Childhood was a Rehearsal !

Jessie Paul - Studio C

In the Studio for Promo Pics,,,Capitol Records Studio A

I grew up in Los Angeles having moved from New York at 3 years old.    When I was a young girl in North Hollywood, I was already singing.  I knew that I was a singer at 3. My best friend Sandy Ducker sang with me at every opportunity.  Sandy remains a best friend, even though we have lived in different cities as adults. She is singing now also, at her complex where she lives in Phoenix Arizona. They have Karaoke contests etc. 

Life in L A. was always exciting, we had the ocean and the mountains at our fingertips. Our lives were filled with Jazz concerts in our yard in the San Fernando Valley. Also, my parents would travel,  because daddy was a great drummer.  he was with The Andrew Sisters when I was about 5. I remember a long drive to Patty Andrews ranch, lots of land and horses, and a fun filled swimming Barbecue day.   Ray Bolger, and Joel Gray would be our family guests and give me piggy back rides. Bob Crane was still a radio D J and great friends with my family, His wife Anne and kids Bobby Jr, was a playmate in there pool!. In fact We were at Bobs house the day he brought the Pilot script home for Hogans Heros,  I remember they were laughing at the Plot and that it would NEVER be picked up by the network,,Man, were they wrong!

Another very good family friend, so close they were Uncles and cousins, were the Guardino’s.  Lou had sung with mom in Big bands, and Harry was a great actor. We did everything with them. I remember we were at Uncle Harrys house when he got the call from Peter Lawford that Marilyn Monroe had died. He raced out of the house.  I never realized the significance of this until I was older. These were our friends and looking back, life was pretty amazing.

When I was in Elementary school, my best friend was Laurel Resnick.  She was the sister I always wanted. I also loved her dad Nick. Her parents were divorced, I believe that was the first family I knew of, that was divorced. I had my audition at Capitol Records and they were finding songs for me.  By the time we were in Van Nuys Jr high, I had recorded 4 songs, with another two on my contract to come. I took a few friends with me to the studio when I recorded.  When my dad died in 2009, Laurie flew out for the service. She stayed with me and that night we were singing my records and she remembered the words Better than I!!

My Roots were firmly set  in the San Fernando Valley,  I never imagined we would leave.    My childhood friends  are still friends today, but moving out of the state was devastating.  My drummer dad was working in Las Vegas more and more, and felt that it was the future of Live Music.  Which for the sixties and seventies, was true!

It was natural for me to be quite nervous to move to the Adult Planet of  Las Vegas. Because of the records and my song being played on the radio,I was a small celebrity when I got into school there.  I was interviewed  on Keno radio with Dennis Hunt, and before long  I got into a band right away,,,   The first was The Little People,, then that band morphed into  The London Fog,,, and then a band,  Free Circus,   a band made up of college guys who played originals.  I was still in High School.  This was very good for me, I finally figured out who I was, not doing only cover songs.   We opened for Santana, Three Dog Night, Steppenwolf, Iron Butterfly, and Grateful Dead among many many more.

I was doing it, I was working as a singer, and getting paid, and living the dream I dreamed. I didn’t need a Grammy, or a manager. I was working big arena’s. Roby Bennet, our guitarist wrote many of the songs, they all had terrific chord structure and three and four part harmony. His songs began my Love for harmony and loving groups like  The Beach Boys, Crosby Stills and Nash, Mama’s and Pappa’s,  before them,, The Hi Lo’s, who my dad was the drummer for, and Lambert Hendicks and Ross.  Later on,, Manhattan Transfer.  We had a great thing and got along well.  We were approached by a record label, and made demos.    

I grew up very fast, working every weekend, and being in rehearsal after school. Even in summer, we were in Lake Tahoe at the Blue Tooth rock club.  We rented a house in nearby Meyers, and drove to the club together.  We had many bands back to the house . Many late night parties and dinners where it was a big exciting grown up world for me.  It would be  very hard to go back to being a teen after this. I suppose I never did go back to being a teen…I would lie in the fields of grass and flowers and listen to Crosby Stills and Nash..it was pure Bliss!

Free Circus would have remained my destiny, but, our keyboardist Danny Barnett dropped out of college, and was Drafted!

We decided since he played Hammond B3, it would be impossible to replace him. We all went our separate ways.  I was flown right back to L A with an agent my sister had met at the Stardust Hotel lounge!    I flew back to L A  with him and got a Motel room, in Hollywood and he began to get me auditions. The first audition was at the Aquarius Theatre, for HAIR…..  I got it!   It doesn’t get any easier than this.

When you are young,  singing and have a big audience, and you are a teenager, It can really change you. I didn’t get an attitude , not that kind of change, but you know what you will do when you are an adult.  Most kids are still wondering.  I always knew. If it hadn’t worked out, I have no idea what I would have been.  I wasn’t prepared for failure.  At 12 years old I was a signed artist,,, then opening act,,,,and when I went to L A, It was just a few months before my first audition was for the Rock musical Hair..and I got That too!  was it luck? Or Destiny,,,, All I know is, my course was set for my life to travel,, live out of a suitcase, and be the gypsy that I am.     Living on my own, and falling in love and partying at Hugh Hefners Mansion was, well,, the normal.    I remember Hef’s secretary Bobbi, who was a close friend of my then boyfriend Tony Good who managed North Beach Leather on the Sunset Strip. Poor Bobbi, her boyfriend was a drug dealer,, and the FBI in trying to get Hefner for porn, The MAGAZINE<<< REALLY? They , harassed and arrested her and , which led to her suicide.   Very Very sad for all of us who knew she was a great person. 

Looking back, I was blessed. I also had a strong work ethic, and was always taking care of myself, Like an athlete,,,health food, no drinking, or lack of sleep. I learned ethics from my Drummer daddy.       If he were still here, he would smile, and say,,,‘ Well, pookie,, you did it your way….

Lost on the New Jersey Turnpike

Commonwealth

When the band Commonwealth was touring the Playboy Clubs, I enjoyed some of the best times of my life. I was proud of the band, and our 5-part harmony. We were a 70’s pop band channeling the Hi-Lo’s and Lambert, Hendricks, & Ross.  Before we hired horns, we sang the horn parts ourselves, and I loved it!

Many times a year , Commonwealth was the dinner/dance band in the swank supper club at the Great Gorge Playboy Club in New Jersey.  You had to fly into Newark and drive into the hills. The club away from most everything. It was just country and golf courses.

We didn’t fly anywhere, but traveled constantly, driving caravan with a car and a U-Haul.  The Great Gorge Playboy Club was in the valley of a huge, bright green golf course. You could smell the freshly cut grass as you drove the long winding driveway to the hotel.

Jorge Casas

Jorge Casas

This hotel was always a favorite of mine, because of its out-of-the-way location; and it is where I first started having more than friendship feelings for our Cuban bass player, Jorge Casas.

He was dating a pretty, blonde bunny waitress, and for the first time, I was jealous!  We hadn’t even been friends really, he was always bad mouthing the American Woman. I felt, being a singer and working with musicians, I was an exception to the typical greedy, materialistic American woman.   I did not disagree with him, I only felt he generalized everyone, that way.  It’s funny how close hate and love are!

While we were in the New Jersey club, I did not let my feelings be known to anyone, But on-stage, we did ‘look’  at each other more and more. The vibe was changing. We did talk about our feelings at the end of this engagement, and chose to talk to Maurice, the bandleader.

Maurice had strict rules against dating within the band. We didn’t think it was ethical or possible to skirt the rules, so we felt compelled to discuss it with Maurice, suggesting we might have to quit, to be together.  We waited until our next Playboy job in Detroit, when Jorge took Maurice out for a drink, and told him.  But that is another post!!

Peter Cook - Dudley More

Peter Cook – Dudley More

On our night off, Maurice (British pianist and leader) and Jorge suggested the three of us drive to New York, have tea at The Plaza, see the British comedians Peter Cook and Dudley Moore in their Broadway show, Good Evening.  We planned on going to Chinatown, and jazz clubs, after the show, to really make a night of it!.

And so we headed out… Maurice drove, and Jorge and I were passengers.  It was so exciting. I was in my early-mid twenties, and the only time I had been to New York was to see relatives. Didn’t really get to see much of The City, during those visits.

We went to the Plaza Hotel, and spent time in the Tea Room. So many elegant woman, draped in their furs. and the fragrances of  Joy and Chanel. I was still wearing Shalimar perfume, I wore in high school!    Up to that moment, I had only seen The Plaza in movies.

Maurice, being from England, had such culture, and loved fine cognac, and pipes.  I hate cigarettes and cigars, but the sweet cherry tobacco that Jorge and Maurice smoked was nice. I always loved when they lit up.

I felt very sophisticated and was glad I always had beautiful dresses to wear on our nights, out. One thing I did spend money on was nice clothes. I had some beautiful costumes for our shows and always great silk and linen dresses for our nights out.

CourvoisierWhen we arrived at the theater, I hadn’t heard of these very famous comedians. This was long before Dudley Moore did the movie, 10, and long before he was known in America.  The show was brilliant, and I laughed so hard.  We left filled with laughter and joy, and our next stop was a jazz club in Manhattan. The guys drank their Courvoisier and I club soda. I never have been a drinker, and always went mad when friends said, “Oh Come on, have something”  I just hate that, but the guys never did that to me. They respected my non-drinking and did not try to push anything on me.

Next stop was Chinatown, and had the best food I had ever tasted! By now, it was now about 2 am. The guys were drinking heavily; I mean A LOT.  When we were going to the car, I noticed Maurice was slurring and stumbling, I said,  “Jorge. I don’t think he can drive.”  Jorge said, “I don’t think he can walk!”  

Jorge said, “I’ve had too much, too.” and he asked me if I would drive.  OK, let me tell you about my driving skills at that age. I didn’t even got my license until I was 18.  Then at 21, I was in a terrible car accident that left me terrified to drive again.   But now, I was our only option.   I told Jorge I had no idea where we were, and how to get to Great Gorge. It’s easy he said, follow this road to the turnpike and pay the toll and we are almost there.

toll-booth-nj-turnpikeThey were both in the backseat passed out by the time I got to the turnpike.  I paid the toll, and kept driving.

I was listening to the cassette tape deck and was driving along, when I came to another toll booth. Uh OH,  it was the same toll booth?  Had I gone in a circle?  I guess I had.  I asked the toll man how I get to Lake Geneva, and he couldn’t help me; too many cars behind me. Well, I will try this again.  Off I went with two alcohol soaked guys in the back seat, and I kept driving. La de da, driving along. It was nearly 4 am now, and a little frightening.

When suddenly, there is a toll booth. Yes, you guessed it, the same toll booth, for the third time. Now I pulled over on this ultra-busy Highway, and tried to wake Jorge. Help, we are lost, I need help.  Maurice heard me, and said , “Don’t worry Dahling, with his accent, I will take the wheel.”

“The HELL you will.”  I said, “I will walk before I  let you drive.”

Playboy Club Lake GenevaI stood in the cold freezing road of the Jersey Turnpike watching Maurice and Jorge drive off without me!.  I started to walk as far to the side of the road as I could to not get hit by a car. The greasy smelly street under my beautiful shoes. they were getting ruined in the morning dew of the New Jersey humidity.

Thank goodness, when they drove off I could hear Jorge yelling at Maurice, ‘You can’t leave her there!!”  I was hoping they would somehow come back for me, but knew it would take a while because you just can’t make a u-turn on the highway!

They did come back, and I got in the car, Maurice was angry that I had gotten out of the car. Jorge was now driving, and we made it back to the Hotel in time for breakfast. This was just one episode of our life on the road with the Commonwealth.

There are many more stories to tell. It certainly was never boring!

Jessica Marciel
Las Vegas Vocal Training

Homeless, yet living in the finest hotels

homelessWhen I was in my twenties, I traveled for 85% of the decade.  When we were “Commonwealth”, we toured the Playboy Clubs and Marriott Hoteis. There was no need to set up housekeeping in any city because all you did was sleep in hotels.

I found that a trunk, instead of suitcases, enabled me to carry a crock pot, a skillet and spices. Yes, I did, I cooked my meals  in my room. The guys would sometimes come over after the show for whatever concoction was simmering and melting with the spices and vegetables in my room.

It used to be “all healthy things.” I was a vegetarian, as a teen and only dabbled with fish or meat infrequently in my lifetime. I also had a large arsenal of books, to keep me company at night, until Jorge Casas the bass player , arranger and songwriter became my love and roomie.

But, even before Jorge was my BF, he influenced what books I read. He turned me on to the classics, PBS , and fine living. Maurice, the leader, from London also influenced my reading. They thought American girls were under-educated, and they were right in my case!

I took my dog, a one-eyed shitzu, named Sammy Davis with me when I was with Spiral Starecase. I gave up the trunk and crock pot and took my dog. It was so nice to have a furry little friend on the road when it is a 12 piece horn band and you are the only girl. I remember working Buffalo, and it was freezing when I had to take Sammy out to do his business.

It was always lonely on the road, except for that one time when Jorge and I had a life together. That was a minute in time. the other years, it was a lot of books, insomnia, and  dates with sometimes very strange people. For Instance, I was at The Chicago Playboy Club, and we all went out after work to see Linda Clifford and her band.  Nightlife was great in Chicago, you could party all night.

Soul Train - Don Cornelius

Soul Train – Don Cornelius

Guess who i wound up with, dancing, and then going to breakfast?  Souuulllll train’s Don Cornelius. He was a nice man, and took me out for the best pizza i ever had, { well, it was Chicago}  we had a wonderful evening, a long dinner, and then he asked if I wanted to see his penthouse.  Yeah, I was dying to see where this icon lived.  He drove me to a high-rise and valet-parked. We rode a private elevator to his beautiful, very clean, penthouse. He showed me around, never once touching me. Asked me if I wanted to stay over. I really didn’t have those feelings so I declined, and he was a perfect gentleman. Probably very sorry he wasted his time on me! He drove me back to my hotel, and we said farewell.

Another Chicago time, there was a very blonde very tall, very handsome Swedish guy who eyed me for 2 or 3 nights on stage. I finally went over to meet him. he had a thick accent, and we went to a late dinner. Lunch the  next day, and dinner again. He said he was in town for the week. we spent every day and night of the rest of his stay.

On the last night of his visit, he said I was so nice and he felt so badly about lying to me. I said “Oh no , you aren’t married?” He said “No, worse, I’m American. I only pretended because girls go for it.” I was livid. I could not believe how stupid I felt. It was a long time before I dated on the road again. In fact shortly after that, was when Jorge and I started looking at each other in a different way, and got together.

Being on the road is hard enough but being a woman on the road is murder. I can’t believe I survived it.  I read a lot of books, met a lot of kooks, but also some very nice people. In Memphis Tennessee, I dated a really cute younger guy who I would fly back to see on my days off. He looked like Paul McCartney and was so nice and really fun. So, the road was good, and the road was bad. But it made me the person I am, and gave me the stories to tell here on my blog posts!  The road was great after I had a partner , in Jorge,  before that it was awful!  Thank goodness, We are still good friends. forever. 

Mr. Hefner, working for your organization was heaven, and I miss the clubs, the shows, and the bunnies. This is a new era and superior venues for musicians are few and far between. I miss living in the Playboy hotels a bit. Takes me back to write about it. Thank you Irving Arthur who booked us, if you are still with us. Thanks to all the agents, Bobby Morris, who kept me working my entire young life.

Jessica Marciel
Las Vegas Vocal Training

My chance encounter with Don Cornelius

Don Cornelius

Don Cornelius

Soul Train - Don Cornelius

Soul Train – Don Cornelius

I have been very fortunate to have traveled, met with, and hung out with people from Janis Joplin to Hugh Hefner to Frank Valli.The list is long.

One evening in 1975, I met Don after my gig at the Chicago Playboy Club. This tall man, with a big afro was in the building!   I was with the band members at a club after hours.  I was single and the guys were nice to let me hang out with them.   Everyone knew who Don was, and then there he was. He was coming my way and started a conversation.

Not a typical pick up line… I’ve heard a few. Since I was with some of the guys from my band Commonwealth,  it was more of a “Are you with anyone?” I explained that we were a house band at Playboy and I knew who he was.

chicago-pizzaWe didn’t dance, I am not a drinker. I seem to remember he wasn’t a drinker, either. We sat and listened to the music, and we clicked a little.

Don and I stayed for hours. In those days, one stayed out all night, slept all day, and then went to work in the evening. We were hungry and he said, “I know the best deep-dish pizza place and it’s open all night.” I felt safe with Don and told my band mates where I was going.

We went to this crazy crowded pizza place, and ate until we were in pain! Don and I talked about Soul Train moving to Los Angeles, but he considered Chicago home so kept a penthouse apartment. He asked if I would like to see it before I went to my hotel. I said “Yes, of course I would love too.”

We had a lovely time, and I wasn’t sure where it was going?   We just visited the penthouse apartment, and enjoyed the spectacular view. I remember the furniture like it was yesterday. It  was white and beige, and immaculate. I stayed awhile and we talked about the history of music.  He wanted to know about my record contract as a kid, and about the Show ;Hair’ that I was in.  He was fascinated by that.

chicago-at-nightAs I started to tire, he said, “You are welcome to stay or I will take you home.” I said I should go home, as the band had a whole night ahead of shows at the club. He drove me back, kissed me on the cheek, very sweetly, and I asked him to try to come and see us.  He did not, and that was ok.

I have never forgotten my one night of intelligent, lovely, conversation with this entertainment icon. To hear of his suicide, was both sad and shocking.

I am one of the lucky ones. I spent a lovely night in Chicago with this fabulous, interesting, and soft-spoken man.

Rest In Peace Sweet Don. I will never forget your kindness, your manners, and your role in American musical history. Bringing Soul Train, its guest performers, the Soul Train Dancers and the Scramble Board had a tremendous impact on a generation… and then some.

Love, Peace & Soul!

Jessica Marciel
Las Vegas Vocal Training

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