My First Big Audience

Damn. Wish I hadn't cut up this
pic. Before, you could see the
Doobies standing off to the left.
How could I know they were
going to be famous??
Last week I told you some things about when I live in Laurel Canyon. Rick Strauss, the leader of the commune had a vision of his talented hippies as a troupe of entertainers, whom he wanted to spotlight in concerts, television shows, and neo-vaudeville variety concerts, and called us The Shady Oak Family. Our largest efforts were free weekend concerts on Venice Beach, for which we were interviewed by the L.A. Times for a cover spread of the entertainment section of the Sunday edition.

Up until this time I'd only performed in coffeehouses, so the idea of playing at an outdoor concert in this very public place was exciting. Rick wanted to promote me as a kind of Peter Pan of music, because I was really tiny and gamin-like, and his wife designed some outfits for me that were nothing more than tights, a turtleneck, and a suede, hand-painted deerskin tunic bound around the waist with an elven-styled belt. She'd also designed medieval shoes to complete the look...

When we arrived at the beach, ready to set up the concert (complete with rented generators), it was a scene right out of a 1967 love-in (it was only 1971 after all). The beach was full of colorful people and the Mr. Natural catering company had been hired to sell food. Their truck was decorated with paintings of R. Crumb's famous cartoon character, and I remember that they served pita pocket sandwiches and bottles of juice.

I'm going to be totally honest here and tell you what happened. Imagine the scene I've described and try to remember that for all intents and purposes it was still the Sixties.

As I stood around with my guitar, wondering what the heck was going on, a beautiful, long-haired Adonis, who looked like a cross between Jim Morrison and George Harrison, struck up a conversation with me. We shared a bottle of Martinelli's apple juice and a joint, and after an hour of really "connected" conversation, he asked me if I wanted to go back to his apartment. I accepted, and well, you can imagine what happened. Hey, that's the way it was back then. Afterward, we went back to the beach, where my manager was frantically looking for me.

On stage was singer-songwriter Peter Gallway, who wrote "Good Lady of Toronto", which was recorded by Kenny Rogers & the First Edition on their Transition album. I was to follow him as a warm-up act for the headliners, a group that was called Pud, but who would soon change their name to the Doobie Brothers.

When I was finally introduced, and I went to the microphones to begin my 20-minute set, I couldn't believe the size of the audience before me. A rough headcount later determined that there'd been no less than 2,500 people. My adrenalin began pumping and I gave them a hell of a show. My voice was spot on, my personality was vibrant, and I received tremendous applause when my set came to its end. When Pud took over the mics I heard one of them rouse the audience to another round of applause for me and I was brought back out on stage for a second bow. When I walked down the steps from the stage, Adonis was nowhere to be found, but that was alright. I was immediately surrounded by people who wanted to meet me.

I remember that my face got really sunburned that day.

Pud signs with Warner Bros. and
become the Doobie Brothers (1973)