Tag Archives: The Doors

The Historical Society That Rocks!

One of the most persistent urban suburban legends in Westport is that the Doors played a concert in the Staples High School auditorium.

Also the Animals, Yardbirds, Sly & the Family Stone and a host of other rock ‘n’ roll legends.

It’s all true.

To find out more, you can click here to read an “06880” story from 2014.

You can click here to download “The Real Rock & Roll High School,” Mark Smollin’s meticulously researched, fantastically illustrated and awe-inducing history of that remarkable era in Westport history.

Or you can go to the Westport Historical Society. “The High School That Rocked!” opens tomorrow (Friday, June 16, 6 p.m. reception). The exhibit runs through September 2.

The Yardbirds’ “For Your Love,” part of the exhibit’s stacks of wax.

The walls are filled with photos, posters, ticket stubs  and press clippings from and about those mid-’60s concerts. A record player sits near the entrance, with a stack of 45s; choose your favorite, and play it. (Kids: Ask your grandparents how!)

A screen plays clips from the “High School That Rocked,” the video that inspired this show. Staples Class of 1971 graduate Fred Cantor produced the documentary, with much younger (Class of 2014) filmmaker Casey Denton.

Cantor also curated this show, with ’70 Staples grad Mary Palmieri Gai.

Ironically, Cantor never saw any of those concerts. He still can’t figure out how he missed them.

Fifty years later, he’s made up for all that. He zeroed in on some of the most recognizable names — the Doors, Cream, Animals, Rascals, Yardbirds, and Westport’s own Remains — but also includes information about proms (the Blues Magoos played for the seniors, the Blues Project and Left Banke for the juniors), and Lester Lanin’s short-lived Nines Club discotheque (with groups like the Youngbloods and ? and the Mysterians).

Miggs Burroughs — who has his own rock ‘n’ roll stories — puts the finishing touches on the Westport Historical Society exhibit. (Photo/Larry Untermeyer)

The exhibit pays homage to Dick Sandhaus and Paul Gambaccini — Staples students who had the vision (and audacity) to bring those bands to Westport — and to Cantor’s classmates Charlie Karp (Buddy Miles’ sideman), Brian Keane and Michael Mugrage, all of whom still rock the music industry.

The Westport Historical Society usually highlights events like the Revolutionary War. This is quite a different show.

Then again, so were the ’60s at Staples.

(Other cultural venues are tying in to the WHS exhibit. The Westport Cinema Initiative screens the “High School That Rocked” video on Saturday, July 15 [4 p.m., Town Hall]. The Westport Library hosts a panel discussion on ’60s music on Monday, August 14. And the Levitt Pavilion may soon announce — well, stayed tuned for that one!)

Ginger Baker, Cream’s drummer, at Staples. The copyrighted photo by Jeremy Ross is part of the “School That Rocked” exhibit.

Staples: The High School That Rocked!

It’s a story so outlandish, folks who were there don’t believe it: In a 2-year period in the mid-1960s, the Doors played a concert at Staples High School.

So did Cream. The Yardbirds. Sly and the Family Stone. The Rascals. The Animals. The Beau Brummels.

Plus over the next few years, the Byrds, Rhinoceros, Buddy Miles, J. Geils,  Peter Frampton and Taj Mahal. And Steve Tallerico, before he became Steve Tyler.

I saw most of those bands. I’ve written about it, on “06880.” So has Mark Smollin, a 1970 Staples grad, in his great book The Real Rock & Roll High School: True Tales of Legendary Bands That Performed in Westport CT.

Still skeptical? Now there’s even more proof: a video documentary, called “The High School That Rocked!”

high-school-that-rocked-poster

It’s a labor of love from Fred Cantor, a 1971 Staples alum who missed most of those performances, but is now making up for lost time.

Rock has never died — witness all the young rock lovers born decades after Jim Morrison died — and Cantor enlisted the help of a very recent Staples grad to bring his vision to reality.

Casey Denton (Class of 2014) led a high-level Emerson College camera and sound crew, then edited the final prodcut.

Doors posterThe video includes research Cantor had done for Smollin’s book, and over a dozen interviews with people who were there at the concerts. (Spoiler alert: I’m one of them. Our recollections seem pretty accurate, despite the admonition that if you remember the ’60s, you weren’t there.)

Cantor focused on a 2-year period, when 6 bands now in the Rock & Roll Hall of Fame all took the Staples stage. He is convinced no other high school that could make such a claim.

The video also includes Staples grads from that era who made their mark in the music world. One is Paul Gambaccini, perhaps Britain’s most famous music presenter. Another is Charlie Karp, who at 16 years old was influenced by the concerts to leave Staples and join the Buddy Miles Express. A third is Emmy winner Brian Keane.

Cantor is working with the Westport Cinema Initiative, Westport Historical Society and Levitt Pavilion, to bring “The High School That Rocked!” to a wide audience here.

He’s also entering it in festivals (film, not rock). The first is Film Fest 52 at the Bethel Cinema (Wednesday, March 8, 6 pm VIP party meet and greet, 7 pm film, followed by a Q&A and reception). It will also open the SENE Film, Music & Arts Festival in Providence on April 25.

You don’t have to have seen any of the Staples concerts — or even to have been alive then — to love this film.

But if you were there, you’ll appreciate the final credits.

They say the film was produced by “Sally’s Record Dept. Productions.”

Ginger Baker, Cream's drummer, at Staples. (Photo copyright Jeremy Ross)

Ginger Baker, Cream’s drummer, at Staples. (Photo copyright Jeremy Ross)

 

Charlie Karp Knows Them Changes

If you’ve read “06880” for a while — or tried to interest me in your Staples High School reunion story — you know I usually don’t post those kinds of articles.

Reunions are a dime a dozen (or at least every 5 years). And every class thinks theirs is the best/tightest/most amazing one ever.

But you also know I’m a sucker for Staples-themed rock ‘n’ roll stories. So this one makes the cut.

When the Class of 1971 met for their 45th reunion this weekend, they (like many other classes) had a live band. This one was very good. It included Grammy winner Brian Keane, Dave Barton, Bill Sims, Rob McClenathan, Julie McClenathan and others.

Among the others: Charlie Karp.

Charlie Karp shares a laugh with Keith Richards. (Photo/Ray Flanigan)

Charlie Karp shares a laugh with Keith Richards. This was not at the Staples reunion. (Photo/Ray Flanigan)

You may know Charlie Karp from his many local bands (including White Chocolate, The Dirty Angels, Slo Leak and the Namedroppers). You may have heard his his work as an Emmy-winning producer of music for sports networks, documentaries, and feature films.

But you may not know his Staples-era back story.

When he was 14 in 1967 — and still a student at Coleytown Junior High School — Charlie’s band opened for the Doors, at their legendary Staples concert.

He was at Fillmore East the next year when it began, and stood on the side of the stage on New Year’s Eve 1969, for the fabled Band of Gypsies concert featuring Jimi Hendrix.

Later that night, 16-year-old Charlie hosted a party at his parents’ Upper West Side apartment. His dad was away — but Hendrix was there.

Not long after, Buddy Miles asked Charlie to play on what became the renowned “Them Changes” album. Charlie contributed an original song — “I Still Love You, Anyway” — and played acoustic guitar.

In April 1970 — while his classmates trudged through junior year — Charlie played with the Buddy Miles Express. They opened for Hendrix at the Los Angeles Forum, in front of a capacity crowd of 18,000.

Charlie Karp (left), playing with the Buddy Miles Express.

Charlie Karp (left) with the Buddy Miles Express.

In 1971, Buddy Miles — with Charlie — opened for Three Dog Night at the Cotton Bowl. That same year Miles recorded a live album with Joe Tex. Charlie joined bassist David Hull (part time Aerosmith player), and a tremendous horn section.

After all these years — there is not enough room here to talk about his career from the 1970s till now — Charlie is still very much a working musician. He teaches guitar and songwriting at his Fairfield studio. He helps his students and other professional musicians produce their own music too.

His latest release — “Endless Home Movie” — is available on iTunes. It comes almost 50 years after his 1st single — “Welcome to the Circle” — with his Fun Band, on ABC Records.

And 45 years after he left Staples, to follow — and reach — his musical dream.

He did not graduate with his class. But he helped make this year’s reunion a very classy one.

(Click here for Charlie Karp’s website.)


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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.”)

Catching Up With Harvey Brooks

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.

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.

Harvey Brooks

“I’m very relaxed here.  I’m with my people,” Brooks told the Arizona Jewish Post.

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.

It couldn’t hurt.

Strange Days

The Doors had a busy September 1967.

Just a few weeks after “Light My Fire” blazed to #1, they toured New Jersey, Texas, Utah, New York, Ontario, Ohio, Rhode Island, Iowa and Colorado.

They appeared on “Ed Sullivan.”  They released their 3rd single, “People Are Strange.”

In between, they played Staples High School.

On September 21 — nearly 43 years ago to the day — the hottest band in America came to Westport.

According to DoorsHistory.com, which seems as amazed that the group played here as today’s teenagers must be reading about it, Staples was:

a very cool place to play considering it’s a high school auditorium and the music department’s rehearsal room is used as the dressing room, which the Doors turn into a party room!

Others that will make the trip here are the Animals, Cream, the Rascals, Louis Armstrong, Phil Ochs, and Sly and the Family Stone.  It sure would of (sic) been cool to go to this high school in the sixties!

The show goes well with the Doors playing material straight off their first two albums.  This show is promoted by the school’s student council!

Mark Groth — who sent “06880” the link to the Doors history website — was a Staples student then, and he was there.  He remembers “standing backstage under the light board talking to Morrison, wearing his leather outfit and smelling a bit like a wet goat.”

I was there too — though I was only in 8th grade.  I did not get close enough to Jim Morrison to smell him, but I do recall thinking he was by far the coolest human being I had ever seen on earth.

I don’t recall being surprised that the Doors were spending a Thursday night in Westport.

But they sure set the night on fire.

More Doors/Westport trivia: The back cover of "Strange Days" -- released 4 days after their Westport show -- featured model Zazel Wilde. She had graduated from Staples a few years before.