Stoneground 1970

 

1970, France. Stoneground shoot album cover at “The White Sand Pit of Bourron” near Fontainebleau outside Paris. My English girlfriend at the time, Lucy Daniel, in a moment of inspiration carved out the name Stoneground in the sand with a shovel…it made the cover come to life. That’s us standing on top in the middle…Lucy also spoke fluent French, which came in handy getting around Paris. Like the time a cab driver drove off with my bass in his trunk.

Silver Metre had just broken up and I was living in England again when Tom Donahue asked me to play bass with a new band called “Stoneground”. We recorded an album at Trident Studios in London engineered by Bob Mathews and Betty Cantor. We didn’t release it but recorded another one back in Hollywood in LA after opening for the Grateful Dead on NYE. I liked the unreleased album better as it more accurately represented the band’s sound. The one we released was a bit overproduced and overdubbed to death (in my opinion of course).
We lived in a stately home near Canterbury for a while and played several shows including the “RoundHouse” in Chalk Farm London, and another festival with Pink Floyd.
“Stoneground” was: Sal Valentino lead vocals and guitar, Tim Barnes lead guitar, John Blakeley guitar, Deirdre LaPorte vocals, Annie Sampson vocals, Lydia Phillips vocals, Lynne Hughes vocals, Luther Bildt vocals, Mike Mau drums, Pete Sears on bass & keyboards.

I met Wavy Gravy, Jahanara, Milan Melvin, Morgan Upton…and everyone from the Hog Farm community at this time. Stoneground was their official band really. I played a show where Wavy got up to talk to the audience…the “Lyceum” in London I believe it was. He led the audience in these breathing exercises, causing mild to extreme hyperventilation to get them high. That’s when I first saw his special brand of interactive mind expansion
He was the emcee at “Woodstock”, and without the Hog Farm that event might have gone in a very different direction.
Wavy began taking on a permanent “Clown” persona after being badly beaten by police at a peace rally…he figured nobody would hit a clown. He and Jah later started the amazing “Camp Winnarainbow” in California; an accredited children’s summer camp that teaches theater and circus skills…both my kids went there, as did Bill Graham’s
Wavy used to visit children’s cancer wards in his clown gear to try and bring some light into their lives. We have worked on many projects together over the years, including various live poetry recitals while I played improvised piano…like the one we did for our dear friend Floyd “Red Crow” Westerman’s “Longest Walk” benefit.
Floyd was a Dakota Sioux activist and musician…he also acted in several films including playing the part of the chief in Kevin Costner’s “Dances With Wolves”. Floyd passed away in 2007.
Wavy Gravy also recited a beat poem on my solo album, “The Long Haul”.
I’ve played at many benefits for SEVA, an organization that restores sight to people in India. It was started by Wavy, Jahanara, Dr. Larry Brilliant, Girja, and several other ex hog farmers.

Stoneground also played in Paris, France, and did a couple of French TV shows; one where I jammed Indian ragas on the bass with classical violinist Yehudi Menuhin…which is hard to imagine I know; I can scarcely believe it myself. A young bearded rock musician in a fringe deerskin jacket wielding a Gibson EB0 bass guitar…and a smartly dressed classical violinist with his priceless Stradivarius, improvising ragas together…just the two of us on live TV. Wish I could find a copy of the show…I think?
We were once arrested in Scarborough on the north east coast of England on suspicion of drug possession after the Canterbury police tipped off the local police force. They surrounded our van after our show and escorted us to the police station but were unable to charge us with anything as we ate the evidence before they could find it. They became very frustrated and knocked Sal Valentino around a bit trying to find out where we’d hidden the drugs. The show that night had been a bit bizarre anyway due to several IRA bomb scares throughout the evening…we had to stop playing and clear the club twice in one evening.