following interview excerpts concentrate on Carl's Sunset Strip years
in the 60's.
"...and then after I was (in LA) a year and a
half, two years, I met Vito. I was in Ben Frank's
(coffee shop on Sunset Blvd.) with my business partner Joe, we were
having lunch, and across from me in another booth were these three
good looking young girls and one of them kept staring at me. As we
were leaving the place I walked over to her booth and I said 'I
noticed you've been looking at me' and she said 'Yeah, you're cute'
and I said 'You're pretty cute yourself--how do I continue this?'
--So she gave me an address--she said 'I paint at this studio. If
you come there and the door is locked, knock on the door or use a
key on the door and someone will come and open the door.' I
did it--I went down there with my business partner--this is '63--I
go there and it's a dress shop. Dresses and sculptures are in the
windows--this is at Beverly and Laurel...so anyway somebody
lets us in, we go down through the shop and go down some stairs, and
this place is all lit up with fluorescent lights and it's painted
like a Mayan tomb, Mayan things painted on the walls...it's a
school for clay models. One whole wall on the left was filled
with political satire--words about particular things--capital
punishment, something called 'the marriage'--newspapers in the
United States (peopled with) guys working for corporations. ...Now
Vito had classes there three nights a weeks in this modeling of clay
and his wife had this dress shop upstairs. She became, in the
60's, THE person of elegant things for freaks to wear. They all
bought their clothes from her and when we went out dancing you would
see these bright colored people. Women all wore see-through, no
panties, no bras--and that was it. She just wore a dress--you could
just look right through her—and that was it--(with) high heels or
My attire was tights and tops--stuff like that--flowing things. I
spent a long time checking Vito and his people out. It took me at
least 6 months to just go on a dance floor and even to go out with
them. We would go to Ben Frank's--there were huge booths, you had 15
people fitting into one booth--after Vito would have a class we
would go out and go to the restaurant. But we started going out to
nightclubs and dancing and then go to Ben Frank's. Our 'movement'
became really big. I remember coming in there at night after 11
o'clock and movie stars would be sitting at the counter--
Caesar Romero, Sal Mineo.
Carl: We don't have any
bands yet--we're dancing to a band about every 2 weeks or so called
the Gauchos from Fresno--a top 40 band and it wailed its ass
off." "See, right across the street (Sunset Blvd.) from Ben Frank's
was a building--Lenny Bruce played in this club--it was a strip club
upstairs, then downstairs was another club. It became The Trip.
The other club I don't remember its name but that where we used to
dance to the Gauchos. The one that Lenny's people vacated became a
rock 'n' roll club. It didn't last very long. Then they opened The
Someone came to Vito and said 'Listen we know about this band (the
Byrds), it's a really good rock 'n' roll band and they need a
place to rehearse. Are you interested in letting them rehearse in
your studio?' And he said 'Yeah, I let people come in the daytime
when there's nobody around and they can rehearse.' So these guys
were a little bit different and they said 'We like to rehearse in
the evening.' The first time they were supposed to do their
rehearsal they never showed up. Vito said 'If you guys pass my
muster I got a gig for you.' So they didn't show up.
So McGuinn, I don't think he was there, but he heard about it.
So he decided, well, let's go. The only thing that had happened to
them before that was they had taken a station wagon and had gone up
to San Francisco and they had played a gig in a club. After the gig
they put all their stuff in the station wagon, they parked it
somewhere, and somebody took everything--even the tires. Ripped off
all their equipment. That was pre-us."
John: "At that time had the Byrds had records out yet?"
Carl: "No. They were trying to get it together. And in the
end they fought so much--in the end they used professionals. Don't
ever think they were the Byrds because they used professionals."
John: "You mean like Hal Blaine on the drums?"
Carl: "Yeah. Whoever. And the tracks--those guys did
something like 72 takes to get one track done.
John: "Because they were perfectionists?"
Carl: "No, because they hated each other. (Producer)
Dickson was there and they'd have fights with each other and
Dickson would hit them...so the Byrds had just gotten ripped off,
they were depressed, living in a cold water flat, they had a couple
of groupies that would visit them, they were Beverly Hills
kids--most of them were from Beverly Hills.
Crosby was still doing minstrel work, so were the other guys—except
Michael was a drummer that was on the beach, Venice beach. They had
all worked out of the Troubadour. But they were all depressed
guys, they had just lost all their equipment, but the company was
gonna buy 'em new stuff, it doesn't matter. All of them were fine
musicians, David Crosby used to do solo stuff and I went to a club
he worked one night and heard him. You knew they were talented guys;
there was no question about their talent. They just didn't
other. They had so much ego going, so much ego bouncing around those
John: "Who were they guys with the biggest egos?"
Carl: "It was David Crosby, of course. He wasn't the
leader. Jim McGuinn was--I call him Jim because I knew him as Jim.
He changed his name to Roger for what reason I don't know."
John: "So it would be McGuinn and Crosby, essentially,
fighting all the time?"
Carl: "Well, I think it was all of them, y'know. Gene
Clark seemed to me like he could kick ass, too--and he was from a
southern state like Tennessee or somewhere like that so he wasn't
gonna take any shit."
So Vito told them that night 'OK, I got a place in mind that I can
rent and we'll do a dance. Now, who's hangin' around that place were
some freshmen and sophomores from Fairfax High School. They always
came to Vito's. By that time I had an apartment upstairs. It was an
old theater, it was like on the roof and it was like a penthouse
apartment. I painted the place and got new furniture...so when the
Byrds came over there Vito gave them a gig. The gig was on Melrose
Avenue where all the shit is happening today. Y'know, if you go to
LA the street is Melrose--all those clubs and boutiques and
restaurants. There was a store in front and you went around in back
and you went upstairs and there was like a church scene up there. It
was not a real church but somebody had rented it and put in pews. So
Vito went up there, checked it out, rented it, we put up posters
around, word of mouth--200 people showed up, from those teenagers.
The Byrds and another band--I don't know who the other band was. A
dollar and a half at the door. Vito made placards all over the walls
in that place, he had tacked up 'Stop The War In Vietnam'—now this
is '64. Nobody was saying shit like that. Because of us, later on,
the Fondas took it up, and Jack Nicholson.
So it was a successful dance, everybody was happy, everybody talked
about it. And then the Byrds said, as they're on the stage,
'Tomorrow night we're starting at Ciro's. If any of you can
get in the door at Ciro's you're welcome to come." Well, we brought
15 people and we went to the door and they let us in. Walk into this
room of Ciro's on Sunset Boulevard--next door today is The Comedy
Store--I don't know if we paid at the door, it was a red room, the
Byrds weren't on yet, it was a discotheque, a woman playing
discotheque music--we got in there, the place was packed. She
started playing his black music, soul, nobody got on the dance
floor. I said 'what's going on here?'--because everybody in the
clubs would get up and dance to whatever in between bands and that's
what we did.
But for some reason--I didn't have any partner at the
time--no woman partner--I just went on the dance floor, and I
started dancing. I did maybe one song, then I saw Vito and Sue and a
couple of those dancers come out and about that time you could see
the Byrds get onstage and by the fourth song--beautiful dance floor,
raised dance floor, big, large, very large--the dance floor was
Byrds are up there, they're tuning up, didn't tune up very long, and
they got down and that place from then on...the thing about it was
that it had lighting that was advantageous for the band and the
people. They could SEE each other. You're scoping out somebody on
the dance floor and because there's so many people on this dance
floor dancing you realized who you were dancing next to. Now
everyone of the young movie stars at that time--Sonny & Cher,
Sue Lyons--were in that room because they had heard about what had
happened. The teenagers couldn't get in there because they were too
young. But they had heard from the young kids and the word got
around that this was a hot band--'get over there!' There was a merge
there--people were dancing with each other—it didn't matter--you
just to get out there and do that thing with these guys that played
this fantastic, crazy music.
Vito said before he died 'THAT was THE band. The dance band
of the 60's was the Byrds. To me it was a revolution. No
white band had ever done that before. If it boiled down to it, the
Gauchos were really a better band and gave a better rendition and
you could go crazy with their music because I remember going to that
club--The Trip was downstairs--and dancing on tables you got
so fucking frantic. And what are they playing? They played 'La
Bamba' like nobody played 'La Bamba'. I heard it with them
before I heard Ritchie Valens.
The Byrds music was comparable--their music for dance was
comparable, in a red room...so Vito said to them 'Listen, I want to
do a second one in about 2 months. Will you do a second thing for
John: "At this point they still don't have records out?"
Carl: "They're on the verge of 'Tambourine Man'. Maybe at
their second stint there (Ciro's) you see Dylan showing up and he
plays with them.
So he (Vito) put on the second one and he got
busted for it."
John: "In that place like a church?"
Carl: "Yeah, same place. The cops busted them. I had left the
building. Within 15 minutes of me leaving the building the police
came in there and said 'This is an illegal dance. I'm citing
you'--gave him a citation, he had to go to court. He pleaded nolo
contendre. The judge gave him a suspended sentence and said 'You
will not do a teenage dance again in Hollywood.'...but we tried to
rent 'Moulin Rouge'--it was at Vine and Sunset Boulevard. There's a
place that's been there for years that's a rock'n'roll place. They
did 'Queen For Day' (ancient TV show) there and a lot of other
So we tried to rent that and the guy accepted Vito's money, 400
bucks, we had some bands in mind--around that time we were starting
to dicker with Frank Zappa. Maybe right before Frank Zappa. Well,
what happened from Ciro's and this dance at which Vito got busted is
the Byrds said to me 'Now that we have an album out we want to go
out into the hinterlands and we want to exploit this thing. Do you
want to go with us?' So I said 'yeah' so I went to Vito and I told
him and Vito said 'I can't go. I got my business and I have to take
care of whatever.'
VITO & CARL - COTATI, SONOMA COUNTY, CA
May, 1992 (5 months prior to Vito's death)
JIM DICKSON & THE BYRDS
A jazz buff and
Jim Dickson was in the right place at the right time during the
early '60s folk-rock boom of L.A.
A part-time engineer at
by the time Dickson met the fledging Byrds he had already recorded
hip comedian Lord Buckley as well as started his own publishing
company by launching Dino Valenti's "Get Together"
into hit status.
access to World-Pacific at night, Dickson began recording the
folkies who played at the
such as David Crosby, Gene Clark and Roger McGuinn. After the three
singers assembled a backing band (Chris Hillman on bass and Michael
Clark on drums) Dickson became their manager and, through his show business
friends such as Jack Nicholson and Albert Grossman, he created a grass roots following
around the band that was able to catch the attention of radio and
record industry heavies.
Acting as the Byrds producer
for both Fifth Dimension
and the 1970 untitled release,
Dickson remained loyal to the members of the group when the Byrds
splintered, producing albums for the
Brothers as well as both Gene Clark and Gram Parsons.
AMG Artist ID
Year Album Artist Credit
1966 Freak Out! The Mothers of Invention
2001 Preflyte Sessions The Byrds Liner Notes
2006 Mofo Project/Object [4 CD] Frank Zappa Guest Appearance
2006 Mofo Project/Object Frank Zappa