Peter Case

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  JUNKYARD LIVING IS EASY TO DO Danny and I started playing together as a duo, with Bert often adding a third voice and guitar. It was a loose, almost jokey band arrangement. We had no serious intent to make records, play gigs, have hits, or go on tour. We were strictly street: happy to play on corners indefinitely. We needed a name for the outfit. Bert was voting for The Babies, but that didn’t seem to fit. I thought Beri Beri and The Incredible Symptoms had a nice sound, in a

    WOODSHEDDING  I ended up sleeping in the back seat of Bert’s old blue Oldsmobile, parked in front of his pad in Bernal Heights. His car was becoming my new home. First thing each morning, Bert came out and drove, with me still in back, a few blocks, to the free breakfast at the St. Vincent De Paul’s, where the Christian communist workers waited on the tables of the indigent, bringing plates of eggs, sausage, toast and fruit, along with steaming cups of coffee. I was playing on the streets

            WANDERING  By the next morning I was leading a parade. On my trek ‘til dawn, I picked them up one by one: a runaway teenage girl, a flute player, a wayward marine, and a rumple-suited drunk businessman. The flute player was a sprite named Willie, a really sweet, gentle guy. I’d run into him before, and I liked him. He was dark skinned, but with a very intense case of the pigment loss disease Vitiligo, that you noticed right off. . Though he wasn’t dressed

    YOGANANDA STREETFIGHTS A few days later, after nearly burning through all my dough, I checked out of the Hotel Edward and hit the streets of the city for real. The Indian man at the Edward said I could leave my duffel in a closet for a few days—he was very fine with that—so I just took my guitar and split. I had no real idea where I could stay, just a couple of vague notions, but I wasn’t too worried about it. Something would turn up. I traipsed across

NICKELS AND DIMES  “Fixin’ To Die.” “Bury My Body.” “Yer Blues.” “Roberta.” “Heart-break Hotel.” “See That My Grave Is Kept Clean.” “The Teenage Death Blues.” This was my repertoire and my specialty. I was out on the wharf, singing at the top of my voice, fading away into it. I heard a jangle or two and opened my eyes. Someone had tossed a quarter in my open guitar case, as they walked past, without slowing down. Tourists in white shoes and flowered shirts passed, staring at me as if I were standing out there in my underwear. A couple of teenage

THE EDWARD DAILY/WEEKLY RESIDENCE HOTEL  I couldn’t stay at Steve’s pad long, they had a full house. I was only there a couple nights, then I split for my big sister’s place, north of the city. Sue was the first rocker I ever knew, a world traveler, and she had even turned me on to folk music, way back in ‘64. But Sis was living with her boyfriend now, a “hip” businessman named Hank, and I didn’t get on with him, so it was back to the city in a couple of days. I could hardly believe I was in

WEST  MARCH, 1973 It was my first time in Chicago and my first trip West. “Well shot with a beer back!” That’s what I heard a guy in the bar ordering, so I did the same, an’ I threw the drinks down, pretty quick, workin’ my way through that little pocketful of folding money they’d given me as we said goodbye, at the Buffalo Greyhound Bus depot, less than 24 hours before. I was 18 years old: legal rock and roll cannon fodder, across the street from the Amtrak station, workin’ up my nerve. The bus had to push through

                                                    AFTER THE FIRST GREAT PSYCHEDELIC ERA  JANUARY, 1970  “There are no stars because there is no sky.” It was bleak, the wintertime in Buffalo, and all the world looked flat, as if it was.projected on a movie screen. Nothing looked real, and I was the first kid on my block to notice. I’d walked out of Hamburg High School a few hours before, and I

Los Angeles, California: Peter Case in his studio (Photo: Ann Summa).

In New York City, the club was the Bottom Line, over near Washington Square Park. At The Bottom Line, dressing rooms were small, but the mirrors were ringed by bulbous white lights, like you would imagine seeing in a Broadway backstage. The Bottom Line equals “making it in the big town.” The Village Voice gave my show a pick, New York magazine raved about the new album, the writers were out front, even the reviewer from the New York Times. All the DJs were there from Fordham University, and