Tag Archives: Paupers

16 And On The Strip

In the summer of 1967, when I was 16, I told my mother that I was going to Los Angeles. Great things were happening on the Sunset Strip at the time, I wanted to be part of it all, and for some reason she said fine.

I’ve wondered about this last part quite a bit over the years, but I think she knew I’d go anyway. My dad kept out of it.

So with almost no money and a bag of sandwiches, I sat in a seat on a train from Orillia to Vancouver and then caught a bus to the border where the customs guy accused me of running away.

I told him to phone collect to my mother in Orillia and she would confirm that I was simply on my way to LA and not running away, which he did, and shortly after I was on the side of the highway in northern Washington with my thumb stuck out, heading south.

All it took to get to LA was a handful of nights sleeping in ditches, and a bunch of rides, including a long and sleepy one with a farmer bringing potatoes from Idaho to either Watsonville or Salinas. We hardly talked the whole time, which was good. I was tired, and I wasn’t all that interested in potatoes.

Not far from LA I got on a bus and sat beside a nice female college student who felt sorry for me, and at some point when the bus stopped at a restaurant, she called her folks in the city to see if I could stay there for a few days. They said no.

From the downtown L.A. bus station I went directly to the Strip in West Hollywood which was the scene of not only young people everywhere milling about, but also bands like the Doors, the Byrds, and Buffalo Springfield playing at Pandora’s Box, the Whisky, and all the other cool clubs.

There was that night I went to Whisky A Go Go (it’s still going strong), and I saw not only the greatYoungbloods but also the Paupers, a tight and talented Toronto band who would play at the Pav dance hall in my hometown Orillia from time to time.

I also thought that maybe I’d meet a nice California girl at one of these places and possibly get laid.

I was on the Strip for about a week, staying in various dumps far from the good parts of West Hollywood, and being careful not to be out and about after 10 pm because Sunset was under curfew to those under 18 after huge riots had taken place months before. They made some sort of movie about this riot, called, aptly enough, ‘Riots on Sunset Strip’.

But one night, I think after the Youngbloods/Paupers show, I got sloppy, and while walking down the street around midnight, a cop pulled up and asked for ID. He saw that I was only 16, and the next thing I knew, I was in handcuffs that I remember being way too tight, and hauled off to the cop shop.

At the station I asked the cops if they would phone Orillia, just like at the border, and have my folks take care of business. One of them phoned my mother, collect of course, and he told her that I was arrested for breaking curfew and would be sent to a juvenile hall the following morning.

At juvenile hall, with big and impressive penitentiary-style walls, I turned over my clothes and wallet, which was all I had, and put on my new prison clothes. Then I was taken to a dormitory, given a bed and blankets, told the rules, and settled in.

It all kind of sucked of course, mainly because I didn’t know how long I’d be there. It was me and a bunch of guys who were there for better reasons than breaking curfew, playing cards and baseball, and I even had to take classes in a school room where I learned almost nothing about American history.

Then one morning, after about seven days, I was eating breakfast in the big hall when I heard my name called, and an official told me my parents had sent a plane ticket and I was leaving right away. So I left breakfast, got my clothes and wallet back, and was escorted to not only the airport, but right to my seat on the plane. They took curfew breakers seriously back then.

I got to Toronto, grabbed a bus to Orillia, and the first thing my mother said to me was that they weren’t mad, although they probably weren’t thrilled about having to buy a plane ticket because I think they were pretty broke.

I told a friend of mine who’s an LA cop about this a few years ago and he said that nowadays there’s no way they’d put a kid in juvenile for such a minor thing as curfew breaking. There’s way too many real criminals, and I’d just be taking up space.

Which is what I kinda thought at the time.

July 14 1967 – Whisky A Go Go, West Hollywood with The Youngbloods and Paupers. The night I was there.

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Atlantic City Rocked

Exactly 47 years ago my buddy Mike Williamson and I were in Atlantic City to experience the glorious and highly-underrated three-day Atlantic City Pop Festival.

It took place on August 1, 2, and 3, 1969, and we got there a few days early, hung around the boardwalk, smoked dope, and then decided to find a ride to the racetrack 12 miles away, where the big show was about to begin.

Imagine that. A huge, honkin’ rock and rock extravaganza, one of the greatest in rock and roll history, and one that most have never heard of.

I feel it’s kind of my mission to keep it alive.

I didn’t even bring a sleeping bag for some reason, and slept for a few hours every night for a week on hard ground, with my jean jacket as a lousy pillow. But it didn’t matter. I was there for the music and friends and vibes and chicks and drugs. And Orillians are tough bastards anyway.

Janis Joplin was there, and so was Creedence Clearwater, Santana, Procol Harum, Joe Cocker, Mothers of Invention, Jefferson Airplane, Joni Mitchell, the Byrds, and a whack of others. About 30 bands in all, with guitars soaring.

Guitars soaring except for Joni Mitchell, who left crying half-way through her set because no one was listening to her quiet and dignified set.

Skip Prokop of the Toronto-based Paupers told everyone that if they were about to be drafted and sent to Vietnam, they could just come to Canada, where there’s plenty of room.

I met a girl there from Washington D.C. and the plan was for me to go home with her and then on to Woodstock, but it never happened. I was probably too tired and hungry, and most importantly, I had a ride home lined up. She was cute though.

Back in Orillia I began planning on Woodstock, but a night or two before I was going to go, me and four of my  buddies met a guy in the park who was drunk, leaving his wife, and driving to Vancouver the next morning. So that next morning we all piled into his car and went to Vancouver instead.

I missed going to Woodstock, which I feel bad about, but at least I have Atlantic City, with this kick-ass lineup.

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Below: A couple of years ago, one of the guys we got a ride home with, Brad Emmons (that’s him with the cigarette in his mouth), sent me some Atlantic City photos that I didn’t know existed. I’m on the far left, and Mike is next to me with the yellow and black striped shirt.

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Below, taken from behind the stage, B.B. King doing his thing,

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Hollies At Hidden Valley

My sister Kerry was very good to me when she worked as a copywriter at radio station CFOR in Orillia. And I’d been such an arse as a little brother when we were kids.

Not only did she arrange for me to go down to Toronto with a local disc jockey to see the Beatles in 1966, but she also got me to make a list of record albums I wanted and included them on the radio station order form. I got them for a buck each.

I scored dozens of albums this way, but in the end I traded them for a second hand 80cc Suzuki motorcycle which died a quick death not long after.

Regrets? I’ve had a few. Like that trade.

But she did one other thing too that I’m also grateful for. She gave me a ticket to see the Hollies in the spring of 1967 at Hidden Valley ski resort, just outside of Huntsville, Ont.

Were the Hollies good? They were way beyond good. Mind blowing three-part harmony with slick guitars and drums. With catchy tunes like Bus Stop, which was recorded less than a year before.

Tight as can be, those Hollies.

Tighter than Anna Pavlova’s leotards on Luciano Pavarotti.

I’d seen a lot of bands at the Club Pav in Orillia, bands that made a serious mark in Canada and beyond, like the Ugly Ducklings, Mandala, David Clayton Thomas and the Shays, the Paupers, Little Caesar and the Consuls, A Stitch in Tyme, the Staccatos, and a whack of others.

Great bands. Fantastic bands. Not to be messed with, these bands. World class.

But the Hollies….hot damn!

Graham Nash, who would eventually leave to become part of Crosby, Stills, and Nash (and Young), wore a black priest’s robe on this night.

And Nash wasn’t even the band’s best singer. Frontman Allan Clarke was.

I was in the front row of a very small place, about fifteen feet from the stage, and one of my favourite British Invasion bands were singin’ and playin’ up a storm.

You had to be there. Like me!

I saw other bands at Hidden Valley. The Young Rascals, the Association, the McCoys, BJ Thomas, and the Left Banke for example.

But it was the Hollies that took it to another level.

Thanks Kerry.

Postscript:

I used to hitchhike to these shows, usually by myself, with Huntsville only an hour or so north of Orillia.

And if you think hitchhiking was innocent back in the ’60s as people like to say now, I can tell you that on one of these trips to Hidden Valley, a man picked me up and started masturbating behind the wheel as we drove along the highway.

And when I told him to stop the car and let me out, he did right away and without saying a word, as if nothing was out of the ordinary, and then drove off into the sunset.

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