My parents would say their first mistake was buying me that guitar when I was 13. Within a year I was walking down to Washington Square in Greenwich Village every Sunday to play folk songs in the Big Hootnanny. By 16 I was playing the coffee houses, where I rubbed shoulders with the great and near-great, “studying at the feet,” so to speak, of the likes of Dave Van Ronk, Bob Dylan, Richie Havens, Len Chandler, Fred Neil, John Sebastian, and Joni Mitchell, among many others.

In the fall of 1963 I went off to Goddard College in Vermont. In the summer of ‘64, I and a cadre of friends decided to go to Martha’s Vineyard, an island off Cape Cod, Massachusetts, and start a folk music coffee house. Because we were too young and naïve to realize it was impossible to go to a strange town and start a coffee house for just one summer, we pulled it off. I was in charge of the entertainment. If I couldn’t find any, I was the entertainment. One day a tall, lanky kid with a guitar ambled off the ferry, which landed just down the street, and I waylaid him.

Ted Myres

"Hey kid," I said, "you any good on that thing?"
“Not bad,” he drawled in his North Carolina twang.
“Ever play a gig?”
“A what?”
“You know, a gig – playing live in front of people.”
“Nope,” he said.
“How’d you like to audition for us?”

I brought him inside the coffee house and he played us a few tunes. Nothing original, just some of the standard folk fare everybody played back then. But he had something special. He was just 16 years old, but I hired young James Taylor (then called “Jamie”) on the spot. He played in our coffee house for the entire summer, sometimes accompanied by his friend, Danny “Kootch” Kortchmar.

In July my old friend from junior high, José Feliciano, was scheduled to play at The Mooncusser, Martha’s Vineyard’s largest (and only other) folk music venue. Two days before that he was playing the Newport Folk Festival. So my girlfriend Jean and I decided to drive to Newport, find José, give him a ride back to Martha’s Vineyard, and get him to play one night at our place – the night before his gig was scheduled to start at The Mooncusser.

It went off like clockwork. We arrived at Newport just as he had finished his set. We swooped down upon him and his handler, a homely girl named Inez, packed them into Jean’s old Plymouth, and spirited them off to Martha’s Vineyard. José and I had been fast friends ever since I let him play my electric guitar when we were 13, so he was glad to see me and was happy to play at our place (for free!) the night before his gig at the Mooncusser started. Mission accomplished!

That same summer I began talking with some members of the Jim Kweskin Jug Band about plugging in and starting an electric blues band. That never materialized but, that fall back at Goddard, I started my first electric band, The Lost. By the end of the semester we were playing regularly at a club called The Cave in Burlington, the capitol of Vermont. Since The Beatles had started in the Cavern Club, The Lost took this as a portent of great things to come so, at the end of the fall semester, we dropped out en masse and moved to Boston, where we started playing the club and college circuit.

The Lost was soon discovered by regional Capitol records promo man Al Coury and were signed to Capitol Records in 1965. We became regional stars in New England and upstate New York, and something of a local legend in Boston, where we pioneered the psychedelic rock movement, opening Boston’s first psychedelic ballroom, The Boston Tea Party. Right at this time I ran into an old friend, Peter Blankfield, with whom I had gone to high school. He was now calling himself Peter Wolf and was front man for a new Boston band called The Hallucinations. I fixed it up so The Hallucinations would be our opening act at the Grand Opening of the Boston Tea Party. A year or so later the Hallucinations would disband and Peter and their drummer, Stephen Jo Bladd, would start a new band with guitarist J. Geils called the J. Geils Band.

The Lost shared the stage with such luminaries as The Shirelles, The Supremes, Sonny & Cher, Jr. Walker & The All Stars, and we toured with The Beach Boys in 1966. We released two singles on Capitol, one of which was a top ten record all over New England and upstate New York. In those days it was possible to be a total rock star in one part of the country, and totally unheard of in the rest.

The Lost disbanded in early 1967, and I moved from Boston to New York, where I was soon signed to a publishing deal with Alan Lorber, a record producer who was quickly making a name for himself producing Boston-based bands, and who became known as the main progenitor of the “Bosstown Sound.” Through Lorber and an old friend, Ray Paret, I met fellow songwriter Tony Scheuren and we began collaborating on songs. Lorber promised to make an album with us as soon as we put together a band. And so we added former Lost guitarist Kyle Garrahan and a tall, gregarious drummer with a great sense of humor named Chevy Chase (yes, that Chevy Chase!) to form my second band, Chamaeleon Church. Chamaeleon Church released our eponymous album in early 1968 and were featured on a nationwide, live television special called Preview, which aired on ABC TV on Easter Sunday, 1968.

Tony and I convinced the other two members of the band to move back up to Boston in late 1968, but Kyle and Chevy preferred to return to New York, and the band broke up. Tony and I kept collaborating on songs and were soon drafted into another band that was produced by Alan Lorber, Ultimate Spinach, whose first release had sold more than 100,000 albums and was Lorber’s most successful commodity. We became the new lead singers and songwriters for the band and shaped the material for Spinach’s third and final album, which also featured future Steely Dan and Doobie Bros. lead guitarist, Jeff “Skunk” Baxter.

After a tour in the winter of early 1969 that took us from New England to Florida to Witchita, Kansas to Aspen, Colorado, Ultimate Spinach disbanded when half the band got busted for possession of marijuana in Boston in 1969. That’s when I (who was in the half that was lucky enough not to be present during the bust) decided to check out the West Coast. I flew out to San Francisco in April of 1969. I took a room in the Berkeley Inn, which was at the corner of Telegraph and Haste, the epicenter of the Berkeley hippie scene. Almost before I unpacked, there was a full blown riot going on outside my window – the now-legendary People’s Park riot. Kids were throwing rocks and bottles at cops, cops were shooting tear gas at kids, and news cameramen were filming the whole thing – from my hotel room!

What was supposed to be a two-week exploratory mission turned into a permanent move to California. After experiencing the San Francisco/Berkeley psychedelic culture – and having the time of my life – I realized that, while the Bay Area was a blast, the serious music business was in L.A. And so I and my new writing partner Ron packed all our belongings into a tiny Morris Minor and drove down the Coast to Tinsel Town.

It was the summer of 1969 – a seminal summer, seminal year. The Age of Aquarius had risen and set within the space of less than two years. It was the summer of the Manson Family. In Laurel Canyon I saw the Houdini mansion burn to the ground. I knew it was the Season of the Witch. In December the free concert at Altamont in Northern California sealed the fate of the Hippie Generation.

Ron and I had found a small house in Laurel Canyon and proceeded to shop our wares – individually and collectively – to the Hollywood entertainment establishment. Together we wrote whacky screenplays, children’s songs, Christmas songs, and even created a new Christmas cartoon character, “Silly Willy, Christmas Elf,” that came close to taking off when we shopped it to Sid Sheinberg, CEO of Universal.

Meanwhile I continued to craft melodic, memorable songs, and soon attracted the interest of the newly-opened L.A. office of Tree Music, which was a well known Nashville music publisher. Tree signed me as a staff writer, paid me a small stipend, and financed a demo session. I gathered a band of top flight L.A. studio musicians, which included the legendary Ted Greene on lead guitar, Jack Conrad on bass, ex-Turtles drummer Don Murray, and Craig Doerge on keyboards, who went on, as part of The Section, to back such legends as James Taylor and Jackson Browne.

Tree never got any of my idiosyncratic songs placed with other artists and we soon parted ways, but the 10 or 12 tracks I recorded at those sessions still hold up today as solid songs and great tracks. A reincarnation of one of them, “Goodbye on the First Rainy Day,” appears on my new album, LifeAfterlife.

I played the Tree demos for my friend, Joni Mitchell, whom I had first met in New York and whose friendship I renewed upon my arrival in Laurel Canyon. Joni lived in a “very, very, very fine house” just a few blocks away from me and, since she did not own a car, I would take her down to the Canyon Country Store for supplies and on other errands in my beat-up 1959 Renault Dauphine. Joni liked my music enough to play my tapes for her manager, Ron Stone, who agreed to manage me and shop the demos to record companies. But a new record deal proved elusive. Not even my old friend and mentor, Al Coury, who was now the second in command at Capitol, would sign me.

One night I dropped by to visit Joni at about 10:00 at night. This was the kind of thing people used to do in those days, and it was apparently acceptable behavior. Joni was at the piano, but very gracious, as always. “You can’t stay,” she said in a hushed voice, “I’m writing. But listen to this…” She began to sing:

“I came upon a child of God
He was walking along the road
And I asked him ‘where are you going?’
And this he told me…”

“Wow, great!” I stammered, agog. I genuflected and kowtowed out of there.

(Parenthetical Note: I recently saw a documentary in which David Geffen said Joni wrote “Woodstock” in a New York City hotel room where they were both staying during the Woodstock festival. Michael Walker, the author of the book Laurel Canyon, told me the same story. Now, I’m not calling anyone a liar. All I can tell you is what I experienced. After careful reflection, two possible explanations occur to me: 1) Joni started the song during the festival in NYC and finished it the night I walked into her house in the summer of ’69. 2) She was writing the night I walked in, but not that song. Maybe she played me the most recent song she had finished – “Woodstock”.)

Soon afterwards, a friend of mine showed me the script for a movie starring Elizabeth Taylor and Michael Caine called X, Y and Zee, which was being shot in England. Since she had an in with the director, we set about writing a song customized for the movie. We made a good demo of it and sent it to the director – and he loved it! So, knowing the song would be used as the main titles theme for the film, we started shopping it around to well known recording artists that might be appropriate. After about a year, we still had no takers, and the film was in the final stages of editing. Meanwhile, the film’s director had produced a recording of it with an unknown singer in England that I and my collaborator positively hated. It seemed that success would elude me once again, but one day I got a call from the management of Three Dog Night.

Now, about six months earlier, my collaborator and I had knocked on the door of Danny Hutton, one of the three lead singers of TDN, waking him up at the ungodly hour of 11:00 a.m., and presented him with a cassette of the song, explaining that it would definitely be used in the movie. Now, six months later, TDN’s manager was saying they had just stumbled upon the cassette. They knew it must be too late to get it into the movie, but they loved the song and wanted to go ahead and record it anyway. “No, it’s not! It’s not too late!” I sputtered in a frenzy of delight mixed with anxiety. I knew the director was dubbing the bad recording of the song onto the closing titles of the film as we were speaking. A few phone calls later and some fast driving, and TDN’s version of the song was being dubbed onto the titles of the film. The World Premiere of X, Y and Zee was the following night in New York City. There was no way they could get the finished film with the right version of the song on a commercial flight to New York in time, so Three Dog Night flew the film to New York on their private jet, just in time to get it onto the projector for the premier. Talk about “down to the wire”!

The song was “Going in Circles.” It was the B-side of ”Family of Man,” a million-selling single (ironically, co-written by Paul Williams and Jack Conrad, the bassist who had played, not only on the Tree Music demos, but also on the demo of “Going inn Circles”), the studio version was on the platinum-selling album Seven Separate Fools, and a live version appeared about a year later on Around the World With Three Dog Night, which also sold several million copies. So the song appeared on about 6 million records all told – and that was before it was reissued on two CDs, Seven Separate Fools and Celebrate: The Three Dog Night Story, a 2-CD anthology.

A couple of my other songs were covered by lesser-known artists in later years (once Seals & Crofts recorded one of my songs, but never released it), but I never enjoyed that kind of financial success from my songwriting again. But I was never in it for the money. I did not pander to commercial tastes; I didn’t try to tailor songs to a specific artist’s style (although I had tailored the lyrics of “Going in Circles” to the script of X, Y and Zee). I wrote the songs that “came through me.” I felt that they were out there, just waiting, and that I was a mere conduit – “taking dictation,” as it were.

Around this time, my former lead guitarist, Jeff Baxter, gave me a call. He had moved out to L.A. and was playing with a bunch of studio musicians at Dunhill Records that included Donald Fagan (keyboards) and Walter Becker (bass). I had met those guys years earlier, when I was visiting Bard College in the mid-‘60s. Now they were forming a band that would feature Fagen & Becker’s songs, and Baxter asked me to audition as lead singer. They were planning to call the band Steely Dan, after a giant metal dildo in William Burroughs’ Naked Lunch. I agreed to come over to Skunk’s apartment (which was devoid of furniture except for a stereo, keyboards, guitars, amps, and a pedal steel guitar). Jeff played me one of Steely Dan’s first recordings. It was called “Bye Bye Dallas.” It never appeared on any of their albums, and it sounded kind of country. In retrospect, I thought Jeff played it because he was enamored at the time with the pedal steel guitar – and that’s what he was playing on “Bye Bye Dallas.” I was not blown away. “Well,” I said, “I’m primarily a songwriter. I’m not really interested in being a lead singer in a band that doesn’t play my songs.” And that was the end of that.

A few months later I was invited to the debut performance of Steely Dan at a club in Pasadena called Under the Ice House. No sign of “Bye Bye Dallas” – or a hint of country – in the repertoire. I had to admit I was impressed with the songs. Maybe this was a gig I should have taken. The lead singer they had hired was a guy named David Palmer. He appeared on their first album, and then he was gone. Later I heard that Palmer was kept on until Fagen got over his stage freight and improved his live vocal performance. There, but for the grace of God, as they say...

I continued to perform my original songs as a solo singer/songwriter for the next several years. I also continued to record multi-track demos, backed by great musicians that included: David Foster, James Newton Howard, Rob Moitoza, Eddie Tuduri, and Gary Mallaber, supporting myself by signing various publishing and production deals and getting a weekly check. But still no record company would sign me.

In 1975-76 I teamed up with Dan Seymour to form the Ted & Dan Two-Man Band, a duo that played cover songs at local lounges. In 1976 we added a bass player and changed the name of the band – first to The Beagles (because we played a lot of Beatles and Eagles songs), then to Glider. We continued to record demos my new songs, and one of these tapes caught the attention of a pair of record producers, Marc Gilutin and Freddy McFinn. Marc and Freddy, who were fellow New York transplants, brought Glider into the offices of Chalice Productions, where we auditioned live for owners David Chackler and Lee Lassiff, and I was offered a deal to record an album.

Chalice had an exclusive deal with United Artists Records, so release of the album was guaranteed. There was only one catch: Marc and Freddy wanted me to get rid of the other two members of Glider and hire a better backup band. Hungry for that long-sought record deal, I went against my better judgment and capitulated, but I always considered losing Dan Seymour a big mistake and I regret it to this day.

Glider was never really a band. It was me and a constantly-changing array of studio musicians. More than anything else, I wanted to be a member of a touring band. My plan was to have the album come out under the band name Glider and then put the touring band together, which I fervently hoped would stay together and evolve into a collaborative band experience like the ones I had known in the ‘60s. But this was L.A. and times had changed.

By the time the eponymous Glider album was released, relations between the production company and the label had deteriorated to the point where the label had openly promised to bury anything Chalice delivered to them. And Glider was the first to the chopping block. After this ignominious defeat, I became cynical and suspicious of the music business.

I formed my next band, Incognito, in the late ‘70s and into the early ‘80s, when the watchword of the day was “DIY” – do it yourself. Incognito was a real band, although most of the members – all top flight musicians – had other projects going simultaneously. But we rehearsed a repertoire that reflected the coming of punk and new wave – without actually falling neatly into either category. We played the local club scene in L.A. and I managed to finesse several recording studio owners into allowing us to cut some tracks for free – or almost free. The result was a collection of 9 master-quality tracks that never actually saw the light of day. Although, listening to them today, they do sound endemically ‘80s, these tracks have power and spontaneity and the solid song craftsmanship that I have always tried to make my hallmark.

After nothing happened with Incognito, although I continued to write some great songs, I became more and more disenchanted with music as an industry. Ron and I were still writing scripts, and I got a couple of jobs working as a P.A. in the film business, perhaps thinking at the back of my mind that I might meet someone who would make one of my scripts into a movie. That never happened, but serendipitously, an opportunity in the music industry opened up.

I went to work for Rhino Records in 1989. By now I was married, and had my first child in 1990. My experience at Rhino opened up many practical skills in me and forced me to use parts of my brain I had never used before. I found I had a penchant for compiling and researching collections of music of the past, music that – unlike many of my young colleagues at Rhino – I had not studied about in books, or collected on thousands of vinyl LPs, I had lived this music. I found myself anthologizing artists I had shared the stage with, knew personally – or at least knew of – during my long and checkered career as a musician. And slowly, learning from this cadre of “record geeks” I was working with, I shaped myself into a compilation producer. I also developed an eye for detail, an appreciation for accuracy of information and learned how to verify everything that went into the label copy of every release I worked on. This was the dawning of the CD era. None of the major record companies had the slightest idea of the value of their back catalogues. So Rhino, carving out a new market niche for itself, was able to license great music of the past from all the major labels and release it for the first time on CD. They exploded! From a staff of 40 in 1989, Rhino continued to expand and, by the time I left there in 2000, there were about 150 employees.

During my career at Rhino, and while raising my two children in the ‘90s, my songwritng output waned significantly. My compilations, however, won great acclaim. My Troubadours of the Folk Era series gave rise to the 2-day Troubadours of Folk Festival, starring my old friend, Joni Mitchell, Peter, Paul & Mary, Judy Collins, and many others. In 2000, I was nominated for a Grammy® as producer of the 3-CD box set Washington Square Memoirs: The Great Urban Folk Boom (1950-1970).

It wasn’t until 1999, when I was invited to fly back to Boston for a reunion concert with my first band, The Lost – on a double bill with our old friends The Remains – that my creative juices started to flow once again.

I wrote several good songs in the ‘90s, one of which is on LifeAfterlife. But, more importantly I began envisioning a new album of material that had never been released on my previous albums, but which I increasingly believed was the best work I had ever produced. This was a concept album, if you will, that reflected my life-view, which had been evolving since my first experience with yoga, meditation and psychedelics in the ‘60s. This was to be an album of my sweetest, most melodic, and most timeless songs, but all of which conveyed the feelings of deep, cosmic love, both romantic and spiritual.

After reviewing all of the beautiful, melodic and romantic songs I had written that had never been released, I picked 11 that withstood the test of time, and defied trend and style, and one that met the same criteria, but that had been released on my 1968 album Chamӕleon Church. It took about 5 years from the time I created the repertoire to the time the opportunity presented itself to begin the actual recording of the album – and another 6 years until the album was completed. But it didn’t matter. The songs would never go out of style – because they were never in style.