The Summer of Love Lasted All Year Round In Coconut Grove

The Summer of Love lasted all year round in Coconut Grove

excerpt “History of the Groove, drummer’s story” by Russell Buddy Helm

©2013 all rights reserved

The Summer of Love lasted all year round in Coconut Grove; with bicycles and bikinis. The day was filled with sunlight that would inspire the jungle to grow. We felt a physical sense of belonging to the lush tropical foliage. It was as alive as we were.

Christian, the ever present spirit of mystery, had heard about a wedding on St. Gaudens. We went to check it out. We were new to the grove and had our sights set on being the band that played here. There was no electric band here, just folkies. We were going to bring them a new and different kind of magic. We weren’t loud when we played Danny’s folk songs, or Charlie’s dense musical cartoons, or Cristian’s epic jazz operas, or Jim’s twisted tributes to “Blind Tomato” but we could get intense; the jams are where the juice is. Robert Christian Ghandi, the beatnik Brahmin keyboardist, flutist, trombonist was our point man here in the hippest jungle in the world.

The banyan trees were immense, with tendrils hanging down ready to break up the blacktop and return all of the grove to dense impenetrable shades of greens and browns. There were birds too. Parrots, love birds, all kinds. Songs in the trees.

Tony Gulliver’s house on St. Gaudens was big, set back from the narrow road, yard full of vegetation that would eat you alive if it could. The front door was open so we cruised in like we belonged. Good luck. As soon as we entered everyone knew we were strangers, but they were very nice and accepted us. The bride and groom were standing on the stairway, old, wooden, handmade with a worn hand railing. This house had a lot of character. The bride sure was pretty. Smiling, blond, tanned, both dressed in white. The groom was beaming with a big smile, everyone was saluting them with glasses of champagne. There were a few drums sitting by the fireplace. Conga drums. I went over and sat down to examine them. I hit one lightly to hear it’s voice. Suddenly the room changed energy. The owner of the drum came over to me and said, “You can’t play that drum!”

I had just violated a basic tenet of the sacred Caribbean drum religion. The drums are consecrated and could not be played by anyone but priests. The penalty was traditionally, death.

Christian was right there. He stood tall but relaxed, expanding his aura. “He’s cool man. He didn’t know. He’s my drummer.” Christian could signify with anyone. He had spirit that was heavier than anyone I had ever met.

excerpt “History of the Groove, drummer’s story” by Russell Buddy Helm

©2013 all rights reserved




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