Gramps Has A Ponytail

Back in the day — back many days, in fact — Bonnie and Harvey knew each other.

They were classmates at Junior High School 109 in Queens. Both graduated from Martin Van Buren High School.

Bonnie went to Santa Barbara, and married Mike Behar. Harvey Brooks embarked on a musical career.

Their paths did not cross again for many years. By then she was the marketing/media director at Bridgeport’s Discovery Museum. To reach a young audience, she created a rock-‘n’-roll art and artifact exhibit.

Westporters Terry and Gail Cunningham Coen helped, and shared their extensive contact list. Someone else said to call Harvey  Brooks.

Bonnie knew that “her” Harvey had played bass on “Summer Breeze,” with Seals and Crofts. She dialed the number — with a Queens area code.

Two weeks later, he called back. He was indeed the same Harvey.

Al Kooper, Buddy Miles and Harvey Brooks at the 1967 Monterey Pop Festival. Miles and Brooks were the rhythm section for The Electric Flag, which debuted at the festival and inspired Kooper to form Blood, Sweat and Tears. (Photo by Pat Murphy)

They talked about their lives. She had 3 daughters — 19, 14 and 11.

He had recorded with — among others — Bob Dylan, Miles Davis, the Doors, Jimi Hendrix, Richie Havens, Stephen Stills, John Sebastian,Boz Scaggs, Judy Collins, Loudon Wainright III, Phoebe Snow, John Cale, Phil Ochs, the Fabulous Rhinestones and Fontella Bass.

He’d laid down some of the most famous lines in music history, including “Like a Rolling Stone,” the hook on “Touch Me,” and “Bitches Brew,” the best-selling jazz album of all time.

The exhibit was a huge success. So was Harvey and Bonnie’s relationship.

But there were sour notes in their soundtrack. Harvey was diagnosed with bladder cancer. Shortly after, Bonnie was found to have breast cancer. Their 1st year of marriage was spent in treatment.

Bonnie and Harvey Brooks

They survived, and the soundtrack soared. They lived on Compo Road North. Around the corner, on Evergreen Avenue, was Eric von Schmidt. Harvey introduced Bonnie — who knew Eric only as a very talented artist — to his astonishing musical career.

Harvey and Bonnie enjoyed many musical parties at Eric’s home (and bocce court). One birthday celebration featured a jam with local musicians like Keith Richards, Danny Kortchmar and Charlie Karp.

Years later, Bonnie’s granddaughters were visiting. Danya — age 4 — sat in Harvey’s studio, joyfully beating out a drum melody. Bonnie — enchanted — created story out of the scene. It involved a girl named Sam. She lives with her grandfather — a bass player. He teaches her how sound turns into music. Together they explore the wonders of the studio, and the process of creativity.

When it was finished, Bonnie sent the manuscript to tons of publishers.

Nothing happened.

She and Harvey moved to Tucson. Bonnie unpacked the story — called Gramps Has a Ponytail — and found an artist to illustrate it. Then she shelved it again.

Finally — years later — it’s been published. Danya is now 21, and married. Harvey and Bonnie have 14 grandchildren.

The bassist who once played with some of the baddest boys in the music industry loves being a grandfather.

And being called “Gramps.”

(Click here for the Amazon link to “Gramps Has a Ponytail.”)

10 responses to “Gramps Has A Ponytail

  1. Richard Lawrence Stein

    Harvey and Bonnie use to work with Miggs B on his cable interview show. I recall Doing camera work on a show where Miggs interviewed Harvey about the Doors, talk about fascinating stories…

  2. Go get a haircut hippie

    Impressive. Did he happen to catch Otis Redding’s performance at the ’67 festival? One of the best!
    Or see David Clayton-Thomas sing ‘You’ve Made Me So Very Happy’, one of the best vocals ever.

  3. Dan, The last time you wrote about Harvey & Bonnie I thought you said they had moved to Israel. Tucson?

  4. Harvey is still in Israel.

  5. You got me with your opening…I, too, went to JHS 109 and graduated from Martin Van Buren HS in Queens. Harvey and Bonniie may be a bit older than I am but I have been hearing about more and more of my neighbors doing great things in life. Humble beginnings, motivated children, and creative, successful lives. Thanks for sharing.

  6. Well, we have to have “Harvey’s Tune,” don’t we?

  7. NOW THAT IS WHAT I CALL GREAT MOOD MUSIC. WE NEED MORE, MORE, MORE.

  8. Great to catch up with my friend Bonnie. Congratulations on becoming an author! Bonnie, you’ve done it all!

  9. Sven Davidson

    Thought Al Kooper’s organ lick in “Like A Rolling Stone” took the honor as one of the best lines ever. The bass figure is great, but – come on – Koop’s Hammond B is immortal!