April 12th, 2013 | Interviews

luke mcgarry

Decades before rich Westsiders started calling Silver Lake “East L.A.,” the real East L.A. was far hipper than an Elliott Smith mural would suggest, and had far more dedicated rock fans, too. Brown-skinned kids in Beatle boots, white-skinned kids in Nehru jackets, and mod-a-go-go girls and boys of all shapes and sizes under age eighteen went apeshit on Whittier Blvd each weekend, set loose on a rhythm-driven rampage. The 60s in East L.A. were a time when teens would pack themselves in by the hundreds and thousands into ballrooms and armories to see acts like Cannibal & the Headhunters, Brenton Wood, the Impalas and the Premiers. But at the top of the Chicano-rock food chain were thee legendary Midniters, whose “Whittier Blvd” gave the movement its anthem and whose version of “Land of a Thousand Dances” still stands out as that song’s most fervent and forward-thinking version. They’ll be playing a very special set at the Echo on April 13 as part of the Howie Pyro-Real Boss Hoss-curated benefit for thee legendary Norton Records, which suffered heavy damage from Hurricane Sandy. Midniters bassist Jimmy Espinoza, who currently leads the group, has seen it all and done it all, and he takes us now on our own virtual trip down Whittier Boulevard, in every sense of the word “trip”… This interview by D.M. Collins.

You guys had one foot in what’s new and rocking and one foot in the classics, things like Sinatra and jazz. Did you feel like you guys had two powers where the other bands had only one?
Jimmy Espinoza (bass): We certainly did have two personalities. And during the time in the 60’s when our local hit ‘Whittier Blvd.’ went national, a lot of the East L.A., wonderful fans didn’t know too much of our rock side. They stayed in that area because East L.A. was considered Liverpool’s sister city and so it was a burgeoning scene, the sizzling 60s I call it. Whittier Boulevard, cruising, partying, fashion, style … it was extremely exciting it was pretty much like Carnaby Street in London. We our own swinging scene here, there was no graffiti; East L.A. was probably 40 percent white, 60 percent Mexican American, or American Mexican, however you wanna call it. We would play in the Anglo areas and they wouldn’t want any of our steamy ballads like ‘Sad Girl,’ ‘I Need Someone,’ ‘Giving up on Love,’ or ‘Strangers in the Night’ or any of our Latin jazz stuff. They accepted James Brown because James Brown had already crossed over, so we would do James Brown R&B, and then the rest would be our fast rock stuff: ‘Whittier Blvd,’ ‘Special Delivery,’ we were doing covers of ‘Gloria,’ ‘Love Me,’ ‘I Found A Peanut,’ our own stuff, and they loved it. The only slow one they always requested was ‘That’s All,’ which was perfect. But the people in East L.A. never knew that side of us, so when I brought the band back on the scene in ’83 I was rather frustrated because I was assigned to my ‘Latin’ side. I said in many interviews, ‘You can’t put the Midniters in a Latin box!’ If you’ve lived it, the Midniters were not considered a Latin Chicano group. ‘Chicano’ and ‘Latin’ were coined after the Vietnam War when people started freaking out about the state of the world and the country and the truth came our about the corruption of our government and all that stuff and I said, listen, I don’t do Brown Beret, I don’t do any of that stuff! We were entertainers. We were strictly entertainers. We gave people ‘Chicano Power’ on the La Raza label to show our brown constituency, if you will, that we loved them and we’re still with them, not to proselytize ourselves to them, but to honor them because as artists that was what was socially relevant. But prior to all the war and everybody saying ‘Say it loud, I’m black and I’m proud,’ and Brown Power, basically prior to that, in ’68, just before Sgt. Pepper’s, we were entertainers enjoying the culture of being a white group sought after in a brown body.
It’s fascinating to envision Whittier Boulevard full of people with Beatle boots and mop tops and Mary Quant dresses, this sort of Mexican-American version of Carnaby Street. For a 60 percent Hispanic population, why was it London, and not some fashion capital in say Latin America or the Spanish-speaking world, that became the go-to city to emulate and to dress like?
Well, let’s get back to 1964 and ’65. The Beatles had such a global impact! And East L.A. at that time had a 40 percent population of white, Jewish, Russian especially in Boyle Heights. If you draw up East L.A. in a circumference of maybe ten miles, you catch Pico Rivera, you catch downtown L.A., you catch Highland Park, you catch Boyle Heights—so the Beatles impact, the Rolling Stones impact, and all the television shows, that’s what they’re watching. East L.A. in its correct historical perspective wasn’t as people might see it today, as a Chicano ethnic county. Quite the opposite, because of the melting pot and the hipness of the times, the zeitgeist, was the British influence, the Beatles, the Rolling Stones and all the groups that came along who had own or two hits and then went on to have more hits—that what we were listening to. I think it was radio and television and fashion, the Beatles haircuts, and East L.A. jumped on it. We had five major clothing stores which I used to frequent … and all these places had the latest fashions, the tight pants, the Beatle boots, mohair sweaters, then the nehru suits started coming out, far different than what today’s perception is of what that was like. That’s why I like interviews like this because it sheds light on what actually happened in East L.A. My English friends considered it to be Liverpool’s sister city. Why? They were both not upper-class cities at all. Liverpool was lower-middle class, and so was East L.A. by definition of governmental standards. But hey, what do you mean ‘ghetto’? What do you mean, ‘sub-standard’? We never thought that. NEVER. That never entered my mind. Yeah, there were hoodlums around—we used to call them ‘Zoot Suit pachucos’—but they were a minority. There were some occasional stabbings and some gang problems but not nearly what it is today. They use to have bullets there were homemade guns that had almost like a sling shot rubber band to fire the bullet. I don’t know if they were effective or not, but East L.A. in its proper state was fashionable.
Did you ever deal with any racist confrontations?
Of course—but my mindset was, ‘Go fuck yourself! That’s your paradigm! That’s your caption on your comic book, not mine!’ I was known as a silver-tongued devil. When I took my SATs, as I read the questions I knew they wanted to find my profile. So I orchestrated it the way I wanted to cuz I already knew who I was. Wouldn’t ya know, my two highest grades were ‘music’ and ‘persuasion.’ That’s what I wanted!
Did you go through the same trials and tribulations of other people in your era? Drugs? Hallucinogens?
Oh yeah, Benzedrine, Seconal Sodium, Liquor, Pot, LSD, everything except heroin. Turn on, tune in, and drop out. And that’s what I did. Because the value of that mind expanding period is that you saw the true corruption of people. If you had bad trips it screwed up your psyche. I stopped ‘cuz it screwed up my psyche and I had what you call a psychic tear—a hole. That’s when I stopped. I only had about ten trips and something changed. It wasn’t fun any more and I decided never again. Some people kept on going and each person had different experiences with it. That doesn’t mean that I still didn’t have my problems with alcohol and pot. I did, and I got all that taken care of, and this is a new me today, and I’m so happy because I’ve got a lot of clarity—but the same passion, I’m a lot more gentle. I’m not an angry young man. Anyway—what you said about all that ‘ethnicity?’ It hit me later.
Ethnic strife hit you later?
It hit me later in life when I saw racial prejudice against Americans of Mexican descent. Edward James Olmos is a dear friend of mine and we both lived about ten miles from each other—when he did American Me and Stand and Deliver, which was about Jaime Escalante at Garfield High School, that taught this group of young Mexican Americans calculus and they swept the nation. I played for his benefit when he was dying of cancer. We wanted to get enough money for his treatment because he didn’t have insurance—that’s another travesty of justice. I got angry when I found out that the same rights weren’t being granted to all. I didn’t care before, because I was a young man and I was an entertainer and there was a certain amount of my own self-indulgence which was cool because don’t forget—Sinatra, the Rat Pack, the Beatles and the Stones were all living these lavish lifestyles, and I was a part of it. We were doing TV shows with Casey Kasem, Sam Riddle, fashion was exploding, we’d go to Whittier Boulevard, the cops wouldn’t bother us at all because there was no problems. They didn’t close down Whittier Boulevard until after the riots. That’s when Whittier Boulevard became a wasteland. Immigrants from Mexico that they called Tijuaneros came from south of the border, and that’s a big problem today because you get part of the constituency saying, ‘Oh we gotta give them rights.’ No, they have to stand in line like everybody else. If they’re breaking the law, they’re breaking the law. I still don’t speak to a lot of my Latin musician buddies because they’re all pro let-them-in, and if I tell them ‘you’re wrong,’ then I’ll segregate myself. Most of my artist friends assume that I’m with them in Democratic thinking, and I’m not. If you break the law, you break the law. Now the contrary to that is if the law isn’t being measured effectively enough, and I agree that that is a problem. That’s what Donovan said: ‘Caterpillar sheds his skin to find the butterfly within.’
What was it like before the ban and the teen curfew stuff that went on and led to the Riot on Sunset Strip? Describe Whittier Boulevard: the traffic, the people before, and then what caused the ban and what happened afterwards.
1964 or 65, the Beatles hit. I was there when they played the Hollywood Bowl. I was working in a record shop on Whittier Boulevard called Story Music on Whittier and Kern. The strip that was famous was Whittier Boulevard from Ford to Atlantic. That was the hot spot, the place to be. Montebello was the next community east of East L.A. and it was almost all white. If you went past Atlantic it was like a no man’s land. It was still Latin, but you were approaching the white area. The street was gridlocked with people cruising with their windows down, exchanging phone numbers with girls, et cetera. We wrote a song about it that reflected what was going on. It was a social scene and in that era there was four venues where bands could play. There was Kennedy Hall on Atlantic if you went about half a mile north of Whittier Boulevard where they’d have weekly dances and the local East L.A. bands would play, as well as Thee Midniters. If you kept going past Atlantic there was the Montebello Ballroom. You’d walk up the stairs and it would hold about 400 people. There was another small venue called the Little Union named for a Steel Workers Union. If you went out of the area and south of L.A. to Huntington Park, getting into the black neighborhoods, there was a place called the Big Union hall, and that was the same type of thing in that it was a steel workers’s hall, but it was big enough to hold up to 1,000 people. They were all within a five mile radius. Thee Midniters got exposure first from the famous East L.A. rock show at East L.A. College Auditorium. We came out in Beatles boots and suits with screaming fans. When you listen to the Rhino Collection ‘Land of 1000 Dances’—not the studio version—that screaming was real, and I was there. Before the heyday of this rich musical and cultural explosion, priests were brought into my high school, which was on Whittier and Soto, to ‘tame’ us wild East L.A. guys. They were surprised to find out that we weren’t what they expected. We didn’t see ourselves the same way that people perceived us. I still communicate with some of them and some of them passed away, but everyone still looks back to our class and acknowledges that we had the most spirit, got good grades, had a great football team … Bill Taggart was responsible for planting musical seeds in East L.A. I was in the band and played tuba at the games. Then I joined a group called Johnny and the Crowns as Bill Haley-style bass player where I learned the basics of singing, writing, and playing bass. He’s an unsung hero of that community and continues to be a mentor to me.
A lot of bands credit Thee Midniters, and you specifically, as being hugely influential. What was it like when you first became a hit and became famous?
I loved it. I was always a leader and had a personality that attracted that kind of attention. I kind of expected it, so when it happened I carried it well. I enjoyed it and lavished in it. The whole band did. We all had a singular mindset. I was the most thrilling ride I’ve ever experienced culminating in the Rose Bowl that drew in 38,000 people. It was the first major rock ‘n’ roll concert in history including Herman and the Hermits, The Lovin’ Spoonful, and Bobby Fuller. Sonny and Cher were happening at that time and I would drive to Hollywood and take the guys to the only place that you find bellbottoms. We bought them in all different colors, in velveteen, black, fire engine red … When I walked into the Rose Bowl I had my bell bottoms on with my pirate belt buckle and my nehru shirt. I remember seeing Peter Noone, and I didn’t want to bother him because he was stringing his guitar. One of his strings breaks and he goes, ‘Oh, foook!’ So I say, ‘Hi, Peter’ and he goes, ‘Hey, how you doin’, mate?’ ‘Great.’ I went back to the guys and said I just met Peter Noone and told them about him saying, ‘Oh foook,’ and we started imitating it. When Hard Day’s Night came out I copied it exactly. We were zany, crazy, and fun loving. That was the spirit! That was East L.A. All the groups were dressed, choreographed, well disciplined, and they did their homework. I’m proud of the Mexican musicians. Unlike the African-American guys, we absorbed the Mexican traditions such as Bolero, Rumba, and the Mambo, the Cha Cha, the Mariachis, along with Sinatra, Tommy Dorsey… Henry Mancini was a big influence on Thee Midniters as well as Johnny Mathis.
There were a lot bands in Mexico proper that were doing Beatles style stuff also. Did you follow any of the bands in the south of the border rock scene from like ’64, ’65 as well?
I didn’t respect it because, to me, it was poorly done. They were ten years behind in their musicianship and they were poor renditions of what they were trying to do. I respect more so bands like Los Tigres del Norte and Los Boogie Boys. Thee Midniters used to play at the Alexandria Hotel in Downtown L.A. and they had all the groups from Mexico come through there. I didn’t think it would work to put us out there with all these Tiajuaneros—I didn’t think that crowd would like us, but our manager thought it would be profitable. The first dance was a complete riot. The women absolutely loved us. They were all up front swooning and screaming. We were like the Beatles to them. The men totally hated us. They started screaming at us and throwing Coke bottles. Our lead singer got hit in the face! He picks up the bottle, grabs a flash light from the security guard, shines it on the guy and throws it back at him and hits him. Then all hell broke loose. The women ran to the side, we jump off the stage, I broke my Paul McCartney Hofner bass on a guy’s back! Our trombone player smashed his horn on a guy’s face. Our rhythm guitar player was swinging his guitar like a bat, and we all chased away the hoodlums that had been after us. It was hilarious! We had a great time. We got paid; it was sold out and when we were done, I was like, ‘We’re never going back here again!’ And guess what our manager does? Books us back the next month. ‘Are you kidding?’ But again it sold out and they had tighter security and there weren’t any more problems. The men were respectful after that. Historically we weren’t ‘garage’ yet. That term was used more after the fact and didn’t have the same meaning. I didn’t know we were a garage rock band until people started calling us that. I found out that we were ‘garage rock’ when Little Steven, who was in Bruce Springsteen’s band and had his own show, told me his two favorite songs were songs I’d co-written—‘I Found a Peanut,’ and ‘Jump, Jive and Harmonize.’
You guys are credited as the first band to spell your name with a T-H-E-E instead of T-H-E. How did that happen?
Hank Ballard was a New York guy who had a band called Hank Ballard and The Midnighters. We loved the name but for copyright purposes had to change it so it became ‘Thee Midniters.’ We knew in the Bible that ‘thee’ and ‘thou’ were reverential and respectful terms, and then ‘nite’ was a kinda slang way of saying night.
So many bands followed suit and went ahead using ‘thee,’ like Thee Milkshakes, Thee Oh Sees, Thee Headcoatees, and the Thee Makeout Party. What’s your favorite ‘Thee’ band?
Thee Midniters! To me we’re the best because we’re an American rock ‘n’ roll band. I think it’s a travesty that we’re not in the Rock ‘n’ Roll hall of fame. I’m working on getting us a spokesman to lobby for the importance of this legacy that commercially in American music hasn’t been understood. People like Little Steven, Dr. Ike from Ponderosa Stop, Miriam and Billy from Norton, etc. did their homework and grew up knowing the importance. Their consciousness about things like ‘Jump, Jive, and Harmonize,’ not just the fast punk stuff but everything else, something that I really respect. I didn’t know at the time what we were doing. We were just being artists. It wasn’t until later that I realized the importance what we did. I grew into that realization. We saw Sky Saxon & the Seeds do ‘Pushin’ Too Hard,’ and I was like, we can do that! So we wrote ‘Breakfast on the Grass’ as, like, an LSD type of thing, like sitting on the grass in the morning after doing LSD and having breakfast after running through Strawberry Fields Forever. When we wrote that song we were in Santa Barbara doing a show with Sky Saxon and the Strawberry Alarm Clock. We were still in our Beatles suits, and didn’t really know what was going yet. Everyone started doing acid and I started doing it when I found out Paul McCartney and the Beatles did it. I have some remorse, but it is what it is. We came out in the Earl Warren Showground in Santa Barbara in our suits. Everyone was sitting except the women. We didn’t know why they weren’t dancing! Later on, we were with Sky: he was wearing a cape and beads and had long hair. Then we found out what was happening. It was like that song: ‘There’s something happening here, what it is aint exactly clear…’
Did you take acid that night?
No, I probably would have! But I didn’t take it until later.
What was it like buying acid back in the day?
There were different types. They had blotter acid where they put a drop on little piece of paper that you’d put on your tongue. They had Purple Owsley, which was a pill that came from the guy from Blue Cheer who had that ‘Summertime Blues’ song about it; there was White Lightning, which was acid on a sugar cube. I only did it ten times. I stopped after the road I was driving on turned into a snake. I was just doing it because I wanted to be like the Beatles. I turned on to the Maharishi after they did and got familiar with different paradigms. I’m a paradigm junkie.
In your words, you were in a ‘Satanic cult band’ at one point. What was that about?
I was in a band called Satan. It was a metaphysical band. I was heavily into metaphysics at the time, ya know? The inner man within, the grand man of the heavens. It wasn’t a Satan worshipping band at all. The reason we called it Satan was to draw attention to ourselves and spread the message of metaphysics using the word Satan as bait to then go on stage and be the good guys. In a quirky way, it’s like how Satan was called Lucifer, which means light, but then he fell from God’s right hand and became Satan. I forgot the metaphysical connection but when I joined the band they weren’t Satanists at all. They were Merlin the Magician, the Hobbit, and all these popular movies like Lord of the Rings. I would say it was a pop rock band. We did all cover songs. The name was a mockery to put a thumb up to religious persecution and by calling ourselves Satan.
In the mid-late 60s, some of your bandmates started getting drafted! How did you avoid getting drafted?
When I was 14, I said oh shit, I gotta face this draft thing! I went out and got a cold, and I nursed the cold until it turned into emphysema, and then it turned into asthma. And then I was declared an asthmatic. By the time I was 16 I had a three-year record of being an asthmatic. I had the prevential inhaler and all the pills and I complained religiously, and then of course I actually got asthma! And then, just to make it a slam dunk, I said ‘What if I don’t get the 1-Y?’ So I’m in line, and don’t forget I had high Beatle boots, they were almost knee-length, with red velvet lining. So I walked in there and I turned the red velvet inside out to make it like a half boot. And so you’re in your drawers, and when the psychiatrist interviewed me, I wrote down ‘gay tendencies.’ And so they pulled me out of line, and I got a 1-Y, based on my health and I’m sure the gay tendencies, because back in those days there was no tolerance for gay tendencies. And so they give me a 1-Y, and I say ‘what does that mean, sir?’ in a little Michael Jackson voice, but it was fake. And he says ‘Not to be called unless there’s a national emergency.’ And when I finally got out, I screamed, ‘MOM HEY I’M OUT!!!!’ I was so happy!
You were in one of the top bands in town at the dawn of the sexual revolution. How free was the free love, really? Is my generation missing out?
For me personally, whatever I wanted! Don’t forget, we had women all over us all the time. I never really did any group stuff, I just did one on one… I wasn’t really into group, maybe because of my Catholic upbringing, because as far as the Catholic Church was concerned, I was sinning, but I figured, I’ll do three Our Fathers, Three Hail Marys, and I’ll forgive myself. I didn’t really get into orgies. The most I did was see eight numerous women, but not ever at the same time. When AIDS came, I knew I was cool, because I was always a clean young man! I was very selective, and I had the cream of the crop because I was a star. Beautiful, gorgeous women, and I expected it.
Those were fast-paced times. What’s the weirdest place you had sex with groupies?
You could do it on the way to your gig in your van, or the hall adjacent, if one hall was dark, then you had a whole stage there with tables. Especially if you had three gigs in one night, and you had to hurry up—‘Okay, I’ll see you at the gig, but hold on, let’s just have a little something fun here. Lift up the dress.’ Bam bam bam! Boom boom boom boom! ‘Gotta go! See you next gig!’
One DJ we all want to know about is Godfrey, who sang on your ‘Whittier Blvd’ single, and also put out a version of Kim Fowley’s ‘The Trip.’ What’s his story? Did he do any other recordings?
Um, no, Godfrey was a very charismatic, hyper guy… I thought I was an electric guy, he was the only one who could short-circuit me. Godfrey was extremely electric, had a show on Adams, similar to Art Laboe’s show at Scrivener’s Drive-In where people could get their burgers and their malts and he’s doing the show, he did his show out of a record store on Adams in the black area. And he would spin the platters in the window. He was a friend of Eddie Torres, our manager, and we hooked up and did some shows with Godfrey—he sponsored shows on a smaller scale with a gentleman with Rick Ward, and that’s how we went around the state promoting shows, and Godfrey was part of that, and that culminated in doing ‘Whittier Blvd,’ because we were always trying to do different things. And Godfrey was asked to do the rap! That was probably one of the first rap shows.
In ‘Land of a Thousand Dances’ the 16 dances listed are the Pony, the Chicken, the Mashed Potato, the Alligator, the Watusi, the Twist, the Fly, the Jerk, the Tango, the Yo-Yo, the Sweet Pea, the Hand Jive, the Slop, the Bop, the Fish, and the Popeye. I can imagine some of those, but what is the ‘Slop’?
Ha ha—you got me?!? I was satisfied being the bass player, being the secretary and nerd of the band, being the Frank Sinatra/Paul McCartney.
When I think of other rock stars of the era, like Jim Morrison, I think about how he had to evade arrest and had so many restrictions. What restrictions did you guys have from the authorities or public at large that you had to be careful about?
Not too many! We had our bodyguards, and we were pretty much sequestered. We didn’t have limousines, aside from when they drove us to the Rose Bowl, but from 1965 to 1969, we had several vans for all our equipment, and several nice cars, and all our equipment was set up for us. And because we’d do two or three jobs a night, often we’d use the other bands’ backline because we were headliners. And so we’d do one show in East L.A., leave and do another show in West L.A., and then go up to Oxnard or Santa Barbara and do another show all in one night. And our manager farmed us out to take advantage of the popularity, and we’d come home with some good money.
With such a well-oiled machine, why didn’t you guys did more of a national or international reach?
That was because of the short-sightedness of our manager, and that’s why I fired him in 1969. That’s when Camelot was over… by 1969, Camelot was DONE, man! Concerts were dwindling, the support of our fans was dwindling, Vietnam occurred, the riots occurred, now everybody was defensive and sequestering themselves to their ethnicity. James Brown’s ‘Say It Loud, I’m Black and I’m Proud.’ The Chicano walk outs, resulting in Rubén Salazar being shot at the Silver Dollar. The Brown Beret. Marching, protesting, tear gas, the same thing. It was over. The magic was done. It was OVER. And you could tell. At that point, that’s when our next predecessor, El Chicano, was born and birthed. It was now turned political, and I didn’t want any part of it. Because it wasn’t my fight! I still hadn’t come to terms. I was like, ‘The more you label, the more we’ll have to fight!’ I was saddened to see the era of love stop, and now it was the era of dissention and political activism. Now, it was necessary, I realize that, because there were great things wrong with our country and with the world at large! But as an artist, I recoiled at it.
Being such Anglophiles for so many years, before you recorded ‘Chicano Power,’ did you ever get a backlash from the community, saying you needed to be more mindful of your roots and pull more from Latin cultural sources?
Not at all. We were too respected. We were the holy grail. Nobody would touch us. We were literally untouchable. Literally. It was like there was angels surrounding us. And that was spiritually a reality. Nothing could take us down. What stopped that was the country, and the problems in the country. Not the band. Not never ever ever ever EVER EVER EVER EEVEERRR!
You don’t think if you guys had like dropped the horns, trimmed things down to a three-piece, done more Blue Cheer riffs, you guys could have kept going?
But that wasn’t our gig. Don’t forget, this was about brotherhood, sincerity, and relevance. It wasn’t in our heart to go do that. I left it as it was. Leave it as it is. And I’m proud of that. And to this day, I still really haven’t re-recorded. And there’s reasons for that. How can you outdo perfection?
Let’s say it’s 1965. Describe a typical week on Whittier Boulevard or East L.A. for you guys in the heyday of the scene.
Usually everything was on weekends, on a Friday and Saturday, with heavy cruising on Sunday before school on Monday. Well, on a typical weekend, on a Friday we might start off at the Montebello Ballroom—there was so much activity, and people were supporting all the venues. From there we might then go to the big Union Hall, and then up to maybe Oxnard. And then Saturday night maybe something in the San Fernando Valley, maybe something off Van Nuys Boulevard, one of the carpenter’s halls there, then maybe Oxnard, and then Delano, and up and down the coast, the Rainbow Ballroom which I believe in Oxnard—and San Bernadino, sometimes we’d go the other way, to the Swing Auditorium. Sometimes we might start in San Bernadino, go into East L.A., go to the San Fernando Valley, and end up in Oxnard! And that would be a typical weekend day.
Surely with the crowded traffic on Whittier Boulevard and all that young teenaged testosterone, there was some violence back in the day…
No. None! It was a party, with everyone having a good time. It was magic! The hoodlum element would stay away. It was magnetic, it was electric. It was such a spirit of fun and innocence, and boy-meets-girl, girl-meets-boy. If there was ever a fight, I don’t remember it. I remember the party, the camaraderie, the exploration of a cool scene. It was spearheaded by the artists, and musicians, and hairdressers! And poets, and artists. That spirit was stronger than any burden or negativity. There was too much light, Dan! The darkness would stay away! That’s what I wanna address with my show and all my musical skills, whether it’s garage rock or ambient music or good time rock ‘n’ roll. I wanna heal somebody by giving ‘em a 25-minute set of Chuck Berry and Steppenwolf and the Yardbirds! If they’re dancing and happy for that hour, they’re in an alkaline stage—an alpha state. And alkaline plus alpha is life. Acid equals darkness equals death. You have deterioration of your arteries, your bones brittle up because of negative nutrition—nutrition is very important! A vocalist must know how to take care of their body because that’s their instrument. People need to be healed, Dan! There are too many broken people out there. I’m able to do it! I am the huckleberry! This is my calling. I had my right eye compromised and I was blind—the lens fell out and I couldn’t see at all.
What’s it like to suddenly go blind?
It takes you to the bedrock! You find out who your creator is and who you are and guess what? He’ll talk to you! The god of the universe will start speaking to you!

Special thanks to Megan Meyer and Desi Ambrozak for helping transcribe more than three hours of Thee Midniters!