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Short chapter about the interval I spent in Washington DC upon release from Army in early 1966.
—Frank da Cruz <email@example.com>
Most recent update: 15 September 2023 20:20:09
|Mr. Nazerman's pawn shop (right)|
|Wendy, Jude, and Peter|
|Jude yearbook photo|
|1715 19th Street NW, Washington DC|
I worked as a musician in the house band at The Brickskeller (which existed 1957-2010) at 1523 22nd Street NW, just off P Street, near Rock Creek Park in Washington DC, fronting for name acts that had records out (one I remember was the bluegrass group, Country Gentlemen), and had other gigs on the strip along M Street just east of Key Bridge in Georgetown, which was almost solid bars; this area is pretty much intact but WAY more upscale. (We used to go drinking there when I was in high school in Arlington, with our fake IDs, not just in bars but also in Greenwich-Village-like clubs like the Cellar Door on 33rd Street just off M with little-known folksingers and beatnik poets; the building is still there but the club is gone. Meanwhile just west of Key Bridge was a tiny place called Little Tavern, where you could get 20 miniature hamburgers for a dollar.) Years after I lived in DC, the Brickskeller became famous for having the largest selection of beers of any bar on earth, over 1000.
About playing in bands in Washington… Actually I was in two bands, one in the Brickskeller that played mainly bossa nova, some Charlie Byrd style jazz and Mose Allison (both Washingtonians), some German jazz that I picked up in Frankfurt, e.g. Simone 1 (Emil Mangelsdorff, Jutta Hipp); sorry, it's not on Youtbe but this one is close (more about the Frankfurt jazz scene HERE). Plus guitar adaptations of pieces like So What, Goodbye Pork Pie Hat, In Crowd, etc. And of songs that Dakota Staton sang (Late Show, When Sunny Gets Blue, ...) And some cheesy cabaret songs like The Shadow of Your Smile that the lead singer liked (can't recall his name, or his other songs). Sometimes Richie Lamborne would sit in and we would do Dave Van Ronk / John Hammond kinds of blues; he did a pretty good imitation and played blues harp too. Sometimes I'd also do some Bach riffs.
The other band played at bars on M Street and was pure rock… Songs that I remember are We Gotta Get Outa This Place (Animals), Good Lovin' (Young Rascals), She Belongs to Me (Dylan, my own arrangement), Well Respected Man (Kinks)… Nowhere Man, Michelle Ma Belle… Evening of the Day… The interesting thing about this band is that the drummer had been James Brown's drummer and left because the Godfather of Soul was such a tyrant. A third group at the same time was just me and Wendy and another girl, Tandy, and we had only one song, Catch the Wind, a little-known Dylan song that they liked that we did with weird dissonant chords. We "rehearsed" it every time we got together.
I played in bands in high school in Germany and in Arlington, and then in the Army too. In Arlington I also had two bands, one rock, the other "skiffle" (guitar, banjo, washboard, washtub bass, jug, spoons, etc, where we did songs that we copied from Library of Congress field recordings, plus some Leadbelly, some Almanac Singers, and once performed at a school-wide assembly in the auditorium). So I guess my musical career went from 1960 to 1966.
Wait, I just remembered, in the late Sixties some mainly black Columbia students had a 12-piece Motown/Stax R&B and funk band, Soul Syndicate, a large group with horns, big sound. I knew some of them from Double Discovery and they liked how I played guitar. Just before 1968 happened, they asked me to try out with them. But then things got complicated and the deal was off. (This comes up because I found out that the guy who invited me to try out, John Herbert, is at Montefiore, 3 blocks from me, and we got to reminiscing by email… And then after that I learned that John had been the anesthesiologist at my colonoscopy that Peter escorted me to!) Image at right courtesy of John, showing Soul Syndicate performing at Manhattan's Cheetah nightclub in 1968.
Anyway life in DC with Ritchie was getting too strange and eventually I realized he was stealing everything I had and selling it to support a heroin habit, and I knew I had to get out.