Wednesday, February 17, 2010

It Coulda Happend This Way -- Cool Hand Luke and a Dylan Collector

Vesta and I had been working late, stamping GWW covers. They littered our living room floor. Our hands were ink stained, our eyes bleary. Our kids were asleep on the couch. It was a bit before midnight and we were just getting ready to carry them off to bed, when the phone rang. Right away we knew it was trouble, because nobody ever calls at that hour, unless it involves a heart attack, car crash or jail.

It was jail.

My brother was on the other end of the line, talking a mile a minute, cursing cops, courts, Nixon, Agnew, the war and Paul Newman. But mostly it was cops he was mad at. Seems he and a pal were arrested in Santa Cruz for felony destruction of city property, theft of city property, possession of marijuana (among other drugs), resisting arrest and assault on a police officer, or rather officers.

He was in serious shit.

I tried to calm him down, finally did and found out he wanted me to come up and get him of there.

I could understand that. Jail is a bad place to spend the night. I called Joey, who gets calls all night long, and asked her if she knew somebody up there who could help.

Joey, of Joey’s Bail Bonds, was my bail lady. I learned from my father that if you live outside the law, it helps too have a bail person up to speed on your life. You don’t want to call one cold at 3:00 in the morning, not unless you want to take out a second on your house or sign over the pink slip to your car.

Right after Great White Wonder took off I went down to downtown Long Beach, looking for a bondsman, because if I was ever arrested, I wanted a number to call that got me out pronto. A good bondsman, or in this case bondwoman, can get you out of any jail anywhere right after they book you, unless, of course, you shot someone or were arrested high.

I had it set up that if I was ever arrested, I used my one call to reach out and touch her. She could spring me from any hoosegow, because bail people reciprocate. She bails me out and shares the ten percent bond fee with the local bondsman she called. Me, I just have to know her.

She was the fourth bail person I checked out. The first three were all seedy guys with baggy eyes who looked like you could trust them about as much as you could trust the stubby cigars in their mouths to stay lit in a downpour. Joey, on the other hand, was a lady. I told her my problem, filled out a credit app, had a cup of coffee with her, smoked a couple cigarettes and became her customer. One of the wisest things I’d ever done.

She told me she knew a guy up there, a retired judge who now did bond work. She gave me his number, said he’d be expecting me.

So, hours before the sun, I took off in my recently acquired 1967 Austin Healey MK 3000, with the top down. What a car, red, the way a sports car was meant to be. Four on the floor and an electronic overdrive on the dash, flip the switch and you were flying. It was summer, at least I believe it was, because I remember the breeze was warm.

I was tired, having not had any sleep, but that breeze whipping my hair around, smacking it into my face, kept me awake. I did seventy-five up Highway 5 the whole way making the three hundred and eighty five mile trip in five hours, the Healey purring like Vesta’s Jaguar the whole way. Yeah, one of the advantages of being a bootlegger was that you got to drive good cars.

Since I beat the sun and nothing would be open, I started looking for a motel. This was sometimes not an easy task for a kid driving a red sports car, who had a full beard and hair almost as long as Crystal Gayle’s. Well, not that long, but long. Plus my Marine Corp utility shirt with the patch sewed on the left breast pocket that said, “War is not healthy for children and other living things,” probably didn’t help. After four or five refusals, I decided to drive down to a parking lot overlooking the beach and sleep in the car.

Given everything I’d heard about Santa Cruz, it was a town of peace and love, a beachside town with almost as many hippies as the Haight Asbury district in San Francisco, one would have thought I’d have received a better reception, but I guess the peace and love business started from the ground up and hadn’t worked it’s way up to motel desk clerks yet.

After a couple hours of fitful sleep I drove to the center of town where I found the Judge’s office. He wasn’t a judge anymore, but I addressed him as your honor. We had coffee, talked. He seemed like a nice guy. He told me not to worry about a thing, he could take care of everything and just the way he said it, I knew I was in good hands.

And what do you know, by noon he got all the felony charges dropped, including that pesky resisting arrest and assault on a police officer business. The deal he struck was that John and his friend Mike plead guilty to a misdemeanor account of defacing city property, pay a fine right now, and the rest of the charges would go away. Jeez, what a deal. I couldn’t pony up the money fast enough. And the man never asked for a cent for himself. And since there was no bail, neither he, nor Joey made a dime on the deal.

Sometimes you just get lucky.

It took a couple hours before they were able to spring them, something about them still being too high to let loose on the general public, so I hung out with the Judge, had more coffee, smoked cigarettes, talked politics. He was an okay guy.

When John and Mike were finally released they were dying to tell me about this guy they met named Steve Waterford, who had a ton of Dylan tapes. Studio tapes, live tapes, great tapes, tapes I just had to hear.

Well, well, I thought, maybe this cloud had a platinum lining, after all.

They’d met Waterford at Odyssey Records.

This guy was short, maybe five-four, had wandering eyes, thinning hair, talked a mile a minute and he thought Bob Dylan was God. Literally. I think he prayed to the man. He was researching a book on Dylan, paid a clipping service to send him anything in print. He had a trunk with his valuable clippings buried out in the forest. He seemed like he was high on something, but I don’t think he was. I just think the very mention of Dylan’s name got his endorphins kicking in.

After spending a few minutes with Waterford in that record store all I wanted to do was get in my car and drive. I could still make Long Beach by dark if I left right away. I was just about to make an excuse to get on out of there, no tapes were worth this, when Waterford said. “I have Blonde on Blonde out takes.

“Say again,” I said.

“Blonde on Blonde out takes. Hours of them.”

Now I was excited. Waterford had just become my new best friend.

I bought ten reels of good tape at the record store and we made arrangements to meet later that evening, then John, Mike and I went out to get something to eat. Over the very late lunch I learned that they’d ingested a fair amount of mescaline, were having a bit too much of a good time, so they decided to take in a movie. This way they could enjoy themselves away from prying eyes. Something about drugs, they seem to make you paranoid. They found a theater, bought tickets, without knowing what they were going to see. It wound up being “Cool Hand Luke”.

The movie starts out with a drunk Paul Newman attacking a parking meter with a pipe cutter, to get the nickels inside. My brother and his pal were on the road, touring America in a beat up van. It’s true they were just starting out and hadn’t made it very far, but they were already running short of cash, and they thought this might be the answer to their problems.

Parking meters were everywhere, just begging to be plundered, an endless source of spare change. Maybe if they’d stayed around and saw what happened to Paul after the cops got their hooks in him, they might’ve had second thoughts, might’ve stayed out of trouble, but they didn’t. Instead, they left that theater in a hurry, asking everyone they encountered for directions to a hardware store that sold pipe cutters.

By now everybody in town was alerted to the fact that there were a couple drug crazed loonies on the loose and the cops had been notified. The pair of would be city property defacers found a hardware store, but a pipe cutter they could not get, so they settled on a couple hacksaws, then they made their way to the local amusement park where they had their van parked with a couple cops tagging along behind.

When they got to the van, they went to work on the meter, taking turns sawing away, mindless of the cops watching them. By the time they’d finished they’d attracted quite an audience. Needless to say, they didn’t get to make a Butch and Sundance getaway, however, they didn’t go quietly to the jail house. I guess in their drug induced brains they thought they had superpowers or something. They didn’t, but the story about their resistance and their time in the slammer made for an amusing meal.

After we ate we walked around the amusement park until it was time to meet Waterford. It was dark, around 9:00, when we finally hooked up with him. He had a dingy upstairs place over a business, I don’t remember what. He played us some of his stuff. Dylan with the Band in Sweden, quality was awful. I could barely make out the words, but Waterford’s eyes were aglow.

“Just think,” he said, “We’re listening to Bob Dylan and the Hawks in Sweden.” He sighed. “Back in 1966.”

Jesus, who cares, I thought. If he didn’t get to the Blonde on Blonde stuff pretty darned fast I was gonna kill the son of a bitch and go home. I was bored shitless, however my desperado comrades seemed to be really into it. Christ, the cops searched their van, confiscated their drugs, but apparently they didn’t find all of them.

Acid, shit. I figured that out pretty quick. No wonder they were having such a good time. So now I was stuck, I couldn’t exactly walk out and leave them with Walleyed Steve, not in their condition. So I stuck it out, listened to one crappy tape after another. I really did want to kill someone.

Then, sometime after midnight, Waterford says he’s going to bed. We could listen to the tapes in the bathroom, he said, but we had to be quiet. Yeah, the guy had a reel to reel tape recorder, amp and speakers in his bathroom. Guess he wanted to be able to listen to his shitty tapes when he was taking a sh*t. Me I woulda run some speaker wire to the bathroom, but that’s just me.

“The bathroom, groovy,” Mike said. Yeah, they said groovy back then, even I might have said it a time or two.

“Yeah,” Waterford said, “I get a lot of people coming over to listen to my tapes, so I got a set up in there so that I can get some privacy.” Well that answered that question.

So, there we were, me, my drug enlightened companions and endless hours of Bob Dylan trying to make himself understood through all the tape hiss.

Then, when I thought all was lost, Mike flipped the switch to play after having just put in another tape.

And Bob Dylan’s young voice rang through that bathroom in all it’s crystal clear glory.

“What’s this?” I looked at the label on the tape box. Bob Dylan: Town Hall 1963. Well, well, well. I got up, went to the living room, where I’d left that tape I’d bought earlier, unplugged the tape recorder Waterford had there and brought it into the bathroom.

“What are you gonna do?” John said when I came back and stopped the tape.

“What’s it look like?” I flipped the switch to rewind, then started hooking up the tape recorder.

“You can’t do that,” Mike said. “It’s stealing.” This from a guy who was about to go up the river for who knows how long had it not been for me.

“The motherfucker was right there when I bought the tape. Did he think we didn’t have any in LA, that I was stocking up?” I cracked the seal on a tape box, threaded it into the machine I’d brought in from the living room.

“He’s got a point,” John said, which was good, because apparently I was going to need some help with Mike. I saw a bad trip a comin’ but at this point I didn’t particularly care if the guy fried his mind or not, just so long as I got the tapes.

“This isn’t right,” Mike said again.

“Calm him down or kill him. I don’t care, just so long as you keep him quiet.” But I needn’t have worried, because just as soon as the tape started Mike got right into it, smiling and rocking as he listened to brother Bob.

Now that I realized there was gold in this pile of tapes, I didn’t feel so bad about being there. I checked the levels, saw the copy was being made okay, saw that John and Mike were content. I listened to the tape along with them.

When it was finished, I put in another, didn’t sound good, tried another, again no joy, then bingo, Bob’s voice from 1966, but not like that crappy Swedish tape we’d heard earlier. This was an acoustic set from Dublin and it was glorious. I copied it. By the time I was finished the sun was coming up, my hippy comrades were coming down and I was ready to crash. So I took the tape recorder back out the the living room, where I met a yawning Steve Waterford.

“You didn’t copy any of my tapes!”

“I did.”

“What the fuck!”

“Hey, you knew who I was, what I did for a living!” I stared him down. “Did you think I wanted to come up here to spend the night in your bathroom?”

“You’re not going to put them out?”

“I am.”

“Really?” His eyes lit up, then he closed them. If Bob Dylan was the second coming, then Steve was his John the Baptist, only Bob didn’t know it. I could almost see the halo. He opened back up his glowing eyes, was smiling saintly. Yeah, that’s right, like a saint, that’s what he looked like. “Could you call it Bob Dylan Approximately?”

“Well, yeah. I could do that.”

“Because I was thinking that would be a great name for a Dylan record. What do you think?”

“I think it’s perfect.” Was I hearing right?


“Oh yeah!”

This was not how I expected it to go down at all. I’d expected the typical collector reaction. You know how collectors are, they have this rare tape they listen to at night, but they can only enjoy it if they know nobody else has it. Once it’s out there for all the world, then they don’t want to listen to it anymore. Waterford was apparently not that way and for me, even back then, that was refreshing.

“Could I come down to LA with you and see how it’s done?”

“Not right now.”

“Why not?” Oh lord, I’d created a monster. I told him we wouldn’t be making the record straightaway, that I had a wife, kids and obligations. But he wanted to be around when the first record came off the presses, wanted to stamp the first one with that Bob Dylan Approximately stamp.

I told him I’d call him, rounded up my outlaw, hippie, cohorts and the three of us got into my Healey, Mike crammed in the back. and we scrammed on out of there. I took them back to their van, where they promised to drive on out of town till they could find a good place to pull over and sleep for a week.

Then I started back toward Southern California, knowing that sometime in the not two distant future I was going to be back in that bathroom, because I still hadn’t gotten those Blonde on Blonde outtakes.

I coulda gone straight home, but Dub’s wasn’t too far out of the way. I got there around 11:00. He was just leaving to go out for breakfast, he sort of liked to get up at the crack of noon. I told him I had line recordings of Dylan in ’63 and ’66 and all of a sudden he decided he wasn’t hungry anymore. I left the tapes with him and went home.

The next day I drove up to his place to find he’d already mastered the record. He put the Town Hall stuff on Side One and the Dublin Stuff on Side Two. Me, I’d’ve made two records out of those tapes, but Dub managed to get it all on one disc, losing only one song from the Dublin set. Of course, we still hadn’t learned that when you squeeze more than twenty-five minutes or so on a record that the quality suffers a bit.

Dub was excited about this Winkelhoffer name he’d come up with for the name of the fake record company on the label. I didn’t care about that stuff. Dub was the artistic one, after all. Dub wanted to call the record While the Establishment Burns, I’ve already talked about that, but Waterford wanted to call it "Bob Dylan Approximately".

“No problem,” Dub said, “We’ll make two stamps.”

“Yeah, that could work,” I said, never thinking how outraged Waterford would be when he came across one of the records that didn’t have his preferred title on it. Well actually the only records with that Approximately title were the ones going to Walleyed Steven, the rest of them were going to have Dub’s title, so I should have figured on a confrontation sometime in the future, but I didn’t.

Later that week I called Waterford, told him we’d turned the record in, that it was coming out next week, that we had his Bob Dylan Approximately stamp just waiting for him to stamp that first record. He called me back an hour later, told me when he was coming in. He was eager.

Dub had just moved from his little apartment above his grandmother’s to a spacious house in the Hollywood Hills. It was one of those cliffside places with giant stilt like steel supports holding the back of the house up, so that it didn’t fall over the cliff.

While I was away Dub had mastered My God, by Jethro Tull which was mostly B sides added to a couple live songs he record in Long Beach with his shotgun mic. We'd moved away from Pete's, because he was just too slow, and taken our business to a place called Lewis Record Manufacturing, where we dealt with a wonderful woman there named Kaye. She was old enough to be my grandmother and she kind of reminded me of a woman who would have been comfortable with the likes of Bonnie and Clyde in her youth. She wasn't afraid of anything. It was to her that we handed My God and Establishment and these were our first records on colored vinyl which the growing number of bootleg fans really seemed to like.

A Note: Some names have been changed, sorry, but it just seemed prudent.

It Coulda Happened This Way -- A Couple Hitmen & Blueberry Hill

After his success with LiveR Dub was eager to try his hand with the mike again. Led Zeppelin was playing the Forum. He asked did I want to go, but I'd heard their first record and didn’t like it. This was a band that wasn’t going anywhere. That’s what I thought anyway, but Dub was convinced they were going to be as big as the Stones, maybe bigger. Everybody else I talked to about it seemed to agree with him. In fact, as the show got closer I was beginning to rethink my opinion, but the last thing I wanted to do was admit I was wrong, so I didn’t go.

Dub got a phenomenal tape, so too did a guy named Scott Johnson, who would be busy mastering his Rubber Dubber version even as Dub was mastering ours, but more about him later.

Dub designed a great cover and we had it printed up at a place in Glendale. No rubber stamp for this one. Dub wanted it to be different, and it was and I was into the record now, convinced we had another LiveR on our hands. And it was a double record. Twice the profit. I liked that.

But I didn’t like it for long. Dub and I shared the money for his re-master of Stealin’ and for Birch and we kind of liked dividing the money by two, it went so much farther. However we were running into problems with this record. Pete wouldn’t be able to do the quantity. So, like with LiveR, we were going to have to go to Waddell. And like with LiveR, we didn’t want to go in there, so we were going to have to find a partner, because Chris was officially retired.

Dub had this friend named John who was into the music, wasn’t afraid and I had this friend from school named Malcolm, who wasn’t afraid of anything either. Somehow, I don’t remember how, they wound up being our front men. They’d get the records, they’d take ’em to the stores, Dub and I would split half the money.

Seemed like a good idea.

John was a comic book collector and had them neatly wrapped and organized in cellophane in his apartment, which wasn’t too far from Dub’s. It was a joy just going through his stuff and seeing what he had.

Back when I was in high school I used to collect DC Comics and baseball cards. I had World’s Finest one through I dunno, a hundred and something. I had the first Green Lantern, Flash, Supergirl and loads of issues after those first editions, plus, gobs of Superman, Batman, and Action and Detective Comics galore. I pretty much had two copies of each, one I’d read and reread and one I wrapped in wax paper for a distant future.

However, when most of my high school class was getting ready for the prom, I was on a bus to San Diego. Boot camp was where I was going. And while the drill instructors were telling us to line up alphabetically according to height (something that isn’t possible), my mother back home in Lakewood was busy gathering up all my comics and baseball cards and taking them to the Saint Cyprian’s white elephant sale.

Yep, God got my comics and cards, so like I said, it was a joy seeing John’s. Kind of a gut ripper too, when he told me what they were worth. My mother gave away a pretty penny. Ah, well, they only cost a dime each, so what if they woulda been worth thousands had I still had them. Can’t look back. Besides, we had a Led Zeppelin record coming out soon. I was gonna make way more than I ever woulda got off those comics.

Plus, there was no risk in this for me.

Life was good.

I loaded my new Firebird up with fifty copies of Blueberry Hill and jumped on the 605 Freeway and headed south toward the water.

Seal Beach was a great community, the first place I’d done acid. What a night that was, Walt Disney’s Dragon and I went out on the beach one morning and watched Columbus discover America. We were having a great conversation, the dragon and I, when a cop car come tooling up onto the sand.

“What are you up to?” one of Seal Beach’s finest said.

“Not much, just watching the ships come in.”

“You on something?” the cop wanted to know.

“The dragon and I, we took a little acid.” I couldn’t lie under the stuff, but I also new acid was legal (they didn’t outlaw it in California till late 1969).

“Beach is closed,” the cop said.

The dragon wanted to know what time it opened and since the cops couldn’t see him, I asked for him.

“Six,” one of the men in uniform answered.

“I’ll wait.”

“You’ll wait in jail if you don’t vamoose,” the other one said.

“We should go,” the dragon said and so we beat it on out of there with those cops following us till we were off the sand.

That early morning in Seal Beach was about the closest I’d ever come to going to jail. Everybody in that town was cool, even the cops, though I’m pretty sure I’d tried their patience.

Now I was headed back to that cool little beach town where I almost whet to jail, because there was this combination head shop record store there I thought would just love to carry our new Zeppelin record. Plus, I had yet to make my appearance in a record store. I didn’t want Dub thinking I was chicken. Besides, this was a brand new store. These folks had gotten into the record business after I’d left, so they wouldn’t know me.

I parked the blue Firebird down the street, grabbed five copies of the record and started toward the store. It was bright and sunny out, a good day to go to the beach.

They had thick strings off beads covering the door and once inside you were assaulted by the pungent smell of incense. The place was lit by blacklight and there were blacklight posters on the walls.

I went up to the girl behind the counter, showed her my records. She said she just worked there and wanted to know could I come back later. Confident this was the perfect place to sell boots, I told her I’d leave the records and come back in a few days. If they sold them, the owner could pay, if not I could take the records back if he didn’t want them. She said that was fine and I left.

Two days later I was back, Vesta with me this time. Again I parked down the road. Again I grabbed some records.

“Don’t you think you should see if they want them first?” Vesta said.

“They’re gonna want them.”

“Cops across the street,” Vesta said as we got close to the store. Sure enough, two uniforms sitting in a black and white.

We coulda turned around, but one thing I’d learned in the service is that you don’t turn your back on your enemy. Besides, they didn’t know who we were or what we were about.

“Pretend you don’t see them,” I said and we went in the store, pushing our way through the beads.

There was a short bald-headed guy in a suit and tie talking to the hippy girl behind the counter. He was out of place in the store. He heard us come in, turned to look.

The girl recognized me, showed me her palm, shook it back and forth. I got the message real quick.

“You wanna buy some used records,” I said.

“Put the box on the counter, the owner will look at it when he gets back from lunch.”

So I set the box down right in front of Mr. Suit and Tie, started to go.

“I’m going to have to take those records with me.” Suit and Tie was pointing to a couple of the Blueberry Hills I brought I the other day. They were in a wire record rack behind the counter.

“I’m sorry,” the girl said. “But that piece of paper you have doesn’t say you can take anything, so you’re not going to.”

“Think you can stop me?” he said.

“Excuse me,” I said, “why don’t you just get outta here.”

“Why don’t you mind you’re own business.” He just didn’t look like a cop.

“You don’t get now, those cops out there are gonna to take me to jail for breaking your head open.” I didn’t raise my voice, but I could feel Vesta tense up.

“fuck you,” the guy said.

“That’s it,” I started toward him.

He backed up through those beads faster than a jack rabbit can jack. I went after him. He turned and ran. I swear, his legs were moving so fast, he looked like Bugs Bunny or Daffy Duck when they were on the run from Elmer Fudd’s shotgun.

I gave the cops across the street a look. One of them waved, they were both smiling. Turned out Baldy was a process server and apparently his ilk wasn’t so popular with the Seal Beach cops. They were good guys when the dragon and I were watching those ships come in and they were still good guys.

Back in the store I found out that they had just been served. The subpoena listed several unknown stores and unknown persons. It seems that Atlantic Records knew their hot new band was going to be bootlegged and they were ready with a bunch of these John Doe subpoenas.

I took this information back to the partners and somehow it didn’t faze them very much at all. However our next record would faze them plenty.

After a visit to my father at Saturn I came up with this great idea. If we could sell rock and roll we could clean up with R & B. I grew up in the record business, more specifically the black record business. Most of the independent black stores in LA got their start with a line of credit from my father. Saturn was the place they came first to buy their records. And, you know, when times got hard for my dad, every one of these stores came through for him. None of them beat him out of any money. I wish I could say the same for some of the hippie type rock stores, some of them burned him big time. One, owned by a famous DJ, stuck him for eight grand. Another chain of rock stores stuck him for more, then opened their own one stop.

With my knowledge of these black stores, I came up with this really stupid idea. We could take the number one and two R & B songs, put them back to back on a single, then take them around to the stores. We’d clean up.

Dub thought this was about the dumbest thing he’d ever heard. John was neutral on the idea, Malcolm loved it, more money for the partners. Money, money, money, that’s what it was all about.

So we took Marvin Gaye and Tammi Terrell’s “The Onion Song” and the Moments’ “Love on a Two Way Street” and put them back to back. Two hot selling R & B A sides. We were gonna be millionaires. Dub mastered them, against his better judgment, and Malcolm and John took them to the R & B stores. Again, I couldn’t go into any of these places, because they all knew me.

Our Blueberry Hill partners left with a trunk full of records, were gone about three hours, came back dejected and depressed. They’d hit all the stores on my list and only managed to sell twenty records. Seems those black store owners didn’t want anything to do with our rip off forty-fives. In fact, unknown to us, Barry Gordy (who owned Marvin and Tammi) and the powers at Stang (who owned the Moments) had already heard of us.

The next day a couple rather large black guys visited all the pressing plants in LA. Pete’s was on the list and there they found pressing rejects. They pushed Pete around a little and I guess he gave me up. That night they barged in on my father at home while he was having dinner with the black promo guy at the Electra Distributorship on Pico Boulevard.

Fred, the promo guy, was a big man and he got up to show them the door. One of the goons swung an axe handle, got Fred in the gut, put him on the floor. My dad got up, he was always armed back then, slept with a gun under his pillow, but that didn’t make any difference. They backed off, because as mad as they were at me for ripping them off, they knew better than to mess with Jack, because there wasn’t a black record store in LA that hadn’t been in his debt on more occasion than one. Not a black store owner my dad had ever turned away when they were in trouble and this was 1970, black businessmen, even in LA, got in trouble a lot.

If they’d have hurt Jack their lives wouldn’t have been worth very much. However, the same could not be said of me and my Blueberry pals. These guys told Jack they wanted all the money I’d made, plus the stampers and all the records I had left. If I turned these things over to them tomorrow at Saturn at noon, they’d go away and pretend like none of this ever happened.

My dad called me at home, told me what happened. I told Vesta.

“This is not good,” she said.

“No, it’s not.”

I called Malcolm, told him I’d need some backup tomorrow. He said he had a test to take. He was going to Cerritos Junior College. “Any other time.” He said.

John too, had somewhere else to be. However, unlike Malcolm, he hadn’t made a point of telling everybody who would listen how tough he was, how he wasn’t afraid of anything.

I called my brothers. They both said they’d be there.

Saturn was a big old building stuffed full of records. Record bins on the floor, record racks hung on pegboard on the walls. When my dad took over the building, he framed up a wall, nailed pegboard to it, so he’d have a back room where he could have his office and a shipping area away from the customer’s prying eyes. He also had a shrink wrap machine back there, so he could make used records new again, after he had them cleaned up, of course.

That wall went across the with of the store, so if you were in the back room, you could look through the holes in the pegboard that weren’t blocked by records on the other side and see what was going on in the front of the store.

By the time Dub and I got there, my brothers had already drilled holes through the pegboard just large enough for our gun barrels to fit through. My brother John had a WW II M1 carbine with the seer filed and a thirty round banana clip, with it’s twin brother taped to the bottom, so when he ran out of ammo, all he had to do was eject the clip, reverse it and he was good to go for another thirty rounds of illegal automatic fire. My brother Tom had a thirty-eight and me, I had a forty-five auto, not very accurate at distance, but you hit something and it went down and pretty much stayed down.

Dub was a little uncomfortable with all this fire power, but then he was fairly knew to this crook business. You wanna be a crook, you gotta be prepared. Wait, I think that’s the Boy Scout motto, well, it works for crooks too.

After I was good and convinced we could handle these tough guys from back east, I went out to the car and brought in the records and the stampers, much to the amusement of about fifteen or twenty black record store owners, who all seemed to think high noon on this day was a good time to be buying their records.

King Cotton was there from Cotton’s Record Shop. He was sixty-something, going on a hundred and something and he looked like every blues song ever written. Andy from Ideal Records was there. He was a big man with a heart of gold and hands that could crush coal. Compton Bob was there. He was a little guy with a record store in Compton. He wasn’t afraid of anything, get in his face and your were in trouble. Jeff of Jeff’s Records was there. He was an old guy who had been fighting for civil rights his whole life. There were others too and It didn’t take an IQ much higher than three for me to figure out my adventures had made the rounds of the R & B record stores in LA. These guys were here for the show.

I set the records down by the counter, gave my dad an envelope with about twelve hundred dollars in it. It’s true our Blueberry partners only sold twenty records, but I didn’t want to insult these hoods from back east. I was hoping they’d take the stuff and the cash, be true to their word and go, but we were ready, just in case they didn’t.

Quarter to twelve and a couple more store owners came in. At first I was a bit ticked off, thinking they’d come in just for the show, but then I figured it out. That wasn’t it at all, these were the guys I’d been delivering records to for the last couple years when they couldn’t get their cars working, or they had a sick kid who they couldn’t leave alone, or they couldn’t scrap together gas money. These guys lived day to day and they needed their records everyday and I was always there when they needed ‘em, now they were here for me.

What this crowd of store owners didn’t know was that my brothers and I had it covered, had them covered too. We had the fire power. We were young and dumb and very afraid and we had guns.

Noon came and these two big guys came in right on schedule. My dad was behind the counter, several record store owners were behind him. The goons nodded to my dad, he pointed to the records and they took them out to their car. They came back in, my dad handed over the envelope and one of the goons put it in his pocket without counting it.

“We’d like a word with your son now,” he said.

“That’s not part of the deal,” Jack said.

“It is now,” the goon said.

“Hey, nigger, the man said it’s not part of the deal,” King Cotton said.

The goon looked up, surprise written all over his face.

“You should mind your business, old man.”

“And you should respect your elders, boy,” King Cotton said.

“And maybe you should look around some.” Compton Bob pointed to the back of the store.

The goons eyed the back wall. I almost felt like they could see right through it. However, the only thing they saw was those three gun barrels, and I know they saw them, because their eyes got real big.

“Might be time for you boys to go,” my dad said.

“He makes any more, we’ll be back,” one of the goons said.

“Best bring a lot of friends,” King Cotton said.

“Or what?” the goon said.

“Or you’ll be dead.” My dad opened his coat so they could see the shoulder holster.

A couple of the store owners did the same. Apparently my brothers and I didn’t need any guns, after all.

The goons left, couldn’t get outta there fast enough and I never heard from them again. Of course, I never messed with that kind of music again either. Isn’t it funny, process servers, cops and the FBI were all after us at one time or another and all it really took to track us down was a couple thugs from the east coast with an axe handle.

“What about John and Malcolm?” Dub asked after it was all over.

“They’ve retired,” I said.

“Well at least they made some money,” Dub said.

“Yeah, Malcolm made enough to buy my Firebird.

“You sold your car?”

“Vesta want’s a Jaguar?”

“So we’re not quitting?”

“I don’t wanna quit, you?”

“Shit no, we’re just getting started.”