Over the Spinal Telephone

This CD was produced to honor countless souls who passed through the Olema commune and played music. We met up some fifteen years later, and many had turned pro—Chris Mickey, Norton Buffalo, Michael White, Andy Kulberg, Billy Lee Lewis.

From 1968 to 1974 I lived communally as a member of an extended family called The Diggers, which later morphed into a larger group called, The Free Family. This group of a hundred plus anarchic souls established communal dwellings throughout the North and Southwest and maintained cordial and trade relationships with other extended families and communes. Most of these places were without electricity and consequently home-grown entertainment was a high priority. Foremost among them was music.

Music was played every day and every night. It was the ceremony to welcome visitors and a major source of high octane fuel at grand parties. At Olema, Ca, where I lived primarily when not on the road, we built a bunk house with six double-bed bunks for visiting players. Musicians were judged on their skills certainly, but equally importantly on their manners—grandstanders and show-offs were cold shouldered or not invited back. Inclusiveness and generosity were prized. Songs were a gift and medium of exchange and they were traded at places like Morningstar, Black Bear, Salmon Creek, the Red House, San Juan Ridge, Ordovi’s Farm and Wheeler’s Ranch—all loci of extended family life.

The songs on this CD arrived over my spinal telephone during those years, and were passed around as freely as spare change. They were picked up by others who traded theirs in returns. Some of the musicians on this here were part of those extended communities and some are newer friends, but the spirit they captured here honestly reflects the skills and joy engendered night after night in the soft glow of kerosene lamps or the flickering, shadow-rich light of campfires. One friend, a Zen Buddhist teacher affectionately nicknamed this music, ‘Country Death Rock’ and I suppose that’s as good a genre as any. You’ll never find it on the radio. These songs and their concerns are the “taste” of free life lived with 100% commitment. Originally assembled as a Christmas gift, later demand has called forth newer editions with better technology. I hope they resonant today and continue to inspire more home-grown heirs.”

Peter Coyote, Mill Valley, 2006

Wild Dog Productions, 1988 / 2006