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Provostian Moments Vol. VIII: Gene Clark

25 Apr

What did DAVIE ALLAN & THE ARROWS, THE DWIGHT TWILLEY BAND and THE DREAM SYNDICATE and all have in common? Bassist Dave Provost, that’s who. Who has played in musical aggregations with the likes of AL GREEN, SKY SAXON, and KATHY VALENTINE? Dave Provost has.

Dave is a kind of rock n roll Zelig, somehow popping up at all the crucial turns and twists in LA rock history during the past 4+ decades. Over the years his formidable musical & rhythmic chops got him seats next to some seriously world-class musicians, while his gregarious, outgoing nature had all the rest inviting him to their after-gig parties. And now, he’s now spilling the beans about it all, starting with this post.

This is really, really good news to those of us who appreciate just where this man’s walked and rocked in his lifetime. So please: do take a seat at the feet of Mr Dave Provost for a spell, and follow him in his search for lost rock n roll time.


Gene Clark in the Ozarks

ene Clark had always been a hero of mine.  He was from many different places depending on which day you asked him. Gene was blessed with a god-given voice that landed him in the New Christy Minstrels, and after having been inspired by the Beatles, he became the primary songwriter for the very influential group the Byrds. A lot of praise has been bestowed on this band that I cherish, but the original five members had a dangerous friction, and Gene was their first defector.

When my long time musical sister, Carla Olson, asked me to play with her and Gene, I jumped at the chance. The duo had a new album that Rhino Records had just released. Their live shows would also feature acoustic versions of his Byrds catalog. The late Duane Jarvis was on mandolin and electric guitar.

I had first met Gene years earlier at Barney’s Beanery in West Hollywood, where he drank me under the table as he sat next to me at the bar. I always appreciate someone who is more pathetic than myself. It was mostly congenial small talk at first, and he couldn’t believe my memories of his old Whisky a Go Go matinees; I had seen him with “Gene Clark and the Group” three times. But when the subject turned to the Byrds, he became belligerent. There was very little grey area with him, and he was often his own worst enemy.

A sober Gene Clark was a miracle to behold. Our living room rehearsals were relaxed, and Gene’s voice had aged with a rough patina that made his new songs like “Del Gato” sound like they were being sung by an old ranch hand. The four of us all held the same belief that less is more. Simple elegance was Gene’s strongest suite. The demos that we recorded in Gene’s house really should be released, since our Silhouetted In Light album was nowhere as good.

I didn’t always respect Gene’s opinions, but I sure as hell respected him as an artist. Anyone who can make a bass player cry during a song is alright in my book. “Set You Free This Time” was my favorite of Gene Clark’s songs.

The last time that I saw Gene he had been in a horrible car crash. He had always been an insane driver, but this accident happened on his way home from being inducted into the Rock And Roll Hall of Fame. He really did have an intense fear of flying. He was missing teeth, but he was happier than I’d ever seen him. Gene had patched things up with the Byrds, and he had even gotten a great big hug from David Crosby, which meant more to him then all the money in the world.

On May 24th 1991, I had just returned home from a European Droogs tour when a friend, who produced NBC news, called me to borrow a record. My childhood copy of the Byrds’ Turn Turn Turn was seen by millions in a segment on the passing of a boy from Tipton, Missouri. The very mortal Gene Clark.

– Dave Provost