But I had no idea Ramblin’ Jack Elliott spent time here too.
Ramblin’ Jack Elliott
He had a profound influence on generations of musicians. Arlo Guthrie says that because he was young when his father died, he learned Woody’s songs and performing style from Ramblin’ Jack.
Jack’s interpretations of Woody Guthrie’s songs made a great impact on a young Bob Dylan. Jack later appeared in Dylan’s Rolling Thunder Review concert tour. He also influenced Phil Ochs.
Peter Barlow not only remembers Ramblin’ Jack’s Westport days — he was an important part of them. Peter writes:
Ramblin’ Jack came a lot to Westport in the late 1940s and early ’50s. He saw his friends Ric von Schmidt, Bill Frey, Bob Keedy, several others I can’t remember, and me. We were all in our late teens.
We knew him as Xerxes. He had no other name and no explanation, though if pressed he was Jack Elliott.
His real name was Elliot Adnapoz. He lived in Sheepshead Bay, Brooklyn. His father was a surgeon. I met his parents there. They were constantly worried about Elliot, and somehow thought I was a good influence (!).
He met my parents too. I brought Xerxes over to my house one evening. He played and sang a song for my father, who was very impressed.
He played guitar and sang incessantly. I never knew there were so many verses to those folk songs.
Xerxes had 2 other interests: rodeo and sailing ships. It was the ships that connected us to each other.
In 1969, Ramblin’ Jack Elliott sailed to Westport with Pete Seeger, on Seeger’s new 106-foot sloop Clearwater. Seeger performed in Westport, though Ramblin’ Jack stayed on board. The morning after the concert, Peter Barlow took this photo — with Ramblin’ Jack on the 20-foot bowsprit — in the pouring rain. (Photo copyright Peter Barlow)
I didn’t see Xerxes for a long time after those years. He became very successful, without compromising or going commercial. He’s still performing concerts.
Although Jack Elliott rambled many places — including Westport — that’s not how he got his name. Apparently, it came from his tendency to tell long, drawn-out stories.
Folk singer Odetta claimed her mother gave him the nickname, saying, “Oh, Jack Elliott, yeah, he can sure ramble on!”
So mark next Wednesday, March 21 (7 p.m.) on your calendar. Michael Friedman’s Gallery in Bedford Square is the site for one of Westport’s liveliest musical events ever.
The owner’s stunning photographs of everyone from Janis Joplin and Mick Jagger to the Band and Johnny Winter (another former Westporter) serves as a backdrop for a Moth-style session about rock ‘n’ roll.
Among the storytellers:
Former Paul Butterfield Blues Band organist, and Rock & Roll Hall of Fame member Mark Naftalin.
Mark Naftalin: A keyboardist, recording artist, composer and record producer, he and his fellow Paul Butterfield Blues Band members are in the Rock & Roll Hall of Fame.
Crispin Cioe: A sax player and songwriter, he’s played and recorded with James Brown, the Stones, Solomon Burke, Tom Waits, Ray Charles and the Ohio Players.
Roger Kaufman: A noted local performer with the Old School Revue, Roger worked last year with the Smithsonian Museum to archive, preserve and pay tribute to Steve Cropper, the legendary Stax guitarist who played on classic songs like “Knock on Wood,” “Midnight Hour” and “Dock of the Bay.” Soon, he’ll archive materials with Weston’s own Jose Feliciano.
Rob Fraboni: A producer and audio who worked with Bob Dylan, the Band, Eric Clapton and the Stones — and who as vice president of Island Records oversaw the remastering of the entire Bob Marley catalog. Keith Richards called him “a genius.”
David Bennett Cohen, with Country Joe and the Fish.
David Bennett Cohen: The original keyboardist, and also a guitar player, for Country Joe and the Fish.
Wendy May: She’s spent the last 20 years performing with Charlie Daniels, Kenny Chesney, Mark Chestnut, Willie Nelson, Hank Williams Jr., Marty Haggard and many others.
Dick Wingate: In a long career with labels like Arista, PolyGram, Epic and Columbia Records, he worked closely with Bruce Springsteen, Elvis Costello, Aimee Mann, Peter Tosh and Pink Floy, among others.
Michael Friedman: In addition to photography, he worked as a publicist with the Mamas and the Papas, Bee Gees, Herman’s Hermits and Glen Campbell, and was an artist manager for Dylan, the Band, Janis Joplin, Gordon Lightfoot, Todd Rundgren, Kris Kristofferson and Rita Coolidge.
Rusty Ford: He co-founded Lothar & the Hand People, the psychedelic band that was the first to use a theremin and Moog synthesizer in live performances. He also played bass with the Beach Boys.
Lothar and the Hand People
Also on the bill: Bari Rudin and Caissie St. Onge, comedy writers who have worked with David Letterman, Phil Donohue, “Saturday Night Live,” Rosie O’Donnell and Joan Rivers.
Incredibly, every storyteller is a local resident. This area remains rich in rock history. We don’t have to ship in stars. They’re right here, living as our neighbors and friends.
They’ll each speak for about 8 minutes. Every one though has a lifetime of stories to tell.
* Let’s not forget the Hall & Oates “concert” too.
(Tickets for “Rock & Roll Stories” include food, beer, wine and an auction. It’s part of the Westport Library’s week-long “Flex” series, which features a celebrity lunch with Sam Kass and Jane Green, a conversation with Ruth Reichl, movies, a dance-a-thon, a family day, gala party and much more. Click here for information and tickets.)
The 1961 Staples graduate managed Todd Rundgren. He did publicity for the Dave Clark 5 and Herman’s Hermits. He dated Linda Eastman.
And — for a few years in the late 1960s and early ’70s — he helped manage Bob Dylan.
You know: the newest Nobel Prize in Literature laureate.
Michael Friedman in his Weston home.
Friedman — a longtime music lover and current Weston resident whose recollections of the early rock ‘n’ roll days in Westport I chronicled last April (he was Bo Diddley’s drummer at the YMCA, for example) — was just 24 years old when he joined Albert Grossman’s New York office.
It had been a 1-man operation, managing — besides Dylan, and the Band — Janis Joplin, Peter Paul & Mary, Richie Havens, the Paul Butterfield Blues Band and Odessa.
Friedman was hired on as Grossman’s assistant — and partner.
With Dylan back in the news last week, I asked Friedman for some insights into the singer/songwriter/poet/Nobel Prize honoree.
“What do you add to the conversation about Bob Dylan that hasn’t already been examined under a microscope?” Friedman wondered.
Bob Dylan and Albert Grossman.
He thinks, though, that it’s hard to imagine Dylan achieving all that he did without Grossman. They were “alter egos,” Friedman says.
Friedman’s work with Dylan came mainly in the office, and Dylan’s home/studio in Woodstock, New York — not on the road. But the manager saw many facets of his client.
Decades later, he remains a huge fan.
“If anything, I’m surprised that people are surprised” at the Nobel news, Friedman says.
“His lyrics and music go far beyond anything any American has achieved,” he notes.
“He’s so influential. He gave everyone — the Beatles, Paul Simon, you name it — permission to write in a way that had never been done before. The body of work he’s responsible for laid the groundwork in a fearless, extraordinary way.”
That “Nashville Skyline” album remains one of Friedman’s favorites. It was light, simple — and very country-influenced. That, Friedman says, epitomizes Dylan.
Dylan’s “Nashville Skyline” cover.
“He did not care what anyone thought, or about celebrity or fame. He was booed off the stage at Newport for going electric, when he was the spokesman for folk music. He was the anti-war spokesman, and he went country. He did what he wanted..”
But Dylan was certainly no dilettante. When Friedman asked him about his writing “process,” Dylan said: “I get up in the morning. I go to my ‘office.’ I write songs. Then I go home.”
After nearly 60 years in the business — and countless honors — Bob Dylan has received an enormous honor, for his great body of work.
“I really admire him,” his former manager said. “And I’m really proud of him.”
In a world filled with young Westporters who dream of business school, summer i-bank internships and Wall Street careers, Dustin Lowman stands apart.
He’s a Middlebury College graduate — not unusual in this town — but he’s forged a distinctly different path. Dustin is a guitar-playing singer-songwriter, and he’s ready to make music his career.
If that sounds a bit Bob Dylan-esque, there’s a reason. Dustin has been a Dylan disciple since his mother borrowed CDs from the Westport Library. He evokes the early-’60s Dylan in his writing, playing and voice.
Still, Dustin Lowman is distinctly his own man. And a very talented and confident one too.
Much of that confidence stems from his upbringing here. It began with trumpet at Kings Highway Elementary School, then continued at Coleytown Middle, and band and orchestra at Staples.
Julia McNamee — his teacher for 7th grade workshop, 9th grade English Honors and 11th grade AP English — stressed creativity every day, from class discussions to essay topics. Dustin’s junior research paper was on Woodstock.
“Indulging the farthest corners of your mind” was crucial to him as a teenager, Dustin says.
Also important: Mike Zito and Jim Honeycutt’s Media Lab at Staples. They helped him record, and as a senior in 2011 let him and Noah Weingart make a full-length film.
“They gave us a lot of rope,” Dustin recalls. “We absolutely relished indulging our creative sides.”
The Dressing Room was another important influence. Dustin sang at that now-closed restaurant with older musicians like Michael Mugrage and Tor Newcomer.
He performed Dylan and Springsteen covers, and original numbers too.
The audience nurtured him. “I really felt they were saying, ‘Music is what you’re supposed to be doing,'” Dustin notes.
He recorded his newest album — called, simply, “Folk Songs” — in his mother’s Westport home, as she prepared to move. That provided some of the poignancy an artist needs.
He designed the front cover from beach glass he collected with his mother at Compo Beach, over the course of his childhood. That too helped ground him, and his music.
All 9 songs are originals. All are compelling — particularly if you like Dylan, channeled through someone born decades after his folk-rock years.
The album dropped on Monday. It’s on Soundcloud, and other online outlets like Spotify (which Dylan definitely did not have, back in the day).
Dustin Lowman moves to Nashville next week. He hopes to make his mark on the music world.
It’s a different path from many of his Westport and Middlebury friends. Bob Dylan would be very proud.
(To hear Dustin Lowman’s “Folk Songs,” click here. “You can pay for it if you want,” he says. PS: You should!)
Harvey Brooks — the legendary bassist who played with Miles Davis, the Doors, Jimi Hendrix, Richie Havens, Stephen Stills, John Sebastian, Seals & Crofts, Boz Scaggs, Judy Collins, Loudon Wainright III, Phoebe Snow, and Phil Ochs — now lives in Israel.
But for many years, he was a Westport resident. Before that, however — perhaps most famously — he was in the studio with Bob Dylan. They recorded the groundbreaking album “Highway 61 Revisited” exactly 50 years ago today: July 28, 1965.
Today, Brooks posted this story on Facebook. It’s one his many Westport friends — and countless Dylan and Brooks fans around the world — will enjoy.
It was July 28, 1965. I was playing a gig in Manhattan. During a break, I went next door to eat at the Burger Heaven, when I got a phone call from Al Kooper. I’m playing on this album with Bob Dylan and they need a bass player – are you doing anything?
That phone call would change my life.
The next day — 50 years ago today — I drove from Queens to Manhattan. I was soon in an elevator on the way to play for Bob Dylan’s “Highway 61 Revisited” album at Columbia Studio A at 777 Seventh Avenue. I opened the door to the control room, took a deep breath and entered.
The first person I saw was Albert Grossman, Dylan’s manager. Grossman had long gray hair tied in a ponytail and wore round, tinted wire-rimmed glasses. I thought he looked like Benjamin Franklin. A thin, frizzy-haired guy dressed in jeans and boots was standing in the front of the mixing console listening to a playback of “Like a Rolling Stone.” I assumed it was Bob Dylan, though I didn’t know him or what he looked like at the time.
When the music stopped, Albert said, who are you? I told him who, what and why. Dylan said “hi” and went back to listening. Al Kooper then came in to make the official introduction. It was all very cryptic and brief.
I walked into the studio, took out my Fender bass and started to tune it. My instrument was strung with La Bella flat wounds which I still use. I plugged in the Ampeg B-15 amplifier which was provided by the studio. It sounded warm and percussive. The B-15 was my gig amp as well.
Though I was only 21 years old, I had already played many club gigs with a range of performers. I had worked with varying styles and felt I could adapt to about anything on the fly. So I was comfortable in the studio, and ready for anything Dylan could throw my way.
Suddenly, the studio door burst open. In stormed Michael Bloomfield, a moving ball of energy. He wore penny loafers, jeans, a white shirt with rolled-up sleeves and had a Fender Telecaster hanging over his shoulder. Bloomfield’s hair was as electric as his smile. It was the first time I had met or even heard of him.
Harvey Brooks (sitting) and Mike Bloomfield (lying on the floor).
At the first session, Joe Macho Jr. had played bass. He had been replaced by Russ Savakus who Dylan didn’t like either. Dylan wanted someone new for the rest of the sessions. Kooper recommended me to Dylan. Dylan needed to be comfortable with his bass player. Kooper knew I had a good feel and adapted quickly.
For Dylan, it was not enough to be a skilled studio musician. He wanted musicians who could adapt quickly to his style. I admitted to him that I hadn’t heard any of his music before the session, but was really impressed by “Like a Rolling Stone,” which I first heard when I walked into the studio.
“Well, these are a little different,” Bob responded. I assumed he meant from his past work, but Bob was bit vague. He gave me a crooked smile and then lit up a cigarette.
New producer Bob Johnston, a Columbia staff producer from Nashville, was already producing Patti Page when he got the Dylan assignment.
Johnston had a “documentary” approach that allowed him to capture fleeting moments in the studio. Frustrated by the technical bureaucracy at the Columbia studio, he ordered several tape machines brought into the control room, so he could keep one running at all times in order to capture anything Dylan might want to keep. That tactic worked quite well.
Harvey Brooks (left) and Albert Grossman, Bob Dylan’s manager.
Though the first session for “Highway 61 Revisited” had been only 2 weeks earlier, a lot had happened in the interim. “Like a Rolling Stone,” recorded at the first session, had been released and caught on like fire.
Only 4 days earlier, Dylan had been booed when he went electric at the Newport Folk Festival. It was a pivotal time in his career. He was beginning the transition from being a “pure” folk artist to a rock and roll performer.
Now we were at the 2nd session, my 1st, uncertain of what was on Dylan’s mind. In a few minutes he came out of the control room and started to sing the first of 3 songs we would work on that day.
Dylan sang the first, “Tombstone Blues,” a few times. There were no chord charts. It was all done by ear. As a habit, I made a few quick chord charts for myself as I listened to him perform. Everyone focused on Dylan, watching for every nuance. Then, the band went for it.
As we began recording, Dylan was still working on the lyrics. He was constantly editing as we recorded. I thought that was a really amazing way that he worked. His guitar or piano part was the guiding element through each song. Every musician in that room was glued to him. We would play until Dylan felt something was right. His poker face never revealed what he was thinking.
Harvey Brooks (left) and Mike Bloomfield, when they played together in Electric Flag (a few years after the Dylan session).
It might have taken a couple of takes for everyone to lock in. There were mistakes of course, but they didn’t matter to Dylan. If the feel was there and the performance was successful, that’s all that mattered. In real life, that’s the way it is. If the overall performance happens, there is always something there. Bob would go into the control room and listen. Johnston may have been the producer keeping the tape rolling, but it was all Dylan deciding what felt right and what didn’t.
Bloomfield’s fiery guitar parts accented Dylan’s phrasing. He was a very explosive guitar player and didn’t settle back into things. He was aggressive and a little bit in front of it. My goal is finding a part that makes the the groove happen. Dylan set the feel and direction with his rhythm. My bass parts reflected what I got from him.
Most of my early playing experience had been in R&B bands that performed Wilson Pickett and Jackie Wilson tunes, or songs by the Beatles and Rolling Stones. Playing with Dylan created a totally new category. I call it “jump in and go for it.”
We recorded “It Takes a Lot to Laugh” and “Positively 4th Street” the same way. Masters for the 3 songs were successfully recorded on July 29. (“Positively 4th Street” was issued as a single only.)
At the close of the session that 1st night Dylan attempted to record “Desolation Row,” accompanied only by Al on electric guitar and me on bass. There was no drummer. This electric version was eventually released in 2005, on “The Bootleg Series Volume 7” album.
Our producer had a love of and even a bias toward Nashville musicians. It became an underlying topic during the session about how good they were. He kept talking about how cool Nashville is. I felt his comments were disparaging to us. I felt Johnston thought of us as New York bumpkins in a way.
This Nashville bias played into “Desolation Row.” I thought the version without drums that I did with Al that night was slower and definitely more soulful. We really liked it. Clearly, Johnston thought otherwise. On August 2, 5 more takes were done on “Desolation Row.” However, the version of the song ultimately used on the album was recorded at an overdub session on August 4.
When I left the studio after the final session, I didn’t have a sense of whether or not we had created a hit record. I did know, however, that all the songs felt good. They felt solid. I now understand that’s why “Highway 61 Revisited” was a successful record. In all the takes Bob chose, he made sure he got what he wanted from each song. He knew what he wanted. It’s an amazing talent that really knows what they want.
In my time in Westport, I’ve met tons of interesting and unique people. Movie stars, authors, CEOs — they’re all here, and often taken for granted.
But I can’t imagine a greater thrill — or honor — than getting to know Eric von Schmidt.
Eric was one of those bubbling-under-the-surface folks — someone who, for whatever set of reasons, never attained star status, but was far more talented than many super-celebrities.
And Eric did it in 2 very different fields.
Eric von Schmidt, in his folk days.
He first earned renown as an artist. That’s natural — his father, Harold von Schmidt, was a celebrated illustrator. (And a Staples football coach. And a host known for wild parties at his Evergreen Avenue home.)
Eric was selling his artwork while still a Staples student. After a brief stint at the Arts Students League in New York, and service in the Army during the Korean War, he earned a Fulbright Scholarship to study art in Florence.
Back in the States, he ended up in Cambridge, Massachusetts. He painted, and hung out in coffeehouses.
As a teenager — hearing Leadbelly sing “Goodnight Irene” on the Grand Ole Opry radio show — Eric had gotten into old blues and folk songs. His mother, Forest Gilmore, encouraged him to visit the Library of Congress, where he discovered archival blues music.
Eric’s timing was perfect. In the late ’50s Cambridge was filled with exciting young performers, like Joan Baez. Tom Rush called him a major influence.
Bob Dylan did more. In his 1962 debut album, Dylan — with whom he’d “traded harmonica licks, drank red wine and played croquet” — credited “Ric” with teaching him “Baby, Let Me Follow You Down.”
Eric wrote songs like “Joshua Gone Barbados.” He recorded 8 albums, with the likes of Richard Fariña. His “Folk Blues of Eric von Schmidt” sits atop of the records on the cover of Dylan’s “Bringing It All Back Home.” In 1965, when Dylan shocked his fans by going electric at the Newport Folk Festival, Eric played there too.
Eric von Schmidt created this cover art for his own 1977 album.
Meanwhile, he was painting and drawing. Eric created record covers, children’s books, and more.
His works got bigger and grander. In 1976 — the centennial of Little Bighorn — he completed 6 years of work on”Here Fell Custer.” An enormous acrylic work, and the product of prodigious research, it was chosen by the National Park Service as the official depiction of General George Custer’s infamous “last stand.” Action-packed, but filled with intricate details, it is now displayed at Last Stand Hill, and in the NPS brochure. Why it is not nationally well known is beyond me.
A few small details from Eric von Schmidt’s “Here Fell Custer.”
Eric went on to research and paint 2 more large historical works: “Osceola and the Treaty of Seminole Removal” and “The Storming of the Alamo.” Both are as stunning as “Custer.”
Then there is “Giants of the Blues.” The 7 large canvases portray the evolution of American music, from delta music through jazz, bluesmen like Howlin’ Wolf, John Lee Hooker, Robert Johnson and Muddy Waters, the Memphis influence and much more.
“Blues Piano Players” — one of 7 wonderful works that make up “Giants of the Blues.”
It is truly spectacular. There was talk of donating it to the Smithsonian.
Instead it hangs in the Staples High School auditorium lobby. Students pass by every day; theatergoers see it on their way to shows. Hardly anyone realizes its significance — or thinks about the artist.
I think about Eric von Schmidt often. I was fortunate enough to know him, late in his life. He’d moved back to Westport in the mid-1980s, after his parents (“Reb” and “Von”) died.
Eric von Schmidt, with “Storming the Alamo.” (Photo by George R. Janecek)
He spent most of his time in his Evergreen studio. It was a magical place. Canvases — completed, half-finished, mere sketches — hung in every nook and cranny. Brushes, palettes and every kind of art implement filled the rest of the space.
There was also a bed. Eric rented out “The Big House,” and lived in his studio.
He’d lost his vocal cords to throat cancer a few years earlier. No sadder fate could befall a musician.
Talking was very difficult. He communicated mostly by fax — Eric never liked computers — and he was in pain from a new nemesis: Lyme disease.
But he kept working. He was excited by a Lewis and Clark project. He was thrilled that “Custer” and “Alamo” were seen on the History Channel.
His daughter Caitlin moved into “The Big House,” and cared for Eric. He fell, broke a hip, had replacement surgery, then suffered a stroke in August 2006. He spent time in hospitals and rehab centers.
Eric von Schmidt
Word got out, in the art and music worlds, that Eric’s health was failing. When he died on February 2, 2007, the news was reported in the New York Times, by AP and on NPR.
Most of the stories focused on his music.
I never heard Eric von Schmidt sing live. I knew him best as an artist. Now, in Westport — at Staples — his art lives on. Even if hardly anyone recognizes it for the remarkable work it is.
Or recognizes the man who lovingly, painstakingly, painted this masterpiece.
Finally, though, some long-overdue recognition comes from the Westport Library. An exhibit of his paintings will be displayed in the Great Hall from tomorrow (Friday, March 29) through June 26. A reception is set for next Friday (April 5), at 6 p.m.
Eric’s art is reason enough to go. But I’d love to hear his music, too.
Wednesday night, winds howled past 60 miles an hour. Yesterday morning we flicked on flashlights, picked up debris, and wended our way around blocked roads.
This was the scene yesterday morning — and afternoon — on North Avenue near Adams Farm Road. The major north-south route — home to 2 schools — was closed when a tree toppled in the early-morning windstorm.
I’ve lived here all my life. I forget a lot of things, but I’m pretty sure that until a few years ago, the only time we worried about high winds was in a hurricane or nor’easter.
Now, every few weeks the weather forecast includes a “High Wind Warning.”
Bob Dylan said you don’t need a weatherman to know which way the wind blows, but I wanted confirmation that it’s windier now than when, well, Dylan was a rebellious young folk singer.
So I went to my favorite weatherman: Jacob Meisel.
This tree snapped in Wednesday night’s windstorm. Fortunately, says Juniper Road homeowner (and photographer) Mark Mathias, the only thing damaged was the tree itself.
The Harvard-bound Staples senior — whose forecasts are more accurate than anyone else’s, and whose Southwestern CT Weather blog sits atop my Favorites list — said this:
“You are right that these wind events are becoming more common, at least in the past 5-10 years or so.
“Through my experiences here in the past 7 years, a High Wind Warning would only be issued once a year, if that, with Wind Advisories being more common, especially as they rarely cause much damage. However, over the past 2 years there has certainly been an uptick in the number of High Wind Warnings.
Jacob Meisel, ace weatherman.
“A lot of this has to do with technology. As weather models have gotten better measuring wind speeds in the atmosphere and not just at the surface, they can more accurately predict wind gusts and how much of the atmospheric wind will mix down to the surface.
“I also believe the National Weather Service has gotten a little less conservative with the High Wind Warnings over the last few years. The last time one was issued winds did not come very close to the 58 mph criteria, and I questioned why they were issued.
“Over the past few years there has been an uptick in storms that can produce these strong winds as well, possibly due to a 10-20 year pattern known as the Atlantic Multi-decadal Oscillation. Changing ocean and climate patterns that occur naturally over a 10-20 year span can often dictate paths low pressures take over a long period of time, and the positive phase we are in now is more commonly attributed to tropical disturbances along the east coast, hence both Irene and Sandy.”
So to paraphrase Jacob: The answer, my friend, is blowin’ in the wind.
Staples junior Diego Alanis snapped this shot, of a snapped tree that took down power lines and a transformer, on Country Road off North Compo yesterday morning.
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.
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.”)
Back in his “Highway 61” days, Bob Dylan could have written “Searching for My Twin.”
But he didn’t. Dustin Lowman did.
The lyrics, voice, intonation, guitar, harmonica, rhythm — all evoke Dylan, when he played Greenwich Village coffeehouses in the early 1960s.
In 2012 Dustin does Main Street, right here in Westport.
But he’s not alone.
The Wayside (from left): Dustin Lowman, Danny Fishman, Devin Lowman, Sam Weiser. (Photo/Eric Essagof)
Longtime friend and fellow guitarist Danny Fishman, drummer/brother Devon Lowman and violinist/bassist/musical genius Sam Weiser join him, forming The Wayside.
Remember the name.
The folk-rock — really, folk-to-rock — group is tearing up the area.
They’re all over Facebook and YouTube, too.
It took more than 40 years for Dylan to do that.
Dustin Lowman (Photo/Gabe Schindler)
The Wayside goes way back. Dustin and Danny were friends at age 7. They played on the same Little League team (the Huskies), but gave up baseball for music.
By 8th grade at Coleytown Middle School, Dustin was writing poetic lyrics — a nod to his musical hero, Dylan.
Dustin and Danny — he’s more of a John Mayer fan — went to the National Guitar Workshop together. Their playing and songwriting attracted attention from the likes of Livingston Taylor.
But the Wayside didn’t come together until a couple of years ago, when Devon and Sam joined. Sam’s crazy-good fiddle-style violin playing adds a special twist on folk-y, introspective-type numbers; he switches to bass for more rock-y stuff. Danny and Dustin write most of the material. The other 2 guys grab it, and make each song their own.
Danny Fishman (Photo/Gabe Schindler)
Their 1st gig was the 2010 EcoFest. Their tight, crisp, mature-beyond-their-years sound and clever lyrics drew immediate attention (and comparisons to not only Dylan and John Mayer, but the Avett Brothers and The Tallest Man on Earth).
In Dylan’s early days, the Wayside would have played local clubs, attracted attention from promoters, signed with a label, cut a 45, been heard on radio stations, hit the big time, gathered groupies and gone on from there.
But the music industry has changed. There are fewer venues, no 45s or radio stations. Groupies are looking for the next Mark Zuckerberg.
So the Wayside does things the new way. They play for free on places like Main Street. They make EPs. Their music is on ReverbNation. Their Facebook fan page draws plenty of attention. They’ve got a YouTube channel.
They’ve also got a manager — Staples grad Michael Mugrage (who toured with Orleans and Ronnie Spector, and worked with James Brown and Bruce Hornsby).
The Wayside not only plays smart; they are smart. Dustin is a rising sophomore at Middlebury College. After a year at Vassar, Danny is transferring to Tufts. Sam is entering his first year at the New England Conservatory, while Devon has one more year at Staples.
They’re not sure what’s ahead after college. But they love what they do; they love playing with each other. They’re heartened by their very enthusiastic fans (including Tommy Byrne, who made guitars for Steely Dan).
Keep your eyes — and especially your ears — open for The Wayside. Catch their raw videos on YouTube, and like them on Facebook.
And check them out on a Main Street near you. It may not be Bleecker Street, but everyone starts somewhere.
What do Bob Dylan, Miles Davis, the Doors, Jimi Hendrix, Richie Havens, Stephen Stills, John Sebastian, Seals & Crofts, Boz Scaggs, Judy Collins, Loudon Wainright III, Phoebe Snow, John Cale, Phil Ochs, the Fabulous Rhinestones and Fontella Bass have in common?
Harvey Brooks (left) and Mike Bloomfield in Electric Flag.
Anyone who has read a liner note knows the name. The gifted bassist laid down some of the most famous lines in music history, including “Like a Rolling Stone.” His work was the hook on the Doors’ “Touch Me.”
Brooks — Davis’s 1st electric bassist — played on “Bitches Brew,” the best-selling jazz album of all time.
And, for many years, Harvey Brooks lived on North Compo Road, right here in Westport.
He and his wife Bonnie Behar have moved to Israel — that’s a whole other story — but he’s still in the news. The International Guitar Hall of Fame recently inducted Brooks. He joins legends like Muddy Waters, Willie Nelson, and Westonites Keith Richards and Jose Feliciano.
Bass Musician Magazine also featured Brooks. After showcasing his career — his big break at age 20, when his friend Al Kooper hooked him up with Dylan; his iconic playing in rock, folk and jazz for over 4 decades; his new life in Israel — the interview included these tidbits:
I had an apartment on Thompson Street and the Au Go Go was around the corner on Bleecker Street, and I became the house bass player there. I would play with whoever was on the bill that evening, with no rehearsal and just a quick run-through backstage. [To] be a musician in Greenwich Village in the mid-sixties…was AMAZING!
Monterey Pop was [Electric Flag’s] 1st gig. We were pumped. [Mike] Bloomfield kept using the word “groovy” in all its variations, in his excitement to describe the scene that was set out before us. We played in the afternoon so we able to see people dancing and the expressions on their faces as we played. Their feedback was amazing. The band was nervous and tense, but once we started performing and the audience accepted us we relaxed enough to play a decent set.
When I began to do session work after the Highway 61 Dylan album, I was expected to read music on some of the more structured sessions. I could read chord charts but not bass clef, so I had to learn to read. I began to acquire books on rhythm, scales, chords, composing, ear training and method books, and all kinds of fakebooks (books of tunes).
At the same time that this literary musical awakening was going on, I was getting all kinds of sessions that were pure instinct, demanding only my heart and soul. No problem– I have always been a melodic player who could at the same time “keep it simple.”
Over the years my ability to hear the music has evolved and my technique has grown to accommodate what I’m hearing. I’ve learned enough guitar and piano to harmonize the music and bass parts I compose. I’ve also been blessed with the most wonderful wife and partner Bonnie, who inspires me to create and continue to grow.
As for Israel: Brooks — who was born Harvey Goldstein — “caught the Zionist bug” from Bonnie, who for years took her daughters backpacking there. In 2009, the couple moved permanently.
Though not religious, Brooks says he “feels spiritually connected to Judaism” after long years in which music was his “only religion.” He’s gotten into the Israeli music scene, and performs at local clubs.
He continues to write and record, too.
Who knows? The multi-talented Harvey Brooks might soon add bass lines to klezmer music.
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