Sunday, July 3, 2011

Cars and Music - 40 years ago

Test Driving Life combines my interest in music with my longtime association with cars. That means sometimes it's one and sometimes the other (or if I'm lucky, both). Or--sometimes it's something else--I call that stuff "the third half."

In any case, I woke up today knowing I had a one-hour set to play with Red Paint and remembered a time long ago, when I was starting out on my brief solo "minstrel" career. I was occasionally playing open mike nights at places like the Coffee Gallery in North Beach (San Francisco) but what came back to me was the several times I drove up to Stockton (1-1/2 hours away) to play at the Beauty and the Beast Coffee House. I have little 8-1/2 x 11 posters to prove it!

A guy I'd met locally in an extremely brief band association, Pat Kelley, called me and up I went. We were in our late teens, and he was living with his parents, but he had the garage apartment. That meant we were free to enjoy smoking some substances--I know that I remember little of those musical weekends today because I was not normal during much of them.

My plan was to sit on stage with my guitar and sing my songs. I enjoyed it immensely, but alas, the world was filled with "Bob Dylan's Understudies" back then and I was not exceptionally talented or driven.

Now--the car part. My sweet mother lent me her beautiful baby blue 1966 Dodge Dart convertible to drive to Stockton and back. I was pretty much recovered from my indulgence by the time I slipped behind the wheel on the way home (clear and sharp on the way up, of course). It was a joy to drive that car around with its quick-drop electric top. It had a three-speed manual transmission -- on the tree. What a beauty. Try finding one today.

That car is long gone, and my dream of a strumming and singing career had faded away by 1972. I went off to college instead. But I still remember something of Pat and the Beauty and the Beast Coffee House (and those lost weekends).

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