Touring the South of the early '70s, Pacific Gas & Electric was one of the few bands made up of both white and black musicians.
  • Touring the South of the early '70s, Pacific Gas & Electric was one of the few bands made up of both white and black musicians.
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When the plane landed in Macon, our manager had to create a little disturbance to throw us off balance. Sometimes, I think he felt it was his job.

“You know, this is the largest card-carrying KKK town in the United States right now.”

Maybe the other guys were used to hearing stuff like that from him, but it shook me, just like it was supposed to.

My first tour of the South with the band was spent mostly with my heart in my throat anyway. The South of 1970 still had public toilets where the sign "White Men" had only recently been whitewashed over. I saw one as late as the spring of 1972. And here we were, a group of two blacks and three "long-haired Yankees," not to mention the two equally hairy roadies. Any stops we made in public places put me totally on edge.

It was still morning as we proceeded to the hotel, and someone decided that we should get breakfast. The place we stopped at looked non-threatening – but had more than a little rustic charm. The seating was really just end-to-end picnic tables in three or four rows of maybe five each. Luckily, for my jittery stomach's sake, it was pretty much deserted. Also, the waitress seemed friendly enough.

As is usual for me, I knew what I wanted right away. Without looking at a menu, I ordered scrambled eggs, bacon, grits, toast and coffee. The waitress slowly made her way around the table until she had gotten everyone's order, and then disappeared into the kitchen.

At that point, for me, time seemed to slow down. I watched the doors nervously. I just wanted to be in my hotel room with all the locks in place. As I look back, I'm sure that the movie Easy Rider, which I had seen about a year before, had wormed its paranoid message deep into my psyche. I was probably visibly shaking, had anyone looked closely enough.

The waitress came back fairly quickly, empty-handed except for a slip of paper, and with no obvious sign of emotion placed it in front of me and left again. It was one of those little green-and-white meal checks, torn from her pad. I flipped it over and read the one word on the face of the check: "SCRAM." My fear reached new heights.

I slowly showed it to the band member to my left, probably Brent or Frank, and we looked up at each other with wide eyes. We'd both received the same translation at the same time. GET THE HELL OUT! Time was now at a standstill.

Eventually, the waitress came back out of the kitchen with another slip in hand, and placed it in front of my band buddy. I was watching intently when he turned it over. It had one word on it: "PAN."

It turned out he had ordered pancakes.

(YouTube footage of Pacific Gas & Electric live below - from a 1970 performance.)

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