The Legend of J.C. Flyer
The first country song that I can remember hearing was "I've Just Seen a Face" that kicked off the Beatles "Rubber Soul" album (the original US album). While the Beatles did Buck Owens' "Act Naturally" on their earlier US release, "Yesterday and Today", my young ears didn't differentiate the cover version of Buck's classic honky tonk tune. What struck me the most about "I've Just Seen a Face," was the acoustic guitar sound and the brilliant back woods harmony that came out of a love of traditional American bluegrass music. Way back then, bluegrass was something that I was not yet aware of, although through the Beatles, and later, the Byrds, I became quite fond of that high-lonesome sound. With the proceeds that I saved from my paper route I bought an old Harmony acoustic and strummed out the three chords needed to play along with my musical heroes of the day.
After Bob Dylan went to Nashville to record "Blond on Blond", and later, "Nashville Skyline", the music community began to take notice of a simpler sound, one that touched hearts with simplicity. Through underground radio, which later became the standard FM stations, adventurous DJ's would fill the airwaves with not only what is known as classic rock today, but they also began to play music with a more home spun sound. Dylan's backing band, The Band's first album, "Music From Big Pink", was truly revolutionary. The Byrds begat the Flying Burrito Brothers and the Grateful Dead's country cousins, The New Riders of The Purple Sage, quickly caught my attention as well. Like many, I believe that Jerry Garcia was the first person that I ever saw play the pedal steel live. On "Movin' On" I tip my hat to all.
I had a musical epiphany of sorts when I first saw Commander Cody and His Lost Planet Airmen at My Fathers Place in 1972. The Old Commander had what was perhaps the finest band ever to mix Bob Wills swing, with old timey music, topped off with some dance floor shaking boogie-woogie. Hell, I didn't ever know Bob Wills' music, but I sure did after that! Along the way, the David Bromberg Band quickly picked me up and continued me through my American musical journey.
In the early seventies, I worked at a microbiological lab in Elmsford, NY. One of the microbiologists was also a country music performer. Patrick "Lefty" Malia performed a mix of covers and originals in low-lit lounges on the wrong side of town, Army bases, and USO Clubs throughout the tri state area. Lefty turned me on to a trove of great songwriters; Tom T. Hall, Johnny and Tommy Cash, the Hanks; Williams, Thompson, and Snow, Merl Haggard, George Jones, Willie Nelson, Waylon Jennings, Red Simpson, Ernest Tubb and many, many others. Back in 1972 it was as if I were learning another language, and I considered my self quite knowledgeable about all kinds of music at that time.
Little did I know....
Somewhere along the line I crossed the line from music aficionado to music performer. It was inevitable. Chronicling the San Francisco music scene in my Bay Area Bits column published in the pages of Relix Magazine for nearly 16 years certainly didn't hurt.
Several years after moving to San Francisco, Scott Wiseman, the producer from public access television's popular and inovative Deadhead TV "DTV" that I was working with, called me up one afternoon asking if I knew a drummer that could come down to a jam session that he and a few buddies had organized. After thinking for a moment and coming up blanks, Scott finally asked; "Why don't you do it?" I had never played drums before and after some insistence, (he had a drum kit down there), I agreed to come down. Something happened that day, as I discovered with some delight that I could not only keep a rudimentary beat, but I could actually play the darn thing. The session ended with me telling them again and again (to their disbelief) that I had never played the drums before. "Oh yeah...right." After several of these sessions I was ready to conquer the world. Before long, I was playing with Glenn Tucker in the Found Objects, and Third Wave, Sal Corazzo and the Nasty Habits, and finally, The Blenders. During the early eighties San Francisco had a really happening club scene. North Beach alone had 10 places where we would play regularly. The Blenders were a 70's funk and soul band that boasted a hot shit horn section. By the time that I joined they were in transition. For me, however, the funk was something that came naturally to me from a drummer's perspective. Working out of a studio on Hudson Street in Hunters Point, I slowly evolved the act to include me coming out from behind the drum kit to perform a couple of country rockers, twanging on a Fender Telecaster guitar. It was something that really got a great response wherever we played and I continued to explore more avenues fronting the band.
At the same time I also sought to find new musical partners. Through Big Brother & The Holding Company guitarist James Gurley, I was introduced to George Michalski who had just returned from LA and was hosting a weekly jam session at The Last Day Saloon. This was back in the old days when they had music downstairs and the music and the folks on the street would blend into one. The long gone comedy club Holy City Zoo was right next-door and Robin Williams would sometimes come in and raise hell to the delight of us all. It was a very special time for me. To a certain extent I consider those sessions my musical apprenticeship by getting a chance to play with real seasoned musicians. Besides Gurley and Michalski, the band included former Tubes guitarist Bill "Sputnik" Spooner, It's a Beautiful Day bassist Mitchell Holman, and Don Graham on drums. Don Graham was pure Tennessee. During the 1960's he was in a band called the Paper Boxes and toured with such legendary bands as the Yardbirds, The Jokers, and the McCoy's. Graham was a great drummer but the fact is that he could play anything. He wrote some beautiful songs too - some of which were published in the Hit Parader. He also was in a couple of other bands. Country bands. Through Don Graham I discovered DeMarco's 23 Club in Brisbane, CA. The 23 Club is a throwback to another era, with the walls filled with framed pictures of every country music star that had played there over the years. 60 years. The band that Don played with there was called The Night Flyers, and included some great players such as Rick Masters on pedal steel, Jon Hart on bass, and Declan Mulligan on guitar. Hart and Mulligan were from the Beau Brummels and they had a far-reaching repertoire of classic old time country tunes. Mulligan explained to me one time that it was all just "Skiffle." I would sit in as "one of our special arteests" during Friday and Saturday nights fronting the band - singing a couple of my original songs as the crowd line danced. In the summer of 1990, Don left for a tour with Highway 1, and the Night Flyers offered me the drum slot for 2 months. What an education! Five sets a night, and the jokes that these guys told each other over and over again for years killed me every night. And every night during the 4th set I'd front the band to sing "Long Hard Road," and Going Home," and getting a rousing reception from the crowd.
I originally asked Rick Masters and Jon Hart to join me in the new original music country band that I was starting but they were ready to move on to Reno. One thing was for certain; I wanted Don Graham to be part of my band. Joining Graham on drums was guitarist Jim Kaukman, and bassist Eric Van Dorn, both from the Blenders, John P. Murphy III on pedal steel and lead guitar, and the original keyboardist was Barry Flast from Kingfish. Those first gigs in 1990 were billed as J.C. and the San Francisco Flyers, giving a nod to our brethren in Brisbane, but Flast suggested; "why don't you call yourself J.C. Flyer?" and the name stuck. Now you know.
Flash forward to another millennium....
Three years ago I started "Movin' On" with my musical partner Jody Salino. Recording began with just me on my acoustic guitar and a click track. If recording is like building a building, well, we built a building. Between various conflicting schedules we finally wrapped up mixing in February of 2003 and the CD was mastered by Paul Stubblebine in San Francisco on July 17th. Both Jody and Paul did a superb job, as you will hear. .
The songs contained on "Movin' On" are my children, literally. My children were nurtured with love, peace, and understanding by a father that at times showed a lack of patience. Love thy father.
Check out the artist's website:
1. Big Wheels
2. Outlaws On The Run
3. Alone With The Wind
4. Long Hard Road
5. Snowing In New England
6. Drive All Night
7. Thousand Trails
9. Memories of You
10. Red Light, Green Light
11. The Ghost of K.C. Bishop
12. Foreign Soil
13. Back To You
14. Towards The Sun
15. Goin' Home
16. Bonus Track- California (The Barraco Variation)