Russell Buddy Helm
Humid nights in a Tennessee Williams /Southern Mansion coffee house. Fecund, lush, languid, horny. Strings of christmas tree lights hovering above Tiki Gods in the backyard Jungle, sheltering wine shadows full of lips and tongues and erect nipples, Howling Ginsberg and drinking coffee from a huge urn.
Cats. LOTS OF CATS.
Everyone originally performed on the tiny folk stage on the backporch. I felt slightly out of place. I was dressed more like a rock/Jazz player than a college intellectual. I wore yellow Italian loafers. Neiman liked those shoes a lot. We played "Worksong", a jazz standard song, acoustically, as a folk song.
We performed the Bethlehem Asylum Theme Song. Get Danny to give you the lyrics which explains the concept of the band and how it was integral to the conscious development of that group. Most of which have gone on to do either great things or sink into obscurity after promising beginnings.
Gamble Rogers performing was an education and a blessing. His gentlemanly Counry Wisdom and wit made him the winner of the Liars club more than once. "Mama Blue, you Pixie you." was about the woman who owned the Truck Stop in YeeHaw junction, Florida.
Morrison getting in trouble.
"The Bed"; Great Art movies shown in the living room on a large Screen. 16mm prints from Tom's Pals in New YorK. Tommy had worked with Balanchine and knew great art.
Bad Art on the walls. Mostly oil paintings of young men.
LOTS OF GIRLS.
There was a group of young women in their late teens and early
Tom's Mother taking the cash on the front porch with the full size statues of the Three Wisemen and their camels sitting behind her. Charlie was experienced, having been in Atlanta for while playing with the Atlanta Rhythm guys. "We're playing tonight so we don't have to pay." She would scowl at us.
The parking lot was shared with the Pinellas Park Police station across the road, behind the jungled backyard full of poetry, passion and political realities. There was also another jungle where guys our age were getting shot and the Tiki Gods and Christmas lights were actually bombs and helicopters. The nightmare was always close.Finley performing "Waterfront Property" and really holding the crowd. He had a seasoned approach, having kicked around New York a bit.
Christian, the Mystery Man from Harlem and India. A true Jazz piano virtuoso. A real player with the women, he played a black ebony flute. All the women wanted that black flute. He carried it around at a slightly erect angle. He looked like Gandhi with a jazz beard.
Jim Neiman lived upstairs. Sinbin had gold and red flocked Fleur de Le wallpaper. Jim worked with his dad as a paper hanger. He mopped the floor and did a bad thing with the dirty water. He was capable of dark humorous pranks. He sang the alphabet as a slow blues song and broke everyone's heart.
Buddy Helms 1969
Christian appeared at the Beaux Arts Coffee house in Pinellas Park, Florida. It was like an Indian Shaft walking into a Tennessee Williams performance maybe called "Cat on a hot tin Coffee House Roof" The owner of the old Southern three story mansion/ coffee house was an expatriot from Manhattan art circles. He showed art movies that are still talked about today. (Remember "The Bed"? The talent that performed on the small stage in the screened in backporch would make any Folkways collector's jaw drop. Ramblin Jack to Jim Morrison, all mixed with the lush rotting aromatic undergrowth that was the Gulf Coast of Florida in the late Sixties. That's where I first heard the Bethlehem Asylum and that's when I decided to do something really drastic and foolhardy with my fate. I joined the band. What the heck. It was Nineteen Sixty Nine and my life was slipping on by. I was already nineteen.
Beaux Arts still exists in this, the next century. It is still a place where kids can drink wine, and listen to folk music, and learn about kissing in the jungle in the backyard. Where we learned about Ferlinghetti, and Ginsberg, and chess, and Zen, and politics, "alternative lifestyles". It was where Jim Morrison first recited his poetry. This was the generation after the real beatniks of the fifties. There was one other fellow from this sleepy Gulf town that made a big dent in the world of music and very few people new him; Fred Neil...