Long Cold Winter: Chapter Two

1967. Monterey Pop Festival. Matt was ten. His mother and father were hippies. Free love. Free sex. Free drugs. It was a prelude of things to come.

He didn’t know if the man who called himself ‘dad’ was the real deal. Mama seemed less worried about being faithful than she was about spreading the love. Not that Matt cared. At this rate, as long as ‘dad’ didn’t find out, he could get away with almost anything.

But, then, ‘dad’ wasn’t concerned with faithfulness either. The marriage, If you could call it that,for all intents and purposes, was open and communal. Nightly orgies were commonplace. And Matt had grown accustomed to the events, though hated them more than anything.

Vietnam was in full swing and many soldiers were headed to a country that had not really had any importance before. It was a jungle. He had been curious enough to look it up. And every word that he didn’t know.

He also knew that it was becoming less popular with the people mama hung out with. The hippies hated war. And anything to do with it. They burned their draft cards and held protests. And those protests had become more prevalent.

He was thankful that mama had insisted on piano lessons at the earliest possible age. By five, he was good enough to compete with kids twice his age, and now he was considered good enough to be a concert pianist. His brilliant mind had picked up the theory and the execution of music rather quickly. And it was just natural that he begun experimenting with teaming words with music in attempts to write his own songs.

Now, at ten, he was basically on his own. With mama and ‘dad’ off doing their thing, the free sex and free drug thing, he was left to his own devises. He started, at nine, with sitting in on jam sessions with whatever bands came around. Then, he moved on to the studio.

He was the youngest working musician, aside from Michael Jackson of the Jackson Five, in the industry. And he was the most in demand as well. Even those who’d taught him to play marveled at his skill and marketability. He was the latest and greatest pianist in L.A. and all of California.

He felt awkward, though. He related more to these adults than to children his own age. And out of what he earned, he paid for voice lessons. And songwriting lessons. He even paid to sit in and learn how to be a sound engineer and producer.

Over time, he would learn guitar, bass and drums. But for now, he was content with piano. And collaborating with the biggest names in music. The experience would be good for him.

He did everything from jazz to rock-n-roll. Everyone from Jefferson Airplane to Miles Davis asked for him by name. Even the waning rock-a-billy, folk, and surf-not to mention the now growing number of country-artists sought him out. But only if they were on the coast.

And L.A. was kind to him. So was San Francisco and the rest of California. But like all things and places, California would prove temporary. He would return, though. Long after he had left.

Although it wasn’t officially the Summer Of Love, it was a prelude of things to come.The hippie movement had begun in full force two years before. He had been eight. Mama had been seventeen and he’d had another ‘daddy’ then. But that ‘daddy’ had gone to war, and mama had gone to search for new adventures.

He had never known his grandparents. They had disowned mama when she became pregnant and so it had always been just him and mama. They had been on their own whether they wanted to or not. She had told him that his real daddy had also been a military man but he didn’t care. It always seemed like the men in their lives always left.

Mama continued to carry papers stating that someone, two to be exact, had been killed in action. He assumed that had been the reason mama had gone looking for another man, but it didn’t matter. Men came and went. To mama, they were like a drug.

She could get high just off of being with them. The equivalent of an OD was when the men got violent. Or when mama and her current fling were fighting. Then, it was like what others called a bad acid trip. It was a real nightmare.

Mama had been beaten pretty bad only twice. Both men had been thrown out of the commune, but the scars still remained. the current ‘daddy’ had been one of those who’d come to mama’s rescue. But she’d slept with both.

She continued to do so. But she slept with others as well. Too many to keep track of. And Matt didn’t care.

The papers were why mama was against the war. He supposed that the loss of two loved ones would be enough, but he didn’t care. He didn’t care about the war. He didn’t care that mama and her friends were against it. He only cared about his music.

Though he lent his high tenor to some songs as a backing vocalist, it was rare. Especially since he was ten and his voice nearly always cracked at the most inopportune time. So he remained entrenched in the life of a session player.

It was a life he loved. It wasn’t totally unlike that of the hippies, but it wasn’t rife with the peripherals. Or, at least, he didn’t see as much. Sure, there were drugs. But the sex and love parts were less abundant. And he could deal with the drugs.

He saw that all the time anyway. But the studio was his haven. So was the stage. He could leave his world behind, just for a little while, while he was there.

And most respected him enough to keep themselves under control. He was off limits to all, and drugs were kept to a minimum as well. They wanted their piano player to be clean and sober. They didn’t want him to follow their bad examples. At least not as young as he was.

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