Thursday, August 23, 2012
Back in the late sixties and early seventies, I was a punk teenager with a bad attitude and really bad hair. One of my running buddies was a guy named David Schantz. Dave and I grew up together in the Bonaire neighborhood in San Leandro, California. He was a year older than me and I looked up to him. He was a multi-instrumentalist - bass trombone, tuba, cello, acoustic and electric bass, guitar - and he was smart as hell. If I remember right, he was admitted to Stanford. He also liked to sing (his vocal style was...umm...unique) and he acted in several plays in high school. Dave was creative and hilarious, and was a tall, lean character who swaggered when he walked. So Dave had a lot going for him as a young man. We had a lot of crazy teenage experiences together and played a lot of music. He opened my ears to some new sounds.
Dave also was interested in experimentation and he had a rebellious streak. This manifested itself in the activities one might expect of a teenager in the late 1960's - drug use and refusal to conform to societal expectations. He never made it to Stanford, I don't think. Dave wanted to be a rock star and he pursued that dream, I think.
When I left California after college, I lost touch with Dave. I would get tidbits of info - he released a self-produced CD, he assumed the alias of Dave "Slim" Chance, he hooked up a stationary bike to a generator to make electricity while exercising. I didn't see Dave or talk to him - he moved out past Sacramento, so he wasn't around when I went back to the San Francisco Bay Area to visit.
I got a call from another old childhood buddy last night - Dave Schantz died on Tuesday. He contracted hepatitis C some time ago, which morphed to liver cancer, which took him out. Dave was around 59 years old, I think. It is a damn shame he had to check out early.
So I dug around the web and found Dave's YouTube channel. He put up a remarkable video - one of his original songs, telling his story, tied to a photo montage of his life. He knew that he was going to die. Here is the link to that video. There is another video that provides a glimpse of Dave's brilliance: Check it out here.
Dave Schantz, aka Dave "Slim" Chance - sorry I lost touch with you, man. I will be sure to raise a glass full of adult beverage tonight in your memory. I have a feeling that is what you would want me to do.
Saturday, August 18, 2012
When I first arrived in Evanston IL to attend graduate school at Northwestern, I was amazed by a strange reality. It was 1976, and Evanston was a college town that did not have a bar. This was very wrong and unnatural. The situation has been corrected - Evanston is now rotten with drinking establishments (disguised as restaurants). But in the late 1970's, drinking an adult beverage while sitting in a cool dark space required a field trip out of town. The closest watering whole to my first residence in Evanston was the UBAA, right over the northwest border of town in Skokie.
The UBAA (AKA the Old Crawford Inn) was launched in 1939 by Richard Diesterheft. It was originally named "The U-Bar" in honor of its'uniquely-shaped bar. Sometime in the 1950's, the local politicos passed an ordinance prohibiting the use of the word "Bar" in the name of a drinking establishment ( now THAT was over-regulation!!). Richard shrugged and re-named his joint "The UBAA Tap." In my view, this was a brilliant piece of passive resistance against tyranny.
The UBAA attracted thirsty Evanstonians like dog poop attracts files. Every night was Saturday night. You could also catch the Cubs in the afternoon and suck down a couple of Old Styles. Until the 1990's, the joint had little competition. The beer was cold, the food was decent, the hamburgers were especially good. The Diesterheft family owned and operated the joint for 4 generations. It was a constant in a sea of change. One of my favorite Saturday afternoon treats was to ride my bike on a 6+ mile route to the UBAA, have a Fat Tire and a burger, then ride home. The UBAA was an old-fashioned neighborhood tavern, a gathering place with regulars; a small business that sponsored Little League teams and bowling leagues. It wasn't a fancy place; it was in a non-nondescript building that had several funky local retail businesses (vacuum cleaner repair shop, window and siding store, etc), but it played a role valuable role in the community.
Late last year, the UBAA abruptly closed. It might have been due to a deterioration of the business; it might of been due to electrical code violations uncovered by the Village of Skokie during an inspection, maybe the Diesterheft family just ran out of energy for the enterprise. There is a huge "For Sale or Lease" sign in the parking lot. There is a hole in the fabric of the neighborhood.
Being a curious person, I called the realtor's number on the big sign in the UBAA's parking lot. I learned that the property is under contract, has been for several months, and the sale should close in a week. At first, I thought that the UBAA would rise again, under new ownership, but the news isn't good for fans of neighborhood taverns. The realtor said it will be torn down and a new development will take its place. The realtor wouldn't tell me what new building would be put in its place; it will be a commercial development, not residential. Please, no fast food!!
So after 73 years, The UBAA is about to be buried. It was a long run, and the joint is missed.
Wednesday, August 08, 2012
I was pretty excited when I saw a poster at the used record store in Evanston - Curtis Salgado was coming to my suburb, playing at SPACE ("Society for the Preservation of Art and Culture in Evanston"), on August 11, a big Saturday night. If you are a harmonica player who sings (like me), Curtis is who you want to be when you grow up. I have been following Mr. Salgado for quite a while; he even has been a victim of this blog back in 2006.
A few weeks ago, I got on the SPACE web site to buy tickets and saw that the show was CANCELLED!! "Uh oh," I thought.
Curtis is one of the under-appreciated super-talents of my generation. He is my age (58), he is a fantastic white-boy soul singer and he is an amazing harmonica player. Curtis has one main claim to fame - he was John Belushi's inspiration for the Blues Brothers schtick. Curtis was playing the clubs around Eugene Oregon when Belushi and the National Lampoon gang were filming Animal House on the University of Oregon campus. Curtis' style and talent fascinated big John, and he swiped much of Curtis' persona when he constructed the Blue Brothers - in fact, he split Curtis into two performers - the singer (Jake) and the harmonica player (Elwood). Salgado was on the fringes of breaking through - he teamed up with Robert Cray for a while, he was the front man for Roomful of Blues, he opened for Steve Miller in the early 1990's, he played on the Conan O'Brien show in 1997, he sang lead for Santana for a year. Curtis toured heavily most of his career. He also partied hard - alcohol, cocaine and a mix of other substances. He had a "moment of clarity" during a coke binge, checked himself into the hospital in October 1988 and quit. He stayed clean.
But the life he led left its mark Or maybe it is genetics - Curtis' mom died of cancer when he was 23 years old.
In 2006, Curtis was diagnosed with liver cancer and was given eight months to live. He had no health insurance. He waited six months - the sands were running out of the hour glass. Finally, he got a call to hot-foot it out to Omaha to receive a liver transplant. The bills were massive - a series of benefits, donations from fans and fellow musicians and on-line contributions covered the bulk of the costs. Curtis came back and hit the road, but he was taken down again in 2008 - a tumor metastatisized on his right lung. That mass was removed, and he recovered again. I saw him at the Chicago Blues Fest in 2010 and he killed it, man. Curtis Salgado live is an amazing experience. No recording can capture his passion. Here is a YouTube video that comes close.
So when Curtis cancelled his show in Evanston, I knew he had cancelled his entire summer tour. That can only mean that the cancer is back. On July 18, he went under the knife to have another mass removed, this time from his left lung. He lost a big chunk of his lung. Recovery is supposed to take about 4 weeks, and the doctors expect him to be back again. I sure hope they are right. I hope Curtis will retain his voice and his harp-playing skills with less lung in his body. If you feel moved to contribute to his medical expenses, you can do so via his web site (click here).
Hang in there, Curtis. Please.