Title: Folkscene 1973, with Howard and Roz Larman (KPFK-FM 90.7)
Source: Audio tape. Transcription from tape by Gary Tausch as sent to Rain Dogs Listserv Discussionlist, June 6, 2001
Date: Los Angeles/ USA. September 21, 1973 (based on Bob Webb's records, also lists as "August 12, 1973")
Key words: Childhood, Musical influences, Ray Charles, The Heritage, Bob Webb, Jack Tempchin, Roxy, The Troubadour, Rich Phelps, John Forsha, The Systems, James Brown, Greyhound Bus Depot, Jack Kerouac, The Heart Of Saturday Night, Ray Burrough


Folkscene 1973, With Howard And Roz Larman


I'm from San Diego, really. I was born in Whittier, California, that's where President Nixon was from, in fact he used to go to our church on occasion, I think. That was a long time ago, he's come a long way since Whittier. Then I moved to San Diego and I guess I kind of grew up around San Diego, I moved there when I was about 10.

Interviewer - I heard that you tried to write country songs, is that true?
I used to write a lot of them down there at KSON is the big country station. I listened to that a lot and wrote a lot of country songs. They don't get me off anymore. I still got a whole closet full of them but I've been trying to go in other directions with my songwriting.

Interviewer - Were you playing more guitar then?
Yeah, I was playing quite a bit of guitar and I've been playing the piano for a couple of years. Writing on the piano is different than writing on guitar, you get different feels, in fact a lot of times you you write a tune with some other artist in mind which is, in fact, I got one of those right here, I kind of had Ray Charles in mind, it's called: San Diego Serenade.

Interviewer - You wrote that with Ray Charles in mind?
Yeah, I kind of thought he'd like to do it, I don't know. I don't know him, I don't talk to him.

Interviewer - I guess you performed in San Diego?
I played around San Diego quite a bit for a couple of years while there were clubs still open down there - it's very difficult to find a place to play now - Folk Arts - Lou Curtis still has that outfit going on weekends, I used to play at The Heritage, it's closed now, they turned it into a spiritual book store or something. Bob Webb(1) owned it and I used to sit on the door, I used to hoot down there and then I gave that up and I said I'll sit on the door, made 5.00 a night and then I started doing a weekend occasionally. Jack Tempchin(2) was playing around the area at the time. I haven't been doing too many gigs here in LA but I was out for 2 months on the road with a group on the East coast - did that, and I've been back about a month now, did a thing out in Redlands(3), not too many clubs around town though right now, still hoot at the Troubadour occasionally, I haven't been booked there yet. There's supposed to be a club opening up called Roxy that I'll probably play at on the Strip - but for now I've been staying home, getting a lot of sleep, trying to write tunes.

On Ol' '55:
That tried to be a single but didn't - it was on my record, Closing Time, kind of old song about my car, car song.

Interviewer - How did you get out of San Diego into other bookings?
I was hooting at the Troubadour(4), I was coming up on the bus and doing 4 or 5 songs on Monday nights, guess I kind of made the big jump into show biz there, met Herb Cohen and got a songwriting contract there and wrote for a couple of years before I got a recording contract with Asylum Records. After the record came a tour and it went real well. I'd never done anything like that, I'd never even been to most of the places that we played, real exciting tour. I went with standup bass, Bob Webb, and Rich Phelps on trumpet and a guitar player, John Forsha(5), Funky Fingers Forsha.

Interviewer - How long were you out for?
2 months, covered most of the East Coast and played Detroit, Philadelphia, Atlanta, Georgia, Denver, Boston, New York, all over.

Interviewer - Were you writing songs for other people during your songwriting contract?
That's the general idea, I was writing and then the songs were run around to other artists that don't write but put out that they want a song about a frog or something - a lot of people just write, they're staff writers that just write for various groups, I was just writing for anybody who would record it - and nobody did - but maybe that'll change.

Interviewer - Who do you listen to?
I listen to AM radio a lot cause I don't have an FM, I listen to Ray Charles, got a lot of old Ray Charles records, let's see - Diana Ross [laughs] - I like her a lot, got some old Billie Holliday records, I listen to her, and Mose Allison, I'm real fond of Mose Allison, Dale Evans, Miles Davis, a little bit of everything. I try to integrate different styles in my writing, it's important to do that. With a piano it's easier for me to write, I can find a lot more things that I could never find on guitar so it helps with writing on the piano. I played guitar before I played piano, I'm no technician, no big fancy fingers. Writing on an instrument is different than being a real master of an instrument. It's more of a process of investigation than anything else so you may be lacking in technique but high on the investigation scale. Right now I'm looking forward to sometime this month to going into the studio and work on another album with Asylum - trying to keep the group together in order to do that. I guess writing is the most difficult thing and the one thing I'm trying to do the most of.

Interviewer - While writing for Herb Cohen did you drop out of performing?
I just hooted at the Troubadour a lot, that was about it, not too many LA appearances, I used to be at the Heritage a lot but that's in the past.

Interviewer - Did you always want to be a musician?
Yeah, I guess so, I couldn't think of anything else I really wanted to be, seems to be today nobody wants to be anything but, nobody wants to be a baseball player anymore or anything - everybody wants to be a rock n roll star. I was always real interested in music, it never really struck me to write until I guess about the late 60's, about '68 or '69 I started writing, up until then I just listened to a lot of music, played in school orchestras, played trumpet in elementary school, junior high, high school, went through all that and hung around with some friends of mine that played classical piano and picked up a few little licks here and there, played guitar and stumbled on the Heritage - and actually the first real songwriter I really saw and really got enthused about was Jack Tempchin and that was in about 1968 at the Candy Company on El Cajon Boulevard, he was playing on the bill with Lightning Hopkins and he was real casual and everything, it was just something I wanted to try my hand at, so I tried my hand at it, I don't know, I guess you get better as you go along, the more music you listen to and the more perceptive you become towards melody and lyric and all. The only place really to play in San Diego were folk clubs. I used to go to a lot of dances. I played in a band in junior high called The Systems(6).

Interviewer - Was that trumpet?
I played rhythm guitar and sang. I listened to a lot of black artists, quite a few black artists. I had a real interest in that - James Brown and the Flames were real big, I went to O'Farrell Junior High School(7), all black junior high school, and I went out to Balboa(?) and saw James Brown - he knocked me out, man, when I was in 7th grade. So I've kept up on that scene too and I listen to as many different kinds of music as I can.

Intro to Depot Depot:
A little bluesy thing about the Greyhound Bus Depot downtown, it's funny, not many people go to downtown LA, Free Press did a big article called "Downtown LA, Who Needs It?". I've been going there since I moved here, I've been here a year, I go to hang out down there, I live in Silver Lake so I'm about 10 minutes from downtown. I go down there just to hang out - not too many people live down there, really, people work down there and hang out, that's all. I'll do a song called Depot.

Intro to I Hope That I Don't Fall In Love With You:
You take all the bar songs in the world and put 'em together, they'd stretch all the way to Kansas City I guess, millions of them, this is just another one.

On Closing Time, the song on the album:
It's an instrumental done with standup bass, trumpet and piano. It was real effective in concert, we closed the show with it.

Intro to Heart Of Saturday Night:
It's a new song, I'm anxious to play it, it's kind of about driving down Hollywood Boulevard on Saturday night, Bob Webb(1) and I were kicking this around one afternoon, Saturday afternoon it was, the idea of looking for the heart of Saturday night, hadn't really worked on any tune about it yet, we're both real Jack Kerouac fans and this is kind of a tribute to Kerouacians I guess.

Interviewer - Do you feel under the gun going into the studio ... to write more songs?
I'm not really pressured about it. I wrote a lot before I went on tour but it's best to go in with more than you need in order to select the 12 or 14 or however many you can squeeze on both sides.

Interviewer - Do you do that selection yourself?
It'll be in conjunction with a producer as far as which tunes for a record, if I had my druthers I'd call it "Looking For The Heart Of Saturday Night" I think but that's all up in the air right now until I get down to going in. So I've just been trying to write, beat your head against the wall for tunes. Sometimes they come out easy, sometimes they don't come out at all.

On Heart Of Saturday Night:
I spit it out in 5 minutes, it's a problem with writing songs, for me it's just conceiving the idea for a song, visualizing it in your head and then putting it down is nothing, it comes out real easy. Trying to come up with something that's challenging for me, I guess, to deal with as the raw material for a song, something to take and develop rather than just, say, well, a love song, well, "I love you and ..." - it's usually the idea, like that Semi Suite song came out real quick too. I don't know - the ones that come out hard are usually the ones that aren't any good, I guess - you can usually tell if a tune was hard to write or you were having trouble deciding whether to use love or dove or above, you know.

Intro to Big Joe & Phantom 309:
I don't know who wrote this, I don't know anybody who'd know who wrote this, in fact if somebody does know, maybe you could call and tell me(8) . I first heard Ray Bierl do it, another San Diego musician. This is the first real folk song that just knocked me out. I heard Ray do it - it gave me chills up and down my back.


(1) Bob Webb (Robert Webb) bassist/ guitarist and apparently former owner of the Heritage. It seems the two were close friends around this time. The two also did some gigs together in 1973. Intro to "Ice Cream Man" (November 10, 1973. KCRW Snap Sessions. Santa Monica/ USA). TW: "I'm just gonna do a couple more, and then I want Bob Webb to come out and join me in a couple of closing tunes. So let me do this, and then... I think Bob is back there somewhere. [Bob: "I'm right here"] There he is!" After "Ice Cream Man" they play "Big Joe And Phantom 309" together. Intro to "The Heart Of Saturday Night" (November 10, 1973. KCRW Snap Sessions. Santa Monica/ USA). TW: "I'd like to end with this... Bob and I are driving around on Alvarado Street one afternoon [aside to Bob Webb] Remember? And eh, that's when I had this '58 Super, and eh, real low to the ground. It's kind of eh... Well the colour was kind of... well monkey-shit-brown I guess you'd call it." Further reading: The Heritage

(2) Jack Tempchin. writer/ singer/ guitarist. Longtime friends during the late 60's/ early 70's. Check out this Tempchin site for more information. They did a gig together for the KCRW-FM Snap Sessions, Santa Monica, November 10, 1973. "TW: Jack, you wanna come up and do that... song? [off-mike confusion over the title of the thing]. JT: I don't know... TW: Eh... maybe... You got me in a spot there! I don't know. JT: Tijuana... Sun? TW: Tijuana... eh... Tijuana! We'll just call it 'Tijuana'!"

(3) Did a thing out in Redlands: unknown/ unidentified show in Redlands, CA. The city of Redlands located in San Bernardino County, CA.

(4) I was hooting at the Troubadour: further reading: The Troubadour

(5) John Forscha, folk guitarist. Also worked with Judy Henske: Credited on the album 'Small Change', 1976 (The Nocturnal Emissions, N.Y.C.). Road manager for the 1976 Small Change tour (also spelled John Forchay).

(6) The Systems:
- Tom Waits (1976): "I did a few rock things; I was in a group called the Systems, I was rhythm guitar and lead vocalist. We did Link Wray stuff. Hohman: Link Wray - that's the guy who made all those killer rock instrumentals back in the late '50s, Rumble, Rawhide, Comanche, The Swag. TW: Yeah, Rumble was his first hit. I've been trying to pin down Frank Zappa's guitar style for a long time and I think Link Wray is the closest I can get. I think Frank is trying to be Link Wray. We did stuff by the Ventures, too, a lot of instrumentals. I finally quit that band; we had a drummer with a harelip and a lead guitar player with a homemade guitar. Actually, there were only three of us, so in a sense we were sort of like pioneers." (Source: "Bitin' the green shiboda with Tom Waits". "Down Beat" magazine. Marv Hohman. Chicago. June 17, 1976)
- "Around this same time Waits formed his first group, soulfully named The Systems. "I played rhythm guitar and sang," he comments. "Rhythm and blues - a lot of black Hit Parade stuff, white kids trying to get that Motown sound. I went to an all-black junior high and was under certain social pressure. So I listened to what was around me." Tom dropped out of high school during his junior year, because he was already working by that time - not as a musician, but as a cook. Several years on the graveyard shift at an all-night diner in San Diego, besides providing him with what would become fuel for subsequent songs and stories, convinced him that there had to be a better medium through which to channel his energies and words. As he told the Los Angeles Times, "I knew when I was working there I was going to do something with it. I didn't know how, but I felt it every night." (Source: "Tom Waits - Offbeat Poet And Pianist". Contemporary Keyboard magazine, by Dan Forte. April, 1977)
- Tom Waits (2002): "Heck I don't know if it was a soul band. It was surf and soul. I played guitar and sang. In those days, you didn't play a lot of gigs. You'd play a dance every now and then. I knew I wanted to do something with music, but navigating that seems almost impossible. It's like digging through a wall with a spoon, and your only hope is that what's on the other side is digging with the same intensity towards you... The band was called the Systems. Up until that point, you know, I played the ukulele when I was a kid and I played a guitar - my dad gave me a guitar. There was always music in the house. Frank Sinatra, Harry Belafonte and Louis Armstrong and Mexican radio." (Source: "Tom Waits". SOMA magazine. July, 2002 by Mikel Jollett)

(7) I went to O'Farrell Junior High School: O'Farrell Junior High, Encanto/ San Diego (now "O'Farrell Community School"?) It is assumed Waits went to San Diego/ Chula Vista Hilltop High School (backed by yearbook pictures)

(8) Big Joe & Phantom 309: Live intro from "Nighthawks At The Diner": "Well now, it's story time again. I'm gonna tell you a story 'bout a truck driver. This story was written by a guy named Red Sovine, and it's called the Ballad ofBig Joe and Phantom 309." Actually this song was written by Tommy Faile. Sovine made it famous.