1970–71. Stoneground. Warner Brothers.

1970, France. Stone­ground shoots 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 (George Har­ri­son was upstairs with Phil Specter record­ing “All Things Must Pass”, he liked Lydia, one of our singers and used to hang out at a big old aban­doned man­sion we were rent­ing near Lon­don). We didn’t release it unfor­tu­nate­ly 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, me 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.

It was while Stone­ground was rent­ing a house in Mill Val­ley in 1970 that I met John Cipol­li­na for the first time, and went to see him at his house on King Street in Mill Val­ley. We hit it off and talked about get­ting a band togeth­er one day. I had to go back to Eng­land to record on Rod Stewart’s “Every Pic­ture Tells a Sto­ry” first. It was at this time John intro­duced me to Jer­ry Gar­cia and Bob Weir when we did a live jam from the KSAN FM rock Radio record library on Sut­ter in San Fran­cis­co. John’s younger broth­er Mario played bass, Jer­ry played Ped­al Steel, Bob rhythm gui­tar and vocals, John lead gui­tar, and I played an old upright piano they had. It was on my friend DJ Richard Gossette’s show. There’s a boot­leg of the broad­cast knock­ing around some­where.
I also met my future wife to be Jean­nette at John’s house on King St. I was with my Eng­lish girl­friend Lucy, and Jean­nette was going out with Jim Mur­ray from Quick­sil­ver. It was sev­er­al years before Jean­nette and I got togeth­er. Jean­nette and Lucy (a BBC writer and pub­lished author who lives in Eng­land) are still close friends to this day.
I became friends with John’s good bud­dy, Mark Unob­sky at this time…we stayed close until he passed away many years ago. Great blues gui­tarist.
So I got Mario a gig to replace me in Stone­ground so I could go back to record with Rod. Then I came back to the USA with the “Long John Baldry Blues Band”. What a band that was. I loved play­ing with John. Then I went up to San Fran­cis­co with drum­mer Micky Waller. I moved into John Cipollina’s gun room at his house on King St. Our band had no name at that time…John even­tu­al­ly came up with the name “Cop­per­head”. I per­formed and rehearsed with them for many months…we did the Pep­per­land Ball­room in San Rafael, a KSAN live broad­cast from Pacif­ic High Stu­dios with Tom Don­ahue as our radio host.
I lat­er left Cop­per­head to go back to Eng­land and play with Rod Stew­art on “Nev­er a Dull Moment”…and Nicky Hop­kins had asked me to play bass and some B3 in a band he was get­ting togeth­er. He rent­ed me a house in Mill Val­ley while he was on tour with the Rolling Stones.
After I left the band, Cop­per­head found bassist Hutch Hutchinson…an amaz­ing musi­cian.

While Nicky was on tour with the Stones and pay­ing my rent, I went ahead and got my pilot’s license. Crazy Times.