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Andy Kaufman and me 

     "Me and Andy Kaufman"  

I attended the now defunct Graham Junior College and studied radio and TV broadcasting.  

Muffler, a kid from my hometown, attended Graham as well. I ran into him after the holidays and he told me that I had to meet his new dorm roomie. I said I would visit.. Both our dorms were in Kenmore Sq.  

The next week I paid him a visit. Soon after I arrived, someone  walked into the room.  

"Bob, this is Andy. Andy, this is Bob from Northbridge".  

Suddenly this guy was right up in my face (he was a bit taller) and talked excitedly of his college station TV show. I told him about mine.  

His big blues were staring at me a few inches from my face.  

His name was Andy Kaufman.  

Oh, there's more....  

Me and Andy Kaufman II  

So, Andy Kaufman enlisted a fellow student, Al Paranello, to manage him. Al was in the same dorm as me and had heard me sing my originals. He approached me and asked if I would open for Andy every Friday night in our student union.  

So I agreed and the weeks saw me singing in front of a good crowd while Andy did his Transcendental meditation on a floor above before his set.  

His comedy knocked us for a loop, and had us literally on the floor laughing.  

I would run into him in Kenmore Sq. My girlfriend, Stephanie, would crack up as Andy got right in my face and talked about special one man shows he came up with and performed aside from our weekly performances.  

Mind you, he never heard my music. "Al Paranello says you're really good",  he would often say.  

Each week Andy and I would tape our school station TV shows having played the previous night. We would wait out in the hallway and watch Andy in his "Uncle Andy's Fun House" show. They always ran late and we would just have to wait.  

So, some  years later, I started seeing him on NBC. Saturday Night Live was where he did the same skits as he did in college.    

One night when I was off from playing in my band, Strings Attached, I ran into Andy in front of the Harvard Coop.  

I mentioned seeing him on TV.  

"Did you see me on SNL when I cried on Candice Bergen's shoulder", he asked.  

"No, Andy", I replied.  

He proceeded to do the entire skit in my face, crying on my shoulder at the end.  

Parting, he said, "Al Paranello said you're really good". 

My story and sound, Part 2 

My sound

So, I was laid off from a bookstore chain. I decided to get a Boston Street singing permit. Somehow I don't remember getting one, but at Park Street Station I saw this fellow singing "Please come to Boston". I invited my self to play along.
That summer a slew of people played behind me and Maurice, including now famous Nashville songwriter, Pat McLaughlin.
Eventually out there at Park Street Station some bluegrass musicians performed .  I joined them in what was to become Foxfire.
My style was not bluegrass, so eventually I got the heave ho.
I told the EX GF that I would form a better band, but she said I should beg to get back with them or quit music (her ex-husband was musical genius). My one year of switching to  mandolin did not impress her.
One day a woman with a violin case (turned out it was a 5 string viola) and I met on the street and I commenced talking and ended up scat singing a bebop tune as we walked. We decided to get together. I had met a guitarist.
So that was the birth of Strings Attached, the top band in the Boston acoustic scene.
During our early days I was visiting Bela Fleck, the now renowned banjoist. We would play Charlie Parker tunes.
Eventually, Bela was an occasional guest of Strings Attached. One of the three songs rehearsed with him was my chamber/jazz/folk instrumental, "Aurora".

Tears for Fearsssssssssss 

Back in the '80's, girls would come into the record store I worked at and would say, 

"Excuse me, Tearsssssssssss for Fearsssssssss." 

"Right here", I might say. 

"Oh, like... cassettesssssssssss..." 

"They're uptairssssssssssssss", I was known to say. 




Quiet songwriting method  

Tell yourself that you will write a song in the morning (when you are not busy. 

Wake up and make your coffee. Having that, grab your notebook, a pencil with eraser. 

Drink your coffee. 

No TV or computer on. 

Sit in silence.  

I find that after 10 minutes or so some words come to me.  

I write them down, but often suddenly I think of another theme and put brackets around those and write  3 or four lines for verse or chorus. 

Do not touch your instrument. Start tapping out a rhythm on your notebook with the pencil. And try whispering the words, spoken and find a cadence in them. 

Write (in parenthesis) the number of syllables next to each line of lyric and establish the general length of a line.  

When 3 or four lines get their cadence, then pick up your guitar. 

Your spouse, kids or house mates might be sleeping. 

By keeping it all inside and down to a whisper, there is an excitement created and the rest of the song can be finished. 

But be quiet.

Folk Expert 

For years I sold and reordered folk music records then CDs at Harvard Sq.’s Briggs and Briggs music. They referred to me as “Folk Expert”. We no doubt did our word play on that  (Tom Lehrer would listen in from the sheet music department. He came over and asked my name and what it was that I did. I said I wrote songs and had played some of his songs). 

I also played on the streets of Boston and Cambridge in my bands. Over 10 years we played for two million on the streets alone and the crowds we drew led us to bookings. 

And decades living at the legendary Old Joe Clark’s, where many an after folk concert party was held (right underneath my bed). 

Sometimes I’d be up in the morning and I’d share coffee I made with whoever had the concert. The guest room was tiny, but accommodating. We’d chat and later around lunch, they’d pop their heads in Briggs and Briggs and I would show them their albums and knew many catalog numbers by heart. 

All the while recording (at home since 1980). Many musicians visited and I would record them or with them. Sometimes I cooked dinner for them too. 

Those 23 years in that Cambridge house were amazing. Sandy Sheehan of Sandy’s Music and WUMB lived there!  

Every Thursday was a day off and I  would  write and record my originals. 

I lived music.

After my glory days 

After my glory days of playing on the streets of Boston and  Cambridge for 2 million people in ten years, not to mention the gigs we got when people saw the crowd around us, I would hang on my lunch hour with a street performer.  

I guess I was pushy, but he would not let me play along.I would say I could big out the mandolin, I would not need an amp for the voice and mando. Plenty loud enough, and this is when I still was in my prime, but between bands and working a fancy market doing everything: deliveries, catering, personal shopping, operations, banking, training….. 

All the while my mando wanted to get in there and play against his solid guitar playing. We saw each other a lot and it was heartbreaking that it did not lead to the magical way my bands sprung up from meetings on the sidewalks.

You know I love you 

"Today at work, my third customer was buying 14 oranges. I asked for her store card but as she searched for it I rang them in and they showed as full price until the card scanned.
This led to some very silly dialogue and she started kidding me about something.

I can't remember how I called her on it, but she replied, "Come on, you know I love you".

I stared at her smiling at me, beautiful, thirty something and well healed (tasteful).

I said, "Yeah, right. Run along now with your oranges. I have been handed quite a different platter".

Off she went with a glow.

It was a good hair day, I dunno."

New Squirrel 

When I worked at Briggs and Briggs Music in Harvard Sq. we would sometimes look out and observe the world. 

Directly across was Harvard Yard and specifically, The Widener Library. They allowed deliveries through the gate and there was a guard station. 

I believe, if my memory serves me right, two old men from Scotland worked the guard booth. I am sure of one. We would watch as he would get the Harvard Yard squirrels to climb up his pant leg and go into his pocket for peanuts. 

One day a squirrel climbed up and went in the pocket. Suddenly the old man jumped and let out a loud, pained shout. We were beside ourselves, laughing. 

A few weeks later the old guard was at our display window, obviously looking at a short wave radio. 

He came in and came to my counter right by the doors. 

"Looking for a new squirrel", I asked. 

"New squirrel", the old guard questioned loudly in his brogue.

Elvis Costello Fans 

I over the years have bought a number of CDs by Elvis Costello. 

Working at the famous Harvard Sq. Music store, Briggs and Briggs I got the employee discount. 

Two of my co-workers in the record department were opera guys. My other co-worker and I liked Elvis C. and we got laughed at. 

They were the types who got the freebie passes to operas, oratorios and the like and I remember them talking about the night before when they heard and met the great Swedish soprano, Anne Sophie Von Otter. She could do no wrong. 

Well, we would get booklets from the record companies of the new releases and what do you know? Anne Sophie Von Otter had a new one, a song cycle written by guess who? That’s right, Elvis Costello. 

Revenge is sweet.

Some Reality Original tracks story  

My song, "Some reality was written in 1975 and recorded ten years later. 

For years the cassette mix was my only source. I would wonder where the original 4 track reel of tape was. 

I guessed it was on the same tape as another tune from the era, both songs featuring  Anne Marie Hodges on harmony vocals, I did not have a reel to reel 4 track machine, so decades went by. 

 I happened to befriend  my buddy Guy and he had a 4 track machine. Trouble was it took 7.5 " reels and my tape was on  a 15" reel, PLUS it ran at 7.5 inches per second and my tape was recorded at 15 ips. 

I talked to Guy about the issues. We had taken small reels of tape of mine (2 tracks) and transferred to digital a number of times. 

Guy came up with a plan. He devised a kind of Lazy Susan to spool the tape from the big reel onto the one half its size and so we had two small reels with all the tape. We did this and that counted as a session. We planned getting together at my place with his tape deck. 

So we met soon and we listened (in the background) 3 1/2 hours of SLOW Bob Comtois, an octave lower than pitch as it was being fed through my interface onto Protools. 

I think I made a batch of really good pulled pork so we had repeat  servings as the tape dragged on. 

We called it a session when all was transferred onto Protools software. I knew there was a way to bring it up to speed with an alga rhythm called Vari-Speed. I just needed to do it the next day with a clear mind. 

I pondered a while the next morning and with a few clicks, Eureka! It played at pitch and correct tempo. 

I released it as a single. It's a beautiful song.

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