It was late June, 1970. Just a month prior, several students had been slaughtered by National Guard troops at Kent State, many others arrested for peacefully protesting the Cambodian Campaign of the Vietnam War. Instead of handling it well, the president and the State police had ordered the protests to be broken up by any means necessary. It had resulted in the deaths of four and the injuries of nine.
The following investigation was a total joke. None of the students killed were posing any threat, nor were those who were injured. I had never been proven that anyone had really been in danger either, but the guardsmen got off. Still it had marred the current president’s record. Hell. It had been immortalized by Crosby, Stills, Nash and Young in the song Ohio.
Matt was safe in New York. His mother, Natalia, still lived in the Bronx with her latest thing and had already given birth to two more children. Too high on whatever her current drug-du-jour was, she never noticed when he was around or when the girls needed anything. They were lucky to get changed or fed, the way she was always high or too strung out to think. It was sad.
He could remember when she gave a damn about him. He remembered when she cared about any and all who were around her. It seemed so long ago. But now, she only cared about sex and drugs.
At thirteen, Matt was growing up fast. He had a small group who looked after his interests, chiefest of those being Tom Goldman. Hell. It had been Tom who got him his start in the industry. Tom had been his ticket out of that hell his mother had accepted as life.
From the age of five on, his steps had been guided by Tom. Now, he trusted Tom with his very life. Tom was like the father he had never known. Protective, encouraging, loving, and a father in every sense of the word.
He now sat across from Matt in the studio. “What’s on your mind, Matt?”
Matt furled his brow. “Rainbow and Starshine. Mama seems too interested in chasing men, getting drunk and getting high to take care of them. I don’t know what to do.”
Tom looked him in the eye. “I can find out how to contact your aunt or uncle. They were looking for your mom a year or so back. Maybe they might have an idea.” He looked away. “Look, I know you would rather take them in yourself and raise them, but you aren’t old enough. Once you are eighteen, then that might be an option. But not right now. And Susie and I cannot take them in. Our apartment here is too small. We had a spare room and the OK from the landlord, that was why we suggested for you to move in with us.
“Besides. You are like a son to both of us. We would rather take you in than to watch you suffer God-knows-what at the hands of those men your mom finds. We would do the same for the girls, but we just haven’t got the room.”
Matt nodded. “I understand. I wouldn’t ask you to either. I know it would be too much for both of you. I appreciate what you have done for me.” He looked over at Tom. “Yes, let’s get in touch with Aunt Shasta. Uncle Finlay is too far away. Didn’t he go to Hong Kong?”
Tom nodded. “I believe so. Shasta lives in California, I think. I will investigate.” He got up to leave. “You want anything for lunch? I’ll buy, then bring it with when I come back.”
Matt nodded. “Sure. While you’re at it, can you find out about my grand parents? On both sides?”
Tom looked at him. “French or Goodacres?”
Matt looked at Tom quizzically. “OK, all three sides.”
Tom smiled sadly. “The Frenches died a long time ago, Matt. Around the time their son Tobias was killed in action. But the Goodacres–They still live somewhere in Colorado. They had other children besides Trent, the man I would say was more a father to you. He was a dear friend of mine. A great man.”
Matt looked at his friend. “And my mom’s parents?”
Tom nodded. “I will talk to Shasta and see.”
Matt nodded. “Alright.”
Tom grinned. “Knock out a few one-off hits for me while I am gone. I hear you do that quite well.”
Matt grinned back. “They only wish.”
Both knew there was no such thing as a single take in the music business. Not even the legends could do it in one take. Their recordings were a combination of hours, even days, of work that had eventually needed a little manipulation anyway. Matt was no different. At least, not in that respect.
His was different in the fact that he was able to do it in less takes than most and need less manipulation to make the final product seem flawless. Instrumentally, he could play it all. and he usually did. Vocally, he was average. Well, he thought he was average.
He didn’t mind the adulation, though. It made him feel good about himself. Still, he was just a boy with a lot of talent and some great teachers. For piano, he was started by the man Tom considered Matt’s father. Tom continued to teach Matt after his death, becoming his second teacher. Roscoe and Pete had joined the fray along with a man known only to Matt as Pigpen. He would later learn that the man was A member of the Grateful Dead named Ron McKernan.
Of course, the rest of the band taught Matt things as well. But they were only one band out of the many. Some paid in lessons rather than money. others paid only money. But most paid in both.
At first, they were enthralled with the little five-year-old who could play better piano than most adult band-mates. After the spell wore off, they became more involved in his development as a musician. No drugs or booze was allowed in the studio when he was there. They had a deep respect for him. And moreover, they respected Tom.