Flashback to Kenwood, 1972
I’m writing in this hallowed spot for the first time as a former publisher of the Kenwood Press. Staring at this blank page I immediately start thinking about the past and “how it all came about …”
Dissolve into swirling psychedelic spirals and out of the mist we’re transported into Kenwood’s distant past – say 1972, the year I arrived in California, ecstatic to be out of Chicago in February and more than ready for some big changes in my life. Little did I know how great a part this small community was to play in my life. My first impression of Kenwood was the wonderful alley of elms that lined Highway 12; a tunnel of beautiful, mature trees spanning the highway in one of the most beautiful settings I’d ever seen (which was saying a lot since I’d been to Banff the year before and stayed at Lake Louise).
My first drive up Adobe Canyon Road told me I’d found my spiritual home, if not a real one just yet. The next year my colleague bought a house up The Canyon (as I will always think of it) and promptly left for England for a year abroad, opening the house up for me and a new friend I’d met playing music in a San Francisco bar, the Little Shamrock. We slid ever so easily into the rural lifestyle all longhairs were yearning to achieve. We showed up with guitars, keyboards, a bass and a few bongos and blissed out in what was then the very bucolic backwater in Sonoma. I regret missing Jim Shere’s recent mass musical romp down memory lane at the Grist Mill, but I remember the Valley of the Moon music scene like it was … well, not exactly yesterday, but through the glow of warm memories.
Jam sessions were happening with players dropping by for spaghetti and music often enough that I actually started learning a few songs. Never shy, I banged away at the piano at the Rustic Inn in Glen Ellen for beer many an afternoon. Then I moved down to Juanita Musson’s hotel to play for my dinner, usually an immense slice of roast beef. I would play at the grand piano in her bar, decorated with a wraparound mural of sailors tying knots on a wharf, surrounded by imaginary mermaids. I stepped on SF Mayor Joe Alioto’s toes one crowded Sunday night as he and the Mrs. were talking to Willie Brown. When Juanita’s got too busy, or a better player showed up (almost anybody), I’d head across the street to the Top Hat where Tommy Thomsen or Michael Beargrease might be playing to a packed house of maybe 15 people munching the great house tamales. But, oh how they played.
All three places are gone now. The Rustic burned in 1974, Juanita’s went up in flames in 1975, and while the building that housed the Top Hat still stands, it can’t last much longer. To remind me of those times, I still have a scar on my left wrist where Juanita’s parrot bit me.
I was recuperating from a hip replacement in 1986 when my neighbor Richard Wenn got me to turn off the TV and learn the Macintosh well enough to print out the Community Club newsletter, the former Kenwood Express. After a few issues went out to a couple of dozen people, I had the epiphany that what this town needed was a newspaper. Thus was born the Kenwood Press, and now is my chance to publicly thank Alec and Ann for keeping that vision alive and doing the incredible job they have of keeping this community informed and together.