song’ was actually performed live once at the TCLanes. Having offered to temp sub on bass for a few gigs in a friend’s country band, new owner Skip was talked into trying live music there, and ‘Cruise Control’ (including Delta Mike Shaw, Mindy Stevenson, et al) got the nod. We rearranged the song for 4-piece plus the harmony vocals, and I had the bowling ball sound loaded on a cassette tape, wired in so I could cue it manually as we played the music. Definitely a one time only thing, and within months, the place was ex.
Certainly, losing that guy was tough, and, as you say, losing the place to fire thereafter was indeed heartbreaking, although later I viewed that as kind of poetic. At any rate, in this day and age we can give thanks that we were there to be part if it all. Many a night, that joint was packed full and jumpin’ – as vibrant as the strings of a Telecaster getting plucked by the joy of humanity – and Richard was Leo Fender!
Thank you all ~ for stoppin' bye.
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Just when things had gotten a little too quiet around here, we heard from lissner Jamstone, the enigmatic fan who’s offered multiple live commentaries on our song players: Q. “Found you site thru sound cloud. I love that big horse thing [Gran Caballo]. I have played [it] in the stables and they like it too, specially Parlay’s Pride who always perks his ears up at the end. I like the other one with words [Call Me Tornado] and Grandaddy says he knows about the [Disney] Zorro but I like that big twangy guitar one. Will you make more sound like this please." Jamstone
A. Happy to hear from you now – and thanks for all your previous comments on SoundCloud. Glad you like how it sounds, also glad it works OK for the four-legged ones, and it didn’t put them off their feed. Understand that those two songs were drawn from 20-year old 'demo' recordings, and right now we have nothing else that sounds like that. A healthy animal keeps moving, Jamstone, but I'll never say never, and I may consider it since you might enjoy a sound twanging. I will therefore take it up with a higher authority! In the meantime, best regards to your Grandad and Parlay's Pride. Thanks for lissning and commenting.
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Q. From Joel: You play some pretty hot bass in all generas [sic], even on the country stuff. [Uh...'Frackin’ Hoedown' maybe?] I play bass, too and wonder who your influences were. What about Jaco? Also, who was your favorite drummer to play with?
A. When I was learning the instrument and lissning to songs on radio and records, there wasn’t much that I couldn’t almost instantly play, so initially, instrumental challenges and influences were sparse. Based on what I was hearing and trying to emulate, I’d have to first cite the great Motown session player James Jamerson, one of the Detroit Funk Brothers, for teaching me how – and what – you can play while accepting the musical responsibilty to hold the bottom groove. He said, "If you don't feel it, don't play it." Also, early pop/jazz/rock fusion group Blood, Sweat & Tears bassist Jim Fielder was particularly influential, especially on the Spinning Wheel album. Come to think of it, they both played sunburst Fender Precisions, like the bass I saved for for years, (and is shown in the underlay here, and elsewhere). No, I loved Jaco Pastorius, (Weather Report, etc.), with his modified-to-fretless Fender Jazz, and I even had a chance to discuss his music with him once at the Unicorn in Ithaca (NY), but the bass phenom was my contemporary and not a musical influence. OK: my all-time favorite drummer was and always will be Allen Vanderberg. He was my in-person groove mentor. He taught me to not be so 'busy', intruduced me around at private jazz jams and such, and I learned a lot from my time with him. Al Hartland was also excellent, a younger and more technical 'Berg but with that same groove mentality. Playing with him was a pleasure; same for goes for drummers Mitch Doll and Mike Pleviak, Doug Kelly and "Mister Four-Four" Gary Driscoll, all very talented. Thanks for your comments, Joel, and for the interview-type question – allowing me pretense of rock star status.
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Q. [Pre-dating all of the above, the following was relayed by a mutual acquaintance at Cornell U.] Hi Steve! I used to work at Richard’s in T-Burg. You wrote a song about the place, and I wonder what happened with it and if I could somehow hear it again. I liked it… from Kathleen
A. Hey there, Kathleen! I remember you from when my recording studio sponsored the LEFTIES, a five-man all-left-handed bowling team. Your inquiry segues beautifully into the fact that we are reworking both songs for publication - after 25 years! The SE version of Gone to Richard’s and Thanks for Stoppin’ – Bye will soon be released as another digital single. Thanks for your interest, Kathleen. Richard's was a legendary social meeting place – and I still miss it. [Both songs were delivered as promised, 10-15-20]
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Q. You guys are amazing! Stewards Eclectric – and also my friend Mike a.k.a music artist Jonah Whale. I'll compare your contrasts to two other bands: The Refreshments and REM. Refreshments: (a semi-quote – not verbatim – from guitarist Roger Clyne who wrote their hit “Bandidos”, then recorded for Mercury ‘95-’97): “It’s a lot harder to be independent, but it’s also more rewarding. I’ve never received a royalty check from Mercury in 10 years. Roger McQuinn [Byrds] never saw any for Mr. Tambourine Man or Turn, Turn, Turn. I’m not calling Mercury unfair, but that was the nature of dealing with the big record labels.”
From REM’s guitarist Peter Buck (after making a 5-page list of everything he hated about the business side of a 31 year career RE: $, authority, P.R.): “I hate the business & I don’t want to have anything to do with it!” Guess what Pete loved about it? Songs - the writing, recording, playing. Working with music.
You guys, SE, Jonah Whale and others – artists, composers and independent producers – have potentially avoided the greater pain and have embraced the supposed lesser all these years. This is what you’ve done, to do the better: to write it, play it, record it, and produce it for others to listen to or ignore, love or hate. [...interesting comments from the music artist known as ‘D’.]
A. Thanks much, D. Mucho appreciado on your words and your perceptions. Yeah, if you’re in it for the love of doing it, it is its own reward, and if something clicks, it’s a gift. If you’re doing it for bucks and the numbers, you might have picked the wrong time to musician! Music in society has generally been degraded to sound bites leading to and from the commercial. Blessed be the exceptions, and those adventurous audiophiles. Best of luck. I look forward to hearing your work with the Grand Midgets – or whomever. You’ll be great.
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Q. An Ithaca resident sent: "Sorry to hear about Bobby Comstock."
A. Yeah, I was, too. In early 2020, my friend, bandmate, sometime boss and sometime collaborator Bobby Comstock – a fine musician and someone close to my heart – left this realm for the next. In recent years, we didn't keep in touch, and although I was out of the loop, it sounds like he wasn't having much fun. Be completely assured that he's making up for that now. Having known Bob and traveled with him and varying configurations of the Bobby Comstock Band for over ten years, my memory banks are filled, and this website is peppered with references and anecdotes from those years. I hooked up with him at an extreme low point in my early pro music career, and in a scant few weeks I was onstage playing to crowds of thousands in the biggest venues with legendary founders of rock and roll I’d been listening to as a little kid. (Find his obit on '14850 Magazine'.) Bobby Jr. put together a complex and comprehensive musical tribute that night, playing many of his Dad's rare and obscure recordings. It was heartfelt and so very well done (as you might expect), and it's still available. ‘14850’ reports that “the web stream will be available at www.mixlr.com/rdr1, which the younger Comstock usually uses for sports broadcasts. Update: The web stream has been archived and remains available at mixlr.com.” For fans of Bobby Comstock & the Counts and early rock historians, this is definitely worth your listening time.
Never heard of Ithaca NY's Bobby C.? A lot of early rock music afficianados have – like Tom Petty. He regularly plays one of several of BC's records, (most notably, Bob's version of "Stomp!"), on the Tom Petty Sirius Radio channel, citing them as an early influence. (And he manages to do to that, having shuffled off this mortal coil a few years BEFORE Bobby. Amazing!)
Bob was a great player – he loved to play – he was great at it – and he just wanted to keep playing, but at times his R&R history was the proverbial albatross. I’m happy to say that besides being bassist and vocalist, I brought Bob a selection of new cover tunes for the BCBand, many of which became favorites of his, and of his audiences, too. He embraced many of my suggestions of Allman Brothers, The Band, Loggins and Messina, and Little Feat songs, and we had great fun playing them. Near the top of that list would be Lowell George’s Dixie Chicken, and Up on Cripple Creek penned by a friend of Bob's, Robbie Robertson. I think this ultimately helped him try to move forward from rehashing his 45s.
That early-‘70s four-piece band with Bobby, Allen Vanderburg, Larry Crowder and me will always be a high point in my life, having met my future wife after sitting in on a Wed. night jam at the Ithaca Salty Dog hosted by BCB. That’s where we met and first played together.
Maybe my favorite memory of Bob comes from the end of one of those many BCBand gigs just after wowing a closing-time crowd with our second encore, a jammed-out, major league Statesboro Blues. He had had his eyes closed and had been rocking forward and back with such intensity while playing his black Les Paul I thought he was gonna tip his amp over backwards, and maybe go with it. A sweating BC and I were putting down our axes, and I told him, “Bob, man, those leads were smokin’ hot. On fire! B. B. King should play so good!” Backed with the sound of the crowd still shouting for more, he looked at me with that classic Bobby Comstock self-assuredness, and said matter-of-factly, “Yeah, when I get rockin’, man, I get serious.”
Thanks, Bob. Seriously.
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Q. D.B. wrote about Little Richard's passing: "...I wondered what your thoughts might be about him. Colorful? Yes. Charismatic? Yep - if not bizarre. Just seeking first hand memories. If I'm the first to deliver the news, I'm both sorry & honored at the same time. For sure, he's "havin' some fun tonight."
A. D.B., there were at least 3 shows I did with Little Richard on the bill, but understand I never played with him onstage. He always fielded his own band. Too bad. Backing up Little Richard would have put me in some sort of league with Jimi Hendrix, (besides the left-handed thing), since Jimi played guitar for Richard early in his gigging career.
Once, at Madison Square Garden, LR & his band had the dressing room immediately across from ours. We were sharing ours with Bo Diddley, which, by itself, was a trip. At one point, Richard knocked on the door and burst in with a huge flourish to say hi to Bo and Bobby C. and shoot the breeze as only he could. Wish I’d had one of my little tape recorders going for that conversation. Richard invited us to his d.r. for some ‘real fine hass-ese’. Bo and entourage went over, but I declined. I was in rehearsals, playing bass for almost everybody. And I had so much to remember, getting bozo’d on the job was the last thing I needed and it would’ve been my last Rock Revival gig.
He was a superb showman, wrote songs with now-classic rock grooves, and had a vocal style imitated by many who came after him. (Hello, Sir Paul!) Watching his performances from the side of the stage was a top shelf R&R experience for a 21-year old hired gun bass player.
Ultimately, he had a lotta guts for doing what he did when he did it.
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Q. "Something happened to me like with Gman, (‘80s?).” [See Q&A from Gman below.] “Chuck Berry was playing at our community college. Near the end of the show, he invited us with our dates to dance on the stage, and then was p.o.’d when we did. Was he weird like that? Also: why did he hit ‘some guy’?” TomCAT2
A. The man cut his own swath to success in a racially segregated society, so he was only as weird as that makes you. Truth is he probably wanted your dates to dance, not you! And as for that ‘some guy’, he was stupid enough to try to grab Chuck’s red 345 Gibson. Bad move, Bozo; you earned what you got. Thanks for writing, TC
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Q. "OK, Steve, here’s my 'review' - with questions. I wondered about Frackin’ Hoedown that showed up on [a country playlist], so I found you. Listened to your other material, but it was so different and I didn’t appreciate that at all. But when I realized the same band who did Hoedown also did Postwar Jump – and Crossing Across – and then March No More, which is so funky, it's really sort of amazing. And that Pennsy Blues thing – WTF is that? The differences are entertaining," [italics mine], "even though I'm not crazy about some of them. You guys are not boring, so I watch for your next release. Send free album, etc. to [address]; thanks! QUESTION: I am a vintage audiophile. When are these coming out on CD (which sounds way better than crappy mp3)? How about vinyl? [signed], M2gawn"
A. Interesting review, Em Two; the 2010 FGB album, first day poster & etc. on the way. I may collect all of the digital singles to a CD later in the year , but have multiple new releases (to include) before that happens. Our audience is currently too small to justify a vinyl pressing. Thanks for lissning and for your comments. God, the Grand Piano and The Steward all love such an adventurous audiophile, and so with my best/worst over-sized goofy plaid Spike Jones jacket on, I repeat his immortal words, "Thank you, music lovers."
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To Steve at Steards Electric [sic] Q. “Your the frackin songs guy. You [have been] promising more country stuff with Chubbie Pickens playin.” [Bona fide character and consortium member the Chubbie Mr. P. is our resident banjo man since 2017.] "So where is it?" [signed] Smokin Jay
A. It’s runnin’ late, plain and simple. Everything is. Gonna be a little while, but I’m glad yer here bustin’ my bleedin' chops, maybe get me to move my tail faster - if that's possible. PROMISE: I’ll send ya a personal email when "Daver’s Maple Steamin’ Ragg" comes out. Yer guy Chubbie is playing on it. So go smoke a jay, pardner.
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Q. " Mr. Steward, Your “March No More” piece has special meaning to me, and probably to other vets as well. Could you tell me more of the background of it? Respects, Lt. A. I. Means, ret.”
A. It was aimed at the many dedicated members of the armed forces (and other protective, science and service organizations) whose time of service has ended. Of these, some found that despite their best intentions, their contributions were misappropriated, the truth misrepresented or swept under the rug - and are disappointed, even disillusioned. Take Ike, (U. S. President Eisenhower), who witnessed the signing of WWII surrender papers in 1945, only to be forced to sign a so-called ‘agreement’, (more like our own surrender), 9 years later in 1954. Unimaginable, yet it happened. The very real 'Washington UFO Flap' in July of ’52 may have been a warning: ‘we got you covered, so sign’. How about another true American hero, James Forrestal, Secretary of the Navy and the first U. S. Secretary of Defense? Like Ike, he wanted people to know the truth about what was happening, and what he got for his love of true democracy was also unimaginable – but it happened. He deserved way better, and an honorable legacy. Lots more heroes like these, some American, some not, and not all famous. Maybe you’re one. [More dedications listed in SONG INFO.] Personally, I’d like to know what the song means to you, Lt. Means. Thank you for writing, Sir.
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SENT in reference to the song Crossing Across: “Whoa. Felt this in my chest... The beginning was 'Procol Haram-ish'; then 'Steward-ish' with tinges of E.L.O.; then pure SHS guitar. Not exactly like early Pink Floyd, maybe hints to my fav '70s PF; more toward it leaning that way (as a description of the sound). Then, what comes next, the only way I can describe it, is pure Gale Experience (as in Jimi Hendrix Experience,... as in a musical choreography of Gale's own Experience Crossing). Can't describe it any other way, Bro. Made me smile. Will buy/download this to play in my Jeep.” Diana B., Kenai, Alaska USA A. Wow. Procol Haram? You, Diana, are an accomplished vintage audiophile! Thanks. You guys keep us going.
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Q. “I would like to see you guys play in person. Do you have a schedule of dates? (The ‘Crossing…’ piece is excellent.) Thanks. Joi2world” A. Sorry, Joi, we’re not currently doing gigs. Performing live can commandeer one's life, taking energy away from new music ~ and that’s what currently floats this Eclectric boat. Been there, done that, you know, and moved on ~ but I’ll never say never! Thank you for lissning, for the appreciative verbiage, and be assured any live gigs would be announced here and in the newsletter.
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Q. Steve. "Picked up your garage band album at a recent car show where the orange [cover art] truck was on display. A sign said “1979 Dodge Lil Red Express truck heard on track 2”. There was a Lil Red next to it, but that was a ’78 – NOT a ’79! They were made for 2 years only, and the front ends are different! So which one was used in "Do Ya Wanna Drive?" ? (Thanks for the CD!) They call me Motorhead Girl...
A. Neither of those – but I commend you, Girl, on your hot rod knowledge. (Loved you in My Cousin Vinney!) "Sunrise" is my own resto-build wearing its original '78-only color 'Sunrise Orange'; the LRE you saw next to it at that Car Pride Show is an original 20K-mile survivor owned by Mopar Mike Jackson. However, the album sounds were done with my ’79 Red Express, (still awaiting resto, and not at that show). Recordings of it ‘leaving’ were done on a country road with one microphone at ‘the line’ and another one positioned for the second-gear chirp. Exhaust from the original smallblock HP360 V8 was straight out headers with nothing aft, NOT from Red Express stacks. It took numerous attempts - can you say 'take 14'? - to finally get it right, and with the posi rear, I burned the tires off that pooch. (And that is what is meant by "Have some fun…") Oh yeah, also: it had no brakes. None. Thanks fer the cool question, Girl.
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Q. Akiko wrote: "Very fond of cd yours. Wakan is my favorite. I listen over and over. Artwork shows many flying saucers. Are subscribed you to ancient alien theory?"
A. Yes. I’d describe it as "directed panspermia – with fringe benefits" A subscriber? Yes. I was a charter member! I saw The Day the Earth Stood Still (1951 movie) at 10, and read my first Ivan T. Sanderson book ["Abominable Snowmen"] at age 14. These days, many UFOs seen are from one of the Secret Space Programs, (Solar Warden, Fourth Reich, Deep State/CIA, etc.), so not necessarily ET's ride. Still: could be… Anyway, I thank you for your words. I am greatly honored, Akiko – and I hope you liked the up-tweaked re-release of the song as a single. (Did you hear the musical saw ?)
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Q. "You have a unique website. I could not find you on Facecrack, don't know why - Angela"
A. Thanks for finding to my site. No, you will not currently find me on 'Facecrack' (as you call it) - although the career experts advise otherwise. I set up this Q&A column for personal contact in lieu of. I stay out of the Silicon Valley-generated Grippin Mire whenever possible. It works for some folks. Thanks for your comments, Angela, and please come again.
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Q. Riding the wave of the Woodstock 50th, (Aug. 2019), Hollywood voice-over artist Aaron Meza wrote: "Hi Steve, Thanks for sharing about Woodstock. You can reminisce anytime! For myself, like Joni [Mitchell], I must be content with honoring that time in a different way – and I did recently with a wee jam with my buddy Gary. (He was 20 years old and in the army overseas in '69.) We played songs by the performers; it was fun, and we included Joni’s song."
A. Hey, thanks Aaron. Alright, cool on yer jamming. Yeah, got some memories even though I was only there Sat. to Sunday morning, so here are a few: * * * * * Right after finding a place to park(!) and beginning our 10-mile pilgrimage to the stage came the ticket scalper. He obviously had us pegged as newcomers, and immediately went into a sales pitch, offering each of us Sat. $6 tickets for only $2. What a deal! Not yet knowing that they weren’t needed, I bought one. Strange Brew drummer Mike Pleviak refused, and busted me for being a chump, but I still have mine, now framed with some surrounding artwork [see PHOTO/ART GALLERY]. So who’s the chump now, Mike? But major kudos to George Broody and his beautiful bug-eyed '60s Dodge van, the Magic Bus that got us there and back. You and that van made it happen, George! * * * * * Here’s another: It was Sat. afternoon. Strange Brew organist Mark Leach and I had hung close to stage front for awhile, partook and passed a few things, and then went walk about, heading up the hill. Went to a funky makeshift food stand, and even the worker there passed me something. Bought a burger, dressed it with ketchup. Then I heard him tell the next guy, “Sorry, man, we’re outa burgers. Still got a few hotdogs.” “Are ya gonna get more?” that guy asked - while several other interested people were listening. “I dunno, man” he said, looking around, “I think it’s gonna be awhile.” Took a bite of the burger when this amazing drum rhythm started. “What the eff is that?” I said to Leach. Took another bite, then this incredible mesmerizing lead guitar stuff filled the air. I handed the rest of the burger to the guy who didn’t get one. “Cool, thanks, man!” He took a munch and passed it to somebody else. (That was Woodstock.) Everybody stopped what they were doing, looked at the stage and wondered WHO THE EFF IS THAT? It was some band named Santana – and I had just bought the last hamburger at Woodstock. * * * * * And onward: To me, Woodstock in ’69 was NOT about partying, drugs or even music. It was all about people. Hundreds of thousands of people thrown together into a situation they could not have imagined or predicted, a situation that conventional wisdom would mark for disaster, a potential do or die scenario. There were NO fights, rapes, thefts, or examples of violence of any kind. This occurred without a police force. People worked together to make that happen. Everyone there, the attendees, townspeople and local folks, caregivers, grossly outnumbered (!) law enforcement personnel, anyone whose eyes met yours was your friend and part of your family.
THIS is what human beings can do when they want to.
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Diana B. from Alaska comments and asks Q. Hey! I saw you with Chuck in Pittsburgh in '73. Chuck was late getting onstage and the crowd was getting antsy. But after he walked onstage the crowd went crazy!!! Chuck looked like he was having a great time. I remember you guys playing great backup and some pretty heavy bass. What brand of bass guitar was that? I've seen pictures and can't quite make it out. Any other memories of that awesome concert would be much appreciated!! That concert is an excellent memory of mine. Thanks for your time answering.
A. The ‘Richard Nader’s Rock & Roll Revival’ concert you recall at the Pittsburgh Civic Arena was probably my 3rd time playing with Mr. Berry; the revitalized four-piece Comstock Band (that added me as the young pup on bass) was only a few months old. [See BANDOGRAPHY on the ABOUT page.] We opened the show with a new version of Bobby’s R&R medley – new packaging for same oldies – but except for playing with CB, I don’t recall any of the other supporting acts, (although I know I was onstage as bassist for most of them). Thanks for the kind words; I was using the ’66 sunburst Fender Precision I’d special-ordered (lefty) through Collins Music in Bloomsburg PA when still a school kid. Spent every cent I could save or find to buy it including my older brother’s Indian head coin collection at face value. Thanks, Gale. [Photo on WHAT'S NEW page] I think the reason Mr. Berry was late to the stage that night was because he added a new stipulation: he insisted on getting paid in greenbacks before going on. With the paid attendance clamoring in their seats and the producer over a barrel, Chuck held his ground until Nader’s people coughed up the cash. Mostly I remember how great that Pittsburgh audience was, and how friendly and music-knowledgeable the people were in general. Thanks for writing!
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Q. What the real story with this Hall of Fame stuff? Who are you kidding?" - sent by 'N. Credulous'
A. Everybody, N., everybody, - and, while accurate in some respects, it has all the authenticity of your name! [See the article in What's New. This satirical piece was contributed by a veteran pro in 'the biz'.]
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Q. "Wow. Can't believe your site. I searched Headwind. I remember you guys at Cornell, doing CSNY, Dead, Traffic and even Chicago. What happened to that band?" - CL"
A. The short answer is that it passed away in its adolescence. The longer blurb is: When I shuffle off this mortal coil, I'll go still wondering what would have happened if Headwind had stayed together. It was the band we, (Jeff, Aaron and I), had all hoped for as individuals. In '70, seemingly as providence, Jeff Plissner and I were assigned freshman roommates in the old University Hall #4 dorm, and we met and started singing CSN harmony with Aaron Meza at a freshman mixer our first week there. This trio nucleus of Headwind (which had been Ezra) all left CU at the same time a few years later, presumably to make the band fly bigtime, but the effort was immediately derailed by someone's bossy new high school-grad bride commandeering him (and the rest of us?) to the west coast. [I imagine he thought: "Hmm... Let's see now: the band - or a hot-to-trot 18-year old?"] The little pussy won and Headwind lost. Go West, Young Dick. End of story. Jeff and I stayed east, tried to regroup, but the magic was gone. Eventually he went back to school; I floundered for a year through Orion, ABB and King Henry's band until I hooked up with the Ithaca-based Comstock Band in 1973. [See BANDOGRAPHY] Thanks for writing, C.
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"The old album song I think you should redo next is Time Is Now. - Misty." OK, thanks. That's a good choice. Like all those album cuts, there were technical issues (with both recording and distribution) that held it back. And I've always wanted a chance to remake that lead guitar work with the plastic Mickey Mousegetar . We'll consider it, and I appreciate your suggestion.
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Q. My boyfriend wants to know what’s up with the hand sign on Postwar Jump and also on your Spotify page, etc. - Sandi
A. While some have assumed that it's simply my own modified version of the Vulcan 'Live Long and Prosper' thing, that hand sign has multiple historic derivatives. In more modern times, it is The Sign of The Big W, and generally signifies buried treasure. Originally thought to mimic the star constellation Cassiopeia in ancient times, it was first used regularly as a secret code by a group of mysterious warrior monk musicians, the Daze Permlar. This once-powerful sect came under dire persecution, so the survivors were forced to flee Europe with all their secrets, sailing in a lighter-than-air craft built from alien materials they discovered under King Soulmann’s Temple. Upon arriving in North America, they realized that taking the native people’s homeland away from them by force would be unfair and unjust, so they left. This time, they landed on an obscure island, taking up residence on what is now Pines Peninsula. There, in an elaborate system, they buried their treasures and secrets, including their lead balloon and (presumably) the long-sought-for Spark of the Government. By invitation, they mated with the local population and intended to live out their days permanently until forced underground by some unknown cataclysm. Various versions of this hand sign are depicted in numerous famous paintings by Geothermo con Vinci as well as other artists, apparently to tell the viewer in a coded message that The Spark of the Government and the royal bloodline of King Soulmann had survived. I display it as it relates to the fact that there are still many buried treasures and undiscovered secrets – some even hidden in plain sight – and that it’s still a mad, mad world. But we’re doing better; we’re down to only two mads. And feel free to contact me again, Sandi, if there's anything else your boyfriend wants to know, like 'how about when turned on side?' - the answer being, of course, that then it's The Sign of The Big E ! Enjoy.
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Q. Hi Steve. Recently found your site and read bandography [ABOUT page]. I worked with [a certain drummer - name withheld] years ago. Once we were coming home from a gig in your area. On a back road, we put the VW microbus on it's [sic] side in a big ditch. He called some bass player guy at 4 in the morning to come out with his Power Wagon pickup truck. The vw was yan[k]ed back on its wheels, and up out on to the road, and we drove it home - cops never came. Was that you? [name withheld]
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Thanks, Gman, for the review you put on CDBaby. [NOTE: Come to find out, 'Gman' is actually Hollywood character actor George Georgiadis and his review went: "Every time I play the album my favorite song changes... Do Ya Wann Drive? Yes! It's drivin' music !...road trip or cruise, ROCK ON..." etc.] Yeah, there was definitely some drivin' going on in that recording, George! Chuck Berry told me once, onstage, in the middle of a song: "You drive me, man. You DRIVE me!" - after which he did the sidestep slide up to the mic, and hit the fourth verse of Johnny B. Goode el perfecto. (And that's where my song title "Drivin' Johnny B." comes from.) Also: Q. "I was still living at home in NYCity, went to a Beacon Doo-Wop show. You guys were there, the Comstock Band, and everything was going great. Somebody invited a few of us down front to come up onto the stage. Next thing I knew, cops were clubbing me and I got dragged out the side door. WTF was that about?"
A. That was rude, dude. Sorry to hear you got thrown out of that Beacon Theatre concert for dancing onstage; I have only a vague memory of it; I was playing bass at the time. Probably when the Coasters were on, right? I knew Carl and Speedo best; we partied some. Chuck was always doing that, too: he'd invite people up, and it would get out of hand. (DUH, Mr. Berry!!!) He did that at Madison Square Garden one night - and ended up punching some guy in the head, onstage, while under a perfect white pin spot! The Big Apple audience didn't like that, and closed in on the stage and orchestra pit. I barely got out of there alive, and with equipment intact - thanks mostly to my personal roadie of the evening, friend and drummer Mitch Doll. Sideman pal and saxophonist Lou Marini Jr. was on that show, too, about a year before he became "Blue Lou" with The Blues Brothers ala Sat. Night Live. Grapevine said our Comstock group was also scrutinized to be the backup band in that movie; obviously we didn't get the offer.
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tarzanNjane asks: Q. "Could you please tell us more about Ernest Silverback, and what he is doing now?"
A. No, vineswingers, I cannot. I have never even met the man face to face. Producing that song ["Frackin' Fool"] was a unique challenge. First, SE Consortium members powwowed to create the instrumentation backing, (the accompaniment). Then, Silverback essentially phoned in his performance. Afterward, I put on the finishing touches and shoved it out of the nest. So, to answer your question: I can't say where froggy-voiced Ernest is or what he is doing. Truth is I'm not exactly sure who he is.
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This, from Deereman66: Q. "Heard your Frackin Fool on a country list, and I’m incensed. I’m a 4th generation farmer, and we support the gas drilling venture here. Not just for the money, but for those who need this energy. Where do you think it’s going to come from for this great country of ours? From space? I think you are the fool. Who do you think you are?"
A. I think I’m a musician and a farmer whose ag lineage also goes back 4 generations. The story those songs tell was culled from real life. Yes, that frackin' natural gas IS needed: by the energy corporations - to sell. The process to get it is foolish, shortsighted, irresponsible and, plainly, idiotic. (Nikola Tesla knew about free energy for everybody, but citizens have yet to get that info. And: it IS from space , guy.) I think you are not stupid, just ignorant, since you believe what you’ve been told. The real news is not on 'The News'. Instead, think on this: "I think, therefore I am. I think not, therefore I am not." However, I agree with you, my Deereman: you should be incensed! I suggest Celestial Sandalwood.
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