Flaskaland
Wednesday, January 05, 2011
 

In 1967, a KMPX (or maybe it was KSAN by now) deejay announced that Sandy Bull had died of an overdose in Tangiers and never corrected the story on the air that I know of. A bit later in that same year, I went to see Sandy at the San Francisco Folk Festival that also had the Chambers Brothers and the Staples Singers. At that show, Sandy had recorded overdubs of himself playing and would step on a pedal and activate a tape player next to him on the floor periodically.

At a door leading to "Backstage" I told Sandy he had something in common with the Rolling Stones and told him about the premature death reports. In 2001, I ran into a guy and mentioned Sandy Bull, and told him Sandy had died and he looked at me like that was really old news ... "Oh, that guitarist who died in Tangiers of an overdose." I said yes, but he'd died again more recently.

I could really like Sandy. I'd go over to his house a few doors away from where I was living to say hi or see if he wanted anything from the store. When he didn't answer a knock one time, I ran into his landlord who told me Sandy was home but "probably asleep" and went on to tell me it seemed Sandy was "always sleeping".

I persevered because I could really like Sandy when he was awake, as he was a sweet and gentle guy, but quite sensitive to anything he heard as criticism, especially newspapers and their harsh and ill-informed and usually badly written criticism of him or his music. A quirk of personality that would be hard to balance if ever he were to find himself in the cold harsh glare of a greater fame's spotlight, you see. He and I had a lot of fun talking about music, though, especially the pop stuff, the Beatles a bit and the Rolling Stones in particular. And a little about Frank Zappa and how he'd push on in spite of everything life had to throw at him to compose and play.

So Sandy and I would laugh about fame, he had a good sense of humor I think, and I'd ask him if he was ever going to get famous. One time, we went up to the Army & Navy store on University (the one a few long blocks South of Tingo's, the hamburger stand and on the same side of the street as the Army Navy store) and I helped select a new shirt for a new publicity photo which actually found its way onto one of the back covers of his albums. A snappy brand new air force issue shirt, but priced at below second hand, bright blue with epaulets. And I think it was tagged at something like 67 cents.

Long about 1988, I stumbled across his newest release. It had been probably close to fifteen or twenty years since he'd made a record. I got to hear how he'd progressed on Sho-bud, his pedal steel, and I liked that album a lot. Then came "Vehicles" and a few years later "Steel Tears", more Sho-bud and a little of Sandy singing. He covered a song the Rolling Stones had made famous, "Can I Get a Witness" which made me laugh like hell, but it was kind of an in joke between Sandy and me way back when.
 




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