Home > Diary, Fur Peace Ranch, Thoughts > The Long Ship Sets Sail

The Long Ship Sets Sail

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:

http://bayarearadio.org/stn_documents/kmpx_larry-miller-handbill_1967.shtml

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.

Larry

Presented with irony…

Larry’

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!

Categories: Diary, Fur Peace Ranch, Thoughts Tags:
  1. Ed Spenser
    June 24th, 2016 at 08:07 | #1

    Larry was cool. I didn’t know him or his history, having grown up in NYC area with WNEW-FM, but we met at the ranch last summer, where he played Layla with Jim, and that hilarious and wonderful guitar piece, we jammed together, he told stories, and we all (including my wife) had a magical weekend at FPR, as always. We stayed in contact. RIP Larry.

  2. Anna Stegemoeller
    June 24th, 2016 at 09:32 | #2

    Larry was one of the warmest, generous, funniest, handsomest…He and Jim rocked the place with Layla. I was standing up back by the sound board area. Jack was back there, too. He was right into it with the rest of us, all smiling from ear to ear bobbing and tapping. Larry – what a treat he was for us all. He and Jim were a great duo. My especial thoughts go out for Jim to say ’so long’ to his best music playing pal, and for those of you close to Larry at FPR as teachers, classmates, and friends. Larry Miller, you will be missed.

  3. Mark Kran
    June 24th, 2016 at 10:01 | #3

    Where theirs life, theirs hope and for those of us still here as my Father would say “Just Keep a Goin”
    Maybe turning 60 has made me realize more that there are more days in my rear view mirror than on the road ahead
    But I am embarking on a new grand adventure with the love of my life together for as long as we can
    Frightening, Exciting, Hopeful and all that good stuff
    Lets just all keep moving forward, relish the moments and keep riding the music
    Catch you on a road trip, now thats the good stuff

  4. eaglesteve
    June 24th, 2016 at 10:10 | #4

    Congrats to your son. Condolences for your loss.

  5. rich l
    June 24th, 2016 at 11:49 | #5

    you just brought me back to days at the Dolphin Lake Club in the 60’s. No boom boxes quite yet, just transitor radio’s held to our ears. Larry Lujack and Dick Beyondi were on the only music stations – WLS and WCFL. Not bad, but a lot of commercials. Hard not to hear some good songs, what with the British invasion and everything.

    Then XRT came along in Chicago in 1972. LOL – record spinners, who while very knowledgeable about the underground music scene, sounded, how should I put this – a bit burnt out. Oh, but the sounds that came over the airwaves! Initially, they only broadcast from midnight to 5 am in the morning. Were really talking underground baby!

    While it’s true, “death don’t have no mercy in this land,” we are so lucky to have you write a piece like this on Larry Miller and the ol’ days. Who was the guy on the poster for KMPX?

    I reflect on a lot of your postings and wonder what your thoughts on heaven are. When I think about it I wonder if there will be beautiful sunsets, brilliant rainbows, majestic mountains, waves crashing upon the shore, good books, hockey games, golf courses, musicians such as yourself. (maybe Harley’s?!)

    When I get overwhelmed by the heaviness of contemplating our existence, I like to recall what Paul wrote to the Corinthians;

    1 Cor 2:9 “No eye has seen, no ear has heard, no mind has conceived the wonders God has prepared for those who love Him.”

    Of course I still cling to Dennis Trudell’s quote, “Sloppy, raggedy ass old life. I love it, I never want to die.”

  6. Dino
    June 24th, 2016 at 16:17 | #6

    Nicely put Jorma, I relate to it all….makes me want to come back to FPR before I can’t anymore. So I’ll be setting that up soon….

  7. Steve Goldston
    June 24th, 2016 at 16:20 | #7

    May his memory be a blessing. You write so well. Both my kids were born in the years my parents passed. This reminded me of that. They’re 7 and 4. I share your hope about their future…. It could happen

  8. Michael Langley
    June 24th, 2016 at 16:35 | #8

    My condolences to those who experienced the magic of multiplex stereo and KMPX enlightening the San Francisco Bay Area and Northern California to the sounds and poetry in the late 1960’s. Rest in peace Larry Miller. I’m not sure if you are the host on KMPX I remember, “Larry the Lion”, but back in late 1967 and through 1969, I remember waking up to early morning KMPX as well as listening during the late night hours (I lived in the Sierra Foothills and could only pull a decent signal during the night/early morning hours). This radio station was the fabric of my life and what I am today. It was truly a “free-form” radio station which cultivated blues, poetry, jazz and the underground sounds of the times. I was 17 years old at the time I first began listening to KMPX and just couldn’t take the Top 40 music being broadcast mostly on AM radio. I enjoyed the surf sounds of the mid sixties and quickly was won over to the British Invasion, just couldn’t handle the bubble gum commercial crap popular with most others my age. KMPX let me know when free concerts in Golden Gate Park were happening and I missed school to make it down to San Francisco to hear The Jefferson Airplane, or The Grateful Dead, or Quicksilver Messenger Service. H.P. Lovecraft was also one of my favorites, behind the previously mentioned bands. Time passes, our generation is slowly slipping away. I am so happy for the experiences and memories. With that said, R.I.P. Larry Miller, you and your cohorts were definitely part of the fabric of my life and many others fortunate enough to have experienced you. Congratulations Jorma on you son’s graduation and your memories of Larry Miller and KMPX.

  9. Dead Head
    June 24th, 2016 at 17:01 | #9

    If you were polarized in the northeast area (NYC) in the early 60’s, AM band being for the most part the only option, it was COUSIN BRUCIE! Or Chicago’s Larry or Dick Biondi on WLS

  10. Michael Langley
    June 24th, 2016 at 18:02 | #10

    Some of the stranger things I remember about late-night KMPX in particular (probably heard while I was tripping) was a song about Lilly Doing the Zampoughi, Everytime I pulled Her Coat Tail and Stories from the Marquis de Sade who was telling this story to a group of people at a dinner…with the strangest twist for an ending. Very trippy and impressive on an electric mind such as mine was a the time. Wow, the memories!

  11. Mike Chambers
    June 25th, 2016 at 07:41 | #11

    I always wanted to say THANK YOU FOR your Hot Tuna acoustic blues album. It was a milestone for me in -73. Now due to the magic of the internet, I hope I finally have. Sorry you lost your buddy.

  12. June 25th, 2016 at 07:53 | #12

    Yeah man… Melvin Van Peebles… and more

  13. jim hitchcock
    June 25th, 2016 at 09:50 | #13

    What, no love for The Monkees?

    (Banned from Cracks in the Finish for life)

    Kidding, B Mitchel Reed was the coolest.

  14. Bill Fisher
    June 25th, 2016 at 10:07 | #14

    Congratulations to Zach and his wonderful family. High School graduation is indeed a milestone that launches one into the world. But it’s called “commencement” for a reason; may his future be a bright one! Also, I’d like to reiterate Mike Chambers’ “thank you” for that first Hot Tuna album. It re-introduced a lot of us to the pre-psychedelic acoustic stuff we had played before the rock tsunami hit.

  15. rich l
    June 25th, 2016 at 10:20 | #15

    @Michael Langley
    nicely put Michael, although I suspect you have a Cowsill album sequestered away in a box somewhere.

  16. DonGehre
    June 25th, 2016 at 16:07 | #16

    Edward Bear was one of my favorite eccentrics on the air at KMPX. One afternoon they played a Ken Nordine stand up about a guy who after many, many intrusions by the “guvmint” acquired the ability to know what time it was anywhere in the world. He became the universal clock for the powers that be. Right after the end the DJ launched into “Time Has Come Today” by the Chambers Brothers. It was an incredible connection. Me and my buddies saw the CB’s that same weekend and at the end of “Time” the audience exploded in one of the most powerful, thankful ecstatic experiences I ever witnessed. KMPX provided many signposts like that. Happy trails Larry.

  17. June 26th, 2016 at 09:54 | #17

    The heroes of FM freeform radio, mixing it up and enlightening us in so many ways. RIP Larry knowing your energy and spirit AND music lives on in the music still alive and well on radio stations around the world. Proud to be one of your torches keeping the flame lit and the music flowing on 88.5 FM in Tampa, WMNF.org

  18. June 26th, 2016 at 10:48 | #18

    You guys are keeping it alive… that’s for sure! Larry is loving it… count on it!

    Jorma

  19. Barbara Jacobs
    June 27th, 2016 at 18:23 | #19

    I love this story!

    RIP Larry.
    This is a perfect example of people living on,in our hearts and having fond memories of them.
    @DonGehre

  20. Barbara Jacobs
    June 27th, 2016 at 20:12 | #20

    Cousin Brucie : Ocean Parkway, Brooklyn, N.Y.
    Being “polarized” anywhere in NYC in the early 60’s put you in the best place to be.@Dead Head

  21. Judge J
    June 29th, 2016 at 16:15 | #21

    Wow, so lucky to have met him at the Ranch