17 Soundview: The Sequel

A “notice of demolition” sits on the front of the house at 17 Soundview Drive. Such signs are common in Westport. But this home is special.

For one thing, every Westporter knows it. We pass it whenever we walk or drive on the beach exit road.

For another, it has an amazing musical history. Two years ago — when the house was up for sale — I recounted the story, as if its walls could talk.

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Ginger Baker sent a drum set to the house. Peter Frampton lounged on the front deck. Carly Simon wanted to buy it.

Those are just a few of the musical memories associated with 17 Soundview Drive. It’s one of the most handsome homes lining the Compo exit road, drawing admiring glances from walkers and sunbathers for its beachside gracefulness.

If only they knew the musical history hidden throughout the property.

17 Soundview Drive.

17 Soundview Drive.

It was built — like the rest of the neighborhood — as a summer house in 1918. One of Frank Lloyd Wright’s students designed it, ensuring harmony with the beach environment.

Francis Bosco — current owner Gail Cunningham Coen’s grandfather — bought it in 1928. A Sicilian immigrant and lover of opera, he tuned in every Saturday to NBC Radio’s live Met broadcasts. For years the voices of Enrico Caruso, Maria Callas, Robert Merrill and others soared from the living room, under the awnings and onto the beach, thrilling neighbors and passersby.

In 1982 Gail and her husband Terry Coen bought the house. She’s a musician and music teacher; he’s a songwriter and music promoter. Over the past 32 years they’ve lavished love on it. It was one of the 1st Compo homes to be raised, to protect against storms. The Coens added a secluded rooftop deck, and flower and vegetable gardens.

You can see the water from nearly every room in the house. This is the living room.

You can see the water from nearly every room in the house. This is the living room.

But the professionally designed, fully soundproofed music studio is what really rocks.

It — and the chance to hang out privately, yet in the middle of all the beach action — has made 17 Soundview a home away from home for 3 decades of musical royalty.

Ginger Baker spent many evenings talking about the birth of British rock, touring with Eric Clapton, and his childhood in England during World War II. He also recited some very bawdy limericks. In return, he gave Ludwig drums to Soundview Studios.

Ginger Baker, and his drums. (Photo/Wikipedia)

Ginger Baker, and his drums. (Photo/Wikipedia)

Peter Frampton brought his young family. They loved the warm summer breeze, and being able to sit anonymously just a few feet from the hubbub of a beach afternoon.

One summer day, Carly Simon said she was thinking of buying a beach house. #17 was her favorite, because it reminded her so much of Martha’s Vineyard.

Meat Loaf played Sunday morning softball at Compo. After, he headed to the Coens’. One day, he played his next single on the roof deck. No one on the beach could see he was there — but they heard him. At the end, everyone applauded.

The Remains reunited for the 1st time in decades in the studio. (Full disclosure: I was there. It was one of the most magical moments of my life.)

Eric von Schmidt loved to sing by the fireplace, and joined jam sessions in the studio. One day, Ramblin’ Jack Elliott rambled over with him.

Other regulars included Jimi Hendrix’s bass player Noel Redding; Corky Laing and Leslie West of Mountain; former Buddy Miles Express front man Charlie Karp; Eric Schenkman of the Spin Doctors, and guitarist/producer/songwriter Danny Kortchmar.

17 Soundview - roof deck

The rooftop deck is a great place to watch fireworks. It’s also where Meat Loaf played his next single, to the unknowing delight of a Compo Beach crowd.

Some of those musicians — and plenty other great ones, though less known — were guests at the Coens’ annual July 4th fireworks parties. The food and drinks were fantastic, capped off by watching the passing parade on Soundview.

But the real action happened when the fireworks ended. Everyone piled into the studio, and jammed till the sun came up.

From Caruso to the Spin Doctors, 17 Soundview Drive has seen it all. If only those walls could talk (or sing).

(The new owners will replace the 98-year-old house with a handsome new one. They’re making sure it fits in well with the streetscape. We’ll continue to admire 17 Soundview Drive. We’ll just sing a different song.)

21 responses to “17 Soundview: The Sequel

  1. So this is one of those, as they say “if this house could sing”

  2. Mary (Cookman) Schmerker Staples 1958

    Does this mean it has passed all the necessary steps and will be torn down or is there still a chance to save it? If it is slated for demolition……. what can I say?……. A tragedy…..

  3. vivianne pommier

    and Greg Sims?

    Please tell Gail, I send a hug

  4. Why the ‘demolition’ sign? Is this beautiful home beyond repair or is a McMansion planned for this site? Does Westport make any efforts to preserve special homes like this one?

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  5. Who Knew, Great Blog Dan Thanks!!

  6. Thanks to Dan and the Coens, I had the privilege of attending The Remains’ reunion in the late 1990s. Ditto on “It was one of the most magical moments of my life.” It was one of my all-time favorite albums come to life over 30 years later. Charlie Karp was there as well.

    And I remember meeting and chatting with Corky Laing on another occasion.

    Definitely, as you say, “amazing musical history.”

  7. Barbara Sherburne '67

    Why on earth is it being demolished? What a tragedy.

  8. My son did a lot of drumming at that house. Good memories for lots of kids!

  9. Truly a shame to lose such an iconic Westport home. So much of the charm I loved and appreciated while growing up has disappeared and been replaced with generic McMansions…it’s hard to return to a hometown that is becoming unrecognizable.

  10. Jerry MacDaid

    It always amazes me that whenever a house has a “story”, all sorts of people are up in arms when someone buys it and wants to replace with another house. Suddenly it is a “beautiful” house that it is a “tragedy” to tear down. Please.

    This house is in a beautiful location. The house externally is neat and well maintained, which is probably all most folks know about it beyond it’s story as told be Dan. However, it isn’t necessarily a “beautiful” house. Many folks might find the amount of glass garish and unsightly. Others may like it but it is worth noting that in many “historical” beach areas in the northeast with well controlled zoning, something like this would not be allowed to be built today. It is all a matter of taste I suppose.

    While I’m sure the former owners thoroughly enjoyed the house and visitors thought it charming, etc. many folks feel the same way about the house they live in for all sorts of personal reasons. My mother cried when she finally sold her house of 40+ years. I loved growing up in it but I would never buy it today. Unlikely anyone commenting on this blog would either. But the story was amazing. Unsurprisingly, when people move, they tend not to try to recreate what they had as they recognize the actual shortcomings and/or trade-offs.

    When this house was on the market, I attended one of the open houses. I found the place to be out of date and not terribly livable. Bad kitchen, too few bathrooms, inefficient floor plan and outdated HVAC. Might have been fine to camp out for a week at the beach but not great for year round living. Could someone figure out how to gut and reconfigure the interior while maintaining the facade – probably, but why?

    Almost every house has a story that is important or meaningful to someone. This one happens to have some famous names attached to it. Looking at the price history on Zillow and recalling the marketing campaign, it is clear that is what they were trying to sell. Clearly nobody was interested in paying for the story. Perhaps the new buyer would like to create their own story. That’s their right.

  11. End of an era for sure. Having known Gail And Terry my entire life, I was fortunate enough to meet many of those guests. Sitting on the beach with Meat and Peter Frampton was always interesting. Corky may be one of the funniest people I have ever known.

  12. William Briggs

    Great memories Dan. I am really sorry to see it go. That house had a great “vibe” and, while I’m admittedly “old school”, the charm and grace of the old place seems like a good enough reason to preserve it. But, as I was just reminded…”That’s not the way the world works Bill”. Ahhh…cruel world.

  13. Chip Stephens - Staples 73

    I remember, when living on Danbury Ave in the early 80’s with my new family, hearing someone somewhere playing MOUNTAIN (the group) and enjoyin it on my front porch. Imagine my jaw dropping, when my then young stepson Sal Recco came home telling me he was at the neighbors, 17 Soundview, watching his new friends and Corkey banging out Mississippi Queen that night live. Only in 06880 land

  14. Beautiful home, but even more beautiful residents… Gail and Terry and their sons are very special and warm friends…always willing to roll up their sleeves and help at getting any job done! Great friends!

  15. That’s it. I am contacting the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame because Westport CT belongs in it. I don’t think Westporters understand the DEPTH of involvement Westport had in Rock and Roll History. If they induct places, Westport belongs there. It’s not a rumor, The Doors (Jim Morrisson), Cream (Eric Elapton, Ginger Baker) , The Young Rascals, the Yardbirds(Jimmy Paige) and a myriad of other famous early rock groups played here.. I know because I was there. I an others in my generation have told the tale about all of our concerts over and over.. But I had no clue about 17 Soundview before Dan’s first piece. It’s part of Westport’s history and rock and roll history. Let’s have a plaque put there… and one put at Staples.. and.. and..
    Rock on, Westport!!

    • Actually, we are already in the Rock & Roll Hall of Fame. An endless loop plays in the Hall of Steve Tyler recalling how — when he was Steve Talerico, playing in a band called the Chain Reaction — he opened for the Yardbirds at Staples. That day convinced him he could be a rock ‘n’ roll star. The rest is history.

      • There’s Detroit, New York, Haight-Ashbury, New Orleans, Memphis, Philadelphia, Nashville, Woodstock and Westport.. not necessarily in that order, either… all rock and roll music capitals. We had to have had a music label from here, correct? Maybe Michael Bolton had one? Neil Sedaka? Jose Feliciano?

        • Mary, I had suggested a while back to the Westport Historical Society that they do an exhibit on the rock/pop scene in Westport over the years. I think that would prove to be popular and hopefully that will happen in the not-too-distant future.

          • Bobbie Herman

            The Fairfield Museum had one two years ago. Here’s what their website had to say about it –“Fairfield’s Rockin’ Top Ten celebrated the musical legacy of the Fairfield region, highlighting a diverse set of ten musicians including: Nick Ashford & Valerie Simpson, The Remains, Leonard Bernstein, David Brubeck, Jose Feliciano, Chris Frantz & Tina Weymouth, Richard Rodgers, Nile Rodgers & Bernard Edwards, Keith Richards and Donna Summer. Items representing each musician – instruments, sheet music, awards, and stage outfits – were complemented by a video “juke box” to showcase each artist’s work.”

            I’ll be you didn’t know Fairfield had a museum, did you?

  16. Fred Cantor

    Bobbie–I contributed memorabila and video footage to that exhibit (and I was there for the opening night panel discussion featuring rock and pop musicians). It was great.

    • Bobbie Herman

      If Dan had a “Like” button, I would have clicked on it for your message.