I thought I’d worked through all the issues. But the leftover residue from my days as a folksinger had other ideas. In this case, an awful internet meme on Facebook. Some smarmy, smart-ass comment with an absurd photo. In this case, a heavily bearded male nude with a guitar concealing his groin.
We lived a wild existence at the Folkie Palace, and this image brought one of the worst theatre of the absurd incidents to mind.
We were bored. Being bored on a Friday night was a dangerous thing. We were sitting around drinking Narragansett from Giant Imperial Quarts while our alcohol enhanced minds turned over the possibilities for the weekend. Jack, one of the Folkie Palace wannabe’s, suggested that we head up to Maine. He knew of a church-sponsored coffeehouse. I could grab a gig, Bill could spook the locals, and all would have a good time. Why not? So we laid plans to drive up Saturday afternoon.
The next day we needed to secure transportation. Borrowing the Teahead of the August Moon’s car was as easy as teasing the keys from his pocket as he slept on the couch. Within two hours, we were careening through backroads in rural Maine to a midsized town dominated by old mills and a roaring river. Near the center of town stood a white-steepled church. A small sign near the side entrance read Fellowship Coffeehouse – All Welcome. Truthfully we were not sure that we’d be welcome if they knew too much about us, but the sign did indicate that all were welcome.
Like other church coffeehouses, Fellowship Coffeehouse was in the church hall. Tables and chairs clustered around a small stage with a bare-bones amp, mic, and single spotlight. In Greenwich Village, I’d worked with much worse. There was no live act scheduled that night, and I got greeted as a conquering hero.
In those days, song lyrics were nowhere as suggestive as today. My blues riffs today are seen as dated or misogynistic. In the ’60s, at a place like Fellowship Coffeehouse, they were almost obscene. Wanting to shock, I lead into my first set with Mr. Jelly Roll Baker.
Mr. Jelly Roll Baker, let me be your slave.
When Gabriel blows his trumpet, then I’ll rise from my grave.
For some of your sweet jelly roll, crazy ’bout that sweet jelly roll
Yes, it’s good for the sick, good for the young and old.
I was sentenced for murder in the first degree.
Judge’s wife calls up and says, “Let my man go free!
He’s the Jelly Roll Baker. He’s got the best jelly roll in town.
Only man can bake jelly roll, with his damper down.”
Can I put in my order for two weeks ahead?
I’d rather have your jelly roll than my home-cooked bread.
I’m crazy about jelly, crazy about that sweet jelly roll.
That evening I played, and Bill took out his sketch pad and drew caricatures of people in the audience. We also made the acquaintance of Sally, Allison, and Carol. Late the next day, we returned to Boston.
For several weeks we thought no more about our northern expedition. Then one Friday evening came a knocking at the door of the Folkie Palace. Outside the door stood three lovely young women: Sally, Allison, and Carol. They came in like they owned the place, and it seemed that Sally thought she owned Bill and Allison had grappling hooks in me. Carol just seemed amused by it all and sat down to take it all in.
There was a fair bit to take in too. Bill was the resident artist, and had painted the murals on the walls. The murals ranged from the profane to very sexually suggestive. A full-tilt boogie Folkie Palace party was in a full career that night, and we wondered what we’d do with our sweet but morally upright guests. “You said we should come on down some time, so we did,” exclaimed Carol. Carol made herself at home with the group attempting to get an ouija board to make pronouncements. I was fooling around on the guitar and had been trying to engage Judy, who, as usual, wanted to treat me as her younger sibling. Sally was doing an excellent job making Bill uncomfortable as she ran her fingers through his red beard. The attention did not sit well with Audrie, who thought of herself as his regular girlfriend.
Things proceeded in this vein for several hours. The regulars wondering why there were the “normals” hanging around, and the young ladies getting more and more embarrassed but refusing to budge. Allison seemed to think that I should drop everything and gaze only into her lovely, jade green eyes. My discomfort amused Judy.
At last, Bill got up and asked me to lend him my guitar. I was reluctant because it was shielding me from the totality of Allison’s attention. It’s always uncomfortable when the hunter becomes the hunted. Grabbing the guitar away from me, Bill announced to all tonight he was going to make his debut as a folk musician. But first, he needed to prepare.
Bill went into the Teahead of the August Moon’s bedroom. Moments later, he emerged in his hirsute nude glory. Have I described Bill before? No? He was stockily built, about five foot ten with a full shock of long red hair and a full red beard. The rest of him was just as red and very hairy. The guitar was strategically poised over his groin. He then announced to the excited gathering that “my first song will be Somewhere Over the Rainbow.” He then lifted the guitar and exposed the rhinestone-encrusted g-string that failed to conceal his package. Before the first notes got sung, the party-goers began laughing, hooting, hissing, clapping, and tossing peanuts at him—all except Sally and Allison. They began to back towards the door and were outside as fast as they could shove past the raucous participants. Carol was throwing popcorn and having a great time with the rest.
Carol stayed for several days before heading home. The Teahead pronounced her an honorary member of the Palace, welcome to return whenever. But we never saw her again. We also never saw Sally and Allison.
I hadn’t thought of that caper since then until the idiot meme.