The Life and Times of a Second Call Studio Musician Part 1

I am starting this blog instead of writing a book about my career as a studio musician, back in the heyday of LA based studio players. Before I get started on that, a bit of history.
I grew up in Los Angeles, my father and two older brothers were all in the music biz. My father had a small group that played gigs, mainly society parties, weddings and such. My oldest brother John was signed to Warner Records when he was 19 years old, he was an outstanding vocalist. My other brother Dan was a great guitarist as a teenager but got the songwriting bug and was good at it. In high school Dan had a band that had a bass player who turned out to be a huge musical mentor to me, Jay Graydon. Dan also had a band that was focused on original material which included his eventual writing partner Michael Price. I started playing drums at 12 years old then picked up the guitar around 15 years old, later than most. Once that happened I was just immersed in guitar study. I had a lot of catching up to do. Fortunately back in those days people needed live music for dances and parties, the DJ thing had not taken place yet. I had bands with a few different lineups and we played all kinds of gigs. I never had a real job in my life. Just music gigs. On Jay’s advice I attended LA Valley College which had a great music dept. I took all of the music classes they offered, then went on to study privately with guitar teachers, Jay, another studio guitarist, Michael Anthony and lastly the legendary Barney Kessel. Here is a post card Barney sent me at the beginning of 1973 wishing me a happy new year!
My first “real” (union) gigs were with various function bands doing weddings and bar mitzvahs. The gigs were called “casuals” in LA. I would work on Friday night, two gigs on Saturday and one or two on Sunday. Most of my friends were playing in bars, five nights a week, coming home late, getting up late and I just saw that as the road to nowhere. I had all week off to practice. My first pad was a small guest house in North Hollywood owned by an old eccentric former vocalist Daphne Silva. She had three rental units and would only rent to male musicians! hahahaha! She was the best, I would get up every day start the coffee and hit the books. There were constant jam sessions at the compound. All the guys that lived there played together a lot of the time. If not at my place it was at one of the other rental units. Just one of the best times of my life.
I absolutely hated doing casuals. My father had gotten me into them thank God, as they paid really well. I did work with some amazing musicians though on those gigs. Jazz accordionists Tommy Gumina and Frank Marocco, New York Jazz drummer Lew Malin, and one of the all time Jazz greats Art Pepper! Seriously. I’m not joking. Lew was a recovering addict and knew Art in NY. Art was also in recovery and Lew convinced him to play these gigs. It was amazing. These guys would totally burn, me on the other hand kind of sat and watched as there was no way I could play with them. I was the young “rock and roll” guitarist/vocalist. I would sit and comp a bit until my name was called and get up to sing some pop tune for the kids. Brutal!! Sometimes Art would get a bit juiced on the gig, he liked scotch and it was free! When this happened he would get into his Ornette Coleman groove! Hysterical, the guys are playing some Jazz standard and Art would take a left turn and go all atonal. Amazing. I’ll never forget the phone call when I finally turned down the gigs from the Scott Allen agency who I worked for. Now THAT was a good day! Thanks for reading, more to follow soon!! Marty