2001. John Cipollina “Electric Guitarslinger”. Pete Sears was interviewed.


2001. John Cipol­li­na “Elec­tric Guitarslinger”.

Doc­u­men­tary about my old friend and “Cop­per­head” band-mate. I lived with John in his antique gun room on King St in Mill Val­ley for quite a while…just down the road from his par­ents house on Shady Lane. We had many good laughs togeth­er as well as shar­ing some very spe­cial musi­cal moments. John intro­duced me to sev­er­al peo­ple who were instru­men­tal in help­ing estab­lish my foot hold in the San Fran­cis­co Bay area music scene, includ­ing Jer­ry Gar­cia, Bob Weir, David Freiberg, Joey Cov­ing­ton and Papa John Creach. I’d already lived in the area on and off with Leigh Stephens and “Sil­ver Metre”, and “Stoneground”…both band man­aged by big Tom Don­ahue. I was inter­viewed briefly for the documentary.

But play­ing with John was a joy, being with him and hang­ing out with him, he was a won­der­ful per­son. A lot of peo­ple talk about what a crazy rock­’n’roller he was, and he cer­tain­ly was. He had emphy­se­ma from child­hood, and I think he knew he was in bad shape…so he lived life hard as if he sensed he would die young. You hear the crazy rock sto­ries about John…but what you don’t hear about so much was that he was a very gen­er­ous per­son. He was always ready to help a friend in need. He put me up when I need­ed some­where to stay at the begin­ning of “Cop­per­head”.

John and I were very close at one time…but we lost touch after I joined Jef­fer­son Starship.
I remem­ber bump­ing into John at a show for San Fran­cis­co poster artists at one point…I think that was the time I sat in with the “Dinosaurs”. My mem­o­ry of the event is a bit murky oth­er than John was in a wheel­chair as he had bro­ken his hip. He was sur­round­ed by the usu­al group of well wish­ers and friends who were look­ing out for him. I grabbed the wheel­chair and whisked him off into a maze of corridors…just the two of us. A few of his more recent friends looked a lit­tle ner­vous as we disappeared…but they did­n’t try to go after us.
It was good to be together…just like old times. John told me he was frightened…the med­ica­tion they were giv­ing him for his lungs were mak­ing his bones brittle…hence the break in his hip. He seemed to enjoy talk­ing qui­et­ly with an old friend. We sat for a while just talk­ing over old times, before I wheeled him back to his friends. It was a spe­cial moment.
Some­time after John passed away Jean­nette and I had his moth­er Eve­lyn over to our house in Mill Val­ley for din­ner. She told us she was very ill and asked if I would scat­ter her and John’s ash­es mixed togeth­er from an airplane…she knew I used to fly. It was quite an emo­tion­al moment and I of course said that I would. She passed away soon after. I had sold my old-open cock­pit bi-plane and even though I still had my license…I was no longer cur­rent. So we went up in some­body else’s air­plane, a friend of Mar­i­o’s wife who owned a beau­ti­ful Beechcraft Bonan­za. The own­er came with us and let me fly the plane from the right seat. We knew that Anto­nio Cipol­li­na, my wife Jean­nette and a few spe­cial friends were wait­ing for us on Boli­nas Ridge. When we reached the area I put the plane into slow flight atti­tude and the own­er (I don’t recall his name…nice guy) tried to pour the ash­es (more like gran­ules real­ly) out the lit­tle win­dow on the left side of the air­plane. This proved to be more dif­fi­cult than any­one imag­ined and many of John and Eve­lyn’s ash­es flew into the back seat all over Mario and his wife. But he did get most of it out the win­dow. We have a short video tak­en from below and you can clear­ly see the dark stream trail­ing from the air­plane. It was a very emo­tion­al moment for all. We flew back to Gnoss field in Nova­to and after we land­ed we noticed that the lead­ing edge of the port side hor­i­zon­tal sta­bi­liz­er had been stripped of paint…like it had been sand-blast­ed. I felt sor­ry for the own­er of the aircraft…although it had been him that had emp­tied the ash­es out the win­dow. He was a good sport about it though. I could­n’t help but see some humor in the situation…it was just like John to have a good prank even after pass­ing. It was like his last joke on us…all in good fun. His own ash­es sand-blast­ing the paint off our wing…you got­ta laugh. I’m sure he and Mark Unob­sky were rolling around some­where in hysterics…they’d both been fly­ing with me in hap­pi­er times. His twin sis­ter Michael passed away some­time ago…they are togeth­er with Eve­lyn again now; and Gino is cook­ing up some of his spe­cial pas­ta. — with John Cipollina.





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