GONE BUT NOT FORGOTTEN
July 27, 1975 was my brother Don’s fifteenth birthday. I was an ancient twenty-four at the time. That afternoon, he and I sat down in front of my Pioneer cassette player/recorder and laid down about a half dozen songs. I sang and played rhythm guitar, and he played lead mandolin, acoustic and electric guitar. We did a couple of my originals, a blues tune, a bluegrass song and a couple of rock and roll pieces. The recording turned out pretty good, so on a whim I mailed a copy to KPFK’s FolkScene radio program. I’d been a fan for years and had heard a lot of incredible music. A couple of local musicians had done the live portion of the show recently, and I thought we might have a chance to do so as well. About two weeks later I picked up the phone and a familiar voice was on the other end: Roz Larman, half of the disk jockeys hosting the show. They’d liked what they heard and offered to have us come on the show and perform. After finagling to have our whole band, Dog in A Hole, perform, I contacted Don and the bass and harmonica players to let them know the date and to choose 45 minutes of material. I should note that we were named after a school lunch menu item included in a Firesign Theater column in Crawdaddy magazine.
My dad drove us up to KPFK, and provided our band’s asthma ridden harmonica player with a shot or two of whiskey, and the bass player and I joined in. Don at fifteen was denied this rite of passage. The amusing Allen Kanter was engineering that day, a wealth of bad puns and bad jokes. We were led to Studio D, set up and tuned up. Howard Larman came in and introduced himself, and Roz when she entered a few minutes later. A gent named Michael Dinner had recorded a segment before we entered. Poor Mr. Dinner had just been named the new Dylan (of the month) by an LA Times writer, seemingly a kiss of death for most recording artists. Mr. Dinner changed careers and became a very successful television and movie director and producer. I’m not sure what happened to Mr. Dylan.
We played our set and were told that our recording would be played in a few weeks, opening for Texas legend Steven Fromholz. Through the Larmans and Kanter, we landed gigs at McCabe’s Guitar Shop in Santa Monica, and a slot on the KPFK Folk Festival held at Fort McArthur. About a year later, the Larman’s contacted us to play on FolkScene again. By this time Dog in A Hole was over, so Don and I played as a duo. Howard and I got into a long discussion of the actor Sydney Greenstreet and another about singer songwriter Paul Siebel. Sadly, these scintillating discussions were cut from the show when it aired. On this trip to KPFK, we got to hear folk legend Jean Ritchie use the “F” word when Roz accidently dropped Ritchie’s unreleased LP.
My folk days sort of slipped away over the next few years, but I would occasionally cross paths with the Larman’s at Folk Alliance or other folk related gatherings. At the first meeting of what became FAR West, I ended up travelling to dinner with the Larman’s. Although it had been nearly twenty-five years since we’d played FolkScene, Howard remembered the details of both performances, and inquired after my brother. Considering how many artists had crossed their audio threshold in that time, I found his memory astounding. (Ed. Note: Howard Larman passed away April 26, 2007 and Roz Larman passed on Octoaber 10, 2016.)
The Larman’s often played my CDs on their show, and of course that lent an aura of credibility to my “career.” But another KPFK folk disk jockey played my stuff far more often. The late John Davis’ Heartfelt Music show anchored the Saturday morning line up for years. I can recall when he played a cassette I’d sent him on the air in the early 1990s, sending me careening around the house at a garage sale to tell my wife I was on the radio! My path took me away from folk for a few more years, and one night at an engagement in Balboa a young man came up after the show to tell me how much he enjoyed our performance. He mentioned that his dad did a folk radio show on KPFK, and his companion said something like “Oh, he won’t know who your dad is…” but I guessed John Davis. Young Mr. Davis took a CD to his pop and I heard one of my songs the following Saturday. When I had gigs in the greater Los Angeles area, John would play my stuff and mention the performance. This almost always guaranteed a good-sized crowd. When John passed away a few years ago (October 9, 2017), I was very touched by an email from his widow Deanne. She let me know that John had always enjoyed my music and played it often.
The late Mike Boehm was a LA Times writer who covered music and theater. I met Mike for the first time in the late 1980s when I was attending a songwriting seminar in Orange County. Over the next few years, Mike often reviewed my recordings or wrote about my performances. He almost always mentioned my brother’s contributions. Mike’s writing was almost always positive, though he had opinions he was not afraid to share. I was especially proud of his review of my first CD, Little King of Dreams and even more so at the end of the year when the recording made #6 of his annual Top Ten recordings. Mike was a major proponent of all types of music, seen dancing at the Doll’s Hut punk club or lurking in the shadows at the Coach House. When he passed away earlier this year, it became apparent that his support was appreciated by many artists. An almost universal comment was how all the bands and performers thought he was a fan of their work. I can’t think of a higher compliment for a music writer.
So listen to folk radio and attend live music concerts and shows. Make it a point to contact disk jockeys and writers whose work pleases you, and let them know. It will mean a lot.
Dennis Roger Reed is a singer-songwriter, musician and writer. He’s released three solo CDs; appeared on two CDs with the newgrassy Andy Rau Band; three CDs with the roots rockers Blue Mama and one CD with blues roots band Suitcase Johnnie. His prose has appeared in a variety of publications such as the OC Weekly and MOJO magazine, Gram Parsons: God’s Own Singer by Jason Walker and American Cinema and the Southern Imaginary edited by Deborah Barker and Kathryn B. McKee. Writing about his music has appeared in an eclectic group of publications such as the LA Times, Bass Player, Acoustic Musician, Dirty Linen, Blue Suede News, and Sing Out! He’s performed at venues and festivals throughout the US and Canada. He once played in a blues rock band at a Chinese restaurant on St. Patrick’s Day.