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Saturday, May 09, 2015

Carl Lockett and the Side Trips Social Network

Preface: Reconstruction #2

Jerry Garcia's commitment to Reconstruction never seemed total, a big problem if you're John Kahn, first, and then Merl Saunders, looking to reboot the lucrative Garcia-Saunders-Kahn Fantasy Records franchise. It's no good if the G is wobbly, because "multiracial dance and jazz band with a rotating cast of Bay Area guitarists, including perhaps Jerry Miller or some other hot player who is not Jerry Garcia" may be a fine concept musically --Reconstruction was a frequently hot and risky enterprise-- but a tough sell, not least on evidence of its short, sociometrically-turbulent, falls-off-a-cliff tenure.

Sometimes, and at some point, Reconstruction happened without Garcia. Corry's canonical "Jerry Garcia Band Personnel, 1975-1995" listing (bookmark it!), sociometric data handbook of a big chunk of the historical Garciaverse, catalogs that outfit "Reconstruction #2":

First show-August 4, 1979 Keystone Palo Alto
Last show-September 29, 1979 Keystone Palo Alto

! lineup: John Kahn - bass;
! lineup: Merl Saunders - organ, keyboards, vocals;
! lineup: Ron Stallings - tenor sax, vocals;
! lineup: Carl Lockett - guitar;
! lineup: Ed Neumeister - trombone;
! lineup: Gaylord Birch - drums;
! guest: Jerry Miller - guitar, vocals (for a few shows, presumably in place of Lockett).

Corry notes "It's possible that the last date was actually September 4 in Bolinas, but I am not pursuing that subject in this post", so let me go ahead and ask him for the "short version" in comments. :)

Introduction

My purpose in this post it to drop a few Carl Lockett crumbs I have come across, building up and working around and through a little node in the Side Trips Social Network. Carl Lockett orbits the Garciaverse at one remove, as far as I know. They never shared a stage or an album credit, but they alternated or sequenced as guitar players with Reconstruction. As it happens, they also have a lot of shared ties to others, and I can use this as a case study to map some triadic closure in a little piece of the network topography.

Carl Lockett: Profile

From a little profile I just came across:
Carl Lockett is a Bay Area legend. A musical child prodigy, Carl started out as a drummer, then went to the guitar. By the age of 14, he was playing gigs around the Bay Area, even opening for the legendary Redd Foxx's comedy shows. For over 4 decades, he has made a name for himself in the music industry ... Carl has played live, and on studio albums with Chuck Mangione, Randy Crawford, Jimmy Smith, Joey DeFrancesco, Hank Crawford, Jimmy McGriff, Plaz Johnson, Tammy Terrell, Esther Phillips, The Platters, The Ink Spots, Big Mama Thornton, Jackie Wilson, The Drifters, Papa John Creach, Brook Benton, Dakota Staton, The Coasters, Bill Summers, and David Ruffin. His complete mastery of his instrument and his class and talent, has had him in diverse settings, ranging from a perfect third in a traditional organ trio (touring with Jimmy McGriff and Jimmy Smith), to sitting in for Jerry Garcia when Jerry was unable to make a gig with David Grisman.
In descending order of frequency/intensity of crossings with Jerry this population would sort to Grisman, then probably Papa John (at least a few crossings) and, at the level of shared billings, Big Mama Mae Thornton. Note, at a remove, Jimmy Smith, with whom I believe Merl Saunders studied and/or played. (BTW, note the presumed error in Lockett standing in for Jerry - it was almost certainly not with Grisman, but with Reconstruction.)

Carl Lockett Discography

Discogs identifies 16 credits, which bring out all kinds of stuff. Let me pick some stuff out from across the credit chronology there.

First, Carl Lockett's earliest credit is Walter Hawkins And Selah ‎– Walter Hawkins Selah (Fantasy ‎– 9410, 1972. Merl Saunders and Tom Fogerty produced the record at Fantasy Studios in Berkeley, and Garcia was around - he shares a few credits with Walter Hawkins and the Hawkins Singers (notably on The Group's 1973 Fantasy, Fire Up, catalog 9421).

Second, astute readers will recall that Merl Saunders' ‎ Do I Move You (Crystal Clear Records ‎– CCS-5006, 1979) was mostly comprised of tunes associated in the Garciaverse with Reconstruction, but as Corry has pointed out in comments it did not come after Garcia and Kahn had bailed on the project, but at the front end, recorded just four days after Reconstruction-with-Garcia's debut in late January. So this suggests that Merl brought these tunes into the band, rather than taking them out, as I had surmised.

Recall that John Kahn founded and owned Reconstruction. It meant a lot to him, as I have described in "Risky Reconstruction":
He seems to have had real ambitions for Reconstruction. He saw it as a kind of update to the Garcia-Saunders-Kahn-et-al group which had sold (and continues to sell!) so many records for Fantasy. The outfit would be rebuilt, playing some of the stuff that John had picked out for Jerry's 1974 Compliments of Garcia (Round RX 102, June 1974), notwithstanding that the latter hadn't sold enough to make Round Records viable, some more nightclub numbers and Merl vocals, a beautiful batch of Latin and other jazz, drop some disco danceability and play the black sinner music that John loved so much.  Reconstruction was aptly named, the mixing and mingling of old and new players and materials.... "I want it to last," [Kahn said]. "We're a serious band, and I want it to stay together" (Brown 1979).
Eventually, though, Merl goes from bringing stuff to the table in a partnership to seemingly owning the band. When and how did this happen? I am not really sure. I have a listing for Reconstruction, subtitled "Merl Saunders and Friends", at Frenchy's in Hayward on Monday, 9/3/79; that seems a strange way for John's band to be advertised. The Keystone Berkeley gig on Saturday, 9/22 was demonstrably the original Reconstruction, with Jerry and John, albeit with guest. A week later Reconstruction is booked into the same room, a Saturday night, which means that somewhere Freddie Herrera came to think that Jerry would be present. Yet there are good reasons to doubt he was, since the show never entered The List and the collective memory it inscribes - not impossible, but unlikely. I would infer that around or by 9/29/79 Jerry and John had walked away, and were probably already working stuff up with Ozzie Ahlers (keys) and Johnny D (drums) for the next Jerry Garcia Band.

I pretty much figure that Jerry and John bailed between Saturday 9/22 and Saturday 9/29. John must have assented to Merl taking the name, and he could afford to, given that he had already won the much more lucrative Garcia Loyalty Sweepstakes, a freaking lifetime lottery ticket, John's decisive victory over Merl for control of the Golden Goose. Just a hunch, of course. In November, Merl undertook an east coast tour with a hornless aggregation of name unknown to me (Merl Saunders - keyboards, vocals; Andre Goosland - Guitar; Tony Saunders - Bass; Jay David - Drums; Pamela Rose - Vocals), working a bunch of the same material, but no sign of the name. On 11/29/79 there's a band called Reconstruction playing Rancho Nicasio in West Marin, and then nothing again as far as I can find.

Here are the discog credits for Do I Move You:

Alto Saxophone, Flute – Martin Fierro
Arranged By – Mark Isham, Merl Saunders
Backing Vocals [Background] – Bernetta Rand, Frances Pye, Lynette Stephens Hawkins*, Sherlene Hall, Tramaine Hawkins, Walter Hawkins
Bass – Tony Saunders
Directed By [Technical] – John Meyer
Drums – Larry Vann
Guitar – Carl Locket*
Lead Vocals, Keyboards, Electric Piano, Organ, Clavinet, Synthesizer, Effects – Merl Saunders
Mastered By – Larry Van Valkenburg
Mixed By [Live] – Pat Malonie
Percussion – Kenneth Nash
Producer – Ed Wodenjak, Merl Saunders
Producer [Associate] – Tom Wiggins
Tenor Saxophone – Pee Wee Ellis
Trombone – Ed Neumeister
Trumpet – Mark Isham

Third, after more funk and soul, Lockett again worked for Walter Hawkins on I Feel Like Singing (Light Records ‎– LS-5789, 1982), which includes a couple of Tony Saunders credits (A3-"Do Your Best"; B4-"Try What You May") and rhythm tracks by future 14-year Garcia Band keyboardist Melvin Seals.

Wow.

So, into the Garciaverse, through this node and at this resolution, enters Melvin Seals, who enjoyed the third-longest continuous musical relationship with Garcia, after the Grateful Dead and John Kahn. We also cross Martin Fierro (many dozens of shows with Garcia 1973-1975, and once again on 7/16/88), Tom Fogerty (a few dozen shows with Garcia 1971-1972), Tony Saunders (played with Garcia probably at least a handful of times ca. 1974-1975), Larry Vann (probably shared a stage a time or two with Garcia at The Generosity in 1975, in Merl's band), and Mark Isham (suspected but not established shared stage and probably some shared credits lurking around). The Side Trips Social Network is a small world.

Fourth, Elvin Bishop makes an appearance on Lockett's credits in 1995.

Bishop was present at the Big Bang of the Garciaverse, the Dawn of a particular Man, the portal that opened to become Garcia's name-claiming journey, the 5/21/68 Carousel Tuesday Night Jam, on a cheap handbill on which, right in the eye's spot, we find "Jerry Garcia" billed, an sich, for the first time in the Grateful Dead Era.
Bear recorded it, and, amazingly, the recording circulates freely among fans (shnid-22727). According to Rhoney Stanley (2013, 157-163), Elvin, nicknamed "Pigboy", also provided visual inspiration for the purple pig that Stanley Mouse used to advertise the Carousel Tuesday Night Jams. update: Stanley Mouse says that the visual inspiration for the purple pig was none other than LBJ.


You'll recall that Elvin sat-in with the Hartbeats at the Matrix on October 30, 1968, subbed for him with the Grateful Dead on June 8, 1969 --which, along with August 1, 1969, present the only known times that the Grateful Dead played without Garcia-- and called Garcia onstage for a number to soothe a sunstroked crowd in the football stadium of beautiful UC Santa Barbara on June 4, 1978 . I am sure it's just a coincidence that this was a decade to the day since the June 4, 1968 Tuesday at the Carousel when they jammed together into the night and entered the light of day witness to the assassination of Bobby Kennedy, and a man found his country "fated to keep spinning out of control, down some grim spiral to madness".

Speaking of which, Jerry Garcia and the aforementioned Melvin Seals, who played many hundreds of times together, first did so on that same sunny Santa Barbara afternoon in 1978, when old pal Elvin induced an already opiated-coked-hermetic Garcia to step out and play on his call-to-fun "Right Now Is The Hour" (not, I do not think, as some reports have it, "Goin' Fishin'"), one of the very few times Garcia sat-in with anyone in the hazy decade that bounced lazily and weaved wildly out from the Bicentennial. (Warren Zevon was apparently little better off, guzzling Stoli, heckling the crowd as a bunch of acid casualties, and reportedly booed off that same stage not long after.) I don't have the personnel down, entirely. There were three guests on this tune: Garcia, Chuck Cochran, talented lead guitarist of the Santa Barbara reggae band called Wha-Koo, which had opened the show,and that same band's singer Dave Palmer, joining Elvin band members Jerry McKinney on saxophone, Johnny Vernazza ("Johnny V") on guitar, plus a bassist, Elvin and, perhaps, Melvin Seals. (Keyboards could have been manned by Bill Slais during the Garcia sit-in, but it is not clear -- see Corry.)

Conclusion

Well, here we are. This began as a question about Carl Lockett, and it became a little stroll through aspects of Georg Simmel's notion of triadic closure in social networks, here that two people who have crossed (or nearly done), are also more likely to have crossed some of the same others. It's amazing how bound up these networks really are, so that even though Lockett and Garcia never formally crossed, they are still woven from, into and through patches of the same cloth.

5 comments:

  1. According to the indispensable Deaddisc.com, the Merl Saunders album Do I Move You was recorded live in the studio on February 3, 1979. This means it was recorded just a few days after Reconstruction's first gig. So it suggests that much of the Reconstruction material was part of Merl's regular set.

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    1. Good catch. So Merl brought this material into the band, rather than taking it out as I surmised.

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  2. Elvin Bishop's other guitarist was a guy named Johnny Vernazza, usually called "Johnny V." He was a fine player who had been around various SF bands in the 60s, but none were well known. He was definitely on stage with Jerry in SB, because someone sent me a picture. Jerry McKinney was a Bay Area horn player, so I assume he was with Elvin's band that week. Elvin's regular rhythm section at the time was Melvin Seals on keyboards, Fly Brooks on bass and Donnie Baldwin on drums. We know for sure that Melvin was there that day (Jerry said so), but we don't know if he played keyboards for the jam. Elvin had two keyboard players around that period (the other was a guy named Bill Slais), so maybe Elvin didn't sit in during the jam.

    The opening act was called Wha-Koo, who put out an album called The Big Wha-Koo on ABC. Don't ask me how I remember all this. Their lead guitarist was apparently a guy named Chuck Cochran (per Wikipedia).

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  3. With respect to Carl Lockett's intersections with the Garciaverse, an interesting connection from the Discogs list is the record Don Cornelius Presents The Soul Train Gang from 1975. The credits suggest that the album was recorded in California, and very likely in the Bay Area, with Lockett, Larry Vann, the Hawkins Family and The Whispers (who were a California R$B group from Watts who were well established in Oakland).

    How did Carl Lockett know Don Cornelius? Well, I don't know for sure, but I'll bet it was because he had gigs at Don Corneilus Soul Train club in San Francisco, only open around 1974. Where was the Soul Train? Well, 412 Broadway as it happened, just after it was The New Matrix but before it was The Hippodrome. And later, of course, The Stone.

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  4. I have added an update to indicate that the visual inspiration for Stanley Mouse's purple pig was Lyndon Baines Johnson.

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