1965 -


“The New Improved Jook Savages" by Stan Gotleib



When we moved to North Beach from Lake Merit in Oakland, it was 1965.  Friends from Minnesota were living on Potrero Hill, in the Haight, and near the beach, but nobody else we knew lived in North Beach, a neighborhood we chose as the best compromise to see my wife Ellen off to her day job in Hayward (via the Broadway entry to the Bay Bridge) and me on the Stockton bus down to SP Depot.  Our place was right on Columbus Street, across from the U.S. Café, just off Broadway, where Stockton and Green came together.


Since most of our friends were ne’er-do-well sorts, making their way as musicians, dope salesmen or in other marginal employment (except for one who was an armed robber, but that’s another story), we – yuppies before the name got invented - got to be the clubhouse for the group, which had coalesced around a bunch of hippy musicians calling themselves “The New Improved Jook Savages”, a ragtag and stoned jug band playing such ultramodern instruments as the hat box cover, the kazoo, and the straw (yes, you heard me right: a plastic drinking straw, with holes cut in it, played like some sort of squeaky piccolo) along with the usual guitars, jugs, and a gutbucket bass.


For the better part of a year, our agglomeration of righteously stoned entertainers would gather at our place either before or during dinner (soup was always on), get waxed, and then troop the few blocks to the Old Spaghetti Factory where we would sit on the stage and blow.  We were the opening act for the Congress of Wonders, a couple of guys who dramatized the words of the songs of John Lennon.  We also spent a bit of time at the Committee, where an old college friend from Minnesota was one of the waitresses.


Later, the Savages (who had to pare down their number for the gig) became the “chorus” in a play by Scott Beach, one of the founders of the Committee, put on in a defunct night club on Montgomery Street.  We did not take part in the play, but our friends still showed up regularly around dinner time.  By then, it was getting to be the summer of 1967, and we were on our way to Europe, entirely convinced that Lyndon Johnson was going to declare himself “president for life” in order to continue to prosecute the war in Vietnam no matter what people thought.  Well, it was a very strange time…



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NOTE:  Visit our good friends, Stan Gotlieb and Diana Ricci's beautiful and insightful, personal website called A Letter form Oaxaca.