Thursday, May 29, 2014

The Haight-Ashburies

The Haight-Ashburies

This week I hooked up with my old friend from 7th grade whom I will name here as Jesse Winchester.  We hadn’t seen each other in decades. (Please don't the math; yes, I’m probably older than you).

Back in our running days, we cut school  incessantly, sometimes for a week at a time. We were what they called "incorrigible." We would change our school clothes for hippie garb that we brought along in brown paper bags and change at the SF bus terminal. I had an olive green embroidered Mexican dress with bell sleeves and wore beads and leather sandals.

It was spring, and I can still smell a sickly sweet odor of ornamental cherry blossoms like incense.  It brings me right back to that place and time, even now.

We were somewhere in the Haight, and we scored some acid on the street --you could do that in those early days.  We were starting to feel it as we slowly made our way up  toward the park, and somewhere between Shrader and Stanyan, a man came up to us and said, “You girls better get out of here.  Martin Luther King’s been shot and there’s gonna be a riot.”

It was hard to believe that on peace and love street anything so violent could happen so suddenly, but unbelievably a few minutes later a whole group of black kids came furiously running out of the park on the south side of the Haight.  They were smashing all the windows and going crazy.

We got on the bus to go back home and sat in the back.  Jesse was crying.  I saw all the old faces on the bus turn around to look at us.  “Jesse, you have to maintain,” I told her.  “Jesse, maintain...”

So there we were 45 years later on the same stretch of street.  It was night, and we just parked there  and looked around.  Looked it up on our smart little phones.  Yes, it was April 4, 1968.

Wednesday, November 6, 2013

Jenny Kerr - Time is a Highway

Howdy Hi there, Friends and Neighbors,

 This is a special notice today, but first we’d like to thank everybody for your kindness and generosity in making our recent Kickstarter campaign a big success.

And today we’d like to share with you one of the cool projects that we were able to fund, thanks to your largesse.

So without further ado, we would like to announce the world debut of the very first official music video, “Time is a Highway” from the new CD “Head of Fire."

The video was created by a very talented young videographer by the name of Vanessa Hellmann. It was shot entirely on location in San Francisco, in Golden Gate Park, the Great Highway and the Marin Headlands overlooking the Golden Gate Bridge. It is a beautiful love letter to everyone’s favorite city, San Francisco.
Here is a link to the video:

We certainly hope you have as much fun viewing it as we had making it, and we would also like to give you a call to action.  After you see the video and fall in love with it as we hope you will, please, take the next steps: Subscribe, Leave a comment, and Share the video to every music lover that you know via Facebook, Twitter and email. And just maybe, we can make it go viral as the kids say.

Friday, July 26, 2013

Okay, okay, okay, already!

So much news and so little time... And my new manager, Billy Cohen, over at Labyrynth Productions , is kicking my butt into gear. Yes, he's from New York with a degree in English and a degree in business from Columbia and was on the wrestling team.
So, of course he's gonna kick my butt.  He's the perfect manager. 
First, announce the two cool shows coming up. (Okay, Billy!) 
This Wednesday at Pasta Moon in Half Moon Bay, at 6:30 pm with bass virtuoso James Whiton (Tom Waits) and Marisa Martinez (Eric McFadden) and Philbillie, of course. I hear this place has been turned into a lovely music venue with great sound. No cover.

Our first show here: Sunday, Aug. 4th at 11:30 AM. Brunch at the Fenix, which appears to be an absolutely gorgeous supper club and again, no cover. 
And I don't know if you heard but on September 21 at the Uptown Theater in Napa, Philbillie and I are so excited to be opening for one of my all-time heroes, Dr. John.

All this got crossed off the to-do list:

1. Made some jewelry and trinkets to go with the music. Weird, funny things, Banjo Cat pendants, Mona Lisa with banjo rings, cufflinks, bolo ties, one-of a-kind Western shirts with cats and banjos.  T-shirts too.Check.

2. Started an Etsy store with said trinkets called Jenny KerrFuffle - Offhand Oddments and Oddities. Like the name?

3. Getting ready to do a Kickstarter promotion, ‘cause it doesn’t look like the labels are exactly jumping at the chance to take on our new CD (“The numbers just don’t add up,” was the general response). So here we come, Kickstarter. Check.


4. Philbillie’s got the Okey Doke Records website up and running. Check.

5. Release the CD!  Oct. 19.  Double check! No, no, no, not the Kraken, the CD. 
Release the CD!
Our ship has come in.

Tuesday, May 28, 2013

What’s Really Happening Now –or the Real Reason I did my Own Cover Art--

Okay, I’m gonna tell you all how it really happened.  It’s a pretty extraordinary and circuitous story, some of you might think I’ve finally cracked, but maybe some of you might relate and it might help…

All right, so I have a friend, Joel,  I’ve know for 35 years who used to be an upper-echelon international banker, quite a brilliant man, and then he became a healer, like a really great healer, Chinese shaman-type great healer.  He had a wife whom he adored, Alice, and she taught chi gung, and they were soul mates and lived happily for 35 years.

Joel's mother suddenly fell ill  and died of a stroke, and when he told Alice, who was very close to his mother, she had a heart attack instantly and also shockingly died.  So my friend lost the two people closest to him, 10,000 miles apart in one day.

After a while of being very lost without Alice, Joel consulted a well-known medium.  He had pretty jaw-dropping results, and it seems that Alice was explaining all sorts of things about the afterlife
to him.

So I decided to have a reading of my own.   It was a very safe, protected and loving feeling, not scary at all.  And it was a phone reading.  I’d never even seen the medium.  She asked, “Let’s see who’s there for you today…ah. Do you have a grandmother; was her name Louise?  Was she a musician?  A bit round? She’s showing me that.  Do you have a photo in the drawer of her with a musical instrument? She wants you to take that out because she likes to be remembered.”

Well, knock me over with a feather. There's no way she could have known any of this. She also asked, “Who is John?  I hear his name very loudly.  Who is John?”  And for the life of me, I couldn’t remember a relative of that name—that is—until I hung up and thought about it.  And then it dawned on me, it must have been my great-grandfather, John C. Lincoln, industrialist and inventor.

So I figured if old John C. had something to tell me, I better well listen, so I scheduled another session.

The medium described John C. physically, spot on, tall, thin, proud of his thick head of hair even in his old age.  He wanted to tell me that I should be much more creative, I should be writing more, and not just songs, teaching, and also definitely drawing my own CD cover.  And that I should invent instruments that would make me sound different and unique.  That I should start by thinking about what doesn’t work with the instruments that I use. 

It’s true that I have a banjo, slide and standard guitar on stage and how much less work it would be if they could be consolidated into one instrument.  Or even just the banjo and slide…it would make life so much easier.  I’ve been thinking how that could happen, perhaps a bridge that raises for slide and lowers for banjo.  But also, just as an aside, I don't think you have to do everything a dearly departed soul asks you to do after all, right?  I mean, he was an inventor, and of course he's going to tell me to invent stuff. I did, however, draw the cover and interior artwork for the upcoming CD. So I sat down and drew and drew
and drew.

The most important thing that I’ve learned from these sessions is that my task on this earthly plane is, as it is for most of us, to dissolve the ego.  I sure spent a lot of time trying to pump up my career, and it hasn’t done me any good, physically, spiritually or emotionally.  I was getting sick of the whole ball of wax.

This is what led me to rethink how I wanted to present my shows from now on.  I wanted to be more interactive, more generous and more collaborative and a little bit less about "me me me," and hence the Jenny Kerr "and Friends" format.   It just feels right right now.

I’ve been able to let the whole damn thing go. Hell with it. I don’t care anymore.  It is what is in
this moment, this small moment which is all we have.  My heart feels like a bird that’s been
let out of a cage.

Tuesday, May 14, 2013

Now we're really getting serious...

Guess what?  Oh yeah, there's a show, but also...

..after Lo these many years of doing everything ourselves, we are blessed to have a management team now.
Ladies and Germs, meet Colleen Kennedy and Billy Cohen of Labyrynth Productions. She was with Bill Graham forever and he has been a talent buyer forever, and they're great.  They do ginormous events like Bay to Breakers and the huge menorah lighting ceremony in Union Square.  Check 'em out at

They've got this brilliant eleven-year-old kid, Daniel, who builds cigar box guitars and plays drums, electric ukulele and keys.  We've been giving him a bit of coaching, so he's sitting in on some songs with us for our upcoming show June 8th, and we've been working on a song that he entitled "Stacked Up over Newark" which we plan to perform for the first time too.

We played the Plough and the Stars for the first time a couple of months ago and loved the venue.  Turns out it's a fun, down-to-earth Irish bar with a stage.  They have a long tradition as an acoustic music venue, and the usual crowd there is real supportive so we are doing an "and Friends" kind of show.  What I love about this show format is that I get to invite super-talented friends that have crossed our path and share these talents with our fans.

This time we are thrilled to introduce Diego "El Twanguero" Garcia who was the most killer player we heard at the Zihuatanejo International Guitar Festival where we performed this year.  And it's his first SF appearance!  You're gonna love it.  He combines Spanish styles with twang.  Pretty breathtaking, and, Ladies, he's not too hard on the eyes either.
Also we have the Keller Sisters.  Philbillie produced their EP here at Okey Doke Studios, and they've been getting quite a buzz (and not just from caffeine).  Between the fine songwriting and tight sibling harmonies, it's something you won't want to miss.

Now, along with all this other fun stuff, we have a sweet new line of merchandise.  I designed some cool BanjoCat t-shirts and several pieces of jewelry including rings, pendants and bolo ties.  We also have a grumpy cat, a banjo dog and some other odd images you'll have to see...

Also the website is updated and looks real fine.  Hey, we had to actually pay our webmaster, so go have a gander, will ya'?

So come out to the show on June 8th at the Plough and the Stars, 116 Clement St,.SF  9 PM for some good clean fun,

Thursday, April 4, 2013

Women of Zihuatanejo

Women of Zihuatanejo

 We just spent a couple of weeks performing at the Zihuatanejo International Guitar Festival which is held in a town on the southern Pacific coast of Mexico that if anyone's every heard of, it's usually in reference to the  "Shawshank Redemption." 

It's a great place; many retirees and vacationers and old hippies.  There has been a lot of new-age talk among the ex-pat gals about how Zihuatanejo was Cihuatlán or "Place of Women" referring to the western paradise of the Aztec Universe, the home of the “goddess women.” I think this may be more wishful thinking on the part of the invading gringas than reality.

No one knows anything for sure, but Jacqui, a friend I made who was actually born there, has an in with the local archeologist and the historian who provided a more likely explanation. When the Aztecs came to conquer the fishing village, all the men were conveniently out at sea.  So they called it “Place of Women.”

Jacqui reminds me what mofos the Aztecs were.  The conquered were used for human sacrifices and those parties could go on for days.   
But she also reflects on the Roman Catholic practice of mass as a symbolic form of human sacrifice.  Well, yes, I never thought of it like that.  Here’s the body and blood of Jesus Christ.  I guess we’re all pretty bloodthirsty at the end of the day. 

Jacqui told me the story of her grandmother that sounded like something out a García Márquez novel.

Jacqui’s grandmother, Mariana, and her grandfather, Ignacio, lived in a remote village in the brown scrubby hills high above Zihuatanejo called Vallecitos.  This woman bore him six children; however, they never exactly tied the knot.  This was not because of lack of wanting to marry; it was simply because the bishop, the Obispo, only came through the village once every six years, and when he finally came through and saw she had delivered children outside the sanctity of marriage, he refused to marry them.
Ignacio was a tradesman and purveyor of goods throughout the region.  Among his customers was a powerful hacienda owner who lived far away in the lovely town Guayameo, more than 250 miles from Vallecitos.  On one of those trips, Ignacio happened upon a beautiful woman with long black hair, the daughter of the wealthy patrón.   
He was love-struck and to his surprise, it appeared that his feelings were reciprocated; they fell in love.  He never mentioned his family in the village, however, when he asked the father for his daughter’s hand in marriage.
As news of the grand wedding spread throughout the dry hills like a high wind, Mariana got word of Ignacio's infidelity.  She had resolved upon a course of action, and procuring seven burros, one for each child and one for herself laden with a few carefully chosen provisions, set out upon the arduous trip on the rocky dust-choked road to Guayameo.
She and her children appeared before the patrón of the hacienda.  She explained to him, “I do not want to fight, I do not want money, I just want to know how I am going to feed these children if those two are to marry.”  In short order, the wedding was called off, and Mariana went home with her brood of children and burros trailing behind her.

When Ignacio eventually showed up outside his house in Vallecitos that evening, tying his horse to a tree, a bullet whizzed by his ear.  He stopped in his tracks,  then called to her, “I don’t want violence, I don’t want to fight.  I want to marry you,” to which she replied, “And why the hell would I ever want to marry a man like you?”  And that as they say was the end of that. 
Jacqui is points to her arms; it is that woman’s blood that runs through my veins, she proudly exclaims. Maybe there is something to be said about the women of Zihuatanejo after all.

She made me these cookies from this grandmother’s recipe.  Square, large and flat, like a saltillo tile, mottled like dry earth baked by the heat.  Not too fancy and not too sweet.  Just like I imagine Jacqui’s grandmother.

Tortillas de harina dulces de Mariana (see translation below)

2 tazas de harina
½ taza de manteca
1/2 cucharadita de polvo de hornear
4 cucharadas de azúcar
1/2 cucharada de sal
1/2 taza de leche

Se cierne la harina con el polvo de hornear y la sal y se le agrega el azúcar.
Se revuelve todo muy bien, se hace una montañita y en el centro se abre un hueco donde se pone la manteca derretida y se le agrega la leche necesaria para formar una masa manejable que se pueda extender con el rodillo.
Se divide en porciones que se extienden con el rodillo formando las tortillas, que se ponen a cocer en el comal.
No se voltean hasta que no tienen color, para que después puedan esponjar bien.

Mariana's Sweet Flour Tortillas
2 cups flour
½ cup shortening
1/2 teaspoon baking powder
4 tablespoons sugar
1/2 teaspoon salt
1/2 cup milk

Sift the flour with the baking powder and salt and add the sugar.
Stir everything well, and make a mound in the center, a make a well in the flour where you put the melted shortening. Add enough milk to form a dough that can is stiff enough to roll.
It is divided into portions and roll out with rolling pin and place on a griddle  to cook.
Turn when they begin to color , so that they can be puff up nicely. (I think this is what it means...J.)

Monday, March 11, 2013

A Gringa Like Me

Well I’m spending a lot of time in my room in Mexico now; I have a nasty head cold or flu something.  Maybe it’s dengue fever.  I hear they have that floating around out here. Anyway,  I’m still gonna play tonight.  My set is at 12:30 tonight.

We’re playing mostly for the expats down here, generally a wizened and ropey-veined  bunch of heavy drinkin fun-lovin’ retirees. And there are the volunteers who run around helping us all out.  

 In fact, one especially sweet lady, Jacqui, who was born here when it was a beautiful gringo-less fishing village, told me the real story of her childhood here, how her father took them out in the fishing boat and when they reached the rocks, he’d say, “Applaud, children!”  and all the hundreds of birds would fly when they clapped their hands.  Now that’s a real show.  That’s the show they should be having here.

It’s funny where we’re staying.  Not exactly comfortable for a gringa like me, but I’m getting used to it.  The overhead fan only turns at tornado velocity as if to want to blow me back over to my side of the border.  Evil fan.  Look.  It's spinning so fast you can't even see the blades.

Phil’s fan chirps.  Incessantly. Like a wind-up tropical bird playing and replaying the floor show of a Disneyland paradise.  Chirp.  Chirp. Chirp.  Next plane of tourists arriving.  Chirp.  Chirp.  Chirp.

Also there’s a weird big picture in a blood-red frame in my room of a baby with curly hair.  Did a family live here before?  Did the baby die?  Why didn’t they take the picture with them?  I’d love to take it down, but maybe the baby did actually die, and its spirit would be pissed off if I took it off the wall. Nothing worse than an angry dead baby.

As long as I’m on the subject of weird, in case you didn’t know, you’re not supposed to put toilet paper in the toilet here.  They say the pipes are really small.  Philbillie says with his indefatigable Philbillie logic, "It’s a third world country, what do you expect?”  but I just don’t get it.  Why would they put in a toilet that can’t handle toilet paper? Now you know in case you ever come down here.  You can thank me later.

And there's more weird in the bathroom, too.  The tile. It's like a gilded and marble Mafioso’s dream of bad-taste luxury, a bas-relief of gold seaweed, coral and bubbles encased in a ring of gold for vapid queen mermaid (that would be me) who to ponder mindlessly, mouth half-agape, as though she has something to say from astride her porcelain and plastic throne.

One last thing.  Can you say door knob warmer?

In the early morning hours when the roar of the diesel trucks and whining scooters have subsided, you hear the ocean waves breaking and loud birds I’ve never heard before, maybe some still left from when this place was a gringo-less paradise. Whoever needed a road, anyway, a luxury hotel, an Italian or sushi restaurant in Mexico?  Drug lords cater to the north American party animals.  Dead bodies lying in the road.  The green palms wave at me in the night.  Here’s what I think.  Everything tells me: gringo go home…