I would like to begin this journal by thanking all the people who have supported the Magic Tramps musical efforts as well as us (band members), personally - some who I am still in touch with, and some that have not made the journey. I feel fortunate to have had the friendships & experiences through the years, as this is a work in progress. Our experiences have taken us around the world. I hope to communicate and perhaps perform with you who are reading this. It seems to be a family of sorts, continuing to grow. From Mickey Ruskin, now gone, proprietor of Max's Kansas City, who was always there to help a musician or artist in need, to his wife of years, Yvonne Sewall-Ruskin, who still supports us through her efforts with her website and non-profit programs to help those in need today. True artists sometimes struggle to maintain their art forms and should always remember where they came from, what it took to get there, and who was there to support them. I applaud those who help and ask for nothing in return.
As you know, this website is dedicated to Eric Emerson, a true individual and friend. My sentiment goes out to his family, his children, his significant others, and anyone who supported him and his cause. As James Dean was the "Rebel Without A Cause," Eric Emerson was a rebel in constant search for his cause.
This journal will be as factual as my memory allows and I hope no one is offended at any of it's content as I plan to update it often.
I want to let you know about our journey in life as people and musicians. We always felt we were individuals; creating a diverse community for all to flourish.
We performed under a host of name for various reasons. As Messiah in Hollywood, to Magic Tramps in NYC, to Star Theater (our theatrical project), to Exact Change, and to Hot Socks, for commercial gigs to pay the rent, etc.
I will be writing thoughts, somewhat, out-of-sequence. Be patient, we will be on a journey together...
I began playing drums at an early age; bringing home a snare drum at 8 or 9 years old and banging it on the bed, not realizing it needed a stand. I think I drove my parents crazy, but they were always supportive. I remember that, because it played an important part in life for me - to be supported, is and was critical. I seemed to feel a spiritual connection with my grandmother who was of Mohawk (Iroquois) Indian descent - primal nature sounds - the drums reminded me of a heartbeat.
Soon, I traded the drum in for a baseball glove. Years later, I discovered girls - that was it!!!
The music scene was unique.
Being a kid in the 50's, Elvis was king; photos all over the walls; I knew every word to his songs. Then there was the Everely Brothers, who I still think the Beatles are a re-incarnation of; Little Richard was a favorite; Gary US Bonds, Eddie Cochran, Coasters, Ventures, Link Wray, Bo Diddley, etc, but so many lame acts - Annette Funichello and Frankie Avalon, Bobby Vee, light and clean - all smiles - white teeth.
Then came the 60's; a (yawn) continuation through 64. I recall hanging with a group of "cool" guys. We called ourselves "The Click." We would meet together and collect blues music: Sonny Boy Williamson(the NY Dolls actually did a song of his - good for them), Muddy Waters, Jimmy Reed, Son House (who I got to meet once at his house - we gave him a beverage and cig. and he played for my guitar player and myself - very special),Sonny Terry, Howlin' Wolf, etc.
We had quite a collection.
We wore sunglasses, put in low-light colored light bulbs and chilled.
One night in '64, someone brought in an LP and said, "Check this out." My life changed, I was hit hard. We were listening to, "Not Fade Away," the first song off the Rolling Stones first LP. Forget about it - life had just informed me of my destiny - Elvis, Blues, Stones & growing.
I worked in a salt mine for $1.75 an hour and bought a set of drums. Then I talked my way into the popular college band, the Mojos, playing blues, Stones, Bo Diddley, Gene Vincent, etc. We had our pics in college yearbooks, and on calender and magazine covers. We were unlike any other band around, plus, long hair had not been seen at this point, only in London. People would want to yell, "Fight!" The word, "hippie" wasn't around yet, I just said, "I'm an individual !!!"
Life was good. We sent in a demo to Chess records at 2120 South Michigan Ave., Chicago. They asked us to be their first caucasian band on a new label they were considering developing called, WHITE. Then, one summer working in NYC, we were playing in the West Village (maybe, Trude Hellers?) when our equipment was stolen from our vehicles - that was it, a band fight and we broke up !!!
Then on to a psychedelic band called, Rasputin & The Mad Monks - playing Yardbirds, Cream, Stones, Love, Hendrix, etc. We lost our guitar player - on to the next band. I moved to Cambridge, Ma. with a group called The Looking Glass - a psychadelic rock kind of sound - a girl singer with hair to her waist. We played Harvard a lot, but they hired us then paid us to stop playing.? We were out there - we started a song, went out for 30 minutes, then came back to end (sometimes) - wild.
My next door neighbor was a small red-haired guy, sitting on his stoop, playing bluesy acoustic guitar. We rehearsed downstairs and we jammed a bit together. He was Van Morrison(late 60's). He was under contract with Parrot Records, I believe, and was unable to play out without permission. He was the lead singer for the band, Them. (Gloria, Here Comes The Night, great songs). We got together and went to Roxbury, funky land (Boston's version of Harlem). We went to a studio under an assumed name and jammed a few songs - later to become Domino, Brown-Eyed Girl, etc. A real gentleman. He had a son named Peter, who I took upstate NY to see waterfalls, etc - he was around 12 at the time.
At this time I was living with a girl named, Katari, of Finnish decent. I met her during the Mojo days in NYC, in the West Village. I was standing on the corner of Bleeker & McDougal St. - going to the Cafe' Figero to hear poets recite poetry and where the "beat" people hung out - Alan Ginsberg, etc (he was a favorite poet of mine -I later got to meet him officially in Olean, NY at a reading - a cool man - a real bohemian.) Prior to the word "hippie," I was called a beatnick because I liked Ginsberg and listened to the elaborate words of early Bob Dylan - trying to find the meaning of life. I thought I was an individual. Little did I know, there was a movement about to explode. Then a girl walks up to me and says, "have you seen a black limo with Hollywood, CA plates on it ? I came to NYC from Hollywood with a friend, when I was captured and tied up and put in a bathtub, and I need to get back home to California." At that point, I was in love. With the Mojos broken up, I took her to Cambridge, MA, with The Looking Glass. I needed a change of venue, something was building up inside. From there, we moved back to NY state. I returned to the salt mine for $1.75 an hour, and she worked in a textile factory sewing crotches in ladies underwear. We saved our meager funds for one-way tickets to Europe.
We were off to Nepal to find our meaning of life. We hitchhiked for nearly 6 months throughout 12-14 countries - having experiences later to make us strong in life - sleeping bags, knapsacks, sleeping in fields, working on farms, watching the Midnight sun from the arctic circle, sleeping on beaches in the Greek Islands, sitting on the Spanish steps - a wonderful experience. We never made it to Nepal, but returned to NY. She wanted to take me to California, so off we went in a Volkswagen bus. The music scene was all over the board with West Coast bands now joining the styles of Yardbirds, Stones, Hendrix, such as Love, Creedence Clearwater, Steppenwolf (who later I lived with the bass player, John (Rushton) Moreve - wrote "Magic Carpet Ride" and was a triple Scorpio), shared a house in Hollywood), Big Brother, Jefferson Airplane, Mothers Of Invention, GTO's, etc. Now, New York wasn't putting out a lot of bands except the Velvet Underground, The Fuggs, etc.
I went to a small club on Sunset Blvd. named, Temple Of The Rainbow. I watched a three-piece band (guitar, violin, and drums) doing experimental music - a sound I had never quite heard before, but felt connected to. After the show, I approached them and said I could add something to their sound - this was the beginning of Messiah, an "underground, experimental rock band," as the LA Times once wote. Lary Chaplan on violin, Young Blood on guitar, and Sesu Coleman on drums - the rest is history...
After 2-3 years as the house band, we decided we needed songs and a singer if we wanted to get a record deal. Young Blood said, "I know a theatrical character who was out here starring in the Andy Warhol film, Heat, from NY named Eric Emerson - a new concept for us. We were theater ourselves (blacklight stage, broken mirrors, dry ice, flowers, skulls, bones, feathers, tin foil and on and on). We were doing a lot of American Indian benefits at the time. I was the "Indian." We flew Eric out, and he fit like a glove. Lary was the classically trained violinist, Young Blood was the Neon Space Man, and Eric was the yodeling Cowboy. Now we were complete - Cowboys and Indians, with a classical, space sound and theater. We now were a band with a singer and songs - an ultimate theater - what a concept. We, at times, played in funky blues bars as a blues band with Lary on bass to keep diverse. We called ourselves the Magic Tramps. In February of '71, there was a major earthquake. After a band meeting, Eric knew some people in NYC and convinced us it was time to move on. We packed up, left our past and relationships, and loaded the van - off to NYC.
Now the journey begins... Read On...