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"I'm just the old guy with a beard sitting at the bar until I get up to play," says singer/songwriter/guitarist/harp player Hugh Gaskin, 56. "After my set, people buy me all these drinks.... But it almost got me arrested last week. By the time they got to me [for a breath test], I was legally not drunk....

"I've been playing in this town for 41 years.... My first band was called Street Noise. We played the beaches in the late '60s, early '70s. We played this bar in Mission Beach called the Bathhouse. It's now Guava Beach. It was a biker hangout.... [In PB], we'd play in the alleys. It got so packed, people would dance on rooftops. Girls would wear these granny dresses. I remember when the sun went down you could look up and see a silhouette of a female figure right through these granny dresses....

"In December, I got an early retirement from Cox [Communications]," says Gaskins. "I'm going to start playing more."

The Hugh Gaskins Band appears at O'Connell's on New Year's Eve.

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