Shel Silverstein was on the phone

excerpt “Drummer’s History” Russell Buddy Helm copyright 2013 all rights reserved

Shel Silverstein was on the phone and he sounded pretty spaced. “Uhhh…this is Shel…What was in Banana’s refrigerator?”

“Electric Sangria”. I said, “It was a joke present last night at her birthday party. She didn’t know what to do with it, so we just stuck it in the frig….why?”

“We came by this morning….right?” he didn’t sound too sure. “You guys were still sleeping so we just left out the kitchen door, as usual, but I looked in the frig for something to eat and saw the wine so I took a big drink and so did Charmaine….Now, I don’t know where we are…”

Lost in Coral Gables…As soon as you crossed Dixie Highway and got into Coconut Grove, everything was OK. You felt safe.  I left that great lute and classical guitar shop one day, turned the corner onto Virginia and saw Kip sitting on the curb in front of the small grocery/liquor store. Dressed in his usual OshKosh overalls, bare foot, sandy beard, with a brown paper bag in his lap, pupils the size of pin heads.

“What’s in the bag, Kip?

“It just rained, man…You know what that means, right?….Magic Mushrooms! I know where to get them. You have to get out into the pasture right away…before the egrets start nibbling on them.”

Bananas and I left Coconut Grove in my van and drove all the way to Sausalito, California and stayed on Roy’s houseboat, off shore, or ‘on the hook’ as the old sailors put it. Shel Silverstein had the most palatial houseboat in Gate Five, the Hong Kong of San Francisco Bay where hundreds of handmade houseboats were tied up to each other, sharing water through garden hoses and electricity through extension cords. There were a lot of Coconut Grove kids; Kevin lived next to Shel on the mud flats, Peggy was on a sub chaser, Estrella was warming up her vocal chords having breakfast at the Gate Five coffee shop, Rocky came and went. The Bethlehem Asylum’s album was selling in Berkeley. Alan Watts had departed this earthly plain and his red houseboat sat empty next to Shel’s pleasure dome just behind the Madonna; a three story handcrafted abstract black barge with plexi bubbles sticking out at odd spots. Shel’s boat was a steel hulled WWII oil tanker that had been refurbished into a floating playboy mansion; complete with Playboy bunnies and Dr. Hook’s rock n roll  band. I was invited into the San Francisco recording studio to witness Shel producing the million selling hit single, “On the Cover of the Rolling Stone.” Apparently the Electric Sangria in Banana’s refrigerator, back down in Coconut Grove hadn’t done too much damage to his brain cells.

excerpt “Drummer’s History” Russell Buddy Helm copyright 2013 all rights reserved

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