• Notes on Cerebellum Blues, Playlists One and Two: from high school to LA and back.
Welcome to my series of posts about how I got into music and songwriting and the events that ultimately led to the 2012 release of my first album. Here are the posts, so far:
If you read anything that strikes a chord please let me know in the comments section or via email. As always, thank you for reading.
I think I joined my first band early in high school. I don’t remember what we were called, although I’m sure it was something pretentious and embarrassing, but I do remember the people in it: Tim Dunn on drums, Lee Wilson on vocals, John Rossetti on bass and me on guitar. We rehearsed in Tim Dunn’s basement, played a few parties and then broke up. More bands followed throughout high school, most of which featured my friend Toby Germano on vocals (see photo above) but despite a few shards of hope, I don’t recall ever truly thinking I was in a band that would go anywhere. (Check out the photo gallery to see some shots of my high school musical career.)
Near the end of high school, I was still undiscovered and I started to get into songwriting and recording (if I couldn’t be a star of the stage, maybe I could be some sort of behind the scenes phenom). My parents bought me a bass, a Drumulator drum machine and a Fostex 250 cassette multitracker. My early attempts at songwriting were laughable, but for some unfathomable reason I believed in myself just a little and stuck with it. Mid-way through college I upgraded my Fostex to a Tascam 38 8-track reel-to-reel and traded in my Drumulator for a Linn Drum. My songs were getting better, they were sounding better, I was encouraged. By graduation, one of the many things I had learned in college was that I did not want a 9-5 job, and so, to stave off the real world just a bit longer and to chase the dream that I might be able to avoid it altogether, I headed for a guitar school in Hollywood.
Hollywood back then, as I’m sure it is now, was full of people who claimed to have connections. These mystical, connected beings could help you make it, just like that, and one of them said he could do it for me. With my appointment scheduled, I remember walking up to a run down building, probably on Hollywood Boulevard or Sunset, that had a sign on top with the word “world” in it. It did not look big time, exactly, but that’s okay, I was good with starting small. Inside, a few brief hellos were exchanged and I handed over my cassette. Play, fast forward, play, fast forward, play... fast forward, eject. “I hate this kind of music.” I kid you not, those were the words he said to me. We talked a bit about my guitar playing, the guy thought maybe I had a future there, and he sent me back out into the paved dessert.
The exchange did not break me completely, I knew enough that rejection was part of the deal, but it certainly rattled me. A guitar player, me? No way, I KNEW I was not good enough and probably never would be to make it on my chops alone. Besides, by this time I had really gotten it in my head that I could be a pro songwriter. Later in those LA years of 1985-87, I was able to get one of my songs in front of Kenny Loggins. He was more encouraging, but did not offer me a contract of any sort.
Finally, as 1988 loomed in the near distance, I left L.A. Guitar school was done, I did not want to stay in SoCal, I needed to get back home and re-think things a bit. I loaded up my car, tranquilized my cat, Jake, so he could tolerate the drive to S.F. and hit the road. I will always remember that drive out of L.A. It was a smoggy day and as I headed out of the basin on I-5, I drove through a series of valleys, each higher than the last and with a sky just a little closer to blue. It seemed to be a perfect way to leave L.A., out of murk and into clarity. I finally crested Tejon Pass and headed down The Grapevine into the San Joaquin Valley. There were pure blue skies above, the smog of LA held back the the Tehachapi mountains, and I settled in for a fast drive home. Then I hit the tule fog. Visibility dropped from miles to feet, I slowed down, moved into the left line and used the white line to guide me.
That fog was metaphorical and would not lift for a few years.