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Johnny Echols



October 15, 2005

In the summer of 1966__ LOVE, along with Big Brother and the Holding Co. were playing a three-night “gig” at the Where House in San Francisco. At one time a functioning warehouse, it was now a trendy “night spot” though the layout was somewhat unorthodox.

Normally the dressing-rooms, in a venue were placed a (good) distance from the stage, allowing “performers” the opportunity, to relax or meditate before (going on) without being overwhelmed, by the sound of the on-stage “act.” Such was not the case here, the dressing rooms at this place were directly behind and below the stage, with only a cloth partition, separating the “huge” voice of the theater loudspeakers from, “us” giving rise too a volume level, that was truly “mind-blowing”.

The bar was also in a separate part of the club, well away from the dance floor__an attempt__ too deny those who were “underage” access too alcoholic beverages.

Janis Joplin had only recently joined the group, so this was my first time “hearing” her, let me tell-you__the lady had “pipes” she could “blow!” For sheer amplitude and sound pressure produced, she was “untouchable”.

Arthur and I, along with Bryan and Kenny__decided, too put some distance between us and the sound system, by “hanging-out” at the bar, rather than engaging in a futile attempt, too relax in our assigned space.

The four of us were sitting at a table “tripping” when out of the blue, we were joined by an uninvited “guest” who just sat down and started talking. He was a service man, stationed in Vietnam__who after becoming tired of all the killing and mayhem, decided__too leave, (meaning he was AWOL).

At first we thought the guy was going to cause problems, because he was so aggressive, in the way he presented himself and how much he seemed to enjoy shocking us, with tales of death and gore.

His whole “Persona” suggested someone who was entirely at-ease; with the role he was “forced” to play! I for one, was not altogether sure he was being honest, concerning his (stated) reasons for “leaving” the fighting, however that was just my opinion!

We were told of how blood, from all the wounded men, would flow to the ground, forming “puddles” and when this blood, mixed with mud, it would turn the color gray.
He also spoke of how dying men, when trapped under “sniper fire,” would sometimes call out the names of their mother and father or relatives and friends. Or how they would shackle, their Vietcong prisoners together, so they could keep them under control. Those vivid descriptions, brought the reality of “War” close to home__too close as far as I was concerned!

All of us were rather intrigued, by the way he would casually reference biblical passages such as “In My Father’s House there are Many Mansions,” while relating stories of “unspeakable” savagery and still remain certain, that he would be among those, who were going too Heaven and would walk along “streets paved with gold.”

What we (all) thought was going to be a real “bummer” turned out to-be, a very “enlightening” conversation; with a most interesting person, (it goes to show you never can tell)!

Within a year and a half, Arthur would “forever” memorialize the words of this young soldier, in one of My all-time favorite LOVE songs “A House is not a Motel”.

Just another day in the life

Johnny Echols