Ken in his own words – part 12

We Were Young and We Were Greedy

After I got the boot from the bootleg biz by Big Dub, Dub became known as Little Dub. I missed working with him, because he was good at putting the material together and I was not. I did the ‘RAH’ record, sure, but an idiot could have done that.

I bought a 650 Kawasaki BSA rip of. British bikes were cool, but you had to always be working on ’em. The Kawasaki made the real deal seem golden, it was always apart, so I bought a new Triumph Bonneville, had the fork extended, got tall handle bars, I don’t remember what they were called back then, sort of like the Ape Hanger Bars you see on Harleys today. I was cool and I liked to ride.

And one day I rode out to Riverside, about an hour from Long Beach on the new extension to the 91 Freeway. They had kind of an old town, walking type street and since I liked being a tourist, I touristed off and I found Betty’s Records. A stupid name, to be sure, but what a great store and they sold bootlegs.

I asked for the manager, who’s name I don’t remember, but the guy who ran the place was named Harry. He wanted to buy boots, but I only had the one, plus about 5,000 Donovan records in a friend’s garage. I wanted to sell these guys records and I reasoned that the Dubs would be glad to sell them to me if I paid the going rate, which was a buck fifty a record. They were more than generous and sold them to me for a buck which allowed them to double their money and I could sell them for a buck and half and do alright.

Vesta and I were back in school, because we weren’t working and being uneducated is just stupid. Every weekend I’d drive out to Riverside and I found a couple other stores to sell to out there where nobody knew me. I was still paranoid.

But I wasn’t going to be paranoid for long, because the money was running out. We needed money, because we had two babies and we’d learned that we didn’t like going to work. So tried out a swap meat, sold the records retail in front of God and everybody for three dollars each or two for five, doubles five dollars. We made a couple hundred bucks our first time out and for the next year or so that’s what we did. I bought from the Dubs and Vesta and I worked the La Marada swap meet at the La Marada drive in in La Marada, California (that’s a lotta La Maradas). We’d leave at 9:00 and wait in line till dawn, when they let us in. In those days those at the head of the line got the best spots.

Eventually I was working several swap meets. All at drive ins. I had two brothers, both also in school and a couple friends I was supplying with the records I was getting from the Dubs, but I knew it couldn’t last.

Now I have to back up here, In a previous post I talked about how Kay at Lewis Record MFG copied Dub’s stampers (which were really half mine) for me, but this, what I said above, was happening concurrently. I hadn’t gotten around to pressing any of his records yet, because I didn’t have any accounts. I suppose I could’ve taken over Dub’s and eventually I would, but at that point in time I was too dumb and stupid to think about it.

Besides, I was kind of doing okay, selling Dub’s records to my few stores and at the swap meets. But Dub was getting new stereo equipment all the time, Big Dub quit the Post Office and was stylin’, while Vesta and I were going to school and working our buns off. Sure we had new cars. Sure I had a great bike. Sure we had new furniture. Sure we had stuff. But we weren’t stylin’. We weren’t leaving twenty dollar tips for ten dollar meals. We weren’t taking long vacations. We weren’t dripping in money, rolling around in it. We wanted that.

Back to Betty’s. One day after I dropped the records off, they’d only ordered fifty or so, so I strapped them on the back of my Bonneville and drove ’em on out. Gary, that’s the name of the owner. Gary Sparger, I’m surprised I remembered that. He asked me if I’d like to stop by a friend’s house for a few drinks. That was back when drinking and driving was okay if you didn’t get caught and if you did you just got a slap on the wrist unless you killed someone, so I said sure.

No girls there, just Gary, Harry and a couple guys I didn’t know. They were making Sangria. Years later, when I was living in Spain, I’d often look back when I was drinking it at an outdoor restaurant and remember their Sangria recipe. Here it is: You take a bottle of Spinata — a cheap wine you could get back then, maybe you still can. You squeeze a lime in it. Add lots of fruit bits, heavy on orange slices and canned grapefruit with a little canned pineapple stirred in. Then you add two two hits of mescaline and two hits of acid. Then you stir briskly and smoke a joint while you’re waiting for the flavors to blend.

After a glass and twenty minutes or so we were all doing alright. Somebody found a twenty-two rifle and several boxes of bullets, so we set up cards in a towel cabinet at one end of a hallway and started target practice. We did this till someone realized we’d drilled a hole through the back of the cabinet, through the wall into a bedroom and through the wall opposite. We’d been shooting out into the street. It’s a miracle we weren’t caught and taken away. But we weren’t.

And Harry and I got to know each other a bit. Turns out he and a friend wanted to open a poster business and they thought they needed a third partner and they thought I’d fill the bill nicely. I never dreamed they could’ve wanted me because my dad, whose record business went bust, now had a poster one stop and was selling to all the hippy stores. Being young, dumb and maybe a bit stoned, I said okay.

A month later, after we’d printed up our first batch and sold ’em to, you guess it, my dad. Harry and partner dropped by my house unexpectedly one evening. Since Riverside was an hour away, I didn’t think they’d just happened to be in the neighborhood. I knew right away they were gonna give me the old heave ho. I’d been there before and could see it coming from clear across the room. But what they didn’t know was that I’d met the printer and had a plan to take bootlegs to a whole ’nother level and I’d planned on including them, we were partners, after all.

But I was out now and Vesta and I were on our own again. We were young, we were greedy and we had a couple Beatles tapes.

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