Saturday, 11 September 2010

Freight and Salvage 1968-69 Performers Update: George Inskeep

We have previously published an extensive list of performers at Berkeley's Freight and Salvage during 1968 and 1969, covering the first 18 months of the club's existence, as part of our ongoing Berkeley 60s Music project. When the Freight and Salvage opened, it was housed in a building at 1827 San Pablo Avenue (now Berkeley Auto Body). The Freight since has moved, first to 1111 Addison (the "Middle Freight") and now to a brand new venue.

Despite our best efforts, we were not able to identify every performer, and we published a list of performers unknown to us. Many correspondents wrote in--some of them the "unknown" performers themselves--and I published the information in previous posts. Due to the magic of the Internet, I have some more information about an hitherto unknown performer, plus some other remarkable details about music at the Freight during this period, and I will share it here. Our Freight and Salvage list had the following notation for June 1, 1969:

June 1, 1969 Freight and Salvage, Berkeley: Bluegrass Music with Sandy Rothman, Butch Waller, Hank Bradley, Mayne Smith, George Inskeep
The June, 1969 Freight and Salvage lists these five musicians but does not name them as a group. Most likely, they were simply performing songs they all knew and were not a group, as such. George Inskeep is unfamiliar to me, but the other musicians appear all over this chronology. 
It's always better to be lucky than good. Another correspondent had suggested that George Inskeep was a pilot who played bass an occasion, but his musical history was unraveled when Mr. Inskeep sent me a very nice email. He not only explained his own musical history, but had some interesting insights and details about music at the Freight and Salvage during this period and beyond. Thus (with his permission) I am publishing most of his email (save for salutations and some personal notes).

George Inskeep, bass
I spent a good deal of time at the Freight during that period both as an observer and performer, and will try to provide a few corrections and fill in a few blanks.

I am mentioned for the first and only time on June 1, 1969 as the person the author had never heard of.  I (George Inskeep) had learned banjo from Sandy Rothman a couple of years earlier, and since there was no shortage of banjoists in those days gravitated to the string bass.  Sandy was kind enough to give me a gig with this particular pick-up group, and I went on to perform with a number of the groups mentioned.  I knew most of the musicians fairly well.  I was the odd man out in that company as I had recently gotten out of the Navy and was flying for the airlines, so was pretty much the only one there with short hair and who didn’t do drugs of some sort.  Didn’t seem to really matter to most people.

I’ll try to go down the schedule chronologically and throw in some comments as they occur to me.

The first mention of High Country was in November of ’68 as “two man bluegrass.”  The second man in the group was Myles Sonka (correct spelling), a red headed guitar player with a nice voice who sang Hank Williams songs a lot.  I played with both Myles and High Country, although not at the same time.  I joined High Country shortly after the June gig with Sandy and Mayne.  At that time the group consisted of Butch, Rich Wilbun (correct spelling, although everyone wants to spell it Wilbur), myself, Pete Wernick on banjo (on summer vacation from Columbia U), and Andy Stein on fiddle.  Andy, along with Billy C Farlow, came out from the University of Michigan to join Commander Cody and he played with us until the fall when Cody started playing seriously.  (Andy has been a regular for years now with Garrison Keillor on Prairie Home Companion.)  We participated in the Old Time Fiddler’s Convention mentioned on June 21 of that year.  We won a prize, but I don’t recall any rutabagas being involved.

In July Vern Williams and Ray Park returned to California from Nashville.  They needed a banjo and bass, and Pete Wernick and I got recruited.  We played together until the fall, at which time Pete had to return to Columbia to school.  (Pete, of course, later formed Hot Rize with Tim O’Brian).  After that our banjoist was Rick Shubb for most of the gigs, although for several months we had John Hedgecock or Bill Amatneek.

I am admittedly prejudiced, but many professional bluegrass musicians share my opinion that they were the best bluegrass performers of their time in California, and one of the best in the country.  We played to sold-out houses at the Freight every month, the Fillmore, the Family Dog, the Great American Music Hall, the Berkeley Folk Festival in 1969, and several venues in southern California including the Ash Grove, where we had a couple of dates on our own and once opening for the Byrds.  We, along with Commander Cody, opened for Merle Haggard at the Oakland Coliseum in December 1969.   Vern and Ray  were the inspiration for many players who came along later, and were definitely one of the all-time great bluegrass duets.  Vern played mandolin and sang tenor with a voice that, as Pat Enright was heard to remark, could “cut hard cheese at 10 paces.”  Ray sang lead, played a really solid rhythm guitar and was the California state champion fiddler that year.

I played with them until moving out of state in 1972, at which point Rick’s wife Markie Shubb took over at bass.  They continued as a group for about a year after that, at which point Vern left to form his own band with his son Delbert.  Vern made several records with the band, including three with Rose Maddox.  Ray moved to LA to do studio work and cut a couple of albums also, one with Byron Berline.  There were several reunions over the years, including one in 1989 in Grass Valley that I was able to play with them and Herb Pedersen.  Sorry to digress, but those were some of my fondest memories.  A lot of other players sat in with us from time to time, including Clarence Van Hook, Doug Kershaw, Richard Greene and others.

Getting back to the Freight schedule, the correct spelling of the Scottish balladeer is Alan MacLeod.  Alan is to this day a good friend, in fact I’m playing a gig with him in Sonoma this coming weekend at Murphy’s Pub along with Hugh Shacklett, who with John Brandeburg was also a fixture at the Freight in the ‘70s as the Perfect Crime.  Alan is a terrific guy, and hasn’t lost a beat.

I was also quite good friends with Campbell Coe.  We spent a lot of time together.  He was a genuine character.  He played electric guitar in the Charlie Christian style, although I never saw him perform on stage.  He, Sandy Rothman and I would jam at my house from time to time.  He had this little hole-in-the-wall shop near the University.  He could take an instrument apart faster than anyone I ever saw.  He’d have the whole thing in pieces in under an hour.  I cannot recall, though, ever having seen one that he’d put back together.  He continually had a camera around his neck and was constantly taking photos of everything everywhere, but, again, I never saw a developed picture.  It was the common consensus that he never put film in it.

Other trivia – When Ingrid and Bob Fowler (Styx River Ferry) separated, and later divorced, Ingrid went back to her maiden name of Herman.  She was, indeed, Woody Herman’s daughter, and just before he died they appeared together on KPFA, the local public radio station.  She moved to the Seattle area quite a while ago, as did Hank Bradley.
Thanks very much to George Inskeep for sharing his memories and insights.
Remaining "Unknown" Performers from The Freight and Salvage 1968-69
Below is a list of performers from the first 18 months of the Freight who are not known to us. They are known to someone, however, and hopefully we will find out more. Anyone with further information about who these performers might have been, where they where from, and anything about their music is urged to Comment or contact me.

Please note: this entire post makes little sense unless you have looked at the original Performances list. Listed below are the performers, as spelled in the Calendar or Berkeley Barb, their first scheduled performance date, and any identifying information about their style of music.

Dementia 8.2.68: improvisational theatre troupe
Don Copeland  8.5.68
John Dillon 8.11.68
The Maelstrom 8.11.68
Bryson Collins  8.12.68: “Crayon Encounter”
Kazz 8.18.68
Neo Passe String Band 8.26.68
Mike Scott 8.27.68
Fowler, Krech Paul X 9.10.68: Poets Theater Workshop
Bob Georgio 9.10.68
Quarter Dozen String Band 9.21.68
Ken Carter 10.18.68
Gil Turner 11.24.68
New York Slew 12.6.68
Jim Lynch 12.26.68: Country and Western
Tim Ryan 2.3.69
Joe Friedman and Barry Aiken 2.5.69: Classical Blues
Julie Meredith 2.13.69
Dallas Williams 2.14.69
Tom Maddox 3.17.69
Genny Haley 3.20.69
Kevin Barry 4.7.69
Rusty Elliot: 5.19.69
Bob Parsons 6.4.69
Gary Solaman 7.16.69
Steve Young 10.17.69
Tim Williams 10.22.69
Solari and Carr 11.13.69: “hip vaudeville”
Renaissance Catch Singers 12.10.69


  1. Great journey to the golden age of Berkeley. I was there and saw Commander Cody at Mandrakes. Remember the joy and excitement. How about New Monk and other venues?

  2. Ran, thanks for the kind words. We are slowly working our way through all the old venues. Any corrections, insights or memories are always welcome in the Comments.

    1. Nice to read George Inskeep's writing. No idea why it took me this long to find it. But George, what planet are you on regarding Rich Wilbur's last name?! I know the Wilbur family very well and "Wilbun" ain't part of it! The banjo picker's name, BTW, is John Hedgecoth. Other than that, some great reminiscences. Oh BTW I've got many of Campbell's prints, slides, and contact sheets...come by and see them sometime!

  3. I think George might be mistaken about the original other half of High Country ie: Myles Sonka. Maybe Myles is what they called him, but his name is Mylos Sonka, he wrote a song on the classic 1972 Berkeley Farms LP on Folkways.
    However, small grumbles aside, what an awesome amount of information, and first person viewpoint of pivotal time in west coast music.. and a comment from Sandy Rothman as well!


  4. Genny Haley was music partner of Larry Hanks for quite a while at this time. Sorry,but I forget what her instruments were,but they were an excellent combination. Others can probably fill in details about her,but I do recall her being a really nice person.
    I remember the Freight performance by Julie Meredith. Met her in Moody,Maine in the summer of 1960 or '61,where she and her husband Leonard Wolf had a opened a coffee house in an old barn near U.S. Rte 1. They'd migrated there from Venice CA - I think he had roots in Maine. They caused quite a stir in the area with the West Coast vibe ~ beatniks,espresso,poetry reading,calligraphy,and Julie playing the lute and singing beautifully the Child ballads,etc. She had opera training as I recall - had also sung back-up for Billy Daniels,and was a regular on the L.A. folk scene in those late '50s early '60s days. Also worked on the Renaissance Fair circuit,perfect fit for her.
    More info is available if you search for her using folk singer as the keywords. Here's a sample:
    =Brian V=

  5. That's correct—his name is Mylos, but Butch Waller and some of his other pals in those days called him Myles, or it's what he went by at the time.

    Since posting that comment about Rich Wilbur I've had some email exchanges with George, but forgot to ask him about it. There's absolutely no question the family name is Wilbur! I hear news from Richard's mom and sisters, and occasionally someone discovers the CD we produced in his memory.

  6. Ken Carter was a Folksinger from Sacramento, although I think he was originally from Oklahoma. Sang Woody Guthrie tunes, Dylan tunes. He was the person who first introduced me to the songs of Rosalie Sorrels and Bruce Phillips back in the 60's. He taught me Nola Gay and If I Could be the Rain, and Rock Salt and Nails. He was an old friend of Jon Adams, who introduced him to his wife, Donna and Rosalie's. He used to come to the San Francisco Folk Music Club New Year's Gatherings. He played a big old Gretch acoustic guitar. The last I heard, he had moved to Texas. He used to tell me of stories about pal-ing around with George Carlin in Los Angeles when he was trying to be a comedian. He said he couldn't be funny for long enough. A greta storyteller. I met him in about 1964 at a Unitarian Family camp at Asilomar. A great singer and a dear friend I lost track of. I learned a lot from him, some of which I am still trying to unlearn, (had a lot of fun though!) I would be grateful if anyone has any word of him.