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The Sam Crain Story

Part 2. Middle Daze

    My first ‘urban adventure’ was leaving the nest at age 20 to go to school in Boston- Berklee School of Music. Actually 5 of us from Springfield all sorta went together, Messrs Crain, Piper, Gibson, Singleton and Meyers. I guess we were sorta the "brat pack" of that time: Dino, Frank, Sammy, Peter and Joey.

    Boston in 1974 was a great city, as far as culture, and I’m sure it still is. We got to hear some great players: Pat Martino, Thad Jones/Mel Lewis Big Band, Gary Burton . Met Emily Remler, who would go on to be quite well-known, and heard Mike Stern in a ‘neighborhood dive’, who is now a pretty good name in jazz guitar as well.

    This move to Boston was a point of departure for us guys-from-Spfld, whereupon everybody kinda went their own ways from here- which is really as it should be. Berklee wasn’t what I wanted to do musically at that time, so I dropped out after a semester and studied (composition, counterpoint, that kinda stuff) privately with a guy at Boston Conservatory. He was an Englishman (after the lesson, he’d usually ask if I fancied a pizza) and getting a Master’s there at BC-wrote fairly bizarre modern stuff.

    One thing about big cities I learned as a 10-miles-from-cowshit 20 year old was that besides their just being collections of smaller areas (Boston, for instance, was actually Brookline, Back Bay, Southy, Roxbury, etc), there were a hell of a lot more crazy people!

    They pretty much lined the streets of Back Bay in my days there, but one I remember in particular was on the subway.

    He was doing stand-up comedy. Yes, actual lines (except that they made absolutely no sense!!) and delivered with pauses, at which point three fairly matronly women would titter at his ‘jokes’. (actual quote: "yeah, my nephew murdered King Feisal! Hell, they’re all crazy on my mother’s side!") I only wish I remembered more of his lines, but this gives you an idea of the spirit of the moment. This is a gentleman my Dad would have described as stone crazy- but he did have great comedic timing.

    Seated next to me during all this was a rather persimmon-faced fellow in maybe his 60’s or 70’s, who was definitely not enjoying the show. He turned to me at one point, his face stern with disapproval. "Some people should be put in a mental institution!" he said. Which only added to my enjoyment.

    As part of the 7-year college plan, spent a year at a small University near Detroit. Got to know the jazz guys (good guitarist, tenor player, bassist and drummer, and a jazz Tuba player) and did some playing with them on guitar and some duo stuff with the other guitarist. At that time (1975-76) ’the cat’ on guitar was Pat Martino. My playing was pretty heavily influenced, as was the other guitar guy.

    Made a couple trips into Detroit with these guys. Got to meet Marcus Belgrave, a terrific trumpet player, kind of a mentor to many of the younger players- at a jam session. Real nice guy and encouraging to me as well.

    Detroit was (and likely still is) a rough, dangerous place, but according to the musicians I knew, being a musician gave you ‘diplomatic immunity’-they told me the story of being stopped in one of the ‘hoods, and being told that they were musicians going to a session, were suddenly free from being mugged: "sure, no problem, why didn’tcha say so?" The hoods figured musicians don’t have any money either, so they leave ‘em alone..

    So much for Detroit.

Continue with Part 2 >