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Wednesday, July 8, 2009

Sky Saxon Was My Friend - Jack Ortman

sky saxon

Sky Saxon was my friend. He earned every right to be a rock legend, but he never acted that way. He was just as real and human as any of his fans. I first got to know him in the late 80’s through author signing parties held at my rock n’ roll bookstore in Marin County, California.

He was a pioneer of his genre. His most famous song, “Pushin’ Too Hard” is one of the all-time garage classics right up there with “Louie Louie”, “Gloria” and “You’re Gonna Miss Me”.

Back in 1965 & ’66 Sky & the Seeds ruled LA’s Sunset Strip at the Troubadour, Roxie & Rainbow Room, among other night clubs. Sky coined the term “Flower Power”. From the keyboards to the leather pants, Jim Morrison and The Doors studied Sky intensely. Jimi Hendrix picked his live act up a notch after sharing the bill with The Seeds.

American Bandstand – sure, they performed on the TV show, but they did the show as a favor to Dick Clark, not the other way around.

In 1976, Rolling Stone Magazine’s List of Top 500 Songs of all time listed four songs from The Seeds. Opening acts for Sky Saxon and The Seeds included The Kinks, Big Brother & the Holding Co, Love with Arthur Lee, The Byrds, Buffalo Springfield, The Doors, and many more. Sky collaborated with Muddy Waters on The Seeds 4th album, and Muddy called them “The American Rolling Stones”. Hell, Sky was even featured in a semi-regular role, on TV’s “The Mothers-in-Law” with Kaye Ballard & Eve Arden.

And I was so happy that he was going to be living in Austin. I had already started to introduce him to some real players here in Austin like John X. Reed, Speedy Sparks, Homer Henderson, Eve Monsees & Exiles. How perfect was the fact that his last show was Saturday night at Antone's, Austin’s famous home of the blues.

Like the old “elephant burial grounds” of the Tarzan movies, Austin seems like a magnet for dying rock stars; from Ronnie Lane of the Faces, to Buddy Miles of Hendrix’s Band of Gypsies last year. The Pretender’s guitarist James Honeyman-Scott played his last gig here. It goes all the way back to when Hank Williams and Johnny Horton both performed their last shows at Austin’s Skyline Ballroom.

Finally, it is important that I convey just how great a joy he was. Bright, fun, adventurous, talented, legendary.

Sky Saxon was the real deal. I’m going to miss my friend.

Jack Ortman, 7/8/09, Austin, Texas


Andyexcuse said...

Thanks so much for sharing this, Mr. Ortman.

James said...

Hi Jack,

Nice article on Sky, sorry to hear he passed on. I was thinking about you when I read the news that J.D. aka Marmaduke had passed away in Mexico. I remember being in the bookstore when he came in and said he was relocating there...sad, yet I fondly remember the good times we had there.

Hope all is well,

kurt said...

Jack! Glad to see your still in the Austin music scene. Find me on facebook. I'd love to reconnect with you. It's been too long. Kurt Alter

Anonymous said...

Thank you Jack - I was searching about the influence of Sky and the Seeds on Jim Morrison and the Doors - and as I listen more closely and read more about this - it seems that the Doors were positively influenced by the Seeds - I had the great pleasure of seeing both of these bands in their prime in Seattle, Washington - I love both bands and enjoy the music that they created up to this very day - thanks for sharing - Daniel