"If it wasn't for bad luck, I wouldn't have no luck at all!"
-Born on a Bad Sign/Cream/Pat Travers/adapt. from Booker T. Jones and
Louisiana and Southern Hospitality 1972.
My Mom was longing for Family, and many of them lived in the State of
Louisiana, so it was settled, we'd pack up and make a new home there.
I . . . was not happy about it, it must have been early signs of "intuition" I had
inherited from my Mom.
The 1st sign of trouble was on the 1st day on Jefferson Parish soil at my
Aunt and Uncles house, a nice little boy said hello to me (I think), and I guess
said a few more things(?), but he "talked funny", thinking he was just being
goofy, I followed with an "imitation" of him . . .
Then the kids Father came out of the house with the same "funny talk" and
started yelling at ME! Then my Dad came out and had no idea what was
going on (just like me!), I tried to explain what happened (I'm 7!!!) but there's
my Dad and the kid's Dad yelling at each other from across the street, "Waa
is yer keed makin' fhun ov ma' Son!!!?" . . . From that day, it just got worse.
(It was all innocent, I lived 7 years with English with no accents, I guess
the "Hee Haw" shows didn't help much).
. . . A sign of things to come.
The AWFUL move to Louisiana would hold the NEW influences as an escape
for a 7 to 14 year old. I started hearing a band called "Grand Funk Railroad"
on the radio, and thought it was the HEAVIEST stuff I ever heard (ahh
. . . niavete').
St. Josephs Elementary School of B.S.
Catholic School would be a revelation that the Teachers were hypocrites in
the beliefs and teachings of the Church, what else is new? (to an infant mind
that did not have the courage, reasoning or wits to defend). Their was a
particular Teacher who was not a Nun, that insulted me and let other kids
tease me in the class was an almost everyday occurrence, and my folks
would be called on about "MY behavior", and we would see the Dean/Bishop/
His High Majesty of Hypocrisy in his darkly lit chamber/office and proceeded
to be made-to feel like an amoeba, where my folks complied, because he was
a "man of the cloth".
As that were not enough, my folks would then scold me when I got home, and
all that, almost everyday, pretty much ruined schooling for life.
To add torture to injury, I am in firm belief we lived in a Haunted House, houses
in older areas were built on stilts because of heavy precipitation, so all kinds
of "critters", and who knows what else, would be heard scurrying under the
house . . . we had hard wood floors, and almost nightly I'd be shaking under the
covers as I would hear, as if someone was dropping a marble on the floor, as if
it were coming from the living room.
TAK TAk Taktaktak...TAK TAk Taktaktak . . .
I'd get up to see where it was coming from . . . nothing. I'd Wake my folks who
in frustration would not believe me and angerly rush me to bed, as I in tears
would be begging to let me sleep with them. After about 30 minutes later . . .
the marble started again. Sleep deprived, nervous, geeky little boy.
Which is totally weird that I had a sort-of, blonde "Girl Friend" that lived across
the street named Jean, who was my best friends sister, she was my 2nd too!
(My 1st was back in California, across from my house, a cute Raven haired girl
named Kimberly, who we used to sneak kisses at the side of my house and put
flowers in her hair . . . at 5 years old!). But that didn't last long when my "Best"
friend started making fun of me as well.
. . . But there was a Blessing.
At this house came someone we all wanted, my little Brother Daniel :)
I loved him soo much, there are pictures of me and him in his outfit with booties
where we are soo happy together, me making a "peace sign" and him emulating
it with his little fingers, I had someone to care for and give my sence of humour
to (weird too, I was always the comedian with friends even through all the toil, as
I always have been). Its the best thing to come out of Louisiana for all of us.
I still love him to death, though he's picked up alot of the angst of my Father
. . . he's my little Brother :)
Escape through music and Roundhouse kicks.
New School, New House . . . Same crap.
After we left that God-forsaken rented house, we finally moved into a nice home
and my spacious bedroom, where I started to build model Planes and Cars and
continued drawing Hot Rods, as I did in class, from then on, I didn't care for any
schooling and payed for it at home.
I started listening to the radio on my own at this time, and my folks continued to
buy 45's of hits and my Dad, the occasional 8-Tracks.
I've never told this story to anyone, at Livaudales Junior High School, the bullying
continued (I was a nappy headed geek looking kid- on top of that, being Spanish
and tan skinned). . .
One day in class (a class that I was picked on by the teacher as well), A bully
who also was from St. Joseph's by the name of Joey Jackson (pretty much
everybody knew who he was. My thoughts in my last visit to Louisiana in 1996
were: if I EVER see that idiot when I visit La. again, I'll fricken' punch him
unconscious! . . . scars never heal) was listening to a hand held radio (in class!),
and he said to me, "do you know who THIS is?" (I'm hearing heavy riffs on a
guitar), I said, "I don't know . . . Grand Funk?"
He smacks the back of my head and says, "No bitch! its Fog Hat!"
. . . my introduction to Fog Hat and "Slow Ride".
From that moment on, I knew who the bands were, who the members of the
bands were, and the next 5 years of Shotokan Karate (by 14 I graduated as a
3rd (dan) Degree Brown belt, that I was too scared to use because I have
always thought I'd go completely nuts, as I still feel that way) added to my anger
and sadness from Schooling, poor grades and punishment at home. I had been
facinated by Martial Arts and Bruce Lee since I lived in California, I'm not sure
why I didn't try Kung Fu, but went the to a more traditional "Japanese" style.
Maybe I started noticing heavier guitars on songs because it was much like my
anger stomping on through life.
But then there was Grand Funk, and the "B-side" of the single for "Locomotion",
which was called "Flight of the Phoenix", It might be the first Hard Rock
instrumental I had ever heard. I can remember "Air Keyboarding" to the
Hammond Organ solos. http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=aLE4w43g_Ak
As my ears got trained baby step by baby step, I practiced dilligently on my
Karate, punches, kicks, kata's and discipline, I think that may have helped me
stay my lashing out at the world, other kids and teachers. But my Dad was hard
on me more and more in class, but I went to one belt to the next.
(See the Film: "The Great Santini", he wasn't that bad, but bad enough. If he'd
gotten into the Marines in the late 50's, early 60's, to become an automatic
citizen, instead of going the traditional route, this might be a different story).
This all just became a part of life throughout my 7 LONG years of "Southern
Hospitality" for me and my Dad. He got it at work. He worked at the Avondale
Shipyards as a Welder, working on Naval Destroyers, so you can imagine
the Ass-holes he had to deal with. Stories of "I almost got in a fight today
because, I don't care if they make fun of me, but when they start making fun
of you (Mom) and the family! . . ."
So his frustrations with my grades and work just made each day excruciating.
For me, almost everyday at school I would be asked , "Are you Black!?" or
"Are you a Niggah!?" by White and Black kids. So I cringe everytime I hear
the "N" word.
Through all that, it never came to blows, just constant teasing, being pushed
on campus, classes and on the Bus made me hate school more and more.
But always throughout, I must've had angels watching over me, some-sort of
divine intervention, I don't know, through all this there were good times with
my Moms Family, which is why we moved there. There were lots of Parties
for Birthdays, Weddings, and Holiday get togethers, but at Christmas, as each
year passed, I started to realize my "worth". When it came time for all the
kids to open their presents, they were getting all kinds of Toys, but when I
opened mine . . . Socks and Ugly Sweaters or Shirts.
Even though many knew I Drew Cars all the time and Built Models, so I
started to know what was coming every year. I look at that kid and want to
lecture him about staying strong, I'd remember how caring my Aunt Daly in
California was, who always had pencils and paper ready for my visits.
. . . California dreaming.
There were also Football Parties! Everyone was a Saints fan, but me and
my Dad being from California were Raider Fans! So this could lead to
some rivalry . . . more on this later.
Hot Rods and Music.
Buying Hot Rod Magazine and the Car Comic book from the same publisher
called "CARtoons" helped my "education" in drawing and reading. And
dreamed of one day owning my own 67 Mustang Fastback, like my Fathers.
The Story from HOT ROD Magazine:
So my escape was always drawing and the AM Radio, hearing the likes of
Nazareth; Eric Clapton; Steppen Wolf; Mahogany Rush; Manfred Manns
Earth Band; Three Dog Night; Chicago; ZZ Top; Lynyrd Skynyrd; Eagles;
Styx; Edgar Winter Group; Blood Sweat and Tears; Todd Rungren; Electric
Light Orchestra; Rare Earth; Bachman Turner Overdrive; The Who; Derek
and the Dominoes; Mott the Hoople; Jim Croche; Cat Stevens; The Allman
Brothers; Robin Trower; Focus; Seals and Croft, as well as the Pop Music
the day, R&B of the 60's-early 70's and the "One Hit Wonders". . .
Chicago Transit Authority:
Manfred Manns Earth Band:
Three Dog Night:
Edgar Winter Group:
(thats the "Gladys Knight & The Pips Variety show"!)
These bands should have made a bigger impression, it astounds me why
they didn't till many years later, again, maybe because it was a bit beyond
then something else . . .
Led Zeppelin was brief, it should of hit me like a ton of bricks as well as for
my Dad. He loved the song "Black Dog" but didn't get around to buying the
Black Sabbath should have as well, but knowing Dad's ear for rumours- he
probably didn't like the so-called "Dark" side of the band. I remember seeing
"We Sold our Souls for Rock n' Roll" in a LP stack at a relatives house. I wish
I would have heard it. These guys would hit me decades later.
Alice Cooper was dark as well, but we did get into his "Hit Singles".
Queen was WEIRD, but the music was really epic, but didn't seem to catch on
either. Brian Mays tone and playing was awe inspiring though. Every time I'd
hear that guitar sound, I'd stop to listen (And the layered vocals!). I remember
only their singles, and a couple of cute cousins that were into them.
The Rolling Stones were popular, but not with me. Only a few songs but they
never really appealed to me.
The Who finally made an impression with a newly released album and a song
that would become an anthem:
"If you follow me, there's a specialty
some tears for you to see
Roll up! Roll up! Roll up
See the show!"
-Karn Evil 9-1st Impression, Part I /ELP
But . . .
Only in bits in pieces, and not really knowing who or WHAT it was, Yes and
Emerson Lake & Palmer, I could swear, I saw them on television.
Me and my Dad would watch all kinds of Music Specials and Variety Shows
including The Tonight Show with Johnny Carson and the awesome cavalcade
of Bands and Musicians. As well as The Midnight Special and Don Kirchner's
Yes will always be a faint memory that I actually saw them on T.V. but ELP
made an impression.
2 experiences with ELP:
1st, was seeing a "Documentary" about them, I vaguely remember it, but what
I DO remember was the names of the members, in BIG black letters atop
their Trailers/Lorry's! (And I swear in another segment "they" were atop them
with their respective instruments) as they zoomed down the road from a
Helicopter cam view.
Part 1 of 5:
(Finally! found on YOUtube, after all these years 2/23/09)
There was a place that my Dad used to get his 8 Track Tapes, I believe was
called "General E. Lee Music" (figures...yee haw) and in the middle of the
floor was an elaborate floor display from the Manticore Label- ELP & Brain
Salad Surgery, it was soo intriguing and SCARY! It would be my 1st time seeing
the works of H.R. Giger and both would seem to make its way throughout my
At this point, other than 45's, I had yet to have my own albums(LP's).
. . . and 5 more years of misery at schools.
"I got it all together now
With my very own disco clothes, hey!
My shirts half open, t' show you my chains
n' the spoon for up my nose
I am really somethin'
That's what you'd probly say
So smoke your little smoke
Drink your little drink
While I dance the night away, I'm a
Dancing' fool . . ."
-Dancin' Fool/Frank Zappa
Jefferson Parish/Gretna Louisiana sucked BIG time. And something else would
"suck" . . . DISCO.
1976 and Disco would explode and it seemed Rock was dieing, but as the WHO
would exclaim, "Rock is dead they say, Long Live Rock!"
At first I liked Disco with its Orchestrated music and its high-hat and drum beats,
but then it started to focus on the "singer" and the simple verse and repeated
chorus over and over. It became less about the music and more the vocals, the
simplicity and the glitz, the glamour, the fashions and "lifestyle".
The flavours of the week were selling millions, but ROCK would endure and had
longevity . . . and slowly, Rock would get heavier and more creative.
Disco started to sound the same and Rock became my banner of rebellion.
Raiders STOMP Saints . . . a door opens to the west.
American Football, as much as European Futbal was very popular in our Family,
but the New Orleans "Saints" were the Team of the Famelies . . .
Not for the Velasquez Clan, The Raiders were the "NFL Rejects" of choice!
One day at a friend of the families, many were there to watch the New Orleans
Saints play the Oakland Raiders (many called the Saints the "'Aints" because
they never made it to the Superbowl), well you can imagine the yelling, cussing
and all that went into the game, but everytime the Raiders would score, the
man of the house Manuel, would "Shush" my Dad . . . "The baby is sleeping",
(Wha!?), the "shushing" would continue until it turned into . . . "SHUT UP!"
. . . I could see my Father, sitting amongst his childhood friends that HE defended
when they were kids in Honduras, his face getting redder and redder . . .
after a few minutes, he got up and said to me, my little Brother and Mom, "Lets
go...". Everyone was dumbfounded, there were pleads, tears, and my Dad
alone left the house. We got a ride with someone after a few minutes to follow,
we open the door and there is Dad, cheering on the winning Raiders doing what
they did best back in those days . . . beating the stuff out of their opponent living
the reputation as the meanest, rejects of the NFL.
Revenge was served that day . . .
I felt bad not leaving with my Dad, I think he felt bad not having his family stick
with him, there came a few days of silence at the house, but it caused a break-up
with the family that lasted about 3 decades. When they did meet in the mid 90's,
all was forgiven in heavy tears (I have a bad taste for playing most sports and its
seriousness, it brings out the worst in people, though I always liked playing
Soccer. As my Brother got older, at least my Father had him as a fellow sports fan).
. . . we are one emotional family.
But at the time, it pretty much was the straw that broke the Camels back.
"Cryin' won't help you, prayin' won't do you no good,
Now, cryin' won't help you, prayin' won't do you no good,
When the levee breaks, mama, you got to move "
-When the Levee Breaks/Led Zeppelin
The move back to California!
To be Continued . . .
Occasionally a commercial for a Concert coming to town would come on the
radio (even though I rarely listened to FM), ZZ Top, Lynnrd Skynrd, Black
Oak Arkansas, Allman Brothers and whatever Southern Rocker that would
visit New Orleans, not that it was bad (I liked most of them), but it was rare
to be surprised by a band coming to town.
But I remember this one really stood out:
(annoucers booming deep voice) "THE PRIEST!!! JUDAS PRIEST!!!" At the
time I had no idea who they were, but the music clips sounded really cool!
-"Exciter" - "Green Manalishi" - "Diamonds and Rust" - "2 NIGHTS AT THE
(what-ever club in New Orleans) JUDAS PRIEST!!! another Beaver Production!"
Again . . . why I didn't get into them right away is another mystery.
. . . a very cool memory that comes to mind when I hear a Concert coming to
town that takes me back to naive younger days.