Saturday, May 29, 2010

Pavlov's Dog

My friend Tony mentioned the band Pavlov’s Dog in a comment from a previous post. I have to admit the band is one of my guilty pleasures. As much as they’ve been a peripheral part of my life, It's odd I’ve never actually seen them perform.

When my band was beginning to build a following, I overheard someone in the audience say they hadn’t seen this kind of fan loyalty since Pavlov’s Dog. I wish I had seen them but they had already split by then.

I had heard their manager Ron Powell was sent to prison for tax evasion and took the band’s name with him. They were actually called the St. Louis Dogs for a while.

The problem, and what probably made them unique, was David Surkamp’s voice. It was like Geddy Lee’s without the masculinity. It could pierce through steel.

Surkamp is a great song writer though and I love the music to this day.

When the band broke up, he moved to Washington. In the late 70s I saw his new band at a theater in Maplewood. The Sheiks opened for them. All the members of the original band were in the audience. Everyone seemed sentimental and you could tell they were good friends.

Pavlov’s Dog finished their third album when Columbia Records dumped them and they lost their name. The record was called Third and I was lucky enough to find a bootleg copy. I wish it had been officially released. There’s a beautiful song on it called It’s All for You. There has to be someone else singing on it. It’s actually in a human vocal range. It reminds me of John Lennon’s last album. The vocalist seems to have found contentment, a kind of inner peace with the world.

I do have a bit of personal history with the band.

I had mentioned in an earlier post that Surkamp showed up at a party we threw at a West End mansion. It was my friend Annie’s house. The band was playing on the landing between floors on the stairs. Surkamp sat down with his acoustic guitar on the stairs and played his song Julia. The girls swooned and the guys wanted to kill him. Julia had become a minor hit on the radio. They had just signed with ABC records for a $650,000 deal. This is still one of the biggest advances in history.

Their lead guitarist Steve Scorfina brought demo records Columbia gave him to Wuxtry Records. Wuxtry was St. Louis’ first real used record store. I pretty much ran it then and we bought a lot of demos. We talked a lot about the industry.

Their second record At the Sound of the Bell is by far my favorite Pavlov Dog LP. King Crimson’s Bill Bruford played drums. Andy Mackay from Roxy Music and the late great Michael Brecker played saxes. I bonded with Scorfina immediately when I told him I idolized these guys.

He said, “Man you wouldn’t believe it. We rehearsed the album in my mom’s living room!” “Bruford played in my mom’s living room!” Steve broke his arm and didn’t get to play much on the record. He told me he preferred their first record and I always thought that was why.

There was a huge house in Maplewood called the Renkin House. (I’m not sure if that’s how it’s spelled). Tom Nickeson was the band’s acoustic guitarist and Ron Powell threw a huge birthday party for him. My drummer Benet was in another band called Contraband and they played the party. I was very impressed with the grand piano Powell bought Nickeson as a birthday gift.

There was a young woman at the party I was pursuing. I was starting to have some luck too but another young woman, who would end up being one of the unrequited loves of my life, asked me to stop. Like a fool in love I did. Years later I did get together with her and will probably post that story some day.

Doug Rayburn, who played flute and mellotron in the band, would go on to run a successful recording studio in St. Louis. I would occasionally rent some of my studio gear to him.

In 1990 Surkamp and Rayburn got the band’s name back and released a record called Lost in America. They got Michele Isam to play sax on it. Michele was in a duo called Jasmine that had a large cult following in St. Louis. She was also in Fairchild with my buddy Benet. Michele is a real sweetie. Unfortunately the record was terrible, very slick and uninspired.

I love these pics of the band. It's perfect early 70’s pre punk innocence.

Saturday, May 22, 2010

I Love a Parade

When I was fourteen or fifteen my buddy Dominic and I walked up to a St. Louis University street party from his Laclede Town townhouse. There was music in the streets and youthful excitement in the air.

I watched from the sidelines as a beautiful young girl danced up to me, grabbed my arm and tried to pull me in. I looked back at Dominic in horror and mouthed, “I don’t dance!” She shrugged her shoulders and gave me a look that said, “I’m not wasting my time on this.” Sadly, I watched the beautiful girl dance back into the mob where she disappeared completely.

It was one of many times I had to confront my darkest personal demon, I’m uptight.

Having already discovered the meaning of life is its celebration; I braced myself for years of therapy. A person should sing and dance with abandon.

Having said that, I love a parade!

It seems like I’ve been in one every year of my life. In forth or fifth grade I wanted to play drums so I joined the drum and bugle corps at school. I wanted to play snare but I was the only one large enough to carry the bass drum. My disappointment vanished as we paraded through the streets and people cheered.

I was in the Southwest High School Symphonic Band. My marching uniform converted into a tux when it got too cold to march outside.

I hated our horn heavy renditions of symphonic pieces in the auditoriums but I loved football half time shows and parades. We’d march in St. Louis’ Veiled Prophet parade playing When You Say Bud. I thought it was odd they used kids to perform a beer commercial.

When I was a teenager my friend Bill Schmidt and I were cruising in my jalopy downtown. We made a turn right into the back of the Shrine Circus parade. A dozen fat Shiners circled my car in their go-carts as we waved at the cheering crowd.

Years later my buddies at the Venice CafĂ© were invited in the St. Patrick’s Day parade downtown. Knowing they were a creative bunch, the city officials’ only requirement was they wear green and white. They were mostly long haired men on roller skates wearing Girl Scout uniforms. They weren’t invited back.

From their Soulard exile the following year, the Girl Scouts on skates threw Soulard’s only St. Pat’s day parade. Budweiser got involved and it was a pretty large event.

I drove the lead car chauffeuring the parade’s grand marshal Ray Hartman. Ray still owned the Riverfront Times newspaper. They dressed me up in a white drum major outfit and covered me in Mardi Gras drag.

I drove Jeff Lockheed’s 1950s Italian art car that actually came with a stock propeller on the front bumper. I kept yelling at friends I saw in the crowd but no one recognized me. It was very cold and the car had no roof. Ray and I shared a case of long neck bottled Busch we stored in the back. The beer got colder as we drank them. I ran into him a few years later and he told me that was the most painful event he had ever attended.

Al the great parades started as local events that were eventually swallowed by corporations. The worst is Soulard’s Mardi Gras. The first one I remember in the early 70s was our volunteer fire department’s truck, a high school band, a few baton twirlers, and our alderman. They all threw candy as they traveled from Sidney to Russell on 12th Street. I don’t think they were calling it Tucker yet.

The parade has degenerated into rolling casino and alcoholic beverage bill boards with professionally costumed models throwing individually packaged beads with ad medallions.

A few years ago I rode on the Lohr Distribution float in the parade. They handle Anheuser Busch in the city limits. My ex’s dad ran their fleet of trucks. I have to admit unlimited booze, an infinite amount of beads, pretty girls, and a porta-potty on the float were nice, but the party didn’t really get going until my friends dragged my drunken carcass into the crowd where I finally sang and danced with abandon.

A couple of weeks ago my kids started coming along. First we joined the march protesting Arizona’s SB 1070 and a week later we were invited by my friend Jon to ride with the Banana Bike Brigade in the Latin parade on Cherokee Street. I rode a bull bike and a little girl in the parade couldn’t figure out why I attacked the red handkerchief she kept waving.

The second pic from the bottom is Jeff in the art car I drove in the Soulard parade. Note the propellar!

Saturday, May 15, 2010


One of my mother’s oldest and dearest friends died this week. Georgia Shearer had been fighting cancer and finally succumbed in her sleep.

When I was growing up we shared a cabin in the country with two other families; the Shearers and the Kornachers. The clubhouse was a small room with an L shaped room wrapping around two sides. The small room had a wood burning stove and bunk beds. My dad worked for Brunswick. My brother and I wrestled in the dark, under covers in our radioactive, glow in the dark painted PJs that depicted a bowling ball shattering pins at the end of an alley.

The adults stayed in the surrounding room. I never understood how they managed it. We sometimes spent winters there. The windows were screens with steel covers you raised with a rope. Our running water was stored in an old iron milk barrel with a tap welded at the bottom. We had to fill it at a nearby artesian well.

We were like one big extended family. If we weren’t at the clubhouse, we were hanging together at one of our homes in the Debaliviere neighborhood.

Georgia seemed like an aunt. She and her husband Bill had a small house on Pershing. They had a huge Great Dane named Leo who couldn’t contain his excitement. His tongue was always flying around the room spraying everything with saliva. He was always knocking my brother and me down. He scared the Hell out of us. Georgia had to lock him in her bedroom. I think she must have resented that.

Bill played piano and his baby grand filled their front room. I've heard he was pretty good. Georgia was a scientist at Washington University. My mother considered her the most intelligent person she knew and the only person who shared her cultural interests.

I remember Georgia wrapping a Christmas gift for Nick Jacovac when I was four. “Would you put my name on it too?” I asked. “Of course not!” she said. I felt like an ass. I’ll have to post a story about the Jacovacs one of these days. They are an interesting part of St. Louis' history.

Georgia and Bill got divorced after my parents did. Bill moved in with my dad for a while. He dragged a full sized upright piano into their small apartment. It was great. Then Bill died from throat cancer.

Under our Christmas tree a year later was a gift to me from Bill. It was spooky. It was an electronics hobby kit. Georgia thought I’d like it and I did!

In my early twenties I thought it was important to stay in touch with people from my past. I visited Georgia at her apartment across the street from Heman Park in University City. Everyone I did this with would pop open a beer. I guess they figured I was an adult now and it really loosened up the conversation. I got information out of my uncle Bud and my grandmother I wouldn’t have otherwise.

Years later after teaching a group of first time skydivers I noticed a woman’s who looked very familiar. “Are you Suzy Kornacher?” I asked. She said she had a different last name now and asked where I knew her from. I told her my name and we both stood there dumbfounded as our pasts rushed in. She invited me to a party at her house and insisted I bring my kids and my mother.

The party was great. A lot of my students were there. Even better her parents, Bob and Flo, and Georgia were there too. Everyone was much older of course. My mother was practically a shut in at the time and it was an opportunity to reestablish contact. They all began to talk on the phone and send emails.

My mother was just collecting photos to send to Georgia when Flo called with the news. The ones I'm posting are a few she was going to send.

This is one of those subjects that as I write, I realize there's more to tell than I can say here. I’ll have to do it in pieces I guess.

Rest in peace Georgia.

Pics of Georgia holding me in front of a laundromat across the street from the Wabash train station on Delmar- left to right----- Bill, Bob and my dad under a Lautrec at the clubhouse-Mrs. Trendle and my mom- Flo and Georgia - Christmas at the clubhouse (I'm wearing binoculars)

Saturday, May 8, 2010


I went through a brief period collecting baseball cards when I was in 4th grade. All my friends did and besides, my dad knew a lot of the Cardinals. This was 1967 and 1968 and we were in the series. I had a personally autographed photo of Lou Brock that I treasured and all the rookie cards of the team.

I’m not sure where I got them, and they were probably reprints, but I had 3 Babe Ruth cards. He posed with Miller Huggins and Lou Gehrig, with Lou Gehrig, and by himself in a suit. I was the only kid I knew that had anything like them.

I was on the Cub Scout baseball team but I only made the B team. I was awkward and never really mastered much of anything back then.

We used to play a game called flipping cards. Two guys line their cards up along a wall. They each had a special shooting card. Now that I think about it was kind of like playing marbles. You’d flick your shooting card at the wall. Whoever knocked the most down got to keep the pile.

It seemed like all the kids were pros at the game except for me. It was an early example of my weakness for gambling. I knew the other kids were better than me but I had to play. I lost all my prized cards. In what became a lifelong experience, I suffered a brief period of loss and then shrugged it off as a lesson learned. I never did really learn.

A couple of years later I was a caddy at the Algonquin golf course in Glendale Missouri. I was a B caddy because I was years younger than most of the others. I made less money. We used to pitch quarters around the back of the caddy shack. There was always a game going and these kids were good. They knew a sucker when they saw one and I never came home with any money.

By the 8th grade I was living in Soulard. There was a carnival on the south side of Busch Stadium my friend Mark Gray and I went to. As soon as we walked in the gates I got suckered into a game. It involved marbles you threw into holes in a box. It seemed like you couldn’t lose.

I spent all my money and was so close to winning. The guy at the game said he felt bad for me and told me he would hold the game if I could come up with more money. I left the carnival and tracked down everyone that owed me money and even borrowed some. I was able to scrape enough to lose over $100.00. As I left I looked back at the rides I never went on. The game was shut down by the cops and even made the evening news.

I suffered another brief period of loss and then shrugged it off. I still hadn’t learned.

Years later my girlfriend Joanie and I went traveling the Southwest and found ourselves in Las Vegas. It didn’t take me long to lose all our money.

Joanie didn’t have the bug and was content to sit at a slot machine feeding it nickels. When she found out I’d lost our money she handed me a roll of nickels. She told me as long as I fed the slot machine they’d give me free booze. She didn’t want to see me for a while.

Fortunately we had $20.00 left. For some reason Joanie trusted me to play blackjack at a hotel at the Nevada border. I turned it into enough to get us home. Even better I had friends in the Colorado Rockies who put us up for a week so all was forgiven.

My girlfriend Valerie told me about her first trip to Las Vegas. Her boyfriend played trumpet in a band that was booked there. One night they got on the elevator in their hotel. She was unnerved by a man who was sobbing.

I was in the I.T. department at Harrah’s casino. I spent a lot of time in the pits watching problem gamblers. Let me tell you the casinos are totally heartless. Their business is money, period!

Professional gamblers will tell you not to walk into a casino with any thought of losing. I won’t go into one if I’m not prepared to lose a certain amount.

A few years ago Valerie and I were into playing the ponies. We’d walk in with a hundred bucks and leave with nothing but the memory of a great time at the track. We took my kids and my daughter won most of the races I let her bet in. She picked horses that had colors in their names. My kids left with money and we didn’t.

I haven’t learned a thing except how to walk away from personal catastrophe with a positive attitude.

It reminds me of a story I’ve already told. Tracey and I came home to our west end apartment to find our stereo and musical instruments stolen. We looked at each other and burst out laughing.

4th grade gambling Dave and a silhouette of Tracy from back in the day.

Saturday, May 1, 2010

The Manly Men

A lot of my friendships are lifelong ones. A few years ago my buddy Tracy decided a bunch of us should all get together once a year in some exotic location. He calls us The Manly Men. Women aren’t excluded but the only woman on our first trip was Tracy’s wife Marian. Come to think of it Marian seemed to keep a low profile. I didn’t see much of her. Maybe it wasn’t such a good idea to her.

When that trip was proposed my friend Fojammi talked me into it pointing out we weren’t getting any younger. Maybe we wouldn’t all be around for the next one.

Neither one of us could afford it. I was in the process of a divorce and felt practically homeless.

There have been times in my life when I’ve thought, “What the Hell, life is short.” This was one of those times. I decided to max out a credit card.

When I was 32 I did that skydiving. I was at a low point convinced I wouldn’t live long and recklessly went though credit cards skydiving. Ten years later, I was incredibly in debt and still alive. I couldn’t figure out what happened.

Anyway I was a low point again and couldn’t think of anything better than going on an adventure with my oldest and dearest friends.

Tracy found cabins at hot springs up in the Rockies. I have no idea how he found them. It took a day to get to them. They were in the middle of nowhere.

Tracy lives in Loveland, Colorado. Mark Gray and I arrived a day before everyone else and Tracy decided we should ski. Except for cross country I’d only been down hill skiing once before in my life.

In the early nineties my girlfriend Lora decided we should go to a place called Hidden Valley. It was a strange little resort real skiers probably wouldn’t even go to. We got there after midnight and had been drinking whiskey. I took an instant lesson on the bunny slope and soon went to the top of the hill. It wasn’t that high up but you ended up skiing through trees. It was terrifying and I didn’t have insurance.

So here we were in real mountains. Mark and I both picked it up pretty quickly. Marian decided we were good enough to try it from the top of the mountain. She’d only done it once before herself. I couldn’t believe we pulled it off. I was impressed if I do say so myself. I still didn’t have insurance but this time I was sober.

The next day the rest of the Manly Men arrived at the airport. They rented a large SUV and we headed out. It really did take a whole day to get there.

Our cabins were so rustic we really felt like mountain men.

Things were starting to look up for me. I’d just started seeing my new girlfriend Valerie. My kids had just given me Everybody Loves a Happy Ending by Tears For Fears.

I can’t begin to describe how happy sitting naked in a hot spring with tiny champagne bubbles shooting up between your legs can make you, especially while you’re listening to music you love. Running from the safe warmth of a spring through snow to your cabin can be pretty exhilarating too.

Dominic found a magazine that featured the springs we were at. On the cover was a couple that looked exactly like Valerie and me so he bought it for me.

My friend Vince and I decided to climb the mountain. It’s strange when you get above where trees can grow. Even stranger to reach an altitude where the snow never melts. The view of the valley from the top almost made me find religion.

The only bad thing about the trip was everyone pooling money for the SUV rental. It came as a total surprise to me. I ended up owing Benet money.

This is the second weekend of the New Orleans Jazz Fest. Manly Men are down there but I couldn’t make it. One of Benet’s bands will be playing. We’re going to try Southern Mexico in the fall. So far everyone is still kicking.

Pics are me, after chilly morning piss break on road to springs, mag cover and Manly Men. Left to right---- Vince, Mark, Benet, Dominic and Tracy. I took the pic and don’t know where Marian and Fojammi are.