Monday, January 30, 2023


5:05 AM. And the brilliant Joan Baez is very much with us along with the aforementioned Buffy St. Marie and Duane Eddy, of course. My apologies to all. Steve

Sunday, January 29, 2023


I received a beautifully crafted email Friday from my dear friend the photographer and writer Daryl Black. Her compelling essay was prompted by the death of David Crosby at 81. What followed was her heartfelt commentary on the importance of music in her life and that of her husband Fred a master weaver and true renaissance man. Music enhances their lives. It fills her office and accompanies the rhythm of Fred’s work at the loom. It’s odd that as a former singer and musician of nominal skill music does not surround me. I prefer quiet. I work without music. I drive without the radio or CDs playing. I can’t explain it since I love music. I even pick up the guitar once a year. At number 45 on my weekly 50 todos list is Learn Blues Guitar. That’s just below learn video editing. Both require more tenacity than I can muster.

Daryl recounts that Fred's musical claim to fame is when he was walking through the San Diego airport in his Navy blues and on his way to Southeast Asia. "He walked past a gentleman seated in the lounge, and realized it was David Crosby. He nodded and Fred nodded back. A passing, knowing glance" Oh, and Fred was carrying a banjo. Yet another Fred Black talent emerges. That encounter is the seed from which the following post grew.

I wrote Daryl a response to her thought-provoking examination of music enriching life. She made me wistful.

“Apparently, David Crosby’s passing struck a chord with you and Fred. Me too. Your touching essay may have prompted my blog subject today. When I look back to my folk singing years, nominally 1958 through 1964, I observe that my zigzag path brought me close to a bevy of folk luminaries. As a lesser light in the folk music world I hovered on the periphery, just close enough to glimpse some of the stars of the time. Those encounters were more numerous than I would have remembered unprompted. Thanks for the stroll down memory lane.

This email may become the skeleton of my post. Hell, it may be the post. I wish I had photographs to memorialize the period.”

It went something like this. In 1960 I dropped out of college to reach for the gold ring in LA. My brief brush with the big time began in earnest. That spring my singing partner John and I recorded our single Once Upon a Time at Audio Recorders in Phoenix. It was the studio where Duane Eddy and his twangy guitar recorded hits like Rebel Rouser and the theme for Peter Gun. Eddy sold 12 million records by 1963 and is still making music at 84.

When John and I pitched Capitol Records in the summer of 1960 we spent the night at their iconic studio in Hollywood thinking we’d be auditioning. Thanks to college friend Pat Kanan whose father was a bigtime player we were signed by Jess Rand a personal manager whose stable included Sam Cooke, Jackie Wilson, the Lettermen and Bobby Gentry. It all came to naught since John and I had signed a recording contract with Audio Recorders and Capitol bailed when Audio Recorders asked for $5,000. That night in Hollywood we shared hellos with the Smothers Brothers in the hall between Studio B and Studio C. I recall that we sang in the chorus during a Ray Anthony session. But we didn’t get to sing for Nick Venet who would have been our A&R man. He told us, “I don’t care if you can sing. I can teach you how to sing.” Nick was the man behind the Beach Boys. He was 26.

John moved back to Tempe to be with Becky, his new love. I joined the Army Reserve and took gap year of sorts. When I finished active duty. I moved to LA and made a halfhearted effort to forge a path as a solo artist. Jess Rand referred me to Monk Cohen, a well-known booking agent who got me a few gigs and two tickets to see a young Joan Baez at the Santa Monica Civic Center. My friend Jerry Roman and I sat in the first row. I had gone to the men’s room and was returning to my seat as Baez walked across the stage to the microphone. She looked at me and said, “I’d appreciate it if no one else leaves their seat while I’m performing.”

When I returned to school in the fall, I was on double secret probation. I applied myself for the first time and became an A student. John and I split, and I began performing solo. About that time, I auditioned to become the photo double of Bob Shane, the Kingston Trio’s whiskey voiced lead singer, when they were filming a pilot for a TV series Young Men in a Hurry. I got the gig, Shane gave me career advice that came too late, and the series didn’t get picked up. 

Most of my college years of which there were eight I worked full time and picked up the odd singing gig. I was was a singing waiter at the Lumbermill in Scottsdale. I opened for John Denver before he became a thing. I’d do a short set, grab a tray, and serve cocktails and brews to an audience that often included Waylon Jennings and his entourage. Jennings was a loud-mouthed prick who didn’t tip. Denver, on the other hand was a genuinely nice guy who treated me like a peer. He had star written all over him. Soon he became the lead singer of the Michell Trio whose founder Chad Mitchell had been busted for possession. Denver’s arc is well chronicled. The last I knew Mitchell was manning a piano bar on a Mississippi Riverboat. 

At Something Else, a coffee house in Phoenix John and I did an opening gig with Travis Edmonson, who had become a solo act after breaking up with his partner Bud Dashiell. Bud and Travis were the number two folk act in the country from 1958 to 1962. Their tune On a Cloudy Summer afternoon made number four on the Billboard top 100 in 1960. Edmonson told us our tight harmonies tilted toward jazz. Sadly, Travis became to a local act and left the heights he’d touched with Dashiell behind. Bud opened a guitar store in LA. 

In the spring of 1964, I left school again. My buddy Eric Drake and I hit the road for Cambridge, Massachusetts where his brother Peter was attending Harvard. Our first stop was in Salt Lake City where I wangled a one-nighter at a folk club opening for Hoyt Axton who was riding high on the success of Greenback Dollar which he wrote. I played my fingers bloody and was met by deafening silence and calls of “Hoyt. We want Hoyt.” 

Our next stop was Aspen, Colorado after a treacherous climb over Independence Pass in a blizzard. I thought we’d die. I not sure why we stopped in Aspen except that it was more or less on the way east. Eric and I saw that Buffy St. Marie was headlining at The Abby. That afternoon I knocked on the door of the club and was met by the owner Tom Fleck. I asked if I could play for him and see if he would have interest in booking me. I played. He listened politely and told me, “That’s a nice set but we’re booked for the next nine years.” 

Only Duane Eddy, Buffy St. Marie and the Smothers Brothers remain from this roster of greats.

For the first time since 2006 my blog did not post on Monday morning though one called Errata did. I'm flummoxed. Errata dealt with errors of omission since corrected. In that light I'm reposting a heavily edited version of the post you should have gotten yesterday morning. If it's any solace on my end, this one's better.

Sunday, January 22, 2023

Vega, Texas. Population 884

Main Street, Vega, Texas.

The only reason we stopped in Vega, a quiet burg in the Texas Panhandle, is that fourteen months ago I wrote a couple of posts about Landergin, a ghost town founded by the enterprising Landergin brothers in 1908. John Landergin followed that up by establishing the first bank in Vega eight miles east. So, I had to see it. I hoped to find the bank still standing and that Vega would be worth the detour. Uh, barely. But you could eat of the sidewalk. That place is clean. And  it could have been the location for filming The Last Picture Show in 1971. It was Sunday so the joint wasn’t exactly rocking. In these parts time enterprise stops on the sabbath.

Like it’s cousin Landergin, Vega’s skyline boasted an impressive grain operation. Grain elevators are the iconic guardians of the West Texas plains. Vega is the county seat of Oldham County and the home of 884 souls. Like Landergin it was built expressly as a stop on the Chicago, Rock Island and Gulf Railroad. The railroad stopped stopping in Landergin and the town folded. Vega survived.

Sunday, January 15, 2023

Deep Dive

The weathered cross is long gone from this tiny church in Peñasco, New Mexico. Sagrado Corazon was photographed at 11am on August 2, 2006.

Cruz Blanca was taken at La Morada de Nuestra Señora de Guadalupe in Taos at 11am on March 25, 2007. Unhappily, the captivating lay chapel was closed to the public by the Catholic Church three years ago.

Because the January-February Shadow and Light Magazine is the Black and White Special Issue, the very first, there was no need for my normal Telling Stories contribution. In Special Issues like Black and White, Language of the Land, and Color It Red publisher and editor Tim Anderson does not include bylines like E.E. McCollum’s excellent Mindful Matters and my Telling Stories. These themed issues are all photographs all the time.

Eaves is an abstract take on the sacred Santuario de Chimayo in Chimayo, New Mexico. It was made at 8am on June 19, 2005.

On the path to Point Reyes Light the moisture dripped from the Canopy of Bishop Pines. It was 11am on August 15, 2013. 

A solitary rower warmed up for the Putney Regatta on the Connecticut River in Putney, Vermont at 6:53 am on August 1, 2006. It's called Silent Running.

To keep my oar in the water I’ve submitted to the last two Special Issues of Shadow and Light magazine which are essentially open calls for entry within the parameters of the theme. Happily, I’ve been included in each.

Tim has called my five-image portfolio From the Road. That isn’t soaring prose but, hey, they are from the road and that road runs from Point Reyes National Seashore in California to the Putney Regatta in Vermont with a strong dose of New Mexico adobe.

Getting to the 12 that I submitted was a deep dive into my best of the best dating back as far as 2005. Literally hundreds of images. The seven that the jury did not select were, broadly speaking, Still Lifes. And, truth be told, they may be my favorites of the lot. But what do I know? I may have shot myself in the foot my not tuning my portfolio to a single unifying theme. Perhaps I should have committed to landscapes or still lifes and earned a ten-image spread. I hedged my bet and got half a loaf. Nobody can say I’m not a competitor.

I’m honored to be part of the new Black and White issue and know it’ll be stellar.

Sunday, January 08, 2023

Angelino Heights

The LA Skyline downhill from Angelino Heights

Along Carroll Avenue

Victorian and Blonde

Downtown LA is braced by hills to its east and north. And though I’ve spent parts of eight decades in the place I don’t think of it that way. It feels like an ocean of houses on postage stamp lots punctuated by skyscrapers downtown, mid-Wilshire and in West Los Angeles. Between Downtown and Pasadena are hilly enclaves like Angelino Heights that overlook LA’s skyline but seem apart from the boom and bustle. Like any big city, Los Angeles is a city of neighborhoods, most of which I haven’t seen and couldn’t name. Angelino Heights is described as a suburb, but that term doesn’t fit the crisp neighborhood of Victorian homes just up the hill from the city center. The photogenic enclave has played a role in too many movies to note. Roman Polanski's Chinatown surely tops the list. It was also featured in Michael Jackson’s Thriller video.

Two Classics

Red Umbrella

Until this LA visit I hadn’t heard of Angelino Heights. But thanks to our intrepid wheelman, one Garrett Immel, we were introduced to another hidden Los Angeles treasure. That guy knows every alley and backstreet in the City of Angels and can crisscross the county from north to south and west to east the without touching a freeway. 38 years in a place will do that.

Sunday, January 01, 2023

Tapped Out

I have no words. Well, very few anyway. As I wrote to a deadline tomorrow there wasn’t much left in the tank. So, here’s a grab bag of shots from Ventura and Santa Paula, California on December 23. This a streetish selection as you will see.

Peggy and I survived an epic return to New Mexico that entailed a canceled Southwest flight, no assistance from those losers, a train trip back to Albuquerque that would have been decent but for a gut- wrenching bout with a Norovirus that was debilitating for two days and is abating now. Refer to gut-wrenching for a sense of the beast.

Please have a fabulous 2023!