3 Part Harmonies In The Alley

Comments: 2

Palm Trees

In the spring of 1982 I was living in Los Angeles, playing music in small clubs, living near the beach in Venice with my bandmates. The three of us and our manager had all moved to SoCal from the Pacific Northwest a couple years before to take on the music business. We had big dreams, big hair, lots of guitars, sound gear and all the accoutrements, all crowded into a small house located in what, at the time, was often referred to as “the ghetto,” just a few blocks from muscle beach.

L.A. felt like a magical place for a bunch of young twenty-somethings from Oregon. I can still remember the feeling early one morning when I first drove into the San Fernando Valley going south on the 101, palm trees lining the Ventura Freeway in the early morning light, Linda Ronstadt’s “You’re No Good” turned up loud on the radio of my 1964 sunroof VW bug. I hoped I’d be “making it,” and the dream of scoring a record deal was just around the corner.

There were so many stories I could tell from those days… but here’s a favorite. We had been playing regularly as a five piece in a club called “Jasons” in Toluca Lake that year. We were pretty much the house band – we played there about three weeks out of every month. We did a bunch of originals and some of our favorite covers. We were children of the 60’s and 70’s, and often closed the show by playing the whole second side of “Abbey Road”. It was a great time and we had a devoted following. Quite a scene.

Well, one of our keyboard players at the time knew Johnny Harris, the musical director for Lynda Carter’s band — you know, Lynda Carter of “Wonder Woman.” Lynda had a music show she did in Vegas, etc., and was apparently looking for a self contained band she could hire. Johnny came into the club one night, listened to a couple of our sets, and he liked us. Johnny was (and still is) British, and was a big personality – he had also been the musical director for Tom Jones, which was the source of many other stories (now there’s another blog I’ll have to write). He sat with us between sets and invited us to learn some tunes for an audition with Lynda, to see how the band’s worked with her onstage. Of course we were thrilled.

A week or so later we were all set up in a big room at The Alley, a classic 60’s rehearsal space decked out in barn wood, the walls all hung with tie-dyed prints — in North Hollywood. Lynda came in and we all met her for the first time. She was sweet as could be, talented, and a joy to work with. We ran through the tunes we’d been practicing, and there was instant sympatico. We learned later that day we’d been hired. We were all so enthusiastic and excited to have the opportunity to work with her, it was a buzz that I’ll never forget. But that’s not all.

During a rehearsal break one day the next week at The Alley, as I wandered down the hall near another rehearsal room, I heard the unmistakable sound of three voices I knew very well – David Crosby, Stephen Stills and Graham Nash. The door was open, so I wandered in. They were just finishing up a song and were stopping for a break. They were rehearsing for their 1982 “Daylight Again” tour. I struck up a conversation with Graham, who was incredibly kind. I don’t know how I found the courage to do so, but I asked him if they had someone lined up to open their shows yet. He said he didn’t know, but encouraged me to send a cassette tape to their tour manager, which I did the next day. I didn’t get that gig, but amazingly, a couple weeks later, I got a note in the mail from the manager, thanking me for sending the tape, and encouraging me to check in again another time.

We went on to have a great time working with Lynda for several years. That summer of 1982 we played with her in Las Vegas and did a string of shows with her in the midwest and on the east coast opening for Bob Hope, then appeared with her on The Tonight Show and a TV special. We hadn’t landed a major record deal, but we were making a living playing music, and I was spending a lot of time writing songs and playing my guitar, preparing for what was next. I felt very fortunate to be one of the lucky ones that got to experience the crazy, wonderful world of show business at that young age.

After that tour I came back to L.A. and continued to play my original music in clubs for the people I had come to really appreciate – the listeners like YOU that make all of it matter.

I still look forward to many more experiences along this musical journey that I am still sharing with you. Here’s to having you as a part of it with me!

If you would like to hear my most recent milestone in that journey, click here to listen to my new album, “Missing.”

Thank you so much for taking the time to listen and make it all possible.

2 Comments

  • What a great story! Graham Nash is legendary for being a sincerely nice guy, and approachable, as you found out. I would imagine this is not the case with Stills and Crosby, but I can’t blame them.
    Any run-ins or stories about Joni Mitchell from your LA times?
    Your Gurian (is that right?) sounds tremendous, and I love your response to my query about using a partial capo. Open, or full strings is certainly the best way to go for resonance and just how it feels under your fingers.
    Looks like you’ve reached your goal for “Missing” so hearty congratulations!! I’ll be watching for any possibility of a PNW gig in the Seattle area. I know it’s been a little while, but welcome back to your music Scott, we are lucky for your sharing.

    • Scott Martin says:

      Hi Mark – thanks so much – I’m sorry I’m just getting around to responding to your comment – but I think I caught you with an email. I am changing the notifications for comments so I will catch them more quickly. Regardless – yes, Graham was such a sweet guy, and I’ve heard similar stories about him from others. I never met Joni, unfortunately. Her music had a huge effect on my development as a songwriter and musician. As far as Crosby and Stills, once in 1984 I was walking through a studio lot in Hollywood to a meeting, and as I was walking through a maze of bungalows I heard shouting ahead. As I rounded a corner between two bungalows, there was Stephen and David shouting at each other at point blank range. They didn’t even stop to look at me as I hurriedly turned and went past them.

      I do hope to get up to Seattle to play some music asap. Love it up there. I don’t know if you know that I grew up in the Northwest and went to school for two years at Pacific Lutheran in south Tacoma.

      Thanks for listening, Mark. I look forward to meeting you soon. — Scott

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