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Circa 1970. Don't hold me to any specific dates. Joel Tepp and I were playing with the Buffalo Nickel Jugband and sharing a house on North Stanley in Hollywood. Joel got a call from a woman who wanted to learn to play harmonica. Two showed up at the agreed time. It was June Millington and Brie Howard [not her last name then]. They told us that their group, Fanny, was doing a record for Warner Bros. We said we’d like to hear the band. They said ‘Come on up to a practice.’ Since they were rehearsing almost every day it wasn’t hard to arrange.
We found the address on Marmont Lane up in the Hollywood hills. A beautiful old house with cook and servant quarters. Balconies on two levels looked out over Hollywood. It was sparsely furnished at the time. Looked like maybe musicians lived there. The band was set up in the basement. We found a place to sit along the wall. It didn’t take long to realize what everybody else would soon be realizing -’They Can Play!’ As a former drummer I was knocked out by the power and taste of Alice De Buhr. Everybody in the group was real solid. Nicky on keyboards, June on guitar, Jeannie on bass, and Brie, who was a damn good drummer herself, singing harmonies and playing percussion. Up to that point I had never heard a bunch of girls [if you’ll permit the vernacular of the time - girls] kick ass like that. And some of them weren’t out of their teens. Another guy had wandered in during the practice, and when they finished Joel headed upstairs with the band. The other guy went over and picked up June’s guitar and started playing some real choppy licks. It was infectious, so I got on Alice’s drums and we played a while. Alice came out of her room and started up the stairs. She gave a side glance but didn’t say anything. If I had been playing along with anybody other than Lowell George, I might have been in big trouble. Though Alice didn’t say anything to me that night, the next time I saw her drums there was a sign laying on the snare that read ‘Please don’t play the drums’ or something to that effect. I can relate to not wanting other people to play your instrument and she owned those things in ways beyond simple finances. Anyway, I didn’t know who that stocky guitar player was at the time but he sure laid it down.
Joel and I drove down the hill that night muttering decidedly secular variations of names commonly called from the pulpit.
I don’t recall how it happened, but I ended up staying at Fanny’s house a lot. Some of the band members were burned out working and living together twenty-four hours a day, I suppose. Alice and Nicky both moved out. Brie wasn’t in the band, the management wanting to pare the group down to fit the master plan, but she was still living there. I didn’t have a car at the time, so when the Buffalo Nickel had time off and Joel wanted to get away to Berkeley I would be stuck in that little house in the lowlands of Hollywood. Plenty of instruments there, but no action. When that would happen I would call June and she’d say ‘Sure come on up.’ I’d throw some necessities in a bag and walk up or, if June had some adventure planned, I would be picked up.
Staying up at Fanny’s place was not just a matter of escaping the boredom of an empty house and no transportation. Staying there was usually wall-to-wall action. I do remember sitting around a little, but not very damned much! I was even there when nobody was around, but hanging out in a great old house like that was action of another sort. If I remember right, the place was once Hedy Lamarr’s. The digs were great, but as always the people made it come alive. June would not suffer inactivity. If it wasn’t happening at the house we’d go find it. When I think of all the adventures I had connected with the hill house it seems like I was there all the time, but maybe they were all crammed into short periods.