Well. I really did it. Yep. I blew it again. I spent three weeks working on something that didn't happen. To tell you the truth, I would have been surprised if it had happened. It was a benefit. Not only a regular fund raiser, but one for the 1974 California Grass Trippers, people working on the statewide push to make it all okay and hassle-free. But, it’s fun doing benefits, it brings back thoughts of storybook American hippie rock’n roll. You know what I'm saying: a little freedom, a clean, happy feeling. A day outdoors, with the open blue sky covering the natural music hall filled with sweet sound, sweet smoke, and pretty longhaired ladies slowly dancing. It’s happened a few places, everyone has his favorites. But now it seems that those few places are somehow fewer today than yesterday and I have to pause and wonder why.
My little benefit concert for the M.D.I. — an attempt to raise funds for the statewide movement to keep people out of jail for using marijuana seemed like a good thing to do and I thought we could get a lot of support from the music industry. But, as Clarence Darrow once said, “Any fool can speculate.”
Some examples. When I spoke to Terry McVay of Far Out Management of Los Angeles who manages War about doing a benefit here in San Diego he stated, “Well, the group will be in the area at the time, we’ll be here until March 11th; however War will be too busy to do any gigs. I had to turn down several excellent shows I wanted the group to play on; the most important thing War has to do now is work on their new album and get ready for our upcoming lours of Europe, Japan and maybe South America.” I mumbled something about “life in the ghetto” and hung up. About three weeks after I spoke to Mr. McVay. one of the members of War got busted, (not for grass but for coke). And speaking of coke. I spoke to Irving Azoff who represents David Crosby, Joni Mitchell, and Graham Nash, among others, about the benefit and.he stated, “We don’t smoke, we only do coke! How about a benefit for coke?” he laughed. “Sure,” I said. “Just kidding,” returned Irv. “everybody's booked, no benefit.”
Before I go on, perhaps I should point out that M.D.I. had backers for the concert and the groups were going to be paid for the benefit. But many groups turned off to dope before they turned off to the benefit. A spokesman for Daybreak Management in L.A. who handles Seals and Croft roughly told me, “We don’t do benefits of that nature. The group, (Seals & Croft) are completely against all drugs.”Vincent Romero, (representing Grand Funk) told me from his New York office that the Grand One’s were already planning to visit San Diego this June, but possibly they could help out in another way and make a tape commercial for M.D.I. saying that Grand Funk was behind the drive. Romero said he had to check with his lawyers to make sure “everything was okay.” The Grand Funk story is a good example of why many large groups (especially English bands who can only work so many days in the States) find it hard to do any benefits. They are on a circuit (like roller derby), playing city to city for large promotion companies. If they play a benefit in one city they won’t really be able to return until they are recycled there by some New York office. We are stardust, we are golden, and we've got to get ourselves back to the garden. — Crosby. Stills & Nash.
Still trying to get a group, I called the Grunt Records Organization and spoke to the road manager in Bill Thompson’s San Francisco office. “We’d like to help out ‘the smoke’,” said the roadie, “but everyone is booked, Papa John Creach is in the East, Hot Tuna is in Europe and the Jefferson Star Ship (their newest act featuring Grace Slick & Paul Kaunter) is still in practice.” Oh well, I thought, tell ’em a hooka-smoking caterpillar has given you the call. Feed your head. Feed your head. Another group.
The Beach Boys are making a hit. how about them? I reached their offices and the reply was, "The Beach Boys do some benefits, but none politically based.” I smoked a joint and thought about the meaning of “politically based" and called a group I thought might do it, they were going on tour—the Mothers of Invention with Frank Zappa. Zack Glickman, one of Zappa’s managers, asked me, “would this make marijuana legal?" “Yes,” I said. “No," Mr. Glickman returned, “we wouldn’t be interested in that type of event at all.” So much for the kid from Mission Bay High.
Feeling rather down, I smoked another reefer and called the Paragon Agency in Macon, Georgia. A spokesman for the Allman Brothers, Wet Willie, Marshall Tucker and other Southern groups told me, “none of our groups will be on the West Coast; the Allman Brothers are in the studio and probably couldn’t get free. Anyway, they do most of their benefit concerts for the North American Indian Association.” A worthy cause, I thought. Someone said “Sly," and I dialed Steve Fargonli of the Ken Roberts Management Company in New York. “Yes," Mr. Fargonli stated, “Sly and the Family Stone will be on the West Coast at that time recording in Los Angeles, and they probably could get out of the studio for one show. It costs Sly about $7,000 to $8,000 just to put on a concert and we could probably do it for around $15,000, maybe less.” I told Mr. Fargonli that I knew the gas shortage was bad, but I had no idea it cost that much to travel from L.A. to San Diego. Next? How about the biggies? How about Black Oak Arkansas? Black Sabbath? Joe Cocker? Julie Driscoll? Eagles? Emerson, Lake and Palmer? Foghat? Claire Hamill? Heads, Hands and Feet? Or how about Free? Phrampton’s Camel? The J. Geils Band? Or Gentle Giant? The Groundhogs? Humble Pie? James Gang? Jethro Tull? King Crimson? Grin? Mark Almond? John Martyn? Ralph McTell? Mountain? Mylon? Poco? Pousette Dart String Band? Procol Harum? Ramatan? David Rea? Roxy Music? Leo Saver? Slade? John David Souther? Spooky Tooth? Steeleye Span? Strawbs? Livingston Taylor? Ten Years After? The Who? Tir Na Nog? Traffic? Tranquility? Robin Trower? West, Bruce and Laing? Edgar Winter? Johnny Winter? Yes? Or, Neil Young? All of the mentioned groups above are "owned” by Premier Talent and I spoke to Mark Felton, out of their New York office, who told me, “I'm sorry, but all of our groups are booked.”
How about Judy Collins or Joan Baez? Nancy Carlen of Monterey told me, “Judy Collins is in retirement for the next couple of years.” Gee. Great, I thought; and called Joan Baez who was out of the country, for which I don’t blame her.
Feeling rather down, I lit yet another joint when the doorbell rang. In tripped a Western Union Telegraph Man who said he had a wire from England. With hopes high for a second, I opened the wire from Steve Orouke of Enka Productions in London which read, “The Pink Floyd are unable to play due to other commitments but thanks for the offer, regards.”
Not everyone was booked. Boz Scagg’s people were asking a cool $5,000 for the benefit; Dr.Hook and Steely Dan wanted $4,000 each; The Four Tops were taking bids of S7,500. And so on and so forth down that giant list of rock superstars.
With all this negative rapping, I must defend the rock and entertainment industry in pointing out that as an industry it does “give” much more than many others to charity. Along with a score of San Diego-based groups, the following bands offered their services to the ‘74 Marijuana Movement: The Sons of Champlin, Butch Wacks and the Glass Packs, Copperhead, Stoneground, The Chambers Brothers, Tower of Power, Elvin Bishop. Malo, Azteca. The David LaFlame Band, and Marty Balin.
Well, kids — to make a long story a bit longer, it seems our rock ‘n roll assemblage for the marijuana initiative is busted this year. No, not busted by the cops or the government, but busted by a timeout in the struggle. I rolled my last doobie and thought of the words of Donovan, “Freedom is a word I rarely use, without thinking, oh yeah.” Oh yeah. I thought.