Also memorable was the concert I saw -- the Bee Gees [above] -- accompanied by a thirty piece orchestra. Those vocals were easy for me to replicate, unlike the hard rock kind with which I struggled.
Left: A friend and I singing at boarding school (Spring 1968). I also sang in the choir, when I wasn't in detention. Right, the girl band I used to sing with.
My first girlfriend played keyboards, an electric Farfisa, and had her girlfriends on guitar, bass and drums. When I joined them we became a novelty act for a little while as no one had seen a girl band fronted by a guy singer before. Our fave tune was, "Louie Louie" and it's one I still sing to this day. I remember we played in the lounge of her father's ski resort, in upstate New York, and I would sing and do this dance I made up. The Afro-American kitchen workers came out and asked me later where I had learned to do that, and what was it called. "I don't know," I said, "I just made it up..."
It wasn't until I was 20 when I began plucking on various friends' guitars and, being left handed, I learned backwards, upside down, as those guitars were of course right handed. Undaunted, I persisted until I learned enough to buy my own. Almost immediately I found I could take a few easy chords and come up with a vocal melody over the top.
By then I had dropped out of college but was still hanging around campus in Massachusetts, learning to jam with others doing the same. One duo I had was with a friend who told me there was a blues guitarist named Otis Rush who was playing down in the campus center -- and he played upside down also! Watching him play convinced me that this unique approach to a centuries-old instrument was valid and even better, could stand out amongst all the righties and straight up left hand players. There was no turning back after that.
Also at that time we formed the group, "Autopsy" [right], trying to stand out in the crowd, in name anyway. I think we had the first punk band name maybe, but we played acoustic guitars and included a flute, which maybe made no sense. We were never popular, as I recall. And I remember short-lived duos I was in that would form. Back then, audiences would stop and actually listen to what you were trying to say.
Around that time, a disc-jockey friend of mine made a video of me singing at WMUA, Amherst, Massachusetts. I played an old Epiphone F-hole Spartan (acoustic) that I had added a pickup to and was playing through an amplifier, and accompanying myself with a harmonica.
[Above:] A song from the 30 minute video I made at WMUA with help from a friend, Chris Sophinos, called "The Blood, The Sweat And The Beer". In retrospect, at the age of 22, I was already writing about things beyond my experience.
Above: Myself and Bob Spelman.
Above: A good close up of the arch topped f-hole New York made Epiphone Spartan.
Above: Photo from Autopsy gig. (left to right) Tom Streit, Myself, Tim Westgate, Bob Spelman and (unknown)
Above: I arrive out West. Photo by Kevin Scofield.
Above: I traveled West with my old Epiphone and was captured here in Arizona by photographer Kevin Scofield, a classmate from college.
Looking for a new scene I landed on the West Coast in Oregon, and found that my songs and copies of Bee Gees were appreciated by the earthy hip crowd. Out West there was a whole new energy. For a while I was in a duo called "Adenoid and Barrymore." We recorded a couple of songs in a professional studio in Portland, Oregon.
With two other friends, I recorded a song I had written, "Don't Cry", in Portland and I submitted it to the American Songwriters Contest, making it to the final ten percent before being rejected. Instead of being encouraged, for some reason I never tried again.
On a trip to Phoenix, Arizona, I found a Gold Top Gibson Les Paul Deluxe in a pawn shop, and that changed everything.
A true electric guitar allowed me to rock without feedback, and jamming around with some rockers, a new act was formed -- "Country Water". Oddly, the name sounded like a country band, and we had some country rock tunes, but we were all over the map musically.