Saturday, March 3, 2012
Ultimately it's the business savvy that separates the men from the boys - or in this case the slightly disabled from the severely disabled - in the music industry. By age 10 I had a pretty good handle on this, having created the persona of a streetwise jive-talkin' womanizing black man in the body of a pre-pubescent white kid from what was soon to be one the nation's most lily white, exclusive bedroom communities (keep in mind that Marin was still more or less a backwater in the sixties - the big money was still nestled safely on the Peninsula, and Cyra Mcfadden had yet to write "The Serial"). By seventh grade I was officially nicknamed "Soul Brother" by my fellow classmates, to the dismay of the Kent School janitor - I would have to look him up in The Falcon to get his name - who wasn't quite sure how to react when he heard kids shouting "hey soul brother!" or "how you feelin' today soul brother?" (the proper response was "I feel good"...). Although the janitor never did invite me over to meet his real soul brothers and sisters, we did have sort of a special bond in that he probably want to wring my white nappity ass neck.
Which leads me to the hair. Great hair is critical to the success of dynamic entertainers like myself. When I was picking the lineup for Bon Tempe back in the mid-sixties, I was extra careful not to have anybody else in the band with a blonde afro. In other words if there was going to be a soul brother in the band it was going to be me! And as the great marketing minds know, differentiation is the key, and I knew that besides Art Garfunkle, Harry Chapin and Link from The Mod Squad there were not a whole lot of blonde afros that I would have to contend with. (Phoebe Snow gave me a bit of a start later on, but by then Bon Tempe was well established with at least 50 fans if not more, and most of the time it was relatively obvious that Phoebe was a woman, may she rest in peace!) There was a short period of time in Marin where I was worried I might be mistaken for Angela Davis, who had one world-class fro when she shot up the Civic Center. This was another of the few times I was thankful not to be a woman.
So what about all these great songs I wrote? Of course this has always been a delicate topic with my employees (aka my bandmates) because as any good manager knows it's important to give the individuals on the team a sense of ownership of the product. In this case, it's been a matter of letting the other guys think that they actually had a hand in writing the songs by gently guiding their brainwaves such that they become a medium through which the true genius can channel his ideas. Take Lothlorien, the Tolkein-inspired jazz homage to those crazy, sex-addled elves astral traveling through woods shooting their psychedelic-laced arrows at anything the moved sending everybody on a week-long acid trip. What about that swingin' number, with it's dynamic movements and jaunty bounces? Well Albondigas had been on a particularly self-destructive opiate binge involving gooey brown heroin suppositories and an oxycontin catheter and I felt he needed a little move to the positive so I substituted a little peyote in the suppositories and hid the catheter, and the next thing we know Albondigas is putting music to The Lord of The Rings. Of course pretty much all he could do was say what a great idea it was, so I gave Nellie a little melody and he ran with it, all the while Alby thinking that he was writing a song when in reality he was scratching his balls! This the way it works when dealing with the disabled musician.
Well loyal fans, the hour of the show draws near. These days you never know which show will be the last, at least with this configuration. And time tends to have the effect of making an exercise that had become painfully tedious appear appealing from a distance. But that's one of the great things about naming your band after a lake. For generations to come, people will gaze upon the lake and get an inexplicable creeping feeling of discomfort in the large intestine as a large bubble of fetid gas forms - and they'll think: Albondigas! (That would certainly be a logical conclusion). The intestinal discomfort is followed by a nagging itching sensation in the armpits and perspiration on the upper lip. You hear a faint mantra "hey hey gotta cook tonight no Chicken Delight" and you wonder WTF is Chicken Delight anyway? Clearly you are now experiencing a Nellie visitation and suffering from the curse of the Nood, which is short for Noodle. You realize that Bill Nelson once wrote a song about his wiener: "Niles Nood" and now you're feeling really sick, despite the beautiful lake shimmering before you. The aches, well that goes without saying now doesn't it? It starts with a dreadful ringing in the ears as if an alto saxophone has taken up residence in your head and is blowing a relentless trilling vibrato on high C . You ache all over, thanks to none other than Aches, Bob Akers who has been content these many years to leave the songwriting to me and my channelers. But, as you sit there by beautiful Bon Tempe reservoir you do have reason to be thankful, even though you might be feeling like you're gonna die, and that's because Scott, The Corn Nibbler, and Sleepy Hacienda aren't there to beat you senseless with their drumsticks.
Just when you think you've had all the pain you can take, your heart starts to thump loudly in your chest to the irregular rhythm of Hot Cellums and a thin, reedy voice comes bleating like a tortured sheep through the smooth and graceful Madrones, imploring you to "get yourself down with your bad self", which is not only redundant but is clearly the ranting of some white kid who at one time wanted to believe he was a "soul brother". And as the pain begins to subside you realize you've had another Bon Tempe moment, have not suffered any permanent disability and have, once again, lived to tell about it.
If you're lucky you'll get the chance to pass the test of another Bon Tempe moment tonight! And if you're even luckier it will be the last! (But don't count on it :)
Monday, February 27, 2012
|Scott gets Hot|
The original Bon Tempe drummer was The Corn Nibbler, aka Nibs (legally Ken Corsiglia). Imagine for a second that people called you The Corn Nibbler, so when you walked into a room people would say "Hey, here comes The Corn Nibbler". Would you get the urge to go nibble on some corn? Or you were hailed with the short version, as in "hey Nibs, pass that bottle over here". Do you think such a nickname would have been assigned to anybody named Corsiglia? Perhaps we should Google Corsiglia, call a few of the results and ask them "has anybody ever called you The Corn Nibbler, or Nibs for short?" Doubtful we would get a positive response. In other words, anybody who gets a nickname like that has got to be a nut to begin with, and it was Nib's nuttiness that earned him his crazy names. He was nutty on the traps too, and had a huge impact on the Bon Tempe sound when we got started. While I don't think any of us had heard of Spike Jones when we were 17, Nibs had Spike Jones in his DNA and hence a signature sound that was fun, inventive, perky. But as best I can remember it he was a very busy, popular, party kind-of-guy and had better things to do than music. Then there was Nellie pestilence that irked Corn Nibbler who just had no interest in the level of seriousness about the music that the rest of the band intended to pursue so we parted company.
|The Corn Nibbler|
Next came Scott Kohler, who played on the sole Bon Tempe album and will be playing at 19 Broadway on Mar. 3. and has played on most of our "raw onion" gigs since 2004. Scott was indeed the serious jazz drummer Nellie, Alby and I were looking for (nobody was quite sure what Aches was looking for); a big fan of Elvin Jones, Tony Williams, and Art Blakey as well as the funk masters Dave Garibaldi, Steve Gadd, Bernard Purdy, Clyde Stubblefield etc. Biggest problem with Scott was, and still is...NO NICKNAME! So frankly I don't know how we're gonna talk about Scott which is probably ok 'cuz Scott has always had this aura of scariness about him like he would rather be bashing you on the head with those drumsticks instead of the snare drum. I mean, really. Check it out:
|Badass Honey Drummer|
Finally, there was the fabulous Sleepy Hacienda, who actually did not earn that moniker until much later while with Call Me Bwana, my "signature" band who's antics are sure to be chronicled in another blog where we get closer to releasing our Best O' Bwana compilation some time later this year and gearing up for the obligatory Bay Area tour. I will have my novel Hack out by that time too so the blogwaves are sure to be humming with bullshit from your favorite renaissance dork. But meanwhile we have Bon Tempe to stick a fork in, and Sleepy Hacienda, aka Dave Casini, (who was also known as Dog Weenie thanks to Walt Dickson and the Sky Blue Band) probably played more Bon Tempe gigs than Nibs or Scott.
|Sleepy Hacienda at a Call Me Bwana photoshoot|
But I am going to save the legend of Sleepy Hacienda, as well as the stories of all the various iterations of Bon Tempe that our man Nellie kept throwin' out there to see if they stuck, for tonight I am too downhearted after going another year without winning an Oscar. Damn.
Sunday, February 19, 2012
Humdiddy: Bon Tempe - Profiles in Cacophony: Albondigas: "Horning" at a Redwood High, 1972/73 Albondigas plays the tenor and soprano sax and periodically bangs a cowbell or tambourine, ...
Saturday, February 18, 2012
"Hey, shut up and play the intro!"
BonTempe was, is, and always will be the quintet-essential unknown Ross Valley cult band, and many believe there's a good reason it should stay that way. More accurately, Bon Tempe was the Redwood High School seventies cult band. You could say Bon Tempe is a testimony to the old credo “don’t spread yourself too thin”. Bon Tempe generally didn’t do any spreading at all, save for perhaps one gig at a military base in the valley (no, not the San Geronimo Valley). BT never made it over the GG Bridge save for one Halloween quartet event, and never made it north of Novato. Nonetheless if you asked some hippies in Mendocino if they ever heard of Bon Tempe chances are they have. I don’t know how that works.
If you asked 8 or so musicians that have been in Bon Tempe in some shape or form you would get 8 different stories. There was also a period from 1973-78 when I was in college and I missed all those gigs each of which has a story of its own. So this is far from any kind of authorized biography of the band rather it’s just me and my porous memory telling portions of the story bit by bit from my perspective, thinking that it could give some of the March 3, 19 Broadway gig-goers a little hysterical perspective (which I apologize to this point has been remarkably unhysterical!).
I guess another attribute that plops the band and it’s music into the heart of the Ross Valley and the surrounding watershed is that we named ourselves after one of the 5 reservoirs in the MMWD. One interesting fact about the name: the reservoir was named after the brothers that ran cattle in the valley and around the creek that was eventually dammed up to form Lagunitas, Bon Tempe, Alpine and Kent Lake. The brothers Buontemps (I know this isn’t the correct spelling but I can’t find my source materials right now) sold the land to the water district who named the reservoir after them. So while the name may mean “good time” or “good weather” or “good tempo” (my definition!) it’s really just a bastardization of this Swiss-Italian immigrant’s name.
I’ll save some of the window dressing around the whole Bon Tempe reservoir experience during our high school days. Suffice to say it was prime real estate for recreational activities of all kinds, and when I think back I’m amazed at how many of those recreational activities took place at night! You gotta love the woods at night. Still there was no special meaning behind the band name, other than it was a great place for high schoolers to hang and do the things that high schoolers in the early seventies did. If I got into any kind of detailed description of those activities I’m positive some band members would take issue, since it’s pretty easy for our kids (and yours too!) to stumble upon this little story and, though I would argue that what a bunch of southern and central Marin teenagers generally did in the early seventies is common knowledge, that doesn’t mean we have to broadcast it. Or so some of our extended Bon Tempe family might say.
I’m pretty sure Bill Nelson and I started the band, though Albritton and perhaps the Corn Nibbler (Ken Corsiglia) might disagree. Nelson might remember exactly how it was that we got together with Nibs (not the crunchy roasted kind, I’m afraid) and Albritton. I’m not 100% sure since events around that time are, for me, extremely clouded for some reason (WTF?). But I’ll hazard a guess anyway and say it was the result of jam sessions we were having at Peter Horton’s house on West Shore Rd. I was already playing in a band with Nelson, Harry Likas and Graham Shieks that was called Goodywuffo, and then Hot Goodies. I don’t know that we ever played any gigs though we did audition for a dance at Kent School. Unfortunately Graham had the flu that day, and when we went to pick him up for the audition he was puking his brains out and could barely walk. We loaded him and his drums in the car, set them up at Kent School, walked him in there, and tried to play Hendrix’s “Fire” and Graham was on another planet. I do have VERY vivid memories of that experience, and Graham’s basement where we rehearsed, plus a song that we played over and over and over: “Lookin’ In” by Savoy Brown. Nelson will remember all the other songs.
Anyway Horton was dating my sister. I don’t remember how I knew that Kenny played drums, but we gathered in Horton’s family room and played “The Ghetto” with Horton on piano and Nelson on guitar. Horton’s sister Annie was a singer/songwriter and we put together a little band to play Annie’s songs and shit like “Popsicle Toes”. I think we were introduced to Albritton via Mike Jackson (or Pete, perhaps), an older guy with an old Ferrari that we would race around Belvedere Island. I don’t know if the first time Ken, Nelson and I first played with Albritton was at Horton’s house. Somehow Anne Dransfield, a flutist, got added to the mix – we might have played a lunch time gig at the CEA - but she wasn’t around for long before Albritton brought in Bob Akers and the first iteration of Bon Tempe was formed. Imagine how Bon Tempe might have been if we had stuck with the chick flute player! No references to female genitalia in songs about vegetables, that’s for sure!
That’s my take on the pre-Bon Tempe gyrations that eventually led to version 1. I’m gonna leave it up to Nelson to fill in the blanks with comments. If you follow the blog you’ll be alerted when Nelson’s comments and you’ll get the facts straight vs. my fuzzy recollections. Hopefully we will get some guest bloggers to help round out the picture. Should be en-chinalya!
Next up: The first set lists, the first parties, the first original songs, the “album”…and “What’s The Sons Got To Do With It?”
Monday, February 6, 2012
It's good to have a nurse when you are up here in Tweaker's Paradise stalking the elusive, wily, sexy and wise Trombonefish. First, at it's most mundane, it is way too fucking cold to be fishing. The water temperature alone, despite layers upon layers underneath my new waders, and neoprene booties covering ultrathick wool $25 fishing socks, is such that you don't want it to come in contact with bare skin. Or, perhaps better put, you don't want to wade past crotch depth lest there be irreversible shrinkage. The air temperature in the shade hovers around 40 all day long, even when the temps in the sun might be in the mid-fifties. The Trombonefish generally avoid hanging out in sunny water, so you freeze unless you're standing in a sunny spot and casting into a shady spot. I did this for several hours on Saturday, knowing that chances of hooking a sleek, silvery and shiny Trombonefish were slim but profoundly enjoying the warmth of the sun and the meditative routine of roll casting, mending, drifting, stripping and retrieving over and over and over. After such a stressful day standing in the frigid waters wondering what happened to the feeling in the extremities, having a nurse like Sweaty Betty to lovingly tend to my bodily needs is a blessing indeed.
There are much more important reasons to have a nurse nearby when on the trail of the tricky Trombonefish. Probably more important than extremity warming is basic psychotherapy, and I am thankful that this is the kind of shrinkage Sweaty Betty excels in. Many people believe that the object of fishing is to catch fish.These would be the same people that argue that the object of playing golf is to shoot a low score, or to best your opponent's score, whether it be in aggregate or hole-by-hole. I guess if you equate "catching fish" with "winning", which would be the expected perception in our culture, then a day spent on the river simply casting and, in the case of Trombonefish, rarely seeing a fish much less hooking one, would be classified as "losing". Others might say that many, many hours of losing are required before one can expect to start winning, which is probably more true of flyfishing than other fishing techniques. Still others like to comfort the inveterate loser with such platitudes as "there's a reason it's called fishing and not catching", which a pretty empty comfort when the guy sitting next to you in the drift boat fishing with the exact same rig is yanking Trombonefish out of the water by the dozen while you can't even get one to holler "fuck you, loser!"
Betty says that, as with golf, the career losing fisherman either quits or lowers his sights. I have walked off the river at the end of the day many, many times calling it quits, maybe almost as many times as I have walked off the golf course with the same sentiments. And, as with golf, the fickle and cruel Gods of Sport don't like quitters. So during most rounds of golf, and during most days on the river, a glimmer of hope is served up like a carrot on the stick and The Gods know you will be back. With golf it may be a wickedly straight and long drive on the 18th hole that whispers the elusive "whoosh click". On the river it could be anything from a slight tug to a full blown grab that gives you just enough of that "fish on" mojo that you simply can't wait to get out there and give it another try. Betty knows this all too well and frequently warns me about the seductive powers that fleeting delusions of grandeur may wield over the weak and tremulous mind of the career loser. Or in another way of saying, hope springs eternal regardless of how ill-informed or irrational such springing may be.
Fortunately I have Sweaty Betty to remind me of these simple yet powerful truths after posting another goose egg to the fisherman's scoreboard, or a "1" followed by a couple of goose eggs on the golf scorecard. In golf, the loser frequently reminds himself, as Shivas Irons so eloquently pointed out in "Golf in the Kingdom", that "it's all in the walk". Which is just another way of saying that walking around the golf course is ultimately what the game is all about. Jim Harrison, novelist and great believer in the healing power of walking, would likely agree though I doubt the great writer has ever picked up a golf club except perhaps to decapitate a rattlesnake. The other Harrison often writes of the purifying power of small stream fishing, which by definition requires a healthy bit of walking.
If walking is the tonic that makes the game of golf bearable for the loser, then casting is most likely to be the fisherman's mantra, for, like meditation, if requires doing the same exact thing over and over and over again. Others might say that casting is more like the golf swing itself, which if successfully executed is so repetitive that golfer's ultimately transcend thinking about the motion and enter "the zone", where the body goes on autopilot and the mind is as empty as a bag of wind (not to be confused with a windbag which may be equally empty of meaning but is full of noise nonetheless). If there are no fish to interrupt the casting process then it takes on the mantra-like quality of hitting practice balls on the driving range. Combine with this the hypnotic sound of river water gurgling over rocks and whooshing down riffles, and flyfishing in a river for several hours can have the same therapeutic cleansing qualities as sitting on a pillow at Spirit Rock and as boring as this blog has become. But then again both would be an accurate reflection of my most recent quest for the stealthy and surreptitious Trombonefish. Were it not for the tender ministrations of Sweaty Betty, former left tackle for the Weaverville professional women's flag football team, we might as well be talking about something as inherently meaningless as crunchy roasted nibs (yeah!).