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The Case Of The Unknown Guitarist…

I was never much of a conspiracy theorist, but sometimes something happens that you just have to say, WTF?!?. The latest started one day when I was cleaning out my cabinet in my recording studio and came across some CD’s that didn’t have any labels on them. This was unfortunately normal for me several years ago and I started to pop them in and try and identify them. I came across a song I had forgotten about from back around 2001 that started with a strange call I received and that’s where this story begins.

I need to give you a little bit of background so you can understand the head space I was in then. While I had been in a band that played around the city and I was always hanging out in the local clubs that was in the 80’s and early 90’s. After I got married, while I was still a musician I wasn’t playing live or in a band. Hell, my band broke up in 1985 before the local scene really started to get big actually.

I still had lots of friends in the industry that I’d be in touch with and occasionally I’d get a call to help them out with a recording they were doing. I wasn’t really on the pulse of what was going on anymore.  I actually didn’t know that several of the bands that I liked from the 80’s were still together and releasing albums until recently.

This is where it starts to get interesting. I got a call one weekend from a friend of a friend. He told me that he was recording a band at the Record Plant and their guitarist got in a car accident and they were burning studio time. I hadn’t really played with a band in almost 15 years at this point aside from some small side gigs in a studio and I was told that this was pretty much all it was. I was suggested because they needed someone who played like guitarist X. I have to use an X here because I don’t really have enough to go on so I can’t name the guitarist, but I figured it was some sort of cover band or a band covering one of X’s songs and I was pretty much known for being able to play like this guitarist because, well he was kind of my idol in the 80’s. I said, let me grab my guitar and find some extra strings and I’ll be right over. Don’t worry we’ve got everything you need just come right now.

I didn’t think much at the time, but I drove over there and was handed a guitar that I noodled around with for a few minutes. Mind you this was a guitar very similar to the guitarist’s I was supposed to be emulating so I figure wow, they weren’t kidding. It was actually the same brand guitar I played. I started to adjust the tone on the amp to get it to where I thought it needed to be and I was told, don’t touch it, we’ve got his tone dialed in.

OK they had everything figured out, no problem, I just chalked it up to being professional. The bass player and drummer where there, but they had pretty much recorded most of what they needed except they needed more guitar. I jammed on the song a couple of times with the band and then we went straight to recording. It was only a couple of takes and then I went back and re-recorded the rhythm parts. They liked what I did and told me that it was perfect and no one would know that their guitarist missed the session. Cool. I was supposed to get paid $250 for the job and they ended up giving me $500 and asking me not to tell anyone I covered for their guitarist.

I actually knew so little about the band that I didn’t know the name of the guitarist, let alone the band and just figured I was getting paid to play guitar and I headed home with my money. Time spent about three hours total.

It was fun being in a big studio one more time in my life and playing the CD they sent me on this day reminded me of that time. So much so that I decided to post it to some friends in a sort of, remember back when sort of thing. It was when I got a call from a friend I hadn’t talked to in years that the story got interesting.

It turns out that somewhere around this time he was one of a few people called to see if they knew anyone who could play like this guitarist. It turns out the guitarist had fallen on hard times and had well, gone missing during the recording and they needed someone to cover for him. I honestly didn’t even know this guitarist was still recording and thought he was just another guy who’d show up for a guest gig here and there and that was it. Now this was only one song I played and like I said it was an in/out kind of thing so who knows how far this could have gone. There could have been several guitarists called in and they just picked from what they liked the best. I found the album that the song could have been released on and I have to say that it does sound like me to a certain extent. Well, me sounding like him. The worst part is that it was 12 years ago so I can’t say for sure. I notice things that are different between the two, but the singer [who I never met] sounds exactly the same. That’s one of the problems when you’re doing a cover tune is that people try to sound exactly like the original. I did have a bit of a habit of overplaying a bit and there were signs that what I played were there, but that was also based on a few changes the band I was playing with had added to the song. On top of that the song was originally recorded in the 70’s so even bands from the 70’s update their sound a bit over the years.

It all comes down to the question of was it me being asked to cover the part of one of my idol guitarists who couldn’t make the session or was it a band doing a cover of said guitarist? I can’t say for sure. I definitely can sound like him because he was a big influence on me, but the whole idea of me being him on his record is just too hard to imagine. Probably the worst part is that if it was me, I’ll never get recognized for it because no one would ever be able to admit it was me.

Tommy’s Joynt

Of all the places in San Francisco, as I was driving back from downtown I saw Tommy’s Joynt and when I got home I couldn’t believe in my six plus years of writing this blog I had never written about the home of the meat lover’s Tommy’s Joynt. If you’re even the least bit hungry this is the place to go. It’s got the old San Francisco feel and your plate will be filled and I dare you to finish it all.

I took a few friends from out of town [about 30 actually] once because it was across the street from the hotel they were staying at. A few got confused by the soup nazi attitude, because you have to know what you want when the guy asks you what you want or else you’re in for it. I’ve tried lots of things there [brisket is always great], but I keep coming back to the Buffalo stew because where else are you going to find Buffalo stew for $10.95. I’ve also gotten the $8.95 Buffalo stew sandwich which is for when I just need a little snack [which if you’ve eaten there you know is a joke]. You order your food, grab your silverware yourself and then find a table amongst the three floors going back up the hill.

As you walk up the first set of stairs you’ll see a tub of pickles that says, Help yourself to pickles, but please take only as many as you can eat. All that food and free pickles? You get to see a host of crusty old native San Franciscans there and the occasional person who falls off their bar stool. Incidentally they stock over 100 draft beers in stock and supposedly have a full bar, but for some reason I suspect that if you asked for a cosmopolitan you’d get a knife thrown at you or just thrown out of the place. This is probably part of the reason I’ve never seen cops eat here as they’d end up having to work instead of eat.

If you like turkey and order it as a platter you get the equivalent of a Thanksgiving day meal. Turkey, mashed potatoes, stuffing. If you ask for a side of green beans you’ll usually get a WHAT?! from the carver and you repeat it and he yells side of green beans. This is not a place for vegetable lovers. Probably one of the reasons Metallica loved to hang at Tommy’s Joynt. Just a little side note, Metallica has a rider on their contract that bacon must be available at breakfast, lunch and dinner. Now that is a bunch of meat lovers.

Tommy’s Joynt offers sandwiches, platters, stews and of course their special of the day. Someone like Gordon Ramsey would probably say they had too many items on the menu after which he’s get gob smacked by one of the owners. They do offer salads, but only one is a mixed vegetable. The rest or stuff like potato salad, macaroni salad, coleslaw and then some other vegetable mixes I never thought of. They also offer desserts such as apple pie, carrot, cheese and chocolate cake so even with the desserts they’re staying very old school. I always like to go as far back as I can when I visit just because it’s quieter and you have less chance of someone falling off a barstool and hitting you.

Tommy’s Joynt is a place where you will eat like a king on a pauper’s budget and I hope that it never goes away because it’s a part of San Francisco that defines the way San Francisco really is, not some half caf soy frappucino place that’s opening up on every corner or some luxury cupcake shop where you pay $5 for a cupcake that, well tastes like a cupcake you would make at home. Tommy’s Joynt has that old San Francisco soul to it and we need to keep these places around..