The Sixties in Folk Music / 1. The Iopan

Marilyn Berner—The Iopan
A House Filled With Music

(Copyright by M.J. and D.E. Berner 2007)

One of my first vivid memories is of my dad playing his saxophone. Dwight Shaffer was a musician, from a family of musicians who left Iowa in 1910 to farm on the Canadian plains. Grandpa played the fiddle, Grandma played piano, and they played for country dances on the Saskatchewan prairie. Dad and his younger brother both played reed instruments. My dad played in a dance band and sang on the radio in Regina as a young man; and he married a Canadian girl, Dottie, who was to be my mother.

In 1934 my parents moved back to Iowa and settled in Marshalltown. For many years my dad played in a dance band that had quite a following in central Iowa. He was never away from music. He sang in the church choir and played in the municipal band; he whistled or practiced on the sax as he walked around the house, and kept the radio on a music station day and night. I learned from observing my dad what being a musician is and always somehow understood it.
Mom enjoyed music, and her favorite singer was Bing Crosby. She and I spent a lot of time together when I was a little girl, since my brother Jim didn’t arrive until I was about five and my sister Diane when I was nine. We listened to the radio and sang along with Bing; my favorite was “I’m An Old Cowhand” (which I opted to sing on my first day at Sunday School while the others sang children’s hymns).
Our house with filled with music. It was a focal point of our lives because of my dad’s music and the love of music that the whole family had. The focal point of our living room was my dad’s only extravagance in the 1940s: a beautiful, highly polished, floor-model RCA radio.

I enjoyed singing in glee club and mixed chorus, and one time a triple trio, at school. I played saxophone in the school band for two years, I think. I wasn’t too bad but wasn’t destined to be a sax player.
I had dreamed of living in California from a young age. In 1959, my dream came true and I got there—I was very interested in show business and loved the palm trees, the beach, and the ocean. It didn’t take long to find the perfect place. While sitting on the wall at the beach in Santa Barbara, I heard myself say, “This is where I’m going to live.” I had never seen such a beautiful place, and I felt I had found Paradise

My dreams began coming true. I got a job as secretary for a traveling repertory theater company called “The Bishop’s Company,” in a big house up on the Riviera with a view of the city and the ocean. They had three touring units performing primarily in churches; the three officers of The Company and a couple of actors lived there. I loved going to work each day and being part of that fascinating world of theatre.

Within six months, I gave up my salary and “joined The Company,” meaning that I moved into The Bishop’s Company headquarters and earned $10 a week plus room and board, the standard pay for the first year. Then I kind of “ran away with the circus,” touring with The Company as a cast member in the summer of 1960. While on the road, I became friends with another cast member, Dan Barrows, who was to become a partner in life’s next adventure and a dear, lifelong friend.

Marilyn Berner

Marilyn Berner, from the time she was with the Bishop’s Company.

At The Bishop’s Company, I was introduced to the music of Odetta and Josh White, which completely drew me in, and my musical interests began to focus on folk music. Odetta’s Spiritual Trilogy—beginning soft and low with “Oh Freedom,” escalating through “Come And Go With Me,” and ending powerfully with “I’m On My Way”—was one of the most moving and exciting pieces of music I had ever heard, and it is still one of my favorites.

Four months after my return from touring, I met Bill Berner. He painted in oils, worked the graveyard shift on the railroad, lived in part of a small house, ate one real meal a day, and spent a lot of time and got his telephone messages at the Boom Boom, a club on lower State Street. Bill was a fun, impractical, unpredictable, off-center kind of guy who sometimes drank too much beer, had lots of ideas—some were good and some were completely unrealistic. He liked to make things happen, and he had a way of finding people to go on the ride with him.

I had become unhappy with my situation at The Bishop’s Company and wanted to leave. Bill and I were having fun, and I left The Company quite suddenly to share with him whatever adventures he had in mind.

This was in early 1961, and there had been one coffee house in town, the Noctambulist, which had closed. Bill liked the coffee house idea and wanted to open one, and he asked if I wanted to do that. I wasn’t sure just what that entailed, since I had never been in a coffee house, but I was game. Really, the idea of being around music and musicians sold me—this was right up my alley. So he saved a few dollars, and the plan went into motion. Just one problem: not quite enough money. I approached my friend Dan, who was off the road and living at The Bishop’s Company headquarters, and asked if he’d like to join us, invest a little money, and be a partner. He did—and he saved the day. We rented a big white Victorian house at the corner of Chapala and Micheltorena streets, and things began to take shape.

We were doing this on less than a thousand dollars, so we had to stretch it a long way. Thankfully, this was a big house with plenty of room for us to live upstairs. We went to a restaurant supply house in LA to buy mainly used mugs, candle holders, and other supplies. Bill and his friend Don Dosier built small picnic tables, and my friend Judy Herold and I made burlap drapes by hand. What an adventure! It was so much fun. Bill had decided to call the coffee house the “Iopan” and painted a sign for the front of the house. He decorated the place with his paintings; then we found some ancient newspapers and magazines in the attic and made a collage of them on the walls of the men’s room. We didn’t know exactly what we were doing—no money, no experience—but we forged ahead and had fun doing it.
The Iopan house was old and quite wonderful. There were fireplaces, beveled glass in some of the doors, hardwood floors, marble sinks in bedrooms, folding glass-paneled doors opening from the hallway into the two front rooms, and nooks and crannies. There were tall palm trees out near the street and some shorter, thicker palms, an evergreen, and some bushes in the front and side yards. The house was set back from the street and there was a long sidewalk leading to the front door and the porch that went over halfway around the house. As you entered the front door, you were under a chandelier in a hallway facing the stairway to the second story on the left part of the hall. The right side of the hall led directly to a back door that opened onto the back porch, and then jogged left past the men’s room to the kitchen, where there was another door on the right that also led onto the back porch. There was a huge old tree near the back porch and a small parking lot.

On both sides, inside the front door, were folding glass doors that opened into large rooms. The room on the left had a wood-burning fireplace in the left rear corner by the large entrance to another big room. These two rooms made one cozy area for entertainment and seating, and this became the main area of the Iopan. The entertainers were usually in the middle of the front room, and there were tables around three sides. The second room contained tables, with an aisle through the center leading to the men’s room and the kitchen.
To the right of the hall were another two rooms of the same size. The front room had a fireplace in the center of the wall separating the two rooms. The main door to the second room was in the hallway. There was also a door opening from that room onto the wraparound porch on the side of the house. We eventually turned that doorway and room into the coffee house entrance after we turned the front room into more seating space.

The kitchen was good sized, with a separate alcove at the back for the sink and drain boards, and shelves for the glasses and mugs—like it was designed for our purpose; and there was an adjacent laundry porch. A door on the back wall of the kitchen opened to the narrow, winding, back stairway leading up to the rear of the second story.
Bill and I lived upstairs in the front room, directly over the showroom. There was a wood-burning fireplace that was directly above the one in the showroom, and a big vent in the floor through which we could partially hear and see what was going on downstairs. There was a sliding door opening into a small room, which would become a child’s room. There were three other big rooms, and one small one near the back stairs leading to the kitchen, which I imagine was originally a maid’s or cook’s room. A large bathroom was ours during the day and served as the ladies’ room for the Iopan in the evenings room—requiring two light cleanings a day.

There was a partial third story that we pretty much ignored. Bill’s friend Don stayed there for a while, but outside of that it was an isolated, unused place. That old house could feel a little spooky at times. Bill mounted a couple of spotlights, one blue and one red, in the windows up there to illuminate the palm trees in front and draw attention to the Iopan. Who knew that the red light would become an issue later on? I know, you’re already ahead of me.

At some point shortly after we opened, our partner Dan and The Bishop’s Company parted company, so he moved into the house too; he chose the small room by the back stairs, painted it and had it carpeted to make it more homey. Dan then became more active in the Iopan. Although he later held a part-time job and pursued theatrical interests, he remained an active part of the coffee house management.

We needed a full-time house singer. We really wanted Tony Townsend (who was the folk singer in Santa Barbara), but he was working elsewhere, so we had to search.

I don’t recall exactly how we found him, but we hired a wonderful young man named Tracy Calvert, who was attending City College and had sung at the Lyceum coffee house in Newport Beach. Tracy was a gem—the kind of person who excelled at everything he did. He had been a munitions expert in the Navy; in Santa Barbara he worked as a lifeguard supervisor and at a yacht maintenance business at the harbor. While attending college in Utah, he taught skiing, worked on the ski patrol, and won the Utah championship for high-pressure bicycle. He was an avid surfer and skin diver.

Tracy played guitar and sang well, had a substantial repertoire, was very casual, upbeat, and fun, and had a nice, easy rapport with the audience. People loved him and his music. His wife, Lynn, who often came to the Iopan with him, was a beautiful person in every way.
Floyd “Chip” Crosby (who years later changed his name to Ethan), was a very good local musician and a friendly, good-natured guy who was playing stand-up bass and singing at the Boom Boom. He told Bill that he had a kid brother who had been having some difficulties and that he wanted to help him get on track—and that the little brother could really sing. He asked if Bill would meet him and consider hiring him to do some singing at the Iopan. Bill agreed, of course, because he thought a lot of Chip. The kid brother was David Crosby, and Bill hired him as a part-time singer. [Chip, or Ethan, passed away a few years ago, but he hasn’t been forgotten. He was a good guy, a fine musician, and news of his premature passing saddened a lot of people.]

My friend Judy Herold, a lovely actress and singer (also formerly of The Bishop’s Company) sang for a short period of time. She sang alone or with one or both of the guys. Judy, her future husband Frank, Dan, and I had all toured together with The Bishop’s Company.

One day before the Grand Opening, Bill and Dan were in LA and I was there alone. I got a call from a young woman named Maria Cordero, whose name I recognized because she had also toured briefly with The Bishop’s Company. She was a former Santa Barbara resident who knew Bill and was living in northern California. She wanted to come back, needed a job and an immediate answer, so I told her to come on down. So the lovely, 19-year-old Maria arrived, moved into one of the rooms upstairs, and worked as a waitress. Our staff was then complete.

For some reason, Bill decided that Maria and I should wear Chinese dresses while waitressing. It must have been a picture in his mind, but it wasn’t one of his better ideas. Maria and I thought it quite odd, and she quietly said to me, “We–ell…I don’t know about these dresses.” Well, neither did I. They were pretty, but I think we wore them only for the grand opening and then quietly rebelled and wore what we pleased from then on.

It actually happens! The most exciting event was opening night—April 27, 1961—when we opened the door and people actually came in. We had done some newspaper advertising, but still, it was like having a party and wondering if anyone would show up—and they did! I remember that we took in exactly 65 dollars (most of the drinks were 65 cents each). Amazing! “This could be a lot of fun.” The magic was starting—dancing candles in red glass containers, lovely music, and happy people. This wasn’t just a coffee house, it was our home—we lived there. I was once again in a house filled with music, and I was delighted.

Tracy and Lynn were a joy to have around, and we became friends. I always looked forward to the time when he or they arrived. On slow nights, I would sometimes sing with Tracy, and that was fun. My recollection is that he was there until fall, when they moved back to the San Pedro area. I believe Tracy wasn’t feeling very well. He was going to sell boats and Lynn was expecting their first child.

David Crosby continued alone for a time and then left town to pursue his career ambitions. David had a nice, clear voice, always on key, and had not yet really found his music. He sang some folk songs and some other things. He liked to sing “Summertime,” which he sang very well. His real gifts (as evidenced later by his work in groups), were his right-on pitch and his natural ability to create beautiful harmonies. As he would surely admit, David was not always the easiest person to deal with, but his talent was never in question.
Bill’s son Billy came to live with us permanently in September 1961, and life changed for me. Billy was a very active two-year-old, and of course required a lot of care. I was working in the coffee house until late, and Billy always got up at 6:00 a.m. So, I got up at 6:00 too. He was very cute, but I knew next to nothing about little kids, and this one was in the “terrible two’s.” Somehow we managed. Billy liked playing and running around inside the coffee house and scooting his cars and trucks around the big porch in the daytime—and singing his own song, which he called the “Poppee House Song.” By that time I was expecting my first child, so life became very full indeed.

I don’t remember exactly when David Crosby left, but the timing worked out well because Tony Townsend was finally available and he came to work with us at the Iopan. Tony is a talented, versatile musician and a real professional. We never had to worry about him. He was a nice, well-mannered, easy-going person, always showed up early and prepared, related well to the audience, and always gave a good performance. His guitar work, his voice, and his repertoire (many his own compositions) were excellent. He wrote many of his own compositions and seemed to know all of the old folk songs, as well as Tom Lehrer’s songs and other current material. Sometimes Rick Hazelwood would back him up on bass, and they sounded great together. Others, like Peter Feldmann, Russ Johnson, Tom Goux, and Nick Hoffman would drop by and play. I was sad when Tony left in the spring of 1962.

Russ Johnson was not really a folk musician, but, despite his humorous, self-deprecating contribution to this book, was a fine musician and the best guitarist around. He could walk in and play any kind of music with anyone. I believe he also participated in after-hours jazz. Russ was and still is very much admired by other musicians. He was a teacher for many years and also, in Adult Education, taught hundreds of Santa Barbarians to play guitar.

I obviously had many duties around the Iopan and the house in general. I was also the self-appointed patrol officer, moving around the place to make sure there was nothing going on that could get us in trouble. My “law enforcement” activities prompted Dan to call me “M Squad,” and he has called me “M” since that time. Bill and Dan jokingly played executive, calling each other “BB” and “DB.” Tony was “TT” and I was “M.”

It was rather like having a party every night. We would get the coffee house area ready, light the candles in the red glass holders, light the fire in cool weather, the folk singer or folk group would arrive—then the people would arrive, one by one, two by two…. The music started, people were happy, and it was magic time again. Soon all of the aromas mixed and drifted through the place—coffee, chocolate, hot cider and cinnamon, and smoke. For me it was perfect to have entertainment in my own house five or six nights a week, and I never got tired of it. What could be better?

We did well enough to pay the performers, pay the rent, buy groceries and gas—all of the necessities—but it was always tight. People had a good time, the entertainment was good, and we were all having fun. Adults came in, but the majority were college and high school students. Most were really polite and fun, and we enjoyed them.

I particularly remember some young guys, probably four of. them, who asked me how much money I made working there. I told them that I didn’t receive a salary, but that I kept all of the pennies. So, from then on, they paid me in pennies—handfuls and rolls—I thought it was very sweet, and a fun thing between us, but Bill didn’t agree.

On slow evenings during the cooler months, regulars would drift in just to sit by the fire in the folding bamboo floor seats in the showroom. Sometimes there was live music; other times not, and they would just enjoy the atmosphere and recorded music, and talk. Bill Thompson was there on many of those evenings, and he would break into a sea chantey now and again. He was tall and blond with a great big voice, became a friend, and we liked him a lot. I was saddened to learn that Bill had passed away several years ago.
Young people were wandering up and down the coast with their guitars, so we didn’t have to try to find them—they arrived in town, asked a few questions, and showed up. We thought it was important to bring in entertainers from out of town. No matter how good the local entertainers were, people would get used to them being there, take them for granted, and they always enjoyed a change of pace. One of these young people was Don Robertson, who walked in out of the night with his baritone uke and sat quietly at a table with a cup of coffee until Dan struck up a conversation with him and asked if he’d like to sing during the break. The Iopan was the first place Don played in Santa Barbara, and he went on to develop his skills and his repertoire and perform in the Santa Barbara area for many years (with a guitar). His signature song was “Old Blue.”

Other young people were just wandering around, who knows why, and they would become familiar faces for a few weeks, then leave town and we would never see them again. One of these fellows, who used to chat with me, came in one evening and gave me a ukulele—said he just wanted me to have it—and I don’t recall seeing him again.

There were a couple of scary times for me at the Iopan. One Monday night when the Iopan was closed and Bill and Dan were in LA, Billy and I were there alone and I had been baking cookies. Suddenly there was tremendous pounding on the side door downstairs and loud yelling. It sounded like two young men, and as they pounded and rattled the doorknob, they yelled, “Come on, open the door—you’re a [prostitute] aren’t you?” What? Here I was, a little girl from Iowa with a two-year-old and about five months pregnant—baking cookies. I was shocked that they thought I was a prostitute and terrified of what could happen to little Billy and me. The only phone was downstairs, so I crept down the steps, which put me in closer proximity to the guys trying to get in, and called the police. They arrived quite quickly, but the door-pounders ran when they saw them coming. These guys really thought the red light meant something! It frightened me to realize that they must have been watching the house for some time, or they couldn’t have known I was there alone.

Another time when Bill and Dan were gone and I had to open the coffee house, I had prepared the kitchen, locked the doors, and was upstairs getting Billy ready for bed when I heard slow footsteps on the creaky stairs. Probably quite foolishly, I opened the door to see who was there. It was a young man, a familiar face around town and to the police. He was one of three brothers, all of whom were in trouble with the law a lot of the time—drugs and petty crimes, escalating as they got older, as I recall. I asked him how he got in, and he said “through the front door,” which I knew wasn’t true, since I had locked it. I didn’t believe he was really dangerous, just high, but I didn’t know for sure and was a little scared. I thought I had convinced him to leave; he went downstairs but didn’t leave. I locked the bedroom door so Billy and I would hopefully be safe, and I was surprised when my friend Jan dropped by and came upstairs. She asked me who the strange guy was who had let her in. We kept ourselves locked in the room, quite scared and trying to not be, until we heard the entertainer, Johnny Swingle, arrive. I asked Jan to go downstairs and ask Johnny if he would build the fire. She quickly ran down, blurted out “Johnny! Build a fire!” and ran back upstairs, which sent us into laughter, and we were no longer afraid. Johnny had found the intruder sitting in a corner of the showroom, quietly playing bongo drums. He finally left and the Iopan opened on time.
In the early spring of 1962, we got word that Tracy Calvert was very ill with cancer. We were shocked that this could happen to this wonderful, healthy young man in his mid-twenties. During the time Johnny Swingle was at the Iopan, Dan and Bill and I went down to San Pedro, I believe, to see Tracy and Lynn. Tracy was bedridden, partially paralyzed and very ill, but he was still the same sweet guy with his sense of humor and happy nature intact. We told him about Johnny Swingle and his wonderful voice, and Tracy said we should have brought him along so he could have heard him sing. He tired easily, so our visit was rather brief. When I hugged him goodbye, I knew we would never see him again, and that was terribly sad. Lynn shared some of the baby items with me that they had received from their church congregation. She was very strong and took wonderful, loving care of Tracy. He quietly slipped away one day shortly after we had seen him. I was happy that he had lived to see their baby daughter, Tamsin. Lynn and the baby came through town later that summer, on the way to college in Utah. We had a brief visit, and I didn’t see them again, but I still think about them often and hope they created a wonderful life.

Life in the house was very ordinary during the day: cleaning, trips to Smart & Final and other stores for supplies, a little down time, and preparing to open. The out-of-the-ordinary part was that we had music and customers downstairs in our house when evening came. But the City powers thought we certainly were up to no good, and they expended some time and effort trying to find out what was “going on” there and close us down. The truth is, nothing illegal was going on.

One day when I was straightening up our living quarters, we were visited by six City officials, in two’s, one department at a time. As I recall, it was the police chief and another officer, the fire chief and another fireman, and either the health or building inspector and an associate. They searched all the rooms, and I believe they thought for sure that this would be the big day that they would make a bust and close us down. But there was nothing to bust us for—we ran a clean, straight-up place. So, they issued an unflattering article to the News-Press, stating, among other things, that the living conditions were “rudimentary, with mat tresses on the floor instead of beds.” I think only our bed was on the floor, and it was a clean mattress and bedding on a freshly painted, clean floor. We liked it that way—it was very comfortable. They didn’t mention the blue light in the window upstairs, but asked Bill why we had the red light. That implication was upsetting, because I was the only woman living there at the time and I realized that there must have been a real rumor in town.
On a visit to the Troubadour in Los Angeles, we found the most exciting entertainers who ever played at the Iopan: two young men from the Bay Area, Joe & Eddie (Joe Gilbert and Eddie Brown), who were best friends and had sung together since high school and had just released their first album. They came to the Iopan accompanied by their guitarist, Bill Mundy, and they electrified the place with folk songs, gospel music, and spirituals in their unique style. Eddie’s smooth, steady baritone voice allowed Joe’s tenor voice to soar into improvisation. It was Joe who kidded around and was more outgoing on stage, but during the day it seemed reversed. Eddie was relaxed and joking, and Joe was more serious and worried. But they played off each other very well, so there were many funny moments. Their opening night at the Iopan was unbelievable. The place was packed, and from the opening number no one could sit still. They were clapping, stomping their feet, and cheering. The old house really rocked, and I remember getting chills down my back and feeling incredible excitement. They did two stints at the Iopan. Later, the year after the Iopan closed, we brought Joe & Eddie, Phil Campos, and Paul Hansen in concert to the Lobero Theater. Joe’s tragic death in an automobile accident only three years later was just so sad.

Odetta

Odetta

At the time my baby was due, Odetta appeared in concert at the Lobero. I couldn’t miss seeing her, so we got aisle seats just in case the baby decided to arrive. I was able to enjoy seeing Odetta, which was one of the real thrills of my life. She was beautiful and regal in a full-length (I’m remembering purple velvet) dress and was accompanied by the great, and equally elegant, Leroy Vinegar on bass. I’ve since attended two more Odetta concerts, and she is always wonderful, but I’ll never forget that first one.

We had a customer, Lynn, who loved being at the Iopan and eventually became an on-call, part-time waitress. She had very serious asthma and had to check into the hospital frequently. A few weeks before my baby was due, Lynn brought a baby gift to me. I made some comment about it being the first one, and so early. She said that she brought it because she probably wouldn’t be around when the baby was born. When I asked if she was going away, she said no, that she just probably wouldn’t be around.

On the evening of April 2, 1962, I was two weeks past my due date and making up a bed in one of the spare rooms for Hugh Romney (later known as Wavy Gravy). It was for Hugh’s performance that we had expanded the seating area into the other front room. He bore a striking resemblance to actor Peter Ustinov, and I think that had something to do with his standup act. I had been looking forward to seeing him perform, but at 2:00 a.m. I went into labor, and my David was born at 6:00 p.m. on April 3. When I got home from the hospital three days later, I spent nearly all of my time upstairs resting and taking care of my baby, and I never got to see Hugh’s act. Every evening I could hear his voice through the floor vent but couldn’t hear what he was saying, except for one line: “It seems like ohhh…nly yesterday.”

Marilyn & David

Marilyn & David

When Bill picked me up from the hospital, he had sad news—Lynn, who said she probably wouldn’t be around, had passed away the night before from complications of her asthma hospitalization.
One night our entertainer didn’t show up or was late, and there were people waiting. There were three young men in the audience (John Thomas, Howard Pelky, and Ernie Brooks) who had just begun performing as The Channel Singers. When Bill asked if they could fill in, I watched them as they quickly ran out the front door to get their instruments from the car. They were ready, and they performed professionally and with great enthusiasm and fun. They went on to become a very popular group in Santa Barbara.

A great number of entertainers came through the Iopan in addition to the local regulars.

Johnny Swingle
I can’t recall how Johnny came to us. He was a tall, dark-haired man who was a little bit older than most of the entertainers, and he played an autoharp rather than a guitar. Audiences really liked him. He was a nice, intelligent, educated, outgoing fellow with a big, trained voice that could handle any music. He stayed for a while, but I can’t remember exactly how long; in fact, I believe he had more than one engagement at the Iopan. People have asked me about Johnny more than any other performer we had. When Johnny was there, we knew we could trust him with anything. He was always ready to help out if we needed him for something. A very nice person.Iopan-ad

I spoke with Johnny on the phone in 2004. After we knew him he became Dr. John Swingle. As I recall our conversation, after he was in Santa Barbara he owned or co-owned a couple of clubs in the San Francisco area. He married, had a family, and enjoyed a career in teaching. John was still in the education and folk music fields—teaching a class in Folk Music at an Institute for Continued Learning in California.

John Cook
John was also a little older than most of the young folks who came through, and when he came to the Iopan he was accompanied by his wife and little girl. John played and sang folk songs and blues, and we and the audience enjoyed his music (my favorite was “Country Boy”). He was quiet and polite, serious and unsmiling, as I recall. It was refreshing to have this little family around for a time.

Jess Long
Jess was a young Native American from Oklahoma, and he told me he was from a quickly disappearing small tribe of about twelve. I have been asked about him as well, as people enjoyed his performances very much. He was a likable young man who quickly had audiences singing along and having a good time, and I always hoped he would come back.

The Steeltown Two
Van Dyke Parks and brother C. Carson Parks were the Steeltown Two. They were at the Iopan probably for one weekend, and we didn’t get to know them at all. They were very good—serious, talented young musicians who wore dark suits, dark-rimmed glasses, and certainly looked like brothers. It was obvious that they were headed for success—they were that good. Everyone in the music business knows who Van Dyke Parks is. A great talent, he does or has done just about everything. He is a lyricist, composer, and arranger working in television, movies, and theater. He also adapted the Jump! Children’s Book Trilogy. His logo, that he created himself, is very good—showing the dark-rimmed glasses.

Sadly, C. Carson Parks, publisher and owner of Greenwood Music Co., passed away on June 22, 2005, at the age of 69. In addition to being one of The Steeltown Two in the early 60s, he was a member of The Easy Riders, The Southcoasters, Bud & The Kinsmen, The Greenwood County Singers, and Carson & Gaile. Carson performed on movie soundtracks including “Jungle Book,” “The Aristocats,” and “The Alamo.” He wrote the first gold single for Frank Sinatra, “Somethin’ Stupid,” and “Cab Driver” by the Mills Brothers.
For more information on these talented brothers, check their web sites.

Phil Campos
Phil was one of the more exciting performers—he played the guitar and sang his songs with passion and drama. He appeared in our 1963 Lobero Theater concert with Joe & Eddie and Paul Hansen. Phil also is now deceased.

Paul Hansen
Paul is a multi-talented performer who had also toured with The Bishop’s Company. He played guitar and sang standard folk songs. He was a mellow singer and a very appealing and fun performer. He appeared in our Lobero Theater concert.

Shula and Sandra
Bill and Dan found these two young women on one of their talent-search trips to Los Angeles, and, as I recall, they came to the Iopan accompanied by folk singer Heber Jentzsch and Jules Brenner. Shula had been married to a rabbi and Sandra was dating Jules, I believe. They were upbeat and fun to have around, and people enjoyed their music. Heber also came back and sang at the Iopan (this is before he became the International President of Scientology). [See the Dan Barrows chapter]

Christopher Tree and Elias Romero
These fellows presented an unusual “light show” with Elias using a slide projector to project patterns of color created by shooting dyes and inks out of syringes onto slides to project on a screen. Christopher accompanied this display of pulsating colors on an assortment of drums, cymbals, and bells. It was riveting and very beautiful. They got a very good review in the newspaper, but Christopher said that none of those guys knew what was really going on. I probably didn’t either, but that’s all right—it was enjoyable without that knowledge.

Randy Boone appeared at the Iopan, but it must have been during one of the times I wasn’t working much, since I have no clear recollection—but other people have mentioned attending the show.
There were other performers, but after all of these years, I can’t quite remember them all.
After David was born, caring for him and Billy took most of my time and energy, and I really couldn’t work in the coffee house anymore. We moved out of the Iopan upstairs and into a little house behind Santa Barbara. Bill got a day job and went to the Iopan often in the evenings. I was on the hill with two little boys, and the Iopan was dying a slow death.

Folk music had moved into the folk bars, and that’s where the college crowd went. We applied for a beer and wine license, but the “powers” wouldn’t grant us one. Dan was pretty much running what was left of the coffee house. We were hiring some UCSB students to entertain; sometimes they showed up and sometimes they didn’t. And that was the end of the Iopan.

In retrospect, even though the lack of a beer and wine license put us out of business, I think it would have been a hassle to serve alcohol in that big house and deal with the inevitable problems.

We moved back into the house after the Iopan closed, since we had a lease. But the music was gone, Dan had gone to San Francisco to find theatre work, and we rented the downstairs—the Iopan—to friends for living quarters. It was odd to be in that house that was no longer the Iopan.

We were notified in late 1963 that we would have to move, since the property had been sold and the house would be demolished to make room for a service station. I really couldn’t believe (and still can hardly believe) that anyone would destroy that house, and I knew it wasn’t a good location for a gas station, that it wouldn’t work—and it didn’t. There has been an office building on that corner for many years.

Bill and I bought a nice little house behind Santa Barbara, and our son Michael was born on moving day, February 15, 1964. In a couple of years, our lives went in different directions, mine as a single mom, through many moves, and many struggles as well as happy times with my kids.

Now, I live in the country in Colorado and have a big mountain view with Pikes Peak as the centerpiece. It was great fun and a wonderful experience to partner with John Thomas for over two years, take on some interesting projects, including this book, and become very special friends.

I cherish the memories of that special time in Santa Barbara and the fun of having the Iopan coffee house. Life is pretty good and, through everything, my house and my heart have always been—and will always be—filled with music.

About Peter Feldmann

Peter Feldmann has long been a musical mainstay in Santa Barbara and Southern California. Besides actively performing bluegrass and old time music with a variety of groups, Peter is also known as a bluegrass historian, collector, music consultant, teacher, and producer, both of live concerts and radio/tv programs throughout the area. His music has been heard in clubs, concerts, saloons, universities, pre-schools, at weddings, wakes, parties, barn-raisings, calf-ropings, rodeos, auctions, fund raisers, wine tastings and chili cook offs.

Peter founded Santa Barbara’s Old Time Fiddler’s Convention (1972), UCSB’s Old Time Music Front (1964), and The Bluebird Cafe (1971). Through these and other outlets, he was the first to bring many prominent folk, blues, and bluegrass artists, including Bill Monroe, Mance Lipscomb, The Stanley Brothers, The New Lost City Ramblers, Fred McDowell, Furry Lewis, Rose Maddox, the Balfa Brothers, and many others to the Santa Barbara area. Peter also helped others access the music by teaching privately, and in group classes for Santa Barbara Continuing Education, UCSB Extension, and McCabes Guitars. He was the first on the West Coast to produce and market instruction Lps – three on How To Play Country Fiddle, and one each on Clawhammer Banjo, and Maybelle Carter Style Guitar. He still presents lectures on country music history at UCSB, Santa Barbara area libraries, and for various interest groups, festival workshops, etc. In 2006, he presented his monograph titled “The Big bang Of Bluegrass Music” (describing the origins of bluegrass 1938 – 1946) to the worlds first International Music Symposium at the University of Kentucky at Bowling Green. He has also been very active in radio, television, and film work, producing weekly shows on country and bluegrass music over a 21 year period on various commercial and public stations. Peter currently maintains three music-related websites, a music blog, and an entertainment service company, “BlueGrass West!”, based in the Santa Ynez Valley in Southern California.

Peter performs tunes and songs from the heart of America’s musical treasure chest. His shows can include fiddle, guitar, banjo, and mandolin. Well-known as a historian and teacher, Peter is first and foremost an entertainer, sharing his respect, energy and love for the music with his fellow musicians, friends, and audiences.

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One Response to The Sixties in Folk Music / 1. The Iopan

  1. Zach & Peggy Kaplan says:

    Wow….what a beautifully written history of the early days of the folk scene in Santa Barbara. I didn’t know Marilyn then, as I finished at UCSB in the spring of 1961, but John Thomas was a good friend and fraternity brother and stoked my latent interest in folk music. I met Marilyn out here in Colorado, well before her move to Washington. Very saddened to learn of her recent passing. What a neat lady!
    —————–Zach Kaplan