|The Sordid Story in John's Own
Well, it is not a pretty story (serious expression). But I'm not looking for pity (grave gaze). I came from a very wealthy family (grin). I was born in San Diego. It was extremely hot that day. My mother was there at the time.
We were basically a middle class family, we vacillated around the hub
of middle classity, never hitting the top, but we did reach the bottom
a couple of times. My father trained racehorses and show horses and
I'd work for him in the summer. My first experience with music, you
probably want to know that, I wrote in the front yard. "Will there
be, will there be, any stars tonight? Will I be, will I be, with
you tonight?" My friends looked at me as if
I would buy plastic accordians at the toy store and play "Beautiful
Dreamer" and then improvise. I couldn't really take the time to learn
all the color keys. My first experience with jazz (another grin).
| Then I left music in search of my own identity as a fat little kid.
I went out for football which was good because I was short and fat. Worked my ass off all summer, lost 20 lbs and grew six inches and lost all my coordination which I never regained. Coaches drew me aside and said I'd never make a football player.
My friend George Yanok and I were doing a comedy act. We were the Handkerchief Brotherws. We won the Sears amateur contest. George worked in the lost and found and I worked in venetian blinds. I used to send him packages for the lost and found; one was a small box of iron rulers, but I wrote "foam rummer" on it; he dropped it, things like that. I was doing Elvis Presley impersonations with no strings on my guitar. We won enough money to buy tuxes for the prom. I went with Beverly Strathmore who didn't like me because I had zits and didn't play football. I decided I was really getting turned on by Elvis and Buddy Holly and Little Richard and Roy Orbison. I decided to put strings on my guitar. A very big step. I started learning songs, "Blue Moon of Kentucky," "Don't Be Cruel." Then I got a band together. Found some guys who played guitar; we went into a garage, they turned up to ten and I never heard my voice for the first month. We would play anywhere, mental hospitals. . . Zappa was around Pomona then. He was very straight and very weird, about three years ahead of his time. He taught me the chords to "Streets of Laredo," one of the more bizzare trivias of my life. That's like saying one of the Lennon Sisters first turned me on to dope.
So I had this dynamite rock group. We made a record for Vita Records in Pasadena, a song called "Rocking Anna," written by the lady who payed for the session. I wrote the B side. We were John Stewart and the Furies. I had a great red coat that came almost to my knees and a red silk shirt.
|Suddenly there were girls . . . I didn't know
what to do with the girls who kept hanging around. That was after
my short fat period, but I was convinced I was still this short fat kid
inside. The record got played on some station in LA, so I took the
bus and went into town for an interview. Then I went to Mt San Antonio
Jr College in Pomona. Kristofferson was tering up the fields then,
but I never met him. All I could think about was music. I never
showed up for class. Didn't do anything. Played all the time.
By that time alot of my friends had decided that greaser music really wasn't it, folk music was. I was really getting to like folk music, Burle Ives. Then I heard the Kingston Trio and freaked. I got a folk group together. I was always the leader, very obnoxious. There were three, naturally, mostly because $30 was the going rate, $10 apiece.
We played a lodge called Seven Oaks. I would wash dishes and then
the owner would signal me and I would take my apron off and put on my cowboy
shirt and do the show, but I was the star because I played six string guitar
and the others played four strings.