February 6, 2011
It’s not just a question for guitarists.
My “claws” are too thick to press down six strings…Must be why, as a teenager, after I had traded my accordion (started playing that torturous sideways piano at age 10) for an acoustic guitar, in complete frustration, I got myself a Bass. It was a cherrywood Gibson EB3, that looked like an Gibson SG. But, that wasn’t my favorite guitar. It was the one I couldn’t play, but admired in the hands of others who could. A Les Paul Custom, black with cream trim. When I was 19, still living in NYC, I managed a band called Garfield Place with a guitarist who played one. Ellery MacDonald Bowne. Mac is a gifted player who reminded me of George Harrison in his ability. Mac is part of the story of how I got the name “Lobster,” he was in the car with me and three other friends, listening to Robin Trower’s guitar playing on a live tape of a Procol Harum show that sounded like a lobster to my friend David riding shotgun.
Mac Bowne went on to be a studio engineer, but he did play lead guitar for Elephants Memory. They fired him right before I left New York…they wanted a rhythm player, and didn’t know that they were about to get one of the greatest rhythm guitarists in the world and become his back-up band. You see, this was just before John and Yoko Ono Lennon moved to NYC and Elephants Memory became John Lennon’s back-up band. Before I headed west in my Volvo (which came with a tool kit that had a wrench that said “New Lobster” as it’s brand…another clue…) I went to Greenwich Village to see Shawn Phillips play at the Gaslight at the Au Go-Go, two tiny basement nightclubs that dated back to the beatnik days that had merged into the same small space.
There was this big guy, hunched over a Les Paul just like Mac’s. His fingers were flying, and he was missing a tip on one, like Jerry Garcia. Being a college radio kid and seeing how he was playing my favorite guitar, I went backstage after the show and introduced myself. He and the other musicians were all getting together after the show, so I gave him a ride to the Hotel and hung out with them till nearly dawn. It was the day, going home to our Bronx apartment shortly before the sun came up, I announced to my parents (who were waiting up for me) that I was going to move to California. Oh, the Guitarist? Charlie Daniels. Been friends ever since.
We saw each other next at a nightclub in Palo Alto, California called “In Your Ear.” This was before his hit “Uneasy Rider” and he had a band with Jerry Corbett of the Youngbloods, a band he had produced. Yes, Charlie D has an SF Bay Radio connection, too. The band was going back to NYC after the gig, so I gave them my maps…yeah, maps, to follow the yellow line on Interstate 80 which I had marked with gas stations and restaurants a tankful away from each other. Because of that show, I got a job at that nightclub running it’s restaurant as “The Eggplant Hero.” More on that nickname and era later. I’ll save it for the book and movie.