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Biography (A Work in Progress)

            My earliest musical influences were classical music. As a toddler, I listen to and requested that the 20th century Russian composers Prokofiev, Rachmaninoff, Stravinsky, Shostakovich & Kabalevsky be played for me.
          But these were not my only influences. Perhaps the first folk music I listen to was Marais & Miranda, Burl Ives and the Weavers. The first live folk music concert I remember was Richard Dyer-Bennet. I was very impressed, and decided at the tender age of six that what I wanted to be was a minstrel. Not that many years later, I heard Josh White Jr. in concert. Again, I was mesmerized.
           Fortunately, on a parallel track, I was also hearing lots of classical music both in concert and thanks to the RCA Victor record club. I saw many of the greatest conductors of the mid-20th century: Bruno Walter, Dmitri Metropoulos, Fritz Reiner, Arturo Toscanini, Eduard van Beinum, Charles Munch, Leonard Bernstein, Ernest Ansermet, Pierre Monteux, Herbert von Karajan, and Kiril Kondrashin. In most cases they appeared with their orchestras. These were among the undisputed greatest conductors of the 20th century and created the definitive recordings of much of the repertoire that stands to this day. They were in the direct lineage and the more senior of them had first hand contact with the great composers including Mahler, Prokofiev, Rachmaninoff, and Stravinsky. Not to mention witnessing the enfant terribles of the day as they were just beginning their careers, Seiji Ozawa and Zubin Mehta.
           I was 12 years old when I began to take piano lessons. Pianists I saw in concert included Vladimir Horowitz, Artur Rubinstein, Sviatoslav Richter, Paul Badura-Skoda, Leon Fleisher, and Philippe Entremont, When I was 12, I got to see Van Cliburn rehearse for the evening’s concert, and got his autograph. The same year I was thrilled to hear and meet  the Budapest String Quartet (the greatest chamber group in the world) and I got their autographs too. I saw David Oistrakh, Yehudi Menuhin and Isaac Stern. I saw Pablo Casals and Andres Segovia.
          At the same time I was being exposed to music of the world. I saw the Moiseyev Dance Company, and the Don Cossack Choir from Russia. I was very stimulated by the dance troupes of Jose Greco, Carmen Amaya, and Jose Limon and must’ve thought that being a male flamenco dancer had to be one of the most romantic professions possible.
         Of course, I was not impervious to popular music. I was there when Elvis Presley, Jerry Lee Lewis, Little Richard, Fats Domino and Chuck Berry all exploded on the scene. In fact, the first record I ever bought was a 45 by the Everly Brothers, “Wake Up, Little Suzy”. It must have been 1962 or shortly thereafter that I dialed into XERF (in Mexico near Del Rio, Texas) and the inimitable “Wolfman” Jack leaped out of my radio with their legendary 250,000 watts (in 1964 he moved to XERB, the "Mighty 1090" from Rosarito, with "50,000 watts of Soul Power"). Although I had already been hearing the early Motown sounds on the jukebox in the school cafeteria, it was the Wolfman that introduced me to electric blues. (Because I had access to the college library, I had already heard rural blues via the Lomax recordings from the Angola penitentiary and the field recordings of McKinley Morganfield (aka Muddy Waters) on Stovall’s plantation from 1940.) Because of the Wolfman, I heard for the first time the music of Howling Wolf, Clifton Chenier, Lightning Slim, Lazy Lester, the Staple Singers, Sugar Pie DeSanto, Koko Taylor, Little Walter, and probably Bobby “Blue” Bland and B.B.King. I was now a full-fledged proponent of the four B’s: Bach, Beethoven, Brahms and Black Music.
        Around this time I also had my first exposure to live jazz music. I heard the Synanon All-Stars, a band that included Joe Pass. The first LP I ever bought was by Charles Mingus. The second was by John Lee Hooker. That sound got to me, and I began to play the guitar. (Years later, I got to know John Lee.)
          The early 60’s was also the period of the second wave of folk music’s popularity. Just prior to this, I had heard Pete Seeger and Leadbelly playing the 12 string guitar. I was very enamored with the richness of this instrument, and the first guitar I bought was a 12 string.
          Joan Baez’s first albums were out, and I had them. (She pinned a peace button on me at the bookstore she hung out at in Palo Alto- I was smitten.) Bob Dylan came out and everybody I knew that played guitar was learning his tunes too. I met Brownie McGhee and Sonny Terry and listened to a lot of Lightnin Hopkins and began playing in that style.
            I got very interested in rural blues, and was searching out tapes and field recordings. I picked up on the John Lee Hooker and Muddy Waters style readily, and was finding my niche in the Mississippi and Texas traditions. Sam Charters’  Country Blues and Rural Blues collections had just come out on Folkways Records. When I discovered Robert Johnson, that was really it. I had to play bottleneck style. I had to play like Robert Johnson. Then I heard Blind Willie Johnson. I had discovered the Holy Grail of bottleneck style guitar.
          “Really the Country Blues” from Origin Jazz Library (volumes 1 and 2) came out and I found out about Charley Patton, Skip James and Tommy McClennan. Atlantic put out a series on Music of the South, and I heard black gospel, field hollers and Mississippi Fred McDowell. I started adding Furry Lewis, Sleepy John Estes and Leroy Carr tunes to my repertoire.
        Chris Strachwitz had started releasing records on his Arhoolie label. I was listening to Memphis Slim. I found there were other young people interested in this music and recording it in the U.S. out of Cambridge and New York; people like Geoff Muldaur, Eric von Schmidt, Dave Van Ronk, John Hammond and John Koerner. Also a strange group of ruffians from the U.K. called the Rolling Stones. I added lots more Jimmy Reed and Muddy Waters tunes to my repertoire.
             Suddenly I got an opportunity to buy my Martin guitar. At the same time, I met and got to play with a delightful individual named Mississippi John Hurt. I had become part of a direct lineage. On the surface it seemed improbable, yet there it was undeniably happening.

End of Chapter One.

             The hootnanny part of my musical life had come to a close, and as my brief college months began, I started to play in the local coffeehouse scene. I was in good company. Fred Gerlach was a fixture on the local circuit. I got to see Hoyt Axton, Guy Carawan and "Big Mama" Thornton. For months I played opposite Dino Valenti, a charismatic singer-songwriter who a few years later fronted the Quicksilver Messenger Service.
            A move to Los Angeles had me playing opposite a young man just in from Cambridge named Taj Mahal, who shared my interest in the pure unadulterated country blues. We became good friends and he celebrated his 21st birthday as my roommate for a short period in Venice. There were no books or videos on how to play this stuff back then. (There were no videos, period!) Taj also shared some of what he had picked up of blues guitar with me. Then something really exciting happened. In those days, there were at least three of us that I know of that might have thought we were the living reincarnation of Robert Johnson ( me, Taj, and Johnny Hammond Jr.), or something like it.
          The man who had inspired Robert Johnson, who was his greatest influence, and who he had studied carefully, had been rediscovered after 30 years in total obscurity. This man was Eddie “Son” House. You can imagine my excitement when I showed up at his first West Coast performance mere weeks after Son was found in Rochester, New York. I got to meet him that night at the Golden Bear in Huntington Beach. I also became friends with his manager Dick Waterman. Son was very friendly and took a personal interest in me, and thus began the most formative influence in my blues evolution. (I got to know Solomon Feldthouse at the Golden Bear too, later co-founder of  the group Kaleidoscope. Sol played an eclectic blend of music , ranging from 12 string blues to Flamenco to Turkish Saz and Oud.)
          I hitchhiked to New York and landed on the Lower East Side of Manhattan. I played on the streets of Greenwich Village for tips. Then I played in coffeehouses. We called them basket houses because the waitresses would pass the basket for tips after our sets. Again I was playing opposite another great musician for weeks every night, this time it was Richie Havens. Richie was a focused elemental force and a powerful performer. Over the weeks I never saw him talk to anyone, including me. He was either playing or gone. Other players would come through and play, a couple of them wound up on Elektra or Vanguard. The Lovin Spoonful and the Blues Magoos were playing at the club on the corner. Bob Dylan and his court were hanging out just upstairs at the Kettle of Fish. Stefan Grossman, who had been learning from Rev. Gary Davis, gave me some (extremely important) Okeh 78s. Steve Katz (Blues Project, Blood Sweat and Tears) was the first guy to ever record me. I went up to the Apollo theatre and caught the Motown Review, featuring Little Stevie Wonder. Later I saw the blues show to end all blues shows there: Brownie McGhee & Sonny Terry, John Lee Hooker, Jimmy Reed, T-Bone Walker, James Cotton Band, Bo Diddley Sextet, Bobby Blue Bland and B.B. King.
            I went up to the Newport folk festival and hung out some more with Son House. Dick had put me in charge of seeing that he got his medicine and stayed off the booze. I got to meet other artists Dick represented: Bukka White, Big Joe Williams, and another I especially revered, the extremely musically eccentric and idiosyncratic Nehemiah ‘Skip’ James. Other idols of mine Lightnin’ Hopkins and Mance Lipscomb were there. Mississippi John Hurt was there too, and it was good to see him again. This was the year Bob Dylan set the folk music world on its ear by appearing plugged into a Stratocaster guitar with the Butterfield band backing him up as the closing act. Dick came bursting in to the Artist Quarters and relieved me of hanging with Son House. He said I needed to run down to the stage because history was being made. I went down there, I thought they were kinda loud and pretty raggedy really and the audience wasn’t taking it that well. In the most notorious live performance in rock & roll, Dylan closed with It’s All Over Now, Baby Blue, and Hey, Mr.Tambourine Man. I had seen him perform once or twice before. Baby Blue sounded even more melancholy and forlorn and Tambourine was also highly tinged with irony and sadness. It was the end of an era.
          I played the Unicorn in Boston opposite John Fahey, another very quirky character with an odd sense of humor. He introduced me to the audience as Carl Death, a brother of Blind Joe Death by a previous marriage. I guess it was through John that I met another very talented blues scholar. This was Al Wilson, later known as Blind Owl in the group Canned Heat. Al had perfect pitch and had figured out what tunings guys like Son and Skip were playing and how they were doing it. It’s been said he even reintroduced some of Son’s licks back to him. He had unique insight into what Robert Johnson’s playing probably looked like, and I learned some stuff from him.
         I came back to New York and I played on a terrific bill at the Café Au Go Go and was recorded on Verve records. The bill had Bukka, Skip, Son, Big Joe, the Blues Project, John Hammond and the Butterfield Band. Butter got a tune off me there. Big Joe and I were playing the Walkin’ Blues backstage. Butter put it on his East-West album.
I was on the outer edge of the jazz scene, but not as part of Cafe Society. I heard Mongo Santamaria at the Cafe Metropole uptown. We had some jazz clubs on the Lower East Side: Slug's, the Old Reliable, and the Annex. I frequented the Annex more and that is where I met Jackie McLean and Dewey Redman. My main hangout was the Dom on St. Mark's place. Tony Scott was holding down a long engagement there.          I met the Chambers Brothers, who were on a long engagement at the Downtown on Sheridan Square. I had known their drummer from the West Coast. We hit it off great and became good friends. (I was later to record and tour with the group, but that gets ahead of the story.)Thus began another musical friendship to be continued on another coast.

End of Chapter Two.

Arturo Toscanini

Arturo Toscanini (March 25, 1867   January 16, 1957)

Richard Dyer-Bennet (October 6, 1913   December 14, 1991)

Burl Icle Ivanhoe Ives (June 14, 1909   April 14, 1995)

Josef Marais (1905-1978)

Rosa Lilly Odette de Miranda Marais (January 09, 1912 - April 20th 1986)

Dimitri Mitropoulos

Dimitri Mitropoulos (1 March [18 February] 1896   2 November 1960)

Andres Torres Segovia, 1st Marquess of Salobre (21 February 1893   June 1987)

Bruno Walter

Bruno Walter (September 15, 1876   February 17, 1962)

Carmen Amaya (November 2, 1913   November 19, 1963)

Josh White (February 11, 1914  September 5, 1969)

Jose Limon (January 12, 1908   December 2, 1972)

Budapest String Quartet

Pablo Casals

Pablo Casals (December 29, 1876   October 22, 1973),

Charles Munch (born Charles Mnch) (September 26, 1891   November 6, 1968)

Arthur Rubinstein (January 28, 1887   December 20, 1982)

Jose Greco (December 23, 1918   December 31, 2000)

Moiseyev Dance Company

Don Cossack Choir

Vladimir Horowitz (October 1, 1903   November 5, 1989)

Leonard Bernstein (August 25, 1918   October 14, 1990)

Jascha Heifetz (February 2 [O.S. January 20] 1901   December 10, 1987)

Yehudi Menuhin, Baron Menuhin, OM, KBE (April 22, 1916   March 12, 1999)

Saunders Terrell, better known as Sonny Terry (24 October 1911   11 March 1986)

Walter Brown ("Brownie") McGhee (November 30, 1915   February 16, 1996)

Isaac Stern (July 21, 1920   September 22, 2001)

Philippe Entremont (b. 7 June 1934)

Van Cliburn Jr. (b. July 12, 1934)

David Oistrakh September 30 [O.S. ]1908   October 24, 1974)

Paul Badura-Skoda (b. 6 October 1927)

Mississippi John Hurt (July 3, 1893 or March 8, 1892   November 2, 1966)

Herbert von Karajan (5 April 1908   16 July 1989)

Eduard van Beinum (September 3, 1901   April 13, 1959)

Robert Weston Smith (January 21, 1938   July 1, 1995) "Wolfman Jack"

Seiji Ozawa (b. September 1, 1935)

Zubin Mehta (b. 29 April 1936)

McKinley Morganfield (April 4, 1913   April 30, 1983) "Muddy Waters"

Chester (Chet) William Powers, Jr. (October 7, 1937   November 16, 1994) "Dino Valenti"

Hoyt Wayne Axton (March 25, 1938   October 26, 1999)

Son House March 21, 1902   October 19, 1988

Alan "Blind Owl" Christie Wilson (July 4, 1943   September 3, 1970)

Reverend Gary Davis, also Blind Gary Davis, (April 30, 1896   May 5, 1972)

Fred McDowell (January 12, 1904   July 3, 1972)

Joan Baez

Taj Mahal

Taj Mahal (born May 17, 1942)

Skip James (June 9, 1902   October 3, 1969)

Bukka White (November 12, 1909   February 26, 1977)

Big Joe Williams (born Joseph Lee Williams, October 16, 1903   December 17, 1982)

Paul Butterfield (17 December 1942   4 May 1987)

Bob Dylan

John Fahey (February 28, 1939   February 22, 2001)

T-Bone Walker (May 28, 1910   March 15, 1975)

Chester Arthur Burnett (June 10, 1910   January 10, 1976), better known as Howlin' Wolf

Mance Lipscomb (April 9, 1895   January 30, 1976[1])

Mathis James "Jimmy" Reed (September 6, 1925   August 29, 1976)

Charles "Charlie" Mingus, Jr. (April 22, 1922   January 5, 1979)

Sam "Lightnin" Hopkins (March 15, 1912   January 30, 1982[1])

Clifton Chenier (June 25, 1925   December 12, 1987)

John "Memphis Slim" Chatman (September 3, 1915   February 24, 1988)

Joe Pass (born Joseph Anthony Passalaqua) January 13, 1929   May 23, 1994)

Dewey Redman (May 13, 1931   September 2, 2006)

Jackie McLean (May 17, 1931   March 31, 2006)

John Lee Hooker (August 22, 1917   June 21, 2001)

Willie Mae ("Big Mama") Thornton (December 11, 1926   July 25, 1984)

Dave Van Ronk (June 30, 1936  February 10, 2002)

Eric Von Schmidt (May 28, 1931   February 2, 2007)

Bo Diddley (December 30, 1928   June 2, 2008)

Chambers Brothers (Joe, Lester, George "Pops" & Willie)