Musical Musings Part 1

 On our street there was music, all kinds of music from different places, both literally and figuratively. From rock to soul and everything in-between, and the folks on the street weren’t just listening to it, some folks played too. Who could forget Doni walking about with his guitar slung around his shoulders picking and strumming? Mom and Dad had their own music thing going on also, spinning their LP’s.

So many styles we absorbed, a multitude of sounds and colors, sometimes it felt like we had our own many layered musical enclave right there in the middle of the city. The first time I ever heard some jazz that I paid attention to was at Earl Harvey’s, and he really knew his stuff. There was a Master African-drumming teacher who lived across the street who gave lessons in his house. Fish had a strat.

A psychedelic rock band called “The Charlatans” used to rehearse across the street from us during the early days of the Fillmore West in the sixties, and they appeared on the street along with the rest of the hippies that ultimately changed the flavor of the place pretty dramatically at that time.  Our neighborhood, being part of the Haight-Ashbury, was in the very midst of the hippie invasion.

All through this there was one constant though, soul music; every kind that there was, at least for us that grew up there. Everything from Motown to Atlantic and beyond. You could hear James Brown, Sly Stone, Smokey, the Temps, War, Rufus, Earth Wind & Fire and just about everybody else by simply walking around outside. We even put the record player outside in the front sometimes.   

Inside our house, you could hear the lush tropical island style vibes of Arthur Lyman’s “Yellow Bird” and the honking horns of the Tijuana Brass. The crooning of all of Dad’s country music and the guitar picking of Chet Atkins, while Tom Jones and Englebert had their places too, as did Lawrence Welk.

Dave played “Purple Haze” on the record player so many times that the intro to that song will forever be engrained into my psyche, and even now, not only can I see it, but I can feel it too. Often Mom would yell at me to give it a rest! when I stayed up way too late practicing. After school, it was “the Star Spangled Banner”, I think I drove everybody crazy with my screaming Hendrix feedback!

For long time music central as it were on Downey was at the Harvey’s, up in the house as well as mainly down in the garage. There’s nothing like the sound of music when a band is inside practicing and jamming and doing whatever else they do. The guys would often let me come in and hang out, watch and listen (and learn too). I was the proverbial sponge that soaks it all in.

We had our share of bands in many different incarnations at various times come in and out of our house too, and practicing there a few times a week in our garage became the norm. Over the years so many faces and personalities, so many moods and differences and characters, yet we all shared the main ingredient, the love to play.

In the eighties there wasn’t much music left there, Regi and them had moved away long ago, and the place had really changed by then. It was fairly quiet except for us still doing our thing, until it was our turn to finally leave the street behind for good. Music brought all of us together at certain times in many ways, becoming a big part of the fabric of our lives.