Showing posts with label Gary Hill. Show all posts
Showing posts with label Gary Hill. Show all posts

Monday, July 19, 2021

Remembering Gary Hill

 A Collaboration by Four Friends
Ken Forman • Paul Hobbs • Doug McIntosh • Ron Zieman

the playground of our youth

Gary Hill was born July 20, 1951 in San Antonio, Texas. The following adventures with Gary "Crazy Legs" Hill (as Ron nicknamed him) begins in Santa Maria, CA when Gary and Ron became fast friends as both their families attended the First United Methodist Church, roughly around 1960. In fact, Gary, Ron and Paul all met through the Methodist church, and Ken and I first met through our families attending Grace Baptist Church. 

Church affiliations aside, We all became close friends in different pairings throughout our elementary through high school years together. I first met Ron as my family moved next door to his on East Tunnell St. in 1965, and I met Gary sometime after. Our gang actually is a larger group that would eventually merge at some point in high school. I have to mention Jeff McCarthy and Steve Spencer as two more close friends, but please understand, Gary's list of friends is deep and wide.

This week, July 20th would have been Gary's 70th birthday. He died February 21, 2003 as one of two people killed in a single small plane that crashed near Santa Maria in Nipomo, CA. Gary was 51 years old. He loved to fly.

As Ron, Paul, Ken and I have reached our mid-sixties, our retirement from our "day jobs" has taken hold, although Ron can still be found at a job site when you call him. We look forward to meeting together as both Ken and Paul live in Santa Maria, Ron in Santa Monica, and me down in San Diego. We usually get together in Santa Maria to go out to dinner with our wives, but we're now planning a post-pandemic summit at the bachelor pad in Santa Monica, as just the gang of four. I'm hoping this could be a yearly event, we all wish Gary could join us. 

That last part of wishing Gary could join us, is the kernel of thought that brings this collaboration of little adventures with Gary together. In actuality, Gary is always with us.

Eric Clapton & Duane Allman
Ken Forman–
Gary was a guitar guy, and Eric Clapton was the consummate guitar guy. I 
remember him at our Cook St. house standing in the doorway with his Fender Stratocaster strapped on, albums stacked up and playing along with the guitar leads. He was also an Allman Brothers fan and post Duane's unfortunate collision with the peach truck, he became a Dickie Betts fan.

Gary saw the Allman Bros at the Paso Robles Fair one year and due to band infighting and Dickie’s overall bad attitude he was uninvited back out for the second set. Gary was majorly bummed.

Ron Zieman–
Gary was a “sweet hearted” friend who everybody was quite fond of. He was very funny and a pleasure to be around. Although perhaps not being quite as innocent as some people thought. He loved his family and friends as much as anyone could. He would absolutely drop anything he was doing to help almost anybody with anything and give you the shirt off his back!

After meeting at church we became close friends having all sorts of fun, and as Vicki Forman would say, "Getting into plenty of mischief."

"What's hot Peg?"
While church services were underway, we actually climbed into the organ loft as well as the crawlspace underneath the sanctuary floor on several occasions.

With Paul Hobbs and others, we perfected the skills of avoiding some of Sunday School, and of course spending our offering money at Bonners Donut Shop. Nothing like a fresh hot glazed donut, or three.

Paul Hobbs–
My friend Jay Spears worked up a great arrangement of the National Anthem and recruited me and a couple of other guys to sing it. We recorded our version and started sending it around to some sports teams. Jay was a big Cubs fan and I like the Giants so we sent a tape to San Francisco to see about booking our act to sing the anthem when the teams played each other. We got the gig! We all lived in LA but were willing to make the trip.

Gary got the idea of flying us there. He made it happen. He and another pilot arranged a plane in Santa Maria. We all drove up in Jay’s car and Gary and his pilot friend delivered us to Candlestick Park (a friend of Jay’s drove us between the airport and ballpark, actually) then, Gary flew us back to Santa Maria where Jay’s car was parked. Jay and one of the other guys got out, then Gary and his friend (wish I remembered his friend’s name), flew Grant and I back to LA as we had prior commitments. We landed at Santa Monica airport, somebody picked us up, Ron maybe, and we went our separate ways. Gary and his friend just loved to fly. They spent their entire day shuttling us around. We contributed to expenses but what a generous plan old Gary hatched to make for such a fun and convenient day.

The Hill Family Buick Station Wagon -
If that car could talk...
Ron Zieman– The Buick
We took his folks green station wagon out for dozens of adventures, as well as a few close calls! Once, out by Little Falls, we realized to get a good picture of the Buick crossing the creek, Gary needed to drop me off on the far side- then he'd go back and barrel through the stream so the water would splash higher.

After we viewed the Polaroid with satisfaction, I remember telling him how important it was to not let his folks ever see those pictures. Of course Madeline found them! I told her the water was not as deep as it appeared, but we got blamed for a couple repair bills.

Doug McIntosh–
I'm going to say this event happened somewhere in time around 1970-71. Gary and I had gone to Pirate's Cove Beach and were heading back on Avila Beach Drive and stopped where it intersects with Shell Beach Road. It's basically the frontage road next to U.S. 101. Gary sees some construction workers talking by their trucks who had been working at the Diablo Nuclear Power Plant just north of Avila Beach (as we both noticed the Diablo Power Plant logo on their trucks). 

Diablo Nuclear Power Plant
Now Gary could be very impulsive, and for some goddamned reason- maybe a recent anti-nukes protest was stuck in his brain that day. Anyway, he rolls down the window of his parents infamous green Buick station wagon, and starts yelling at these very large guys, "Nuclear power sucks!" One guy starts jawing back to Gary, and I'm saying, "Gary what the f**k, are you trying to get us killed!" Next, the guy starts walking toward the station wagon. Gary flips him the bird and peels out in the gravel and gets on the Shell Beach Rd. heading south. The guy immediately jumps in his truck and starts chasing us in hot pursuit. Now Gary looks at me with kind of a sly worried look that quickly turns in a big smile and nervous laugh. I'm totally terrified. I have a madman hippie driving 85 mph on a two-lane frontage road being chased by a madman redneck. 

We enter Shell Beach, careen around several blocks, then duck into a gas station. We think we've slipped him, but ohhh no, he finds us, gets out of his truck and starts running full speed at us. Gary does his now familiar peel out and we get back on Shell Beach Rd. heading south toward Pismo Beach. I don't know if the guy chased us further or just gave up, but we were treating this as a Smoky and The Bear situation. I think we then hide out in some back alley in Pismo Beach for awhile, then finally got back on the 101 south and head home. Just another day in the green station wagon with Gary.

For more car adventures featuring Gary driving the family wagon, go to a blog post I wrote March 23, 2020, Déjà Vu • March, 1970.

Ron Zieman– "Crazy Legs Hill"
I was always able to launch Gary with Indian leg wrestling. I always thought I could run as fast too, until we played soccer. He had unreal moves, could turn, stop and start on a dime. Impossible to catch or even keep up with him. Hence- the name!

Ken Forman–
Ron and Gary lived in the Lincoln house and Gary liked to drive us around in his open air jeep. We'd drive up and down Broadway and Gary especially liked sitting at the red lights, "Exposure" he'd remind us.

Doug McIntosh–
Paul and I are in Gary's bedroom at his family home. Paul is trying to teach Gary and me a harmony part. Paul tries and tries but his students are stone cold tone deaf. At some point we all give up.

Gary just seemed to jump into playing electric lead guitar one day. He knew if he wasn't going to sing like Greg Allman, he would strive to play like Greg's brother Duane.

Ron Zieman–
The Uniqueness Of Gary

Gary had an orange 10 speed and he rode that bike all over creation. The hard leather seat was elevated at the front at about 35 degrees, making him the only male who could possibly ride it, He said it was comfortable!

We once rode our bikes to Camp Ocean Pines- over 70 miles with camping equipment. One day to get there and two days to get back, with very sore legs.

Photo by Gary Hill
Doug McIntosh–
Now as a parent and grandparent, I shutter a bit at some of the risks we took when young and feeling immortal. This particular adventure starts with Ron hearing about the White Elephant Mine in the Los Padres National Forest from Gary's brother Ed Hill. We in fact did a couple of reconnoissance missions, first with Ron, Kim Brickey (Ron's girlfriend), and me. We found the mine shaft hole entrance that was about four feet wide. The question, how far down was the hole before it spidered out with different perpendicular shafts? Ron remembers he tied a rock around a rope line he brought, but it did not touch the bottom.

One the second trip, Ron brought along a 50 ft. rope, which he tied around himself, and Kim and I helped lower him down. This was insane in hindsight! The rope wasn't long enough but he got to the bottom and checked things out. He climbed back up to the rope, and Kim and I helped pull him back up. However, the rope and Ron got hung up on a ledge and it took some anxious moments for him to get over the hump and free the line so we could pull him up. Kim and I had the rope wrapped around us, supporting each other, and finally helped Ron up and out of the hole, whew! But that was only the beginning.

Back in Santa Maria Ron built a very sturdy 75 ft. wood and nylon rope ladder that would be used in a series of missions to explore the mine shaft tunnels.

On the third trip, Ron and I were joined by always game Gary. We climbed down (one at a time) into the shaft with now a very secured rope ladder tied around a huge rock. We made it down with several feet to spare and explored the mine together with our flashlights. Gary took one of my favorite photos ever of Ron and me sitting on a ledge at the end of one of the network of shaft tunnels. 

I look back to our utter trust in each other, our motivation and cooperative spirit that just continued to bond our friendship for one another. And hey, you got to love the mud-caked on our boots, and the red eye effect from the flash of the Kodak Instamatic camera. Or maybe, we were vampire bats... 

Paul Hobbs–
Jane’s grandfather gifted her his car when he gave up driving. The caveat was that she had to get it out to California from Florida. She was working and unable to make a trip to retrieve it. Getting it delivered somehow would be far too costly. I was working weekends at Butch Cassidy’s so I got someone to sub for me and gave myself a little over a week to drive the car back to California in time for Ken and Vicki’s wedding the following Saturday.

It was going to be a long, lonely trip, until Gary stepped up and offered to use some vacation days and join me. Traveling along with some preplanned stops and some unplanned car trouble, we covered the nearly 3000 miles and were in Santa Maria the day before the wedding.

I forgot to mention, the car was a 1961 Dodge Lancer and not the sturdy road warrior one might prefer for such a trip.

When our family moved back to California after 5 years in Tennessee, I stayed behind to pack up the house and drive a truck full of our belongings out west. This time I’m driving an 18 footer and towing a car. It’s about 800 miles closer, at least.

Once again, Gary calls to tell me he’s flying in, at his own expense, not only to help with the drive but to help with transferring all our crap from the house to the truck.

The drive was grueling, we slept in the truck at rest stops, but we made it! Can’t imagine doing it without him.

Gary was always willing to do what he could do to help and he was always involved both personally and physically. He was a great friend.

Ken Forman–
One time Vicki and I went to Las Vegas and it was so f***ing hot the freeze plugs fell out of the engine block. It was a holiday weekend so there were no repair shops open. A hotel worker recommended a repair shop that we limped over to and left our keys and a note in the mail slot, then we rented a car one-way and drove home. 

Two weeks later Gary flew me, my son Ben, and one of Ben's friend back to Vegas to pick up our car. We rented a dive room for the night just off the strip. It was the night JFK Jr's plane went down and we spent the wee hours watching coverage and search efforts. Gary was fascinated. The next day Gary flew home and the three of us drove back in our old beat up Volvo. 

Ron Zieman– Early Love of Girls
Even while living with his folks, It was not unusual for Gary to “ Fall in Love” with more than one girl- in the same week.

Doug McIntosh–
The early to mid 1970's have precious memories for us, as Gary our eldest graduated from High School in 1969. When Ron returned from his parents move back to Rochester, NY both lived in a series of houses in Santa Maria. The first being, the Victorian house on Chapel St., Then the house on Cook St., and then the house on Lincoln St.

Paul and Ken were also roommates in a house (maybe two) themselves. All these houses include stories that would be inappropriate to share online in a blog. The Chapel St. and Cook St. houses were both only a few blocks from my house where I was still living with my parents, and served as a very convenient get away and a world apart from my conservative Tunnell St. home.

The Chapel St. house was a bustle of activity that caught the eye of my family dentist who had his dentistry building directly across the street from the Victorian house. Now at the time, I had my first car, a dark green and chrome 1958 MGA sports car that had a very distinct cigar shape. Anybody who knew me knew were I was just by seeing wherever that car was parked. 

I remember my dentist who was a Deacon and Choir Director at my church come up to me one Sunday, and asks me point blank about "the activities" and "my involvement" at the Chapel St. house. I quickly bluffed and back-peddled away from him- think of Dana Carvey's Church lady character and you know what I was dealing with.

One lasting memory of Chapel Street, Ron, Paul and I would be typically lounging in the living room and Gary bursts in with a new girl like every week. He was like a damn rock star with all his action. One time, as Gary and girl disappear in his bedroom, Ron just looks at us, mouth closed and just shakes his head slowly side to side.

Gary as "The Kid"
Paul Hobbs–
Ron, Gary and I were huge fans of Butch Cassidy and the Sundance Kid and saw it half a dozen times together. I found a paperback of the script and we used to run lines from our favorite scenes. We fell into one where we played the same characters each time and actually memorized our parts. It was the scene where Butch comes in as Sundance is being accused of cheating in a card game. I was Butch, Ron, the ne’er do well pulling a gun on Sundance, and Gary, of course, the Robert Redford look alike was the kid.

We actually had the confidence to perform it at our MYF( Methodist Youth Fellowship) meeting one night. All the girls swooned for Gary. We then proceeded to take it on the road and guest starred at an MYF meeting in Cambria, where a former Santa Maria Methodist family with a daughter Gary had a crush on, had moved. Actually, we all had a crush on her but she only had eyes for Gary.

Ron Zieman– Chapel St. Days
We rented the lower floor of an old house on the corner of Miller and Chapel. One time Gary came up to me with a very concerned look, and told me I was having too much sex. He also added that it was not good for my health! We then had a short, one-sided discussion. 

Not long after that talk, Gary bought a waterbed. Whereupon he started making waves on a regular basis! 

Another time he wanted to show me something after coming home for work. He came out with a gun he had purchased! I could not believe it! He was a such a peace and love type guy. I thought it was a really bad idea, after awhile I told him either the gun was going, or he was. 

We were roommates for a long time! After living there for sometime, I found out Gary was telling his mom about everything I did, which probably took a fair amount of time. I'm going to go out on a limb and say, he probably was not telling her everything he did! It was one of the two things I did not completely forgive him for. The other being years later and giving me a haircut with his unindicted co-conspirator, Jane Antonson. Twas butchered!

Ron Zieman– Eating
I did most of the cooking when we were roommates and Gary decides one day that he is going to stop eating chicken. Gary's not becoming a vegetarian, he has decided to stop eating chicken because well a chicken looks like a chicken and he simply couldn't handle the visual. I even cut the parts into unrecognizable small pieces, but even that didn't work. Eventually, he started eating chicken again.

Ken Forman–
Gary came by to visit Vicki and me and my folks happened to be at our house. My dad flew as a youngster and he and Gary hit it off talking about airplanes. Gary, always looking for an excuse to fly, offered to take my dad up so off they went.

Two hours later they returned and my dad was elated. My dad is starting to lose his cognitive skills, but he still recalls that day vividly and he loves to tell that story. 

Ron Zieman– Flying
Aerial photo of Neverland

Gary’s mom and wife Jackie hated the idea of him flying. I was always lukewarm to the concept. But always had a ton of respect for him for the investment of time and money spent doing what he loved, while always taking care of his family. 

He loved flying anybody he could find to circle over Michael Jackson's Neverland, or really anyplace.

Once he took his dad flying and entered Vandenberg Air Force Base's restricted air space. They were told to land immediately and got to meet some security people upon doing so. No jail time, and Gary got to keep his plane. 

Paul Hobbs–
Gary, Jackie and Erica came for Christmas one year in Tennessee. There was a bit of snow on the ground and everything looked pretty but an underlying menace was the ice. Every few winters they would have ice storms that could cause tree limbs to break off, taking down power lines and wreaking all kinds of havoc.

I came home from work one day and Gary wasn’t there. On the way out of our neighborhood you had to go up a very slight incline that was nearly impossible to mount when iced over and I had failed to notice coming in that there was a pickup having a terrible time getting up. Jane and Jackie pointed out the dining room window to Gary spearheading the operation to help these people on their way. He had everyone but the driver, including himself, jump in the back for ballast. We look again Gary’s driving. Everybody got out and pushed. I started out to lend a hand when suddenly, success, the pickup had crested the hill and Gary was trudging back to the house.

Jane reminded me that everywhere he went in TN he introduced himself “ Hi, Gary Hill, Santa Maria, CA”. He was the ultimate Santa Marian goodwill ambassador.

Doug McIntosh–
Gary turned 21 in the summer of 72. Gary was the oldest of our group separated by 3 to 4 years with me bringing up the rear. At 21, Gary looked like he was 15-16 years old tops. 

Dino's Liquor & Deli was located on the corner of College Ave. and Main Street. It was only several blocks from Ron's and my house on Tunnell St. and just around the corner from Mary Kit's house on Church Street. For many kids in that neighborhood it was candy central growing up, and alcohol central in our late teens and early 20's. 

The Candy Man
Now Dino, the owner of his Liquor & Deli was no fool and fake ID's and the like need not bother trying to pull a fast one on him. He recognized me and I'm sure Ron too from our frequent visits during our paper route days, and surely recognized hundreds of kids over the years buying snacks at his counter.

In 1972 Gary's driver's license was gold. I remember several trips with the gang in tow, stopping at Dino's, Gary getting out and buying beer or harder beverages at Dino's counter looking like he's 15. Gary would walk back to the station wagon a king, our hero!

Ron Zieman– Music
Gary and I thought Eric Clapton was the best, and listened to him more than anyone, He loved cruising broadway- Especially when Hush by Deep Purple or an Allman Brothers song came on the radio. He really loved Howlin Wolf, aka Chester Burnett i.e. Wang Dang Doodle, and The Red Rooster.

left to right - Danny Walker, Sean Landers &
Paul Hobbs playing in Santa Barbara
Wish I could have video taped him after drinking a beer-putting his feet up on the dash, singing along with an Allman Brothers song. He was so happy! He loved his guitars, and would sometimes walk around the house wearing one! 

We really loved going to hear Paul play, and have cocktails. Probably only 400 times!

Doug McIntosh–
In February, 2002 I had a heart attack. Sometime after, I think it was that summer, Mary Kit and I went up to Santa Maria to see my family and our friends. As friends, we would often meet up at The Jetty seafood restaurant off of South Broadway heading to Orcutt. Gary was there with his wife Jackie and daughter Erica. I will never forget walking out of The Jetty with Gary's arm around me. He was so happy to see me, wanting to know that I was well and basically expressing his friendship of love and our bond together. It meant a lot to me. Then, in what seems like a blink, fast-forward to February, 2003 a year almost to the day of my heart attack, and Gary's passing. 

Over the years, I have reflected on that moment walking out of The Jetty with Gary and realizing life is all so wonderful, and so random. My heart attack provided a way for me to see a balance between my professional and personal life. Gary's passing was a gut punch for all his family and friends. For all the people who loved him as family or friend, I think we all take forward with us his spirit for life. As I get older, Gary's eternally young good looks, sun kissed hair (that he often cut and trimmed himself), and his playfulness lives in the hearts of all of us, and I believe is part of that cool deep well of thought to always feel, or strive to be, at play in our youth.

Ron Zieman–
Many people consider Gary to be one of the best friends they ever had- Me for sure. He will always be missed.

As Ken aptly started this round of stories with, "Gary was a guitar guy." We have put together a rock 'n' roll playlist below that we know Gary would have liked, as he often played along with many of these songs with his guitar. For me, every time The Allman Brothers Ramblin' Man comes on I always think of Gary. If you knew Gary, you have a song that does the same for you. 

Enjoy my friends, peace and love to all.

Monday, July 27, 2020

50 Years of Music • July, 1970

See resent crash lower right corner
Source -
July 1970, at 15 I'm still too young to drive, but I've got friend Gary Hill a few years older who could borrow the family station wagon and we are off to the beach or getting our kicks on Route 166. I remember going out to the towering bridge on 166 east of Santa Maria, CA where we used to walk directly underneath the bridge girders on a narrow wood  plank and single steel cable rail walkway (most likely used for maintenance work). One time, Paul Hobbs and I started on one end of the bridge and Jeff McCarthy and Gary started on the other. We raced towards the middle, gracefully passing each other on the single plank using the cable rail and then sped to the other end. The first group back up on the road were the winners. Jeff and Gary beat us handily. Just a few years later, I drove out to that same bridge to do the walk under the bridge, and I was terrified. Yes, good ol' terror can actually keep you alive!

In my research this week for albums released in July, 1970 three strong albums perked up my memory listening to these albums fifty years ago.

Creedence Clearwater Revival (CCR) made five albums from 1968-1970 and were one of my wife's favorite bands during that period. When Cosmo's Factory was released in July of 1970, it could have been called, John Fogerty's Hit Factory for the sheer number of hits from that album alone. CCR is often called, swamp rock even though the band was from the San Francisco Bay Area and not the south. CCR never got the 'cool' brand like other Bay area bands like Jefferson Airplane, the Grateful Dead, or Quicksilver Messenger Service, and some rock 'n' roll critics dismissed them. But for me, CCR was pure 'three cords and the truth' that differed from the live jam groups of that era. My personal taste today reverts back to the CCR sound and think they actually hold up better fifty years later than many bands from the 60's and 70's. I often think of CCR and Booker T. and the MG's in the same breathe, simple tunes that just hook you for life. I will also say, that John Fogerty didn't write pop drivel lyrics, he covered social injustice topics and the Vietnam War like few other hit making bands of that era. A couple years ago, I got tickets to see John Fogerty in Las Vegas a day after seeing (and being a bit disappointed with) a very famous act the night before. John Fogerty made my trip and I will say, "he blew that room away."

The James Gang rides again is the second album by the band James Gang as everybody gets introduced to Joe Walsh and his mastery of electric guitar through the hit Funk #49. Listening to this album after so many years, I was thinking maybe there are a couple more good songs here besides Funk #49. Well this album also holds up very well after fifty years, and I found several more to make the playlist this week.

1970 found the band Traffic together again after Steve Winwood had left the band in 1969 to form Blind Faith with Eric Clapton. When Clapton left Blind Faith after their first album and tour, Winwood then planned to make a solo album in 1970. After bringing in Jim Capaldi and Chris Wood to work on the solo project, he decided to scrub that and get Traffic back together again with the boys and thus, John Barleycorn Must Die was born and released in July. Listening to the entire album again was a treat, and as I have said many times in this blog, just another quality album purchased by my friend Ron Zieman and consumed by our young ears from his portable record player in his bedroom.

This week's playlist is formed by the three albums with a song from each album and then interjected with a July 1970 song by The Doors, Yes, Humble Pie, The Stooges, and Fairport Convention. Then, I finish it off with the rest of Cosmo's Factory, because I'm just diggin' CCR today!

Enjoy, and stay well my friends.

The Santa Maria Riverbed, just before you reach Route 166 heading north on the 101.

Monday, March 23, 2020

Déjà Vu • March, 1970

 déjà vu (from Merriam-Webster)
a: the illusion of remembering scenes and events when experienced for the first time

b: a feeling that one has seen or heard something before

In March 1970, I turned fifteen. This week I turn sixty-five and as my music blog is often an exercise of personal reflection, I wonder if my long-term memory is really just a mix of illusions and feelings all woven seamlessly together in my current-thinking brain.

Sometime in that spring of 1970, I'm at the house of my friend Gary Hill. Gary has just purchased Déjà Vu, the new Crosby, Stills, Nash & Young Album. It has the best album cover I've ever seen.

I'm in Gary's living room looking out of his large front window and listening to the album by myself. Gary has gone outside to wash his light green family station wagon and as his custom, he dries the car by speeding off to the nearby US 101 freeway to let the wind finish the job. All alone, I listen to the album a couple of times. In fact his mom, the always smiling Madeline Hill has come home before he is back. She doesn't seem to mind that I'm alone in her house listening to a record on her stereo console. That memory is etched in my brain.

The release of Déjà vu with the addition of Neil Young to the band was a pleasant surprise to me. The album did not disappoint as the band had surpassed the first album and elevated themselves to even a higher level. As a freshman in high school, I thought it was one of the best albums ever made and nothing has changed my opinion of that music in these last 50 years.

In the ensuing years, what did change was the déjà vu-like experience of either/or David Crosby, Stephen Stills, Graham Nash and Neil Young in never-ending breakups and makeups in just too many incarnations to describe here. As I write this, I'm currently reading Crosby, Stills, Nash and Young: The Wild, Definitive Saga of Rock's Greatest Supergroup by David Browne. My friend Paul Hobbs highly recommended it to me awhile back and I pass along the same if you are a CSN&Y fan.

Paul's assessment kind of threw me back when he said, "Doug, they're all assholes."

Okay, we all know David Crosby's is the obnoxious self-indulgent asshole. He's said it about himself many times on stage and in rock documentaries, not to mention the overarching reason he was kicked out of The Byrds. Yes, Stills was always demanding to be the hard charging alpha general, Nash the very pleasant and chatty hitmaker and peacemaker with social skills, and Young the aloof alpha, the restless free agent who often took his ball and went looking for different players to play with. But all of them, assholes? Well I'm up to 1974 in David Browne's comprehensive behind the curtain book and yep, they're all assholes.

I call it the Mickey Mantle effect (my first hero). As a child or young person, you admire that person's public persona because their art or talent were truly special and influenced you. You only find out later in life that the actual person was in fact an arrogant ass, or sometimes even worse...

Crosby, Stills, Nash & Young - Fifty by Four
In addition to David Browne's book, Paul texted me on Sunday and recommended, Crosby, Stills, Nash & Young - Fifty by Four (linked here), a 2 hour 44 minute documentary free on Amazon Prime. I watched it last night and again Paul is spot on calling it, "a visual embodiment of the book more or less." Damn it Paul, I'm going to have to start paying you reference fees...

Okay, how about two more memories in Gary Hill's station wagon.

First, it's late May 1970 after the Kent State shootings. Gary is behind the wheel of the green station wagon. Ron Zieman is riding shotgun, and I believe Paul is with me in the backseat, but maybe it's Steve Spencer too. The radio is on and the DJ introduces Ohio, the Neil Young song by CSN&Y recorded and released in what would appropriately be, record time. Neil's and then Stephen's electric guitars start and we just all look at each other as Gary is turning up the volume.

Second, it's maybe 1970 or '71, same scenario, Gary's driving the wagon, Ron's in the front bench passenger seat, and I'm by myself in the back bench seat, left side. Gary's moving fairly fast on the back country two lane CA Route Highway 166 . We come upon a VW bug going very slow. Gary moves in the oncoming lane to pass the bug as we're approaching a crossroad. Suddenly without any form of signaling the VW suddenly makes a left turn striking a glancing blow to the right side of the station wagon as we're exactly parallel with the bug. The wagon skids sideways left across the crossroad intersection.

At that moment, I realize I don't have my seatbelt on and instinctively dive to the floor and hold on to the backside of the driver's lap seat belts bolted down to the floor directly behind the driver's seat. The wagon skids for what seems like an eternity and then stops. I sit up from the floor and look out the left window and there's no ground! I then look down and we have stopped about a foot from a 20ft steep embankment leading down to a ditch. The guy driving the VW with long black hair and beard who looks like Tommy Chong is walking towards us, and in no rush. He comes up to us as we are now out of the car and just staring down at the f***ing embankment.  In what seems like a Cheech and Chong  skit he says in perfect Tommy Chong stoner voice, "Hey man... you dudes ok?"

For CSN&Y, as strange as the band members were on and off with each other (and their many associates) for over five decades, the music on those first two albums is so very special to me and helped elevate my appreciation of top-tier rock 'n' roll in a special time and place.

I highlighted the first CSN album in a blog a while back- Crosby, Stills & Nash - Celebrating 50 Years of Their Debut Album and here, I present the entire Déjà Vu album in the following YouTube Playlist.

Now, if you go back to the first three months of music in 1970, it will blow you away. Fact be told I was preparing to write another blog this week, 50 Years of Music: January - March, 1970, but heck that's now my teaser for next week's blog. I'm already feeling somewhat guilty because Bridge Over Troubled Water was released in January, 1970 and I didn't make that a blog feature as- Simon & Garfunkel release their final album together. The title track and album stay #1 on the Billboard charts for six weeks and go on to win a record six Grammys at the 13th Grammy Awards, including "Record of the Year", "Song of the Year", and "Album of the Year." Wikipedia

Then in my Wikipedia search, I get to March 1970 and there are these two albums a couple of weeks apart, Déjà Vu and Joni Mitchell's, Lady of the Canyon.

The fact that these two albums are released in the same month is not really astonishing once you know a little about the history of Joni Mitchell with CSN&Y. Think back, we get Joni's acoustic Woodstock song version that is preceded a few weeks earlier by CSNY&Y's rocking version of Woodstock!

As I recall, I'm listening to the full Ladies of the Canyon album for the first time with Paul in his bedroom. The music business in 1970 was still as misogynistic as it could be, but here are two young teenage boys listening (and learning) to songs from a female's perspective. Back then, boys grew up listening (and learning) to songs mostly from a guy's perspective, songs like Under My Thumb by The Rolling Stones comes to mind. In the 1970's, Joni gave us all a fresh if not introspective look at relationships, now from both sides. One of my favorites songs from that album is about her soon-to-be former boyfriend, Graham Nash.


Willy is my child, he is my father
I would be his lady all my life
He says he'd love to live with me
But for an ancient injury
That has not healed
He said I feel once again
Like I gave my heart too soon
He stood looking through the lace
At the face on the conquered moon
And counting all the cars up the hill
And the stars on my window sill
There are still more reasons why I love him

Willy is my joy, he is my sorrow
Now he wants to run away and hide
He says our love cannot be real
He cannot hear the chapel's pealing silver bells
But you know it's hard to tell
When you're in the spell if it's wrong or if it's real
But you're bound to lose
If you let the blues get you scared to feel
And I feel like I'm just being born
Like a shiny light breaking in a storm
There are so many reasons why I love him

Willy is my child, he is my father

As I look back, what a pair of albums to have in your collection if not your soul for a lifetime. Here's the playlist for Ladies of the Canyon.

This blog post is dedicated to Gary "Crazy Legs" Hill. 
Rest in Peace ol' pal, your friends will never forget you.