Highway 61 (3rd installment of a 5 part series)

This is the 3rd in a 5 part series. If you’re just joining us you may want to go back and read the 1st 2 installments. Click on the title and a directional phrase will appear in red at the top of the page. Click on that.

She awoke to the stink of burning, home-grown pot and realized the Morrison recording was playing in the room. 5 or 6 girls, most several years older than her, were bickering over which of the Motown girl groups had the cutest hairdos and best harmony.

Desperately needing to use the toilet Cheryl stumbled down the hall to find some guy passed out face-down on the bathroom floor. He appeared to be in his thirties and coincidentally looked a lot like Morrison after he grew the beard and longer hair. There was no other bathroom in the house—Cheryl couldn’t move the guy—she ended up using the toilet with her feet on his back.

Being a guest Cheryl sat quietly on the couch eating her bowl of Cheerios while the group continued their debate which was becoming a bit agitated.

“Cheryl,” one of the girls almost shouted, “You play guitar—who has the best harmony—I say the Shirelles.”

Startled one of a group of strangers knew her name, Cheryl almost choked on her cereal, remembering her name was prominently printed on the guitar case and of course Samantha had told the others living in the house.

After swallowing she said the Shirelles were great but she liked the Ronnettes. She put down her bowl and pulling out her guitar, demonstrated the chords Estelle, Veronica and Nedra sang in the chorus to “Be My Baby.” Somebody turned off the stereo—Cheryl

sang all three parts and demonstrated how the Ronnettes blended their voices. She also explained how Phil Specter put together his “Wall of Sound” style of recording.

The girls, ranging in age from 18 to 21, were astonished at this 17 year old’s voice, presence and instrumental skill.

As she finished the song there was loud clapping from the hallway to the bathroom. The passed out dude that looked like Jim was applauding—he too was impressed.

“Hey Kid—where’d you learn to sing and play like that?” he asked as he tucked in his shirt. “A lotta girls 10-15 years older than you would kill for that kind of talent.”

Embarrassed, Cheryl said an uncle began teaching her guitar when she was 12 and, beyond his teaching, she picked up the rest listening to the radio and records, copying and imitating what she heard and playing in a series of garage bands with other kids back home.

The Jim-looking guy’s name was Gerry Botic. He was a drinking buddy of Aaron Ramadis, a sometime talent agent for Murray the K. As such he had contact with a

number of big names—Joni Mitchell, Joan Baez, Crosby, Stills and Nash. He said he’d met Dylan and was once present in the room when Paul Simon walked in.

No—that was not the moment of Cheryl’s discovery as a rock star. Botic gave her a card

and told her to give him a call if she was ever in New York.  Or Atlanta—he sometimes hung out there. He said he knew people who were always looking for new session musicians.

Samantha returned from class later that afternoon to find Cheryl and two of the other girls

(voice majors) working on their own rendition of  “Be My Baby,” and damned if they didn’t sound great.

Cheryl wasn’t just welcome in the house—she was an immediate sensation. Some years ago Cheryl’s uncle told her people will like you if they think you’re like them. People will think of you as being like them (older for example) if you let them do most of the talking, keep good eye contact, at least pretend to take them seriously and don’t talk too much yourself.

A shady friend of one of the girls living in the house crafted a fake ID for her. And, with

a few hair and make-up changes, another girl got Cheryl a job waiting tables at a local Bistro and club—The Celibate Stone. In the ‘50s the Stone had been a beat coffee house. Since the mid ‘60s it was a local hang-out for stoner intellectuals—mostly grad students and arty types—almost all of whom took it for granted by the time they were 30 they would have altered the course of Western Civilization for the better.


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