Wednesday, May 23, 2012


“I grew up, like many people, believing memory to be a sort of hologram stored in the brain.  An accurate image of what was once perceived, once felt.  Of course that’s not true.  Memory is a reconstruction, and frequently a faulty one.”  Max Cairnduff

Way back in 1973, I was working part time as a DJ at the local “underground” radio station.  Going through various written Public Service Announcements and such for an upcoming break, my girlfriend, who had joined me that day (and who would later become my wife), found an interesting one.  It was for a new restaurant that was looking for musicians to fill host, bus and waiter positions.  Evidently, the staff would supplement their usual duties with periodic songs for the benefit of the customers.  The Velvet Underground’s “Sister Ray” ended, and before I started The Incredible String Band’s “You Get Brighter”, I read this solicitation during the break.

Up to this point, I had played piano and sang intermittently, and also had done some acting.  I was just beginning to “get serious” about the band I was in (one of the musicians is the “co-writer” of this blog).  I hadn’t really performed “professionally” or in front of that many people.  But I needed another job, and this sounded intriguing.  So I took note of the audition date and decided to give it a shot.

I think there were about 50 of us auditioning for some 20 positions?  We were all in a large banquet room adjacent to the actual restaurant, sitting around the perimeter.  There was a piano (with an accompanist if needed) and three people who were going to listen to us.  Running things was Gerald Scarne, whose father had written the classic SCARNE ON CARDS.  Evidently he and a few others had opened a similar establishment in Los Angeles that was wildly successful, and they wanted to expand the empire.  The audition would proceed with everyone there listening to everyone else.  It was a colorful and diverse crowd: fresh-faced young ingénues singing show tunes, grizzled old guitar players singing Leonard Cohen and Bob Dylan, and everything in-between.  We were each asked to perform two songs.  The only one I remember playing, at the piano, was John Prine’s “Your Flag Decal Won’t Get You into Heaven Anymore”.  The only other individual auditioner I remember was this insane, wild-eyed percussionist who did a surreal, Ricky Ricardo inspired routine on congas – absolutely incredible.  As with any audition, there was a wide range of talent, and of course only so many “slots”. 

Along with a couple dozen others, the percussionist (who became known as Bongo) and I were hired to open The Great Northern Food and Beverage Company a few weeks later.  Little did I know that this would be the beginning of an intensely productive, creative and insane 18 months, and that I would stumble into at least a half dozen friendships that have lasted my entire life.  But at that point, with an LSD dosed kitchen staff, barbeque drenched ribs on huge wooden planks, and initiation to the proper way of drinking tequila still around the corner, I was clueless.


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