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  • Tommy Thompson

7th Movement: "The Shark" "J-Doop" & Mrs. Fowler

Updated: Mar 16

“It's better to have something to remember than anything to regret.” -- Frank Zappa


In order to arrive at our first recording session in this story, I’m gonna have to ask y’all again for your patience here, folks. Cuz it’s important to set this all up correctly, k?

So, it’s time for another “Time Machine” journey.

Except this one will be only a short hop backwards to the start of the last section:

January, 1970.

“Praise the Lord with harp: sing unto Him with the psaltery,

and an instrument of ten strings.

Sing unto Him a new song; play skillfully with a loud noise”

-- Psalm 33: 2 – 3

Also around this same time period in early January 1970, Howie’s weekly fellowship meetings were continuing on in grand style. We were adding new members to our li’l group of Christian Evangelists and the teachings were diving more deeply into the messages conveyed via the Bible. Howie was still using the knowledge he’d gleaned from his time at Simpson Bible College.


Then, Howie heard about this new class that reportedly delved even more heavily into the Bible. It was called the PFAL class: “Power For Abundant Living.” The class was taught by a Bible scholar out of New Knoxville, Ohio: Dr. Victor Paul Wierwille. But, besides being taught in-person by Dr. Wierwille, the class was now also on video.


Which meant that you did not necessarily have to travel all the way

back East to Hicksville in order to see and hear it.

Howie took and completed the class. But, he decided to travel back to Ohio and take it at "The Farm" in New Knoxville. He wanted to see, hear and experience this whole thing first-hand and in-person. When he got back? He was completely psyched about all the new stuff he had learned.


So, of course, with Howie being my main influence regarding all things biblical, I signed up for the class the first time it was made available out here in the Bay Area on video. It was held at the home of Howie’s parents, Howard Sr. and Jane, down near Encinal High School on the West end of the island of Alameda.

The class really tied together oodles n’ oodles of verses in the Good Book. From both the Old and New Testaments. Combining his Biblical knowledge with that of Aramaic scholar George Lamsa, VP's class taught that the original Bible was written in Aramaic. Then, it had been translated into Greek via the Steven’s text.


The Catholic bible had been translated from Greek into Latin in 382AD by a monk named Jerome. Catholics then used this Latin version (called the “Vulgate”) to translate it once again into English in 1592 for their bibles.


On the other hand, Protestant Christians used -among others - the King James version which in 1611AD had also come directly from the Steven’s Greek texts.

Why is any of this important?

Well, Dr. Wierwille - who started “The Way Biblical Research Center” and appeared in the videos that taught the PFAL class - used some of the findings of George Lamsa and began researching all of these earlier texts that were still available in the 1950’s. The Steven’s Greek text was a fairly easy one to find. The older Aramaic texts? Not so much.


Nonetheless, he had discovered enough consistencies – as well as errors – between those two earliest versions to begin to put together a translation that would, as he always said:


“Fit like a hand in a glove. With a mathematical accuracy and a scientific precision.”


It was a huge undertaking. But, ol’ VP got ‘er done. And then he organized the stuff he’d found and learned, and put it all together in a logical progression. A progression that became the foundation for his PFAL class

VP Wierwille wrote a vast number of teaching books, as well as shorter pamphlets, on any number of issues which he felt needed to be addressed by Christians everywhere. Catholics and Protestants. As well as non-believers in Christianity. So, I will not be going into these subjects here in this story. It would just take way (no pun intended) too much time. If you’re curious about that kinda stuff? You can look up any and all of these writings online and read ‘em on your own.


It’s not rocket science. It’s Bible science. Trust me. You can do this yourselves.

But, for me? This class really brought about a major “Epiphany” moment in my young life as a renewed Christian. Some of the things I learned about from V.P. Wierwille literally saved my life on more than one occasion somewhere down the road. I will describe one of those occurrences in detail at the end of the “Ohio” section of our tale.


That is, after I finally get around to writing it. Jeez.

This damn story's turning into "War and Peace - The Sequel".


But, for now…just suffice it to say that I was more jazzed than ever

about my spiritual beliefs. But, most importantly, my love for God.


“The Heart has its reasons, that Reason knows nothing of.”

- Blaise Pascal


Well…how’s ‘bout the other guys in the band?

Were they all into this new PFAL class thing, as well? Just like you were?

Or.

Did they perceive you as some kind of a "Program Nazi?"

Read on, dear reader…

OK, so this is another instance in which I could slow down the action, possibly stall the truck, and maybe even begin to bore y’all to tears if I gave a blow-by-blow description of how things went with the other band members in regard to the PFAL class n’ such. But, here’s the short version of what I remember about the rest of the Cookin' Mama gang at this point in the story.

I believe that Pat and Paul – in no particular order – took the class next. Hey, I was pretty doggone zealous about this class back then, so I simply didn’t let up on ‘em.


Did they want to do it?


They’ll have to tell y’all about that for themselves at some future point in this tale. Ain’t really my place to try n’ make precise evaluations as to what really goes on inside anyone else’s head. Mind Reading was generally speaking not anything that was taught in the PFAL class as being available to Christians. Communication to and from God? Yes.


But, peeking inside another’s person’s brain was usually not one of the things

that God made available to us as Christians. Capisce?

In any case, once we had a 3-pc group of relatively like-minded PFAL believers, the rest of the band eventually joined into the fray as well. Steve, Vince, Kathy, Lou and Pres were the last ones to take the class. And Terry refused to go thru the class all together. As did Jesse Harms, who had just joined our road crew.


Thus, I do remember that not everyone in the band joined in with equal amounts of glee, much less, commitment. But, that’s a whole other story..


There will, however, be some stuff just a bit later on which will

probably completely blow y’all out of the water.


Ahh, Twick. Ya big tease.


So, that’s all gonna have to wait for the moment. What is important to know right now in regards to Cookin’ Mama’s first recording session is this. Howie had previously been in contact with another PFAL grad who lived over in Marin County by the name of Jim Doop (pronounced "Dop").. And ol’ Jimmy had started up his own fellowship meetings over on that side of the bay.

And so - finally - here is how all of this aforementioned stuff relates to us

getting our butts into a real recording studio with a real producer and a real engineer.


"The Shark" & "J-Doop"


"I’ve learned from my dealings with Johnny Carson that no matter what kind of friendship you think you have with people you’re working with,

when the chips are down it’s all about business”

-- Joan Rivers


Jim Doop had a connection to a guy in the music biz named Larry Sharp. Sharp managed and was producing a new band called: “The Jerry Hahn Brotherhood.” Jerry Hahn was already a very well-respected and accomplished jazz guitarist. Accolades galore. The drummer in his band was George Marsh. The bass player was Mel Graves. Two other monster players in the world of jazz music. Their keyboardist/vocalist, on the other hand, was a young guy out of Wichita, Kansas by the name of Mike Finnegan. And Finnegan had also brought out a songwriter buddy of his from Wichita named, Lane Teitgen.


Sharp told Doop that he already had Jerry’s band signed to a big record contract with Columbia Records. $100,000 deal. Which was huge for the times. But, that he was also looking for more local SF area bands to record and get signed to labels, as well.

For us, it was once again one of those many instances where the timing of everything

just simply fell into place. All at once.

As soon as Doop had heard the reviews of how our show with Elvin Bishop at Keystone Korner had gone the night before, he immediately called up Sharp the very next day. He told him all about us and how the previous night’s gig with Elvin had totally kicked ass. Larry said that he was interested, but that he wanted to hear our band in a “live” setting.


ASAP.


Jim called us back and asked when and where we were performing next. We explained to him that we were booked for the next 2 nights, on April 8th & 9th, @ “The Lion’s Share” in San Anselmo. Then we had a Way Ministry Dance at a Marin High School on Friday the 10th. And then on Saturday the 11th there was an afternoon show at Provo Park in Berkeley, followed by an appearance back at “The Lion’s Share” that same night.

Hence, we figured that with all of these back-to-back shows coming up, the best bet would be to have Larry come out to our Saturday night show @ “The Share.” That way we’d have had a ton of “live” shows freshly under our belts. We’d already be warmed up from the afternoon gig @ Provo Park. And we’d be ready to explode by the time our nighttime show came around in San Anselmo.


Doop agreed with all of this. Called Sharp. Sharp said he’d be there on Saturday night and that he'd ride in with Doop.. And our plan was set in stone.

We were jumpin’ thru hoops and shoutin’ “Glory” all week long. Every show got better than the one before it. We all knew that by Saturday night we’d be totally rockin’ & ready to answer the bell when it rung.

Saturday arrived. Provo Park was magical for us that day. Band smoked. Albeit we had a bit of a tight time schedule to get our gear packed up after the show in Berkeley and skedaddle our butts over the San Rafael Bridge into Marin County and the city of San Anselmo. But we got to “The Lion’s Share” in just enough time to get set up and do a quick sound check.



"You only get one chance to make a good first impression."

- Dale Carnegie

First set was killer. Howie Hammerman - the club’s sound man & already one of our best new music biz buddies - knew from our previous 2 performances earlier that week how to mix us to perfection. Even got an encore at the end of our set.


So we then hauled our collective butts backstage to meet Larry Sharp in-person and see how he liked what he’d heard and seen. With Doop & Kathy there, as well, to help smooth over any potential rough spots.


No need to elaborate on this meeting. Main thing to know is that Larry really liked the band. He wanted to work with Kathy on booking more shows. But most importantly to us 6 Mamas: he wanted to produce a demo tape for us. In a real studio. With a real engineer. And with him producing. Man alive in ‘65! Life was just completely over-the-top for us after hearing all that good news.

But, there was more.

Larry wanted a few of us Mamas to see his main band, "The Jerry Hahn Brotherhood," perform in a “live” setting. We asked him: “When?” He replied: “Tomorrow afternoon.” Huh? Yep. Larry invited Pat, Paul and me to come over to “The Trident” restaurant in Sausalito the very next day as his personal guests. Jerry Hahn n’ the fellas were going to be doing a short “showcase” set of tunes off of their upcoming album for some of the record company heavies from Columbia Records.


We could eat like kings. Drink like fish. Smoke herb until we spun.

Get a chance to listen to Jerry’s band.

And - meet the band members.

Am I hallucinating? No? Wow! We thanked Larry and told him we’d be there.


“Be yourself; everyone else is already taken.”

― Oscar Wilde

Back in 1970, Sausalito was one of the ritziest & hippest home addresses for a person to have in the Bay Area. Or, if ya couldn’t afford to live there? Then it was still one of the hippest towns to visit in Marin County. Right on the water of San Francisco Bay. Huge yachts and sail boats moored at a number of very upscale marinas. As well as a large number of tricked-out houseboats that some folks called “home.”


It was just north of the Golden Gate Bridge, and the views from the shoreline and the many restaurants and bars which lined it were spectacular. Alcatraz. Angel Island. Red Rock. The Golden Gate and Bay Bridges. And, of course, sitting over to one’s right: The entire skyline of San Francisco’s downtown area. A truly lovely setting it was, dear reader.

“The Trident” was one of Sausalito’s most classy n’ fancy water front restaurants. Plus, it sat more towards the south end of town. Which meant that it had one of the best and most unobstructed views of all that I have mentioned above. The restaurant was for the “beautiful people” of Marin. A place to see and be seen. Particularly on these Sunday all-afternoon-long lazy brunches.

Larry had reserved three booths right by the huge 20 foot tall glass windows that looked out upon the bay. One huge booth for him and Jerry's boyz. And girls. One adjoining large booth for the Columbia Records Heavyweights. And their "escorts." And a slightly smaller one for the three of us.


The band’s gear was squeezed into a corner area just to the left of our booths. Somehow they had managed to get Finnegan’s Hammond B-3 organ and Leslie 122 speaker cab into the joint and positioned so that the rest of the band members could perform without having to rub elbows. Or poke each other in the eye with their guitar headstocks.

We ate, drank and oogled the large gaggle o’ gorgeous “weekend hippie” rich-girl slinky chicks who had staked out spots all around the restaurant. Their Hippie Chic clothing was exquisite, as were their looks. Man, what a bunch of good lookin’ women. And all in one place. Sheesh!


‘Course, just like it was at the Keystone Korner, as members of the audience we would’ve never gotten past the restaurant’s version of “Bluto” cuz of our ages…had it not been for Larry vouching for us as being some kind of “wunderkinder” musical child prodigies. Or some such hooey that he had made up on the spot in order to get us in the door and seated.

And served booze.


Hey, it’s not what you know, it’s who ya got doin’ it for ya. Right?

Rock on, Larry “Don Corleone” Sharp!


“Talking about music is like dancing about architecture.”

-- Steve Martin

Finally, the Jerry Hahn Brotherhood started their showcase set. Guess I was expecting to hear some kind of soft-jazz quartet stuff. But these guys came out sounding less like a Wes Montgomery foursome, and more like our old 4-pc Cookin’ Mama onslaught.


Jerry had apparently just recently fully embraced loud guitar amplifiers. As well as the sounds of the Arbiter Fuzz Face distortion pedal and a Vox Wah-Wah pedal (used by Jimi Hendrix, Clapton and others). All the time still playing with his usual soloing technique. Which employed using almost exclusively 32th notes as his basis. In other words, he played really, really fast. And used a lot of notes most of the time. Non-stop.


Nonetheless, it was indeed very fiery and impressive guitar playing.

But, as much as I was somewhat of a guitar player myself - and I wanted to listen to Jerry, as well as George the drummer and Mel the bass player - I just couldn’t keep my eyes or ears off of Mike Finnegan. His voice reminded me of our hero, Bill Champlin - as well as our newest hero - Gregg Allman. Ditto his Hammond organ chops.


Except now at this gig I could leave our booth get up really close to Finnegan and watch what he was doing to coax that beast into making sounds the likes of which I had never heard before from any organ. Much less a Hammond B-3 organ. He’d be singing his ass off on one of Lane Teitgen’s tunes, while at the same time doing this thing with the organ’s drawbars.


OK. The “what?”

Very quickly here, the drawbars on a Hammond organ were designed to mimic the sounds produced by different lengths & widths of pipes used on traditional Church organs. If your congregation couldn’t afford a real pipe organ? Then, you used you Sunday collection box contributions from your followers, and bought a Hammond organ. And a cabinet with 2 rotating speakers made by a company called “Leslie.”


But, then gospel and blues and jazz and rock organists started to expand on how this organ could be played and employed in their styles of music. And the sounds that could be squeezed out of it and the rotating Leslie speakers.

Pulling out higher drawbars, basically brought out higher frequencies (think: “treble control” on your home stereo). Ditto for the “bass” sounds from the lower drawbars. But, if you continually brought out some drawbars, while pushing back in others at the same time? Then, you got this really cool timbre effect. It was like the sound was snaking it’s way all over the frequency spectrum. This technique was called "morphing." It was totally badass.


And Finnegan was a master at doing it.

The Jerry Hahn Brotherhood finally finished their set. Which ended up completely kicking butt. Pat, Paul and I were all absolutely floored. These dudes were not only polished professional musicians, they were also guys who really took chances with their music. The improv stuff between all the members during Jerry’s solos was crazy-good. Sorta like a 4-piece version of what we'd already heard and seen at the Don Ellis gig. Powerful music.


So, after allowing them some time to chill out after playing, Larry escorted us 3 Mamas over to meet the band members. It was a nice gesture on his part. But…I’m kinda remembering the whole thing like it was as if these much older musicians – that is, everyone except Finnegan who was only about 4 years older than Paul – sorta thought that Larry was introducing them to some young kid autograph-seekers. Or perhaps his nephews.


Or three recently discovered bastard sons.


When he told them that we had a band, and that we were going to be his next recording project – it got really, really quiet. We weren’t yet mature adults, but we also weren’t anyone’s fools. So, we just politely shook hands and did a hasty retreat back over to our own booth. Where we then waited to see what, if anything, was going to happen next.


“Eighty percent of success is showing up.”

-- Woody Allen


Once Larry had gotten the bands' pay, said goodbye to the record company Illuminati, organized the road crew for load-out, and adequately schmoozed the club owner, he headed over to our table. We just figured it was now time to thank him again for a great day, his many kind gestures, all the free goodies, and to finally bid him a fond “adieu.”


But, apparently that wasn’t yet on the evening’s menu.


Larry told us that now that the gig was done, he wanted to continue to talk with us. OK. Sounds good. When? Where? And how? So, he asked us if we wanted to follow him over to his place and chat more at length about our band, our music and the music biz in general. As well as a whole bunch of other stuff he rattled off in rapid machine gun fire.


Keep the party goin’? Hell, yeah!

So, he told us that he’d lead the charge back to his pad and we'd continue on into the night.

Oh. And, where was his “pad”?

He told us we were goin’ to Tiburon.



“People say that money is not the key to happiness. But I always figured if you have enough money, you can have a key made.”

--- Joan Rivers

Y’all should know the following. As I have already stated, back in those days – as it is now – Sausalito was very much a town of rich folks. Hey, nothin’ wrong about workin’ hard and livin’ good, ya know? However, there were two other towns just to the north of Sausalito that were even more ritzy: Tiburon and Belvedere. Belvedere was at the top of the heap. Tiburon just below it.


Trying to keep up with Larry’s brand-new Mercedes “Producer Car” was a wee bit difficult for us 3 Mamas who were cruisin’ in Paul’s 1962 VW bug – nicknamed “The White Rhino.” The “Rhino” was a very cool ride. Mostly cuz it was a rag-top convertible. Nonetheless, cool rag-top or not, it was still only a 4-cylinder putt-putt at best. Paul had to completely floor it so that we wouldn’t get lost in the dust of Larry’s ride.


All the way to Tiburon. And “Chez Sharp.”

“Time you enjoy wasting, was not wasted.”

- John Lennon

Finally arrived. Parked our “Rhino.” And followed Larry into his lair. Man, what a palace! Cathedral ceilings. Hip furniture. Cool paintings and posters on the walls. Mood lighting that vastly exceeded our li’l Rockwell Rehearsal Room stuff. Circular staircase up to the 2nd and 3rd levels. Killer stereo. And an even more killer view of the north SF Bay from his 30’ high glass living room windows which fronted the water.


Larry settled our asses in on cushy chairs n’ sofas, and then retreated upstairs for a few minutes. While he was temporarily gone, we just gawked at each other and mouthed words back n’ forth, such as: “Are ya kiddin’ me?” “How cool is this”? “Wonder if he’s got any more of that pot?” And such.

Our host finally bounded back downstairs. Sparked up a gargantuan joint. Passed it around. Asked his Ethiopian valet, “Rosebury,” to please bring us some beers n’ macadamia nuts. And then threw on some music. “The Low Spark of High-Heeled Boys” by Traffic came blasting out of the best stereo system any of us had ever heard.


Larry let the weed & the music & the beer & the nuts kinda all sorta nuzzle in for a while to properly anesthetize us. Then he turned the music down really, really soft. And began what we would soon learn to recognize as being one of his many long-ass monologues in re the music biz.


Hey, long-ass or not, this guy was just mesmerizing to listen to. Larry was simply one of those charismatic dudes who exuded excitement, knowledge, humor, and a boatload of confidence in what he was selling.


And what he was selling on this particular night was something that involved Cookin’ Mama.

Larry reiterated in more detail the things he had mentioned the night before while backstage at our “Lion’s Share” show. He wanted to immediately start working with Kathy on how and where to book more gigs. Including doing some opening act slots for “The Jerry Hahn Brotherhood.” And he wanted us to keep writing more original songs.


But, most importantly, at least in our minds: He wanted to start looking at a time for us to record a demo tape. In a pro studio. Working with a pro engineer. And with him producing the session. As such, he wanted us to pick our 3 or 4 best tunes. Rehearse ‘em to a point where we were damn near ecstatic about the way they were arranged and sounding And, then....

And then?

Well. We’d just see how things developed.

Hmm.

I have since learned - over the many subsequent years after this particular night - that anytime a producer or manager gives you one of these types of “I’m gonna make you all famous” sales pitches? It’s usually just all bullshit. Nonetheless, even if what we had just heard from Larry was only bullshit?

At least it was sounding like very, very good bullshit.

It was now sometime well after 10pm. It had been a long day for us. And, we’d already had a long week of gigging. Including a double-header the day before. So, by this time in the nights’ festivities Larry’s pot, which we later came to call “Producer Dope,” had totally taken its toll on our brains. Hell, Larry could’ve probably talked any or all of us into just strippin’ buck naked and goin’ skinny-dippin’ in the Bay right then and there.


But thankfully, one of us – probably Paul cuz he was the Mama who always had a better head for business than the rest of us – stood up and gave me n’ Pat “the eye.” Paul then began slowly herding our trio of stoned-out musicians towards the front door. All of us giving copious thanks to Larry for his hospitality along the way.


As we then marched out the door of his castle, crossed over the moat,

and leisurely strolled our way out into the starry Tiburon night.



“Believe in yourself, and the rest will fall into place.”

- Billy Martin

We 3 Mamas were all going completely batshit-nuts on the drive home. Kept remembering and repeating back and forth to each other everything that we’d just heard. And seen. And experienced. And imbibed, and ingested and inhaled.


I got up the next day and called the other band members to let ‘em know all the good news. After hearing all of it, Vinnie, Lou n’ Steve were as completely pumped up as we other 3 Mamas were.


Next I called Kathy. But, her line was busy. Gotta remember this is 1970. There t’weren’t no cassette recorder phone answering machines back then. Nor call waiting. Much less, any cell phones, k? Finally, the phone at my folks’ house rang. It was Kathy. I started in blabbering away with everything I’d just told the other Mamas….when she suddenly interrupted me.

And said:


“I’ve been back n’ forth on the phone with Larry for most of the morning. He and I have already begun working on getting the band some new gigs.”

It was beginning to look like Larry’s bullshit was, in fact, very, very good bullshit, after all.


“The race is not always to the swift, nor the battle to the strong. But that’s the way to bet.”

-- Woody Allen via Hugh E. Keough

Larry had an immediate impact on our "live" gigging schedule. And he was already mentoring Kathy on what he called: “working the phones.” Later on I got the opportunity to watch him in action while he was doing this.


Allow me to elaborate on that for just a minute.


Unlike most households at the time, Larry had 3 separate phone lines at his pad. He’d have a record company guy on one call. Put him on-hold. Answer a second call from a club manager. Get back to the record guy. Pick up a third line and figure out how soon he could bring over some dope for someone in “The Brotherhood.” And then juggle in new calls immediately after just finishing up one or two of the current ones. On & on & on & back & forth it went. For hours. The guy was simply a pre-cursor to the “Energizer Bunny.” Talk about multi-tasking. Man, it was absolutely awesome to behold.

So, going back to this same Monday afternoon, I had begun to start reviewing in my mind all that had just happened to and for us. My goodness! We had just completed our second "Trifecta."


Numero Uno: Saturday night at “The Lion’s Share," and meeting Larry Sharp. Who had dug our band.


Numero Dos: Sunday - only one day ago - had gone great at both The Trident and at the after-party inside the walls of “Chez Sharp.”


Numero Tres: And now today - Monday - I’d already talked with Kathy. Had gotten her complete report in regards to her and Larry’s many positive business conversations earlier in the day. Had called up everyone else and told ‘em all about this new wrinkle for band bookings. As well as our impending demo tape recording. And all the rest of the latest good news for Cookin’ Mama.

Then everything really started flying at warp speed.

BOOM. BOOM. BOOM.


So, before I could even crack open the days’ first beer, Kathy called back. Again. And informed me that we were going to be opening up for “The Jerry Hahn Brotherhood” the very next night: Tuesday, April 14th. And. It was going to be a 3-nights-in-a-row type of engagement. Tuesday thru Thursday.


After picking up the beer bottle I had just dropped on the floor, I once again got on the horn and alerted the gang as to this latest miracle in our young careers.

So, at which club were we a’gonna be performing with Jerry’s Boys?

And where was is located?

“Mandrakes.” On University Ave. In Berkeley.

“Without deviation from the norm, progress is not possible.”

-Frank Zappa

“Mandrakes” was basically at the same high level of notoriety as was Keystone Korner in SF. The Korner being the joint where we’d just played our first-ever nightclub gig along with Elvin Bishop only a little more than a week earlier. Except there was this one li’l ol’ difference between the venues:


Keystone Korner was a nightclub which catered to a variety of different musical styles:

Jazz, Blues, and R&B..


“Mandrakes,” on the flip side of that coin, was a stone-cold Jazz venue.


As such, these audiences @ "Drakes" were probably not going to be very open to some of our more – how should I phrase this? Psychedelic-Jazz-Rock-meets-Hippie-Dippy-Stoner music. Ohhh, boy. This was going to be yet another gigantic test for us. The good news was that these 3 upcoming gigs would be such that we'd only be performing one 45 minute opening set of music - with "The Brotherhood" finishing off the night with 2 sets of their own.


Even so, we would still need to scour through our entire current song list. And come up with one 45 minute-long set of whatever the hell it was that we already did which could possibly even qualify as “Jazz.”


And we needed to do it quickly. As in: TODAY.


“Win any way you can as long as you can get away with it.”

-- Leo Durocher

Everyone in Cookin’ Mama was ecstatic on this fateful Monday in our story. In spite of the fact that we were all pretty fried out from everything that had occurred over the past 7 days of non-stop giggin’ ‘n schmoozin’. However, by this time it was now mid-afternoon. The day was moving on. And so fried out or not, we realized that it was imperative for us to have an 11th Hour rehearsal that very night up at "Studio Maggi.” So that we could glue together some kind of a jazzy-sounding set of our tunes.


And not end up stepping all over our own collective dicks the next night

while onstage @ “Mandrakes” with Jerry.


And with the kind of audience he'd be attracting to the show.

Over in Jazz Land.

We all knew the immensity of this latest opportunity that had fallen right into our laps. And, as per our now fully-employed new level of commitment to our musical careers, we wanted to make the absolute most of it.


So, rehearsal was set for 6pm @ Rockwell. Maggi - just as she always did - understood our situation and agreed to this nighttime high jinx. Hence, she would fend off any complaining neighbors and/or cops who showed up. We told her that we’d try our best to keep the rehearsal as short as possible. And to put a lid on the volume.


At least, somewhat.

Rehearsal went well. Even though we were all pretty much runnin’ on fumes. We had “Feel Good” in the repertoire. Time signature changes galore, etc. Cool. And then. And then. Hmm. We had already sorta pretty much run out of jazz ammo after that.


So, we then decided that we’d do a longer version of “Feel Good.” Hell, the song was already about 9 minutes long. But, so what? There were still some spots for more improvisational soloing madness within the 11/8 sections. Kinda like what Jerry and the guys did. And, after all, this was going to be thrown at a jazz aficionado audience anyway.


And they might actually dig it.

We added in another hip and slightly-jazzy instrumental we’d just written entitled: “The Doris Day Song.” Albeit, we would not be announcing the title of this tune before playing it. Duh. And then we’d turn our attention to “Out the Door.” With a longer outro jam before returning to the barn and puttin’ it to bed. We had a version of “Stay Free Inside” which could also be extended at the end behind Pat’s very hip and already jazzy-sounding guitar solo.

And then, to finish off our 45-minutes of fame, we’d do an extended version of the already epically-long: “The Love Suite.” Frilly opening lyrics and all. And just try to hang in there long enough in order to get our asses to Vince’s drum solo near the end of the tune. Vinnie’s solo we all figured - as it had always done in the past – would save the day for us.


Should it actually need saving.


And if we did end up being a few minutes short of 45 minutes?

No problema, amigos.


I would more than likely need those minutes just to try n' keep my damn guitar in tune.



If you're not failing every now and again,

it's a sign you're not doing anything very innovative.”

-Woody Allen


The following night, Tuesday, arrived. The overall vibe from the Jerry and his guys at the gig was somewhat frigid, to say the least. A wee bit of a downer for us. Nonetheless, since we were striving to become professional musicians, we just kept our cool and were polite to them. But, no ass-kissing. That t’ain’t ever a good idea when trying to gain some semblance of respect from other musicians. Or anyone else, for that matter.


Good news was that Larry was incredibly upbeat to us during any of the times that he was around us. Dishing out encouraging words. Laughter. Slaps on the back. Jokes. Secret hippie hand shakes.

And. Of course. "Producer Dope."

Once again, as in other earlier parts of this story, it’s not really necessary for me to describe that first nights’ opening set at “Mandrakes” in any real detail. Did it go great? Not exactly great, no. Did you get an encore? Nope. None that I remember. Well then, what was good about it…if anything?


I guess the good thing was that we did get some applause from the crowd. An official Jazz Crowd. OK. That’s kinda good. We didn’t suck or anything like that. Or get booed. Cool. We didn’t get fired. Good to know. Had survived the test. That’s even better. Had lived to play another night. C’mon, baby! And now we had some new ideas in our heads about how to make the second night better than what we had already just thrown out there.


Now you’re talkin’ real dope, Dale Carnegie.


“Guests, like fish, begin to smell after three days.”

-- Benjamin Franklin

Each of the next two nights went better than the one before it. Progress, boys. Progress. And by the end of the third night? The crowds were starting to dig us more n’ more. We were even beginning to leverage our way into Jerry and the rest of his band mates. As well as his rather exclusive inner circle of record company dudes, groupies, wanna be’s & band hanger-on's. Finnegan was the easiest band member to be around. Prob’ly cuz he wasn’t that much older than we were.


Nonetheless, always remembering the first rule of diplomacy:

“Stop while you’re ahead,” we didn’t try to push our newly found advantage too far.


So, we thanked Larry. Said goodnight to him, “The Brotherhood,” and their tribe-following. Departed “Mandrakes” with our gals, our crew, our gear, and each other. And headed back to Pat’s for a quick downstairs chat and a celebratory night cap.


And the two extra joints of "Producer Dope" that Larry had slipped us just before we left.

.

“I was talkin’ with a few of the guys at the bar during our break.

They asked me: “Where are all the women?”

I told ‘em: “Don’t worry, they’ll be down in a minute.

They’re all upstairs shaving.”

-- Bill “Willie” Carpenter – Band Leader of “The Great White Hope"

(An exact quote of what ol' "Willie" said to the audience from the stage one night in 1977 while our Top 40 '70's Funk band was gigging at a

Country/Western Cowboy bar in Vallejo, CA)


We went back out giggin’ the very next night and throughout the rest of the months all the way up until early August. What occurred on August 17th will fight its way to our story in a big way. In just a scoothchie from now. Be patient, dear reader. But, up until that fateful date, we played at some of the other new clubs that both Kathy and Larry had just recently managed to wrangle into our booking stable.

We were now performing at “The Matrix” over in SF. Including a 2 night back-to-back with Charlie Musselwhite. And in Berkeley at “The Longbranch" and “Babylon.”


As well as at Berkeley's “The New Monk” (another Jazz-only venue).

Once again with “The Jerry Hahn Brotherhood."

We returned for a number of performances at “Keystone Korner” opening for:

“Boz Scaggs.” “Mike Bloomfield & Nick Gravenites.” “Jimmy Witherspoon.”

“Mike Finnegan" (Mike doin' his very cool n' soulful solo band thing).

“The Rhythm Dukes” (which included Bill Champlin and Jerry Miller from "Moby Grape").

“The Jerry Hahn Brotherhood.”


And. “The Charles-Ford Band.”

With a young Robben Ford on guitar.


(Much later on in the early ‘90’s, Robben’s band opened the show at “The Great American Music Hall” in SF for “Gregg Allman & Friends.” While I was in Gregg’s band as his piano player. And Pres was GAF's drummer. Then in the early 2000's, Robben also did a short stint on guitar with GAF as well. But, by that point, I had just been fired from the band after being with ol' Gregory for 11 years. And Pres was gone too).


Hmm. The music biz is kinda funny that way, don’tcha know, dear reader.

Ya just sorta end up seein' some of the same people on your way up,

that you see on your way down.


Y'all do know all about that, Julius Caesar, don'tcha?

And, of course, we continued to work over in Marin County @ Mike Considine’s club in San Anselmo: “The Lion’s Share.” A lot. Including shows with: “John Lee Hooker.” “Big Brother and the Holding Company.” “Dr. Hook and the Medicine Show.” "Finnegan & Woods," “Linda Tillery” (w/ Tom Coster on Hammond & pumpin' pedal bass). And a ton of other very cool acts.


It was also here at “The Share” where we first met horn player, Paul Trousdale, who was the band leader of “Indian Puddin’ n’ Pipe.” We did a bunch of engagements with them cuz our bands seemed to really complement each other musically.


Paul Trousdale later came onboard in early ’72 to join “our Paul" in the “Cookin’ Mama” horn section for the recording sessions on our “New Day” album.


Kathy also finagled a way to book us up in South Lake Tahoe, CA.

We did a number of opening slots at Jim Burgett's "Fun House."

Which was a very cool giant indoor venue with a huge stage,

full-on pro PA system, and a killer onstage lighting system.


We did shows there with:

"Tower of Power," "Country Weather," & "Frumious Bandersnatch."


And, it was up there at "The Fun House," where we first met and performed with "Rags."

Featuring Kevin "Charles" Smith on Lead Vocals and Jesse Harms on Hammond B-3.

Both of whom later on also recorded with us on our 1972 "New Day" album.


Hey. Networking really does work. Ain’t it so, Ross Perot?


Plus. Cookin’ Mama got asked back again to play at “Mandrakes.”

Yay!


There is one other anecdotal story that I’d like to insert at this point.

It involves our main musical hero:

Bill Champlin.

“The best way to cheer yourself up is to try to cheer somebody else up.”

-- Mark Twain

We were playing our first-ever show over in SF at “The Matrix.” It was on an early week day off-night. A Monday or a Tuesday or something like that. To say that the joint was empty would be a gross understatement. Man, we had never before – on any night, including a week day off-night - experienced anything at all like this brand of no-audience desolation. Maybe it was because we were the only band on the bill. Who knows?


In any case, we were just beginning our last set. When the clubs’ front door flew open and in charged Bill Champlin himself. By himself. He looked up at the band. Scouted the “audience.” And then made a beeline straight to the club owners office.

Set ended. Paul and I went back to the office to get paid. Champlin was sitting in a chair chatting with the owner. Owner was remarkably calm about the nights’ lack of customers. He even told Paul and I that he liked what he’d heard and that these kinds of bad nights just happen sometimes. OK. That was good to hear.


Guy then pushed our cash for the night over the tabletop towards us. We counted it. $12. Total. Paul and I didn’t complain at all. But we were really embarrassed by the fact that our hero, Bill Champlin, was there to see and hear all of this. Hell, we’d never even met the dude before. Arghh!


At this point, it had gotten kinda quiet in the room. And then Champlin leaned forward in his chair towards Paul and me and said…and I quote:


“Don’t worry ‘bout it too much guys. First time “The Sons” played here…we only made $7.”

Badda-bing Badda-boom!

Man, everyone started laughing their damn asses off at that one. The tension that we 2 Mamas had been feeling just prior to that immediately evaporated. What a cool story for him to tell in that situation. Bless your heart, Brother Bill. Had a little small talk with Champlin and the owner. Can’t remember for the life of me about what. And then we thanked both of them and split back to the stage.


“Alright. It’s almost 2am. You don’t have to go home, but you can’t stay here.

If you don’t work here. And you’re not in the band. And if you’re not goin’ home with me.

Then, get the hell out.”

-- Ron Carter, door man at "The Crown & Anchor Pub" in Alameda.


On my way over to my amp I saw this guy sitting down behind a beaten up spinet piano over in the corner. Just plunkin’ away some old blues tune or something. Went over to listen. He looked up. It was Jerry Miller from “Moby Grape.” He clomped down a few more riffs. Picked up his glass of draft beer. Took a slug from it.


And then said (and here I’m paraphrasing):


“Ya know. This is my favorite time of night in a club. Audience has gone home.

Bartenders n’ waitresses are cleaning stuff up. Band is packin’ up gear. It’s quiet.

And I can just sit down here behind this old piano and play whatever I want…

...and drink my beer.”

Over the years since then? It has also become my favorite time of night in clubs.


The "after-hours" hang.

.


“The other day I…uh…no, that wasn’t me.”

-- Steven Wright

By now we had also begun the habit of coming up with silly li’l nicknames for everyone in the band. Pat was “Putt Trails.” Paul was “Jazzbo Junkins.” Vince was “Bunce Palomino.” Lou was “Louie the Lip" (which Paul had already hung on him a year or so earlier). Steve was “Stevie Squeak.” And I was “Tommy Twick.”


‘Course, we abbreviated these nicknames all over the place. "Putt." "Jazzbo." "Twick." "Bunce." "The Lip." "Squeak." And later on we even added in more new sobriquets for each other as the ideas came flashing into our brains.


Or whatever it was that qualified as brains for us back then.


"Wally Wiggle" and "Patty McThrall" for Pat. "Tommy McThompson" for me. And, "Pinky." for Paul. Though he hated that one. So we stopped using it. Right, "Pinky"?

Plus, we had some nicknames for others in our close band circle of friends ‘n family. Pres was now officially in our road crew. He was nicknamed “Peenie” (don’t ask). That’s a whole other story I'll get to later on. Jesse Harms was now helping us out in our road crew, as well. Even though he was probably the best musician among us. In any case, Jesse became "Jess-swee." And like some of us, Jesse also dug drinkin’ beer. Which he called “Sudz.” So. Yep. Jesse, whether he ever knew it or not, was christened “Sudz” as his other CM nickname.

Paul’s mom was “Aunt B.” Maggie was "Mom." Howie was “Firpo.” Jim Doop was “J-Doop." And I can’t remember if we ever came up with a nickname for either Kathy (other than "Kat") or Terry Fowler. Though “Hot Stuff” and “Dr. Science” would have been appropriate for them respectively. And we had yet to come up with a nickname for Larry, Though that oversight would soon be remedied.

Was it a bit childish? Oh, you betcha.

But, was it fun?


Now you’re catchin’ on, Dangerfield..


Mrs. Fowler


“It’s morally wrong to allow a sucker to keep his money.”

-- W.C. Fields


Kathy called me up one day in early June and told me about a phone conversation she’d just had with Larry. Sharp wanted to get a date booked for our CM demo tape recording. Great! When? Well, that was it. Larry had a li’l problem that he needed some help with.


Apparently the album by “The Brotherhood” that had come out just a bit earlier in May or so, had not really gone over nearly as well as Larry and da boyz had hoped for.


In fact: it had tanked.


So, other than the $100K advance, who knows what kind of specifics were in the deal Larry had signed with Columbia Records. We sure as hell didn't. But sometimes if an album don’t do too well? And doesn’t end up making back what the record company has already put out for it in $$?


Then you end up owing the record company for all or some of the $$ they spent on recording it and promoting it. As well as any “front money” you received. Which – as the term implies – is any money you get paid up-front. Before ya ever even begin your recording project.


And this money gets paid back to the record company out of whatever sales your album has generated. No matter how paltry those sales. And that's before you even get paid dime-one from the record's earnings.


I'm not exactly sure if that's what happened in this case. But, what I am sure about is this:

The bottom line was that Larry, due to to both the rather dismal sales of Jerry's album - as well as the bills he regularly incurred for his rather exorbitant style of living - had run low on cash. Cash that he would now need in order to follow thru on his plan of paying for our demo tape. In a pro studio. With a pro engineer. Et cetera.


For me? Hearing all of this was most definitely not a good way to start my day.

However, as much as Larry might’ve just recently taken a few financial punches and even some haymakers. In his own mind, he still wasn’t anywhere near being down for the count. Hence, Larry-being-Larry, he wanted to know if there was anyone whom we knew in and/or around the band that might be able to “loan” him some cash for our demo.


Hmm. I did not like the way this was sounding.


I guess I could've possibly gone to my mom with the idea. ‘Cept she would've laughed right in my face. I mean, she was already payin’ a rather nice chunk of change for the non-scholarship portion of my St. Mary’s bills. And even though it was her who had first sparked my interest in & love for music back when I was still just a li'l toe-headed tyke - I knew that in her heart she was still hopin' that I'd just sorta outgrow this whole "band thing." And instead fall in love with college. And BA's and MA's and Phd's.


So bringin' it up to her was completely out of the question.

Plus, I woulda felt like a punk doin' it.



Question: "Why do pencils have erasers on them?"

Answer Number 1 : "Because people make mistakes." Nope.

Answer Number 2: "It's so that accountants can cook the books." Yep.

-- Tom Miller


Look. Here's what it is, k? Offering to put up your own cash for any kind of artistic endeavor is, on the one hand, a very admirable and gracious thing to do. The arts are amazing and wonderful. And very much needed in our world.


But, on the other hand, it's also a very risky type of investment.


For musicians, it is oftentimes true that a demo tape is what gets a band signed to a record label. But, it don't always work out that way. In fact, most of the time it doesn't end up paying off at all.


Record companies are relatively OK with sustaining these types of losses. Why? Cuz they can then just simply turn around and finagle ways to use those losses to bring down the profit margins on the records that are selling well.

(*see the above quote from Tom Miller).


They're kinda like fishermen in that respect. Bait up a bunch of hooks. Toss 'em all into the water. And see what bites. And if ya do end up losing a lot of bait and tackle along the way? So what? That's just par for the course in fishing.


Only real difference between record folks and fishermen is what they're tryin' to catch.


So, bottom line? It's a total gamble. Ya might as well go play the ponies. Bet on Blackjack. Or shoot dice in a North Beach back alleyway to make your fortune. Cuz your chances of getting a return on your investment might possibly be as good or better in any of those scenarios.


So, I told Kathy to call Larry back and say whatever it took in order to keep our Cookin' Mama fish hook firmly implanted in his mouth. Or gills. And tell him that we would go ahead and put the word out to everyone we knew.

Oh. I almost forgot. And how much money did Larry figure he needed?


$10,000.00.

Cashola.

In 1970, $10K was like asking someone now for a sum just around or slightly over $80K.

It was a ton of dough. Try to cook that, Rockefeller. Nonetheless, we quickly spread our financial S.O.S. chum upon the waters. And waited to see if anyone would bite.


“Without music to decorate it, time is just a bunch of boring production deadlines

or dates by which bills must be paid.” ― Frank Zappa

Somehow word of our plight had reached the ears and pocketbook of Terry Fowler' mom: Mrs. Fowler. Terry told us that his mom was more than a wee bit skeptical. But, that she was willing to meet in-person with a couple of us Mamas and Larry to discuss the ins and outs of this whole caper.


A date for the meeting was set. We then put together our lineup for this upcoming match of wits. There would be Larry, Jim Doop, Kathy, Terry and me on one side of the IMF bargaining table. And then, Mrs. Fowler by herself, on the other side of the divide.


The day for our get together with Mrs. Fowler arrived. And since she lived in Alameda as did I, our negotiating team - minus Terry - met at my pad ahead of time to discuss strategy before entering into the fray.


We arrived at the Fowler residence sometime during late-June ’70 in the early afternoon. None of us, including me, had ever even met Mrs. Fowler before. We all knew Terry, of course. He'd been our head roadie in CM since pretty much Day One. And I had played with him earlier in Bing Sue’s “Highway Taxes” band.


Plus, I’d bought pot from his younger brother, Steve.


But it’s not like I could use the pot buy as any kind of business bargaining tool.

Hence, meeting the Fowler’s matriarch was a brand new experience for all of us.

After we'd all been seated in her very spacious & comfortable living room, Mrs. Fowler very kindly offered us refreshments n’ such. And then she began a rather rigorous Q&A session. With everyone in the room. But, mostly. With Doop. And. With Larry. I don’t’ really remember either Kathy, Terry, or me having very much involvement in this meeting.


As an Overture to the beginning of this li'l Wagnerian Deutschmarks symphony, Doop used his considerable charm to try n’ set the tone. “J-Doop” was good at that. Only problem was that on this day...it t’weren’t workin’ on the ol’ gal. So, right away before Doop got booed off the stage, Larry entered from the side wings and began one of his monologues.


Larry stood up. Yep. He actually stood right up from his chair. Squared his rather buffed up shoulders. Pasted a smile on his face - the likes of which would've been the envy of even the serpent in the Garden of Eden. And then started spewin' out verbal platitudes and a bunch of hard-to-follow financial baloney. Just the kinda hooey that he was always able to pull out of his hat - or ass - and foist upon anyone, at any time, in anyplace.


In the blink of an eye.


All of it being voiced in that usual confident and completely casual and easy manner of his that he just naturally employed. Due to his many years of adhering to the answer to that famous show biz question:

"How do you get to Carnegie Hall?"

"Practice." Practice." "Practice."


Man, his rap was so good and informative and full of confidence that even I actually thought about puttin’ up some of my own dough. Yeah. Like $36 woulda made a dent in what he needed. Hah!

It was now a 2-way ping-pong match between Larry and Mrs. F. Questions flew out of her mouth. And Larry parried and came back on the attack with answers that he hoped would sway her. Back n’ forth it went. Until after about almost an hour of this hocus-pocus, Larry finally had Mrs. Fowler right where he wanted her.


And so he went in for the coup de grace.


He declared that he would make our band – and by association, her son Terry – rich and famous via the aforementioned demo tape. And the subsequent recording contract and record album that would most certainly follow upon the heels of this first step towards musical stardom.


All of which, after all, was pretty much the whole point

of having this meeting in the first place.

With so many of Larry's hooks baited up with oodles of savory bits of financial flesh –

Mrs. Fowler finally acquiesced. Broke out her checkbook right then and there on the spot.

And cut Larry Sharp a check for $10,000.

Cookin' Mama demo tape, here we come!


Looks like Pat and I are the only 2 Mamas that got "stoned" that day


L - R: Paul, Steve, Lou, Tom, Vince, Pat


©2024 Cookin' Mama



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