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[Yes, there really was a Hash Howard!]
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Hash Howard was an actor and musician (drummer), who lived in New York City's Greenwich Village (on the border of Chelsea), in the late Sixties. Stories of Hash have taken on a semi-, hemi-, demi-, nearly mythological feel, of late, due to people wanting to know more about him and his exploits. Living and working in New York City, Hash played in a couple of rock groups. Most notable of these was The Observation Balloon, a basic hard rock and blues band.
Hash's notoriety began when he was noticed walking the streets of the West Village, in New York City, as he always carried a pair of his favorite drumsticks with him, just in case.
People saw him sitting and watching other bands play, and noticed Hash playing along with them on his right knee. Hash never made a point of being seen; his motive then was to learn to be a better drummer; he believed that if could play everything the drummer he watched was playing, but with only two hands, he was going to get faster and better as time went on.
Some of his fabled heroics include playing drums with many legendary Rock Stars, and people on their way to becoming stars. Sessions would take place almost anywhere there were amps and drums. One of these happened the night Hash jammed with Eric Clapton and Jimi Hendrix - at the Same Time! Also included is a recounting of the night Hash spent a couple of hours with John Lennon and Paul McCartney, in a Greenwich Village Disco called Salvation.
The Gurus, the Odds 'n' Ends, and Other learning experiences
The Odds 'n' Ends
The first New York band Hash joined was called The Odds 'n' Ends, and unfortunately, memory does not serve well. Hash remembers very little of the other two people in the band, but does remember that they rehearsed on the second floor of a hangar building at New York's La Guardia Airport. The band's leader had a sister who worked for Eastern Airlines, and arranged the space for them. They were not allowed to keep their equipment there, so it was a production just to get there and back with his drums and soon Hash simply gave it up.
One of the next bands Hash joined was a cover band for the people who recorded "Louie Louie," led by a bassist named Jack Ely (pronounced E-lee). Jack said he was the original bassist on the record, with the original group, so he had the right to call his band by the same name, The Kingsmen. They actually did tour for a short while, in Western Massachusetts, working their way towards Boston where, according to Jack, they had a gig booked. Most of their gigs were in bars or small clubs. In most bars, they played on a stage above and behind the bar.
There were two memorable things about being with this band. One of them came while they were playing in Springfield, Massachusetts. Hash had the longest hair of the group, because he idolized The Beatles, and tried to keep his hair like that of the early Beatles. One night, when the band was going on a break between sets, a huge man stopped Hash on his way to the front door. Hash stood about 5' 7" and weighed 150 pounds; this guy was easily 6' 4" and about 250 or more. He was wearing a pair of work jeans and a red plaid shirt, and looked like a lumberjack. He put his hand on Hash's chest, and said, "What are you, some kind of queer?" Hash said "I guess by your standards, I am!" Hash stepped around him and walked out of the bar. He almost threw up right there, from fear. Thankfully, nothing happened when they returned for the next set.
The next band Hash played joined via an audition. Now, he thought, he was getting into the big leagues. A band that actually auditioned players. This was The Gurus, a manufactured band, put together by a partnership of two lawyers, Goldberg and Gershon. The idea was to create a band to play Middle Eastern Raga Rock. They had one guitar player who played lead, and one who played rhythm, a singer who played Dumbek (a Middle Eastern drum), a bass player, another guy who played an Oud, a pear-shaped stringed instrument, and Hash on drums. They chose Hash because he was the only drummer they could find who played Rock, but also played Middle Eastern time signatures, like five-four, nine-eight and so on. They practiced in a loft somewhere in the village, seven hours a day. Then they went into a recording studio and laid down seven songs, or tracks, which the managers peddled to record companies.
The group's managers successfully sold the seven 'masters' to United Artists Records, for a quarter of a million dollars. Then Goldberg and Gershon booked The Gurus to play as the opening act for Little Anthony and the Imperials, in the new Schaeffer (beer) Summer Festival series, in New York's Central Park. You might imagine what this was going to be like, with a Middle Eastern Rock band - something nobody had ever heard before - opening for one of the most popular R and B singing groups. The audience was there for the main event, not the opening act. The Gurus played the first of four songs and, just at the end, Hash did something he had never done before; he broke the snare drum head! They had to pause while he replaced it. The crowd, already pissed off by the music they played, got very antsy. The stage manager pulled the main electric power to shut down the amplifiers and sound system, then told the band to pack up and leave. Little Anthony's drummer, meanwhile, gave Hash a spare drum head for his snare drum, and Hash proceeded to change the snare. The Gurus' manager got into an argument with the stage manager, telling him they had been contracted to play four numbers, and they were going to play four numbers; they were not going anywhere! By the time the stage manager relented and turned the power back on, Hash was ready to play again. The Gurus finished their set, and the crowd actually did go wild. They loved it! They gave the Gurus a standing ovation. The Gurus took their bows, and proceeded to remove their equipment from the stage.
Shortly afterward, Goldberg and Gershon dropped Hash from the band, giving him less than $250.00 to walk away. This wasn't nearly close to a share of the up-front money from United Artists Records. Hash was too inexperienced to know better, so he took the money and left. He never even got a copy of the songs they had recorded. But, that's when he met The High Five.
The High Five
As a courtesy, The managers of The Gurus gave Hash's name to a band called the High Five, who was in need of a drummer. The drummer they wanted had gone on tour with another band, so they auditioned Hash and brought him into the band. They had an important audition in less than a month, with the New York partner of Brian Epstein, the "Fifth Beatle!" They had to prepare, so they rehearsed incessantly, then played the first night of a gig, to which Nat Weiss, Brian Epstein's New York partner, was coming.
But wait ... there's more. To be continued ...
Mea Culpa - Hash Apologizes - He would self-flagellate, if he knew how ...
Way Back, back in the 1960s, when the Observation Balloon was a fledgling Blues Group, and still better than most groups to ever set up and play in the Greenwich Village area, the OB had a Dear Friend. We joked about him being our Roadie when, in fact, he helped to keep us together, most of the time. Without him, we would have broken up at least once a month, if not more often. As Brian Epstein was the "Fifth Beatle," he was the Fifth Member of the OB! Hash is at fault for not keeping in touch with him, after the group imploded. Who was this super person? Well, Hash met a "chick" from Queens who, oddly enough, knew this person on her own, from people she knew from Queens College, even though he went to Herbert Lehman College, or Fordham College, in the Bronx.
Okay, enough with the suspense ... the guy was Rick, or Eric Schneider. I don't remember if Rick played an instrument, but if so, he didn't bring his chops to the groups, he just hung out with us, provided transportation for us, helped us to keep what little sanity each of us had, and left - the smart move - when the group began to implode!
Rick owned a Chrysler brand convertible, from which the OB took various and sundry photos of New York City in both color and black and white, many of which were actually quite good. They did this as a hobby, just driving around and finding very special and unusual places in The City, most of which nobody knew about. I think we got these ideas from old tourist books, and went to see what the commotion was all about. Being that there no longer was any commotion at all, we saw loads of nothing, but the areas were magnificent, like the Cloisters, at the Very Top of Manhattan, just before it became Westchester, or the Bronx, or whatever.
New York City is not just Broadway and Times Square and Greenwich Village, and the like. It also includes places most people have never heard of, and most likely never will, like Pomander Walk. Pomander Walk is an incredible little street located up on the West Side, between 94th and 95th Streets, between Broadway and West End Avenue. It is filled with tiny houses that are from the 17th Century, in a colorful, beautiful, gated community, kept in perfect condition, so that it is not just a tourist attraction, it is also an incredible place for people to live.
Map of Pomander Walk, from Google.com
View of Pomander Walk found on Internet
The two images above, a map and a street, show Pomander Walk; Rick and the Group would load up the car with sodas, smokes, cameras, and film, and ride around town with a small guidebook, finding and taking pictures of isolated places like this places in which New Yorkers actually live.
These are examples of the kinds of photos we would take, just to cool out after playing, rehearsing, jamming for 7 hours in a row. We very much needed to move our minds into a different, more quiet place.
This lighthouse is similar to the one underneath the George Washington Bridge.
Hash is ashamed to say, all of the beauty that the OB got to see while we were together as a blues and rock band, we never would have seen, or enjoyed, any of it were it not for Rick himself. Our unsung hero with convertible was able to get us to so many different places, using his trusty guidebook, and his car. We owe Rick an incredible debt of gratitude for bringing beauty into our lives, while we pounded Kick-Ass Rock and Blues music into our souls.
A Great Combination!!!
Follow this link to the photo page, where you will see photos and old Billboard articles about Hash and the Observation Balloon. Click Here to see the old photos and Trade Paper write-ups.
[We apologize for the Lynn Kellogg photo. The quality of that photo is less than excellent, but it was the only one found from that era.]
Hash tells it this way:
I came to New York to go to Acting School, not to be in a band. I had gotten a catalog from the American Academy of Dramatic Arts, and began to prepare for the interview and audition, to get into the school.
The catalog said to do a monologue, about 3 to 5 minutes, either comedic or dramatic; it was my choice. I would be on a full size stage, playing to about 5 to 10 people, from the Academy, all of whom had a say in whether they would “invite me” to attend their school.
I prepared a dramatic monologue from a play called Death Takes a Holiday. I did the monologue, probably better than I had ever done anything in the theater before. Whereupon they did the applause thing, and one of them asked me what I had planned to do for the comedic monologue.
I was pretty much speechless. My parents were in the very back of the theater, watching me sweat like a waterfall. I explained to the Academy people that I had only prepared one monologue, because the catalog said to prepare only one. There was a short period of back and forth, and finally my Mother, holding the catalog we had, stood up and said to them, “Here is the catalog that he used to prepare for today. Your people sent it to us. Please, take a look at it.”
She walked all the way down the aisle and handed it to the head person, the lady in charge, President of the Academy. As she took the catalog from my Mother. you could tell immediately that this was the head person at the American Academy of Dramatic Arts! She looked in the Table of Contents, then in the Index, then paged through the book, and finally started a discussion with her colleagues. All in very dramatic whispers!
What they then said to me was that they didn’t understand how I had gotten that catalog, since it was years old and no longer in use. But they had a deal for me. They would give me half an hour to prepare a comedic monologue and perform it, if I wanted to do that.
I thought for a minute. I was a big Bill Cosby fan, and had a number of his albums at home. I knew some of his stuff word for word. I said to the Academy people that I would take them up on their deal, but that I didn’t want the half hour. I was ready to do it right away. (I knew that if I waited, I would blow it big time). I told them that I would do one of Bill Cosby's monologues from his first album, and use it as a comedic monologue. I would throw in the motions I felt went with the monologue, and we would consider it a comedic monologue. And we all agreed. They accepted what I wanted to do and how I wanted to do it in lieu of their comedic monologue, even though Bill Cosby did it on stage as a Stand-Up piece. I had learned if from his album, so I knew the words he used as well as I knew my name.
The piece I did was the one where he describes shaving, and how the razor cut off “little tiny hairs, growing out of my face! I called my wife; I said 'Come here, woman ... little tiny hairs ... growin' out my face ...'.” When I finished, I was soaking wet, and nearly in tears, because I knew I had done it well, but I'm not Bill Cosby by any means. Finally I had the guts to look out into the audience, at the Academy People. I was even more amazed: I had them in tears; tears of laughter! Now I too was in tears, for good reasons.
They went out to wherever they do these kinds of things, took enough time to convict a murderer, or elect a president by counting the votes, but came back in and told me that I was officially invited to attend their Academy, and now, my Parents and I were all in tears and … in heaven.
I started the first semester by taking night school, because I had to get a job and work to be able to pay rent and pay tuition, even though my Parents were going to help with tuition.
And it worked.
The next year, I switched to the day school, got a night job, and studied my ass off so that I could get all the classes at the same time as the others and feel like a real acting school student.
The end of the first full year was approaching. We had about two months left. Every day, a group of us would go next door to have lunch together. One of us, Charles Bontempo, (Good Time Charley?) was in the habit of walking out ahead of us all, pointing his thumb back, like a hitch hiker, and saying that his friends would get his (as if one of us was going to pay for him) and he would smoothly walk out.
One day, the cashier – a very nice older lady – stopped me as we all started to pay for our lunches. I immediately got that stomach problem where if I didn’t keep squeezing my cheeks together, I was going to have a very wet end of lunch!
The cashier then gave me a business card, on which was the name Nancy Fields, Casting Director. And the company was Doyle Dane and Birnbach, back then one of the biggest ad agencies in the city. The cashier said, “This lady was in yesterday and saw you sitting with all your friends. She asked me if I would give you her card and tell you to contact her right away.”
I was still speechless, but now for a different reason. I thanked her, paid my lunch bill, and left.
After school that day, I walked from school all the way up to Ms. Fields’ office. School was on 30th Street and Madison Avenue, and Nancy Fields’ office was at 666 Fifth Avenue, at 53rd Street. Only one avenue over, but 23 streets uptown.
I got to the office, checked in with the receptionist, and saw the reception area was packed full with kids of all ages, and some Moms, too. I heard snatches of conversation and when I heard one guy my age saying he was a famous person’s god son, I knew that whatever reason I was there, I had to do something right away. I saw he had the same paper I had been given – a script and story board – so I found a seat, closed myself off, and studied until I had managed to memorize the whole script.
The auditions went on and on, people being called in, in pairs, in threes, and so on. Finally, I was called in with a couple of other people my age. When my turn was over, Nancy Fields asked me to wait a minute and when the others had left, she asked me how difficult it would be for me to leave school for a week. When I asked why, she said that even though it was May, the beaches and water in our area were way too cold to do this commercial on the East Coast and they were going to fly people out to the West Coast. I didn’t know what to say, except that I guessed I could find a way to leave school for a week if I got the job.
And I got the job!
I was flying. In Heaven. I had gotten what actors wanted to get – work! The story of filming the commercial is one for another time ...
When I got back from the West Coast (my first time farther west than Chicago!), complete with a nice tan and some sun burn, and a note from my dad – a doctor – excusing me due to a very bad case of flu, I was called in to the President’s office, where I found the Dean, and my councilor. They didn’t take much time to tell me that because of going to California, and working in the field (the Academy had a rule that no student could work as an actor while still in classes!), I was not going to be invited back for the second and final year. I could finish the first year, though.
As an aside, what kind of school penalizes its students for working in the field the school is teaching? That made no sense to me at all!
It turned out that one of the other people sent to the West Coast had graduated the previous year, from the American Academy of Dramatic Arts, and wanted to keep a good relationship with their top people, feeling that they would help him get work. To this day, I have yet to see him in anything! But yes, he is the person who told the Academy people that I had gone west, as did he, for the week and my prize was not the commercial, but the loss of my second year at the Academy. Since the commercial was a test market job, it kept me from doing competitive products ... this was HoJo Cola, so I could not do Coke, or Pepsi, or any other well known soda … and it ran for 18 months. I got paid the bare minimum, and was kept tied up.
But no matter, I had done one commercial and when called a month later to do extra work, I had to join the Screen Actors’ Guild - the Actors' Union - first, and that got me all union memberships eventually, for a total cost of $400. Today, I imagine, it would cost ten times that amount. And not as easy as it was for me back then.
Fantastic! You hear about people being “seen” by casting directors, or other people in high places, but to have it happen to me? Well, it was still a dream, and I was still walking in that dream. And from that first commercial, I ended up doing a whole lot of them over the next few years. It was great!
We had a kick-ass band, called The Observation Balloon. We were blues-rockers, in the late 60s, who played mostly in Greenwich Village, in New York City. Robert Kulick played lead guitar, Martin Davidoff played bass, and Ron Umile played rhythm guitar and was the lead singer. I played drums.
Over time, since this site went up, many people have sent email, asking who my favorite band member was. It was really a toss-up.
While Robert (Bob) Kulick, was still only seventeen, he was as good as Clapton and Hendrix. And I know, since I did get to play with Hendrix and Clapton together. Unfortunately, I lost track of Bob until a couple of years ago when, using the Internet's incredible search capabilities, I found out that Bob had indeed "made it!"
But there was another band member, Marty Davidoff, the bass player. He was a big fan of Mose Allison, played "walking bass," and was the quiet one of the group. Marty was a superb bass player and I must say, it really was a toss-up, which of them was my favorite. At our best, we worked so well together, that the chemistry didn’t really allow for a favorite. We were one!
Ronnie was the crazy one; as a drummer, I know from crazy, too. He was out there, our front man, singing as if he were Jim Morrison and at the time, Ronnie gave Morrison a run for his money, too. So there you go, three other band members, any one of which could have been my favorite; just depended upon the day of the week, or the phase of the moon. We truly were, for a time, so close that we were, at times, one.
What made The Observation Balloon so very good was the mutual respect we all had for each other. We got to a point where we could jam for hours and not fumble for anything. We just knew where each one of us was going to go with the music, and all moved in those directions together.
Our band, Observation Balloon, never had a hit record. In fact, our only recordings were held ransom by a record company that decided to screw the musicians - which was a favorite activity in the late Sixties. [Parenthetically, I suspect that the record company owners tried to see if they could get the most from the groups that actually had the least. These people offered us one percentage of record sales, 5%, then cut that amount down to one quarter, when it came time to sign the deal. Given the respect we all had for the record company owners, it came as such a shock that we were owners of a shoddy possible contract.]
The OB (Observation Balloon), while wanting to have a hit as much as anybody in those heady days of rock, were also kind of naive and thought that by refusing to sign, we could negotiate. Unfortunately, the record company execs were way ahead of the band members and, once The OB declined the deal, those execs kept the demo tapes, and never did negotiate. I've often wondered what Nina Simone and her husband, Andy Stroud, did with our tapes. It was truly kick-ass rock 'n' roll music. Truly as good as anything that Jeff Beck and Elvis and others had brought out. We coulda been contenders <BG>!!!) No ... really! Oh well ... if you're gonna get screwed by someone it was refreshing to know they were they were among the best out there. Nina Simone having said that if she got an "Class A" rock and roll band to back her, she wanted it to be the best, the tightest, the most kick-ass of the bad-ass, most Rockin' and Rollin' groups and, though we were unknown, we were as tight a rock 'n' roll band as any Nina Simone had heard; what she wanted in a group she had heard, to back her up, without being a #1 group.
And that we were. The OB was tighter than a nun's private parts. We knew each others' moves better than any bands in our peer groups. So we fit that category for her and Andy Stroud who, we were told, was her husband and manager.
We simply never figured out why she disappointed us in such a complete way, and walked away from us as she did. We were ripe for being number one, or should I say Number One, or like this: NUMBER ONE! Or, for certain, NUMBER FRICKING ONE! And as a backup group for Nina Simone, there was no one finer than us. No one. Not a single band, doing what we did, the way we did it. Nina had told us repeatedly that she didn't want to die like Billy Holiday! She wanted a Rock Band to back her up with power and heavy rock, and the music of the period, which was taking music into the newest directions, as the Beatles, Stones, and others were doing. She wanted us to be her transport into that same future!
And so we accepted our disappointment with honor and dignity, and moved on. BULL-SPIT! WE HATED EVERY MINUTE OF HAVING BEEN SCREWED OVER BY WHOMEVER MADE THAT FATEFUL DECISION! WE WERE THERE, WE WERE READY, AND WE WERE GOING TO TAKE NINA SIMONE INTO THE FUTURE THAT SHE SAW FOR HERSELF.
It really sucked!
Let me say that again ... "It Really SUCKED!!!" We had gotten no advance, no walking around money, no nuthin! They reeled us in, hook, line, and sinker! And since three of us were 17 years young, and I was all of 21, I was the old man of the group. The guy who shoulda known what was going on. Except, I didn't!
We had no idea that a group as good as we were should have had a lawyer to look after our interests. So technically, even though the group was done, he [the mythological lawyer] had to have been there to look after our best interests.
And so it goes. [Now we had to grow up, and FAST! And to grow out of the crap we had experienced. Already.]
In June of 2007, the world celebrated the 40th anniversary of the Sgt. Pepper's Lonely Hearts Club Band album's release. As it happens, Hash has a story about the timing of the album's release.
Once more, in Hash's own words:
"We had been playing that weekend at the Metropole, in New York City. This once famous bar was located on 7th Avenue, around 48th Street. They had topless dancers dancing on the bar, but they had a well-kept secret upstairs - a club! No topless dancers; just music by some of the best in the business.
The weekend we - the Observation Balloon - played there, the Gene Krupa Band was the headline band. We were the opening act. Interesting, Rock/Blues to open; Jazz to close.
Being a small space, with room for maybe 20 small, round tables, there was no room for two separate drum kits. So, Gene Krupa said I had to use his drums but to be careful to put everything back exactly as I had found it.
The last set we played, I tried to put everything back as I had before. I was very careful, but we'd had some herbal refreshment, and it was late ... and you can fill in the blanks on how careful I was able to be.
Krupa came on stage for his last set, found some of the drums were not exactly where he wanted them, and went off on me. When I looked back, years later, I did understand why he was pissed. We drummers are very particular about the placement, and the sound, and other "little things" about our drum set. But I was young and foolish and probably a little star-struck when we opened for Krupa and his band. He was already a legend. But that night ...
Gene Krupa was simply nasty, giving me "what for and why." Finally, the others in my band, especially Bob Kulick, dragged me backstage, into our dressing room, to try and get me to calm down, as I was really upset, being dressed down in front of the audience by the legendary Gene Krupa. Bob was especially sensitive to what this had done to my head, and told me that, "Krupa is only giving you a load of crap because you're a better drummer than he is!" While I appreciated what Bob had said, I don't think I really believed him about how good I was, relative to Gene Krupa.
The gig over, we packed up our stuff, and on the way back to our loft, stopped at the Tower Records store - they were always open all night - on Broadway and about 50th street. (Maybe 49th Street ...).
I bought the Sgt. Peppers' Lonely Hearts Club Band album, and after we put our gear away, we all went back to my apartment, and listened to the album. Now, we started listening way after 2 AM, so we must have finished by sunup! What an incredible night that had been.
I will always love Bob Kulick for trying to get me calmed down by telling me I was a better drummer than Krupa. But I often wonder if he truly believed that ..."
On the other hand, Bob Kulick - we had to call him Robert in those days - at the ripe old age of seventeen, was one of the most incredible guitar players Hash had ever heard or play with. At seventeen, Bob could do anything that Hendrix or Clapton could do, and he did it with ease! Hash was only sorry that they never stayed in touch so that Hash could hear how Bob progressed as he got older. He must have become an unbelievable lead guitar player!
Hash used to tune his drums with the help of the members of "The OB." They would play their guitars and bass guitars, and Hash would listen to their notes, and tune his snare, tom-toms and bass drum to notes they played. That way, Hash said, he would play his drum solos with actual notes and music in his drum playing.
Someone once said that Hash Howard was the only drummer they knew who not only tuned his drums, but played lead on the drums! Hash did this with a single snare, one tom-tom on his bass drum, one tom-tom on the floor, and the bass drum. With only four drums.
Other drummers got the money from their record sales to buy bunches of drums, and they were able to tune each tom-tom to a different note such that they had a full octave to play. Hash had to do it with four drums only, and people were surprised that he was able to play that way with a limited set of drums.
Bill Cosby; I really loved this guy - he was brilliant. We lost him in 2012, way too soon.
I always loved Bill Cosby. When I went to the American Academy of Dramatic Arts, to do my audition trying to get accepted for admission, I had used an older catalog. I was only prepared for one monologue. Either a dramatic or a comedic, but not both.
When I got done with the dramatic, they asked me for the comedic. I just about crapped in my pants. My parents, sitting in the very last row of their theater, also had a heart attack, given that they were the ones to get all the information for me to use, to try to get accepted there. I begged the Academy people to give me a chance, since I had used an older catalog, that they had sent me themselves. I showed them the catalog I had used, and they said they would accept my rendition of a Cosby routine from one of his albums. I did the “Little Tiny Hairs” one about shaving, and blew them away, because I even used his accent. They went into the back room, so to speak, and kept my parents and me waiting for nearly 45 minutes When they emerged from that back room, I was scared to death, given the looks on their faces. They showed me what acting was all about,. because ... I got into the Academy!
Years later I met Cosby in a Disco, and got the time to tell him about how I had used his monologue, from his record album (remember, those big black round things with music and comedy and the like on them?), and he was incredibly pleased and proud that I had had the balls to do that and get accepted into the Academy.
We became instant friends, and every time I ran into him in a club, we spent a few minutes together, running a routine about how a white kid like me, from the farm country of Pennsylvania, could do a Bill Cosby and get into the American Academy of Dramatic Arts.
But I still love the man, as he is one of the most incredible comedic minds of this century (and the last one, too).
Remember, Hash Howard was also an actor, who appeared in obscure parts in movies, but right up front in TV commercials. In an old TWA (used to be an airline!) commercial, Hash was put together with three other actors, given mod clothes similar to the uniforms the Beatles word on the Sgt. Pepper Album cover, so they would look like The Beatles. The Beatles, arriving at TWA's terminal at Kennedy Airport, in New York, to screaming fans, just like the real Beatles.
They got to ride around on one of those electric carts, used for moving both people and luggage. This one was large enough for four rockers, plus a driver, and had a canvas top with, of course, fringes. They were supposed to be a big-name rock group.
Hash said it looked so authentic, people in the airport kept asking them for their autographs! And, they also kept asking what group they were. So, even though these guys never met before, didn't play any music in the commercial, and were laughing so hard they couldn't breathe, they did agree to call themselves The Fabulous Fakes, since people wouldn't believe they were simply filming a commercial.
This commercial - Up, Up and Away, TWA! - had the background music of "Up, Up and Away." There was one big problem, though. The producers had failed to get full permission from the group who had recorded that song and, after only three months of play on national TV, they had to yank the commercial off the air. Hash said that in that first, single quarter of a year, he made a fortune in residuals, and never forgave The Fifth Dimension, for forcing TWA to take the commercial off the air.
[Oddly enough, it turns out that we were the first Beatles Tribute Band, even without playing any music. Hash remembers that only two of them were actually musicians.]
For about a year and a half, during the late Sixties, I played in a band called Observation Balloon. We had been written up in Billboard, the music industry magazine, complete with photo. For about a year, we played four or five sets a night in the "Cafe Wha?" in Greenwich Village. "The Wha?" was a music club and was run by Manny Roth, David Lee Roth’s uncle.
One night, during our continuing engagement there, a new group came in to play. This group was led by a very tall, thin man, who played lead guitar, named Jimi James. His band was "Jimi James and the Blue Flame." Another guitarist in the band was Randy California, who later started a West Coast band with his father as drummer, and called it "Spirit."
Both guitarists were amazingly good, but Jimi was all the more impressive due to his height and the fact that he played lead guitar with his teeth! He also held the guitar behind his head, under his legs, behind his back - in short, in positions in which you would think it impossible to play. No matter how he played it, no matter in what position, he was incredible.
Early in their engagement - possibly the first night they were sharing the stage with us, Jimi came storming out, furious. It seems that someone had stolen his Fender Telecaster (or Stratocaster, I never remember which - I'm a drummer, after all.) He was raving about how he’d played uptown in a disco, for a band leader named – (remember, this was thirty years ago; my memory ain’t what it used to be) - King Curtis. Jimi said that he had worked his ass off to be able to buy this beauty of a guitar, only to have to go crawling back (to the disco band leader) to earn another one.
It was a couple of weeks until the Blue Flame came back. And, it was only for one night.
That night, while the Blue Flame was playing and we were taking our break, Jimi broke his E string. He asked around, and our guitarist, Robert, was the only one with an extra. Jimi replaced his string, and finished his set. Chas Chandler, a member of the English band "The Animals," had been in the audience. He had come specifically to see this incredible guitar player who made love to his guitar while playing fantastic leads. The result was that he took Jimi to England; six months or so later, Jimi Hendrix was a big hit in England, and came storming back to America. (A footnote - when Jimi broke his "E" String, the one who had a spare was Robert - Bob - Kulick, who went on to appear with numerous heavy metal rock bands. Bob was one of the most gifted guitarists I'd ever seen! And I can say that even after having played with Clapton and Hendrix ...but read on.)
A few weeks after Jimi’s triumphant return from England, I was hanging out at the Greenwich Village club, Salvation. I saw Jimi on the dance floor. It was like old home week; we greeted each other like old friends, talking about what’s been going on. Then Jimi asked if I knew anybody who had a loft, "where Eric Clapton and I can jam." My first reaction was to say to Jimi "You’re full of shit! Clapton?" Jimi simply pointed across the dance floor. There was Clapton, already (in the late Sixties) a living legend. Because I had known Jimi, briefly, as a fellow musician from the “Cafe Wha,” it hadn't struck me that he was the famous person he’d already become. And Jimi wasn't in a hurry to act like a Big Star; he was still just another rock musician.
I told Jimi that I had a loft where my band rehearsed. So we all piled into a Volkswagen microbus driven by one of his friends, stopped at my apartment to get the keys, and went to the loft. At two in the morning, Jimi, Eric and I sat down to play. Since they were borrowing my group's guitars (Eric played Bob Kulick's guitar, one of the now-valuable Lucille guitars - his was an Epiphone, I think - from B. B. King; Jimi played Ron Umile's Fender), we waited while Jimi switched the strings around - he was a lefty. And then the fun began! For about two hours we jammed. We played anything that came into their heads. As a drummer, I just went along with it all. I was in heaven. Jimi was an incredible guitarist; Eric Clapton was equally brilliant.
Though we were in a loft on West Nineteenth Street, in an industrial area of Manhattan, the police broke up the session. Seems that we were a few doors down from a Firehouse, and we had been keeping the firemen awake. But, for two hours or so, I played with two of the best rock musicians who ever lived!
Note: In response to a few requests about the kind of music we played, names of songs, etc., Hash wanted to add this: When musicians in the late 60s got together for a jam, they frequently started of with a traditional blues type of thing, 12 or 16 bar blues riffs, which were similar to old tracks by BB King, and the like, but really were not actual songs. So, the jam with Jimi and Eric went the same way, starting off with something like Blue Monday, and then taking its own feel from there. We played for a long time, with few breaks as we didn't really stop. Eric, for example, would take the lead, and Jimi would follow. Then as something occurred to Jimi, he'd take the lead, and Eric would follow. It went like this for a long, wonderful time, with nothing firm, song-wise. And, according to Hash, he was in heaven, simply going along with the other two guys, who played and played. Hash was just happy to be where he was that night, until the police came - they were, after all, a few doors away from a fire house and keeping firemen - New York's Bravest - awake. He always wondered if had the firemen known who the two guitars were, would they have told the police to let it continue or still asked them to shut it down.
There was a night that I was auditioning for Brian and Nat - actually, two separate nights with those two men - and for one of the very few times in my life, I lost the beat. I happened to look up from my drums and saw Brian Epstein straight ahead in the audience, in the Village's
Cafe Wha? ... and away went the beat, along with my complete surprise at seeing the Beatles' manager, and not for the first time, in an audience watching a band I was in. While it was only one beat - in a rock song with many, it was indeed a surprise. Quite a surprise; how many people would expect to see Brian Epstein sitting dead center in the audience of a (let's face it, it was ...) dive like the Cafe Wha? We did five shows a night, seven days a week, with a lesser band taking short sets while we took our "forty off." But I digress. And so, as my drum teacher said when I was a teenager, he would always bet on me in competition, because I had a strange talent - if I blew the beat, as I did during one of those auditions, I would do it exactly the same way, immediately again - the talent being that I could do it again to make it sound as if I had planned to play it that way.
So I did exactly that, and the only ones who knew I had blown the beat were the guys in my band, Observation Balloon, and possibly Brian and Nat.
But I will write this one up better for the Hash Howard Site, since there were a couple more instances of similar screw-ups when confronted with people like Brian in the audience. They will come later on, with all the gory details of that night and the others like it.
[Reprinted with permission by the writer; originally on The Beatles History site.]
It was late - after 1 AM - and I was in the disco, Salvation, which was located at Number 1 Sheridan Square, in the West Village of New York City.
I was in my usual location, the back room, where there was a panoramic view of everything in the club, with tables and booths; it was generally more comfortable than being down in the dance area, which was always packed wall to wall with people.
And, as usual, I'd had a few tokes and was feeling pretty good, just watching the crowd.
Then someone came walking through the back room, saying, "John Lennon and Paul McCartney are coming to the Club!" When I asked, they said they heard they were coming with Brian Epstein's NY partner, Nat Weiss, along with a couple of musicians from a lesser-known Epstein group, the Cyrcle* (their only hit, Red Rubber Ball; see * at page bottom).
I then left, hurrying to my apartment - only a few blocks away - to get a little stash in an old, aluminum film container; I hurried right back.
About ten minutes later I was again in the back room, and there was a stir coming from the main room. Walking into the back room were Nat Weiss, John and Paul, a couple of the guys from the Cyrcle, and two of the Beatles' roadies - one named Neil Aspinal - who were more than just roadies, they were confidants, friends, what have you.
Since I had met Brian and Nat a while before this date, and was known by Nat to be “okay,” I was introduced to The Lads and the others, and we all sat down to have drinks and rap for a while.
I handed the film container to John, who was already pretty stoned. He said to Neil Aspinal, "Neil, do you feel like holding?" and giggled in the way that only John Lennon could giggle. Then John turned to me and repeated my name: "Hash Howard!” And, curled up in the corner of the booth, he giggled again. He was pretty wasted. Along with the pot I brought, I also brought a little notebook I used to write lyrics. Paul McCartney and I started working our way through the words I'd written.
We got to a set of lyrics I'd written to one of the Beatles' only instrumentals, called Flying. Paul and I went over them and he said that he liked what I'd written. The last word of those lyrics was "be" and Paul remarked that those were Brian Epstein's initials. He then drew a dotted line circle around the word "Be," in my notebook. We seemed to get along very well. Then Paul brought out this tiny little vial, and…
During our conversation, Paul kept repeating the same thing, “Remember, we’re just like you!” I’ll never forget that; the Beatles’ lives were no longer their own, as they were followed by groupies, teenyboppers, and photographers everywhere they went.
A couple of hours later, it was now around 3 or 4 AM, and we all left. Paul and John asked me to come visit them at Nat Weiss' apartment, gave me the address on Third Avenue, and we parted company.
The next day, I showed up at Nat Weiss' apartment building. Somehow, word had leaked out that the Lads were staying there, and there was a crowd of about twenty teenyboppers waiting for a glimpse of John or Paul. I walked up to the doorman, and said "I'm Hash Howard, and Paul McCartney has invited me up."
The doorman called up to Nat's apartment, and I could tell that he was getting the okay to send me up.
Suddenly, there was a loud argument coming from the front door area. There was a very pretty blond woman, with cameras around her neck, arguing that she had an appointment with Paul McCartney.
To make a long story short, I got to see "the Lads" long enough for them to shake my hand and for Paul to tell me to record my drumming and have Nat Weiss send it to them in England. We shook hands all around, and Paul apologized for the confusion, and said we'd get together sometime in the future.
Today, as I re-write this anecdote, even I have a hard time believing that this really happened. I can only say that I have been fortunate to have met some of the most incredible people in the music business and two of them people who changed the entire world, through their music. [And, Hash swears he put nothing inside Nat Weiss' closet door. Not a thing!]
A very bad photo of Nat Weiss, with apologies. Nat is a very private person.
Another one, in Hash's own words:
It is a very long story, how I became friends with Nat Weiss and the people in Nemperor Artists Limited, in New York City. It was, however, related to a Brian Epstein visit to the Cafe Wha? to see a group in which Hash was playing drums. The Group was known as the Hi Five. Since the story can get very long, I will skip the story and get to the point.
The point I want to make is that even though I never "made it" as a famous rock musician, and was actually doing okay as an actor on soaps and commercials, Nat Weiss and the people in his Broadway office treated me as if I were already a “star,” already a famous musician or actor.
Whenever I visited them, I was made to feel welcome. I admit, I tried to be in their neighborhood as often as once a week, at times.
One of the young women who worked there, with whom I shared a last name, but was not related, gave me a box to look into. There were at least 50 or more rings, and she told me these were, indeed, Ringo's rings. People had sent them to Ringo and he got to see them, and then took whichever ones he felt were worth taking, with him.
While I know that Nat did not officially approve them giving me things like that – and the rings were only one example of the goodies they gave me – he never once stopped them. I think he kind of felt that there really was a chance that Hash Howard was going to make it. Once when my band, Observation Balloon, with Bob Kulick, was playing at a local disco, Nat even arranged to get some producers and other music business people to show up with him, to see us play. Of course, for the first time in my rock career, my bass drum pedal broke in the middle of the gig and I had to actually kick the bass drum, to get the effect. From then on, I carried two of everything that could break and ruin a gig.
Back to one visit to Nat Weiss' office ... of those rings left over, I was offered my pick; they told me to take four. I chose four rings. Two were cheap plastic, but somewhat funny looking. I actually lost the third one. However, the fourth one, which I still have, is sterling silver. It has broken twice and I have repaired it once. However, I never got it fixed the last time, figuring that it was my Karma, to get Ringo's rings that way, and have the best one of them split at a seam.
So I keep it in a bank's safe deposit box, just in case. It can't be worth much, as a ring, but the memories of how nicely Nat and the girls treated me is related to this ring, and I don't want to let it get away. One other thing I kept from those days, was a piece of NAL (Nemperor Artists Limited) stationary. If you're old enough to remember what they called 'onion skin' paper, you will remember that it was used for carbon copies of documents. Because there were frequently so many copies, and this was before Xerox or other brand copiers were in every office, they used a very light weight paper for the copies. That paper was onion skin; I still have one sheet of NAL's letterhead, onion skin paper."
[Quoted from Hash Howard's memories of his visits to Nat Weiss' New York City office, the days he met John, Paul, and others from their group, including roadies and other trusted support people, and other stories of how Hash was in the right place at the right time, some of the time. Of course, Nat did not send a certain, special tape of Hash's drumming to Paul, even though Paul had asked Hash to make the tape and give it to Nat. Hash always felt that Nat misplaced that tape, given how incredibly busy Nat was. After all, Nat had to deal with the New York side of the Beatles' business affairs. Hash is still amazed that Nat was able to accomplish what he did, and still look fresh most days!]
Hash also did television: commercials, soap operas, and some films.
You can see Hash as one of the few white radicals, jumping on police cars in the movie "Cotton Comes to Harlem." His big line was "Burn the mother to the ground!" It was outside the precinct station, about halfway into the movie. Look for Hash in a horizontally striped shirt - blue stripes on a white background, with shades on!
You can also see Hash in the party scene of Midnight Cowboy - right there, between Dustin Hoffman and John Voight. That one was an interesting shoot. It took seven full days, and was done in a sound stage up on Second Avenue and about One Hundred Twenty-Sixth streets, in Manhattan. Practically everyone there, other than the principals, were Andy Warhol hangers-on types. There were half a dozen actors, as extras, and an equal number as principals, and the film crew, with John Schlesinger as director. An old saying is that if you can see the lens, the lens can see you.
Well, during the entire seven days of the shoot, Hash said he was not able to see the lens. So while he made a bit on the long days - seven of them - he was convinced that no one would see him in this movie.
But the tricky John Schlesinger had given one of the principal actors a 16mm camera to use as a prop. He was one of the owners of the loft in which the party took place. So, this actor wandered around for seven days, "pretending" to take film of people in the loft party. (Okay, the actual party was only about fifteen minutes of running time; it just took that long to shoot it.)
When the movie came out, everybody learned that this 16mm camera had film in it for the entire time the actor was using it as a prop. There Hash was, right smack between John Voight and Dustin Hoffman, on the silver screen!
So, Hash can actually say he was in an Academy Award-Winning Movie!
In one of those classic situations, Hash was cast to be one of two Hippies in the original film, The “Out of Towners,” starring Jack Lemon and Sandy Dennis. The film was shooting from 8 PM until six AM, two nights in a row, on Second Avenue and Thirty-fifth Streets, in a restaurant. They did this, so they could rent a real restaurant, and paid for the night hours, when it would ordinarily have been closed.
Hash showed up on time, went into makeup, wardrobe, and all, and then met with the director, Arthur Penn
My partner in Hippiedom was Paul Jabara, another young actor who I had known, only by seeing him at auditions and the like.
Our scene was supposed to go like this:
Sandy Dennis and Jack Lemon had been visiting New York City for a while, were flat broke and hungry, and ended up in a diner, asking the counterman, for a free meal. The counterman was played by a stand-up comic, named Milt Kamen.
There Jack was, pleading with the man, telling him that he and Sandy were really not bums, just had been hit with unusual circumstances.
At the point where Jack was going to say, “I own a Two Hundred Thousand Dollar House,” he looked to his left, and looked directly into my eyes. I was bringing a hamburger up to take a big bite, and Jack Lemon did one of his classic stuttering lines, ending up with hardly being able to say the word “house,” as he saw me eating, and he was so very hungry.
It took two days to shoot the scene but when we were done, everyone was pleased with it.
After the movie was edited, but before it was released, the director, Arthur Penn, told me that, as the jokes used to go, my best scene was left on the cutting room floor! He was very apologetic, but he promised me that based upon my work, he would find another film for me and put me in it.
It never happened.
Never Trust Two Strangers Named Don
It has been a very long time, so forgive me (this is Hash writing now) if I do not remember exact dates. I will try to go back and find the original written works and if there are dates on the work, I will put them in this vignette.
Somehow, Don Scardino, my best friend and co-writer of many, many songs, got an invite to meet with Don Kirschner’s “partner” Don Dwyer. Dwyer’s meeting was more than one single meeting, but one of them had the two Dons on one side, Don Scardino and his significant other – at that time – Cielo, and Eliza and Hash on the other side.
The topic was the two Dons had asked Scardino and me to write a screenplay. They gave us general ideas to choose from, like a bunch of musicians trying to get their band to become famous, and the like.
The Two Dons said that if they liked our screenplay, they would produce it and make a movie and the songs we might write for it could become hit songs, if it was determined that they were good enough to include in the movie and good enough to take off on their own, as well.
So Donnie Scardino and Hash Howard went off and spent a few months writing a screenplay. They called it Gathering Together, after number 45 of the I Ching, as it seemed to fit the circumstances of the screenplay.
We wrote and re-wrote, and wrote some more, until we had what we thought was an excellent script. It was about four musicians – a guitarist, a keyboardist, a bass player, and a drummer – who worked for one of their uncles during the day. The uncle owned an antique store, so the rockers would help refinish or repair the furniture and other chachkas, and deliver the goodies to the customers … all during the day. They were actually very good at what they did, and the uncle appreciated it so much, he gave them the second or third floor of the building he owned, in which his antique business was housed, too.
The guys lived upstairs, as their floor has kind of an open loft type of layout, so they were also able to set up their music equipment and practice as much as they had time to practice.
There was an invitation for an open audition for unknown groups to try to get on the show at a Peace and Love Festival in upstate New York, called Woodstock.
In the meantime, they got small gigs in clubs in the West or East Village – Greenwich Village, that is. And they did quite well, with a real following and all. They called their group “Indian Head.” Whenever they played, like at the Cafe Wha? Or similar places, they drew huge crowds, most of whom were their groupies and fans.
So Don Scardino and Hash Howard wrote a reasonably good screenplay, called Gathering Together and when they were ready, they did something called “a common law copy right” with the screenplay. They put it in a number of large mailing envelopes, taped it closed across all possible seams, put their signatures across those spots, and mailed them, return receipt signatures required, to themselves.
Then they put them in bank safe deposit boxes, showing the post office dates, and having them locked up in banks, thus proving the actual dates of protection.
They finally met with the “Two Dons” and explained what they had created. The Two Dons Seemed to like the concept, and asked for a copy of the screenplay which, given it was now protected, Donnie and Hash gave them.
They never heard from the Two Dons again, but six to nine months later, a TV series was advertised and then put on the air. The name of the series was “Getting Together,” and the plot and story line were amazingly similar to Gathering Together, written by Scardino and Howard.
Literally furious and broken hearted, Scardino and Howard went to their attorney for advice on what to do about their screenplay having been not only stolen, but put on TV as well. Their attorney gave them some at first, confusing advice; the advice quickly became realistic. He advised that if the series became a huge success, they should sue the pants off Don Dwyer and Don Kirschner. But, if the series failed, then Scardino and Howard should walk away.
Otherwise, they would always be associated with a failure.
The TV Series failed miserably, and Scardino and Howard simply walked away from the whole distasteful incident.
Sure, they may have won a lawsuit and may have become wealthy from suing the Two Dons, but their reputation as being writers of something which became a miserable failure would have outlived their reputation as creative writers. No one would have given a second look at the original screenplay, Gathering Together and, going forward, would probably not even look at anything new they wrote.
There was a book about a young man who takes LSD, and what happens to him after that. How it changed his life. It was called Too Far to Walk, and it was written by the man who wrote Hiroshima, John Hersey.
Hash was one of many young actors who auditioned for a role in this film, the script for which was still being written, and was going to be directed by Otto Preminger.
During the first very long interview, Otto asked Hash if he had read the book. Hash said he had, and thought it was a good book.
Otto asked him if he agreed with the writer’s description of an Acid Trip.
Hash said, “No, sir, I don’t.”
“And why do you say that,” asked Mr. Preminger?
“Because I have taken acid, and it is nothing like the way he described it.”
Hash later said that he thinks, because of his honesty, Otto Preminger said to him, after an hour and a half interview, “Don’t change a thing, Hash. I want you for this movie. You’re going to have the main role!”
Over the next year and a half, Hash met with Otto two more times, and each time was promised the lead role.
The script was never written; the film never made. Hash got close once more, but didn’t cross the threshold to being a working actor, a star.
One day, years later, when Hash was driving a cab in Manhattan, he picked up an older man and a very young boy. Hash waited a few blocks, and then said, “Has anyone ever told you that you look like Otto Preminger?”
Otto laughed, and asked him, “How are you, Hash?”
They talked a bit while Hash took him home, and Otto promised him a role in another movie. The drove for a while longer in New York traffic. When he got Otto home, Hash dropped off one of the most incredible film makers of our time.
They never saw each other again.
Hash at the beach with The Who's Keith Moon and John Entwistle
It was a dark and stormy night [I've always wanted to start a story that way!], and Hash was at his favorite watering hole, a club in the West Village of New York, called Salvation. It was located at Number One, Sheridan Square, down the stairs, and inside. What a wonderful place this was. The big room was built almost like a prize fighting arena, with seats that went all around the square dancing floor in the center, and each row of seats was higher than the one in front, so everyone could see what was happening on the dance floor. And, like a fight ring, it was surrounded by velvet ropes. (Okay, so a fight ring didn't use Velvet Ropes ...).
And okay, so it wasn't stormy, either ... just dark, being a bit past Midnight. Hash had gotten a bit bored, and was heading out, making his way up the stairs, past people just coming in. Down the stairs came Keith Moon and John Entwistle, carrying what appeared to be two grocery bags. "Where you goin,' mate?" asked Keith. Hash answered, "It's a little too quiet here tonight, so I'm headed out."
"Stick around and we'll liven things up for ya!" responded Keith Moon.
[A while back, Hash had done a little research and found out that a good number of famous rock drummers were Leos, astrologically, as was Hash. Keith Moon was only a few days older than Hash was, according to what he could find out. At times, they even looked like brothers. Those times were when they each or both were going nuts, really into it, playing hard rock!]
So Hash turned around, and stuck around, going back down the stairs following two members of The Who, [whom he had met a few months before].
[NOTE: in those days, in New York City, the Rock Music community was a very tightly knit one, such that at a certain level, everyone knew everyone else; people jammed together, played together, and partied together.]
As they picked a row of empty seats around the dance floor, they started emptying their grocery bags. Entwistle had at least one six-pack of beer. Moon hadn't unveiled his prizes yet. They opened three bottles of beer, and immediately, Vinnie - the Incredible Doorman cum Bouncer - was right there. Hash had known Vinnie for a few years. Vinnie took a hard line, "You can't do that! You can't bring your own beer into a club that serves beer and liquor!" Vinnie told the three truants. "We'll lose our liquor license, at the very least!"
So, being good boys - (Ha!) - they all surrendered their beers ... the rest of the six pack ... and the second six pack in the grocery bag. Vinnie looked in the other bag, didn't see anything that bothered him, so he took the contraband, and left, giving Hash the skunk eye. Since they'd known each other for a long time, he figured Hash was the leader of this particular non-musical band.
Keith Moon then reached into his bag, and pulled out one of those aluminum Jiffy Pop gizmos, that you put on the stove and, as it heats up, the aluminum gets bigger with the popped corn, until it's done. From the bag, Keith pulled out a bunch of matchbooks, then lit about 5 of them and, while holding them under the Jiffy Pop package, started to warm up the gizmo. But it takes a whole lot more heat than that, and this was not doing it. Finally, Moon just gave it up, put it all back in his bag, and they ordered something a little stiffer to drink.
By this time, just about everybody in the club had been watching their antics, and a couple groupie type girls came over to keep the guys company. Keith leaned over to the lovely blond of the duo, and asked her whether she liked the beach.
She answered in the affirmative, so Keith then asked her, "D'you like to party at the beach?" And the blond lovely said she does.
Keith reached over to one of the ash trays, which was in one of those tall, metal umbrella stand-like holders, the top part filled with sand, and dumped the sand on the blonde's feet, asking "Soooooo ... How're you liking the beach party?"
Entwistle and Moon started howling; Hash, not at all sure what was going to happen next, couldn't help laughing, too. Here he was with two of the best rockers of the time, and on the edge of getting in trouble too. The drinks and the company helped the situation, and it saved what had started out to be a very boring night at Salvation.
[Keith Moon, an incredible drummer! Of course, he was a Leo, Astrologically speaking, like Dino Dinelli of the Rascals, Mitch Mitchell of Jimi Hendrix' Experience, and so many other rock drummers ... as was Hash!]
Hash looked up the stairs and saw Vinnie the bouncer-doorman, rolling his eyes, shaking his head, and turning away, so he wouldn't have to look. Hash and the two Who spent the rest of the evening at Salvation.
One night, Hash and a few friends went to the Fillmore East, for a concert. There were a few top bands there, among them the Buddy Miles Express, featuring Buddy Miles, of course. Buddy was quite the drummer.
After the concert, it was announced that there was going to be an ‘open jam,’ meaning that well-known musicians were going to get together and play; sort of cross-pollinate the music scene at the Fillmore that night.
Hash decided to go backstage, and see if he could get into the jam.
He went back stage, to meet a producer from Mercury Records. Hash asked if he could play drums in the jam; she asked, “Who are you?”
“Hash Howard,” he answered.
“Please wait a moment,” she answered. So she went over to Buddy Miles, and said “Hash Howard wants to sit in on drums.”
“Great!” was what Buddy said to that. “Now I can play guitar!” And they told Hash to get comfortable behind the drum kit, cause Buddy was going to play guitar and they wanted Hash to play drums.
The jam went on for a very long time. About an hour into non-stop music, Hash had developed blisters on both hands; they both began to break and leak (as in 'bleed'). Hash got the attention of a couple of the roadies, off-stage. They came over to the drums and saw Hash's hands bleeding, so they wrapped each hand, one at a time, with thin bandages, to stop the bleeding. And that way, Hash never lost the beat or stopped playing.
The jam lasted another hour or so, and everyone who paid for a ticket to the original benefit concert, got a treat they would not forget for a long time. Not because of Hash, mind you, but because of all the people who came up to jam with Buddy Miles, and the rest of the musicians that were there that night.
One of those people, who can never forget that incredible night, was Hash himself. He still remembers the night when he was lucky enough to get to play drums with and for Buddy Miles, and other musicians of note, on the stage of the Fillmore East!
A man named Steve Paul, owned – or ran – a club called The Scene. Located down the stairs off Eighth Avenue on 46th Street, it was a club where many mid-level groups and acts played, but it was also known as a spot where the top people in the entertainment field, especially rock musicians, would spend the late nights, getting together often for jams. [With help from the Internet Search engines, we think this took place on March 18, 1968.]
One night, [the details are a little fuzzy now, nearly 40 years later], Hash had been at the Record Plant with Jimi Hendrix and his band, the Experience: Mitch Mitchell and their bass player, Nile. It was one of the first recording studios anywhere that had thirty-two tracks and hooked together, they could produce a sixty-four track studio. Jimi was really proud of this toy, and wanted to show it to everyone. Having known Hash for a while now, he almost dragged Hash along to the studio to see this new toy while they finished a track.
Done with the recording for the night, they walked over to Steve Paul's The Scene, only about two blocks away, just up Eighth Avenue from the Record Plant, which was on 44th street, between Eighth and Ninth Avenues. The Scene was on 46th.
When they got there, a jam had already been going on for a while. Larry Coryell was playing with Jack - the bass player from the Jefferson Airplane, or Starship - and a few others. So, Mitch Mitchell went up and waited for an opening and sat down to play drums.
About 20 minutes later, they stopped for a change of personnel, and Hash decided to jump in behind the drums. It never occurred to him that he was going to follow the great Mitch Mitchell, in an open jam, and probably make a complete fool of himself.
But the biggest surprise to Hash, and others, who didn’t know him, was that he fit right in, did not make an ass of himself, and came off after the set to a nice round of applause. To the audience, Hash was just one more top rocker of the day, having fun with the rest of them.
To Hash, it was like being in Wonderland, being able to play with the Best of the Best, at Steve Paul’s The Scene!
[Note: Hash never asked if the Bassman, or Tommy, would allow Hash to mention his last name. So not to be mysterious, just courteous, Tommy's last name is not printed here.]
While neither Tommy, the Bassman, nor Hash, the drummer, play in organized groups any more, they do manage to get together every once in a while, drag along other musicians, rent a studio - one that has most of the equipment they need already there - and jam for a couple of hours. Hash does point out that having jammed with some of the best musicians of the Rock World, Bassman is no slouch at all. In fact, Tommy - the Bassman - is one of the best bass players Hash has ever encountered and played with, and one of the reasons Hash is able to keep his hand in, playing drums. Tommy keeps after Hash to jam, if even for a couple of hours every decade ...
Hash tells it this way: One night we all showed up, including my roadie. (Okay, so Steve wasn't a roadie, just Hash's very close friend, and someone who could help Hash carry the heavy stuff, now that Hash's back is in bad shape.)
And there we were, ready to play, when we realized that the guitar or keyboard player that Bassman had asked to join us, had not shown up! Okay, there were three or four of us, and all good musicians, but without someone to do vocals, a jam can get a bit boring after a while.
So, we each took turns singing lyrics to Stones or Doors hits, so that we could have a way to follow the music as it went through its changes ... like to choruses, bridges, and other musical terminology that Hash, a mere drummer, wouldn't know for sure.
Not a single one of us would ever expect to get a recording contract for our singing. But we had a blast, blowing out the cobwebs in our minds, and the rest of our bodies, playing truly hard rock and blues, just to be able to play with other live people, and keep our abilities up there. Hash sang and even though the others had a hard time doing chorus work behind him, they were, after all, laughing too hard, they did follow him and sing behind him.
Tommy, the Bassman, sang, and the rest of them laughed so hard they had to stop a few times - just to be sure they were actually going somewhere with the music. But after a couple of hours trying to get the lyrics to Light My Fire right, it was time to change to something else.
Basically, it was a great two or three hours. No way were we going to get our hopes up that Saturday Night Live would hire us. Although in retrospect, we were better than many of the musical acts they do hire lately. But just being able to play, loud, long, and hard, made the evening enjoyable.
If you ever hear of a new group playing on the radio, or even on SNL, and they're called Rock of Ageds, or Alta Rockers, pay close attention; Tommy and Hash have actually gotten something together!
As so often happens, memory gets slippery with time. Tommy, the Bassman, sent Hash a few corrections. In order to get them posted right, Hash decided to do a semi-quote of Bassman's email, to get as accurate as possible. It started out innocently enough with Hash requesting a photo of The Bassman for this site. So, here now, Bassman:
"... checked out the site; its a true page full of rock history. Thanks for including me on the page. I think I'll remain anonymous as far as the photo goes ... no point in scaring children and small animals. Just wanted to suggest a few corrections as the memory and the room when we get together is usually cloudy (wink wink). We weren't jamming on Light My Fire, but we did give My Generation a thorough beating, and paid our respects to other Who, Stones, Zep (as in "Led"), Hendrix, Alice Cooper, and used them as a launching pad to take off from there. I don't really remember everyone laughing when I had a go at the vocals and having fronted previous bands on several songs a night without clearing the room I hope it was chemically induced laughter. :-) "
[Hash: It was chemically induced, for sure! But then, we all laughed as we each took a turn singing lead.]
Here's a couple of other memories:
"I remember jamming at some ... guy's house with Thurlan for the first time, as we twisted and tweaked the guy's originals, in very interesting directions; so much that he was flipping out and asking us to form a group and do gigs. I think you did end up doing a show with him, didn't you?"
[Hash responds that he did, somewhere in a club downtown NYC, on Seventh Avenue South. It was the night of the first episode of the Beatle's Historic TV show, "Anthology." But, you never give up a chance to play for a live audience!]
I remember that same night when the "guy" left the room and the three of us played Brown Sugar (me on vocals) and he came running down the stairs along - with everyone in the house - flipping out about how good it sounded. That was the night we realized that Thurlan you and I clicked.
[Hash jumps in here saying that "we have clicked every time the three of us get together. Too bad not one of us is good enough to be a lead singer!"]
One more memory on that night I remember sitting behind the drum kit and playing AC\DC Back in Black with Thurlan when he suddenly stopped and said, "What the f.ck?!! You play drums, bass and sing? You are a triple threat!" I guess I should've told him I play guitar too.
I remember jamming with you and Thurlan when he brought a little Fender "lunch box" amp which sounded like a killer Marshall stack. Only after much prodding did he finally admit that he gutted it and severely modified it. I think he did the same thing another time with a $99.00 guitar too. That man has skills.
I also remember another jam that the three of us had when Thurlan brought a guitarist friend along who just looked at us like we were from Mars (or on our way there) while we took off and he suddenly realized he was in way over his head.
[Hash, again: That other guitarist had one look on his face for two whole hours: a cross between astonishment and fear!]
I remember Steve Angus being pinned against the back wall of the room by ear crushing volume.
[Hash finishes with: Steve Angus is one of Hash's closest friends, and has been a roadie, in the sense that he helps Hash move his drums at times, since Hash now has back problems. He was pinned by the volume and the realization that his friend, a mild mannered computer geek, is also a Rock n Roll near-legend!]
Victor R. - we haven't forgotten you at all. We have been trying to figure out how to put the Vox Dei USA music on this site. Victor is one of those people who plays an instrument. Okay, he plays more than one instrument, and probably fewer than 10 instruments. What he doesn't really play too pretty well is drums! (Okay, so I'm biased ...). Victor had a basement filled with guitars and bases and a whole drum kit and some keyboards, and loads of gear, and played most of it pretty well. What played Victor, starting a few years ago, was a local river. I am not sure if it is the Passaic River, in New Jersey, or which one it really is, but it has this terrible habit of overflowing.
But it didn't overflow for a number of years, so people began to feel they were safe and secure, until a strange thing happened i9n New Jersey. And Earthquake Happened in NJ! We don't usually get them and when we do, they aren't more than a 2.3 or something minimal like that. This was a 5.9! And the same week as a Hurricane named Irene, which was accompanied by a ship-load of rain, which made that same river overflow a load of times, and probably filled the space where Victor keeps his musical instruments become a sunken museum. Since Victor and I haven't been in touch much lately, I don't know the status and can only pray that he was able to move all that equipment out of there, long before the overflowing and the filling with water and all that happened.
Victor is an amazing guy, in that he can play so many instruments, and by himself, with his recording equipment, can make his own records. He got me involved in playing with his group, which sang in only Hispanic languages, and a little English. I don't know any other languages but English and a little French, and some Latin, from having done time in a preparatory school (yeah, Hash is a Preppie!). But playing with Victor got me into learning how to play along with Hispanic musicians, even without knowing their language, such that I learned I could play very well with them. We did a few gigs in clubs, and finally did a recording in a fully equipped Recording Studio in Hoboken, New Jersey, where we started at 8 PM one night and finished about 6 AM the next morning. We finished with two really good pieces of music, of which I am quite proud, given it had been years since my last recording sessions and these came out quite well, for a person who is not an Hispanic-speaking musician, playing Hispanic music. I do apologize, sincerely, if I am not using the word "Hispanic" properly in this description of what was done with Victor. Please chalk it up to my ignorance. But these other musicians were incredibly good, and I felt very luck that they had actually asked me to do the session with them, given how ignorant I felt about the whole experience. I swear, Victor, that I will get the music on this site so that you can send your friends here to download it, if you want to do that.
Vox Dei USA music will be found here, on a separate page of the Hash Howard Site.
There are more stories and myths to be told. If you are interested in more of the unpublished heroics of the legendary Hash Howard, sign the guest book and let us know, then come back often, for more stories.
Hash does ask the question, "How can a person be a has-been, when they never were?" Hash go close, so close, but he never quite broke through. Maybe he should have started wearing Ringo's ring. And then Hash missed his chance. Recently (early July, 2010), Ringo celebrated his 70th birthday, with a big deal at Radio City and a smaller deal at the Blues Rock Club on 42nd Street. Hash should have found a way to get one of those rings to Ringo for his birthday ... but he didn't.
Please return often; tell your friends.
Hash dedicates this site, and these stories, to his three nieces, and to their children. Hash may not have made it to the top, but nobody had more fun "trying." Always remember, in order to travel the road, you must become the road. And, Truth is always stranger than Fiction!
Come back often. There will be more stories of Hash and the people it was his honor to have played with.
We apologize; there no longer is a Guest book. We are looking into using Disqus for postings here by visitors.
Check out these links.
* My thanks to a sharp-eyed guitar player, Steve C, for a spelling correction he made on 06/30/05. Unfortunately, when we were cleaning out the porn-related postings in our guest book, Steve C's information got lost in the cleaning process. We are still grateful to him for his sharp-eyed correction. However, we have lost track of what, exactly, he corrected. If you return to this site, Steve C, please visit our guest book and let us know what you helped us correct ... please?
Thank you, very much.
[Latest update, April 29, 2013]
An old friend, from back in Hash's Observation Balloon days, sent Alex a clipping from a newspaper in California. Unfortunately, it contained very bad news:
PALA ---- The California Highway Patrol is looking for witnesses to a Sunday crash that left a Wildomar motorcyclist in critical condition.
About 1:25 p.m., Martin Davidoff, 60, was riding a 2002 Yamaha motorcycle east on Highway 76 approaching Magee Road at an unknown speed, CHP Officer Eric Newbury said.
Davidoff crashed into the back of a Chevy Colorado pickup that was waiting to make a left turn onto Magee, the CHP said.
The motorcycle's gas tank ruptured and fire engulfed the bike and the rider, who was pulled away from the wreckage by arriving help, Newbury said.
A Pala tribal security officer extinguished the flames with a fire extinguisher, but Davidoff suffered major trauma and third-degree burns over most of his body, Newbury said.
He was flown to UCSD Medical Center's burn unit, where he was listed in critical condition Monday, officials said.
Alcohol and drugs are not suspected in the crash; it is not clear what happened, Newbury said.
The CHP is asking any witnesses to call the Oceanside office at 760-757-1675.
This accident took place, and/or was reported on May 3, 2010.
Unfortunately, a follow-up article Hash received advised readers that Marty Davidoff - who played bass in the Observation Balloon - had passed away as a result of his injuries. Marty was a sweet person, always there with a smile, a comforting word, if necessary, and a shoulder on which to lean. Indeed, Marty was one of the best singers and bass players Hash ever had the honor of making music with. Not much is known about Marty's family at this time. Marty's daughter sent Hash this information; she was able to reach him through this web site. As used to be said back then, Marty was "Good People!" More than that, Marty was the best! He will be missed by all who knew him, no matter how long or short that association was. Marty made that kind of impression on people, and anyone who met and knew Marty was better for having done so. May he travel forward in peace and comfort.
To The Healing Buddha
A Short Note, on Humility:
These stories were written more than 30 years after they happened. Hash is/was not necessarily as humble as he may sound. But he was given sound advice from a woman named Florence, who was his manager in his first years in entertainment. She said many good things, but the what stuck is this: "When you're a star, you don't have to tell anyone. They'll tell You!" So Hash tried to live closer to that advice from then on. Often, he actually succeeded ... Clearly he tried very hard for this web site.
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