Home/ Flat tops/  Arch tops/  Pictures/  Inventory/ Music/  Current/
Bruce Sexauer's Musical History: the Transitional Years

In October of 1977 I moved from Vancouver back to the United States and settled in Mill Valley, California. There was hot music scene and the people in the house were very involved, and there seemed to be plenty of opportunity for me. I came to realize that there was a good old boys aspect to it though, and as I was essentially competition, I was not made to feel very welcome, though they were polite. I rented a house in Larkspur, a few miles away, and invited my favorite players down from BC. Got Val Dean (fiddle/guitar) and Shelly Kantrow (bass) to come and we looked for a drummer until Shelly got tired of it and then we looked for a bassist until Val got tired of it and then I looked for a new life style.

Knocking on restaurant doors for a gig found me a bar to build and then play music in during the evenings as a single. This was Andalou, a classy California Cuisine joint in San Rafael, a few miles further yet from Mill Valley. After a short stint of sleeping in the office above the restaurant, I got a decent place to live in Fairfax just a few more miles from Mill Valley. Lloyd Stout, a talented bassist and singer/songwriter lived nearby and we got a little jazz/pop duo going and playing around. Val came back to town for a while (He shows up every year or so ever since for a week or a month at a time) and we happened to visit Mabuhay Gardens, an SF punk-rock venue, on a lark and decided to play there. In ten days we had gotten a drummer (Peter Gusmano), a singer (Zoe Elton), written a set, recorded a demo, and gotten booked as "Vambo". And we got asked back! Peter didn't have fun so I called a fellow I'd met socially named Barry Jakowski, at the time a percussionist with the SF symphony, and we did the deed again. I think had I known the stature of Barry's reputation I'd have been too intimidated to ask. He played incredibly well for Vambo, and perhaps because of that went on to a successful career as a conductor of symphonies. When I listen to tapes of my musical endeavors, there is nothing that sounds quite as exciting as that protest motivated Punk band.

After a few months in Fairfax the lease holder moved on, I took over the lease, and moved into the master bedroom. This room had it's own entrance from the back garden, and this entrance was an enclosed 8' x 8' porch with openning french doors on opposing walls. Just big enough, then, for building guitars, as my only stationary tools were a 12" bandsaw and a bench top drill press. I worked in there for a year and a half, and made a number of very nice guitars, including my own FT-16. During this time my music was confined to three restaurant gigs for meals and tips. 'The New Belgium" Cafe gave me breakfast on Sundays, and dinner often came from "The Arbor" in San Anselmo, or "Mountains are Mountains" in Kentfield.

In Canada I had known a leathersmithe, one Davy Joel Ripner, a couple of years my senior (which can mean something at 25) and well respected, at least by myself, who I heard to be living in Sausalito. I got his address and finally found him just as he was moving on to some land in Humbolt County. He was living in a semi improved basement on a private beach, one of only four such houses in the entire town. And he wondered if I might know of anyone who would be interested in living in the place in exchange for one or two days a month spent on moving up from "semi" to actually improved. This project lasted for eight years, at which point Bill Row, the owner felt that it had become a luxury apartment, and moved in. Musically, this is the era of "the beat cave".

I had originally met Marshall Virello as a 17 year old visiting his older brother Dave, then living on his sailboat in Gibsons Landing, BC. Dave and I were into some music back then, but that's another story. Now 30, Marsh was operating a rehearsal hall business in Sausalito, and was in the habit of having a party there almost every friday night. This went on for over twelve years! Generally, the mode was R & B, and an amazing number of players, local and otherwise, would be liable to drop by. There was a core group, including myself, who could all but be counted on to be there on a regular basis. There were always more guitar players than neccesary, and so I reconciled myself to the bass most of the time. Thus I actually got to play almost nonstop. One true thing; if there was ever a time when I was not solid in time (there was), that was long ago, and I thank the beat cave for that.

more to come