When I was 16 years old my life was a very different one from the one I live today and the reason was Howard Scott, the lead guitar player for WAR. While most of my peers were preparing for their real lives, I was living my dream life.
I loved Fillmore West and went as often as I could, one night while standing next to the stage and as WAR was exiting I pulled on Lee Oskar's pants and asked him for his phone number and address. Oh I was a bold hussy, and of course I never thought he would actually give them to me, but he did. I lived in the Bay Area and music was part of your DNA if you were anywhere from San Francisco to San Jose.
In the Haight you could pass by the Jefferson Airplane
house and you would know it, because it was painted black back then. Neil Young lived up in La Honda and we partied on his property all the time. Neal Schon
from Journey, well he went to high school in San Mateo until he was 16 and became a member of Santana.
Back in those days you could fly the red-eye from San Francisco to Los Angeles for a mere twelve or thirteen dollars: which I did either with friends or by myself. Armed with Lee Oskar's home address I decided to make the trip. Lee greeted me at his door with a look of sheer bewilderment mixed with fear. Once inside he introduced me to Kerri, his livein girlfriend. They went off into another room where I presume he had some explainin' to do. When they returned Lee collected his things and me and explained to Kerri that he was taking me to the airport on his way to his office.
What really happened is Lee took me to the WAR office, which if memory serves was on Wilshire Blvd. Don't take my word for that though, because we're talking over 40 years ago. That day the band had planned a promotional event. Their debut album WAR without Eric Burden was about to drop and they would be traveling in a tank through Hollywood with their music blaring. Lee introduced me to the band and Howard took an instant liking to me. We spent that afternoon with me tucked inside the tank, while the band members took turns popping out to greet fans, getting to know one another.
That day was the beginning of a two year affair that would include my closest friends getting a glimpse into the rock star life. We attended concerts with back stage passes. I'm actually on the background of one of their recordings on the All Day Music album. I had promo pictures taken from the photo shoots for album liners and wore a WAR medallion. I was there at Fillmore when Howard famously told Bill Graham from the stage to go "Fuck Yourself!" I was with B.B. Dickerson's wife at Whiskey A Go Go when Wilt Chamberlin sent one of his flunkies to ask her out. I was there the night that Howard's live in girlfriend shot at him after a show in Harbor City. That night Lonnie suggested they change the way the band was arranged on stage: leaving Howard on one side of the stage, and everyone else on another, just in case the old lady's aim wasn't that good. I was visiting Milton James, who wrote That's What Love Will Do: when he offered to introduce me to his neighbors a new band named Earth,Wind and Fire, I declined.
Eric Burdon and War were still a band when I originally met Howard, so I partied backstage with Eric before he departed the scene. Believe it or not, at seventeen I was older than his fifteen year old girlfriend that he had met in Mexico; and whose mother had given him her blessing to take her daughter. I recall Sly Stone being at the Far Out production office once while she and I sat in the lobby. He invited her to a party at his house, she asked if she could bring her brother, he told her yes. She then asked if there would be pretty girls at the party, he said yes again. Then she asked if there would be a pretty girl for her brother, with that Sly had had enough and fired back, "They'll be prettier than you!" and left in a huff.
Lee gave me a mission to give Mike Shrieve from Santana his home number. Lee and I became friends though I don't think Kerri ever really liked me. He told me that when he arrived from Denmark he stayed with Mike's family in Redwood City. Redwood City was just a couple of miles away from where my family lived so I looked up Mike's parents. I went with a couple of my friends who were music majors at UC Berkley, and my best bud Mary. Mike's parents were so warm and welcoming. They remembered Lee, and shared with me that they used to tell Mike he should practice more. Lee practiced obsessively and they knew he was going to be a successful musician, Mike not so much.
My plan was to give Lee's address to Mike's parents and my mission would be fulfilled. Instead his parents decided to call Mike who told them to send us up to his house in Mill Valley and get it directly from me. When we arrived at Mike's house he and Wendy Haas his musician girlfriend were in the midst of cooking a lobster dinner. They offered us some wine and Mike told me Lee Oskar stories. But the best part of the day would be that every member of Santana was there as well. Neal Schon was there, and Mary and I were his age, which meant it was probably one of the rare moments when he wasn't the kid in the room. My friends Glenn, Mary, and Paul were in a garage band, and they were well, speechless. Here we were with one of the biggest bands in the world, just hanging. Because my boyfriend was one of the leaders of WAR, I felt totally like this was where I was supposed to be. And for that moment in time, it was exactly where I was meant to be.