-March 2006-

Other Fein Messes

1st Record(s) /1st Concert

My parents used Big Band 78s to send me to sleep.  
Then in 1963, The New Music woke me up!  
Banished for two weeks that August to my Aunt Jenny’s cottage, and trapped inside her guest room I stumbled upon the raucous strains of Toronto’s Number One Top Forty station, mighty CHUM 1050 AM. My life has never been the same since.

Faint prior memories of "Telstar" in my cousins’ rec room notwithstanding, I soon made lifelong friends with Elvis ("Devil In Disguise") and Allan Sherman ("Hello Muddah, Hello Faddah") …and Aunt Jenny to this day wonders whatever I was doing in that room those entire two weeks!

One wacky one-hit wonder in particular, The RanDells’ immortal (Billboard #16) smash "The Martian Hop," became my closest friend that summer. Then, 35 years later (thanks to the www), none other than head RanDell Steven Rappaport Himself tracked me down upon reading another of my many on-line RanDell Reminiscences. I’ve almost gotten up the courage to ask his blessings as I plot a LONG-overdue re-recording of "The M. Hop" …possibly Bluegrass-style. Almost.

Returning from my Aunt’s care with an entirely new lead on life, my parents were soon forced to re-negotiate my weekly allowance (I now demanded one 45-RPM record per week in lieu of my regular 50 cents Canadian), and it was right around then that those Beatles arrived …just in time to save me from another month of Davy Crockett and Peter Paul & Mary singles.

But for my ninth birthday, I was blessed with my very first BIG record (as in album). I hearby proudly proclaim that my initial twelve inches of monophonic bliss was something called "The Beatles Twist And Shout" [This is a LONG out-of-print collection of early tracks unique to Capitol Records of Canada].

However, I must admit that the third Monkees album, "Headquarters," made even more of an impression. Why? Because it was in something called STEREO. Meaning that when I lay my head under the console record player (this was before headphones), both of my ears began receiving totally different pieces of sound. Mike’s guitar over there; Micky’s voice way over there! COOL!

Within a year of that, I acquired the first in an escalating parade of cheap tape recorders, and you know what? I’ve been happily eking out a living of sorts in Stereophonic Sound ever since!

Thank You, Aunt Jenny.

Now, The very first "real" concert I was ever allowed to attend as a wee Canadian tyke was The Jimi Hendrix Experience at Toronto's Maple Leaf Gardens, May of 1969.

I'd already been a fervent fan for a couple'a years, having spent most of my Grade 8 art class making swirly sketches of Jimi in charcoal …plus the "Are You Experienced?" elpee was right up there (almost) with "Headquarters" on my 1967 Most-Played List.

Fast-forwarding, Xmastime '68 was spent, between runs down the local tobogganing hill, digging all eight vinyl sides of The White Album AND "Electric Ladyland" and, most likely as a direct result, me and my gym-class rhythm section were just starting to assemble our very own semi-power trio when word filtered along the groupvine that the Experience were planning to stop by our very neighborhood in a few months as part of their possibly-Farewell World Tour.

In a word then? WOW.

So my most-trusted pal Ric scored two tickets in the Gardens' nosebleed section, I fibbed to my parents that we were off to a hootenanny (!) for the evening. Yet no sooner had we approached the venue that word began a'buzzin' that our hero had just been busted for carrying a batch of non-pharmaceutical mood enhancers into Toronto Airport! Undaunted, we climbed skyward to our Garden party seats, sat on sonic needles and pins-ah through both opening acts (the pretty cool Cat Mother & the All Night Newsboys, whose big hit "Good Old Rock n Roll" my little band was already struggling to learn, followed by none other than, uh, Fat Mattress) ...til the one and only Jimi Himself sauntered on stage, miraculously only a few minutes late.

Now considering all the man had already been through that day I guess it was no real surprise the evening's set consisted of mainly down-cast tunes a la "Red House" ...though Jimi DID graciously treat the teenage throng with a quick encore full of that fabled, fiery Foxey Purpleness of yore.

And then, suddenly, he was gone. Experience and all.

James Marshall Hendrix returned to town briefly that December however, just long enough to be completely exonerated of all narco-charges ("Canada has just given me the greatest Christmas present ever!" he exclaimed to the Toronto Daily Star), but I suppose one could question if, or why, that life lesson, ultimately, went unheeded.

And you know, I suppose it does say something that out of all the delicately detailed minutiae forever etched upon my grey matter concerning that momentous concert one long, long Toronto May ago, I can still most vividly recall EXACTLY what Jimi was wearing (all Harlem-Asbury chic all the way!), what I was wearing even (don't ask), the appropriately brilliant weather, the commuter train Ric and I snuck on after we told our parental units we'd just be folking around ...hell, I even remember the proto-Bowzer moves Cat Mother & Co. deployed whilst performing their one hit wonder!

But do I recall a single sliver of the sounds and/or stylings of the Noel Redding-fronted Fat Mattress performance of that same, utterly magical night? No sir, I do not.

Gary Pig Gold

“It is conceivable that, all apologies to James Brown, he is rock music’s all-time hardest-working man” (All Music Guide) “As Pete Townshend once said of Alexis Korner, he should be carried around in a sedan chair for the rest of his life” (Nerve) “Gary Pig Gold is cooler than Elvis!” (Tragedienne)


Another Fein Mess
AF Stone’s Monthly
March, 2006

No Technophobe, Me

I sent a guest on my tv show a vidtape of his appearance and a cassette tape of favorite songs. (For a pittance, I’ll send one to anyone.) He upbraided me with the ‘news’ that people in this century use DVDs and CDs. So last week I bought an IBM Selectric II.

When I was typing in the 70s, it was considered an oddity for a man. Now it’s a given. But poking your watch keyboard with a toothpick will never match the excitement of steering an IBM Selectric big-rig.

What a thrill to man that powerful typewriter! Forty five bucks at the thrift store by Trader Joe’s in Toluca Lake. I plugged it in in the store and wham! The type-ball pounded the rubber platen and the table shook - a sensual rush long vanished, now back. What a feeling to glide that silver ball along a line. It’s an erotic experience. They cost like $500 in 1972 and now.... a technological wonder available for peanuts - not bec it’s made in China.

Much Ado About McNulty

In the 1-30-06 L.A. Times, newcomer (to me) Charles McNulty reviews a new stage show, “Rock Of Ages,” and avoids its significance.

The show is a string of 80s power-pop hits held together by a nominal plot. As the first ‘jukebox musical’ to jump into the 30-45 age group (the over-45’s are too well-served already1), it jolted the audience with joy the night I saw it. (He called it mindless. Music is sensual, Brainiac!)

I didn’t see McNulty at the show I attended3, but I’ll bet you could find him: he was the guy scowling. The problem is, as he over-reveals4, he was a consumer of all these songs in their day and now, counseled (informed!) by the rock crits on the staff, he is ashamed.

Later in the piece he walks in the shoes of his elders when he observes “be warned that you might find it hard to resist the infectious head-bobbing which reached epidemic proportions in the audience during Whitesnake’s ‘Here I Go Again’ and Quarterflash’s ‘Harden My Heart.’ ”

The fact that the audience had a bitchen time is, as rock crits before him have attested, the true measure of its worthlessness:
People had fun all around me! They are misguided!
I will straighten them out in my review and they will exult in my genius!

Some of McNulty’s judgments are rote, and some are wrong. Referring to the scantily-clad women (the show is aimed at Las Vegas), he refers to the women as ‘exploited.”5 Talking about his high school (!!!) he cites the 1,100 ‘seniors’ with whom he graduated.

What? No freshmen graduated? And why the number? To show he was lost in anonymity in the dreadful ‘80s and now is wreaking revenge on the era?

Also he mentions the “malingering” state of the American musical theater, not knowing that that means ‘pretending to be ill,’ thereby stating that it’s actually OK. (This should be caught by copy editors. But what do they know?) Both main actors, he concedes, have “that ‘80s sex appeal.”

Oh, the poor wretch, revealing, but not reveling in, his unspent youth.

1 There’s been an Elvis show , an ABBA2 show, a Beach Boys show, a Leiber-Stoller show, a girl group show, a 4 Seasons show, a rockabilly show (Just dreaming!) - and they’ve worn out the genre. My neighbor Jim Goeghan was writing the book for a jukebox musical recently and made the deejay “Art Fine.” But the show never hit the boards.

2 ABBA is always upper case. It’s the members’ first initials

“Journalistic” reveal. My doctor’s son is one of the show’s producers. I went with dread, and left with a big smile.

4 (“those of us,” “my public high school in the ‘80s [no need to pin down a date, thank you very much], “for all of us who”). “Thank you very much” for what? Oh, it’s a cliche.

5 Who can ever forget Russ Meyer vixen Edy Williams who said “Russ exploited me for years, so now I’m exploiting myself”?

More News Everybody Knows

Picayunist Todd found an article in the LA Times Food Section in which a cooking professional working in a home kitchen discovers the usefulness of a kitchen timer. “With it, you can cook hardboiled eggs for exactly the right length of time.”

That is like me discovering music. At Amoeba I bought an Emmylou Harris Starbucks artist’s choice CD for $4.99. (What do they sell for new?) I was flabbergasted at Buddy & Julie Miller’s harmonizing on “The River’s Gonna Run” - and hours later I bought a B&J CD. (I’ll bet there’s been a rise6 in their sales from this sampler.) Further flabbergasting was this terrific female voice on the song “Spanish Dancer.” When I looked at the copy and it said Patti Scialfa I thought, “Isn’t that Bruce Springsteen’s wife?” Good gosh, what a wonderful singer! The cut is taken from the album she cut right before I met her (“Hello”) on the MGM Grand jet going to NY in 19907. That far back, I wonder if her album was even on CD! And I liked a Guy Clark cut, “Stuff That Works,” because I like Guy Clark8, but when I checked what album it was from, it was from one I already own. I should really listen to the records I’ve GOT before I buy more!

6 Rise. Or increase. A spike is something to be driven into the heads of people who use the word “spike.”

7 Going to the R&R Hall Of Fame with The World’s Greatest Record Producer. She and Bruce were in the compartment across the way. Bruce was thrilled to meet “Engineer Larry Levine,” also on board.

8 Listening to Texas Cookin’, his second album, I was re-floored by “Virginia’s Real,” and “Brokenhearted People,” which I first knew as a Gary Stewart song9.

Guy Clark. Gary Stewart. David Allen Coe. The Mighty Men of the 70s.

Here, Here

Inspired by Rip Rense’s Rip Post web-rants (I like’em) I will make what looks like a political statement.

“Iraq” is a U.S.-led military operation in the Middle East, sanctioned by all european allies. They are scared to death of their explosive neighbors to the southeast and want them pacified, adn their oil, one way or another. They tell their constituents they object to it, but privately they support the U.S., which is big enough, and willing, to be the “heavy.”

This is not a fact, nor do I necessarily believe it. But it’s a thought.


That snake-oil salesman Trudeau is on 3 or 4 stations at once peddling his home-cure book. He’s a multi-multimillionaire, proving P.T. Barnum’s adage. But when I see him (sans sound, I surf on Mute, less heartbreaking) he looks like a frightened little kid saying “I’m not lying!” when he is. The guy was in prison for fraud! His facial language is transparent! He sells his wares to people who have the sound on and their brain off.

Public access tv, my home for 22 years, is under siege. The poor cable companies want to drop it. The govt forced them to provide an outlet for local people, and they do so grudgingly, and minimally, but now we have a megabusiness-friendly govt and there’s a chance we’ll all be scotched.

And did you know that Wheel Of Fortune is a public service? In the 1960s the FCC mandated that the hour before prime-time (7pm - 8pm on the coasts) could not be controlled by the then-oligarchal networks, and designated it be used for local affilliates to generate local-based prime-time programming.

So what do the local network carriers do? Trawl for local talent? Develop neighborhood tv shows? No, they insert syndicated shows such as Jeapordy and rake in prime-time advertising dollars.

It’s business!

Hamilton Camp

I went to a memorial for Hamilton Camp at the Improv on January 22nd, organized by Vince Waldron. It was loaded with musicians and character actors. Among those: Peter Bonnerz, Howard Hesseman, Paula Prentiss and Richard Benjamin, Edie McClurg, Dan Castalanetta, Eric Boardman, Paul Willson, Redmond Gleeson, Second City founding director Paul Sills, Second City actresses Mina Kolb and Anne Ryerson, Committee director Alan Myerson, Rick Overton, Hamilton Camp, jr., James Michael Stanley (produced Camp's last cd), screenwriter Carl Gottlieb, Larry Hankin, Second City comedian Jeff Michalski, Chuck McCann, Gary Goudreau.

Movin’ On Up!

On Super Bowl Sunday I went to a garage sale in the Hollywood Hills. The first thing I saw was Howard Hessemen. It was his house, he’s moving to France. I told him I’d seen him at the Hamilton Camp thing, and bought a notebook embossed with a WKRP logo. I went into the house. Too much finery for my budget: a Hirschfeld drawing, paintings, expensive furniture. But I called my wife, who since it was Super Bowl Sunday was watching horror movies, and she came over with a friend and Jessie.

Expensive call. Jennifer (wifey) saw a 1920s travel poster, mounted and framed, marked down from $Omigod! to $Egads! “See if you can get it for less” she said insanely, and left. Howard said “It’s from a reputable dealer in Paris, it’s the real thing.” We paid $Egads! less $300.

Then I went upstairs to look at clothes. He saw I was startled by the prices, but when I said “I’m not used to being in this bracket” he said “You should be!” and I couldn’t argue with that. I bought a chartreuse sport coat with a design on the front, a white linen coat, and a silk shirt.

I should have got them for less. Men’s clothes don’t sell! But he was plying his instrument in the role of the garment salesman - “Look at this fine fabric” - and I cannily played the fish.

* Howard: Did you just come from MC Hammer’s garage sale? You need new clothes.

*Howard endorses the poster

* It’s a Versace!!!

New Yorker

I’m not especially smart, but I am smarter than a lot of people at the L.A. Times and some at the NY Times. In the past I avoided the New Yorker bec I thought they were smarter than me. Several administrations later it’s gotten closer to my level and sometimes below.

In the Feb 6 ish, Ben McGrath writes about new Tab soda, and interviews old Tab’s adherents. In the first graph he refers to the old - which is to say, still on the shelves - pink can as “iconic.”

My god, can a day go by without seeing that word! It’s everywhere, it’s overkilled, it’s sickening. Don’t they have style-meisters10 at the NYer? He quotes a guy who likes old Tab’s female-colored can because it’s “a boy named Sue thing,” without considering that mangled analogy. (Tab-drinkers hate their parents for... handing them Tab?) And “Tab nut” Steve Isaacs is quoted, regarding a student spiking Tab with Scotch, “I mean, that sounds fucking awful.”

“I mean?” “FUCKING awful?” Why run an actual quote from this pinhead? Oooh, a swear word. How daring. What the fuck - I mean how important is it so mar the story with actual utterances of a college teacher who every semester makes students write a story “inspired” by a Tab can? “Can” this guy still have his job after this story runs?! 11

In the Feb 13/20 double ish two things disappointed me. One was a mea importanta by Mark Singer, writing with glee that he’d once interviewed and written about Donald Trump, then gotten hate mail from him. This “an important person noticed me” piece runs everywhere all the time. The runts who write are sure of one thing: they are insignificant. And when someone of ‘merit’ cites them, for anything, they bristle with pride. This is not the stuff of the New Yorker. Or wasn’t.

The second was the same. Paul Rudnick, lamenting the death of Wendy Wasserstein at “only” 55, wrote an “I knew her when she was a nobody” story. That’s an easy one to write, because when someone is no one, anyone can know them. (Does that sound right?)

I intended to cancel my NYer subscription bec, like American Heritage, the cardboard insert pages now equal the copy pages so it takes me five minutes of ripping and discarding before I can thumb through the mag. But a friend urged me to re-up bec it needs my support. I resubscribed, but wish they’d get better writers and editors. And run cartoons from old NYers if the new crop of cartoonists has run dry, but run Crumb and Harvey Pekar every issue - they are heroic! (But not iconic.)

10 I make the joke, ‘meister’-wise.

11 This exhortative interrogative calls for an interobang!

Skool Days

Jessie’s computer-written essays must be ‘uploaded’ to a clearing service which scans the word-order for previously-written phrases to fend off copying. Holy 21st century! In my earliest school years we USED the hole in the wooden desk top for our ink bottles. (‘Newfangled’ ballpoint pens could dry out and give the student an excuse for not doing his test, etc.)
Come to think of it, when I started my brief (what else?) career at Variety in 1973, they were using manual typewriters.

And while my schoolteachers looked either like Margaret Hamilton or Gertrude Berg, my daughter’s teach is a cute thing who, with her husband, has attended eighty Widespread Panic shows (they’re “Spread-Heads”) across the country and on holidays goes to see old-time acts such as Van Morrison and Bob Dylan while they’re still alive.


I bought the Mojo “Dylan Covered” CD at Amoeba bec it was five bucks and I’m always curious about versions of Bob songs. And also bec I planned to play the first cut, “This Wheel’s On Fire,” by Julie Driscoll, Brian Auger & The Trinity while watching the credits on Absolutely Fabulous because the DVD has replaced Driscoll’s version of that song with semi-soundalike music. (Licensing11 problem?) However, this is yet another version! Will I never hear the AbFab version again?

And thought I hate to be pedantic (!), the use of “cover” to indicate a version is wrong wrong wrong. A cover is a now-extinct phenomenon in which a simultaneous version of a hit song is released in the wake of the original. Jimi Hendrix’s version of “All Along The Watchtower” was not a cover, it lagged behind Bob’s version. His performance of the whole Sgt. Pepper album the day of its release was not a cover bec he didn’t record it. But if Robt. Goulet did a single of “Lay Lady Lay” during its run on the charts, that’d be a cover.

Buddy Miller does a full 9:14 minute version of “With God On Our Side” on his new album “Universal United House Of Prayer.” And when you click “Photos” on his website the first shows him with an unnamed person who I hereby identify as P.F. Sloan. I called P.F. and learned that Buddy plays on four cuts on Sloan’s new as-yet unreleased album produced by Jon Tiven.

11 When the Sex Pistols wisely declined the honor bestowed on them by the addled R&R H of Fame their letter was treated haughtily by the hyenas of rock journalism for punctuation errors, and spelling organization with an ‘s’ instead of a ‘z.’ Of course, that’s the British way. But then how come we don’t spell licensing ‘licenzing’? It would be consistent.

A Piercing Story

Funny that I ran a pic of daughter Jessie getting her ears pierced last ish. Jan 29 I took her to the hospital bec her earring disappeared --into her earlobe. Buying the cheapest little earring they made - it’s just a hole-filler - the “stone” was not much bigger than the shaft, so it pushed itself down into the flesh and the skin covered over it. I couldn’t believe this, and said the earring head must have fallen off, but the females in the household prevailed and I took Jess to Emergency at Cedars Sinai12 and the doctor somewhat amusedly deadened it, sanitized it, and cut into the earlobe and dug it out. It should heal fine and can be re-pierced he said. (Makes you kinda reluctant to get your tongue pierced, don’t it?)

12 It’s a new year and the insurance we carry hasn’t been used yet so we got a bill for the visit. A visit to Emergency is $1000.

I’m Wonderin’

My dermatologist sent me a form-letter: “We haven’t seen you in a while.”
Aren’t I supposed to be cured?

* Wanda Jackson at Amoeba 2/8/06

* Big Sandy, Chris Morris, Alan Larman at Wanda Jackson show.

* Robt Leslie, Del Casher, Todd Everett, AFPP 2/9/06

* Patty Booker, AFPP, 2/10/06

* Willie Chambers, AF, Todd Everett AFPP 2/10/06

* Plas Johnson, Charlie O’s, Van Nuys, 2/18/06

* AF, Carol Kaye, Charlie O’s.

* Freebo, AFPP, 2/22/06

* Jessie Fein, Bruce McCullough of Kids In The Hall, 2/24/06

O Lucky Man

I find myself heading into modest hopeless situations and making out alright, like driving to a place where there’s never any parking and getting a space. My wife and I loved Kids In The Hall when it first ran, and now Jessie is nuts for it too, so when we learned they were doing three shows in Hollywood we planned to get tickets. Then forgot.

The night of the first show Dad and Daughter drove to the Steve Allen Theater at 8:00, showtime, and saw people sitting at a makeshift ticket booth. I knew it was sold out, and I had not gotten a response from the online waiting list. I enquired if there were scalpers around. (Jessie had seen tix selling on eBay for $100.) “We have tickets” they said. Bingo! Great spontaneous (extremely under-rehearsed) show. Jessie got autographs afterwards, as the stars mingled with us nobodies.

L.A. Role-Playing

My neighbor just bought a 1971 Rolls Royce.
Another neighbor said “He’s just asking to be carjacked.”

Though I grew up in Chicago and then lived five years in Colorado, after 5 years in L.A. I knew I was an Angeleno. Visiting Arizona, having dinner at a friend’s house, his wife said “I’m going to take my Rolls out,” and I thought, How pretentious, why doesn’t she just say she’s taking her car?

It was Thanksgiving! She was baking!

- 57 -

Mark on The Move

Recently moved to Nevada City, a gold rush town in the Sierra foothills full of ex-hippies, yoga instructors, musicians and for a town with only a few thousand people, a lot of clubs and bars.  Tonight stopped by Friar Tuck’s restaurant where local resident John Girton, the fine swing guitarist from the classic Dan Hicks & His Hot Licks seventies line-up, was playing for tips in the bar.  I sat close enough to touch him.   In his set were exquisite versions of “Skylark,” “Someone to Watch Over Me” and a “Tea for Two” with a quick insert of “Surry With the Fringe on Top.”  He had one of those machines I’ve seen Jon Brion use which allows him to record himself, and then solo against his own chord changes.  Wow!  Then I walked half a block to Cooper’s where Mary McCaslin played 3 sets for $5.  Haven’t seen her since ’75 or so, and she hasn’t lost it – the same aching Appalachian-style singing and a unique approach to what constitutes “folk” music.  Aside from originals like “Back to Salinas” and “San Bernadino Waltz” she played “Bei Mir Bist Du Schoen” on banjo and followed it with “a song from an opera” called “Pinball Wizard” (and later “a bluegrass number by an English quartet” – “Blackbird” -- which she kindly followed with my request for “Things We Said Today” which she first recorded in ‘77).  On fingerpicked guitar she nailed “Unchained Melody,” “The Wayward Wind” and a new addition to her repertoire, the Grateful Dead tune “Black Muddy River,” the last song Jerry Garcia ever sang on stage (she didn’t know that when I informed her, Deadhead pedant that I am).  Down the street Railroad Earth and The Hackensaw Boys were playing to the younger acoustic-jamband crowd at Miner’s Foundry (est. 1856) but I can’t be everywhere can I? 
                   -- Mark Leviton

Bad Boys

On schedule, the LA Weekly offers still more examples of how the iconoclastic, badboy "non-mainstream" alt-culture world is incarcerated in a jail joint of its own. A feature story exalts Raymond Washington, "the real founder of the Crips." Credit where credit is due. After detailing how brutal but good ("He was like a kind of Robin Hood") Washington was, we get this: "As much as he relished a good fist fight [don't we all?], Washington would be sad and disappointed to see what havoc was wreaked on the gang he founded." 
Swing now. 

- Gene Sculatti

KCRW Rant Pt. 2

By all means use that letter about the detestable Chris Douridas and KCRW.  Ya know, I wouldn't really mind what they're up to if they weren't so blatant about it.  Kissing up to directors and record executives on the air, and then - lo and behold - six months later they all end up working for these same directors and record executives when they're off the air!  How serendipitous!  Then they use these connections to become "music consultants" for movie soundtracks, then they play these soundtracks on the air, and then, and then... it's f***ing revolting.  And this is allegedly a college station!  The first to really pull this off was Douridas's predecessor, Tom Schnabel, who parlayed his gig into a lucrative showbiz career.  Check out his bio from the KCRW website, which is virtually the career blueprint for every air personality at this station.  Notice the outrageous claims, like he "introduced World Music to public radio."  Oh, really?  That's pure bullshit, and it's not even true for Los Angeles!  But I guess KPFK in the 1950's and 1960s didn't play "World Music" - they chose to call it "ethnic music."  Look how Schnabel worked his job on a "non-profit" radio station to rake in the cash... 

Neal McCabe

In Memoriam:

Clair Brush Sasano - 9/8/38 - 2/7/06

I first met Clair when she and hubby Ken came up to visit me and my gf Bonnie in Santa Cruz in 1972. I’d known Ken in college in Boulder.

Clair was jaunty in her knit cap, and full of joy. Ken was Ken. It was just a matter of time, then, til we started coming down to L.A. to visit them at their house on Valleyheart Drive near Laurel Canyon across from the so-called L.A. River. That house was joyful too, with the two of them both active in the music business and 4-year-old De De running around. It wasn’t long before that little family increased twofold, and the house was a constant party of big and little folk.

Speaking of folk, Clair was a folk-music veteran. She’d been around the Chicago folk scene and was a few crucial years older than me which meant she was there for the formative time of the Gate Of Horn and other places. She knew Bob Gibson - Wow - and a whole lot of others. That must have been 1961 and 1962, and it was certainly satisfying for her when ten years later she and Ken led a songwriters showcase at Capitol Records, where both she and Ken worked, that Gibson frequently attended.

Also, she was “on the scene” in 1965 or 1966 when the Ken Kesey people came to L.A. to run their Acid Tests. She was dipping into the spiked Kool-Aid with the rest of them, but had no ill effects that I could see. As far as “making the scene,” she made a showing far beyond the reach of general hangers-on, immortalized for all time, at great length, in her in her own words, in “The Electric Kool Aid Acid Test.” So, unlike most of us, she leaves a part of herself to living eternity.

What I was struck with was how talented she was. As a writer, she made a living at Capitol and other places with a flair for the times. The first half of the 70’s, you know, was the actual 60s freeing many people to live a mixture of rebellion and grooviness. Her writing style well reflected the times. I knew nothing about writing, and I was in awe of her.

Too bad SHE wasn’t as impressed with herself. Clair always hid her light under a leaf. She was not too self-confident despite her worldliness and talent, and it was like pulling teeth to get her out in public. Still she was a wonderful friend and inspiration to many many many people.

I last spoke to her a couple of weeks ago. She was in a recovery room waiting to get well enough to go home, anticipating a series of operations to get her up to some slow but unimpeded speed. Though the darkness of her plight was evident, she never let it enter her attitude. Her pride in her children was the constant thing that sustained and powered her life.

Her passing is unjust. But her light lives in all of us who love her.


Email Art Fein

Other Fein Messes