ThumperD Biographical whimsey:
Winning $7 on a radio station singing competition, 3rd place, 8yrs old.
Singing in the church choir for the 1 semester I could handle of the school, I did get to do a couple of solos.
Competing with Gary Stackhouse to see who could remember the most verses of the Davy Crockett tv show. Each week there was a new verse and every morning after, in the fourth grade we sang our way through all of the verses. Thanks Mrs. Vaughn.
Started in the school band in the 7th grade, trombone, trumpet, french horn and clarinet. Stayed in the band all through high school. Did contest solos, duets, trios, quartets etc. Rode on the school bus to all of the in state contests.
Have hitchhiked thousands of miles for hundreds of hours with a guitar and a suitcase and played open mic from the northwest coast to the California coast to the Texas coast to the Florida panhandle to Miami to DC and New England. Have carried my guitar to work with me in London, Bombay and Leticia. Leticia is on the Amazon river. Probably disqualified from being on Texas Troubadour for playing in too many other places.
Spent a year and a half as a beach bum/surf bum. Washed dishes, bottled rum, worked on a golf course and surveyed beer drinkers, house to house on the north shore. One of the houses was occupied by Buch Van Artdalen. He was so amused at my beer drinking survey that he invited me to jin him at a wedding/pig roast beach party. I was able to survey beer drinkers successfully all day long. Well, for a while any way.
Played at Don Ho’s mothers bar. Played at several Waikiki beach jam sessions. Played at several back yard Sunday afternoon pickin parties, ukes, banjo and Hawaian songs in the native tongue.
Using the maintenance entrance, climbing up and down the side of an extinct volcano by hanging from bamboo trees and laying in a meadow with a sky full of stars.
Favorite memory from Hawaii, waking up on Waikiki beach just as the night was turning morning gray, hitchhiking back to Kaneoe and getting picked up by a load of field workers on their way to work. They sang Hawaiin songs in 6 part harmony, about what I don’t know but the beauty of that music still reverbs in my head.
San Antonio ---------------------------------------------
Coming to San Antonio for Hemisfair, opening up at head shop at the corner of S Alamo and S St Marys. This is now the Texas Highway Patrol Museum. I had a friend, named Eddie, who we called Bear, who did a huge tag on the side of the building, maybe one of the first wall size tags in San Antonio. Still trying to find him now that I’m back in San Antonio.
An attractive San Antonio journalist , I think her name was Margret. Still trying to find her. She kept in touch and ended up coming to the Miami Pop Festival there to report on it for a San Antonio paper.. I was staying at the festival site, sleeping in my van. She stayed with me one night in my 1959 Volkswagon window van. This was one of the vans with the canvas roof. I had covered all of the windows with a stick-on shelf liner with a “hippie” style flower pattern. You couldn’t see through and it looked cool. Any way, we were in the back on the bunk having a cigarette about 1 in the morning when all of a sudden the inside of the van lighted up like the psychedelic light show from the Filmore. The festival had hired one of those huge spotlights that sweep across the sky and are used at grand opening. The crew had brought the light in and was testing it. We were about a quarter of a mile away, apparently a good test distance for huge spot lights,. so they were using my van to test the beam focus. Altered states react in strange ways when lighted in such a fashion.
My girlfriend, Sue, worked at the PussyKat lounge in downtown San Antonio. The PussyKat had Augie Myers and the Bubble Puppy in heavy rotation at that time. One of the other waitresses gained local hero status when she came into work the night after Jimi Hendrix played at the venue that used to be at Auditorium Circle. She had stories of her, another girl and Jimi and lots of whipped cream. I still keep in touch with her, but she’s grown up now and so no names.
Driving up to Austin to the Vulcan Gas Company, truly hippie heaven.. One morning I came to on a couch in a living room that had 2000 lbs of weed stacked around the walls. The home belonged to Roky Erikson. Many good times at the Vulcan.
After the festival years:
Lived and played in Austin for 5 years before moving to San Antonio.
My band ThumperD played at least once a month at Tacoland for almost 2 years. Ram requested our cd so that he could have “BoogieMan” on his jukebox. I was one of the few people who was close to Rams age and so sometimes after playing we would sit and exchange “war” stories about drinking, women and the trouble we got into. He won that war, but it was always fun.
The festival years --------------------------------------------------
Hanging out, one night for a couple of hours with Ted Nugent in Ft Lauderdale. At the time he was still in the Amboy Dukes. This was in my experimental drug years, and he babysat me for a couple of hours. He played an English fox hunt on an unplugged electric guitar. Trumpets blowing, dogs barking, foxes running and hiding and horses snorting and clopping. This was what started me playing guitar. This happened just a few months before I started working festivals and he was one of the main acts for 3 festivals that I lighted over the next couple of years. I always gave him the best lighting that I could and always handled one of the main spotlight for his show.
Miami Pop Fest:
This was the second festival in Miami that year, and my first. By this time I had an electronics background and a good work ethic. I became the go to person for physically setting up sound and light cable runs. Doing this got me into contacts with several people who took me further up the festival ladder. In no particular order:
Bert Cohen, one of the original contributors to the first Woodstock poster, project manager for the Newport Festival series on the road, host to Wavy Gravy and the Hog Farm for a week as they made their way to Woodstock, and designer/constructor of the Woodstock offices in New York city. I was living at Bert's then and then there are “stories” from that time. And folk music aficionado, lots of books and rare folk music recordings.
Chip Monk, the voice of Woodstock, I remember “the brown acid is particularly bad” or something like that being the most memorable of his sound bites in the Woodstock movie. You might be able to recognize him. Blondish hair, full mutton chops with mustache and beard, mainly shirtless, glasses, Australian accent. He was also a tour manager for the Stones in the early 70's. I recently saw an interview with Mick who spoke highly of Chip.
Steve Cohen, not related to Bert. After Miami, Steve was the manager of the Ark, the largest rock and roll club in Boston. Steve hired me as the lighting director of the Ark. This mostly meant that I replaced burned out light bulbs, but I truly enjoyed that job, Thanks Steve. The Ark and the Boston Tea Party became one club sometime later. The Ark was on the side of the Pike, you could see it from the highway as you drove by. The Tea Party was in an old church, great acoustics and lots of character, but I think it was limited in size. I saw the Who at the Tea Party, we had Clapton, Delaney and Bonnie and the Grateful Dead at the Ark. Of course both venues had lots of live music. Both clubs are well documented on the internet. Steve took me to New York city to audition for the job as lighting director at the Felt Forum. We saw “The Crazy World of Arthur Brown, said hello to the lighting director and then stuck 15 lbs of weed in our backpacks and flew back to Boston. I have a great Grateful Dead story about me and a young Scandinavian girl/lady/hippie wanna be, maybe later. Steve also lost money when I thought that I could be a successful rock show promoter and went to Padre Island to put on an Easter Weekend rock and roll show. He wasn't happy when I was so broke I had to hitchhike back into Boston and didn't have his money. Steve was also in the Woodstock movie, but you have to know who you're looking for. He was in several shots as stage crew. Steve was also up on the latest music, he was the first with rumours of Crosby Stills and Nash getting together.
Leo Makota, Leo was the Ampeg amp rep at several festival. He would travel around the country with a collection of Ampeg equipment and make sure major bands that used Ampeg always had working equipment. Leo invited me to California and his home. Leo was living in a house on the ocean. It was about ½ mile west of where Topanga canyon reaches the ocean. The scene from “Two and a half Men” looks very much like this spot. Leo focused better stoned than anyone I have ever know and an amazing amount of energy. We did a sound check at the Whiskey for Alice Cooper and Linda Ronstad. Leo also managed to get arrested with James Cotton at one of the largest entertainment venues in Los Angeles Leo also is in the Woodstock movie, large man, reddish hair. Cool dude.
The work I did with these 4 people brought me into contact with other people who wanted to do festivals. George Wein was the creator of the Newport Folk and the Newport Jazz Festivals. George decided that he wanted to create a series of festival along the east coast. He hired Bert Cohen to design a portable stage so that the series could be set up and run by one crew with a couple of semis. Bert in turn hired me to head up a group of hippie/crew persons that could build the parts for the collapsible stage, set it up, install stage lighting, set up a festival sound system, run a 3 day show, teat it all down and have it at the next site ready for the next weekend. We did this for 6 weekends in a row. George is renown for the acts he booked, but truthfully I don't remember many of the acts during this period. I remember Staple family singers in different configuration, I think I remember the Chambers Brothers but this could be wishful thinking, I remember Sly Stone, 'cause he went out into the audience and I remember thinking “on no, there's going to be a riot”. I remember Blood Sweat and Tears, all else is a blur. But, it was a blast. Apparently my work was satisfactory because George offered me the position of stage manager at the Newport shows. So 8 of my 15 festivals were George Wein productions.
At one of the Newport show, the audience outside the fences decided that they wanted in for free and started pushing down the chain link fences. I remember trying to swat people with a two by four when they started climbing over the wooden fences around the stage. Couldn't really do it and so they took over the stage. All that was left on stage was a pile of trashed lumber that used to be a very expensive grand concert piano. That was on Saturday night. The local authorities told George that he could not have the Sunday show. Maybe they just told someone at the festival, but it was the headline for the Sunday morning paper. “Festival cancelled”. Led Zepplin was booked to close the weekend. George put the show on. Since I was stage manager, my girlfriend had a full access badge also. So, she got on stage during the Zepplin set, about 10 feet from John Bonham. Behind a scrim that ended at the drum riser. When the set ended, Bonham grabbed her by the hand and led her off to their band room. Don't really want to say what she said happened, but I sent her back to Baltimore in the morning. This is why I still play Stairway.
Another festival I was hired at was the Palm Beach festival, this one was a stop for the Stones when Chip Monk was their road manager. The show was at a drag strip, the stage was at the far end of the strip, it had been raining heavily and most stuff was being hauled in by hand. Chip borrowed a large station wagon, put all of the Stones and their equipment in the wagon, got out on the drag strip, got up to about 50mph and cut across the drag strip and went shooting across the muddy field, sliding and slewing. He arrived safely, but I think any record management people would have died or fired Chip if they had seen this. I was in charge of the stage lights at this festival, hung, gelled and focused 278 lights. When Chip got there he said “I have 100 lights to hang and focus for the Stones set. So we hung another 100 lights and ran cables, gave them numbers. We then marked my cables and unplugged them. We plugged his in. He focused them, I unplugged his lights and plugged mine back in. This was about an hour and a half job. So far so good. The real fun was when the last act before the Stone finished and they announced that there would be a short delay for the lighting change. Whoops, it's dark under the stage. Now, I know that 100 thousand people are waiting for the Stones, but it was kind of cool that 100 thousand people had to wait for me, massive ego trip. Things went as planned, and I got to be on stage in charge of the lighting controller for a Stones show. Cool.
Some time during this period, Bert Cohen got a hold of me and asked if I wanted to do all of the lighting at a festival in mid Florida. I would have to provide my own lights. Of course yes, and then putting up the sailboat we were living on as collateral for the lights. Great show, Mountain, Johnny Winter, I think Janis Joplin, 3 days of peace and music. Took the lights back, kept our boat. I went out with Johnny Winter one night. He had heard that Cornell Gunter was playing at local roadhouse. Cornell was member of the 50's group, the Coasters. So we ended up at the roadhouse, a low concrete block building out in the middle of nowhere. Musicians as promised tho' so we were happy. The rooms inside were laid out with on big room with the stage and audience seating. One either side of the stage was a passage way to two other rooms, one a bar and one a pool room. There was passage between those rooms. This meant that you could go around in circles and just keep going from room to room. One of the band members was very gay and decide he like Johnny so we had a ball watching them go round a round those rooms. Most of the people there were very rural and you could see the tension in the air because of the group of hippies hanging in their club. The local rock band knew who Johnny was though and invited him onstage. He blew the house away and every on love us for the rest of the night. Kind of. Two of them loved enough to come back to the motel and go skinning dipping. Unfortunately, those two loved Johnny even more and went to his room with him. When we knocked on the door begging for entrance(oh yes we did), all we heard was “no”. Years later, I booked Johnny into Des Moines Iowa. He came into town 2 days early and we went bar hopping both nights and he always sat in with the bands, Great guy, except for those little “no”s. His was also the only major rock show I made money on.
At the mid Florida festival, I was approached by a guy from Illinois who asked me if I was interested in helping him put on a festival in Illinois. This was the Kickapoo Creek festival, most of this stuff can be verified on the internet. I went to Champaign, Illinois, or somewhere close. I designed a stage, security, lighting and sound requirements. Some was used, some of his people were able to create their own versions and we were happy. One of the most fun parts of this was trying to rent circus generators. Try it you'll love it. First though figure out power requirements for your festival and then double or triple that, then hire 2 semi out of Florida with huge generators. I don't know why I liked this so much, just another ego trip, but cool when the showed up and even cooler to lay out the power for the whole festival and then see every thing run right. Of course the guys with the generators probably deserve a little credit for their experience.
Another festival in Florida, don't remember where, another drag strip and a dirt oval, a stage at each. Good memory, hiring a 90ft crane to lift the spotlights up onto the lighting towers. My girlfriend was wearing a very short skirt and so we had no trouble getting the operator to let us ride up and down. We would stand on the metal ball at the end of the cable. He would swing us around while we were 50 feet high. Good rush. Bad memory, a kid having a bad acid trip, climbing one of the lighting towers and jumping off.
Hanging out with the folk music players at Newport, I only remember Buffy St Marie.
Playing harmonica with John Mayall, I was sitting on the porch drinking, smoking and playing. He heard me, came out and sat for a while, showed me some tricks. This was when I realized I wasn't going to be a harmonic player.
During my time in Miami, I used to be one of those hippie people who would hang in the park Sunday afternoon when there was live music. One of the other guys also had long hair and dressed in weird clothes. Never knew his name. I was surprised to run into him at one of the Newport parties. Since both had only seen each other in Miami in the park, we were surprised and finding the other there. I was the festival stage manager and he was the captain of Pete Seegers Hudson River Sloop, Clearwater. I believe this was the year that the boat was launched. I told him that someday I wanted a sailboat, he invited me out to the Clearwater. I ended up sleeping on/in a huge coil of rope on the deck. Sky full of stars and water rippling on the boats sides. In the morning, the river fog rolled in and just as the sun started to rise, from a man wearing a kilt, on small sail boat about 50 yards away, came bagpipe music.
Used to go to a jam in Newton Mass where Buddy Miles would sit in.
Did sound and lighting at the Berkeley Cafe in Raleigh NC. Noted blues and rock venue. Steady Rolling Bob Margolin, El Vez, Sassafrass and the Sassy Blues Women, Chubby Carrier, acts lost in history. Greg Allman and some of his band came in one night after playing at the local outdoor venue. They hung around for a couple of hours, he hit on a waitress and played a set on my G&L ASAT. A friend of mine, whose name I dis-remember at the moment, was one of the hottest regional guitar players who always said he would not play Stormy Monday, not even if “Greg f-ing Allman” asked him. HA. He was good enough to be on stage for Greg's whole set and so when the crowd chanted for Stormy Monday, it got played. I don't know why that tickles me so much, but it does.
I lived in Cuero for a while, attended Victoria Jr College, took music, played french horn in the orchestra and learned to sight read well enough to read a baritone sax part and transpose it my french horn. Also took a low level piano course, learned to play two beginner pieces from memory and wrote a short 4 part piano piece. Fun, but not as much fun as causing Toby to lose his Harley.
Toby was a local guitar god. He had been to LA and played with the big boys. He was the size of Leslie West and played that well. We decided that we knew enough to sponsor a rock and roll show in Victoria Tx and make money at it. I found a local club that would let us put on the show. Toby started calling his friends in California and ended up booking Canned Heat. He guaranteed them $5000. We set up a pretty nice outdoor stage with lighting and sound. Canned Heat arrived and we sold about 10 tickets. They put on a great show and asked for their money. Whoops, so Toby signed over his Harley. One of the roadies rode it back to California. The best way to make $10,000 on a rock show is to start with $25,000.
Roy Jenkins, my band instructor from 7th grade through high school. Joni Mitchell, Jimmy Page, Stephen Stills, Dolly Parton, Marty Robbins, Eric Clapton, Joe Satrianni etc.
To be continued.