BAND AFFILIATION: Dancing Bear, Byrne and Barrett
INSTRUMENT: Guitar, harmonica, banjo, mandolin, elelctric bass
1. THE FIRST ALBUM I EVER BOUGHT WAS … The Doors’ first album. What a classic. I started collecting records in 1967 and got the Grateful Dead’s debut disc fresh off the rack soon thereafter. Drop the needle in the groove, inhale, turn on the Day-Glo light, burn the incense, peer through the prism and blow your mind.
2. THE FIRST CONCERT THAT I EVER SAW WAS … I used to think it was Woodstock 1969 but then remembered it was Andres Segovia at Carnegie Hall in 1967. He could still play back then. I was a serious classical guitar student before defecting to steel-string fingerpicking and other roots pursuits such as blues harmonica, bluegrass mandolin and old-time banjo.
3. THE FIRST MUSICAL INSTRUMENT I EVER OWNED OR PLAYED WAS … A cheapo 6-string Stella acoustic. My dad paid $15 for it. First elelctric was a used Tempo, a Jap junker with a dead-straight neck that compared favorably to a Teisco Del Rey or even a Global. Price $5. My classical guitar teacher was horrified that I was trying to play J.S. Bach and Fernando Sor on my Stella and finally got me a Contreras. Wish I still had the Stella all the same, but I gave it a fellow hippie who was living on Wavy Gravy’s Hog Farm commune in Taos, NM. I play vintage Martins and Gibsons now.
4. THE FIRST SONG THAT I EVER PERFORMED IN PUBLIC WAS … “Gloria,” by Van Morrison. After practicing chords for six months, I landed a rhythm guitar gig in late 1966 with a high school garage band in my native New Jersey. We played mostly British Invasion tunes. One of my bandmates, a kid named Mike Barton, couldn’t stop raving about this guitar player Jimi Hendrix. We’d never heard of him, and in 1966 few people here had (in London it was a different story, though). We first performed at a grade school assembly program, and at age 14 there I was signing autographs after the show for 8-year olds. It was all downhill from there, of course.
5. THE FIRST BAND I WAS EVER IN WAS … The aformentioned garage outfit was the Belmar Spring Water Company, named after a business still operating in my hometwown of Glen Rock, NJ. By 1967, I had switched to bass guitar, at which I freely admit I sucked. We played posh private parties in nearby Ridgewood and never made a nickel. But we did learn way cool songs off the brand new “Sgt Pepper” and the Stones album, “High Tide and Green Grass.” My lead guitarist, Dick Eckman, was the first friend I lost to gun violence. Killed in a robbery, he was only 21.