Kenny Edwards: Music Guru Revealing Many Paths
Back in 1965, I was living off Washington Blvd in Santa Monica, near Venice. Kenny and I had reconnected, and in addition to his remarking on Linda Ronstadt's pronounced Ba-zoom, we went hither and thither and yon. Zipping over to Canter's where we saw Frank Zappa in his brown Tibetan lama suit (and I didn't know Frank was still in vicinity, though he'd moved from Claremont off to far away Los Angeles, I wasn't sure he would remain in Los Angeles). I barely recognized Frank, and only could determine it was he by his nose. He did not appear to be in a good mood that day, and anyway I was still mad at him so I didn't go over and say hello. So at the counter as we picked out knosh, Kenny regaled me with some of the current gossip around town, how Phil Spector was seen directing traffic in the middle of a busy Hollywood thoroughfare and I'd just "tsk!"
Kenny was wired into all sorts of music, he was an absolute livewire that way, and very generous with his knowledge unless he wanted you to figure out something that he already knew (like he didn't want to spoil the surprise or make it too easy for any, not even his guitar students). I was with Kenny earlier when Arthur Lee showed up at my parent's home in Claremont and we all went to a surf film in Pomona, just because Arthur loved surf music. Arthur wore green on green and beatles boots, and I remember the gremmies turning around and looking at him, when the lights came up, disbelieving their eyes that a black guy was in surfnazi satellite headquarters.
And Kenny would talk to me about studio sessions with Hugh Masakela he'd got to overhear ("Along Came Mary"), and Linda, and books, and movies, and all that good stuff. Kenny also advised me a fellow named Joe Byrd was in the vicinity, who was doing music events in rented warehouses in Venice or Santa Monica border and I actually ran into Joe at his home later and spoke with him a bit because I thought (since Kenny mentioned Joe was writing an "opera", and that was the very phrase Kenny used) Joe might be interested in what Frank was up. But in meeting Joe, I realized this was a fool's errand I'd been on, that he and Frank would not get along, as Frank was taking a different direction entirely ... you could just sense it .... you didn't have to even see Frank's warehouse shows to know, it was the fact I knew Frank had been so heavy into jazz at nearly that point. I was expecting more of a jazz record, truthfully, when "Freak Out!" was released (which I heard first in the summer of 1966 on a KPFK fundraising radio-thon). I was surprised by the final result, although I had heard the rhyme "she came from Camarillo, she had brillo for her ha-air" before, and could recognize some of the early music I had heard as it was coming to form.
I sensed Frank and Joe would not congeal artistically, but knew it even more when I heard Joy Byrd's music on this 1969 record.