A Review: Larry Hosford’s New Release, Mometarily Yours

August 21, 2012

A Review:

Momentarily Yours

Larry Hosford’s New Release

By

R.E. Prindle

Here’s Larry

Larry Hosford has been singing and playing for the last fifty years giving him longevity to match that of the Rolling Stones and while he has a tremendous reputation on the Central Coast of California he’s not as well known outside his home territory.  I hope to introduce him to a wider audience such as he deserves.

Larry was a war baby born in ‘43 in what was then the lettuce capitol of the United States- Salinas, California.  Those unfamiliar with Larry’s extensive body of work will probably be unfamiliar with the Central Coast of California.  The CC is a fairly extraordinary area not only of California but the world.  Let me give my impression of the CC in the sixties when I was there as well as of Larry.

Salinas is the  seat of Monterey County home to the fabled Monterey Rock Festival of ‘67 that Larry may have attended.  Monterey lies due West of the better known central valley city of Fresno but on the West side of the very arid Coast Range of mountains.  Wild, wild mountains.  Today Salinas is a city of 150,000.  Back in ‘60 when Larry began his career it was much smaller.  The city lies athwart fabled Highway 101 with California Highway 1 a few more miles to the West.

You want to stay off Highway 1 unless you have time on your hands, a lot of patience and a full tank of gas.  1 is perhaps the dreariest and most isolated highway I have ever driven.  I have absolutely no desire to drive it again.  Forget The Graduate.

A few more miles down the road from Salinas is the town of Carmel that Clint Eastwood put on the map when he went political and became its mayor.  Hi Clint.

In those days, 1964, I had a job with a mortgage banking firm for whom I covered the entire Northern half of California from Fresno/Salinas to the Oregon border.  While the majority of the mortgages were in my home base of the San Francisco Bay Area I made the trip to what I called Monterey once a quarter.

At the time I lived in Larkspur in Marin County so it was a three hour drive, maybe four, down through San Jose and the town the Hell’s Angels trashed, Hollister, into Monterey.  I was listening to Country at the time so my radio was tuned to an SF jock whose moniker was Black Jack Wayne.  He was an odd duck Country announcer I could never get to used to but he was what was.

In addition to DJing Black Jack aspired to be a country singer.  He had his own label which ensured that he was recorded, and a number of singles all of which, apparently, can be heard on the internet.  Black Jack wasn’t deterred by a lack of success.  At the time, just after the Beatles had landed, Larry would at one time be signed to George Harrison’s Dark Horse Records, Black Jack was pushing a young Buck Owens who he styled the Bouncing Beatle from Bakersfield.

After the Okie invasion of the thirties Bakersfield/Fresno became the West Coast center for hillbilly music.  Nashville in the East, Bakersfield in the West.  The area produced the great Ferlin Husky, Tommy Collins, Merle and Buck as well as the wonderful Rosie Maddox and her brothers.  Rosie and Cal backed Black Jack up on a couple of his efforts- to no avail.

Black Jack Wayne

Black Jack and his brother Chuck used to have a Country place down in Niles, one of the five burgs that later formed Fremont, called The Garden Of Allah.  Perhaps Larry played there.  Rough place, good place to leave a few teeth in the parking lot.

Black Jack was a big hero down in Niles.  I saw him leading the parade for the annual Essanay Days back in ‘59.  Niles Canyon was the location they made the Bronco Billy western movies back in the silent era.  Bronco’s company was Essanay.

So with Black Jack on the radio I planed down 101 at 85 per to Monterey.  It was always fascinating country.  Real wild west, just like Bronco Billy’s movies.  You could imagine yourself coming up behind John Wayne’s Stagecoach trundling down the highway.  It was a two laner at the time, probably four today, and almost empty on a week day.  I was almost all alone out there.  Sometimes my mind would plane along at 85 plus.

The mountains were just stunning.  Following the Salinas River upstream on an exploratory venture the road stood a hundred feet or more above the stream, head watered down by the mission of San Luis Obispo.  As it was Spring the river was flowing nicely above ground.  Later in the year the river becomes what is called an intermittent stream, even if you can’t see the water it’s still flowing underground.

Salinas River

I got out to admire the scene when looking down I saw a man coming out of his house carrying a shot gun which he proceeded to point at me.  The range wasn’t very good for a shot gun but the attitude was telling so I sauntered back to my car and returned to the valley.  Discretion being the better part etc.

How very hostile I thought to myself.

Given my job the scene down in the valley was hardly less hostile, in fact, one might say threatening- bodily harm and all that sort of thing.   With the imagined sound of a shot gun blast resonating in my ears I took these All American types more seriously.

I was walking a little lighter in my loafers but not for the reason you might imagine.  Still, I found time to wander down to where the river braided through the sands.  A beautiful sight that was.  I hope Larry enjoyed it as he passed his childhood hours down on the South Coast among the refugees from civilization.

Things weren’t much better down in Clint’s future bailiwick.  I was driving a white ‘63 Chevy that was a famous car among the deadbeats of the territory.  I seemed to be recognized everywhere; when they saw the car coming the alert was sounded.  Someone must have phoned down there to tell them I was on the way.  While they wanted to beat me up in Salinas and even Monterey, another tough town, all the Carmelites, being more affluent, wanted to do was call the cops on me.  A strange solution I thought when all they had to do was send the mortgage payment in.  But I was in high learning mode; it was sort of like Poe’s story of Tarr and Fether in which the inmates had taken control of the asylum.  Their’s was a different line of logic.

Larry was in good literary company in the area though.  Henry Miller, the famous pornographer, lived around there; Jack Kerouac spent some time around the area bounding down the hillsides to the sea, even Joan Baez had a place there where she was entertaining her brother-in-law Richard Farina and Bob Dylan, even at that very time.  Farina went off the road on his bike there ending his sojourn in the basement of life.

Oh yeah, and a few years back John Steinbeck had made his fame in the area.  Pulling weeds out there in the lettuce patch he undoubtedly looked at all that lettuce, thought of the lettuce the lettuce growers were making from all that lettuce and wondered how he could turn that lettuce into lettuce for himself.  Then as the unforgiving sun beat down on head he had a flash of inspiration, or perhaps sunstroke, and wrote East Of Eden about all that lettuce.  When he wrote it up he had a best seller that did make him a lot of lettuce.  Later East Of Eden became a very successful movie starring James Dean that kept the lettuce flowing in.

Those Old Lettuce Fields Back Home

Larry, of course wasn’t too interested in working the lettuce fields so he became a musician.  That was somewhen  about 1960 when he was seventeen.  He didn’t have to study the situation and agonize over it; he just picked up his guitar and began to yodel.  A great folk music scene was going on in Monterey as well as the rest of the country.  It was a folk singing time folks, Harry Belafonte, Chad Mitchell Trio, Lonnie Donegan, Bud and Travis and let’s not forget the immortal Kingstons among a folk singing host.  New Christy Minstrels, Jesus, let me tell ya’, all lustily singing This Land Is My Land, This Land Is Your Land.  God bless that old folky Woody Guthrie, hey?

The Kingston Trio.  Boy, there was a blow that would getcha.  Who that was there wasn’t knocked silly by the great Kingston Trio In Concert disc?  No wonder Larry wanted to try his hand at folk singing.  Steinbeck’s Cannery Row had given up canning fish as that bank was overdrawn.  Now it was trying to be a tourist attraction offering folk music.  Very dismal looking place.  Lotta heavy overcast on the coast at Monterey, most days the sun didn’t even come out.  You have to cross that first ridge of hills to find the sunshine.

Kingston Trio

Folk music wasn’t that rewarding for Larry so passing through musical phases he found himself where he belonged, deep in Country music.  That was where I first came across him in my own record store owner incarnation.  The yo-yos at Shelter signed him and released his very fine record titled Larry Hosford aka Lorenzo.  His mother must have called him that.  Great songs- Long Line To Chicago, Everything’s Broken Down, memorable stuff.  Never could figure out why a good lookin’ guy like Larry didn’t put his picture on the cover, a sine qua non for  a first record.  Everyone wants to know what the artist looks like.  How else can you tell how good they are?

I tried hard to sell the record but with minimal success.  And then in the hurry and rush of daily affairs I lost track of Larry until just this July when Adam Zerbe of Carmel’s 4th Avenue Records asked me to write review of Larry’s new record.  I don’t know why me but, there you have it, Adam did.  That’s it.  Gosh, you know, when a guy’s first record tanks, as a record buyer you think the artist went back to house painting or something, like Arthur Brown did. But, no, fifty years later here’s Larry still strumming’ and singin’ with a new release.  I couldn’t hardly believe he was still alive let alone myself.  It’s not that the years aren’t stacking up.  Both of us have a huge pile, I’m five ahead of Larry.  I’ll give ‘em to him if he wants them.

Adam sent me a copy of the new release and I was surprised to find that Larry sounded as good as ever, maybe better.  The years had added a mellow richness to his voice and a couple hard bounces after the first kick have given him a certain understanding of the true nature of life.  I was, am, impressed.

It’s like the whole history of country music has been assimilated by Larry’s mind.  It is like listening to everything that was ever good about Country rolled up into sixteen little pills.  Pretty extraordinary.

I would have liked a little more of the Maddox Brothers and Rose in evidence but Larry leans more heavily to Texas music

Rosie Maddox

and especially the Western Swing of the great Bob Wills and Texas Cowboys.  You can hear a lot of Ernest Tubb and some of them other good old boys too.  Larry’s voice encompasses them all while having its own distinct Country twang.  A great country voice.  If he keeps it up for another few years he’ll be the real Voice of America.  I like the record, or CD.  Used to be records but time moves on and you have to keep your canoe midstream to keep up.  I’m tryin’ but I sure like the sound of Larry’s new record, er, CD.  Buy a copy and make yourself feel good.

One Response to “A Review: Larry Hosford’s New Release, Mometarily Yours”

  1. Wayne Melton Says:

    That’s a great article. I also like Lo’s work very much. I’ll admit, he is a friend of mine.

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