1971 Pete Sears in John Cipollina’s antique gun room at his house on King Street in Mill Valley.
Photo taken by Michael Moore.
This is right after I finished playing the “Long John Baldry” USA tour. I came up to San Francisco from Los Angeles to start the band John and I had talked about forming before I left “Stoneground”; before I left to fly to England to record on Rod Stewart’s “Every Picture Tells A Story”.
When I arrived at John’s house he had already chosen most of the musicians, and we began rehearsing at the old white “Quicksilver” house up on the hill in Corte Madera. Ron Polte managed us. It took a while for John to come up with the band name, “Copperhead”. Ron bought us a car each at a government auction…I got an old brown Plymouth V8 that went like a bat out of hell. I slept in John’s gun room for a while…wish I still had that jacket in the photo.
We’d lie on John’s bed and try and shoot down his Christmas tree hanging by a piece of string over the stairwell…with a couple of 22’s. I’m not recommending this behavior however
We had a lot of fun at that house…driving around in John’s old Dodge Dart; meeting up with John Goddard of Village Music, or checking out Charlie Deal’s latest guitar made from a toilet seat. Sometimes the Village of Mill Valley would close off the downtown area and hold a rock concert outside the “Old Mill Tavern”…or occasionally in Boyle Park…this probably wouldn’t happen today.
I cleaned up one of John and his girlfriend Jan’s downstairs rooms and brought my girlfriend Lucy over from England. We lived in that room for a while, but eventually rented a small house in Fairfax up the hill from Van Morrison’s place…Jim McPherson lived in the house above us.
Jim and I used to race home after rehearsals to see whether it was faster to go through San Rafael or stay on Sir Francis Drake to get to Fairfax…we never really came up with a definitive answer. Who cares?
Mill Valley was still a relatively undiscovered village in 1971. It used to be a Mill Town and was full of colorful old houses nestling amongst giant Redwood trees. Most people could afford to rent, or even buy a house in Mill Valley back then. Struggling young artists, poets or musicians would live next door to wealthy attorneys, old money, rock stars, philosophers or perhaps a well known author or two.
It was before people working in San Francisco discovered they could commute to Mill Valley and live in this beautiful little village sitting at the base of Mount Tamalpias. That realization gradually pushed property prices up, eventually reaching obscene levels…forcing out many elderly people who could no longer afford the rising property taxes.
Although old Mill Valley fixtures like Varney’s hardware store, where John used to buy his ammunition or Lockwood’s drug store have been replaced by ritzy clothing stores or art galleries…Mill Valley still retains some of the charm that attracted people in the first place. I have many happy memories of Jeannette and me later bringing up both our children in Mill Valley after I joined Jefferson Starship in 1974. We got married in 1975 and bought our first house on Cascade Canyon in 1976…just down the road from the famous “Sweetwater” club. Our son Dylan was born in 1977 and our daughter Natalie in 1983. I used to walk Dylan as a baby down to “Three Wells” in a little seat slung on my back. I’d sometimes meet up with a neighbor who would do the same with his little boy…we had some wonderful walks together. Jeannette and I recently reconnected with him and his wife Em at a mutual friend’s house. It turns out his name is Martin Cruz Smith and he was writing the famous novel “Gorky Park” around the time of our walks. I loved that book when it came out, but hadn’t realized it was the same fellow.
Jeannette and I no longer live in Mill Valley. Many happy memories there.
We reconnected Martin and Em recently…turns out we live in the same town.