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  • Tommy Thompson

4th Interlude: "Pat - In His Own Words" Pt. 1

Updated: Jun 29

"The two most important days of your life are the day you are born,

and the day you find out why."

- Mark Twain


I was born in Alameda, California - it was my first home - and lived there until I was about 16, then moved to Oakland in the Rockridge district. In Alameda I went to Edison for kindergarten and grammar school and Lincoln for 5-8th grade. Alameda was a bedroom community right out of Leave It To Beaver. There were a ton of kids in my neighborhood and Edison school was 3 blocks away.


We rode our bikes and collected snakes and lizards. At one point my best friend Mike Hanna had a 6 foot Boa. Thing would only eat about once a month.  We kept putting people rats in its cage and they would be running around the cage and eventually they would get names and we would get attached to the poor things and suddenly we had a huge rat collection.  The snakes and the rats had to go.

I was always interested in art and music.  After my Dad died (I was 11) I was lucky to have the coolest teacher at Lincoln School take me under his wing and give me extended art classes after school and would give me rides home in his convertible red Corvette.  His name was John Hagop. He was the best teacher I ever had.


I was also in the church choir. I was on the swim team for a couple of years but didn’t really care about it all that much. Played Pop Warner for a season and didn’t like that.


There was a lot of music in the house. My Mom did one-woman musicals and we would help edit tape and help put her shows together. One Uncle played piano and the other Uncle played the uke. They would have parties at our house and sing into the wee hours of the night. My parents and my Grandfather were very involved in the local theater, The Altarena Playhouse. My Grandfather was the president as well.  We spent many nights at their rehearsals in the theater..


My Mom loved jazz. She took us to a lot of jazz concerts.  She took me to see Ella Fitzgerald, Oscar Peterson, Duke Ellington, Count Basie at Jazz at the Philharmonic.  She also took us to see Buddy Rich and got us backstage somehow to meet him and get his autograph.  She took my brother and me to see Vince Giraldi in Sausalito. It was incredible.  On our way home we were driving through San Francisco and drove by The Avalon Ballroom.  Blue Cheer (known as the loudest band in the world) were playing.  She brought us in and it was fantastic.  My brother was so tired he fell asleep while they were playing. 


Although we listened to a lot of jazz and show tunes I quickly discovered rock n roll. Elvis first. The first single I ever bought was “Slow Twistin’ by Chubby Checker.  When it came on the radio I would try to sync up my record to the radio.  I have no idea why I did that. 


I have a million stories from my childhood but the most key one would be my sister was performing in the talent show at Lincoln school.  The last act on the bill was a student and his beautiful red sparkle Ludwig drum kit. He played along with the song, “Wipe Out”.  Something blew up in my brain.  It was the most exciting thing I had ever seen. The clouds parted for me.  I was only 11.  I walked home and was 3 feet off the ground on cloud nine.  I knew that all I wanted to do was play music for the rest of my life.



-Early Teen Years


I started smoking at round 12-13. My friend stole a pack of Tareyton’s and we coughed like crazy but we thought we were cool.  They were 25 cents a pack.  I remember saying I would quit if they ever went to one dollar a pack.  I started and quit smoking 20 times in my life.  I finally qave it up for good 23 years ago.


I first smoked weed at 14. My girlfriend Debbie Gibson (not the pop star) turned me on to it.  The first time I got drunk was on the last day of 8th grade. It was after school and my buddy Jeff Jones and I were hanging with my 19 year old brother in-law, Dave, drinking beer in a two seater van.  Jeff was riding on the engine in the center.  He tells Dave to pull over because he feels sick.  Then he dives for the window and missed and threw up all over me.  I sobered up real quick and didn’t drink again for a while. 


I don’t know how I avoided getting busted for drugs.  My buddy Jerry Isakson and I would take acid and roam around Alameda all night.  We were 14 at the time.  Crazy.

I did Reds once and got too messed up on them, so I didn’t really do that again.  Didn’t do coke till many years later when I was like 20…haven’t touched the stuff in decades.


I, like the majority of musicians of my generation on ­February 9th, 1964 was swept up into Beatle mania. I had just had the talent show “revelation” so it just heaped on how much I wanted to play music. I loved Mitch Ryder, Jimmy Smith, James Brown, The Zombies, Lou Rawls, Ray Charles, Kenny Burrell, Wes Montgomery and the list goes on.

-The Drumming Years 1966 - 1969


I didn’t play a lot of gigs before Cookin’ Mama. In my very first band I was playing drums.  These were the first guys I ever played with and we were called “The Young-uns” (I think that’s how it was spelled). Victor Maestas was the Ld singer and guitarist. Larry Perry was on bass. Bob Lefebvre-rhythm guitar.  We were learning how to play our instruments together.  I was one of the only ones who could sing so they made me the second lead singer. I never took myself serious as a singer.  I would usually do it out of a sense of obligation to whatever band I was in.


Tempo Music was the only music store in town.  The owners were like family to us.  My Mom rented a drum kit from them at first to see if I was truly into playing them.  When that’s all I did she agreed to buy me a drum kit.  There was this beautiful purple swirl Sonor kit at the store that I had been dreaming about.  She bought it for me.  Dream come true.


We did our first rehearsals at Bob’s house.  The living room was on the second floor.  They set my drums up in the bay windows that faced out to the street. I remember after playing for a while I turned around and there were a bunch of girls out on the lawn listening to us and waving.  I was like…I’m good with this!!


In the early days as a drummer, I loved Buddy Rich, Louie Bellson, Dino Danelli, Ringo, Mitch Mitchel, Grady Tate (“Walk On The Wildside”), Ginger Baker and of course John Bonham…and later on, Bill Bowen of the Sons Of Champlin.


The Young-un’s morphed into The Blues Cube.  As the drummer with The Blues Cube we played the Officers Club on Treasure Island a lot, and some Cub Scouts & Boy Scout events a couple of times a month.  We also played other local naval base gigs at the Enlisted Men’s clubs and watched drunk sailors making out with girls on the dance floor.  I was only 12 or 13. I remember thinking “how did I get here?”


I put together a new band. It didn’t even have a name yet. My Mom always had the bands rehearse at our house after I left the band with Bob Lefebvre. We would rehearse at my house at least 3 times a week. My poor Mom was a saint. She would come home from work and there would be a house full of musicians and loud music blasting from the basement and she loved it.  Incredible!!



-Learning Guitar 1969


The guys would leave their amps and instruments at my house so after hours I would play the guitar for fun.  It came so easy to me that I didn’t take it seriously. Drums were hard so I had to work at them. One day on a break I was fiddling around on one of the guitars and our flautist (yes we had a flautist) comes in the room and listens to me for a minute and then says “you’re better than our guitar player, why do you keep playing drums?”

That kinda woke me up and realized that I should start playing guitar full-time.  My Mom took the same path as the drums with my first guitar.  First she rented a Vox Wildcat from Tempo. Once I proved that’s all I wanted to do all day, she bought me an SG Standard and a Fender Super Reverb.  Wish I still had those bad boys.  My Mom was incredible!!


I quit that band and locked myself in the basement and started wood shedding.  I would practice day and night until I would fall asleep.  I would listen to records and try to emulate the solos.  I learned the minor pentatonic scale from Traffic’s Steve Winwood on “Mr Fantasy”. (In 1976, I played with Steve Winwood and got to play “Mr Fantasy” with him on stage and take the solos. It was one of the songs I had learned to play guitar to and there I was onstage with him doing it. I was hallucinating!!) I learned the major pentatonic scale from Traffic’s Dave Mason on “You Can All Join In”.


The first band I played guitar in was called “The Soul Agents”. I was the only white guy in the band. Our big song was called “Phase 5”.  We were kind of like Sly and the Family Stone. As a guitarist I think I only played one gig with the Soul Agents…The next band after that was “Cookin’ Mama”.

There were many guitarist whom I tried to emulate back then: of course Hendrix, Clapton, Page and Beck.  Also Mick Abrahams on the first Jethro Tull album “This Was”.  Then on one fateful night I went to the Fillmore with my sister. It was the first time I took acid. It was called Gold Acid.  It was cut with a bit of strychnine to help you hallucinate. The Sons of Champlin were playing and they changed my life that night.  They were all the artists I just mentioned all rolled into one band and they were all Bay Area hippies like me. Their first album became the benchmark for me.  I still listen to that album in awe.  Guitarist Terry Haggerty from The Sons of Champlin was a big influence.  Also I was a big Allman Brothers fan. 

My Dream guitar was a Gibson Johnny Smith with two pickups.  I wanted one because my hero Terry Haggerty played one. I eventually got an L5 and played that in Cookin’ Mama.


Growing up in the San Francisco Bay Area in the 60’s was such an incredible time.  Our local bands were all national acts. Sly Stone in the south bay.  Santana, The Grateful Dead and Quicksilver Messenger Service and many more in San Francisco. Tower of Power in Oakland. Janis Joplin and Big Brother and the Holding Company in Marin County.


These were the days when these bands loved doing free concerts in the park.  I was surrounded with live music. The Fillmore, Winterland, and Avalon Ballrooms had major acts every week.  Record companies were signing artists and bands that were unique.

There was a mini Renaissance in the music world happening back then in the late ‘60’s.  I have always considered myself very fortunate to have been there in the midst of it all…in that place…at that time…around those musicians.



-Cookin' Mama and Rags 1969 - 1973


Tommy Thompson came to my house and heard me play.  I had been playing guitar for less than a year but he asked me to join Cookin' Mama. I played with the band until I was around 19. There was a band from Berkeley named Rags.  We started doing gigs with them and kind of merged with them. Rags lead singer Kevin Charles and their keyboard player, Jesse Harms were on the Cookin' Mama album. Jesse takes a fantastic organ solo on the song What Will You Do and Kevin sang on several songs.


In the four or so years I was in Cookin' Mama I grew exponentially as a musician.  I learned how to be a band member and how to write songs (from Tommy) and to constantly improve as a musician. We got involved in a Christian ministry but left it when they tried to take control and censor our music and lyrics.  We traveled across the country in our van all the way to New York playing gigs along the way. I had never done that before.  It was amazing really seeing America for the first time.  Unfortunately on our way back to California we got in a horrible accident in Illinois that trashed our van.  It was a miracle we all survived. Tommy will write about this in detail in his section.


Shortly after we returned we recorded the album. It was a fantastic experience recording in the same studio and with the same engineer, Bruce Walford, as our heroes “The Sons Of Champlin." I think we did one more gig to support the album and then called it quits. 


I then joined the band Rags.  We played around the Bay Area but after a while we were going nowhere and were broke.  We got an offer from a guy that managed Top Forty bands.  We decided to do it and started doing covers songs in clubs that only used cover bands.  It was fun at first making money and hangin out in the clubs but within 6 months it starting wearing thin for me.  I could see the trap you could get caught in in the Top Forty circuit. Guys suddenly have regular money for the first time in their lives as musicians.


You buy a nice car, get a nice house, you can afford to take your girl to nice restaurants and concerts and next thing you know you have to support that lifestyle and poof, there goes your chances to have a career in the music industry because your playing five nights a week doing top 40.


I quit Rags and started playing with as many bands as I could in the Bay Area. There were very distinct music scenes in the Bay Area at that time and I tried to get in a band in each one of them. Oakland had Tower Of Power.  Berkeley had Eddie Money. The South Bay had Sly Stone.  San Francisco had Santana and bands like Quicksilver Messenger Service and The Electric Flag.  Marin County had The Sons Of Champlin and The Grateful Dead.  Each one of these bands had their own music scene around them with bands that were similar.   


A little sidenote here.  Somehow my brother and Rags' drummer Kim Plainfield both got auditions tor a new band that Neal Schon and Gregg Rollie were forming called Journey. I tagged along but I have no idea how that happened. It was the first time I met Gregg and Neal. Mingo Lewis was there as an advisor and that’s when Mingo heard Kim and hired him.



-Mingo Lewis 1973 - 1975


Kim Plainfield left Rags a month or so before I did for the same reasons.  He got a gig playing with ex-Santana percussionist Mingo Lewis. He asked me to join the band.  This was the door cracking open into the biz.  It was Latin-fusion with some incredible musicians.  The songs were fairly complex and extremely intense and energetic.  Playing with this band really elevated my chops. We rehearsed 5 days a week for a good part of a year. We only played a few gigs over that time.  One of them was a live broadcast from the Record Plant in Sausalito.  You can find it here:



I learned so much about Latin music playing with Mingo.  He was a tough bandleader but he whipped us into shape.  The band was so tight. There was something going on in the background that I was not aware of.  The bass player Brian Godula was good friends with the brother of Santana’s drummer Michael Shrieve. His name was Kevin and is a fantastic guitarist.  Brian would record a lot of the rehearsals and would play them for Kevin.  It turned out that Kevin really liked my playing.  He started transcribing my solos.  The Shrieve brothers were going to put a band together but Kevin recommended me and gave Michael a tape of some of my solos.  I had no idea that any of this was happening.



-Automatic Man 1975 - 1977


One day I was over at my girlfriends’ house and her Mother tells me someone is on the phone for me.  She says “ His name is Michael Shrieve”. I told her “tell my brother to stop messing around”.  She then says “he really needs to talk to you”.  I get on the phone and voice at the other end is a low mature voice, most definitely not my17 year old brother.  He says “hi Pat, this is Michael Shrieve.  I was wondering if you would like to come over to the house this weekend for a bit of a jam”. Of course I said yes. He told me to just bring my amp head and my guitar because he has speaker cabinets there. Got the directions (no GPS in those days).


I go over the next Saturday to his beautiful house that’s up on a hill in San Francisco with a spectacular view of the Bay Area.  He takes me downstairs to his home studio.  This was extremely rare in those days.  There are already musicians there.  He introduces me to keyboard player and singer Bayete "Todd'" Cochran, bassist David Rice and singer Alex Kash.  Michael says I can use an old Fender Bandmaster cabinet he has.


After a bit of chit chat we start jamming.  It slowly builds until we are at a fevered pace.  We are all digging in and it was exciting.  I’m taking a bit of an extended solo and I catch this feedback note that I hold on to for quite a while and I’m thinking this is going well.  Suddenly I can’t hear my guitar anymore.  Some of the guys start rushing towards me and I turn around and the speaker cabinet was on fire. Michael grabs a fire extinguisher and puts out the fire.  I look at him in shock and was getting ready to apologize and he says with a big smile on his face: “You got the gig!!”


We started rehearsing the next week but singer Alex Kash wasn’t there.  Turns out that Bayete’ would be the singer because he was the songwriter. They wanted to keep it as a quartet. More rock’ n roll I guess.


Michael was a very successful guy and was bank rolling the band.  It was amazing! We would go to music stores and he said buy what looks interesting to you and just return what you don’t want to keep.  Talk about feeling like a kid in a candy store.  He was incredibly generous but he looked at it as giving us all the tools we needed to explore new territory.

That was the mantra of the band: Discover “the new Shit”.


Our bass player was also a drug dealer to the stars.  One day he shows up to rehearsal and gives us each a sheet of blotter acid.  We would all take it at random times.  One night one of the guys took a couple of hits before going to bed. When he woke up in the middle of the night he was pretty freaked out and of coarse didn’t fall back asleep for the rest of the night. He never did that again.


It’s 1975.  We rehearsed and recorded everything 5 to 6 days a week for a good part of a year.  It was like a music lab.  Michael was developing the first electronic drums called Impact Drums. Bayete had one of the first four Oberheim synthesizers that was breaking ground with one of the first polyphonic synths.  I was using an Echoplex and the Roland Space Echo.  There is a technique by which you set the echo unit for an 1/8 note triplet and play 8th notes into it and it produces a sequencing effect.  As far as I know I was the first one to do this on any rock records. 

Many years later it became part of U2s’ The Edge signature sound.  I was not thrilled by that because I was doing it on the first Automatic Man album in 1976 five years earlier.  You can hear it on the songs “Automatic Man” and “Genie Genie”.


There was another technique I was doing with the echo set to an 1/8 note triplet where I would swell up each 1/8 note with the guitars volume knob and it and would sound like a violin playing fairly fast.  You can hear that on the song “Material Eyes” on the Pat Travers 1980 album, Crash and Burn. (more about Travers later) Eddie Van Halen did it on a track on the Diver Down album called “Cathedral”.  That was 6 years after Automatic Man. 

Like I’ve always said, it’s whoever gets famous first wins and Automatic Man didn’t sell anything close to what Van Halen and U2 did.  Ah well, that’s life.


We were rehearsing at S.I.R. in San Francisco. Bayete’ ran into Doni Harvey, an old school friend of his in the hallway and invited him in for a jam. Doni was playing guitar with his own band but played bass when we jammed.  He absolutely killed it.  It was like we added extra rocket boosters to the band.  After the jam and with a little bit of a discussion we hired him to play bass. Doni became my muse.  He was so inspiring.  His passion for music and playing was infectious. He brought the funk into the band and made the band more powerful. Doni died on June 6th 2011.  What a huge loss to his family, friends and to music.  

In late 1975 the legendary Chris Blackwell signed us to Island Records. The deal was tied to Michael doing a super group record at the same time: Stomu Yamashtas’  "Go” with Steve Winwood, Al DiMeola and Klause Schulze from Tangerine Dream.  It was decided that Automatic Man should record in London because Michael would be doing the “Go” album there at the same time.  I had never traveled out of the country so this was very exciting. 


In February 1976 we fly to London and the record company puts us up in one of the coolest parts of London: The Kings Road.  There was a shop just down the street called “SEX”. The people in the shop looked so bizarre to us with their ripped clothes and safety pin jewelry and wild exaggerated make-up.  We were still wearing bell bottom pants and platforms.  The Sex Pistols were created and managed by the owner, Malcolm McClaren.  One year later they would change music and fashion. 


After being in London for just a few days I got the flu or something.  Had me in bed for a couple of days or so.  Late one night Michael came into the apartment at around midnight.  He comes into my room and says “Do you want to meet Ginger Baker? (He played drums for Cream and Blind Faith and many others).  He’s in our kitchen.” I got out of bed and was introduced and I was completely blown away.  This guy was truly a rock god to me.  He was pretty drunk and grumpy.  I started to ask him about music and he cut me off saying he didn’t want to talk about music at all.  He takes me over to the window and points down to his Lotus Eclat and says “See those polo bats” (which I could see through his rear hatchback window).  “That’s all I want to talk about tonight." Seeing that I didn’t know anything about polo I bid everyone a goodnight and went back to my sick bed.


Michael had started working on the “GO” album before we started the Automatic Man recording. He called me from the studio and asked me if I wanted to play on a track. 

The song was like a Pink Floyd piece and required a big rock guitar sound for the chorus.  The guy they were using didn’t really know how to do that.


I went to Basing Street Studios. I walk in the control room and Michael introduces me to Steve Winwood. My mind is blown! Then introduces me to Paul Buckmaster who’s doing the string arrangements.  Mind blown again! I was a huge fan of Paul’s string arrangements on the David Bowie and Elton John records.  I had actually learned the orchestra parts on Elton's song “Mad Man Across The Water." I’m taken over to met Klaus Schulze, famed synthesizer genius from Tangerine Dream.  He had a huge wall of synthesizers the likes I had never seen.   


Michael was the first rock star I played and became friends with.  He opened the door for me into the music industry.  I will be forever grateful. 


…to be continued…

Pat performing with "Automatic Man" @ The Marquee Club in London - 1976

2024 Cook©in' Mama


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