Roadside Dog

The Music of

Steve Watkins

Songs 1 (1970-1975)

Songs 1
 
The first two songs below are among the first songs that I ever wrote.
The others were written while playing and living in California, Colorado and Minnesota.
 
Some History
 
My musical roots go back to my grandparents on my Mom's side.
My Grandfather and Grandmother met while playing in a string band in Ohio in the early 1900's.
I inherited my Grandfather's Gibson 1907 Style R harp guitar,
and a picture of my grandparent's string band hangs on the wall of my music studio.
That guitar has a huge body and big, fat sound.
 
I began playing music in 4th grade as a drummer in the school band.
Thanks to several different Christmas presents I acquired a Slingerland red-sparkle-pearl drum set.
I took drum lessons and played in school bands up to high school.
The Beatles hit while I was in junior high and my friends and I immediately formed the Bishops.
Like many kids, we wanted to be the Beatles. I was the drummer, but became interested in guitar.
In high school I bought a Sears Silvertone acoustic guitar for $19.95.
Later, with money from a summer job I bought a Gibson ES-335 and a Fender Deluxe Reverb amp.
The guitar player in our band taught me some guitar chords.
 

College

 

I decided to go to Caltech for college because it was in California, which had

Annette Funicello, Hollywood, the Beach Boys, palm trees and the tropical Pacific Ocean.

It turns out that the Pacific Ocean is not that tropical in California.

At Caltech we formed a rock band and I was the guitar player, partly because
in my dorm, Lloyd House, there was another drummer and no one else had an electric guitar.
We used to use nearly all our gig earnings to rent a Hammand B3 with Leslie speakers
for our keyboard player, Steve (another Steve).
He became a famous physicist who might yet win a Nobel Prize.
Rusty, our drummer, got his Ph.D. in chemistry and became president of a Midwest university.
Wayne, our bass player later dropped out, enlisted in the army and ended up as the bass player
in the West Point rock band (I guess the military academies had their own pro rock bands).
 
The Bay Area and Colorado
 
After graduating from Caltech I began trying to make a living playing music full time.
First, I moved to Palo Alto and slept on the couch of a Caltech friend, Michael,
who was now a Stanford grad student. His other roommates were Stanford
med students who somehow tolerated a bum sleeping on their couch.
I probably should have stayed in LA for a better music future, but
I was tired of LA and I wanted to see what living in the Bay Area would be like.
I have always felt really drawn to San Francisco.
 
I couldn't find anything promising in the way of music in the Bay Area.
There has always been a lot of good music in the Bay Area, but I couldn't find a connection.
So I changed course and headed to Boulder to visit my old Caltech roommate Gary.
I graduated from sleeping on the couch to sleeping in the attic of a house that Gary
shared with other University of Colorado grad students.
I found Bob, another singer/songwriter, and we created a circuit playing
around Denver and the ski areas, including Vail, Steamboat Springs and Aspen.
That was OK for a while, and I was making a living, but it still didn't feel right.
Then I got involved with a new woman, Terri, and headed back to the Bay Area.
 
I was searching.
I was living like a pinball, bouncing from here to there.
 
I found my first really good pro gig playing bass with Ron in Bay Area clubs 3 nights a week.
We played mostly high-end steakhouses and hotel lounges.
Within 2 months we were playing 8 nights a week (2 gigs on Sundays).
We had one weekly gig in Fresno where I didn't get home until 3 or 4 am.
I was trying to live with Terri, but that wasn't working out because
she was working during the day, and I was working at night.
How many musicians have gone through that?
 
Playing with Ron was OK for a while, but we weren't playing any originals.
I moved from Palo Alto up to San Francisco after finding two other singer/songwriters, Pat and Tim.
We played small clubs and did some street singing at the Cannery.
We were living a bohemian life, all three of us staying with Pat in his one-bedroom aparment
in the Mission District.
 
Pat and Tim were really good, but Tim was kind of a drama king.
Pat was a typical bass player, solid and stable.
Tim was like a shooting star. Looking back I think he was probably bipolar.
That band blew up.
 
Minnesota
 
At Thanksgiving I hooked up with Gary for a trip to the Twin Cities
to visit some of his friends and play some music. One his friends, Jeff, was a really good singer.
The three of us started sounding pretty good together after a day or two.
 
The next thing I knew, Gary dropped out of grad school and I was packing to move to Minnesota.
I remember trying to get my old VW van from California to Boulder to meet up with Gary.
I made it over the Sierra Nevada mountains, but the van blew up in the desert outside of
Winnemucca, Nevada. I didn't have enough money to pay a garage to fix the van,
but I had enough to buy the parts and do it myself. The local kids working at the gas station
loaned me tools at night after their boss went home. It took me about a week to rebuild the engine.
I slept in the van, was hassled by the cops. I had to sneak into the old Winnemucca Hotel at night
to take a bath in the shared hallway bathroom. I bet the maids wondered who was leaving such
a greasy bathtub ring every night. The hotel was pretty cool. It was built in 1863 and Butch Cassidy
and his Wild Bunch used to hang out here.
 
After I got the van running, I spent one more night in Winnemuca camped out in the desert
near an old Air Force radar dome. I had been reading too much of Carlos Castaneda's Don Juan
and imagined all kinds of spirits around the campfire.
Under a moonlight night I explored the old rusting dome.
The wind was whistling through the windows of the dome,
somewhere a metal door was clanking everytime the wind picked up.
I climbed the stairs up to the top of the dome and was met by an unfriendly bat.
I did double take, nearly had a heart attack and beat a fast retreat back outside,
taking the stairs three at a time. I didn't sleep too well that night.  
I had one more small adventure before reaching Boulder.
Somebody had stolen a blue VW van, just like mine, and I got stopped three times by different cops.
They were a little harsh at first, but then apologetic when they realized that my van wasn't the stolen van.
 
I sold the van and Gary and I drove his old Plymouth from Boulder to the Twin Cities.
I remember listening to Wolfman Jack and all-night talk shows on the radio
while driving in Eastern Colorado. We listened to one show for hours that mixed crazy UFO talk
with true stories of Nikola Tesla. That was the first time I ever heard of Tesla.
 
Gary and I finally made it to the Twin Cities.
Jeff had found a drummer, Dan. We named the band Whiskey.
See the Whiskey Poster and Letter PDF file below.
 
We played a variety of covers: Allman Brothers, Clapton, Eagles, Grateful Dead, Jerry Jeff Walker.
Gary took up the bass and I was able to develope my lead guitar skills.
Gary, Dan and I lived in a fine old house in Saint Paul on a sidestreet off Como Avenue.
The house had a lot of natural wood, stained glass and was on a tree-lined street.
We developed a circuit playing from the lake resort town of Alexandria
out through Vermillion and Custer in the Black Hills of South Dakota.
That was the most stable band I played in.
It lasted about a year and half until Jeff and Betty had a baby on the way.
I sold my Les Paul guitar, bought an acoustic guitar and a one-way ticket to Europe.
 
1970 College
 

Sing on the Morning Sketch

 

Each new sunrise brings surprise my way.

 

 

Lost in the Sky Sketch
 
Feeling really good. Possibly had been smoking pot.
 

 

1973-1974 The Bay Area and Colorado

Boston Blue Rock iTunes

Boston Blue Roots iTunes

The Railheads: Bill Gardner, Carol Gardner, Luke Barrington, Chris Nesbet,
Murray Officer, Bob Higgins and Ken Lazarus
 

There are two versions of Boston Blue: one with electric guitar and one without.

I had hitch hiked from California to Boston to get over my last girlfriend Terri

and to visit my previous girlfriend Kathy. Visiting Kathy was probably a mistake.

 
 
Hitchhike iTunes
The Railheads
 

Hitchhiking from Boston back to California.

 

 

River of Love iTunes
The Railheads 

This was written to Terri.

 

 

California Homecoming iTunes
The Railheads
 
Oh God. Another song about Terri.
I guess she had a hold on me.

 

1975 Minnesota

Springtime on the Prairie Sketch

 
Our country rock band Whiskey was returning home to the Twin Cities
after a road trip to California.
 

 

Twin City Girl Sketch
 

Not really sure whether I wanted to live in the city or the country.

Was not finding love and feeling lonely.
 

 

Five O’Clock iTunes
The Railheads with Linley Young and Andy Montiero on violins.
 
Feeling really, really lonely.
 
 

Gypsy Girl iTunes

The Railheads
 

Decided that I needed to find a gypsy girl.

 

 

Dakota Prairie Flower iTunes
The Railheads
 
This was written for Gretchen.
She was an unrequited love, because she was happily married to Mel.
I don't think she ever knew I had a crush on her. Or maybe she did.