Complete text -- "Lazy Larkspur Afternoon"

14 May

Lazy Larkspur Afternoon

Billy Bucher, Larkspur, CA, October, 1966

There once was a band house in Larkspur. Larkspur is across the Golden Gate Bridge and through the Muir Woods from the grandmother of all cities, San Francisco. The band really struck a good deal on our two story house because the only way to go to and from it from the road was to climb 257 uneven, stone steps, step after painful step. These steps led up a steep, harrowing hill. But when you reached the top, it presented a truly fantastic view of the canyon.

One very odd feature of the house, though, was where the roof should have come to a point it was as if someone had cut off the point with a giant saw. There was a small room left sitting there without a roof. Most nights, you could sit or lie on a small mattress and look up at the stars. When it rained you had to dash downstairs using a ladder propped up to the back of the house to escape. Even more stunning was a small porch which led out from the roof moon room which provided even a higher stupendous view over the canyon.

The autumnal sun would daily dance down the canyon, playfully shining and bringing out the colors of the various leaves and bushes. The band I was in at the time was called the "Only Alternative" and maybe for those few months the house that created it's own workout, was the only alternative. And, to make things even better, one afternoon jazzman John Handy, with his magnificently brilliant saxophone and his boiling band joined the afternoon foray. Their music danced like live sunlight throughout all of the canyon.

I don't know how many different bands I was a part of during my year and a half on the West Coast but mostly the bands ended up practicing a lot and then, unable to find work, they would disband. Actually, this sounded a whole lot like my entire career in rock and roll.

This group would prove to be quite an experience since the members included Ralph Burns Kellogg who would later play with Blue Cheer and Charles Cockey who later appeared on the "Crown of Creation" album with Jefferson Airplane and co-wrote the song "Ice Cream Phoenix" with Jorma Kaukonen. The final member was a really nice guitarist from Boise, Idaho, named Barry and I'm sorry to have forgotten his name. Barry, you were a really nice guy. If you ever read this, write in.

For a time while we lived in the city we lived downstairs from Jefferson Airplane and that's how we had met Charles. We also had the chance to jam with various Airplane members as well as Moby Grape players. And after we moved to Marin County, we met an artist in the canyon who made unbelievable stain glass windows. There were so many in all the windows of his large living and dining rooms that even in the daylight it was like sitting in a light show at the Fillmore.

He had also painted a picture of John Handy and gave it to Handy at one of his shows and that began a strong friendship. When Handy came out to the actual house studio in Larkspur, he fell in love with the place and began to rehearse the band there. What a delight for a young jazzer fresh from the North Texas jazz scene.

And there was one particular day that really sticks in my mind. It was mid-afternoon and Rex May had come in from visiting Stan and Jackie Mitchell in Reno, Nevada. It was such a stunning afternoon that everyone seemed to gravitate upstairs to the little room on the roof point and the perilous porch.

And, fortunately for us, John Handy happened to bring his band up to the canyon and everyone just sat their mesmerized by the swirl of Handy's music with Jerry Hahn on the guitar. Then, oddly enough, in another part of the canyon, a classical pianist who lived further off down the valley began to play a Mozart piece and in a bit the music was joined by a trumpet player who was probably in high school and not very proficient but for some odd reason the primitive nature of his progress fit in perfectly with the blend. And as the afternoon progressed we were overwhelmed with this blend mixing with Handy and Mozart and probably Sousa and their individual riffs of music seemed to hang in the air like wisps of smoke.

I wonder if other people in their youth had days when they watched the clouds drift across the sky and it seemed as if the passage would last forever. I remember that particular feeling watching the fullness of the clouds over Iowa and now I almost feel a certainty that, if I went back tomorrow, that the afternoon's interweaving of music and interaction with the Larkspur canyon and the sounds of that afternoon so long ago may still be holding off in the distance for all to listen if they only believe that have the ability of really hear.

Posted by billybucher at 01:30:40 - Category: General

bloggard wrote:

Gee, that gave me a real nice feeling. I know those places you mention, but more important, I know that feeling, though sometimes it seems far away ...

Any word from Rex May these day?
05/17/04 16:38:37

billybucher wrote:

Thanks, Mr. B.,
Am really glad you liked that one. There are a couple more threads which are floating around my house which apply to the puzzle of this story but, alas, they were lost when I wrote it.
No word yet on Rex May nor Dutch Kepler, though I am getting closer on both. How about Gayle Haines???
However, low and behold, I received an email from Paris, France, from Mr. Jim Cuomo. More on that coming soon.
And today, in Sunnyvale, TX, the clouds are like big, lumpy pillows and the winds are just bumping them gently across the skies.
Thanks again, Arthur,
Billy Bucher
05/18/04 14:32:43

David Ian Brown wrote:

I remember the time Karla Zamiska and maybe Joe Royalty and I came looking for you in Larkspur. I know we didn't know your address, and we tried to divine your location by intuition or the stars or whatever. I don't remember for sure but I don't think we ever found you, because I have no
recollection of actually being in the house you describe. It sounds great.
Reminds me a little of the house at 11141 Canyon Road in Los Altos Hills where I lived as an undergraduate: 5 acres and 3 separate living structures for $100 a month total ($25 each for me and my 3 roommates). And I lived in the little cabin on the hillside and for a time I had my bed on the nearly flat roof and slept out every night: not in the rainy season though.
05/18/04 14:38:26

billybucher wrote:

No, am afraid we didn't connect. I feel I would have remembered Karla and you and Joe Roe. What a treat that would have been!!! I do believe you came to visit the apartment we had on Pine Street which was a bit scary.
And I do remember you hearing this band. I think. And I remember coming to see you in Palo Alto, though not at the digs you described. (Note: Using old hippie words.) (Or are they Beat words?) (Arthur, help!!!)
Thanks, so much, for the comments.
Billy Bucher
05/18/04 14:46:39
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