The Recording


After I retired from the workforce I became ill with COPD, a creeping, degenerative condition, that has a direct effect on one’s breathing process.

It is not curable but one can learn to live with it and maintain optimism.

I decided I wanted to put some of my musical “bon mots” on YouTube so after I board the “Freedom Train” people can perhaps share them and say, “Oh yeah…I remember him. He could play some and he sounded like this…”

So I put up a bunch of tunes.
I used a free recording program called Audacity that was easy to use and edit and commenced recording.

Polished CD quality they are not. They are more like what they used to call “demos”… one time through runs of a given song. But they served their purpose in that they show I was able to play guitar and Dobro as Chet Atkins would say, “slightly above below average.”

Elsewhere on this Blog is a write-up called “Poppa Played The Dobro” which is my history on playing the Dobro and, woven through it, is reference to a certain song actually called, “Poppa Played The Dobro

This song kinda became my trademark back in the day when I played in public a lot. I gave it my own spin and it consistently delighted people.

When I finally decided to record this song I had an immediate problem.
I no longer had the capacity of just singing the song. I ran out of air too quickly. Too many years of Pall Malls had done in my ability to sing any song all the way through.

But how could I not include Poppa Played The Dobro in my collection?

I sent an email to a friend asking him if he would do the vocal for me but he wasn’t that familiar with the song and may never had heard me sing it. That, and he was a blues singer.

He was encouraging, though, and promised that I would find a way. I thought it interesting that he could make such a promise since it was my vocal shortcoming I was dealing with but he knew me better than I knew myself.

I took up my acoustic guitar for foundation and sang the whole song recording it as I went along.

One line at a time.

Thanks to the multi-track ability of my recording program I was able to cobble a melody line that worked and blended all the single lines into a continuous sequence that has little trace of my affliction.

I added my Uncle Josh style Dobro licks and even managed to insert a particularly tricky lick in the song and ended up with one of my more victorious musical efforts.

Could it have been done better? Perhaps…probably… but the process I just described was intense and tedious and doing it all again really didn’t seem necessary.
I wasn’t out to sell it.

I just wanted people like you to hear it and perhaps have a smile for a while afterwards…

Some of you will remember hearing it.
Here’s the link if you haven’t heard it…


The Coffee Concocting Caper…


I’m not a coffee aficionado
I’m not a connoisseur, not by a long shot.
I do like what I call “diner coffee” that being what one finds in short order restaurants that have twenty-four hour breakfast menus.

When I went to restaurants, be it breakfast or dinner, alone or with friends, if I had coffee that was particularly good I would ask the server what brand of coffee they poured. Notably, the best tasting brew was almost always Farmer Brothers Coffee.

I must try to duplicate this at home!

And there the fun started…Because you can no longer “just make coffee.”
You have decisions…choices…

The Quest

Which brand to buy from all the choices screaming for your attention?
To grind beans or not grind beans…
Do I get a drip type coffee maker?
A pour through (Melita)?
A French Press?

There are no “samplers” where you can try different brands over a period of days. No. You had to buy a goodly quantity. No events similar to wine tastings where one gets to sample different brews…

I decided to save time and target Farmer Brothers Coffee.
Farmer Brothers Coffee is not retailed at my supermarket which meant I had to go online to get some.

To Grind Or Not To Grind

I bought a grinder and ground my beans for a while but since I brew coffee at five in the morning I didn’t want to subject my neighbors to the raucous noise of a grinder in the wee hours. Which meant grinding it in the daytime.

This was allegedly a sin because I didn’t use it immediately after grinding. This kinda took away from the whole reason for grinding my own since afternoon or evening grinding would lose it’s alleged mojo by morning.

Still, when I did grind my own (as I did for a while) I didn’t notice a huge difference between store ground or on-demand ground when it came to the actual taste in retrospect.

Fire Burn and Cauldron Bubble… The Brewing Process

I went online to see what the French Press was about and soon decided my life was already too complicated to fuss with that damn thing!

Right from the beginning I always used filtered water, having no love for the local tap water.

At first I used a Melita system which is a cone filter pour through designed to make a cup at a time. It was OK, suitably ritualistic, maybe a little cumbersome but it was impressive because of the very ritual it entailed.
Still, it was a lot of fooling around early in the morning.

So I bought a Mr. Coffee.

Mr. Coffee is a clever device, a step up from the old fashioned percolator.
It copies the drip brewers one finds in restaurants everywhere. It delivers what it claims is hot water at the proper temperature and keeps the carafe hot as it brews.
It makes clean coffee and does not deliver muddy dregs and grounds in your cup like the old percolators did. My Mr. Coffee uses smaller versions of the restaurant paper filter to keep the liquid clean.

I bought the “4 cup” version and quickly found out that “cup” dimension varied. Their “cup” was a boldfaced lie, in my estimation. There is no “standard cup” when it comes to coffee. It was pretty much what a coffeemaker or cup maker wanted to call it. There is no agreed upon “cup” except in baking.

The “cup” markings on the Mr. Coffee carafe are almost espresso in size.

I drink from your basic 11 .oz coffee mug which does not harmonize with “cup” at all. A coffee mug is around ten or eleven ounces of liquid. The Mr. Coffee 4 cupper cannot make two mugs of coffee. There is not enough room in the reservoir or carafe. When you look at the measure lines on the Mr. Coffee reservoir window the liquid required for a mug of coffee is just a little above the two and a half cup area. Finding a portion recommendation was a challenge. Even online recommendations couldn’t agree.

I bought a yuppie stainless steel “coffee scoop” which turned out to be a six dollar tablespoon measure. Just what the doctor ordered when the recipes call for “use one scoop of coffee per cup.”

But a mug needed more. I despaired finding a single unit measuring scoop. I finally spotted a steel measure marked “1/8 cup.” Later on I found a brew of 11 .oz of water, called for a tablespoon plus a teaspoon of grounds. After checking with a portion scale I found The 1/8 cup measure was exactly that.


I still had a problem. Mr. Coffee uses a basket that holds a filter. The basket filter has a flat bottom about 3.5” across.

I could only brew one mug of coffee from the contraption.
This meant I had to jiggle the dry grounds as evenly as I could across the bottom of the filter. This was to ensure an even flow of hot water through the grounds in the brewing process. The result was always mixed because the grounds were spread so thin that the nozzle spraying hot water punched a thin spot in the grounds. Water always looks for the way of least resistance. This meant more of the water would go through the weak spot rather than evenly through the grounds. The resultant coffee came out on the weak side.

What was needed, I decided, was a baffle to deflect the force of the water.

I cannot tell a lie. For the next few months, (yes, Months) I cut disks out of several different materials, Styrofoam (from egg cartons) to two or three types of plastic, even an aluminum soft drink can cut to fit.. Each baffle had to have holes made in it and a simple handle for taking it out of the basket.

All of them were lacking in some way. Mainly in finding a way to make smooth holes in the baffles and finding a material that wouldn’t stain and would easily rinse clean. The baffle would always have grounds sticking to it requiring at least a rinsing at the end of the brewing cycle.

I finally found success by buying a disposable aluminum bread pan. The metal is so thin it cuts easily with regular scissors. I cut my disk and bought one of those hand held paper punches and punched a bunch of holes in the disk. For a handle I took a chopstick and whittled one end to resemble an upside down “T” and put it in the center with the stem of the T pointing up so I could grab it.

That worked pretty well but sometimes I would still see a thin spot because I failed to spread the grounds evenly and I would also see evidence of grounds having floated through the baffle holes.

One day I had a brilliant idea.

First, I put the filter in the basket. Then I take a straw and use it as a pipette and transferred a small amount of water from the Mr. Coffee reservoir to the basket. You do this by sticking the straw in the water and closing the end off with your thumb. Air pressure keeps the water from draining out of the straw as you transfer the water.

The filter, of course, gets wet and I would tip it around to make sure the entire bottom gets covered with moisture.
When I dumped my grounds on that it was easy to be sure I got full coverage because the dry grounds now stick to the wetted area.

As a final touch, I took some of the paper filters and cut disks out of them that just fit over the grounds. I place one of these atop the distributed grounds. The baffle holds the top filter down so it won’t float. Voila! The water nozzle can no longer make pressure holes in the grounds.

The baffle is easier to keep clean, also.

So it goes like this…
1. I put filtered water in the reservoir in late afternoon, early evening. I use a plastic measuring cup for this that has a Sharpie line that tells me exactly how much water to put in the reservoir.
2. In the morning I put the paper filter in the basket and wet the bottom of the filter.
3. I have a small plastic box with a lid on it that I have previously measured my coffee grounds into. Pop the lid. Dump the grounds in, shift them around to be sure of even coverage.
4. Put the basket into the brewer.
5. Add the pre-cut top filter, then the baffle and turn it on.

Totter into the bathroom to “meditate” and get dressed.
When I come back to the kitchen I measure the next day’s coffee grounds into the little plastic box I mentioned earlier, I put the box in the airtight canister that also houses my grounds and measure scoop. I get the next day’s pre-cut top filter disk ready. And finally put my sugar and straw in my cup.

This preparation routine makes sure the brewer has time to drain the basket of liquid into the carafe.

Remove basket, rinse baffle, pour coffee. Voila!

All that for one morning cup of coffee…plus Farmer Brothers Coffee, bought online.


…the straw?
Keeps my mustache dry and acts as a stir stick.

I’m In The Book


There are several biographies and books of the Grateful Dead on the market. Maybe too many since there are easily over twenty as of 2015.
The latest is
“So Many Roads: The Life and Times of the Grateful Dead”
(released Apr 28, 2015)
by David Browne

My name appears in some of the older books as being in some of Jerry’s Palo Alto era bands but in this one I got a bona fide contributor’s mention.

Mr. Browne had seen my “Reflections On The Garcia” and based on that, contacted me by email a few months ago and asked for a phone interview. We arranged a time and if I remember correctly, we talked for about an hour.

I saw that it had come out and ordered a copy and, Voila!, there I am, my memories referenced accurately and my last name was even spelled right. (In the book he used a lower case “v” on the Van Maastricht but he is forgiven. That error was my fault.)

I’m quoted in roughly four pages. Not much in a book 443 pages long but my contribution represented impressions in such a brief period of the Garcia history.

Still, it is a mildly surreal feeling to see oneself quoted in a hardcover book even unto being listed in the index.

It’s funny… everyone wants to be remembered after they’re gone and in this way I, in a very miniscule way, am now in American music’s memory.

Mr. Browne wrote for, among other things, Rolling Stone magazine so his prose is an easy read. I don’t know if it will be a best seller. I doubt it but I do know those people who are fixated on Garcia and the Grateful Dead will have this in their collections and archives and, for a long time, those who take this book up will read my name and commentary long after I am just a dust bunny.

It’s hard to define what Jerry was to me. To me, he was a real friend, a guy I jammed with a lot, played in little pickup groups that were never paid but always thoroughly enjoyed. He helped me lose some of my fifties Midwestern uptightness. This was not an easy task because it was deeply ingrained. He was instrumental in opening me to areas and ideas in music I hadn’t seen before. Reading the chapter featuring my quotes brought back a flood of memories of people and places and remind me of how really far I have come as a person largely due to Jerry and the people I met during that period.

After he became “famous” we would meet from time to time and would mutually and wordlessly crinkle with a look that said “I can’t hardly believe it either.”

I was immensely proud for him that he became famous and made a living on his music. Every musician has this dream whether they admit it or not. However, such fame comes with a price and for some the price is terrible indeed.
I knew him when he was dirt poor but determined to make music his life. I relished his fame and fortune but was deeply saddened by his entanglements with the demons that eventually killed him

I miss him terribly…

Tom Webb teaches me how to play “Blackberry Blossom”

I mentioned a band “Shagbark Hickory” in “How to Train a Sound Tech.” Here’s another “Shagbark” story…

When I sat in with them they played a bluegrass standard “Blackberry Blossom.” Onstage communication was the best I’d ever worked with.

However, when “Blackberry Blossom” would come up I would opt out because I hadn’t worked out a solo for it yet. It’s a complex sounding song but is based on a simple descending scale.

Their pedal steel player, Tom Webb and I, liked to needle each other a bit and one night, as Florie started the song Tom leaned back and said, “You gonna play it tonight?”
“Naw, I don’t think so.” I said.
Tom leaned back again and with a twinkle and a grin said, “Jerry DOUGLAS can play it!”

That did it!

So when Florie made eye contact asking if I wanted in, I dove into the tune and, if I say so myself, pulled it off quite handily. I still play pretty much the same break when called on to do that song and think of those guys every time I play it…

To this day I still haven’t had the opportunity to hear the Jerry Douglas version.

The Frisbee Follies


1975 brought us:

President: Gerald R. Ford
Cost of first-class stamp: $.10
Quart of milk: $.46; loaf of bread: $.33

Mood Rings, Rubik’s Cubes, Pet Rocks are fads.

“One Flew Over the Cuckoo’s Nest,” “Jaws,” “Nashville.” “Dog Day Afternoon.”

“Saturday Night Live” premieres on NBC; George Carlin hosts the first show.

Home videotape systems (VCRs) are developed in Japan by Sony (Betamax) and Matsushita (VHS).

Computer hobbyists Stephen Wozniak and Steven Jobs begin working on computer designs. Together they develop the Apple 1 prototype.

Microsoft is born.

Vietnam War ends.

…And California laws are enacted stating that being in possession of an ounce or less of marijuana is no longer a Felony. It is now a Misdemeanor. Guilty parties can expect to be fined, similar to traffic violators instead of imprisoned.


Back then the recreational pot smoker did not have access to the managed dispensaries we see today. Also the potency of the product was nowhere near the potency of the refined cannabis now being sold.

Marijuana was usually sold in “lids,” street slang for your plastic sandwich baggie containing one ounce of pot, which often included seeds and stems.

Since I, as author, cannot tell a lie, I will reveal that the crew at Gelb Music was known to sample marijuana from time to time. Yes, dear ones, it is so. However, they did not degenerate into “reefer madness” as depicted in scare movies. They kept a good humor and conducted their affairs with no serious impairment.

The better grade of pot was from the unblossomed buds of the female cannabis sativa plant. These buds tended to have quite a few seeds in them. A common method of separating the smokable pot from the seeds was to use an inverted Frisbee as a dish. The dried plant material was crumbled in the fingers into the Frisbee which was then held at about a thirty degree angle. The cardboard edge of cigarette paper packaging would be passed through the stuff in a gentle, upward sweeping motion and the seeds, round and a little bigger than BB’s, would roll to the bottom edge of the disk for easy removal. A learned skill. From this operation one got the material used to roll into a “joint,” sometimes called a “doobie.”

Now just tuck that information away for a moment while I tell you a story…

Thar I wuz…

Gelb Music, in those days, had a simpler burglar alarm system. It involved lead foil tape applied to the windows and door glass. This material was getting worn to the point that sometimes the smallest glitch could set it off and, one day in midsummer of 1975 it indeed went off.

The routine was that since I lived closest, less than two blocks from the store, I was the guy who met the cops at the door. I would open the door and shut off the alarm. That was usually it. Any police department will tell you most merchant burglar alarms are false alarms so in most cases they let me look around to see if any merchandise had been disturbed. Since I never saw any evidence of forced entry they would just go on their way and we put off (again) having the alarm system thoroughly tested and upgraded or repaired.

Except this one particular day.

The alarm went off. It was around sunrise, way before we were scheduled to open. I went down to the store and the cops on duty were not the guys I usually knew, but they were friendly enough. I used my key to kill the alarm and we went inside. I started to go to give a quick look around when one of the officers said, “Please stand there, sir, and let us check the premises to be sure it’s clear.”

No problem, really, because I pretty much knew there were no Bad Guys lurking.

In those days there were two teaching booths in the front of the store. Each one had room for two chairs, a small guitar amp, music stand etc.

One of the cops went into the front booth and was in there a little longer than I liked.
Sure enough, he comes out holding a bright yellow Frisbee, and in the Frisbee is a plastic sandwich bag about half full of marijuana, and a package of Zig Zag rolling paper.

“What’s this?” he asked me.
“Offhand I would say that it is marijuana,” I replied.
“Is it yours?”
“Do you own the store?” he asked.
“No sir I do not.”
“Please call the owner and have him come down here.”

At the time I think Kevin lived in the Santa Cruz Mountains and would be hard pressed to make the trip. Henry lived in Redwood City at the time so it was Henry I called.

His wife, Carol, answered the phone. I had clearly awakened her. I said “I need to talk to Henry.”
“Okay,” she said, and hung up. (Oboy!)
I redialed. She answered again. “I need to talk to Henry Now.”

That worked and Henry got on the phone and I told him the police were here and had questions about things found in the teaching booth.
“I’ll be right down,” he said. And he was.

I told the cops Henry was on his way. While we were waiting they read me my Miranda rights and I opted for the ‘remain silent’ clause and picked up a nearby acoustic guitar. I can’t say for sure what I played but I seem to remember it might have been “Goin’ Down This Road Feelin’ Bad.”

Henry arrived, identified himself as one of the owners and once again, the offending Frisbee was held up for inspection. “What’s this?” the officer asked.
“Offhand, I’d say it’s marijuana,” said Henry
“Whose is it?” asked the officer.
“That’s mine,” Henry said, using the same tone of voice as if he was acknowledging ownership of a pack of cards, a pen or other inconsequential item.

By this time, two more cops had come in and they were all looking around. One was behind the counter and I noticed he had a small box in his hand and was writing on the box.
One of the new cops asked, “What do we have here?”
The one doing most of the talking said, “Pot possession.”
And the cop behind the counter added “And hash.”
Henry and I both swung our heads around and said in one voice “Hash? What hash?”
The cop held up a small cardboard box that contained…. incense. It was a particular brand we liked that gave off a woodsy aroma. The cop had been writing the day’s date on the box preparatory to putting it into an “evidence bag” because hashish was not a misdemeanor. Possession of hashish was definitely a felony.

Everybody, cops and culprits alike, had a good chuckle at the diligent cop’s expense. Still, they had to process the bust and they were a little unsure exactly what to do since the new law cited earlier in this write-up had only been in effect for about two weeks. So they loaded Henry into a squad car (no handcuffs) and took him downtown.

Henry was returned in a reasonably short time. Kevin had arrived by then and we were waiting for The Story.

Turns out, the police were really in a quandary. They didn’t have a scale on premises to weigh contraband drugs. So they hemmed and hawed and eventually found a way to write him up and fine him.

As they were taking him back to the car to return him to the store one of the cops remarked, “Y’know, you’re the first person we’ve processed under that new law.”

And Henry dryly made a nice play on words…

“That was a doobie-ous honor.”

It went right over their heads…