A Lobero Theater Program from 2012

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Peter Feldmann

Lobero Program – Peter Feldmann

Waking down the brick alleyway from the Lobero Theater in Santa Barbara to the parking garage, the last studio one passes on the left has a large window, fronted by wrought iron grill-work. It is a dentist’s office now, but back in 1958, it was the home of Santa Barbara’s first coffee house,The Noctambulist. It sported a huge copper espresso machine, a small counter, scattered tables and chairs, and a tiny stage in the rear. The atmosphere was filled with steam, smoke, the smells of coffee, cinnamon, and exotic spices, colored by the presence of mysterious-looking types then known as Beatniks or Bohemians. Some played chess or the Japanese board game, Go, some read poetry or the latest work by Ferlinghetti, while squeezing a twist of lemon rind into their black coffee, accompanied by Baklava or other small pastries. Invariably, the stage was occupied by a folksinger, male or female, usually alone, dressed in black, singing mournful songs with a nylon-stringed guitar, sometimes with bass or bongos as accompaniment. Local radio occasionally featured a song by Richard Dyer Bennett, Burl Ives, or the new hit group The Kingston Trio, a very high-energy group favored by collegiate types.

Following some “dancing lessons from Mr. God”, I left Santa Barbara and spent two years staying in Chicago in 1961 and 62. Working at a day job for the Field Museum Of Natural History, I was amazed with a  new institution, The Chicago Old Town School Of Folk Music, which had recently opened its doors. Through the school, I was introduced to traditional singing and picking styles, as well as encountering performers like balladeer Horton Barker and banjo singer Frank Proffitt, whose grandfather wrote the

Frank Proffitt and Flemming Brown

ballad Tom Dula. I also happened to meet most of the Seeger family, Pete, Penny, Mike, and Peggy, through an old army buddy of Pete’s. I’d also produced my first eight month’s series of folk music programs for WNUR, the Northwestern University’s FM station.


Returning to Santa Barbara after a two year stay in Chicago, I was filled with new energy and enthusiasm. Someone in Santa Barbara had decided to start a country station atop the old Granada building, and I was treated to blaring display ads reading:KGUD-FM
Taking that as a challenge, I visited the new station and managed to talk the program director into giving me an hour a week to present some alternate views. Sharing the time with my folksinger friend Don Robertson, we covered both the traditional and folksingers’ points of view in a weekly program. The coffee house scene had expanded since the Noctambulist days. Tony Townsend had opened the Rondo, there was a place called The Iopan, a spot on Milpas Street, and Dave Bernheimer’s Mephisto’s, a bohemian restaurant in the cellar of the YMCA building at Chapala and Carrillo streets. It was there I ran into Big Jim Griffith, who was busy singing blues and cowboy ballads while strolling table to table. Jim and I found we had a love of the music in common and soon started performing together as The Mission Canyon Fret-Benders. While playing Mephisto’s, I also bumped into Santa Barbara’s perennial guitar teacher Russ Johnson and his friends Stan Tysell and Bill Thrasher. I soon got a Sunday afternoon song session going, and we spent happy hours picking, drinking wine and downing large quantities of Dave’s paella.

Jim Griffith - Peter Feldmann

Jim Griffith – Peter Feldmann – The Mission Canyopn Fret-Benders

Early in ’63, I heard about a new event, the Monterey Folk Festival, scheduled for May in the same facility that hosted the Jazz Festival. I managed to talk KGUD’s management into sending me up for the entire 5-day event with press passes. This was at the height of the so-called folk revival, and this festival covered all the bases: pop folk with the Weavers, Peter, Paul & Mary, Bob Dylan (in his “acoustic” format); blues with Mance Lipscomb, BB King, black slave songs with Bessie Jones and the Georgia Sea Island Singers; early country with Clarence “Tom” Ashley, accompanied by Fred Price, Clint Howard, and a

Monterery Folk Festival

Old time music group, Fred Price, Clint Howard, Doc Watson, 1963

young Doc Watson, Roscoe Holcomb, The New Lost City Ramblers; bluegrass was represented by Bill Monroe, The Dillards, and the Kentucky Colonels. There were others too, along with workshops, round-the-clock concerts, and special events with speakers such as folklorist DK Wilgus and producer Ralph Rinzler. Armed with notebook, Leica camera, and borrowed tape recorder, I ran myself ragged trying to cover all the bases. The folk festival provided a crash course for me in event production, performance, history, and of course, the music itself. I was supposed to interview Bob Dylan, who was then into his accoustic Woody Guthrie mode of protest songwriter. But after running into Tom Ashley, Bill Monroe, and others, I simply didn’t have the time for Bob – my attention was drawn elsewhere.

That year was also marked by my move to an Airstream trailer, parked next to Gene McGeorge’s house on Coyote Road and commuting to UCSB. I was welcomed into the Mountain Drive Community, founding a string band with the name The Scragg Family. The Scraggs included Gene on fiddle, Kajsa Ohman and Maria Cordero on guitars, and Tom Sheldon on guitarron. The five of us soon became the house band for Mountain Drive functions, such as Bobbie Burns Night, the irregular Pot Wars, where local potters would sell their wares, and our annual Grape Stomp, a true Bacchanal in every sense of the word. The Scraggs, eventually reduced to a trio with Kajsa, Gene, and myself, performed

Red Dog Saloon

Red Dog Saloon, Virginia City, NV.

regularly up and down the California coast for the next decade, including a 4-5 month stint, six days a week, as the house band for the notorious Red Dog Saloon in Virginia City Nevada during the Summer Of Love in 1967 (replacing Big Brother & The Holding Co. from the year before).

In 1971, I was approached by Peg Armstrong of UCSB Arts & Lectures to generate an Old Time Fiddlers’ Convention. Campus security was concerned that it would result in a riot, but their fears were assuaged when a Santa Barbara police captain called the campus to enter his daughter, a fiddle student of mine, in the competition. Until I resigned in 1997, I tried as best I could, with the profound help of DK Wilgus and others,  to make the

Fiddlers' Convention

Charlie Poole on the 6th annual Fiddler’s poster

event an educational as well as entertaining affair. We would usually honor some past performer or aspect of the music with special graphics and a Saturday workshop, then have a concert Saturday night before the contest on Sunday. The Fiddlers’ Convention began its Santa Barbara run in 1962, and continues to this day every October.

In late 1971, I decided to try my hand at running a music club. The Bluebird Cafe opened its doors on Anapamu Street and began presenting a wide range of live music every night. With a lot of help from many friends, the club became a popular venue for folk, blues, jazz, world, and bluegrass musics for several years. My independent record label, Sonyatone and Hen Cackle records, began releasing material in 1973, and continues to this day. I kept myself busy with the music club, performing, record production, giving music lessons, and lecturing for SB Adult Education. I began performing folk music in local schools, and managed to write a CETA grant program which enabled me to hire three other musicians to form a group which played regular weekly folk concerts in every elementary classroom in the Santa Barbara school district. It was always my opinion that it is music and the arts that makes us individuals truly human, and I am appalled that these fields are always the first ones cut to meet budget crises.

The acoustic music scene has changed much in the intervening years. There seem to be fewer and fewer venues, and much more specialization within musical genres these days. It is so important to be open to a range of influences in what I call traditional music. The internet has made the music much more accessible, available at the touch of a button, but that very accessibility has also acted simultaneously to devalue the very music it presents. Now, our musical heritage is hidden in the plain sight of any web browser, but is also buried by a mountain of irrelevant fluff. It remains my hope that people will still make the effort to search out the meaningful, and that true people-to-people music will remain a viable option in the twenty-first century.

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Roland White: Mandolin Man

It was in the late 1960s when I heard about a reunion of guitar phemenomenon Clarence White, then with the Byrds and his old group the Kentucky Colonels at the Ash Grove. I’d seen them all there, back in in 1962 and beyond, when my group The Scragg Family began playing there, and I lost no time in wending my way down the 101 from Santa Barbara to Hollywood and 8162 Melrose Blvd. for the show. There was a mob of people there, most of whom I knew, who wouldn’t dream of missing a night like this! We weren’t dissappointed.

We were going to be treated to some rather mcabre sights and sounds during this show. The Colobels, starting with Clarence’s brother Roland White and all the rest of them, were dressed in the familiar red blazers and black string ties and trowsers which compristed their standard uniform. Clarence, on the other hand, wore a Nudie country-cut three piece suit fashioned from baby blue colored leather. His hair, in contrast to the rest of the band, was long, dark, and below shoulder length. They sounded great, obviously happy to be playing together again. Clarence was making his guitar sing, each solo developing in intensity as the everning wore on. This is the way I prefer to remember the Colonels on up until modern times. Those guys were friends of mine, always a source of inspiration.

Now, banjoist Bob Black has added book authoring to his talents! And he’s done a fine job.  His new work, “Roland White – Mandolin Man” has recently been released by the University of Illinois Press.

Book - Mandolin Man

New bio of Roland White

It was such a pleasure to see this work about an old friend from early Southern California bluegrass days. I first met Roland ca. 1963 when my group The Scragg Family played the Hollywood music club, The Ash Grove. Roland, his brother Clarence, Billy Ray Lathum, Roger Bush, The Kentucky Colonels had recently formed and were wowing the crowds there with hard-driving bluegrass.

Bluegrass, a vigorous new musical style developed by Kentuckian Bill Monroe beginning in 1938, had reached across the country by the mid 1950s, and was becoming firmly established in California by 1960. Roland’s story, along with that of his two brothers Eric and Clarence White, forms a strong thread running through Southern California’s rich music environment.

Mandolin Man, with its empathies in California, makes this an especially fascinating glimpse into the happenings in our Golden State. To us bluegrass “oldies”, it’s a series of flashbacks to an earlier time, of clubs and musicians we grew up with, detailing adventures that many have shared in and still love hearing about. For younger readers, it’s a detailed  update on essential bluegrass and country music history. Mr. Black has devoted some considerable time to research, and I for one, am grateful for his hard work. By following Roland’s career through his work with his brothers, The Country Boys,  to The Kentucky Colonels. playing for bluegrass greats Bill Monroe, Lester Flatt, to more recent times with Country Gazette, The Nashville Bluegrass Band, and his own group The Roland White Band, one can trace now only Roland’s development as a musician, but also the evolution and spread of the entire bluegrass genre.

This work is highly recommended to anyone with an interest in bluegrass, especially it’s strong branch on the West Coast.

Roland White, Peter Feldmann, 2008

Roland White, Peter Feldmann, two veterans of Ash Gove Days, helping to celebrate its 50th anniversary at UCLA, 2008,

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Santa Barbara’s Arlington Theater

Arlington Theater

Arlington Theater, interior view, with stars in the sky! Wayne McCall photo.

Beginning in the early 1920’s the burgeoning film / entertainment industry began building very elaborate “Movie Palaces” to entice audiences inside to view the latest Hollywood efforts. One of the most beautiful I have ever seen was the Fox Arlington, located on State Street in downtown Santa Barbara California. It’s a classic building in the colonial Spanish style found in our city, and it must have been especially beautiful in the early 1930s, when it occupied and entire city block, almost exclusively. The Arlington is also a venue for music events, though the acoustics are pretty dreadful in a theater meant for film.

In 1971, historian Walker A Tompkins wrote a two long articles on the theater’s history, which I found so intriguing that I saved the clippings. I recently rediscovered them and thought I would share them with everyone. I also claim a tenuous connection with one the the architects involved, William Edwards, whose son Peter Edwards was a long-time next-door neighbor. I hope you enjoy this story and get a chance to pay a visit to the theater, which still survives. Many thanks to Wayne McCall for making his fine photo available.

NOTE: There are eight thumbnails here – in order from left to right and top to bottom – , each linked to a larger image of the clipping. Click on a thumbnail in order to see to see larger versions. We hope you enjoy them. Please drop us a line with comments, etc.

-Peter Feldmann   [ peter@bluegrasswest.com ]

Click on the thumbnails for larger views of the text. 
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The Bluebird Café – 50 Years

Bluebird, Street view

The café, looking towards State St. at 33 W. Anapamu.                                                                                           

The Bluebird Café, founded by Peter Feldmann in late 1971 , was a major venue for the musical and theatrical arts in southern California in the 1970s. Located on West Anapamu street in Santa Barbara’s downtown area, it became a place for local musicians to display and develop their talent, and gave touring groups a popular venue to perform while traveling between Los Angeles and the Bay Area.

Conceived as a café, it served a fine, American / Swiss menu, originally designed by Peter, with home-style cooking and a variety of beverages, drawing on California wines as well as domestic and imported beers.  “Music and food go together”, as Peter often declared. But that, in a way, was its cover story, for the Bluebird’s real mission was to form a center and school for acoustic music of all types on the central coast. Folk, Cajun, blues and bluegrass all found a home there, along with early country and a smattering of classical, jazz, eastern, and experimental musics.

Peter built the café around — and catering to the requirements of  — musicians, with a practical custom-designed sound system, comfortable stage with lighting, and a ready welcome for the wandering minstrel.  Peter’s thought was “..Make the musicians happy; they’ll play great music, and the audience will come…”  There was music of some sort almost every night, from open mics to singer-songwriters, jazz, blues, and bluegrass bands, old time music, Indian classical music, and even a little light opera, drama,  and experimental sounds.  Musicians not only performed there, they comprised a large part of the staff.  It was a place to exchange musical ideas and try out new acts.  performers included Hazel Dickens, The Scragg Family, Lamar Grier, Mance Lipscomb, John DuBois, Aunt Dinah’s Quilting Party, Any Old Time String Band, The Cache Valley Drifters, Pat Cloud, Amya Das Gupta, Big Jim Griffith, John Hartford, Flash In The Pan, Alice Gerrard, Jon Lazell, Jess and Leonard Sutton, Jerry Higby, Furry Lewis, Johnny Shines, Earl Collins, L.C. “Good Rockin'” Robinson, Byron Berline & The LA Fiddle Band, Mike Seeger, and many, many others.

In order to reach out to the local music community, the Bluebird featured a regular “Open Microphone” night once each week, giving everyone with a song a chance to sign in and share an opportunity to try it out on our stage. Soon, performers were arriving from near and far to strut their stuff.  Of course, their friends came along to watch and join in the festivities. The place was packed! Musical visitors from San Francisco to San Diego arrived regularly as the word spread. Our bartender and “sort of” maître ‘d Don Robertson often acted as Master of Ceremonies, announcing performers and filling numerous pitchers of beer meanwhile. Of course, some of these musicians became regulars at the ‘Bird.

In June, a reporter from the then-weekly Santa Barbara News and Review stopped by to sample the music and food and to interview Peter and his partner Joslyn Wellman. Click on the thumbnail to read the entire article and check out the photos.

Bluebird article June 1972

Bluebird article June 1972

———————>

To give you a glimpse of what it was like watching a show at the Bluebird, here’s a nine minute segment from a performance by The Floating House Band, Bobby Kimmel (of The Stone Ponies, Shep Cooke, and Kit Alderson – all regulars at McCabe’s Guitars in Santa Monica.
Remembering Rock And Roll . . . The Floating House Band

The Bluebird also had movie nights, Mondays or Wednesdays, where fans could drop by to watch classic films while having a burger and a beer,  Movies at the ‘Bird; 50¢

Movie flyer

Movies at the 'Bird, for 50 cents!

Bluebird Menu1

Menu

Bluebird menu 2

Here is the Bluebird, shortly after opening . . .  welcome!
Bluebird Café, staff and customer.

Bluebird Café, staff and customer. Click on photo.

Other Bluebird performances . . .

Peter Feldmann, Kajsa Ohman

Peter Feldmann &  Kajsa Ohman

 

 

 

Rovin’ Rambler.

Johnny Shines

Johnny Shines

 

Station Blues
Johnny played four days at my club, staying with me and my family
and attempting to teach me the ways of slide guitar playing, I admired
his patience. He insisted on watching his favorite show, Hollywood Squares, before packing up and heading for the club with me.

 

The original Bluebird was sold in mid – 1974 to “Robby and Lyle”, who kept the place going about 3-4 years longer. Nineteen years later, I opened a second iteration of the club, but it lasted only a year due to various complications, eventually becoming the current Soho music club. We did have a fine group of performers there, including Marley’s Ghost, who presented the following song one Sunday afternoon.

Fiddlers’ Green – Marley’s Ghost

 

Running the café involved endless work. I recall staying an hour after our closing time of 2:00 AM, only to have to return at 6:00 AM to get ready for the breakfast crowd. I couldn’t have done it without a lot of help from family and friends, including my wife Marianna, Tommy Chung, owner of Jimmie’s Oriental Gardens, who taught me a lot about running a restaurant, My first partner, Jocelyn Wellman, Jon Lazell, who built our amazing cylindrical speaker system with sixteen Bose speakers per column, driven by old Dynakit tube amps. Chris Strachwitz, DK Wilgus and Ed Pearl for connecting me up with wonderful musicians, craftsmen friends who designed, built, and installed fine redwood benches for our audiences, John McGibbon, who helped with electrical work, Gene McGeorge, who – besides fiddling with the Scragg Family, built our outdoor sign, and an anonymous porn film maker from LA who contributed to our stage lighting in exchange for a pitcher of beer.

I forgot the jukeboxes! We had three in operation simultaneously, which led to some confusing moments: A Rockola wall-mounted machine for 45s, A Seeburg 100-M, the first to play both sides of the 100 78’s it contained, and a Wurlitzer 700 machine from 1940,

Peter with Wurlitzer

Peter with Wurlitzer jukebox

which now graces the studios of BlueGrass West!. I remember the Ravi Shankar 45 singles I wore out from playing while moping the floors & bathrooms and washing glassware at 2:30 in the AM.

One thing I found strange: of course, many people mention the Bluebird to me after re-connecting after all these years, but puzzling that so many proudly recall crawling into my club on all fours, simply to avoid paying the cover charge – which was usually 50 cents! So, they loved my club, but went to considerable effort to cheat the musicians they were coming to see. A real study in the human psyche.

Thanks for reading this exploration of memory. If I think of anything more worthwhile to say, I’ll add a page for you. Comments welcome.

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Whiskey Flat – Jam Session 1965

Twin Fiddling

Del Baker and Dean Trammel, twin fiddles; Art Chambers, banjo Peter Feldmann photo

 

I drove up to Kernville (Lake Isabella CA) in February, 1965 to record a fiddle contest promoted by the local Chamber of Commerce. The event, held as part of Whiskey Flat Days, was held in a large circus tent seating about 300. Following the “official” contest proceedings, I spoke to several contestants and asked them to stick around if they could, and play more tunes for our recorders. Several of them agreed, and were joined by a couple of spectators that had brought instruments. I’d read some books on collecting techniques, but I had folklorist DK Wilgus with me (originally from the University of Westyern KY, now of UCLA, one of the best!), and he demonstrated to me how to remind our “informants” (what people as music sources are called) of songs and tunes they might know with minimal mental nudges. A small crowd had gathered as we began our journey of discovery . . .

Art Cambers of Tennessee

Art Chambers

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

We both agreed that Art Chambers, a two-finger stylist on the five string banjo was a special gem among the people there. Art had accompanied Fiddlin’ Van Cunningham in the contest, and he was rarin’ to go to demonstrate some of his  banjo showpieces.

BUCK CREEL GALS / 8TH OF JANUARY

Art, originally from Tennessee, had joined the navy as a lad, and wound up stationed in Pearl Harbor in Hawaii for many years. A very musical guy, he’d listened closely to several fine Hawaiian musicians, and had worked up this next tune in their honor.

HAWAIIAN MARCH

Art had a pleasant singing voice and put it to good use in this classic, then quickly added the notorious Cacklin’ Hen. Anyone spending any time around chickens will recognize them in this solo banjo showpiece.

BULLY OF THE TOWN / CACKLIN’ HEN

Del Baker, of Bakersfield added his verions of the tune Jack Of Diamonds, AKA Rye Whiskey, a waltz in open A tuning (AEAC#). Dean Trammel accompanied him on guitar.

JACK OF DIAMONDS

 

Dean Trammel, fiddle

Dean Trammel, fiddle
Peter Feldmann photo

Maiden’s Prayer, a fiddle showpiece popularized by Western Swing star Bob Wills, here performed by Dean Trammel, fiddle.

MAIDEN’S PRAYER

 

Art Chambers sings and plays Greenback Dollar (part of the East Virginina / Silver Dagger song family). He’s accompanied by Del Baker and Dean Trammel on fiddle and guitar. Someone, unfortunately, is stomping his foot here in a time signature known only to himself.

GREENBACK DOLLAR

 

I believe Art called this number Cripple Creek, but it has an unusual front end to it.

CRIPPLE CREEK ?

By this time, it was getting near midnight in the circus tent. The man in charge of the oil heating device had turned it off, and temperatures were dropping rapidly (we were up in the mountains, and it was near the end of February.) The generator operator had graciously provided power for us, but it seemed time to go. DK and I thanked everyone for sticking around. We got phone numbers, and packed up our recorders. I was invited back by both Art Chambers and Van Cunningham for further visiting and recording sessions. As I find them, I’ll try to post highlights.


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