I was born in Buffalo, New York in 1954, the youngest child in a family with two teenage sisters. The house was filled with music: Rock ‘n’ roll, Rhythm & Blues, jazz and folk; Elvis, the Everly Brothers, Ray Charles, and as the Sixties got underway, Joan Baez, Bob Dylan, and that gang.
As a little kid I played piano, ukulele, and harmonica; I took up saxophone in school, began playing guitar in 1965, and wrote my first song, “Stay Away.” I continued writing songs and playing in rock ‘n roll combos at dances in the area while listening to Dylan and the Rolling Stones and following the roots of their country, blues, and early rock ‘n’ roll origins. In 1968 I started playing coffeehouses while also continuing to perform with dance bands: this went on for a number of years.
At the beginning of my 16th year, I left home, moved in with musicians, and began to travel – New York, Washington, Boston – still listening to music and playing, learning from the musicians I met along the way.
In 1973, I left Buffalo in a blizzard on a midnight bus heading west. That spring in San Francisco I became a street musician, playing solo and busking with different players, including blues and rock ‘n’ roll hero, Mike Wilhelm of the Charlatans, and folk guitarist Tom Hobson. I was the main subject of a film that year, Night Shift, about SF street music, directed by Bert Deivert. I wrote about this period in detail in my book, As Far As You Can Get Without A Passport, which tells the story of a street-singing trip from Northern California to Mexico… (Read more here.)
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