Monday, December 3, 2007
(part 2) TONY ALAMO
Tiny Naylors Drive-In at La Brea and Sunset Blvd. across the street from the Carolina Pines in 1964
I met Tony in Hollywood in 1964, probably at the "Carolina Pines," a local coffee shop hangout for struggling musicians, writers, and actors. He was just another of the long list of "I'm gonna be somebody someday people" like myself, who scouted the streets, rumor mills, and hangouts for any info on the bizz. He owned a record mail order company called Mr. Maestro Records that sold boot legged oldies through the mail, and I always figured that's how he got by.
I don't recall exactly when it started, but when I would see him he'd say things like, "I'm gonna make you a star." I just figured he was mouthing off, but part of me wanted to believe this guy. I mean I was so hungry for fame I think I would have believed damn near anyone, if they said anything good about me. That's part of the trouble with show business. People are so in need of being noticed that they trust those I wouldn't let take out my trash.
Anyway, Tony pretty much had the magic touch when it came to bullshit, so I began inching my way closer to him the more candy he dropped in my ears. Looking back on it now I guess he was practicing for the Tony and Susan Alamo Christian Foundation, which came about a couple of years later. When I knew Tony he was a pot smoking hustler from Hollywood via Montana.
I was at an apartment of his in Hollywood one time when 2 Federal Postal Inspectors showed up at the door with guns drawn. They were looking for him for an alleged mail fraud scheme concerning his mail order record business, which he ran out of that address. He must of worked it out later, because it never came to anything while I knew him. It was just an example of how knowing him was like "what's next?"
He used to keep plenty of pot around so me and a few friends, Danny Whitten, Bruce Hines, Billy Talbot, and Ralph Molina could stay high and work on songs. In those days everybody smoked grass so we were just glad to have it. Hell it was free. Danny, Ralph, Billy and Bruce were guys I also met in Hollywood when I first got there. We started living together so everybody would have a place to stay.
We lived in an apartment on Franklin Ave near Highland and used to talk about when we would "make it," a term relating to "making it in show business." Strangely enough Billy, Ralph, and Danny went on to become the band "Crazy Horse" and Bruce was their roadie. The three of them had come from Ohio and were a doo-wop vocal group called Danny And The Memories, they were damn good, I mean really good. And me, the scared kid from Arizona with a dream, I too went on to one of the strangest voyages anyone could ever imagine.
From the streets of Hollywood to London and back. From the nobody bottom to the nobody top and back again. I was still the human yo-yo on a string. Never sure of who I was, who I had been, or who I was becoming. From country to country and style to style I was Bobby Jameson the goddamned quick change artist. Always ready with another song, another look, and even another name.
* * *
St. Johns, Arizona High School
Back in the late 50's I watched my brother get beaten in a fight in front of the entire student body of St. Johns High School. We'd played at a school assembly a couple of months earlier, for the first time, and the attitude toward us from then on was completely different. A lot of people liked it, but a lot of them hated our guts for becoming the center of attention. Some of the top guys in school now had to worry whether their girl friends had a new interest in us. Hell, we were like mini stars of a piss ant town and some of them were down right threatened by it, hence the fight.
It was just a matter of time before it happened and it happened at the school dance. My brother, who was a good fighter, got sucker punched by a football player and never had a chance. The Mormon principle of the school stood by and watched the whole thing happen and did nothing. I was beside myself screaming at him to stop it, but to no avail. The Indian kids knew what was going on, they'd seen that kind of shit all their lives. In the end it was them who picked my brother up off the ground and tried to clean him up. It was a beating, not a fight. It was a goddamned beating!
After that my brother just deteriorated mentally. Something inside him gave up and not too much later he ended up in the state mental hospital and was never the same. I vowed that from that day on no one would ever do that to me. It created a will in me that to this day I still possess. It has caused me great difficulty.
My mother moved to Mesa, the third biggest Mormon city in Arizona, to be closer to the state hospital in Phoenix where my brother Bill was. That is when she actually married Francis Farr, the Mormon in a wheel chair. That is where I learned to work like a Mexican field hand loading hay trucks in and around Phoenix in the summer when it was 120 degrees. He rarely paid me, but worked me like a dog. 18 tons of alfalfa a day. I worked with Indians, Mexicans, and poor whites. I gained their respect even though they knew I was the boss's son, because I worked harder than any of them, I had to. We unloaded box cars at night, because it was too hot to work inside them in the daytime.
I tried to prove myself to this asshole, but I never could. He made promises to me to get me to work, but he never kept one. Finally one afternoon I flipped out and blasted him with the rankest kind of language I could think up. I was 15 years old, going on 16, and had had enough. I told him I would never work for him again and from that day forward I never did.
For the next couple of years I got into trouble. I got thrown out of every school I went to and basically became a pain in the ass. It was because of this time that music, the only thing I really loved, began to appear as my only possible chance to escape the depressing conditions of my life. My mother's marriages and my brother's mental illness had taken their toll on me and at times I thought about killing myself to get away from the stark disappointment of my existence. But somehow I always managed to find a reason to keep going. I just kept thinking that music had the power to get me out of this mess. If I could just make a record, people might like it and I'd make some money and change my life.
I didn't have many friends in Mesa, Az. as you might imagine. Let's face it, it was the early 60's like 1960 I'm talking about. John Kennedy was about to be president and the country was going to go through one of the biggest social revolutions in history, but I'm talking about the time that preceded it. The still lingering, black's didn't have the right to vote yet end of the 50's early 60's. A dark social fabric of middle america where husbands could slap their wife around and still beat their kids without being arrested. If I know anything, it was one of the root causes for the 60's social rebellion and I was part of it. The few friends I did have would laugh at me and say I was crazy when I'd try and tell them about my music. They'd look at me like I was from another planet and start to question whether they wanted to know me at all.
Because of this I didn't bring it up much until I had a few beers and got just high enough and brave enough to talk about it. They'd make fun of me and say things like, "Bobby thinks he's a rock n roll star, but he's really just an ass hole". Every now and then I'd have to fight one of these guys to keep from getting pushed around so much. Fighting was something I got better and better at as time went by. Remember, this was Mesa AZ. a town full of Mormon cowboys who went to church a lot and then drank and fought on the weekends. Very similar to the christian right in present time.
The more I had to endure this shit the more I made up my mind to get out. To get as far away from these kind of people as I could. I doubt I could have been more serious than I was and used it for motivation to succeed in doing just that. As luck would have it Francis Farr, the Mormon husband, and my mom weren't doing all that well which in the long run got her to leave Mesa and go to Glendale CA. where her brother Norm and his wife lived. God, I can't tell you what this meant to me. A glimmer of hope for the future. Away from the shit kickers and Mormon pricks who I'd learned to hate with a passion. There was a reason to hope. Something to hang on to. If I could just hold on long enough to get to California everything would get better.
I'd be closer to the magic city of Hollywood. A place where people thought and talked about the things I wanted to talk about. A place where they actually made records and movies and... My head exploded like a pumpkin being hit with a baseball bat. I had transferred myself into a dream world and clung to it like a starving animal. For the first time in a long time I felt as though there was really something to believe in. I understand looking back on it now how incredibly important it was for me to have something to dream of, live for, something to keep myself moving toward. I had to have a goal and I had found one. I knew for sure that if I could just get to California everything would be OK and I would get the chance to make my dreams come true.
I had no idea how long it was gonna take to get out of Mesa AZ. I guess when you're in a hurry things that take a long time take even longer. My brother Bill had gotten out of Arizona state hospital, but was never the same. Once a powerful force in my life he now appeared to have been stripped of all dignity. He was timid and unsure of himself like a dog who'd been abused too much. It was the worst thing I remember about being a kid the day I watched through the wire mesh glass on the iron door at the state hospital. Two orderly's dressed in white hauled him away like a sack of potatoes from my view.
He was altered there, too many shock treatments. It was the old days of mental hospitals much worse then now. They didn't use much care in the application of electric shock therapy back then. They just wired you up and turned on the juice and bingo you were half a vegetable. I hated my mother for doing this to him I hated her for a long time. I just couldn't understand how you allowed that to happen to someone you loved. But over time I have learned that she was a victim as well of those times. She lived in the era when women barely had rights, hell they had to have a husband just to get credit and even then it wasn't their own. So over the years I have understood more clearly how that event troubled her as well.
go to part 3 of blog