Inkwell: Authors and Artists
Linda Castellani (castle) Wed 22 Aug 01 16:41
Our next guest, Hal Royaltey, was born in Tucson, and moved to California in 1952, where he had the chance to fully experience the live music available there in the 60's. Hal is a lifelong fan of rock music, particularly San Francisco bands of the 60's. He returned to California in 1980 after receiving his Ph.D. in Ecology in New York, and was soon involved in the very lively San Francisco music scene. He co-founded a successful software company, which allowed him more time for music. Hal was a big fan of John Cipollina, and was a friend of the Cipollina family. When John died, Hal joined forces with John's sister Antonia, his manager and friend, Steve Keyser, along with talented cinematographer Jesse Block, and film editor Jim Draper, to produce "John Cipollina: Electric Guitarslinger" a video biography of his life. Also joining us is Special Guest David Freiberg, a founding member of Quicksilver Messenger Service who grew up in Cincinnati and moved to California in 1959. In the early '60s he lived in a proto-hippie commune with Paul Kantner and David Crosby. In 1972, David joined the Jefferson Airplane, and he was a key player in the formation of the Jefferson Starship. He coauthored the Starship's international hit single, "Jane" and cowrote "Come to Life" with Robert Hunter. He and his wife -- singer Linda Imperial -- live in Novato, California, where they operate Free Mountain Studios. Interviewer Rik Elswit's downfall was brought about by exposure to Louis Armstrong, Elvis Presley, Pete Seeger, and the Beatles, though there were unindicted co-conspiritors who will remain nameless for the time being. He has been playing music professionally since dropping out of USC in 1965 and 1966. Oh yeah, and 1967, too. He'd been working the Bay Area for several years when he joined Dr. Hook for what turned into a 14 year tour, and even has gold records and tour jackets to prove it. He is a long-time WELL member, a former host of the Well's music conference, and today he plays, teaches, writes, sells musical equipment, and currently cohosts the band conference on the WELL, which is for working and aspiring musicians, and people in the industry. Please join me in welcoming Hal, David, and Rik to inkwell.vue!
radiantly surreal imagery (rik) Thu 23 Aug 01 10:43
Welcome all. Let me start with a question for Hal. This video is a very moving tribute, almost a fan letter, to a musician who was both a symbol of San Francisco's psychedelic 60s and a working musician who, while world famous, continued to work the clubs and ballrooms right up until his premature death. He was a lifer who lived to make music. How long have you been a fan, Hal? When did you first hear John, and what attracted you to his music?
Hal Royaltey (hal) Thu 23 Aug 01 23:21
Hi Rik. Hi David .. Though I hadn't thought of it before, "fan letter" really is a good way to describe the video. We started work on it a few months after John's death in 1989 for a number of reasons. For all of us, and particularly for John's sister, I think it was a way of saying goodbye, and thanks. We also saw it as a way to connect with John's fans worldwide - a kind of global wake allowing us to sit around reminiscing about John's music. Finally it was a way to preserve some of his life and work for those who hadn't yet heard of him. I first heard Quicksilver play sometime in the late summer of 1966. It was the summer between my sophomore and junior years of college at UC Riverside (in Southern California) and I was living in an off-campus house with a couple of buddies. One guy took a short summer session course at UC Berkeley and came home raving about this great music to be found in San Francisco. Shortly thereafter the three of us started driving to San Francisco (500 miles, more or less) two or three times a month, just to listen to whoever was playing at the Fillmore or the other clubs in town. The first time I heard Quicksilver, and John's guitar work, I was transfixed. I think almost everybody has music inside them; they can hear it in their heads. Unfortunately, only some of us can make it emerge into the outside world through voice or instrument. I'm one of those who's fated to be in the audience, and not up on the stage. The performers, of course, play their own internal music, and it may or may not be a good match for mine. John's match was almost perfect for me. Each note, each pause, was exactly what I would play if only I had the talent. Quicksilver was a near perfect match for John - the vocals, the instrumentals, the songs, were the best possible context for his playing. But ... why don't I let David say hello, too?
David Freiberg (freemountain) Fri 24 Aug 01 09:55
Hello folks ... sorry I'm late ... it's my birthday (as well as John's). I watched "The Electric Guitarslinger" late last night after a session in the studio. It brought smiles from deep within. I miss that old guy, John. He always seemed kinda like an old man to me, even though I was five years older. He was a unique personality. Shall we reminisce?
David Freiberg (freemountain) Fri 24 Aug 01 10:06
<scribbled by castle Fri 24 Aug 01 12:37>
radiantly surreal imagery (rik) Fri 24 Aug 01 11:05
Hi David, and welcome aboard. One interesting distinction that comes out in the video is that John, unlike Garcia, Kaukonnen, Mike Wilhelm (Charlatans), Barry Melton (Country Joe and the Fish) and so many others of the early SF rock bands, did not come out of the folk music scene. He was always an electric guitarist. How did you two hook up, David, and what were your roots?
Linda Castellani (castle) Fri 24 Aug 01 12:44
For those of you reading along on the Web, please send your comments and questions to email@example.com and we will see that they get posted for you.
David Freiberg (freemountain) Fri 24 Aug 01 13:07
Quicksilver was PERFECT ... named perfectly (can't hold it -- slips through your fingers).. let's hear it for astrology! OK, Rik, here goes. I came from a folk music background - I'd been earning what I considered a living for a couple of years. Jim Murray was a folkie as well. However, Gary, Greg and John were all rockers. Gary'd been playing bass in Vegas show bands, before becoming the Brogues lead singer. I met John in Sausalito, where there were vague rumors of Dino Valenti getting a band together. I'd moved to Marin County after getting busted in SF for an ounce of weed. I was working at a foreign freight forwarder, hating every moment of it. I'd come home and get stoned and play and sing Beatle songs 'til I dropped. John and I hung out and smoked a bit on weekends. I think he was toying with being a real estate agent like his Dad, Gino. (think I'll post this now and continue later)
David Freiberg (freemountain) Fri 24 Aug 01 13:38
to continue: Once again, I got busted for a bit of weed. After a stay of 30 days in Marin County Jail, I found myself released on my own recognizance, homeless and jobless in Marin. John, Jimmy and I began to get serious about forming a band. John and I became more or less inseperable. We spent a lot of time smoking weed and driving around in his '54 Plymouth, seeing the sights of Marin.
Linda Castellani (castle) Fri 24 Aug 01 14:19
When was this, David? What sort of time frame...?
David Freiberg (freemountain) Fri 24 Aug 01 14:32
It had to be mid 1965. We'd spend our days hanging out in the park in Sausalito - nights we'd find ourselves sleeping on someone's floor, most likely. Didn't seem like hard times - I was *absolutely* sure we'd have a successful band. Little did I know I'd have to do another couple of months in the slammer before the band would be whole.
the System Works (dgault) Fri 24 Aug 01 14:41
uh oh, here come the flashbacks... which park? the one downtown with the fountain that Mel Wax closed to keep the hippies out after his daughter showed up in Time as "a flower child?" It just reopened after 30 years!
David Freiberg (freemountain) Fri 24 Aug 01 15:13
That's the park ... and, I guess *we* were the reason Mel closed it down. Martha (his daughter) ran away from home to LA with Julia ("Girl" - whom I'd marry in a few months) to find Crosby. I'm glad it's reopened. It looked really stupid being fenced in. Keep them flashbacks a-comin'!
the System Works (dgault) Fri 24 Aug 01 15:35
It was a terrible scandal. My parents used the "look at Martha Wax who disgraced her poor father THE MAYOR" example to keep me in line. Must have worked for a couple of months, too. Don't want to interrupt the narrative here, but, the flashbacks are strong. First saw you guys the night before New Years 66-67 at the Fillmore. You guys wuz damn good.
David Freiberg (freemountain) Fri 24 Aug 01 15:58
Thanks for the nice words. Wow! I was into a narrative, wasn't I! Shee-ut! Didn't mean to do that.Let's talk about whatever! Happy Birthday Cipollina, wherever you are!
Steve Keyser (jonl) Fri 24 Aug 01 16:35
Email from Steve Keyser: Hi, Please let people that are reading the conference regarding John Cipollina: Electric Guitarslinger that they can find information about ordering the video at http://www.johncipollina.com They can also send me an email to firstname.lastname@example.org, or drop me a line at PO Box 2224, San Rafael, CA 94912. Thank you! - Steve Keyser
the System Works (dgault) Fri 24 Aug 01 16:53
Did John have any flamenco background? I hear that in his playing and he had that gypsy look going in his eyes, too.
Eric Rawlins (woodman) Fri 24 Aug 01 17:02
Thanks for setting this up, Linda and Rik. Thanks to Hal for the wonderful coumentary. And thanks to David for joining us here, so I can tell you face- to-face (sort of) that many of my fondest memories from the 60s are of listening to you and John and the rest do what you did, and to thank you for it. David, how would you characterize the different guitar styles of John and Gary? I always thought they complemented each other perfectly.
David Freiberg (freemountain) Fri 24 Aug 01 17:42
I don't think John had any flamenco in his background. He might have been forced to learn a little when he took lessons when he was a kid. I think all he ever *wanted* to play was rock and roll. His mom, was of Portuguese extraction - his father English (I believe his name was Mallett). Gino was his stepfather. Eric,I agree that Jon and Gary complimented each other perfectly. As I said earlier, QMS was *perfect* :-) But bound to trickle through your fingers like mercury .. just can't hold on to it. Gary was greatly influenced by listening to John Coltrane and Miles Davis - perhaps some of the Spanish influence came from our weeks of listening to "Sketches of Spain" while tripping. Gary was the rhythmic engine while John was the ornamentor, pulling his sounds from *beyond*! I always thought that Gary didn't get enough credit - not to take a thing away from John. They were BOTH great soloists.
Hal Royaltey (hal) Fri 24 Aug 01 18:14
> John was the ornamentor Yup ... aside from lead solos, John was constantly slinging little fillips and grace notes into the music, behind and around everything else that was happening. The band occupying much of John's time during the 80's was Dinosaurs. The original lineup was Barry Melton (CJ & the Fish), John, Peter Albin (Big Brother), Spencer Dryden (Jefferson Airplane, etc), and Robert Hunter (numerous Grateful Dead connections). The first few times we listened to Dinosaurs after John died, it was astonishing how concious we were of what *wasn't* there. All those nearly invisible little notes that made the sound richer were just gone. John's original musical training was classical guitar. His mother, Evelyn, was a fine pianist. If he wasn't going to study piano, she was determined that he would at least study real music. She was always his biggest fan, though. When John and Nick Gravenites were playing as Thunder and Lightning in the Chi Chi Club in North Beach in San Francisco, she was usually there. It was an amazing sight to see this dignified woman sitting at a small table in the world's tackiest nightclub, just beaming at her son while he and Nick ground out some marvelous blues. <dgault>: You were at the Fillmore on 12/30/66? I was there the next night. I think that was Bill Graham's first all-night New Year's Eve concert, and what a party it was. My memory is hazy after all these years, but it seemed as if every musician in town started turning up and sitting in after 2AM or so, with John hanging right in there with all of 'em.
David Freiberg (freemountain) Fri 24 Aug 01 18:38
it *does* get hazy, don't it?
radiantly surreal imagery (rik) Fri 24 Aug 01 20:57
Eric, in the video, John's sisters talk about his early guitar lessons. His mom apparently had an epiphany and figured that if he was going to persist with this guitar stuff, he better take lessons, and she signed him up with a rather academic teacher. HIs twin sister, Michael, tells of going with him to a couple of lessons, listening to blather about subdominants and tonics, and opting out immediately. John couldn't take it for much longer and bailed shortly after she did. Towards the end of the video, John himself tells a very funny story about a guitar lesson he takes from Muddy Waters, but I'm not going to spill it here. Ya gotta hear him tell it. What struck me, as a fellow guitarist, was his unusual right hand style. While the entire pop and rock world took up flatpicking, John used a plastic thumbpick and a single plastic fingerpick. And he loved using the vibrato arm. David, did he ever talk about why he used that arrangement, and, for that matter, what was with the amps with the trumpets on top?
the System Works (dgault) Fri 24 Aug 01 21:19
I think my flamenco question should have been 'where did all those arpeggios come from', which may be the same as 'where did that right hand technique come from?' I was thinking this evening about how much I love that tune 'Gold and Silver.' What a great piece of ensemble work. I listen to just about all Basie and Ellington these days, and that tune stands with those two bands.
the System Works (dgault) Fri 24 Aug 01 21:23
And yeah, I don't remember much about the night before the New Year's Bash except the feeling that by walking into that big dark loud room I was taking an irrevocable step. I had just turned 13, and man that feeling was right!
Eric Rawlins (woodman) Fri 24 Aug 01 22:46
>I always thought that Gary didn't get enough credit I always thought that too. Yeah, what *was* the idea behind those trumpets?
David Freiberg (freemountain) Fri 24 Aug 01 23:00
John used to file those plastic picks down to a point. Check 'em out on the video. They didn't come that way. The Bigsby vibrato tailpiece was also customised. It was made to only push down on, thus lowering the pitch. John wanted to pull and raise the pitch, as well - but if you did that the spring would fly out of the mechanism. So John epoxied the spring to the bar and glued a nickel in the hole where the spring sat (it had to be a Buffalo nickel - don't ask me why - this was John - only HE knew). He picked up the first trombone horns with the high frequency drivers for his amp on our first trip to Boston at Wurlitzer Music. He picked up the other two later. When he hit the footswitch to turn them on, your ears better not be facing them. OWWWWW! Piercing, man. Nobody will *ever* sound like that again.
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