I was moved by my son’s graduation yesterday… of course I was. I am excited for him and proud of him, but as I intimated yesterday… one cannot deny that it was a passing of the baton moment.
Last night I was stringing my M-30 and quietly picking a little thinking about tomorrow’s gig at the Ram’s Head in Annapolis. I had just decided to hit the sack when Vanessa called me to tell me that Larry Miller had just passed. Who’s Larry Miller you might ask? Well… it’s time for a trip down a lane in my memory that has been unattended for many years.
I got married in 1964 to Lena Margareta Pettersson. We met on a ship to what was then called Leningrad in the summer of 1963 but this is a story for another time. Anyway, M came to this country in January of 1964, we got married and I had a seedy little apartment in Santa Clara in a large old wood frame house at 1159 Fremont St. I was teaching at the Benner Music Co. on Stevens Creek Rd. This would be the same place Paul Kantner and Pete Grant taught. I was playing out too, but most of my income came from lessons.
Anyway, I had my old Garrard turntable that I had inherited from my dad when He upgraded. I bought a Blaupunkt AM/FM/SW radio (mono of course… multiplex radio was still in its infancy) which had an input for a turntable. The input jack was a DIN plug so I had to do some re-wiring. In any case, I was so self marinated in traditional American music in general and finger style guitar in particular that I refused to listen to rock ‘n’ roll on AM radio. I was afraid it might pollute my sensibilities… or maybe I was just a pretentious stuffed shirt. In any case, when I would turn on the radio, I would listen to KJAZZ. This was a non-stop jazz station in the SF Bay Area whose programming tended to, well, very easy listening ‘jazz.’
As the 60’s got rolling and rock and roll mutated from more than bubble gum pop to a lighthouse of the times, a number of really interesting things happened, not the least of which was KMPX and multiplex radio.
FM radio was capable of hi fi and… some stations were beginning to broadcast in stereo which in the radio parlance of the times was multiplex. Stereo recordings were so important to those of us lucky enough to have record deals at the time that when radio broadcasting technology allowed us to showcase our art over the airwaves… well, it was momentous.
I had a Sony FM radio… it had a place for an adapter which would give life to an outboard speaker an amp and le voila… stereo music on the radio. The very first stereo station and for a while the only station I would listen to was KMPX and one of the most important DJ’s was Larry Miller.
Check this link out:
Big Daddy Tom Donohue, Dusty Street, Larry Miller and more. These were our angels who kept us tuned into the word in sound as it descended from on high.
It’s hard to imagine today what an impact this media form… which was ours… had on our lives, sometimes minute by minute. The eclecticism on any given program was unmatched by any other radio station at the time.
We had no taste boundaries back then. We wanted to eat it all and Larry Miller and his colleagues were the chefs who would serve it up.
Larry came to the Fur Peace Ranch a couple of years ago as a student. He took finger style guitar from me, bass from Jack and brought memories of the glory days of FM radio. I had all but forgotten about it. I remembered him well as we re-established our friendship. He was a quirky as ever and we also shared a love of oddball Nordic Lore. He would come to the Ranch often and it was always a treat to see him. He had been teaching in Boston for a number of years and even though he had assumed a professorial look on some level, he was still the outlaw of the airwaves.
Back in May of this year (2016) he was supposed to come to the Ranch for a class. He emailed me to tell me that he was ill and would not be able to make it and could I just send him the tabs and stuff from the class so he could enjoy it at home. He wrote me this note on May 16, 2016:
‘Where do I start? About the time I was facing retirement back in 2008, I got the guitar of my dreams- the D18 VS. That led to Acoustic Guitar magazine, and that led me to the Ranch. That first visit, doing the workshop with you and learning Embryonic Journey and the Water Song made me a believer forever. This would have been my 9th visit.
I am so glad that I got to “re-connect” with you, and recall that mutual admiration connection that we had in SF back in the day. As you said, we are connected in more ways than I realize. Woody Mann, Roy Bookbinder, Vanessa, John Hurlbut, Larry Campbell and Happy Traum- getting to know these amazing people has been the frosting on my cake. And Jack. 4 bass workshops. When he personally praised my playing on Layla last year, it was a Golden Moment.
I had hoped that I had the energy to make at least one more trip, do one more workshop with you, play another duet with Jim Botsford. But alas, it is not to be.
I will stay in touch and let you know how I’m doing. I don’t want to bring you down, so smile when you think of me.
Presented with irony…
Larry’s pain is over and he is in Valhalla which is where he belongs with the other sonic warriors of our generation. I am thinking of you my friend, and I am smiling. I’m sure you know how important you and all you cohorts were to us back when we and the earth were still young.
And so, there it is. Zach’s life is beginning as is our daughter Izze’s. Larry’s has ended and the world still turns. I cannot but pray that the world our children will inherit will be a kinder place where righteousness will prevail and if not, may they deal with it without their hearts turning to stone.
It could happen.
And Larry my friend, may the Dragon Ship that carries you to Valhalla by sleek and fast and may the beat always go on… and on and may the wind always, always be at your back!