|There has always been music in my life. My mom and both my grammas sang to me. Mostly Russian and Yiddish lullabies. My dad, his two brothers, and his dad were working musicians when I was born on the west side of Chicago in the late-mid forties. I remember a Mickey Mouse uke with a crank-music box action. Also a killer old school jack-in-the-box. It played the three stooges theme. Later after we moved to the north side and my sister was born, we kids got a record player. Along with the usual Walt Disney stuff we had Paul Robeson singing freedom songs on a 78 as well as Serge Romanov and the Don Cossack chorus; some Carlos Montoya and Segovia..I mean dad's a guitarist..and some Burl Ives who was a friend of my dad. Also around after I began to read were piles of People Songs with all kinds of union, anti-fascist, up the people stuff I really couldn't understand. Sometimes my dad would take out his guitar at a family party but rarely..and of course I watched Ed Sullivan, the Steve Allen Show; and the Ted Mack Amateur Hour, where my cousin Adele actually competed in a girls vocal group.
In 1957 we moved to the suburbs and I started playing guitar in earnest first on a little Regal requinta that my dad gave me. Later on a big old brown-stained J-50 Gibson whose face was patched with wood filler, and later still on a big old blonde Epiphone Triumph that was laying around the house. By '59 I had a couple of school buddies to play music with; Steve Debs on trumpet and another guitarist Dick Stock. We played some folk music, some Dixieland, a couple of standards, and some of the instrumental Ventures, Dwayne Eddy, Bonanza type stuff that was popular in those days. It was during this period that I did my first recording with my dad and grampa on a demo for my uncle Anatol. We cut it directly onto acetate. During this time my dad used to take me out to the coffee houses and night clubs. He was teaching a little guitar out of the house and his students wanted to learn folk music. He took me to see Josh White both at the Gate of Horn and the Auditorium theatre. Josh's crystal sustain really infatuated me..he was doing it on an acoustic. I also saw Blind Jim Brewer for the first time, which began a musical relationship that lasted until Jim's death in '79 or '80. I was listening to the Weavers, Harry Belafonte, the Limelighter's, Leadbelly and of course the Kingston Trio, as well as the Eddie Condon Band and Pete Seeger. During this period I taught myself to play 5 string banjo out of the Pete Seeger Book and got paid money to sing and play folk songs at various functions.
By 1960 we had electric guitars and a name for ourselves: the Jesters. With a school buddy Perry Johnson we cut a single,"Sidetrack", a take of on Honky-tonk. We recorded this on tape, and it was pressed into acetate then an actual 45. The personnel were Dick, Perry, and me..I don't think we had a bass. Somehow around this time we got hooked up with a guy named Harry Oppenheimer: HDO productions, and he got us gigs at sweet sixteens and birthday parties on the north shore. We wore matching green collarless sport-coats and grey sharkskin slacks. This was too much for Debs. Harry also introduced us to Gene Lubin..drum genius and way cool guy. He was, and still is, four or five years older than me and we've been friends since. We played gigs together..Perry never played gigs with us..until early '64. During the last couple of years a friend, Steve Goodman, who I was teaching guitar came into the band, but by that time it was pretty much winding down. He and I also did folk stuff together for a while. I was listening to the Beachboys, Ventures, and Chuck.
Between my freshman and sophomore year my father abandoned us and went totally incommunicado. A year later I changed high schools, my mother re-married, and the Beatles exploded in our heads. I became a bad boy. JD, nihilist, psycho head case. Perfect for rock and roll. With my great friend Neal Pollack, who I was teaching to play the 5 string..I taught him bass now..Gene Lubin, and a guy Neal and I knew from work: Mark Feldman; Kassner's California Shop; we started the Knaves. We were all nuts. By senior year we had added Johnno Hulburt..folkie, anglophile, soulful, Yiddish speaking wasp. We recorded and gigged from early '64 til early '68. Neal went to Vietnam is '67..so we got a new bass player named Stuart Einstein and kept at it for a while, but the world was changing too fast. I was trying as hard as I could to do everything Aldous Huxley, Robert DeRopp, and Tim Leary were telling us to do and my brain was getting pretty fried. Our managers, the Trilling Brothers decided we weren't gonna make them the fortunes they were counting on so they had all our equipment ripped off. I lost my SG-Les Paul: my bar mitzvah money guitar as well as a Les Goldtop of my uncle Norman's. Back then I listened to anything English: Pretty Things, Kinks, Stone, Beatles and the new, electric Bob Dylan (Johnno gave me Blonde on Blonde the week it came out). Shortly after the ripoff we all drifted apart. After a shortlived band called Apple Pie and Mother, a power trio with Stuart and his girl-friend Fran Rinaldo on drums, I pretty much stopped playing in bands and did the folk house scene, playing at the No Exit, the Earl of Oldtown, the Oldtown Gate, the Inferno in Evanston, It's Here, to mention a few places. I played solo and did mostly original stuff, and blues as I had started hanging out at the No Exit and living in Rogers Park again after a year near north. I was listening to Jim Brewer every Wed night at the No Exit for years. He showed me everything I ever asked and always treated me nice. I was learning from and listening to all the folksinger of the Oldtown Northside scene: Fred Holstein, my erstwhile student Steve Goodman, Jay Turner, Odetta, the beautiful and underappreciated Bonny Koloc, Jimmy Post, Kendall Kardt and John Prine. Try to picture all this with a background of burning ghettos, an absolutely incomprehensible war, the civil rights movement, sisterhood women's rights gay liberation..black power, and political assignations. Confusing isn't it? That's just how the '60's ended.
In '70 and '71 I played in the Euphoria Blimpworks Band, a size-changing, super political, super rocking, communal family band put together by Al Goldberg and me immediately following the Kent State Massacre. Later after our record "Up From the Sewers", we started calling ourselves Yama and the Karma Dusters. I was also playing in the folk houses still. And playing in smaller acoustic ensembles. Most usually with Al Goldberg on hand drums and percussion and Joel Shlofsky on bass. We played alot of opening-second acts for the great Chicago blues guys playing at Alice's Revisited on Wrightwood. I got to work with Howlin Wolf and his band, including Hubie Sumlin, many times, as well as with Houndog Taylor, Muddy Waters, and Lefty Diez. With the Karma Dusters we played demonstrations, student strikes, Kingston Mines, and of course Alice's. We were the first band to play in the yard at Cook County Jail. We were inter-racial. Anti War. Stop the Bomb. Free love hippies. We were not making alot of friends in the Chitown establishment. Remember: Chicago is where the cops declared open war on kids. Just being a kid at that point was enough. We were the wildest of the wild kids. The cops won. Alan and I left in early '72 for Europe, England, points east? We didn't know. I came back and got my girlfriend and when I got back to Paris Alan was traveling. I was in Paris on and off for about three yrs with trips to Barcelona, Pforsheim, Greece. I heard all kinds of music from David Bowie, Joe Dassin, Manu de Bongo, Flamenco, Paco de Lucia, Bazouki music, Russian accordion and violin music to Django style jazz. Early on I got a job at Decca working for Gil Slavin..a genius producer musician of the first caliber. I played sessions, wrote pop songs and got paid for it. At this time I recorded a 45, "Boogie Woogie Rock and Roll". I also played in the metros and the cafes in the La rue Mouffetard just down the street. My girlfriend Robin and I finally got back to Chi for real in '75. Once again I started playing in the folk joints. After a short time Robin and I headed back out. This time to the Caribbean where we eventually met up with Al in Honduras. We finally met back up with Alan Goldberg on Utilla Bay Island and played rock and roll, Goldberg on congas, Robin on percussion, in a couple of nightclubs on the mainland and on the Tony Rome Cho de Siete on Honduran TV. Back to Chi, I became interested in jazz and spent the next two years studying and practicing, listening to jazz, Django, Taj Mahal, Joe Pass, Toots and the Maytals, Jimmy Cliff, and lots of Chicago Blues, Greek music and Wes.
In May of '77, I came to Colorado on my way somewhere else and stayed. With the exception of about 18 months in Basalt, I lived in the Carbondale area, and over the next 23 years played every style of music imaginable from jazz at aspen openings to country in bizarre west slope honky-tonks. Solo, duo, trio, you name it. Want a giant band with girl singers and horns..I'll do it for you. If you're a Coloradan and you've been out dancing you've seen me in The Close Enough Country Band, the Crystal Bullets, the Motivators, Bubba's Baddass Blues Band, Jazz Hot, Twirp Anderson and the Country Cannonball, Dan Ford Band, Steve Skinner's Love Machine, Kenny and the Blue Notes, Frank Tadero duo-trio-quartets, and the Howard Berkman Band. Moved to Paonia in nov.'01, and I'm playing, composing, teaching and training like a mad fool..trying to give my best to the great gift the great spirit has given me. I listen to Lonnie Johnson, Leroy Carr, Mana, Caifanes, Ali Akbar Kahn, Django, Tony Mattola, Karl Kress, George Van Epps, Tampa Red..sometimes Ellington and Louis Armstrong pre-forties, Nat Cole Trio, Willie Dixon, Howling Wolf, ZZTop, James Brown, Staples, Curtis Mayfield, Earth Wind and Fire and all kinds of stuff. I constantly give thanks to the great spirit for allowing my continued participation in this miraculous dance.