Frisco Jailbirds Part 2 December 2009

Back in the early 1970s I had just open my first business, a retail shop called The Fifth String in San Francisco’s Marina District. In the last issue of the Retail Music News you heard about an in-store jam session that moved from the store to the streets of San Francisco and finally into a paddy wagon! The fleet of paddy wagons was on the move toward the infamous San Francisco Central Station. Our band and a whole slew of ne’er do wells had been swept up from sidewalk of North Beach! In our wagon was the curator of the Maritime Museum along with a probation officer from Los Angeles who had decided to come up to San Francisco for the weekend. Friday night in any police station is not a great place to be I suppose, but San Francisco’s Central Station was really something special! We were herded into the waiting room and settled in with an amazing collection of street life…there were abusers of every substance known to man, three or four transvestites in full battle array, joined by four paddy wagons full of Music Lovers! Before going further let me introduce the band! On guitar and singing lead, Darryl —— founder of the Folkstore in Seattle, Washington On the washtub bass from Klein’s Sport Shop on Ghirardelli Square, Larry Duckett On lead guitar from way out in New York City, Greg Badigian On the fiddle, the sensational Barbara Lamb!

On the five-string banjo…yup that was me… Barbara Lamb was so young that she still had not met Mark O’Connor and so had not taught him anything yet… she was about 15 years old and her grandfather was president of the Bank of America. That combination got her out of the Central Station in a hurry! But the rest of us who were not as well connected had a very long night. I would like to be able to report that San Francisco’s finest were well-behaved gentlemen whose motives were pure and just. It was not the case that weekend. Early in the morning we were formally charged with the crime— obstruction of a public sidewalk— and brought down to the City Prison on Ninth Street. Bail was $500 and there were not many people in San Francisco in 1973 with that kind of money in their pockets on a Saturday morning— banks didn’t open on Saturday back in those days.

I was lucky– the owner of the bar next door to my music store, Paul Lampert was rolling in cash that morning and came down to bail me out. But some of the others may still be there! That hot young flat picker Greg Badigian didn’t get out until sometime the next week when the Dean of Students from the University of San Francisco came down to post his bail— a most interesting way to wind up Orientation Week for both Greg and the Dean of Students. As you can imagine there was an unspoken bond between us jailbirds but after climbing into that paddy wagon I never saw Barbara Lamb again… until… well…. I’ll tell you about that in the next issue, okay?

Richard Keldsen
San Francisco
December 2009