If you were me in the ’60s and early ’70s, you always walked with one shoulder higher than the other. The weight of the guitar and its case dragged one shoulder down. The guitar traveled wherever I went. Some of this was practical. I frequently had no fixed abode to bide in, so my most crucial possession had to come with me for security’s sake. A few nincompoops who attempted to part me from the guitar came to rather tragic ends. You may have heard the term ” double stomp that groin”; actually, I did much worse. I had learned in a hard school: the IRT subway at 4 am. People would try to roll you for whatever you had on you. You couldn’t be too bashful and survive. A guitar case is a fine weapon. Yeah, going home from Greenwich Village could be as enjoyable as performing there.
The occasional fool at a coffeehouse would start asking you to play the Beatles or some silly Rock & Roll. You’d sadly explain that this was a Folk house, but being that it was, 2 am if they came up on stage and sang some of the lyrics, you’d play along. Ten minutes later, the house would be howling as the drunk, at last, realized he was being played for laughs. It was one way to inject some variety into a dead Monday.
Issues also developed when someone became grabby with the guitar or the person of a performer. Unless it was an absolute screamer, the Fuzz (police to the noninitiated) stayed away. They’d show up to harass the manager or shake someone down ( look for a bribe), though. So we had to rely on our wits. Sometimes it was as easy as inviting them over to the Minetta Tavern to ease their parched throat with a bottle of beer. Other times it got interesting.
During the spring and summer, you’d linger with friends in the park, an alley, or backroom. You’d sing, sip at a shared bottle, and wait for the sun to rise. The end of another day-night- and you’d head over to the IRT to travel home; safer now that day shifters were filling the subway cars.

7 Replies to “Caution”

    1. Absolutely, but remember in those days there were fewer guns in circulation. You were more likely to be threatened by simple thuggery, or a knife.

    1. Most of the noir aspects of coffeehouse life came from my time in NYC. In other places there was rarely any trouble. NYC was a fantastic place to go and be. But you notice that most folks got out at one point or the other.

      1. I actually had a musician friend who told me about venues having to pay protection money. I didn’t believe him back them – just a teen – so interested to see you say the same thing.

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