Bob Dylan wrote “She's got everything she needs; she's an artist, she don't look back.” That was me: I was nineteen.
Just when I was about to be kicked out of my basement apartment, my job had ended abruptly and my parents cut me off for the third last time, I knew a door had to open somewhere. The door was to the basement club on Bleeker Street in The Village, at MacDougal. The Cafe AuGoGo was in need of a light and sound man. The job paid $35 a week, which even then was not enough to live on. But it was at the Cafe AuGoGo and it was in The Village and it was 1964. What could be better?
I arrived at the job with a suitcase, two guitars and a banjo. I slept on the floor of the light booth. On the down side, the ice machine had a nasty habit of waking me up in the middle of the night and once the lights were out, there was no light at all. On the up side, I could slip out after the show, sing for a couple of hours at the local clubs and come back before the regular janitor closed up. One night, I even threw on the lights and sound, climbed onto the stage with my guitar and did an entire show – just me – to the dark, empty house. Playing to the dark must have been what it was like for George Carlin and Oscar Brown Jr. – except there were no applause for me.
I lived in the Cafe Au Go Go sound booth until on night the relief night janitor tripped over me in the dark. I was reported as a dead body. The police made me find a new place to live.
The hotel a block away had a bed and a chair, with no room for more, with a shared bath down the hall, for $11.00 a week. It was a dangerous place but at least I could shower.
As the light and sound man I also supplied guitar picks to Mike Bloomfield, told a joke to George Carlin, heard Eric Anderson's newest song that was his only hit and was snubbed by Bob Dylan.
Richie Haven's manager told me to mic his foot, so I did. Oscar Brown Jr. told me to sing my own song and if people didn't love it, sing it again – or rewrite it. George Carlin told me to stop telling jokes. John Lee Hooker told me to let the music flow from my soul and I'd never have to worry if it was right. Then the Draft Board told me it was time to come home.
National finger-picks were no longer available because the metal was needed to make shell casings for Vietnam. Young idealistic musicians, it seemed, were needed to fire them and the magic ended. I left The Village behind in August.
I didn't get discovered, but in retrospect, I didn't get hooked, shot or arrested either.