My mother, Wauneta, was a not-so-typical 1950s housewife, apart from the shirt-dresses, coffee klatches, and card clubs. She married a musician after all, and liked the party life, but we won't go into all that. She had a good and poetic heart, but her own childhood abuse and manic-depression played hell with her maternal instincts, and I'm afraid I too often got the long end of the stick. But she raised me to be proud of my maternal lineage: her grandmother's cousin was Mark Twain and her uncle was Alexander Woolcott.
Given the musical talent in my father's gene pool and the literary flair in my mother's, I was destined to become both a musician and a writer. Added to this soup is the fact that my father's family came from St. Wolfgang in Austria, only a few miles from Salzburg, where Mozart was born and grew up, and my mother's family came from Ireland. As my father once said to someone about me, "Don't ever get her drunk and angry."
In 1959, we moved to Solvang, California. That's a hell of a town for a kid to grow up in. Between my mother's Irish tales of fairy rings, the fairy tale atmosphere of the town, and being a teen during the 60s, I reached young adulthood with one foot in one world and one foot in quite another. It's probably no surprise that my favorite musicians of that era were the Beatles, Donovan and Joni Mitchell.
When I was a kid, Solvang still had some old-timers from Denmark there, who walked around in their native costumes, complete with wooden shoes and knee breeches. I remember that an old man used to sit on a certain sidewalk bench on Copenhagen Drive and tell us kids the stories of Hans Christian Andersen in just such garb while puffing on his long clay pipe. Having seen Danny Kaye play the Danish writer in the film, I thought that the old guy in Solvang was the real Andersen. I don't like to use the word surreal, but in my case that's what childhood was.
By the age of 6 I had already taught myself to read music and play the piano, because my family couldn't afford to get me lessons. At 9 I began band in school, learning clarinet, sax, and percussion. At 12 I started writing music and at 14 I got a guitar and began teaching myself rhythm and bass. In August of 1966 I saw the Beatles at Dodger Stadium and I decided that although my best friend wanted to marry a Beatle, I wanted to be a Beatle.
By 16 I was playing gigs at different coffeehouses in Isla Vista, a student neighborhood that is attached to UC Santa Barbara and was considered "Haight-Ashbury South" at that time. During the summer of my senior year of high school we moved back to Ventura County, this time to Camarillo, a bedroom community of cinder block encapsulated housing developments on the 101 freeway between Ventura and Thousand Oaks.
After graduation, I stuck my thumb out on the Las Posas Road entrance to the 101 freeway and caught a motorcycle ride to Haight-Ashbury. It was there that I met a sad-eyed little poet from Houston. We struck up a romance and I moved in with him. As if fate knew it would "look good in the memoirs," he rented the parlor of a typical San Francisco Victorian on Waller Street, and it was there that my first son, Joel, was conceived. Tragically, my poet died of a drug overdose when our son was only two weeks old. I was all of 18.
Time passed and many songs were written, and in 1973, whilst performing a gig at a coffeehouse in Ventura, I met a local artist who looked exactly like John Lennon. We were married on Groundhog Day the following year, and 9 months later my second son, Micah, was born. Things didn't work out for us, unfortunately, and we were divorced in 1977.
By that time I had performed all over the country on tour, made numerous television and radio appearances, and played in concert at the Aquarius Theater, the Ashgrove, the Troubador, Griffith Park, Venice Beach, and Terminal Island Prison, as well as countless smaller venues. On two separate occasions I was even a warm-up act for Leon Russel and the Doobie Brothers, respectively. The only thing missing from my career was a recording contract. Unfortunately, despite many nibbles from greats like Paul McCartney, Brian Wilson, and Steven Stills, a contract never materialized.
In 1984, in my 30s with over 250 songs to my credit and my heart broken by popular music, I retreated into teaching myself to compose classical music. The result was that a year later I was taken under the private tutelage of Maestro Frank Salazar and was appointed as his assistant with the Ventura County Symphony, a post I held until 1992 when he retired. I then moved to Denver to take care of my father during the last year of his life. After his death, I went to Vienna to research my book, Night Music, which I wrote in 1994. I moved back to Ventura four years later.
In 1998 I met Lynette Erwin, a mezzo-soprano who was working on her masters degree at Oklahoma State University in Stillwater, and it was love at first sight. She came to Denver during the spring of 2000 to live with me after her divorce, and we have been together since. We moved to Stillwater when her next semester began and soon after, my mother had a stroke and came to live with us, as well as Joel. Not long after that, Lynette got custody of her three children and they joined us. Since then, we invited Micah to join us and our family is complete.
Besides my stay-at-home day job as a web designer, I am currently working on another book, an operetta, and several other pieces of music. Lynette and I are not quite sure where we want to live next; all we know is that we cannot stay in Oklahoma. Considerations include Vienna and Ventura. It all depends on the economy.
People Who Share My Birthday:
- F. Scott Fitzgerald
- Phil Hartman
- Lou Dobbs
- Jim Henson
- Gerry Marsden (Gerry & the Pacemakers)
- Linda McCartney
- Anthony Newly
Info, Likes, Dislikes, Etc:
- BIRTHDAY: September 24, 1951
- SUN SIGN: Libra
- RISING SIGN: Sagittarius
- Bloginality: ENFP
- WINE: Whites that are neither too dry nor too sweet, and mellow reds.
- PET PEEVE: Being contradicted or corrected in front of others.
- HOLIDAY: Thanksgiving
- ONLINE RADIO STATION: Pandora
- FILM: Office Space
- RISK: Occasionally, I don't wear my seat belt, just out of rebellion.
- SLEEP: I need only 4 or 5 hours, but it must be quiet or else I don't get rested. For that reason, I almost always wear earplugs when I sleep at night.
- ODDITY: I have synesthesia and see colors when I listen to music. Each major & minor key has a color associated with it.
- QUESTION: "What the fuck!?"
- HOBBY: Blogging
- ON MY MP3 PLAYER: My own mix of Classical, World, & Folk music (January 2009)
- CABLE CHANNELS: HGTV, History, Discovery, PBS.
- TV SHOWS: Whose Line is it Anyway? and Masterpiece Theatre
- FOOD: Anything ethnic, especially Japanese, Thai, and Mexican.
- GUILTY PLEASURE: "Sweet Cream" ice cream.
- BEST GIFTS: Books and wine. Fun tee shirts.
- WRITING INSTRUMENTS: Uni-ball Signo Micro 207 (black) & MS Word.
- GOAL: To retire comfortably.
- BEATLE SONGS: "Any Your Bird Can Sing" & "Nowhere Man"
- ROCK SONG OF ALL TIME: "Whiter Shade of Pale" by Procol Harum.
- FOLK SONG: "Suzanne" by Leonard Cohen.
- COMPUTER PROGRAMS: Adobe Photoshop, Aptana.
- ROLE MODELS: Frank Salazar, John Lennon, Larry Weinstein, and my dad.
- MOOD: Frequently shifts between silly and intense.
- SIGNATURE SCENT: Sandalwood.
- COMMUNICATION: Talking one-on-one, or email. I detest phones.
- MAGAZINE: National Geographic Traveler & the old Mad Magazine.
- ACTOR: James McAvoy
- ACTRESS: Cate Blanchett
- DANCER: Gene Kelly
- SOPRANO: Kathleen Battle
- MEZZO-SOPRANO: Cecilia Bartoli
- TENOR: Michel Senechal
- BARITONE: Thomas Allen
- GUITARIST: Rory Gallagher and Jimmy Page
- STRESS BUSTER: Drinking and laughing with friends.
- SHOES: Black Beatle boots, but I prefer barefoot.
- HEALTH RISK: Staying up all night.
- SOUND: Perfect 4-part harmony, perfectly pitched.
- PLACE TO BE: Home, or in an airport bar on my way somewhere.