Journey To See Rock Legend P.F. Sloan By The-GrassRoots.com Webmaster
In 2006, P.F. Sloan emerged on the rock scene again after too many years of absence. He produced a CD of new material and went on a nationwide tour of over twenty cities. The Grass Roots owe their existence to him. Creed Bratton has been good friends with P.F. since their days with The Grass Roots. P.F. is one of the most prolific songwriters of the 1960’s Los Angeles music scene. I could not resist the temptation of actually seeing P.F. perform in person, when it was announced that he would play a single show in my home state.
I have seen many concerts since the early 70’s starting as a teenager in California. I have seen legendary groups and performers many times during my life. None of them approached the magic that I would witness on January 6, 2007 seeing P.F. Sloan. I made my preparations to attend the event with great anticipation. On the afternoon of the concert, I hopped into my 1987 Buick Grand National that I have owned since new. It has taken me all across the US over the last twenty years and has over 363,000 miles on the original motor. I figured it would take me safely across the state of Florida, like it always has before.
Upon leaving my home town of Naples, I shot across the Alligator Alley toll road to the east coast. I kept my speed at 72 miles per hour and enjoyed the drive while playing P.F.’s latest CD, Sailover. Drivers in Florida are mostly crazy. Cars and trucks were zipping past me in the fast lane at speeds approaching 100 miles per hour. Although my car was the fastest US production car in 1987 beating the Corvette, driving at high speed over a rough toll road is not what has enabled me to keep my car in good shape. The sun started to set and the sky turned a spectacular orange and gold as I looked out over the Florida everglades – so flat you can see for miles in any direction.
After about 100 miles of driving, the lights of the east coast became visible and traffic was increased 1000 fold. Cars darting here and there, brake lights and honking horns. I-95 that runs the length of the east coast is often referred to as a parking lot with so much construction and traffic. I hit the middle lane and hunkered down for a rough ride north to West Palm Beach. The usual problems never materialized and I drove all the way to the venue with ease. No slow downs, no stops - nothing. I was astonished. I exited the expressway and traveled a couple of miles to the Jewish Community Center. It was a large fine looking building with a nice big sign. I pulled right into their large parking lot and presto I was there!
The church did a fantastic job of putting on P.F.’s show. Everything about the community center was first class. As I approached the door to enter and get my ticket, the friendly staff had P.F. Sloan’s Measure Of Pleasure (1968) CD, his Sailover CD and bonus track EP displayed for sale. I immediately purchased the Measure CD and the EP, hoping to get an autograph from the rock master later. I entered the room and was taken back by the way that P.F.’s friends had set up the venue. The room had a large stage. Immediately in front of the stage were comfortable sofas lining the first row. Behind them were tables with padded chairs. The concert was the first Coffeehouse show the church has put on for quite some time and P.F. is the first new artist to perform. Along one wall of the venue was fresh coffee, water and other snacks for the audience. On the tables were a center arrangement of flowers and snacks. A real classy atmosphere for a truly legendary performer.
The show started right on time. The announcer did an excellent job of being at the microphone on time and giving information as to the sequence of activities planned, the history of the rock legend performing and information on the historic event in relation to the church. He invited interested visitors to take part in a Jewish ceremony before the show started. The majority of visitors walked to the back of the room and sang out in unison as the ceremony concluded. It gave the show a spiritual aspect that cannot be discounted.
The show began with Duane Jarvis, an accomplished singer, songwriter and lead guitarist performing two songs to warm up the audience further. The first one was a sing along affair with the audience and the second was a song by Lucinda Williams who is a friend of his and who also contributed to P.F.’s Sailover CD. The lights dimmed, it was time for the master to appear. P.F. appeared on stage to a long applause. He immediately exuded a confident and friendly demeanor to the entire audience. There was a glow of energy that surrounded him and never left him as he played at the top of his game. He remained on his feet the entire show and he produced a thick full sound from his acoustic guitar for the entire show of two hours. He augmented this by playing a harmonica at the same time in the spirit of other musicians that inspired him. He is a man who gives full credit to those before him that inspired him greatly and it started with the king, Elvis Presley. He detailed the story of his ease in gaining entry to see Elvis at a local record store in Los Angeles when he was 12. His first song was an Elvis tune that he dedicated to the king whose birthday was quickly approaching on January 8th.
After this tribute, he launched into a tune from his 1968 album Measure Of Pleasure. Playing New Design, he cut into a rocking guitar duel with Duane Jarvis on this classic song that embodied the changes he was feeling in that year almost 40 years ago. On the heels of this classic, he detailed that the next song would be one of the first two songs that he wrote as P.F. Sloan in the mid sixties called Sins Of The Family. With deep conviction he sang with great force on this tune that came to him one night along with Eve Of Destruction in a rush of creative energy.
On his next song, he prefaced it with some insights concerning technology and how HDTV is changing the world. He said that the viewing resolution is so great and beautiful that he has cut down on the time he devotes to TV because of it. He launched into the song Violence from his new CD with continued driving energy. In the same order as his CD he then played If You Knew capturing the energy of his newly recorded works perfectly.
For his next song, P.F. reeled back in time and played something that made Johnny Rivers more famous than ever. His rendition of Secret Agent Man was a crowning moment of the show. Duane Jarvis had the lead guitar licks perfect for the classic riff on electric guitar that everyone knows so well. How many millions of listeners can pick that tune out with little effort? As always, P.F. introduced the song in a humble manner just like any other song in the set. He then launched into Hollywood Moon from his new CD.
P.F. used a silent pause when he wanted to emphasize a song or what he was saying about them. He used this effect on his next introduction for the intro riff and his production techniques on the Mamas and Pappas signature tune California Dreamin’. Through his story behind the song, the audience was able to understand the elements that P.F. brought to the table as producer and performer. He explained that John Phillips had a simple folk song (which he demonstrated his initial presentation). The song sounded similar to any other folk song. He explained that he thought of a twist in another popular song at the time to combine with Phillips’ song to give it an edge. P.F. felt that if they incorporated the tempo of The Ventures Walk Don’t Run into it, they would end up with a whole different presentation. He then added the famous intro riff that he composed to start it. He then demonstrated the brilliance of the idea to the astonished audience.
He then moved into the song You Baby that was a hit for The Turtles. The presentation by Duane and himself was totally different than the original. He then gave his due to Bob Dylan who was an incredible influence to him. Just before he started the opening riff to PK & The Evil Dr. Z, he emphasized that he hoped that people would think that it was a Dylan tune and that it was a great compliment to him. On the heels of this tribute, P.F. told the entire tale of first meeting Elvis Presley and his guitar lesson to him at age 12. He played the song Love Me Tender to the audience in the same manner as he learned it directly from the king. Again, P.F. was continually directing the show to give credit to those who he felt enabled him to produce the output of music enjoyed by millions around the globe. Never once did P.F. act like he was bathing in his own glory.
The next song From A Distance was presented in the classic style. At the start of the show, P.F. had mentioned it with humor as the only song that his fans in Japan had known him by. Next, his number one song Eve Of Destruction was introduced by P.F. with great detail. He explained that over the course of his touring last year, he more clearly understands the meaning of the lyrics he wrote on that historic night. He sang the song with his eyes wide open looking upward with great conviction making it another crowning point of the performance. He then quickly launched into Wild Strawberries dueling with Duane Jarvis and getting an outstanding tone out of his acoustic guitar until he broke a string near the end of the song. He did not quit playing and finished to a long audience applause.
Since the start of the show, the performance was non stop. Very few of the audience left their seats and most looked totally focused on the performance. When P.F. said there would be a short break to put on a new string, most of the audience rushed to the restroom or walked around the room sharing their praise of the performance. He returned to the stage after a few short minutes and was again ready with all the energy that he started the concert with – truly amazing. He launched into the song that started The Grass Roots – Where Were You When I Needed You and played it like no one else can. Again, after a long applause, you could feel that he appreciated every individual handclap – he started into a long silent pause. Suddenly, the audience started requesting their favorite tunes. I think it was music to his ears to hear those requests. He started humming I Can’t Help But Wonder, Elizabeth when it was requested. He then picked the audience request for Let Me Be and Here’s Where You Belong. Duane Jarvis respectfully left the stage. It was the master himself creating all the sounds on these emotional requests from his friends. He was master of his craft with this outstanding end to a months long US tour and his show that night.
The announcer was at the microphone and stated that P.F. would be at a table and would answer any questions. I quickly headed to the entrance to the room where they had set up displays of his CD’s on the table. In just minutes, P.F. Sloan was there with so much energy, enthusiasm and a genuine friendliness that it was unbelievable to me. It was like he was twenty years old again and you could tell that he enjoyed meeting his guests. Luckily, I was first in line. I said “Mr. Sloan could you sign your Measure album for me?” He said “Glad to!” For the first time that evening, he sat down and quickly signed the CD. I explained to him that I had traveled from the other side of the state and it was worth every minute to see him that night. Noticing a long line of fans waiting next to me and having three hours of driving in front of me, I shook his hand and said “Thank you, sir!”
I hopped in my car and popped in my new autographed CD. The trip home went as smoothly as the ride there. I noticed that Ft. Lauderdale was really hopping to the Saturday night vibe. Thousands of people doing their normal weekend activities. Tourists everywhere enjoying their vacations. I thought to myself, if they only knew what kind of legendary rock and roll performance happened that night in West Palm Beach. If they did, that show would have been standing room only. As I drove back across the everglades, I counted my lucky stars that this California boy got a peak at rock and roll greatness and loved every minute of it. As I pulled into my home in Naples at about 2 am, my classic Grand National gave me another flawless drive wherever I wanted to go, as well. Thanks for being who you are P.F. and for the outstanding music you have given to the world. Your influence flows across many different musical groups and musicians.
Readers of this journey to see P.F. can do themselves a big favor. If you ever have a chance to see P.F. - take it. You will probably thank your lucky stars too.
Halloween Mary, a P.F. Sloan solo tune from 1965. P.F. performance is from 2009. This video version posted 2012
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