Monday, July 31, 2006

Roadie Report 16-Jim McGuinn's First San Francisco Visit- by Camilla McGuinn

The Ritz Carlton (Photo by Camilla)

San Francisco is one of our favorite cities but it’s a difficult city to drive and park in. Finding a hotel that can accommodate our van is a priority when we have business in that rolling city. After a few years of trial and error, we found that the Ritz Carlton not only would park our Ford van, they did so with as much aplomb as they do with the luxury cars that grace their portal. The doormen recognize our van now. When one of them said, “Welcome back.” I asked if he really recognized us or was he just being polite. He said, ”Indeed I do. You have a lot of equipment to unload.” It wasn’t my smiling face, or a renowned 12-string guitar player that made an impression – it was two luggage carts filled to the top with stuff!

We had several appointments during the next few days and the first one, was a visit with Steve Wozniak.

Roger and Woz began communicating after Steve read about Roger’s Senate testimony in defense of That statement can be read at . Roger was thrilled to be emailing the inventor of the Apple computer and a fast friendship developed between the two techies. A few years ago, we were delighted to be invited to join Woz on one of his jaunts to Japan to comb the shops for new inventions.

Steve made a special trip into town to join us for an evening of new gadgets and toys. The two Steves (Wozniak and Jobs) enjoyed a youth of pranks and gadgets. Woz still follows those pursuits. He brought a bag of toys and we spent hours trying to figure them out in the lounge of the Ritz Carlton.

The Glaucoma Research Foundation was holding their annual Board of Directors meeting and asked Roger to perform. Before the performance we were encouraged to hear the updates about the ongoing research for a cure for Glaucoma. This is a good time to remind you to have your eyes checked yearly. Glaucoma can cause blindness before you know you have the disease and there is no cure after the damage has been done.

We had one day off to do what we love to do in San Francisco – walk. I always lose weight as we walk up and down those amazing hills, but then I put it back on when we feast on the wonderful food available all over the city. We walked to North Beach, had lunch in an Italian restaurant, and while waiting for the fried Calamari, Roger told me about the night in 1960 when the bus pulled into San Francisco.

1960: (Roger is called Jim)

The night before Jim was to catch the bus to San Francisco, the fraternity boys insisted they have an all night party. In the morning they drove Jim to the bus stop and a groggy 18-year old climbed aboard the bus. The bus broke down half way up the coast and it took hours for a replacement to be dispatched to take the travelers to their destination. At midnight, the second bus finally arrived in San Francisco. Jim was slightly hung over, slightly sick from the smell of the diesel fumes and he had no idea where to go.

He reached in his pocket for the matchbook cover that Lou Gottleib had given him with a telephone number scribble on the inside. Lou had said to call if he was ever was in San Francisco and maybe there would be some more work. Jim dialed the number and heard a disconnect recording. His spirit was disheartened and his stomach queasy. All he wanted was a bed.

McGuinn was a city boy, so taxis were the logical way to get anywhere. He got into a cab and told the driver his friend’s telephone number was disconnected and he didn’t know where to go. The cab driver said he would take him to a good hotel. After driving a few blocks, the driver stopped and pointed at a door. Jim paid the fare, gathered his belongings and stood looking at the hotel. He turned to look across the street and noticed the bus station. The city boy had been taken for a ride.

There was a room available at the old hotel. When he walked into the room, he fell onto the security of the lumpy mattress without even undressing. His eyes finally opened at noon and as he squinted at the unfamiliar surroundings, he asked himself a question that would become a familiar morning inquiry for the rest of his life, “Where am I?” Then the memory of the horrendous bus trip, the disconnected telephone and the flaky cab ride came rushing back, but in the morning light, it didn’t seem so bad. He was in San Francisco and he was going to find the "Hungry i."

The "Hungry i" was the San Francisco equivalent to The Gate of Horn in Chicago. Jim had heard of it from the folk singers that played at The Gate of Horn. The folk community was small and the players all knew each other and played the same venues. He expected the "Hungry i" would be the place to find the next door on the pathway of his life. After a quick shower, he once again caught a taxi. This time he asked to be driven to "The Hungry i."

The "Hungry i" was a club where folk singers hung out and played guitar during the day and watched real performers at night. Jim walked in, surveyed the situation and decided to come back the next day with his guitar.

San Francisco was a city to explore, so he left the club in search of some food and to get a sense of what the city was all about. After a quick bite and blocks of walking the steep inclines of the San Francisco streets, he saw a theater advertising, “Psycho.” Alfred Hitchcock’s new movie was showing and it was time to rest his weary legs. Hitchcock’s suspenseful story filled Jim’s mind as he walked back to the hotel after the viewing. The strangeness of this new city and the uncertainly of things to come was creating his own suspense movie and one that he hoped had a happier ending.

The next few days were spent at the "Hungry i" playing guitar and meeting the locals. Adam Yagodka, a song writing partner of The Kingston Trio's Nick Reynolds, became aware that Jim was living in a hotel room and invited him to stay with him at his uncle’s house in San Rafael, while his uncle was in Europe.

Adam took Jim under his wing, introduced him to Nick Reynolds and suggested that Jim audition for the position being vacated by Dave Guard, the founder of The Kingston Trio. Nick drove him to the audition in his new red Ferrari. Bob Shane, Nick's partner, thought that even though Jim’s guitar playing was good, his voice wasn’t as strong as they wanted for their trio.

Another milestone that Adam brought into Jim’s life, was his first taste of marijuana. “You’re starting on the good stuff kid. Gunja.” The few weeks living in San Rafael was a laid back time. Adam’s uncle returned from Europe, so Adam, his girlfriend and Jim moved to her apartment in Sausalito.

Living in Sausalito was fun, but the commute to the "Hungry i" and the music scene was difficult. Jim met a musician named Don who invited him to crash at his house in South San Francisco. He and Don formed a group and played at places on Fisherman’s Wharf for a few weeks.

Afternoons before their shows, Jim was hanging out at the "Hungry i." One day the bartender gave him a message. Frank Fried, a Chicago promoter, was looking for him. Frank knew Jim’s parents, but they weren’t sure how to contact him except that he was in San Francisco. Frank called the "Hungry i." In the folk community at that time, word of mouth was an effective way to find people.

Jim placed a collect call to Chicago and Frank told him that Chad Mitchell wanted to hire him. Jim told Frank that he was forming a group in San Francisco, but Frank convinced him that working with Chad Mitchell was the next step he should pursue in his career. Frank sent Jim an airplane ticket and within the month, Jim walked off the airplane at Idlewild Airport and shook hands with Chad Mitchell.

We had an early call in the morning for a live radio interview with KFRC-FM, The Cammy and Dean Morning Show. While I was working on promotion for THE FOLK DEN PROJECT and the concert scheduled in Montalvo, I came across Cammy’s name and thought, ‘Hey that’s my name!’ Or at least it was the name I used from the ages of thirteen to nineteen. Since we obviously had something in common, I emailed her. Fortunately, she had heard of Roger McGuinn and said they would love to have Roger as a guest on their show. This is a fine example of how scientific I am at promotion

We walked out of the door of the Ritz Carlton and asked the doorman to call us a taxi, a McGuinn San Francisco tradition. He said that there was no need because their car would drive us to the radio station. Those full luggage carts at check-in had made a big impression.

"Cammy and Dean Show" (Photo by Camilla)

The Montalvo Carriage House Theater show was already sold out, so this radio interview was more about music and fun. Roger played Cammy and Dean’s favorite songs live, showed them his 7-string guitar and signed Dean’s Rickenbacker. (Photo by Camilla)

We returned to the hotel, checked out and joined the Friday traffic moving south out of the city. In all the years we both lived in California, we had never been to the Silicon Valley town of Los Gatos. I think the citizens keep the town a secret because it is an oasis beautifully situated by a mountain. The streets have the feel of another era but lined with all the trendy shops of our day. And yes, they do have a great sushi bar! Our senses were quieted by the serenity of the small town after the three days of San Francisco excitement.

The concert in the Montalvo Carriage House Theater was performed to a wonderful appreciative audience. We even got one more chance to see Woz. He had a Segway polo tournament during the day, but he made it to the concert in time with the Segways in the back of the Hummer.

We enjoyed Los Gatos, so before we headed south to Los Angeles to join the world famous "Rock Bottom Remainders",we spent an extra day walking the small town and enjoying lunch in the shelter of a tree.

(Photo by Camilla)