Wear your blues outfit
1977. Buerk Neidermeyer called me and told me to show up for a gig at McCabe’s guitar shop in Santa Monica. “Wear your blues outfit.” He said enigmaticly. It was the ruling high class dive for top name folkies and blues guys on the road. I got there and it turned out to be Mike Bloomfield. Mark Napthalin played piano and Buerk was on bass, who was a piece of work. Ask anyone. He could play. He was first chair double bass in the LA Phil and top of the call list for Quincy. Only his personality was beyond abrasive; insinuating, cynical, bitter, articulate, well educated, genius, overbearing, demanding. The first thing he ever said to me was, “You’re funky for a white boy.” I let it ride. Where I come from that would have gotten him killed. He was a snob, but he liked the way I played, so I had to like him. I knew other assholes in the music world and a lot of them are bass players. I suspect there is a certain affinity for borderline personalities in the low tones of the electric bass guitar. Of course Mingus was no walk in the park and he probably never even played a Fender. Low tones do something to the personality, just like high tones do things to singers, violinists and trumpet players. Music that makes the player crazy. Forget drummers…I got an eight by ten glossie from my previous bass player in Bethlehem Asylum; straddling a full dress hog with extended front end and ape hanger handlebars which he drove through flaming walls of pine boards at the Saturday night drag strip in Pinellas Park, Florida. He was wearing a cape and black tasseled spandex silver super hero outfit, autographed; “Captain James Danger says, ‘Eat more possum!” He suggested I submit this to Herb, Frank and Tim’s manager. I thought that was a bad idea. But who knows maybe they would have understood each other’s madness. Doug Kinney, the Harvard movie brat immortalized Buerk in Animal House. I wasn’t the only one with this perspective on bass players.
Excerpt: “History of the Groove.” Russell Buddy Helm ©2015 all rights reserved