Saratoga Welcomes Fernsauce...
Once before a gig at Lena's in Saratoga, we had a big feed at home behind Dr. Moriority's old abandoned mansion.
Dinner was at an old brick Victorian style home sliced into four flats. It's since been "urbanly removed".
Tom, Al, Luke, Tony, Pretty Patty and Corinne were there. Paul Seibel and Dick Fegy, fine musicians, would be in later, traveling from N.Y.C..
Every week or so we'd have dinners at other's places. Good food, more or less witty banter and fine music.
Most of us fellas were a tad older than the young Skidmore women. We remembered Steve Allen's old shows. During rehearsals Steve and his writers would use the word,"Fernsauce", to keep the final part of a sketch from the actors and guests. He'd also use it to cover naughty words.
At my place we always made Fernsauce for dessert. Sort of a chunky applesauce with nutmeg and other spices. And Green food coloring.
We had a real good dinner. Tom was trying out some new songs on us before dessert. It was a big kitchen space.
Al peeled a banana and plopped it on the surface of the simmering Fernsauce. Corrine was at the stove and said that it seemed like a good idea. After a few tunes Corrine walks back to the stove. In her high pitched, naive, waif-like voice she shrieks, "The Banana disappeared all the way into the Fernsauce !!!"
It took abut five minutes for the Steve Allan affectianado's stop laughing and get off the floor.
Corrine, dear sweet Corrine, kept asking what's so funny?
Paul had a weekend in Buffalo. Dick had just finished an album with Bromberg and had time off before the next tour. Tony used to tour and record with David and he'd be playing bass and boss on the way and in Buffalo.
We were traveling in his old van.
Tony Markellis knows, KNOWS, music more than anyone I've bumped into. he built his own fretless basses. One time at the Philadelphia Folk Festival the camera for the video set-up had a full huge screen shot out of the inlaid brass dragon that was in his black walnut bass.
Tom was the opening set in Buffalo, I was heading west so a ride that far down the canal made sense.
That weekend the Reverend Gary Davis was at Lena's.
Old deaf, silver-haired Tom was at the top of the stairs. He'd been there probably before they built the building. They just figured like a good painting he needed a frame rather than just let him sit at His table thirty feet in the air.
On Friday afternoon he greeted the Reverend as he always would with Black performers. He'd shout, "Can you play Old Black Joe?" The Reverend and his wife hadn't yet made it to the top of the stairs.
The usual suspects were in the kitchen, sitting in back with Dorthea as she either caned chairs, knitted, or sat behind the counter where I was watching The Rev.
The Reverend would launch into call and response preaching. His wife was the main respondee. After a long time responding, instead of hollering an Amen or something. She responded with, "Shut-up and SING!!"
Without missing a beat, he ripped into, "Oh Lordy, How Happy I Am".
On Saturday Rosalie Sorrels came through town on her way up to Vermont to build a record.
Sunday morning all of us had a late breakfast at Pretty Patty's. Guitars were passed around.
Quietly Rosalie strums into some chords we all knew. It was one of Tom's recent songs.
It was about breaking-up with long-time true love Katherine, "Sing To Me Now".
The following line, "Please don't sing about me when I'm gone". Rosalie has the most wonderful half smile. Knowing, wise. Sort of like she knew whatever it is, all the time or I told you so but I may not say it. She rolled into the song softly then built on that foundation. Rising and swirling, wailing powerfully. We were all struck nuts over the emotion packed into her.
She dropped almost into a sighing, singing whisper at the last line. "Please don't sing about me when I'm gone."
Tom kicks his feet up, chair falling back, ends up flat on the floor. "I won't. JEEZUS, I won't!!! I Promise I won't!"
Or we could listen to The New Christy Minstrels.
Rosalie's face glowed with her half smile.
Tom played at the Skidmore coffee house, Juicy Lucy's, named after the woman who started the place, Kathy Radcliffe's cat.
Sunday night. Paul and Dick would be here in the morning to leave. Tom was recruiting any girl-type local talent for a fun time and new vistas.
We leave at the crack of noon.
Tony reminds me of the cartoon cab in "Who Killed Roger Rabbit". He's the driver, he knows where he's going. Just stay in the back and write or play songs.
Paul was in the back with Dick and me working on some new ideas. Later turned out mighty darn good.
Tom was riding shotgun next to Tony.
He hollers, "Dad's Got a Franchise!!!"
We'd been rounding a Route 20 corner, bounced over a bump in the two lane road and saw hundreds of hub-caps nailed way up the trees, stacks of them all over the place.
Tom figured his Dad was branching out. The picture of Tom's Grandparents that begat his tune, "The Frenchman and The Indian", was what we saw deep in the Adirondacks.
The couple standing by a bunch of old cars and trucks, waving to anything that drove down the beautiful, mostly car-less road.
One night Michael O'Dunn, Tom and I went out from Saratoga to busk bars for some money. We were in Michael's old Volvo wagon with Muddy, his big white Husky. Happy, happy, doggy!
Muddy was the original Dog on a Dance Floor.
Four or five in the morning after an evening at Lena's we were all in the back playing music and dancing. Muddy was having a great time. Everybody wanted on Muddy's dance card! "Dog Hugging Drunk", became a staple in our vocabulary. So Owen writes this really good song about that night.
To get get of town and to a good joint to hit for tips, we went out past the hospital west toward Rock City Falls to Higs.
Southern Adirondacks in-breeding is a tradition that instantly reveals itself when a conversation starts at Higs' Cascade Inn.
Higs says sure, try you music. After a few tunes he gets real excited. Takes off his pork pie hat and walks his big burly self up and down the bar.
"Give the kids a buck!"
We made out great!
He left the place with his bouffanted wife in control and us in tow and started us on a merry-go-round of his favorite bars.
"Give the kids a buck!"
We end up in Ballston Spa, just south of Saratoga.
Tom grew up in Ballston Spa. We get into this place and Tom starts to turn to the door.
"Jeez guys, I'm related to half the people in here!
Michael, Muddy and me meet Tom's Uncle Bob and Aunt Helen.
If Fellini were alive, he'd have this whole scene on film in a second. Uncle Bob pretty much just laughed and Aunt Helen kept repeating, "Now Tom . . . be good . . . . be good.
She meant don't smoke dope.
Heading to Buffalo, Tony's van is going up a nice hill then down a pretty hill. It's more fun to take the two-lane than the thruway.
At the gig. Tom did the sound check. Tony was adjusting the dials and I walked around the room saying up, down, treble, echo,inside out, whatever.
Tom did a few of Paul's songs a slight exaggeration of his high, nasal sound.
"She's kinda wild,
Like a hillbilly child."
The shows went fine and I headed west took a left and followed my heart down south, as Tom had put in a song.
Back to Freestone...
Copyright freestone.com 1997
All Rights Reserved