Part III – “The Dream is Realized”
During the winter recess Dan and I went back East and recorded at the world famous Sear Sound Recording Studio in NYC with Walter Sear, the soundtrack for the cult classic B Movie “Cheerleaders Beach Party” directed by Dan’s father Alex Goitein. We completely blew it by going in with barely half-written songs that weren’t any good to begin with. When we got back to school in California, we were obsessed with getting some new songs recorded for the movie. First we worked hard writing the original tunes out note for note and then we practiced them until we could play them well without vocals. We were lucky to get the local classical guitar legend and part-time producer Ed Durbrow to come to the apartment with his TEAC 4 track reel to reel. We set him up in the bathroom, used as a control room, while we used all the beds to make improvised sound baffles. We got down to the serious business of recording on a budget and scored. We recorded four songs and three of them made it into the movie.
We now booked our second Sonoma State dorm cafeteria gig and the school’s sound engineer, Don of DHG Sound, liked the gig so much that he gave us free rehearsal space at his studio in Santa Rosa. It was in an old bank building and since the city was almost completely deserted at night we could rehearse anytime and as loud as we wanted. This was an essential element because at the time we were getting busted almost every night for making too much noise in the Rohnert Park apartment and it was getting in the way of our progress. Now we had someone backing us. One night in the new studio, a cop started yelling up at me from the Street. I had a window in the room I set the drums up by so I could get some air. He asked if I would come down so we got a little uptight. I told everyone to be cool and I went down to talk to him. He said “My partner and I listen to you guys practice every night of the week and he was wondering if you wouldn’t mind him coming up and jamming with you on his Les Paul.” I said “Hell yes, I always wanted to jam with a cop.” So up came one of Santa Rosa’s finest in full uniform and we jammed and he was good too. This has to be some kind of a first. The DHG studio is also where Brian Bajors recorded us with Alan Weintraub on his Gibson Firebird guitar and the Martian Band on percussion and conga drums for the first four songs of the Gladden Fields CD.
We did a big outdoor gig on the lawn of Sonoma State and the band was growing. That gig had Julie on vocals, The Sonoma Horny Horns with Michael Conn as pictured on the website on trumpet from the Harvest band (which also had Steve Berry on drums),the sax guy, the trombone guy, Greg on a Fender Rhodes electric piano . Kenny from Queens who lived upstairs at the Rohnert Park apartment played a little congas and liked to hangout a lot, with help from Steve Berry and others. Dan had his big rock star moment when he drove on the lawn up to the stage in Don’s 1959 Jaguar XK150S Roadster.
Dan and I had a horrible gig at the Hiding Place as a side band The Smokestack Lightning Blues Band but I loved how the name sounded. It would have made Chester Burnett (a/k/a/ “Howling Wolf”) proud. Me playing the same three songs that I knew on guitar over and over while Dan tried to fix the monitors he worked on all day building that we didn’t even need. Everyone left and the club just threw us out.
Dan made up for it with a big moment when he got Billy C. Farlow, lead singer from Commander Cody and His Lost Planet Airmen hits “Hot Rod Lincoln”, “Smoke That Cigarette” and “Too Much Fun”, to let me play harmonica with him when he played at the SSU dorm cafeteria. I got up on that stage and nailed it so good that Billy C. grabbed my harp and we traded solos back and forth with the same harp for 10 minutes. Foot stompin’ fun had by all. Thanks Billy C.
My sunny day dream gig at Cotati’s La Plaza Park band shell was rained out but I wasn’t leaving without at least getting to the drum solo of Chicago’s version of Stevie Winwood’s “I’m a Man” at great peril to Mike and Dan. Water was dripping on the amps but fortunately no one got electrocuted. Everyone in the band grabbed various percussion instruments and people left in the audience started banging bottles and we had our own little re-creation of the Woodstock rain chants na.....na na na na.....hey hey hey hey hey.
We played the famous Cabaret Club in Cotati, a Beyond Productions Event, with Renaissance Jazz band Aircastle fronted by Robert B. Gilmore and David Godet. Terri “Sugarcane” Hopkins got up and did Frank Zappa’s “Willie the Pimp” with us and Libby Harrison, a jazz guitarist, joined the band to play delectable guitar duels with Alan Weintraub (both Terri and Libby were also in Aircastle). Eva’s friends The Other Ones (a Grateful Dead cover band from Livermore) were also on the bill that night. At this point, sadly, Mike and Julie had both quit. Right before Julie quit, we went down to San Francisco and recorded with Jeff Rymes , a great intellectual musician. That’s when Julie sang her nice lead on Summertime.
We played our biggest gig when Don got us on the bill at the Santa Rosa Veterans Memorial Hall. This was a 5000-seater that Tom Petty had rocked the night before for the Bay Area Magazine Battle of the Bands. We went on last and closed with Shake n’ Finger Pop. The stage was so big I didn’t even feel like I was in the same band but it was a sweet victory and the new line-up was really professional. Steve Stang was now our multi-wind instrument player, playing everything from Soprano to Baritone. I always liked when Gladden Fields closed shows. It made me feel like the headliner. Some new wave/punk band from SF called The Imposters came in as the runner-up and an L.A. Van Halen-like band called Stark Raving Mad that had THE Sammy Hagar lead singing, huge drum kit on risers, various glitter machines and Marshall Amp stacks won but we didn’t care. We were carrying the psychedelic rock band torch and making people dance and be happy.
We also played the old Sundance Café in Santa Rosa. We played a Martin Luther King Day celebration which felt good to do. I also played Drums with a gospel singer named Inetta Harris in the musical she wrote, played piano and sang in entitled "Sometimes I Feel". I was also very briefly the drummer of a funk band called Sparkle. “Hi, My name is Steve and I’m an Aries.”
We wooed the crowd at the Sonoma State University Spring Jazz Concert of 1978 with Libby and Alan on guitars. We started our show closing set with Steely Dan’s “Only a Fool Would Say That” where I had to sing into the rafters because the microphone went out and yet I still could be heard because the audience was so receptive you could hear a pin drop.