Letter to California – Carrie Nation

This song was written in a two room cabin with no electricity in the Georgia wilderness. It was where Charlie Williams, Doc Halstead and I first resided when we moved to the State of Peaches in 1972. It was a grand adventure, but I was terribly homesick for Nevada City and the Yuba River. When I pine for “the beach on a warm California night,” I was thinking of the Yuba.

Several years later, the reformed Carrie Nation recorded it on their first demo tape. We shopped it around to record companies and gave the tapes to some local FM stations in the hope they might play some of the tunes.

One day we were driving down the freeway when “Letter” came on the radio. For a songwriter, hearing your music on the airwaves for the first time is almost as good as sex. Almost.

Charlie and I spent a lot of time sitting in the receptionist’s office of the local clubs with those tapes trying to get an audition. In particular, we wanted to play Alex Cooley’s Electric Ballroom, the Fillmore of the South. We could never get in to see Alex, but we got to know the receptionist, Janet Marshall, quite well after a few weeks. When she realized that we were the guys who did that pretty ballad about California on the radio, she went directly to Cooley and got us in the door. (We later found out that Janet was actually a partner in the business.) After that, we played the Ballroom on a regular basis, opening for bands like Manfred Mann, Jo Jo Gunne, James Cotton and many others.

“Letter to California” opened many doors for us, but never got us the main objective: the coveted record contract. A few years later it did get recorded on the Mistress album. Now, in age where no one writes letters, it is an anachronism. It’s still (in my opinion) a good song, and the Carrie Nation version is still the best.

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Happy Thanksgiving

Turkey GodzillaMake sure your turkey is fully cooked.

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Goodnight Farewell

Back when I was writing songs with the Carrie Nation band, there was no set rule to go by. Sometimes the musicians would come to me with a tune and I would fill in the lyrics. Other times I would write the words down in a notebook and give it to the band. That’s how it was with Goodnight Farewell. I had written the words and forgot about them, until one night at Charlie Williams’ cottage in the Ben Hill neighborhood of Atlanta. Charlie picked up an acoustic guitar and played this song. I was blown away by the originality of it. It wasn’t anything like what I had imagined.

Unfortunately, we never recorded the song in the studio. Only a few live versions, of which this is the best, have survived the years. As with The War, this was recorded straight off the sound board at the Electric Ballroom, so the mix is not the best. Enjoy…

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Turkey Shoot

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The War

A few days from now will mark the second anniversary of the passing of my good friend, Doc Halstead. Doc was the lead singer of the Carrie Nation band back in the nineteen seventies, but before that he served in Vietnam, earning two purple hearts before returning to civilian life. He didn’t talk about it much, but the first song he ever wrote was “The War,” which was adapted by the band in their live performances. Given the escalating conflict in the Middle East, the song seems more appropriate than ever.

I apologize for the rough mix. The song was recorded directly from the mixing board of Alex Cooley’s Electric Ballroom in 1975. By some miracle I was able to hold on to the cassette for 40 years. Now it can be digitized for the ages. Happy Thanksgiving all…

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Advice From An Undocumented Refugee


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Turret Syndrome

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Too Many Cooks


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