Posts Tagged ‘Al Feldstein’

“God, we give you Al…”

Sunday, September 6th, 2009

Feldstein photos from Dan Hull

Monday, July 13th, 2009

These photos of Al Feldstein were sent to me by Dan Hull. He added a beautiful note to the original memorial post; I’ll paste it in here as well.

Al and Luke
Al and Luke at the Lomita house circa 1991

Al in 1980
Al at my wedding day 1980

The Reptiles
I believe that Al was the happiest when he was playin’ in the band.

Caryn, all Al’s friends and loved ones, My heart goes out to you all. I’m still in shock and just kind of numb. Al and I were like brothers since we were about thirteen. We literally grew up together. We made our way through adolescence with a friendship and brotherhood that was true Americana. Emerson Jr High, the first boy-girl parties, going steady, hangin’ out at the student union at UCLA and on the beach each summer at Sorrento Beach. We thought we were so cool. Then it was Uni High, punks again. We played together on the C-Basketball team our first year. We went 12- 0, undefeated league champs. Wow. Not so much because of Al and me but because of Bobby Shamberg and Fred Sakomoto. Then 11th grade. Al’s in student government, getting A’s and I’m barely passing but we were still best buds. I fell in with the stoner gang while Al was more in the in-crowd. We still played a lot of basketball, saw a lot of rock and roll shows together. The summer between 11th and 12th grades my friend Mike Viscovich and Gregg VanAllen turned me on to the Dead. Then I in turn turned Al on to them but he put up a fight as Al would. He came around and that’s how we came to be Dead Heads. We were silk screening and wearing Dead T-shirts before you could ever buy them. We saw a lot of shows together throughout the years. Great memories. So many.

Then he was off to Cal. It was tough on me but I made a lot of trips up to see him. Hangin’ out with the Piedmont gang then to Etna listening to the Bobcats then the Reptiles upstairs at Etna. Al and I wrote a song together that was a main stay in the Reptiles repertoire forever. That will always mean a lot to me. [Note: That song, “Watchin’ for the Bear,” can be heard coming out of “Playing in the Band” here]

In 1980 I got married and the boys came down to LA to play. What a set. What a party. Anyone who was there will never forget it.

I’m skipping ahead but this is getting too long. Al and Caryn married and lived in Burbank. I fondly remember lots of afternoons by the pool. In fact, my son Luke (20 now) learned to swim in that pool. Then May ‘94 we moved to Colorado and I didn’t see Al much after that. We still talked on the phone frequently. He visited the house in Longmont once. Then the Reptiles came to Boulder. That was a special night backstage at a Reptiles show with Luke. Then up to the Devil’s Thumb Ranch for Steve’s wedding. Another just fantastic day of good friends, good cheer and good music. That was the last Reptile set I saw and I only saw Al once after that. It was last Thanksgiving. Fred Luke and I were out for a week at Hemet and Sierra Madre. Al was real busy while we were there but made a point to come to my sister Mutia’s house the afternoon before we left. We had a great visit. Al and me, Fred Luke, Mutia and my mom. It was like we had seen each other often even though it had been many years.

Al was a fine person and my best friend. I will miss him dearly. Thanks to David for putting this together and thanks to all of you for sharing your memories. I would love to hear from ALL of you, especially Richard Briskin, Steve Kirshbaum and Randi Kinsler. I’m not a computer guy, real cowboys don’t use computers. You can reach me at

PO Box 366
Hygiene, CO 80533.

May God bless you all. Dan Hull.

P.S. Come visit me. I’ve got a beautiful, peaceful quiet little ranch here in Northern Colorado.

Feldstein tribute on “Tales”

Friday, July 10th, 2009

Co-host Gary Lambert and I paid tribute to our departed friend Al Feldstein, on “Tales from the Golden Road” (on the Sirius XM Grateful Dead Channel) June 28. Here’s the audio (14:42 MP3).

Feldstein on Hornsby

Sunday, June 28th, 2009

I’m going through Al‘s WELL posts as time permits, in between my real work ‘n’ stuff.

He was a big Bruce Hornsby fan. Here are some of his remarks on the subject:

gd.old.148.39: Alan Feldstein (fiddle) Wed 26 Aug 92 09:07

The Bruce/No Bruce question has, unfortunately, been answered by Bruce’s absence. For my ears, there is no comparison between the shows he was there and those he was not. Yes, Vince feels his oats and plays better when Bruce is not there. But, the shows with Bruce are infinitely more exciting and musically interesting. Of all the shows he played, I have still yet to hear a “turkey”. Compare that to the band’s batting average without him! Maybe his best contribution to the band was keeping Jerry awake………..

gd.old.148.127: Alan Feldstein (fiddle) Wed 16 Sep 92 13:43

Hey, I never said Vince wasn’t good. In fact, he’s probably integrated himself into the music faster than any of his predecessors. But I STILL WANT BRUCE BACK! And, if it ever happens, would it KILL the group to let him sing one of his excellent original tunes in place of the 2,444,763,696,8932th version of Me & My Uncle?

gd.old.148.144: Alan Feldstein (fiddle) Fri 7 May 93 14:53

Hey, why should Bruce be so consumed with gratitude. It seems to me that he helped out the GD more than they helped him…

gd.old.193.174: Alan Feldstein (fiddle) Wed 11 Aug 93 07:13

Another great Bruce moment (sorry, I don’t have atape to document it) was at the 5/91 Shoreline show, I believe Saturday, where they were doing a transition from something-> Uncle Johns… Jerry’s rack crapped out and Bruce did a 4 or 5 minute intro into UJB that was just breathtaking…

gd.old.617.24: Alan Feldstein (fiddle) Thu 12 Aug 93 17:53

I’ve said it before in other topics, but, for me, 1991 was one of the all-time Dead years and I attribute it to Bruce’s energy contribution and excellent playing…if anyone has a tape of a BAD show from 91 please let me know, cuz I haven’t heard one yet….I DO like Vince’s playing a lot, and I think the band has generally played better in 93 than in 92 (okay, a lot better!) but, IMHO, it hasn’t been the same since Bruce left the band… end of soapbox rental…

Reptiles 10/4/96 UPDATED

Thursday, June 25th, 2009

We went to Colorado in October 1996 to play Steve Gayle & Mary Carol Cabibi’s wedding. Steve lined up a gig for us at the Boulder Theater on October 4 to help pay our travel expenses. Great wedding, great gig. Here are some highlights:

Scene of the Crime 3:34

Black-Throated Wind

An American Family->
Dust Bowl

Playing in the Band->
Watchin’ for the Bear

Night Crawl->
China Cat Sunflower->
Ramble on Rose

Sittin’ and Thinkin’->
Franklin’s Tower->
Midnight Moonlight->
Big River

Al wrote and sang “Scene of the Crime,” “Dust Bowl,” “Watchin’ for the Bear” (with Dan Hull), and “Night Crawl,” and he sang lead on “Black-Throated Wind,” “Playing in the Band,” “Ramble on Rose,” “Franklin’s Tower,” and “Big River.”

The Reptiles:
Al Feldstein, David Gans – guitar & vocals
Bob Nakamine – guitar
Tammie Horowitz – vocals
Steve Ramirez – bass & vocals
Steve Horowitz – drums

Feldstein in the WELL, part 1

Thursday, June 25th, 2009

I’m going through Al‘s posts in the WELL, my online hangout for the last 20+ years. Al was there for about ten of those years, and I am finding lots of fun stuff to post here.

The first Dead tape I ever heard was in Al’s apartment – Cow Palace ’74, a couple of weeks after it happened. What I remember most about hearing that tape was the was it captured the rattling of the whole building when Phil hit his note in the bridge of “China Cat.” Lo and behold, I found this in a post just now (I’m extracting Al’s posts for his family and to post some highlights):

deadlit.454.37: Alan Feldstein (fiddle) Thu 28 Feb 02 09:34

I was at the back of the floor for that show and the sound was astounding. When Phil hit the bomb on the E chord during the bridge of Chinacat it was like a lightning bolt out of the sky. Even though I have tapes I don’t remember much about the music except the Playing et al medley, but it was typical great 74 stuff. A great night!

From a discussion of the Dead’s 5-night run @ Winterland in October 1974, filmed for The Grateful Dead Movie:

deadlit.94.85: Alan Feldstein (fiddle) Wed 20 Jan 93 08:44

Went to all 5 of these and loved them all, especially 18th, 19th and 20th. Finally gittin some decent audience tapes this year but still no sbds. An interesting personal note (at least to my friends!). On 10/20/74 I took my last LSD trip. My reasoning, at the time, was that they were quitting so I would too. Well, at an early 80’s Greek show (I think 83) I somehow got hoodwinked into promising to take acid on 10/20/94 (the 20th anniversary) if the Dead were still touring! At the time I thought this was a commitment I would never have to meet. Well, as you all know, this is now less than 2 years away! And, by the way, do I get to extend the time given the 2 Garcia/illness breaks the band has taken? Every show I go to now one of my friends will say “only—more months left Al!”

Responding to a post by “Castle” about her first Dead show:

deadlit.125.76: Alan Feldstein (fiddle) Thu 21 Jan 93 09:00

… I stopped trying to turn people on to the Dead years ago because every time I took somebody the band played poorly. Of course, every show SOMEBODY thinks was great and SOMEBODY thought it was terrible.

You, Castle, might have a problem in the other direction. IMHO 12/16 was one of the best shows of 1992. Your next one is likele to disappoint to some degree.

PLEASE PLEASE let us know what you think of your next show!

And more interaction w/ Linda (castle) about the next run of shows in the Bay Area:

deadlit.125.83: Alan Feldstein (fiddle) Mon 25 Jan 93 15:26

Heard that last nite was pretty good, Castle. Are you the band’s new good luck charm?

deadlit.125.85: Alan Feldstein (fiddle) Tue 26 Jan 93 06:56

Good luck. Usually the spectacle of a CNY, Mardi Gras, or NYE is entertaining even if the show fizzles. By the way, it’s still possible to have a good time at at a GD show even if the band fizzles…

deadlit.125.92: Alan Feldstein (fiddle) Thu 28 Jan 93 09:09

Hey Linda, I bet you’ll run into somebody someday who will say that the show you thought was bad (I didn’t go but all my friends agree with you) was the BEST they’d ever seen! In my opinion, they’re all good AND they all suck!

And a few words about “The Days Between,” one of the last Hunter-Garcia compositions to enter the GD repertoire:

deadlit.134.57: Alan Feldstein (fiddle) Sun 30 May 93 14:56

Days [Between] is most unusual… it is a slow dirge, yet very gripping… I must say that the Vegas version was one of the most powerful GD moments I have ever experienced… it just goes to show ya what I have always claimed… in the GD universe, song selection means nothing… if they are gonna play good and show some interest it matters not what the tunes are… and when they are bad no combination of great tunes is going to save the show…

deadlit.134.59: Alan Feldstein (fiddle) Tue 1 Jun 93 09:34

I have mixed feelings about the tune, David…I can’t say I *LIKE* it, but I gotta admit it has become one of their strongest live tunes and that it has crept into my subconscious in a major way….I guess I like it after all!

From a discussion of “Jews and the Dead”:

deadlit.202.24: Alan Feldstein (fiddle) Sat 16 Jul 94 22:18

Well, there is either something to this or it is just an amazing coincidence. The numbers of jewish jeads is impossible to ignore. I’m jewish, but had about five minutes of religious training.. in fact, most of my religious knowledge comes from Charlton Heston movies and Dead songs!!

I was turned onto the GD by non-jewish friends and never realized the phenomenon until I started meeting heads in the seventies…

And this needs no context at all:

deadlit.306.79: Alan Feldstein (fiddle) Mon 10 Jun 96 10:39

Arguing about the ten best shows of 95, IMO, is a laughable pursuit at best. Kind of akin to to rating Pat Buchanan’s ten best social programs :-)

More recordings of Al & me (et al.)

Wednesday, June 24th, 2009

Fifty Miles from the Past” – The Bobcats at San Francisco State 7/5/74 – guinea pigs for a recording class. Not sure who’s on this other than Al (acoustic guitar and vocal), me (electric guitar), and bassist Ernie Yoshioka.

See the Light” – Bobcats at SF State 7/5/74 again. As soon as I find the June 1980 Reptiles set, you’ll hear what this song really sounded like.

It Must Be Love,” a Don Williams ballad. Al introduced me to the song at this session, in my apartment in Oakland on November 19, 1979

See the Light,” recorded in my apartment on 12/1/79.

An email from Al – UPDATED

Wednesday, June 24th, 2009

Note: I am going through my archive in between my regular daily tasks, and I will post three more of Al’s songs from the Reptiles days ASAP.

I mentioned earlier that my most recent contacts with Al Feldstein were emails he’d send after hearing “Tales from the Golden Road,” the talk show I co-host with Gary Lambert on the Sirius XM Grateful Dead Channel. Here’s what he sent us on April 6:

Am listening to the replay currently. Another good show. Unfortunately, I listen on Monday so I cannot call in. I have a few comments on this edition:

-PATIENCE-The girl who called in saying you guys were patient…. I was thinking the same thing. I could not put up with it. God knows how bad the guys who DON’T get on are!

-VINCE WELNICK-I was not a fan of his playing, but he is obviously a controversial figure. If you haven’t had him as a topic, it would be a good one.

-CLOSE ENCOUNTERS-Have you done a show on fans meeting the band?? I myself probably had two dozen brief meeting with band members, one in particular very memorable (a 100 minute one on one meeting with Garcia… it probably would have gone all day if I hadn’t BLOWN him off to go back to work!!)

-EYE CONTACT-One of the callers today talked about being close enough to have eye contact with the band. We have all experienced this, etc. One interesting thing was said to be my Kreutzmann:

During an 80’s Greek run we went out to breakfast Sunday at a coffee shop in Berkeley and Kreutzmann was in there eating with some folks. One of the people I was with knew some of Billy’s friends and we ended up joining them. One of us said that the previous night’s show was really good and he said, “You guys looked like you were having a good time.” I asked him if he meant the audience generally or us specifically. He said us specifically. I asked if he really recognized many people in the audience. He said “we know ALL of you guys”. I laughed and said, okay you were kidding. He said no, many of the Bay Area regulars that have been to 100+ shows are recognizable to all of them, which shocked the hell out of me. I still think he was ribbing me somewhat, but not totally.

I think this missive bears out the assessments of his style we’ve seen in the comments on my first post: He had attitude to burn, but it was backed with soul and substance.

I feel like a gigantic thread has been yanked out of the tapestry of my life; the whole damn thing is knotted and wrinkled today. We had our ups and downs, musically, but we were deeply connected and I really hate the fact that I’ll never hear from him again.

UPDATE: I found a followup in which Al expanded on his mention of “blowing off” Garcia:

This is a good one. So unreal that I have never told it in its full version. I did mention that I met him, etc., to some people, but not the details.

First, I had a couple of previous mini-encounters with him, the longest about a 10 minute conversation in Berkeley one day in late 71/early 72. We were both waiting outside Keystone Berkeley (me to buy a ticket to my first Garcia/Merl show, him probably to sound check or something). That conversation was totally sarcastic on both sides “are these guys any good”??…. ”I wouldn’t waste MY money on ‘em” and so on. I introduced myself, he introduced himself! I told him I KNEW who HE was, etc…. I have maybe had 3 or 4 other “meetings” that involved a hello, a nod, etc.

Anyway, THE CONVERSATION took place at the 7-Eleven store on Miller Avenue in Mill Valley. I would date it between Spring of 79 and summer of 1980. I was the District Manager for 7-Eleven at the time, and was standing next to the front counter doing some paperwork. The clerk was in the head and there was one customer in the store staring at the beer cooler. Jerry walks in to buy cigs and a candy bar ( I am sure this rarely happened that he walked in ANYWHERE alone in later years) and I tell him the clerk will be back in a second. He says no problem, he’s in no hurry. Then he looks at me and says, “do I know you”? I say “sorta… you have seen me at a zillion shows over the years, plus we have spoken a couple of times”. Then he drops the BOMB: He says “your name is Al, right”. I was absolutely stunned. Here is a guy who not only presumably has a lot on his mind, but met me ONCE for a few minutes EIGHT YEARS EARLIER. And I always thought he couldn’t even remember if he played Deal last night!!

Anyway, he buys his stuff and we walk outside and both light up smokes and he initiates a conversation with me. We spent the next 90 minutes or so essentially interviewing each other and going off on tangents. My 45 minutes was probably equally divided with ridiculous stuff that any idiot would ask and some decent questions about song selection, touring, improv, guitars, etc. The conversation ranged from the Dead to other music to guitar playing to sports to movies to politics, the hostages, Bill Graham, the bay area.

The most hilarious part of this meeting occurred in the last half hour. Both of our Bic lighters crapped out and we went to my car to use the car cigarette lighter (I am proud to say that after 40 years of smoking I stopped 6 months ago today!). I open the doors and he looks like he wants to set a spell, so I clean off the passenger seat which is stacked, of course, with Dead tapes, for him to sit down. I lift a handful and go ”Dead tapes”. He laughs. I then show him a few and ask him if he remembers any of these or any other shows. He says nah, only maybe the really unusually bad ones, the last ones and ones where very weird things happened.

Eventually, like an idiot, I excuse MYSELF because I WAS at work. I got the impression he had absolutely nothing to do (like Jay and Silent Bob in Clerks) and would have stayed there all day speaking to me. Not a wise decision to abort it probably. Who knows, maybe he would have invited me over to jam or something. Anyway, I wish I had a tape of this….. I can probably remember about 20% of what was said.

And the followup about his having quit smoking six months earlier:

On the smoking:

My nephew has become a big actor (his name is Jonah Hill…real name Feldstein). At Thanksgiving 2007 he asks me if I still smoke. I say yes. He says he will pay for me to go to a hypnotist that Ben Affleck sent him to that made him stop for my next birthday. In September I tell him my birthday is coming up. The rest is history.

Smolin on Feldstein

Tuesday, June 23rd, 2009

Our mutual friend Barry Smolin posted this on the WELL, upon learning of the death of Al Feldstein. Barry was kind enough to allow me to share it here.

I’m devastated by this news. Al was my favorite show buddy, and we attended many astounding concerts together. The past few years he’s been very into moe., and so we went to every L.A. moe. show together. In 1998 we made a crazy 24-hour trip from LA to SF to see the Ominous Seapods play then home again that night. We talked about the concert the whole way back.

I loved talking to Al about music, much of the time disagreeing with him–he was a man of strong opinions–but always hearing in his rants an underlying love of music and a respect for shit that he knew was good even if he didn’t particularly like it. I remember his description of disco music: “Most of it sucked, but the good stuff was great.” That was Al. He had a great pair of ears.

A month ago, Al, Debbie Hudson, and I had a mindblowing couple of nights together seeing moe. at The Roxy in L.A. He spoke several times recently of wanting to see Radiohead live. I’m sorry he didn’t get to do that. He would’ve appreciated that experience. Al had a blast at Bonnaroo a couple of weeks ago. I’m glad he got to do THAT. He LOVED the Phish set. He wrote me an ecstatic email about it, proselytizing (he knew I wasn’t an avid Phish fan), telling me I had to check them out more deeply.

I played in 2 different bands with Al. I did several gigs as keyboardist in The Reptiles, Al’s band with David Gans and some other cool folks. One concert in particular, a house party in Placerville, ranks as one of my greatest experiences as a performer, a 4-set miracle, just fiery and psychedelic and spot on. Al and I drove up to Placerville together, participated in the mind-meld of the gig, spent much of the night lying supine on a giant trampoline, looking at the stars, talking about music. The next day we drove back home together, another nonstop gabfest.

In addition to The Reptiles, Al and I also played together briefly in my pal Harvey Canter’s band Sea of Green. Al provided brilliantly melodic bass lines to complement Harvey’s tunes.

The loss has not sunk in yet. It’ll hit me full on, I think, the next time moe. comes to L.A.

Alan Feldstein (1953-2009)

Monday, June 22nd, 2009

Al Feldstein, RIP

(Al at the Hollywood Bowl July 21, 1974.)

I just got a call from my old bandmate, Bob Nakamine, informing me that our old bandmate Al Feldstein died of a heart attack yesterday (6/21/09).

He was cranky and opinionated and a thoroughly decent man.

When I moved to Berkeley in 1973, my high school classmate Ernie was just dropping out and moving back to San Jose. He told me to look up his buddies on Etna Street – "They play Grateful Dead music!" he said. And play Grateful Dead music we did, starting in the second-floor living room of that house and off and on in bars and back yards for the next 30+ years.

The first Grateful Dead tape I ever heard was at Al’s apartment in Oakland – the 3/23/74 Cow Palace show, a couple of weeks after it happened. I had no idea such a thing existed before then.

He was a solid rhythm guitar player and a half-decent singer. He brought a handful of songs to our band, all of ’em good. There was one that I liked better then he did! And there were a couple that I continued to perform myself after we stopped playing together regularly. I played “Scene of the Crime” at the Grand Lake Farmers’ Market a couple of weeks ago, and mused that it was about time for his annual “When are we gonna play?” email. We had a string of annual reunion gigs in the early ’00s but hadn’t done it in a year or two, largely due to the geographic scattering of our mates.

Coincidentally, I recently transferred some recordings from the early ’80s. The first three are Al’s songs, and the last is of course a Johnny Cash song we took from the Dead. Mostly our band was called The Reptiles, but for some reason we tried being The Undecided for a few weeks in early 1981; that’s the band on these four.

Dust Bowl 2/15/81

Night Crawl 2/15/81

Watchin’ for the Bear 2/8/81

Big River 2/1/81