Interviewed on a lunch break at his work place where he was setting up a Saturday job.
I can remember seeing Elvis Presley on Ed Sullivan. He had a presence about him that was from ‘somewhere else.’ It was certainly my first inoculation into rock and roll, which I think was kind of an accelerant to the ‘60s culture. The Beatles – I still to this day blame the Beatles for everything. Without question. I believe I was in 5th grade when they came out. Me and [some other guys] put on Beatle wigs and makeup and did a concert at Washington Elementary and girls faked like they were fainting. We were really singing into a mike, singing along with the record player, and the drummer was really drumming. He said you couldn’t fake the drums. And I started guitar lessons as soon as the Beatles hit. I was in a rock and roll band by the time I was in 7th grade, and continued that all the way through college.
I’ve got to say that the music scene was where it hit for me. I mean, I was attracted to music early, but as far as the 60s go, I was neck deep in the music side of it. I honestly believe the music drove that culture pretty heavily. People gathered to hear music, people put the 8-track cartridges in their cars, bought albums as soon as they came out. It was a measure of where you were in the culture. There were different flavors of music, different veins, and the rock and roll thing and the psychedelic things and later on the pop thing, it all started pretty much with the Beatles.
First of all, the look was there. The Beatle haircut determined where you were, I mean, the length of your hair. There was a huge crisis about bangs. Yeah, I blame the Beatles. It’s their fault. I still have a Beatle mania. I’ve never recovered. I’ve been to many recovery programs. You can’t help me.
Of course [as far as politics go] I’ve been involved personally in a family way with politics since junior high school. Actually going door to door, putting bumper stickers on cars, handing out literature and propaganda, doing barbeques and catfish fries and town hall meetings, stuff on the courthouse steps all over the state. I rarely did any protests. I was in the middle of politics and fortunately I felt like we were all on the right side of the fence. We were all pretty liberal. My entire family was very tolerant of the ‘60s culture.
I worried about getting drafted for a few months before the lottery. I was naive enough to believe that good things would happen to me because I was basically a good guy. So I didn’t worry about it too much. And then when my number was like 250 or 275, it was off the scale as far as there being any danger, so it was the luck of the draw for me on that, that I didn’t have to face it.
The drug culture was intertwined with the music business pretty heavily, so I was aware of it early. Some of the more famous acts at the local clubs were known to have brought some stuff that they were traveling with – mini-whites, truck driver stuff. One of the guys that I worked with – a rock and roll star – claimed that back then even in the early ‘60s that cocaine was $100 for a kilo and nobody really cared that much about it, even though it was available. I don’t know about the pot.
I say this to my children, and I honestly believe it – I probably wasted a lot of time I didn’t need to waste messing around with drugs. I was a funny guy, a good guy, a typical young hellion, but I often think that if I had to do it over again, I probably wouldn’t have engaged as heavily as I did in the drug world. Then again, I was young and didn’t have responsibilities. It was something that was going on, and it was exciting because it did change the way you look at things. It mostly made you excited in a cerebral way. It would depend on the drug at hand, and the time and the circumstances that you had chosen to place yourself in. For the most part, it was something to look forward to and there was a kind of ‘getting away with it’ mystique about it.
I do think that it was pretty much a negative. I can’t say that I wouldn’t have evolved in my line of thought any differently. I’m not sure that I would have. I look at what I could have been doing, what I could have been working on, what I could have been excited about, and I find many more things to be excited about now than drugs. I feel like at the 45 mark you start feeling an urgency about the amount of time that you have to do things, and you’re a little more particular about what you do with your time. For me, I feel much more uncomfortable not getting something done with my time. Back in my teenage years and early twenties, even into my thirties, a waste of time was not a waste of time [to me]. I wouldn’t recommend it to anyone.
There’s no question that there was an alteration of reality in every instance, with everything I ever ingested. And there was an excitement about it. But as far as it being really illuminating, I’m not sure it really did that for me. I felt unquestionably illuminated during the experience, but being able to maintain that and to rechart the path that one experienced while under the influence was [not possible]. It just slipped away. It was kind of a window, a window that you hadn’t seen out of before, but once the experience was over, that beautiful window was a little more drab and not nearly as spectacular. I’ve thought that it just cranks up the watts of what’s going on inside you anyway. I mean, we all determine what we think is a clear thing for us to do, and we live that without thinking about it every day. The drugs were kind of a detour that involved higher wattage. A long way around to where you were to begin with.
I saw people hurt and crippled and dead from drug experiences. As the revolution continued, there were martyrs and sacrifices made by people that we all looked up to or followed. There was a point at which it was no longer beneficial. That's because it is its own entity, less of you, and less help to you.
I think we were very lucky to get away with it. Most of us. I don’t think you could do the same sort of things that we did back then, now. I think, first of all, you’d probably die of AIDS. Promiscuity, needles, all that. It was pretty prolific for me. Cocaine, heroin. Heroin is the best drug, by far, of any of them. It’s such a fine drug. Just a little tiny bit was a wonderful thing. I know many people who feel the same way about that, that of all the drugs, it’s by far the choice. With any of these drugs, if you allow it, they become the entity, rather than you experiencing the drug, the drug is experiencing you.
I enjoyed the drugs more than I did the alcohol. Cocaine is probably the worst for grabbing hold of people and me included. I saw a lot of people go away or ruin themselves because of it. These were people who were intelligent, beautiful, wonderful in company, conversationalists, contributing to the community. Now they’re not there anymore. They’re gone. And even those who survived are damaged. It’s real hard for me to recommend to anyone to go to drugs to get a broader view and a more rounded education of life.
Where back in late high school and college, one of the pluses on this thing was the mind expanding thing and taking a ‘trip.’ It was an experience thing. Now I don’t see that with people who are involved in the drug culture. It seems to be more of a six-pack attitude. It’s not a spiritual thing. I don’t know if reality made it that, where it’s no longer an enlightening thing, or what. I just don’t see that spirit. I think people acknowledge that there is something else going on, yeah, you could probably get glimpses of [spiritual enlightenment] through drug use, but I think the universe, the default sophistication now, is that all this [spiritual enlightenment] is available to us at any time at any moment that we chose to tap into it and it doesn’t take anyone or anything else to get you there. And I’m not so sure that wouldn’t have happened anyway.
I suspect that I’d be just as funny and just as smart and just as knowledgeable as I am now had I not gone through that. If nothing else, it may have dulled my capacities. It definitely cost me physical capabilities.
On the other hand, even though I couldn’t recommend any of what I’ve done to anyone else, I believe that all this shit should be decriminalized. I do think it’s a stupid waste of time, it’s left over from who knows when – prohibition stuff. I think part of the problem with the drug scene is the environment it’s been placed in. I do still believe that the pot thing is better than the alcohol thing. I don’t know that it really is, but I still prefer that. I’ve seen so many people hurt other people and get out of control and lose it and not know where they are on alcohol. You don’t get that fucked up on marijuana. If pot smoking was as widespread as alcohol is, openly, I may feel differently about it. There may be something about the pot thing, because it is suppressed, that it remains relatively hidden and a very private thing that makes it more attractive, because it’s not out there and you don’t have to deal with it. It’s rare when someone gets busted for driving under the influence of marijuana.
As far as my professional life goes, I’m still in the thick of all this stuff. I’m still heavily involved in the music business. I’m basically in the production business, and I produce many things now, not just music things – broadcast and theater. I like my job. I love this stuff. I wear many different hats. People bring things to me and I make their productions sound and look better. The audience is able to enjoy themselves more. I’ve gotten to a point where at times it’s for millions of people. At other times it’s for a few dozen. Really, I enjoy both extremes. It’s pretty rewarding. I do travel quite a bit.
I think the quality of life here is as fine as anywhere on the planet. Without question. I am a river guy. I like all the rivers that are around here. The air is still relatively clear here. I mean, compared to other places I’ve gone to work, other places I’ve traveled to, this is just a beautiful spot. There’s not much that I don’t like about it. I can remember when Fayetteville had 15,000 people. I don’t like the population explosion or any of that, but it’s really happening everywhere. It’s not just a local issue, it’s a global issue. Every community is experiencing this stuff. Maybe ours is a bit accelerated over others. I think also that the reason Fayetteville and this corridor is growing so fast is because people hear about it, come and see it, and sense it too, sense that there’s still pockets and hollers here you can set yourself up in, and be yourself.
Getting out on the river for me is probably my therapy. I prefer to be in the river. Usually, I’m in a tube that has a seat in it and I move with the water. I will canoe and boat and all that stuff, if I need to, but usually I like to actually physically be in the river, letting it carry me at its own pace. I generally try to do it where I don’t see anyone up or down river. It’s kind of a solitude thing. I am into sound, so I’m enthralled with the sounds that are silent. I fish. It’s not so much that I like fish. I certainly don’t eat much fish. I never keep anything I catch. But there is something about interacting with the fish that I like. It’s neat. We were in the country every weekend all through my life [as a child]. We had a cabin on the river by the time I was in junior high and I probably learned most of my river abilities there. Since that time, I go to the river whenever possible. It’s not very possible very much any more. I work a lot on weekends and it’s hard to get away in the middle of the week.
I suspect that will change. I suspect that I will probably buy a piece of the river and move to it soon. I’ve gotten to a point now where I have enough responsibility to really do whatever it is I really want to do. I have been tied to a nine-to-five for a decade now. There are deadlines. Excellence is expected.
Now I’m even more heavily involved with design. I do a lot of collaboration with architects and engineers now. We send blueprints back and forth. I’m getting into the building of things now, sound systems for theaters, auditoriums. I consult on acoustic design. That stuff is pretty rewarding. I’m going to start teaching next semester, sound design for theater, which I think is the most exciting sound field there is, really. It’s quite tricky, quite sophisticated and hard to do well. It’s the most challenging sound that I do.
What’s great is that my children listen to the same music I listened to when I was their age, which is different. The music that grabbed me in our young days was different from our parents. I find that all that music stuff is still valid, still listened to, still commercialized, and my children prefer it. It tells me there was substance to what was going on, that there is longevity there, and it was not just a stupid thing. It was a smart thing, we were tuned into it. Some of the culture has definitely stood the test of time, and there’s no way I can say that I went through that culture and didn’t carry some of it with me to this day.
Maybe tolerance is probably the greatest lesson from that culture. Being able to accommodate all different kinds of people and things. It was a personal thing. As long as you weren’t hurting anything else, it was an OK thing. Even my mother would tell me, as long as you’re not hurting someone else. She would add things like, never do anything you wouldn’t want everyone in the world to know you were doing, you know, which was hard to get around. Tolerance, and a sensitivity to the welfare of others. I was never vicious or malicious or anything to begin with – I do think maybe the culture challenged that in that it offered many opportunities for me to apply that tolerance. I was very heavily involved with nature, and anything that messed it up, I was quick to say, no, you don’t want to do that. But never an activist. Just recognized early the value of a healthy environment. I’d seen where people had clear cut, or dumped trash – even out here in these pristine ancient mountains you would find trash. No roads or anything. People have been everywhere. Being the Boy Scout I was, I bought the program to believe that you should leave the place in better shape than you found it.
I think the counterculture thing – it happened at a time in my life where I was going to be enlightened anyway. I was leaving home, growing up, becoming a man. I was going to make my own decisions anyway. It just happened to coincide with that change in my life. There was shit going on. I was an unusual case I think. I was in a rock and roll band, my hair long, I was captain of the football team, manager for the debate squad. I could talk around an issue. I bought the football team program. I was a head hunter. I enjoyed the contact, I hurt people. At the time, football was king. We had a great team. We were undefeated going into our senior year. We just ate it up. It was fun. I’m sure there was a macho thing about it.
The drug thing entered in football season during my senior year. My first experience was with Yellow Submarine at a drive-in theater, and the next morning I was on a bus going to Missouri to play a football game that afternoon. It was great. We always graded films [of our game] after a game, and the theory was that if you get your job done fifty percent of the time, fifty percent is a C. After that game, I scored like 96%. I led the team in return average yardage for the rest of the year, because I returned the opening kickoff and was still high as a kite. I was young. I could do that kind of stuff.