Five hundred dollars got the Bethlehem Asylum a bright yellow school bus in Clearwater, Florida. They intended to drive it to Miami and all over Florida to gigs that their ertswhile manager, Micheal Denlinger was putting together. The year was nineteen sixty nine.
Bethlehem Asylum was a strange mix of personalities but onstage the paradoxes yielded amazing music where the audience was entranced, amazed and enchanted. The original songs had melodies memorable after one hearing, the soloing was extraterrestrial performed by Charlie, Christian, Jim, Danny and Buddy. Charlie; tall, blond, thin wearing John Lennon spectacles shared his Berklee school of music jazz facilities on saxaphone with Christian’s New York via India hip jazz electric piano, buttressed by Jim’s foundation R n B bass, and Buddy’s unwavering grooves while Danny’s folk/electric guitar flavorings topped everything off. It was an eclectic band. And they headed off into the sunset with an entourage not unlike the Grateful Dead following close behind. Several gigs at junior colleges were already set up but the piece de resistance would be the upcoming first annual West Palm Beach Pop Festival. They weren’t booked yet but they were determined to make the bill and perform. Everyone was going to be there; Janis, the Airplane, Stones, Chambers Brothers, Grand Funk, Johnny Winter, Spirit, Spooky Tooth, the list seemed endless. Bethlehem Asylum was destined to go down in history, they could feel it in their bones. Everyone who heard them said they were the next supergroup. And they believed it down to the very core of their existence. They knew they were different, greater and cooler than anything else out there. They flet they had already shut down Spirit when they shared the bill with them in Orlando. They were on their way.
First stop was Daytona Beach Junior College. A dance/ concert to be held after a football game which unfortunately Daytona Beach lost. There were a lot of angry rednecks that soon became drunk and aggressive. In the conservative climate of the American South this did not bode well for the longhaired, racially mixed constituents of Bethlehem Asylum. The night ended in a stand- off with Animal the road manager/bus driver wielding a microphone stand in a particularly menacing manner in the faces of the drunken collegiate defensive linemen who were intent on taking out their defeat on the commie, long haired freaks in the band-even though they were dancing and hooting to the music just minutes earlier. Moods can change quickly in the fetid humidity of Southern Florida in the middle of a summer night.
We pulled up to the Holiday Inn in the middle of the night and got a room. One double for about twenty two people as it turned out. The entourage had followed the school bus from St. Petersburg. They were intent on witnessing this historic event at Palm Beach.
The strategy had held. At every concert the drummer would announce to the ecstatic crowd that their new album was being released on a major label. All the fans had to to was go to their favorite record store and ask for it. Tell the record store owner that the Bethlehem Asylum album was on….each concert it was a different label. That way the word went out to every major label the band could think of. As a result, the record companies had been sending out scouts to find the band and get them into record at least a demo. The bands newly signed manager, Lease, from Miami was arriving about midnight at the Holiday Inn to update the band on his progress. Everything looked good until the Holiday Inn night manager couldn’t help but notice the room was full of hippies, groupies, fans and music business people at three o’clock in the morning. He asked them to vacate the room immediately.
So the drummer again got a bright idea and called the Collanades hotel on the beach, where all the big acts were staying for the festival. The besieged desk clerk answered the phone and Buddy said in his most efficient road manager sounding voice, “This the manager for Bethlehem Asylum. We’ re at the airport and really tired from the European tour, I just want to make sure our rooms are ready.”
There was a pause and then the night manager said meekly, “I’m sorry we don’t have any rooms in your name.”
Again Buddy spoke with cool authority, “What’s your name? Someone is going to pay for this.”
“Hold on please, One moment.” The desk clerk said warily. In a moment he came back on the line, “We have one room for you. Everything is ready.”
They headed out in the middle of the night with the entourage in tow. Choosing to split our forces up between the festival sight where hordes of people were gathering in the middle of the swamp, and the hotel where the rock star action would be taking place. They were ready for whatever was destined to be.
Standing in the middle of the lobby was a sight to behold. The sliding glass doors of this sedate conservative high priced hotel were suddenly allowing a new generation into what was normally a hotel full of wealthy retirees. It was being overtaken by the wildest looking people the world had ever seen. The limos were arriving out front under the portico and disgorging everyone; Grace Slick, fresh from California with stylish black hair was accompanied by Jack Cassidy with his signature round sunglasses and Jorma with his wild shock of black hair. Then the crowd parted and with a long stride of self assuredness Janis Joplin burst into the lobby. Her red hair wild and flying like a fire storm behind her, dressed in the green mini dress and mules that she was always wearing, accompanied by her band members. Buddy was particularly taken with her. She was taking on the world.