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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6 Responses to Letter to California – Carrie Nation

  1. Chris Peterson says:

    Letter form or not, this is a timeless song, hands down -the best I song from either band, and of all the songs, the one which might yet have it’s day. (An opinion the Mistress producer obviously shared, since it was placed in the coveted position of last song on side two of the album and received the most artist collaboration.)

  2. Steve Cottrell says:

    Bob:

    Guess we had the same sentiments, different years? I lived on the East Coast 1967-71 and had a great job, but always knew that at some point I would return to Northern California –– although my sandy beach was at the ocean and not at the Yuba.

    In probably 1969, maybe ’70, I sat down and wrote a kind of Letter to California of my own. Until I saw this posting, I hadn’t thought about the song in decades, but the human brain is an amazing computer. After I reached into my memory bank and started humming a few bars last night, the lyrics came back to me.

    Not sure how this will format as a cut & paste in your reply box, but here it is:

    CALIFORNIA GREEN

    I was raised in the redwoods
    In a coastal town of few,
    And spent my boyhood days
    Dreaming of the things I’d do.
    But now that I have left the trees
    And many towns my eyes have seen
    I often sit at night and think of California Green

    California Green, California Green,
    To walk upon the sandy beach
    The world will be within my reach.
    Someday, for sure, I’m going back to my California Green.

    Our house was on the edge of town
    A mile from the sea,
    And all around our neighborhood
    grew giant redwood trees.
    I think back now to nights in bed
    When foolish visions filled my head
    And plans were made for me to leave my California Green.

    California Green, California Green,
    To walk upon the sandy beach
    The world will be within my reach.
    Someday, for sure, I’m going back to my California Green

    If you’ve ever walked along the beach
    And let your feet get wet,
    Or watched the gulls dip down to feed,
    You never would forget.
    Those memories of days long past,
    Of countryside so free and vast.
    They’re trying hard to pull me back to my California Green

    California Green, California Green,
    To walk upon the sandy beach
    The world will be within my reach.
    Someday, for sure, I’m going back to my California Green

    I thought I’d move to somewhere new,
    Where a man could live his dreams,
    But like the salmon in the sea
    I’m headed back upstream.
    I realize now that I lost me senses
    Climbing over all those fences,
    ‘Cause nothing could be better than my California Green.

    California Green, California Green,
    To walk upon the sandy beach
    The world will be within my reach,
    So I’m goin’ back, I’m goin’ home, to my California Green.

  3. Greg Goodknight says:

    Something of a paen to California from the perspective of a drug addled visionary is “Estimated Prophet”, lyrics by John Perry Barlow, debuted by the Grateful Dead at the Swing Auditorium in Feb 1977… I was lucky enough to be there.

    The refrains were particularly inspiring, good lyrics with great orchestration… California really punched through

    California, preaching on the burning shore
    California, I’ll be knocking on the golden door
    Like an angel, standing in a shaft of light
    Rising up to paradise, I know I’m gonna shine
    http://artsites.ucsc.edu/GDead/agdl/estimate.html

    https://m.youtube.com/watch?v=TZhrXtxnkLw

    Barlow is an interesting character
    https://en.m.wikipedia.org/wiki/John_Perry_Barlow

    RL, you just needed a Garcia or a Weir to work with but Carrie Nation coulda/shoulda have gone further as was.

  4. Cindy Penick says:

    Hi Bob, my name is Cindy Lane. I knew you when you were in South Fulton, across from my Grandmother. My friend Frosty and I were talking and your name came up the other day and then my sister, Ginny showed me this page. I don’t know that you will remember because it was long ago and actually you were my brother Steve’s friend, I would just visit. I was wondering if you remember since Georgia is on your mind.

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