I. They’ll Smile in Your Face
Mingo, the conga player, keeps a pasteless toothbrush in his mouth all through the trip to the restaurant; at the cafe (partly owned by estranged Santana member Gregg Rolie), pint-sized timbales player Chepito spends a good half hour directing offers to groupies at other tables — “Fourteen inches, gringa, fourteen inches” — and hurling spiced cauliflower sprouts at Herbie, the production manager; across the table Tom Koster, who’s taken Rolie’s place in the group, on keyboards, thrusts out a judo chop-straight left hand: “Lookit this ring. It’s been on this finger nine and a half years.” He pulls out his wallet, taps it on Chep’s arm several times. He wants to show pictures of his baby boy. “Fourteen inches!” Chepito Areas yells over Koster’s right shoulder. “I love sex!” he exclaims later. “It’s my only problem!” And Carlos, in a booth with Mike Shieve (the only other original Santana member left) and new bassist Doug Rauch, has turned away from his salad. He is watching the two young men on the little stage, playing decent banjo and guitar, harmonizing on Beatles and Cat Stevens tunes. Decent music for a sandwich bar in Seattle, Washington, and Carlos Santana almost looks intent.
That’s fine. It means that while the rest of the band, and gringas, roll off to see Tower of Power, Carlos will keep his appointment — to talk, to break the silence for the first time since the formation of Santana.
For the first two years of that silence — interrupted, of course, by three gold albums full of speed-paced Latino-based music that went from imitative to innovative — there wasn’t that much you would want to know. A bunch of kids taking drugs, flashing blades, from the brown-collared Mission district of San Francisco, making noise and plenty of money. And outside their music, a member would say now and again, Santana had nothing to say.
But in the third year of that silence, the stories began to circulate: dope and other busts; Chepito near death from a brain hemorrhage; the band leaving for a tour without him; disaster, deportation from Peru; the band splitting up — bass player David Brown quit, then fired, now working with his sisters; conga-player Mike Carabello fired; organist and lead vocalist Gregg Rolie split, along with Neal Schon, who’d joined the band after Abraxas, to share lead guitar with Carlos; lawyer and accountant — Where’s the money? — fired; Carlos turns to Jesus, jams with Buddy Miles, prays together, plays together with Mahavishnu orchestra leader John McLaughlin, hires five new band members, changes musically from “Evil Ways” to Yogananda vibrations, songs of reincarnation in a Caravanserai; dumps communal manager Stan Marcum, who’d dumped Bill Graham two years before; and, finally, just last week, Carlos Santana has cut his hair — from Jesus long to Mission High, Mahavishnu mid …
But now Carlos feels ready to explain himself, to open up, and the old members, old associates are quick to follow. So, in the last two weeks, sad, funny, and sordid tales have been spilled out to me, from inside a hotel room, a lawyer’s office, an attorney’s visiting room at county jail, a recording studio, a courtroom hallway, a manager’s office in a castle-like Marin County house, and Bill Graham’s office overlooking the remains of the Fillmore West, the succeeding promoter’s “To Be Announced” marquee broken up by missing letters. Dozens of stories about sex and drug habits, money and music problems, personality conflicts and power struggles. And for whatever reason — mostly having to do with maintaining pride and/or possessions, almost none of one person’s version of any story agrees with anyone else’s, when they get down to who did what to and with whom.
Imagine you’re in the heat of summer in the city, in the barrios, and a fierce fight ensues for some reason — say a combination of macho love and mucho money — among the Latinos: the Chicanos and the Puerto Ricans and the Nicaraguans, battling it out with fists and knives. Other browns and whites and blacks join in with chains, guns, brass knuckles. Some parents, a squad of police, and several attorneys try to break in to achieve a peace with honor and take depositions. And there are these four gurus, one to each corner, humming and meditating. All on a flimsy stage set up on a flatbed truck by the Neighborhood Arts Program.
And for theme music for this little party, try the harmonizing O’Jays:
They’ll smile in your face
(All the time they try to take your place)
The back-stabbers …
II. Why the Freeway Is So Crowded
We begin with Carlos Santana, here in Seattle with the five-eighths new Santana, in his 26th floor Hilton Hotel room, which he has gone to great lengths to turn into a meditation room. Coltrane on cassette, Spiritual Sky brand coconut incense burning, the only light coming from a tapered white candle near the door, illuminating an oval laminated plaque bearing the likeness of Jesus Christ. In my sacrilegious way, I ask for some light across the room, at the table where we’ll talk, and proceed to move the candle. No sooner than I’ve re-placed the candle, Carlos has dipped into a duffel bag, found another candle, and lit it, to maintain the glow near Jesus.
This is before the haircut, and he still looks like the Carlos Santana you saw grimacing at the Fillmore, at Alta-mont, at Woodstock, and at your local ballroom. He wears a knit shirt, white bellbottoms, is barefoot. Talking, he’ll massage his left toe now and then, but mostly he looks off, out the bay window, to the Space Needle in the distance. On a medallion around his neck he wears the likeness of Sri Chinmoy. He is shopping from among four disciplines: Chinmoy, Paramahansa Yogananda, Swami Satchidananda and the Self-Realization Center. His voice is low, quiet, sometimes almost tearful as he talks about getting the spirit. He has a house in Marin, a German-styled house on the Panoramic Highway that puts Mill Valley up against the forest-like Mount Tamalpais — where he often goes “to relate.”
“Larry Coryell stayed over at my house twice, and he went upstairs and he meditated in his room, and he had a picture of Sri Chinmoy, which is Mahavishnu’s guru, and ” I must confess, the first time I saw it, I was really afraid of it. Because I believe in Jesus as, being my guru, to a certain extent. When I meditate the voice that I hear seems to come from His within my real self, because I believe that Christ lives in everybody. Larry showed me Sri Chinmoy, and he showed me where he was coming from, where he was channeling his music. He taught me, not through words or anything, just through him being himself. He’d stay in the house and him fighting himself so he wouldn’t eat certain foods, he wouldn’t think certain thoughts. And I feel that I started to realize that everybody imitates everybody. So why not imitate the master, and I started reading more about Jesus, and about Paramahansa, which is — they’re all windows for us to see the light which is God, and when you imitate those divine people, then it’s just a way of you becoming … like a tree, you know. You grow straight to the sun instead of growing crooked and going back to earth.”
Did he find himself imitating Jesus Christ?
“I try as much as I can every day. I try to — just to see the best things in people and to have a vast understanding of what God wants us to be instead of what our minds want us to do.”
For Carlos, it’s a matter of mind opposed to soul. “Mind’s music” would be commercial music, on the “Earth Top 40,” soul-based music would be in the “Universe Top 40,” the most pure, away from the system. With the new band, he says, “When I speak from my soul, they understand. When my mind gets in the way, they walk away.”
But how do you explain that to 10,000 kids whose minds and souls are melded together in some kind of alchemical blend of speed, reds, smokes, snorts and other psychedelics and who paid $5.50 each to hear the good old shit, right off the Earth Top 40. Fuck Jesus Christ, man, give me Superstar.
“Through meditating I’m beginning to be a little more confident in knowing which way to channel my energy and what to think of those brothers and sisters who put me in that place — in reality I’m just exactly what they are. Eventually they will come, because most people are like that — you know, monkey see, monkey do. That’s why the freeway is so crowded sometimes. Very few people are chosen to make their own way and to influence others. Very few people.”
“His phrases kill me, man!” Michael Carabello and Neal Schon laugh it up at the Columbia studios where they’re mixing Attitude, the album Carabello and many friends have been doing since the first cracks in Santana, a year ago.
“Like ‘mopping a floor,’ ” Schon reminds Carabello. “Remember that lead in … what song was that — it’s on the Abraxas album. He plays the lead on it and says, ‘It sounds like you’re mopping the floor.’ He comes up with some crazy, you know, the way he puts it, that used to make me laugh all the time.”
More laughs to come, but first: Since it’s Carlos’ changes — and the response to those changes — that are the heart of this rock operetta, let’s hear from his father, Jose Santana. Mr. Santana does not speak Ingles, but we went to see him anyway, since he works regularly playing violin in a Mariachi band in the Mission district. There, in a tavern called La Terraza, he blends in with two other violins, two trumpets and two guitars. It is a small, dark bar and the decor, aside from boxing posters, consists of a wall painting all along the booths. Mission scenes, a villa at ease at dusk, the trees and the skies glowing from black lights hooked up along La Terraza’s ceiling. There is no bandstand, and Jose Santana, in simple mariachi uniform of bolero jacket, silk shirt and slacks, is planted in front of the painting, answering requests from one booth of customers, playing ballads like “Celito Lindo” and waltzes and merengues, chiming in, sometimes, with the Mexican way of gospel calls: Eso! Eso! (“That’s it!”) or echale! (“Put out!” “Get it on!”)
Mr. Santana told his story with warmth to Edgar Sanchez and Gloria Alcazar of El Tecolote, a community tabloid, last spring.
III. ‘Papa! It’s Carlos On the Radio!’
“We came to this country in the year 1962,” he began. “In Mexico we lived in the small town of Autlan, in the state of Jalisco. I have always worked in the music business, and all my sons were born in Mexico. Of my sons, two have turned out to be musicians. These, of course, are Carlos and the smaller Guillermo [Jorge], who plays with the Malibus [who became Malo].
“Carlos began to play guitar in the year 1961. When Carlos was nine years of age, he studied in a school of music — after he went to the regular primary school every day. In that music school they wanted Carlos to learn to play the clarinet. He did not like the clarinet, so he began to study violin after a short time. But in 1961, when I first came to this country by myself, I bought an electric guitar and amplifier. One year later, when I returned to Mexico, I gave them to Carlos. He became very enthusiastic about the guitar. He played it every time he possibly could. ‘Papa, papa, I don’t like the violin any more. I like the guitar!’ he used to tell me. So it was that he stopped playing violin.
“When the family (wife Josefina, four daughters and three sons) was ready to immigrate, Carlos did not want to come. He said he liked Mexico too much to leave it. So it was that we postponed our trip a few days while we tried to persuade our son to come with us. He did not know what it was like here, so he thought he was not going to like it. Then, all of a sudden, Carlos hid from us. No matter where we looked for him we could not find him. Finally, after having given up on our search, we very dejectedly came to this country.
“Later, my wife and my eldest son went back to look for him and to persuade him to come here. They could not find him. A few months later, we found out that Carlos was working at a place called El Convoy in Tijuana. This time four of us made the trip to Mexico. We went into the place and grabbed him and brought him with us. We did not force him to come. We convinced him by crying.
“On the trip here, he was mad. He did not even say a single word during the whole trip. Since the day of his arrival, all he did was cry, cry and cry. He was also always mad. Then he locked himself up in his room for a week. During this week he refused to eat.
“When he finally came out, we put him in school. He already knew how to speak English, so he did not have any problems. Within a month he had made many friends. Then he began to do physical exercises and continued to play the guitar …
“Soon after that, he formed a small band with some of his friends. He also kept studying. After school, he worked downtown in a restaurant. The poor guy used to wash dishes — you know, the kind of jobs they give to youths.
“Then he graduated from Mission. One day, soon after, he told us he was going to stop living with us and get a room by himself. I asked him why, and he said: ‘Because I want to see if one day I can do something.’ He didn’t take anything with him — not even his clothes. For two years we knew nothing about him. Some people now and then told us that they had seen him, and that he seemed to be turning into a hippie. Of course, I felt a little bad about that, because after all — he was my son. You know, we were not rich or anything like that, but at least we had food to eat.
“Then one day one of my sons heard one of Carlos’ songs being played on the radio. ‘Papa!! It’s Carlos!’ my son excitedly told me as we listened to the song. The radio announcer kept saying, ‘Santana! Santana! Santana!’
“Then, a few days after gathering information, we found out it really was him. But he did not call us or write. He was living over on Precita Street with a bunch of friends. He had formed a new band. Whatever house they moved into, they were forced to move out, because the neighbors complained of ‘too much noise.’
“Finally they straightened themselves out and began to play at the Fillmore West — you know that place down on Market. But he still would not call us.
“He finally called us one day, a week before he was going to play at the Fillmore West. Over the phone he said: ‘Mama, they are going to give me an opportunity to work at a place down there on Market Street.’ My wife told him, ‘Carlos, I don’t know why you like that hippie music.’ His reply was: ‘Yes, I like it, and I am going to continue playing it until I make a record one day.’ ‘You’re crazy!’ his mother told him. He told us one day he was going to make an album ‘so I can help you out.’ He invited us to go see him.
“They were still not playing too good. You could tell by listening to them. There was a mob of people there. I had never gone to one of those places. We saw a bunch of lights and a lot of strange things in that place. We saw many hippies, too.
“After the show we came home very happy, because during the intermission we spoke to him for the first time in two years. We asked him to come to our house as soon as he could. When he came to our house the next week, he told us he had some compositions ready for recording.
‘My son kept on with his band. Finally one day he came to tell me that he had just signed a five-year contract with Columbia.
“When that long-play came out — since my music is so different from his — I couldn’t understand it. But here, my sons and daughters used to say: ‘Oh, Papa, how beautiful.’ They used to put on the record and dance.
“To tell you the truth, I did not even know when one of my son’s numbers began or finished. I listened to the record many, many times, to see if it made sense. Now, after having listened to it many more times, I like it.”
Are you dissatisfied because your son does not play Mariachi music like you?
“Well, I feel cold because he does not play our music — the music of Mexico. But at the same time I feel warmness because all the youths and some adults like his music.”
Have you ever seen your son on television?
“Yes, I have. I saw him on the Ed Sullivan Show, and in another program, when they played with the Los Angeles Symphony. The days of those programs, the whole family was here very nervous. We sat very early in the morning in front of the television set waiting for them. We were all praying to God that nothing would go wrong with the television, or with the electricity.”
How has your life changed since your son’s success?
“When I first came here, only I worked to maintain the family. Now, my son gives me money. I only work at night now. My only pretension is going out to eat once in awhile.”
What’s in the future, Mr. Santana?
“Well, I wish I didn’t have to stop working, because a job is a very necessary thing for adults so they can stay in good health. I am in perfect health, and I feel capable of continuing to work. But it seems that every time I talk to Carlos, he asks me when I am going to stop working, because he wants to become completely in charge of the whole family.”
IV. Carlos Santana’s TB Blues
While Jose Santana was speaking, Carlos and the band were touring Europe. Later, Carlos would buy his family a comfortable home in Diamond Heights, still close to the Mission district, where they’d lived at 14th and Market Streets, but away from the trolleys, the downtown-bound traffic, and the clatter of rapid transit construction at that corner. Here in the spring of 1971, Carlos was also attempting to take charge of the Santana band. He didn’t do it very smoothly, and that European tour was the beginning of the end of what we know to be the original Santana.
What Mr. Santana did not seem to know is that during those two years Carlos was away from home, he’d gone to Tijuana, where he was learning the blues and playing Mexican and pop-rock music, trying to get enough money together to trade in his old $25 Gibson for a new Stratocaster.
“In Tijuana, my brother used to work for this place called La Palma where they make tortillas, and the son of the owner had a set of drums, and his name is Danny, and there was this other kid named Gus. We learned together how to play music that was happening at the time, a little bit before the Beatles, but it wasn’t really music, it was just mostly distorted music. We would play for parties and weddings and stuff like that.
“I wanted to join this band that was really what was happening at the time. This cat who was influenced a lot by Ray Charles and Little Richard and B.B. King. His name was Xavier. He inspired me to get into my instrument. He didn’t really teach me as much as people say. He was sort of stingy. He used to play, and if I was looking where he was playing, he turned the other way, so I wouldn’t see the chords he was playing. But it was cool, because when you want to, you achieve.”
(Carlos, you see, never meant for Santana to be known as a Mission district or street band. “All through junior high and high school, I didn’t hang out with my race, or what you would call my race. Your race is like a fence, you know. I always tend to hang out around with the people who are more soulful — or at least not always thinking about quads and carburetors and chicks and parties. I would always choose people who had something to say about B.B. King or Jimmie Reed or some cats who would start singing in the streets, and so I never really put myself on a fence. I thank God now that my mind was a little more broad.
On various trips to Tijuana, Carlos would pick up and play Jimmy Reed and Howlin’ Wolf tunes, along with some R&B. He returned to San Francisco for good in 1966. The streets were swarming with hippies. “I found myself wanting to be part of this new wave,” said Carlos. “People turning on and the old Fillmore and Paul Butter-field and Mike Bloomfield and Elvin Bishop — they had a jam one time. I think Butterfield didn’t show up — he did show up. He was stoned on acid, looked like he was going through a lot of changes, beautiful changes. But it didn’t seem like that band got it together to play, so they just had a jam, and this brother heard me play, so he introduced me to Michael Bloomfield. Michael Bloomfield was kind enough to let me sit in for this jam, and this cat in the audience saw us playing, and he tried to track me down. This was the time I was working in a funky restaurant. I had that job as a dishwasher, which I wanted to quit really badly, but I was young and I didn’t even know how to please my parents. I didn’t know I had to please myself first so I could please them.”
At this point, Carlos was in his junior year at Mission High School, where he had been doing poorly in all courses except art — he got As in freehand drawing classes, a B in design class, a B in Spanish. He was even asking his art teacher about a college scholarship. He took no music courses.
Carlos hooked up with the kid in the audience — a guitar player named Tom Frazier, and added Danny and Gus as drummer and bass. Tom brings in Gregg Rolie. Also, Carlos knows Mike Carabello, who went to Poly High, where “this hep art teacher” brought in conga players to liven up classes. “I got inspired from seeing them play and then I started hanging around and learned to play,” said Carabello. He would name his new group the Santana Blues Band when they gained an audition spot from Graham’s assistant, Jim Haynie, in January, 1967, on a bill with Butterfield and Charles Lloyd.
“We were playing songs like ‘Mary Ann’ by Ray Charles and ‘Misty’ and ‘Taste of Honey,’ only with Latin percussion,” said Carlos. “To me it still wasn’t music. It was just a process of learning, you know.”
“We lost Carabello for awhile,” said Carlos. Said Mike: “I was just playing ’cause I enjoyed playing. I wasn’t really serious. Carlos had TB or something and he went into the hospital, and we were all waiting for him to get out of the hospital, so I didn’t want to go to practice or anything, so I got kicked out of the band.” Carlos had been taken out of Mission High and put into General Hospital after a TB test showed positive on his arm. After two and a half months, Carlos got restless, diagnosed himself OK, and escaped.
“People were dying left and right from TB, and my case wasn’t really serious, I know. And I was getting paranoid that I was gonna go, too. A couple of friends came over and brought me some clothes, we visited, and I said, ‘See you later, you guys.’ And I walked them to the elevator, and I just went inside the elevator, changed clothes and walked out. But I called them the next day and told the doctor that I didn’t feel sick at all. And he told me I had to take some medication — every day shots for two and a half years, and I actually — some sort of miracle, or the power of my believing what I believe now, it has gotten away from my system. I went to take an X-ray and it’s gone.”
Hospitalization cost Santana a job at the Fillmore, but, he said, “Bill gave us another chance. I remember we played with the Who and the Loading Zone (June 1967). And we were late and Bill Graham was screaming at me and he asked me what kind of fuckin’ band we had and this and that, ’cause these other cats were late, just blowing it, putting cologne on themselves and all this shit. Delivering tortillas, so it wasn’t music that was really happening, just like a trip for them, but for me it was the only thing that I’ve really since I can remember — being out there.”
In short order, Carlos got himself a new band, keeping only Gregg Rolie with him. David Brown, who’d gone to public and private school in San Francisco and played bass at night with Latin jazz bands and at clubs behind touring groups like the Four Tops, was walking up Grant Ave., in North Beach, when he heard some music from a small club. He stepped in, sat in, and was approached by Stan Marcum, who would become Santana’s manager. Stan also found a Memphis-born conga player named Marcus Malone, and a drummer, Bob “Doc” Livingston, completed the group.
V. The First Licks of Evil Ways
Both David Brown and Carlos Santana credit Malone as a major influence in the band’s sound. “We didn’t like the music too repetitious, the way Butterfield or other blues bands were playing,” Brown said, “so we got into improvisation and we’d find the drums in there more of the time. Eventually, we just sat back and said let them do their thing. Malone was an influence on ‘Jingo,’ those Afro songs. The last two years it got more Latin than anything, but that beginning sound was all due to Marcus.”
“In North Beach,” said Carlos, “almost every day I used to go drink wine, smoke some grass and listen to the conga players and watch the sea and stuff. Seven conga players trying to get off at the same time. And Stan found Marcus in there. Marcus had pure sound. You could distinguish Marcus from a lot of people.”
Santana — they’d cut the name short by now — began to live together and played up and down the California coast and all over the city — at the Matrix, in Golden Gate Park, atop a Peace and Freedom Party bus with the Mime Troupe that went from trans-love San Francisco into Orange County, with Marcus Malone passing the hat at every stop. Offers began streaming in from record companies, and, after five months of negotiating with help from attorney Brian Rohan, Santana signed a Columbia contract.
In mid-’68, Santana also began playing regularly at the Fillmore, bottom of the bill for a benefit for the foundering Matrix nightclub; then, at the new Fillmore West, they moved their way up to a top-billing on the December 19th-22nd weekend, a full nine months before their first album would even be released.
Bill Graham is a Latin music aficionado from way back, back past New York, to when he visited Havana and heard the Orchestra Riverside, then up to New York and Celia Cruz and Machito. In San Francisco he finds time to go to clubs in North Beach — Andre’s on Broadway, Caesar’s Latin Club on Green.
For Graham, this ragtag bunch of street kids copping Olatunji was no musical revelation. “What impressed me is that it was an attempt at fusing rock and Afro and Latino and getting a rhythmic sensuous sound into rock, which I’ve always thought it lacked in many cases.”
Graham warms up to the topic; he smiles like a Mort Sahl eager to begin a discourse on four more years: “What it is,” says Graham, “is an earthy street thing when it really gets up-tempo. You want to move and it’s physical. I like dancing together. And Latin music — part of Latin music for me always — was I would hold a woman, and I would touch her body, and we would sweat, and it’s all of that … very sensual, very sensuous.”
Graham continued to hire Santana and soon began to book them elsewhere, through his Shady Management. He gave them a rehearsal hall, convinced them to take on this simple, earth-music Willie Bobo tune called “Evil Ways.” Later, he will personally account for Santana being onstage at Woodstock, the only unknown there (besides Sweetwater and Bert Sommer); in the Woodstock film, and on the Woodstock album, which would set the stage perfectly for their own first album.
But shortly before Woodstock, Santana went through just a few more changes. Marcus Malone was involved, to put it delicately, in manslaughter. Caught in bed, it was alleged; self-defense, he maintained. Nonetheless, he was off to jail, and so it was that Mike Carabello would reenter, in time for the album and the first swell of success. Also, early on in the studios, after a frustrating attempt to record live in L.A., it is decided that new percussion is needed; Mike Shrieve was found by David Brown at the Fillmore, in another jam, and invited. Carabello remembered a tiny Nicaraguan highly praised for his jazz work throughout South and Central America who migrated to New York, then moved to San Francisco, where he joined a band called the Aliens. Chepito and Carabello had jammed once at the beach; now Jose Areas would add a precise timbale sound, plus supplemental conga work and Santana’s first brass.
Now it is the summer of 1969, and Santana plays Fillmore West four times in two months, headlining twice; they are booked to tour with Crosby, Stills and Nash. This, said David Rubinson, who tried his hand at producing the first Santana album in early ’69, “broke them in the Midwest. There’s a tremendous pocket of Latin-American descendants in L.A. and San Francisco, in Miami, in Dallas and in New York. They were happening in those markets. Nothing in the middle. What’s in the middle? Seventy percent of your record buyers.” The tour and Woodstock broke that first album, said Rubinson. Released in September, 1969, it was gold by the end of the year.
“I mean, when it came out, you could not turn on the radio for six weeks without hearing the damn record. In the middle of all that vapid bullshit that was going on with psychedelia and mandala that was happening in ’69, here was the essence, boiled down to drums and percussion and pulse. It was just balls-out music, and that’s what people wanted to hear.”
While others heard Santana as one neck-wrenching guitar run flying out now and again over a jungular rumble of noise, Rubinson — who earlier produced Malo — heard innovation: “Guitar was unknown,” he said, “voiced the way it was on Santana. The way they use the keyboard was completely different, almost like a Latin horn section. And there was no brass.”
Santana, said Rubinson, opened the door for a Latin sound (few bands, however, have succeeded in the three years since “Evil Ways”: Malo, with one hit, “Suavecito,” El Chicano, another poppish band, with “El Tirado,” and, most recently, Azteca, formed by Coke Escovedo, a veteran of 15 years on timbales, blamed by several ex-Santana people for helping break up the group). More important, he said, were “the revolutions they caused” in pop music. “Every Motown band had a conga drum on every single record they put out for a year. Sly Stone started adding Latin percussion. Every jazz group started adding Latin percussion (Luis Gasca, jazz trumpet player who would contribute to Santana’s third album, used several Santana members on his album, on Blue Thumb) and all kinds of rock bands were adding conga drums.”
VI. ‘We Can’t All Be Martin Luther Kings’
The money poured in, the mouths stayed shut, and the stories began to leak, sometimes gush out. “You’ll hear a million versions about everything,” said Luis Gasca. Here are some of them:
Stan Marcum: There were some negative forces that entered Santana’s life in the musical aspects … that had negative points of view about myself and other people in the band — for their own intents and purposes. There were some people involved in Santana that I feel were just looking to be involved to make some money.
Mike Carabello: In the very end of it, there was cliques goin’ on, with Coke Escovedo and Carlos. Coke started kissin’ his ass and tellin’ him, “Well, your name is Carlos Santana, you shouldn’t listen to anyone else. You should be the leader.” It went to Carlos’ head.
Neal Schon (sitting with Mike): He filled Carlos’ head with so much shit and Carlos fell for it.
Carabello: His head got about as big as Humpty Dumpty!
Schon: That’s when we was havin’ all the trouble in New York, man, when Coke was on the road with us.
Carabello: This was about the time that Chepito got sick, and we didn’t know what was gonna happen, if he was gonna die or whatever, so all of us were waiting around. We had a meeting, because Carlos was getting restless just sitting around waiting. He wanted a gig. And I said, “I don’t think we should gig, because Chepito’s just as much a part of the band as anyone else. I don’t think that we should get another person to fill his place and go before an audience and say this is Santana, because we’re not.” And I said if you’re gonna get somebody else, I myself would rather quit than play without Chepito. But only because you’re sick and tired of waiting around — and that just showed me a little greed on his part, because he didn’t know what to do with his time, when he should have been more concerned about his so-called brother that he always mentions.
Coke Escovedo: I was called by Rico Reyes. (They always had someone do things; they never told you direct.) Chepito had this hemorrhage. They had tried Willie Bobo in Ghana [for the Soul to Soul show] and they said he couldn’t cut it. I was recording for Cal Tjader at the time, and I joined them for a tour to Europe. Otherwise they would have to cancel. This is at the beginning of 1971. There was an understanding that I was temporary, and I told Stan Marcum there was no hassle with Chepito coming back.
David Rubinson: So Chepito was in the hospital. David Brown had left a while before. He was not physically able to play at that time. He was really smacked out, from what I could tell. Coke was hired and given a large amount of money: Well, man, he got ten grand cash to start. I mean, they took care of him good. So they went on the road. And a lot of political shit went on, and all this bullshit started with Carlos and Coke being bosom buddies against somebody else, and then this one against that one, and then finally it came back with they all had a meeting and Coke wanted to get rid of Marcum and then he got a couple of the guys on his side and … Coke made too much trouble. I think he could have done whatever he wanted and taken over the band because he was a very strong force, a very strong person. But he pushed and pushed, and ultimately it came down to a choice and I think they chose against him. And understandably so.
Coke: I knew there was a tightening of the family when I joined. But I’m a professional, so I thought I’d do the best I can. My effect was with everybody. They were used to playing just the way they liked. On the third album it was my idea to have the Tower of Power horns. I got Luis Gasca on there. Some of them objected to this change. “It should always be the same six cats.” I wanted to teach them all I could, and from that, people thought I was speaking into Carlos’ ear. Carlos and I got along — we got into a groove, but at no time was I kissing anybody’s ass for it. When it got to the point I was unhappy, I left.
Marcum lost his controls when I came into the band. We started finding out things he could have told us. [Escovedo was alluding to the band’s severe financial problems.] It got to the point where no one knew what was happening.
In a way I was responsible. But I’m glad. If I brought two good musicians out of a band of six bad ones, I’m glad.
Carlos Santana: Just last year, Peru opened my eyes toward reality. That was really like a slap. I used to get a lot of slaps from acid and mescaline and drugs. But when reality itself is slapping your face with what your goal really is this time around, you think more towards keeping that pace of being constant toward what you’re striving for.
How did Peru slap you?
Carlos: Well, I got a clear view of what we were as far as drugs, as far as personalities, as far as the mind, the mind deceiving us, robbing us of time, which is one of the most precious things that we have. I saw that this band needed to go through some changes, and I saw that I wasn’t really putting out one hundred percent of what I can put out. ‘Cause your soul demands for you to be mentally and physically in condition in order to put out the very best of yourself and I felt like I was way behind.
Rubinson: I’ve always been fascinated with Carlos’ desire to be a really bitchin’ player. He’s always been very anxious to be a very good player.
Carlos: It didn’t take long for me to find out music is more eternal. When I first started, I really wanted the same things — to be able to communicate and make everybody that was around, bring them together as one body. At that time, I understand that the pulse was happening. But then again there’s melodies. Melodies are more universal than anything, you know. Michael [Shrieve, drummer] and I used to go through a lot of types of music. But there’s one that has more feeling every time you listen to it; it seems juicier and like fruit. And some music after a while, it’s just bone dry, you know.
Gregg Rolie: The reason I quit was that the music was going where I didn’t want to go. It would get into religious aspects. Then things got personal.
Mike Carabello: He like had this thing about me, I don’t know, all the time, about what I did, the people I hung around with, how I ran my life … We could have sat down and talked about keeping the band together and if Carlos or whoever else wanted to go do their trip for a year, fine, but like every now and then still record with the Santana group because a lot of people like it. Everyone thought about that, and I think everyone else would have done it, except for Carlos, and except for the fact that I brought it up, it wasn’t a good idea.
Carlos: Carabello wasn’t fired, really. I chose — I still don’t know deep inside me why I felt so strong about him being out of the band, although in a lot of ways I do. I don’t like to feel like I’m being taken for granted. I don’t like to feel the particular feeling of somebody feeling like they have to kiss my ass. It was our personality clashes, so I told the band — the band was going on the road [Chepito is recovered and back by now], and I said I’m not going unless he’s out. The band chose to leave without me for two weeks of concerts.
Stan Marcum: We were all in New York, and Barry Imhoff [of FM Productions; he travels with Santana] had talked Ron Estrada [road manager, now managing the new Santana] into getting Carlos, because Carabello said, “Well, look, if everybody is fucked up because Carlos won’t play because I’m here, I’ll just leave.” Well, half the band left. Chepito, myself, David Brown, Carabello.
David Rubinson: Carlos didn’t play at the Boston Gardens, and then Stan Marcum flew out to the Felt Forum in New York and pulled three of the guys off the stand and split.
Mike Shrieve: By the time we got to New York, Carlos came back. Stan and Carabello and Chepito — well, all the percussion section except for myself — left New York when we had a whole weekend of concerts to do at the Forum. So we went onstage and played without the percussion section. Three gigs before that, the whole band was there except for Carlos. The reason I went was because we had commitments. I didn’t feel it was particularly right on Carlos’ part to do what he did, but if he felt that he had to do that, he had to do it.
Carlos: See, I talked to Chepito the night before this, and Chepito’s mind was still not well enough, I think, for making his own decisions. I heard from people that he even locked himself in the bathroom ’cause he didn’t want to be a part of this. People were influencing him to say that they introduced him to the band so he owed them this and that, you know.
(At this point, Carlos was left with Rolie, Shrieve and Neal Schon. In the audience, a young conga player approached Santana’s production manager, Herbie, about jamming. He knew Santana’s repertoire, he said. Herbie gave the kid $4 to take a taxi home and fetch his congas. He returned, auditioned, and joined the Santana survivors on stage, even blitzing through a well-deserved solo. That’s “Mingo” Lewis. Escovedo was also on hand in New York. Later, Carlos would replace Brown with Doug Rauch, from the Voices of East Harlem, on bass, add Rich Kermode [from Malo] and Tom Koster [from Gabor Szabo] on keyboards, and hire veteran Latin musician Armando Peraza on congas.)
Stan Marcum: That was all really vague about what Carlos was gonna do, other than, “Well, you know, you’re fired, and you’re fired, and you’re fired.” And all of a sudden somebody’s firing us that’s not the boss, because nobody’s the boss, and nobody quite understood what was going on.
Was there ever a leader of Santana declared — say, for union purposes?
Marcum: I doubt it.
You wouldn’t know?
Marcum: Yeah … I think probably Carlos.
Gasca told me Carlos was getting into music, but the others were still mostly interested in dope and balling.
Marcum: Well, I myself feel he took that a little too far. If there’s any one God or if there’s any one Jesus, we all are. And I don’t believe one man can claim that he is.
Did he claim he is?
Marcum: Well, his actions seemed to claim that he would be more so than anyone else. And everybody likes chicks, and everybody likes to have a good time, and everybody likes music. And they all go together. And we’re not good all the time. We can’t be. Because if we were, I think we’d all be dead like Martin Luther King and John Kennedy. And that’s another awareness.
Was all this quite sudden? Could the other members of Santana believe that Carlos, who was just one of the gang …
Marcum: No, they couldn’t. Nobody still believes it. Truthfully everybody thinks he’s a hypocrite. You know, like, “Wow, man, is that all you cats can do is sit around? and smoke dope? and get loaded?” And 15 minutes later … “Wow, man, you got any acid, man?” And some of my conversations with him were: “Carlos, man, what do you want to do, man? Just say it, whatever it is, man, and we’ll do it.” It was unaccepted and it was very violent and it was loud and a lot of yelling. It was the truth, which was hard to face, I guess.
Carlos: No — on the contrary, I was really straightforward with the band about how I felt about moving on, that I wanted to be for real, not to be cool, and I didn’t particularly appreciate it when my brother’s coming on to me and trying to show me a song when they couldn’t even speak because they were so down, you know. I started to feel weak and resentful towards the band, because I was demanding more, because my soul was demanding more. I thought we were losing — we might have been gaining like a lot of audience — stoned, you know — but I felt that that was not where I wanted to be placed, and I didn’t want to stay stale.
I found out just this year why I wasso hard to work with sometimes. When I ate meat, I had no patience at all with anybody showing up late. I was just screaming like I was Nixon or something. I would really demand, expect — I didn’t have the tolerance and the understanding to know that, man, not everybody’s like me, you know. You have to have patience to let time take its course, you know. But I feel that even if I had the patience and the understanding that I have now, the band would have eventually dissolved, because what we all are made of, what we all are in our minds….
I know to this day, they think I’m crazy because I used to contradict myself so much. I would demand this, I would say this, and the next time I would be just like — worse than them. Hypocrite, because I wasn’t really balanced with consistency to — until I started finding out about meditation. I was strolling through Sausalito in this bookstore at the time, and I saw this book on Paramahansa Yogananda and that’s what — it was like a magnet. I just picked it up and took it home and I started reading it and I started understanding.
Carlos Santana is by nature a soft-spoken person, and here he was, at the peak of stardom in a strange country, finding out, through a book, then through new music, that he was just another student. And, surrounded by “brothers” from the streets who were at once forceful, emotional, and simple, he was simply an ineffective teacher. And Santana had no other guiding force. Another commune collapses.
And on its way to the ground, there were the busts: Chepito, hustled away by the authorities at an airport after he screamed, “Explosives!” at a box while boarding a plane. He said he was talking about a carton of Abraxas albums. His attorney showed the court a clipping from Newsweek. It called the album “explosive.” Case dismissed.
Also last year, two Santana roadies were taken away for possession, David Brown, the bass player, was arrested early one morning after smashing up his Porsche in the rain. The cops found some reds, according to Carabello.
When we talked to Brown last week, it was in the attorneys’ visiting room at County Jail (other visitors can see inmates through windows and have to talk over phones), where he was serving 30 days for a second bust. Stan Marcum had said Brown was busted in another person’s house, where police found drugs. Brown himself said he was on the streets, got stopped for looking suspicious, “and they found some seeds or something.” In his many spare moments, Brown was either in his cell picking at his bass or teaching music to the jail’s rock band, a project backed and with funds collected by rock fan/Sheriff Richard Hongisto. Brown, in work shirt, khaki slacks, and blue sneakers, smiled. “When I’m on the road, I’m in a hotel room studying and reading, you know. And I feel free inside, ’cause that’s what it took to get me to play in the first place. So I don’t feel that confined, really.”
As for Carlos: “Going to the Fillmore and stuff like that, I developed sort of a thing for LSD and mescaline, mushrooms, stuff like that, because they were expanding my consciousness, expanding my goals. I wanted to try everything, just like a little child. You put him in front of a TV set and he wants to see what this knob does, what this other knob does, you know. Start biting to see what it tastes like. It took me a long time to find out the difference between getting loaded and getting high … actually, up till this year. I quit cocaine and stuff like that two years ago. The times when I did it, which was like three times after I quit at different times, I found myself having some bad experiences. Like one time the house I was visiting almost burned down. I just took them as signs for me, to say, ‘You can’t do that.’ “
One more bust: Just a couple of months ago, Carabello was arrested in San Francisco, hauled out of a closet, reportedly nude, with assorted weapons and, as Carlos would put it, TV knobs, at his feet. He was hauled into jail for the night and is now on trial. “It was a setup. But let’s wait till it’s finished.”
Was it his first bust?
“Mm hm. Other than tickets. And a few Peeping Tom things.”
When we first met, backstage at one of the enlightened Santana’s triumphant four nights at the Winterland, Carlos held a small bottle of pop wine. That, now, is his only indulgence.
“It’s sort of like a basket of fruit, of me marinating myself with beliefs that I have now, this faith, actually, and me waking up in the morning, and me not going to bed with chicks anymore, giving myself like true discipline for awhile. I didn’t want to make love to one person or three persons in bed anymore. I felt that my energy could go farther than that to make love to everybody who’s got ears.” Carlos said he is down to one “soul sister.”
And then there are the lawsuits: Are there any lawsuits, Stan Marcum?
“I don’t know of any. [Long pause.] Oh, uh, Barry Imhoff owed Santana a lot of money from some gigs we did with him. And there was some talk about a lawsuit on Bill Graham’s part when we split from his company.”
Even without any experience doing interviews, Marcum seems to have mastered the art of forgetting things in front of the press. Like the legal battle he is fighting with Coke Escovedo. Coke says he and Carabello wrote “No One to Depend On” while rehearsing for the third album, and that’s how the song was credited. Then, he claims, Carlos and Gregg put in claims as part-writers, “and Marcum got on me ’cause he’s head of their publishing company.” Coke is suing. The stakes, he said, are high: “$100,000.” There are double royalties for a single.
“I’m still grateful for their having me with them,” he said, “but if you jive, you suffer the consequences.”
Stan Marcum is also wrong about Bill Graham.
David Rubinson, a vice president at Fillmore Corporation at the time Graham was working for Santana, was clear on the matter: “Bill Graham broke Santana. No one else. Not Clive. Not Columbia. Not Marcum. Not Carlos. Nobody.”
This becomes interesting testimony when you meet Stan Marcum.
“He was a barber,” Carlos said. “He had a part-time job as a barber, and he introduced me to the drug LSD. He introduced me to a lot of beautiful people. He introduced me to a lot of beautiful times, beautiful moods. He taught me a lot.”
Three months ago, the current Santana drummed Marcum out. “We have a partnership,” Marcum said. “There was a vote as to whether I was to be manager of whatever was going to happen, and the majority of Santana isn’t playing with Carlos right now, and the majority of Santana would’ve had me as their manager.” In short, he was canned. “I resigned. The partnership was formed through brotherhood, you know. I mean, everything was equal. We were all important to each other.”
Stan doesn’t claim he was ever the “manager,” even if he allowed himself to be so credited on the first two albums. “I managed their affairs,” he said, “but I can’t say I’m an artist’s manager because I’m not, and I don’t have a license to be.”
So Bill Graham — who’d done the same previously with the Airplane and the Dead — helped manage Santana?
“He never managed,” Marcum says. His is a soft face, with voice to match. “What happened was — the reason why we didn’t stay with Bill Graham — I was doing everything from my house and we needed some help, and at the time Bill Graham was in our minds as somebody who could help us. He set up an office, and it came down that Bill Graham was just answering my phone calls.”
“And relayed messages to me.”
Other members of Santana (Carlos, Gregg, David and Mike Carabello most vocally) had told me Graham was helpful at the beginning. How was he helpful?
Marcum slunk back in his chair. No reply.
Why would Bill Graham, who was a fairly busy man in 1968, act as a receptionist for you?
Another pause. Then, finally: “He wanted to be involved with the band … because he knew the band was going to make a lot of money.
“It started out like a booking agency, then, ‘If you need space we have space here.’ I’d say 90 percent of the bookings came from people calling in and asking…. Graham claimed that he had such an important role in Santana that he was entitled to ten percent of their earnings the rest of their life. Which was such bullshit. He had no grounds; all he could have done was make threats.”
Then why does his FM Productions continue to do booking and promoting for Santana today?
“That’s just booking. Like IFA or anything else.”
VII. Why Bill Graham Lunged at Mr. Herb Resner
It has been some three years since Bill Graham has spoken at length to this magazine for publication. But for a piece on Santana he invited me to his office, where he works in a tiny, trapezoid-shaped room walled off from his secretary and the outer office by a sheet of glass. He is always in view, and, as an electric sign over the door indicates “On the Air.”
Our half-hour appointment stretched into three hours, and by day’s end it was obvious that Graham had been almost shattered by the Santana betrayal, that he had been in some kind of love with the band he’d adopted.
“If Stan Marcum says, ‘he answered the phone,’ ” Graham began, “it’s very sad.
“The Santana situation is so indicative of one of the major problems in rock. I’ve said it too many times: One of the challenges of life, challenges to your character, is what happens to you when you make it. What happened to Santana? Well, what happened to Stan Marcum? Now, Stan Marcum was a neighborhood boy who was the non-musician, and he became the manager or the roadie. Now Santana came to Bill Graham. ‘We would like you to manage our affairs.’ Fine. ‘And this is the percentage.’ I made it very clear to them. I don’t ask for 20 percent or 15. Most managers ask for that (Graham got ten). And I never asked for papers from anyone, never. Because I felt, I’m good and you’re good. If we get along, why have a marriage license. I’d rather live together.
“To understand Stan Marcum’s situation and his feelings is to ask, well, why isn’t Stan Marcum the manager of the group that he made? — number one. Number two is — at one particular point before they left — maybe a year earlier, there was an argument within the group where Stan felt he was strong enough to do it himself, so to speak. We had a meeting in my office at the Fillmore — I wish they were sitting right here — and I knew they were coming into the office, and I made a list of all the important things that ever happened to Santana — ever — other than the music. Now, the one thing I will always maintain, I am not responsible for their ability. I’m a cowbell nut. I love to hang around Latin music, but the one thing I never take credit for is their music. But at one point — at this meeting that we had in ’69 or ’70, whatever it was, Stan said something to the effect, ‘Well, you know, we want to get more together and do our thing.’ I think it was because Stan felt that he was ready to manage the group. And I said, ‘Stan, what you’re saying is that you are primarily responsible for what’s happening to the group?’ ‘Yes.’ And I said, ‘I’ve made a list here of important events’ — I think it was 17 or 18 different things, Woodstock, Ed Sullivan Show, the tours, how they went to the Fillmore East, the advertising, the PR and whatnot. And one of the important things that I fought with them about and finally they agreed to do: I just wrote down ‘Evil Ways’, and I said, ‘Now, is there any important point that I left out, Stan?’ ‘Uh, no.’ ‘Any member of the group, is there any event or situation that’s not on this list that has helped you to become who you are?’ ‘No.’
” ‘Fine, now Stan, one by one, let’s take them. What did you do with Woodstock?’ And I said, ‘Let’s stay with that.’ I sat with Michael Lang at the restaurant next to the Fillmore till five in the morning — ‘Bill, what do you think of this group?’ Now he had some ideas and I had some ideas. In the exchange for that I asked him for one favor — ‘Put on this group from San Francisco that I think deserves to be heard’ and I sold the group.
“I said, ‘And when you went there, Stan, I asked you not to sign anything until I got there, and I got there one day later, and because somebody said to you unless you sign this, you can’t appear, you almost gave away the rights to the movie. Remember that, Stan?’ And I said, ‘You signed for $750.’ The deal was, Santana was getting $1,500 — I didn’t care. I wanted them to go there. The deal with all the other groups was if you were to appear in the film, you would get half again as much. Now for a group that was getting $20,000, they were getting another $10,000, which was fine. I said, ‘But, Stan, you were getting $1,500, that’s $750, and I’m not going to give you away.’ And by the time the film had come out, I knew.
“What happened in the film? Michael Wadleigh was the director, and his partner, Bob Maurice, had a great deal of trouble getting the groups to just see the film. Joe Cocker didn’t want to see it. Richie Havens didn’t want to see it. The filmmakers came and said, ‘Bill, will you please get so-and-so to at least look at the film?’ I have fairly good relations with a lot of musicians, and I got X amount of musicians up to their studios on Broadway in New York to view it. And they said, ‘Bill, we can’t thank you enough.’ ‘What can we do?’ I said, ‘I want Santana in the film.’ I said ‘Look at the drummer. Look at the solo, and look at this, look at that.’ I said, ‘Stan, why are they in the middle of the film for 12 minutes? Longer than anybody else — uninterrupted. You?‘
“I’m gonna prove to you what I’ve done, and while I’m doing that, I’m afraid I have to call this man to a test. What has he done? ‘Cause you brought up this challenge. I said, ‘Now, the movie is done, and you got $750. Stan, what happened then?’ ‘Uh.’ I’ll tell you what happened. I called Warner Brothers and said, ‘We’re not going to work for $750.’ They said, ‘We have a contract.’ I said, ‘There’s a difference between laws and justice. Fuck your law. The law is that piece of paper. You know what justice is? They’re gonna be in the middle of that film, and they’re stars today, and you guys are going to make millions of dollars. You should come to me like men and say here’s money.’ And they said, ‘Well, we have a piece of paper.’ I went to N.Y., and you can check with Warner Brothers, and I talked with some of the heavies in N.Y. and said, ‘Do you know who I am? I’m the manager of the group. You’ve heard I’m crazy, right?’ ‘Yeah.’ ‘Now look, because it’s true. Unless we get what’s fair — at least close to what’s fair, I’m gonna blow up this building. Now you don’t have to believe me. Just throw me out of here.’ Make a long story short, I got that $750 with a zero behind it. $7,500. Why? If they didn’t respect the ethic of giving me more money, they respected my supposed insanity.
“That’s just one. That’s not even finished, because Woodstock was the gig, the film and the album. If anybody looked at Woodstock, just Woodstock alone was one out of the 18. And if nothing else, that was worth it, a million dollars. Now the Woodstock album — the film was finished, so the album was gonna get together. It was gonna be the big album. You know what the album came out to be. OK. Ask Clive Davis — there are facts — Clive was disturbed because Atlantic beat him to the punch [Woodstock is on the Atlantic-distributed label, Cotillion]. He was not about to let them have the two big acts: Sly and Santana. Jerry Wexler called. Ahmet Ertegun — ‘Let’s be reasonable. You’ll get the next one.’ I spoke to Clive. You can not — I wish I had the telegrams here. I have a file here that’s precious. If you call Clive Davis and ask him how come Santana ended up there — I haunted this man. He was at a banquet in Atlanta, Georgia. There was a phone call on the dais. He was giving a lecture in Washington, D.C., there was a four-page telegram from me. He was in Florida — there I was. He said, ‘I give up.’ That’s how Santana and Sly end up on the album.
“Woodstock was so important to Santana, because Woodstock took rock from the neighborhoods and put them on Wall Street. And you’re gonna say, ‘Bill, you’ve always been outspoken against these things.’ True, but I’m the manager. It was my job to expose them as best I could. That was one gig.”
For which, Graham said, he was hardly paid. He never received any record royalties or statements, he said, and he had a meeting with Marcum. “I said, ‘Stan what about the percentage from this?’ And he said, ‘You mean to tell me you get ten percent from royalties also? You got paid for Woodstock, didn’t you?’ I said, ‘Fuck. Woodstock, they got $1,500 to play, and what you’re saying is that I should only be paid $150.’ He didn’t think I should get paid a percentage from the movie, from the $7,500, or from record royalties. And I once said to him, which is a very ugly thing, ‘I’ll show you what a manager really is. When his client sneezes, he gets ten percent of the snot.’ I looked him straight in the face and said, ‘According to you, I should be paid ten percent on the gig and nothing else from the gig.’ He said, ‘That’s right.’ I said, ‘Do you think that’s fair?’ ‘Yeah, man.’
“So I began to realize that he’s either very stupid or very ruthless.”
Back once more to the list: “Stan,” Graham was asking, “what did you have to do with Ed Sullivan? I went to New York, walked in, was rejected. I sat in the producer’s office for three hours. He was late, finally didn’t show up. I went back the next day. I played ‘Evil Ways’; he wasn’t caught by it. And ask him what I did. I got up, in his office, and I did a choreography of the ethnicality of the group.” Graham announces his performance with a sharp slap, right hand into left mitt: “Black! Chicano! Nicaraguan! White! A cross-section of America or Latin America on your stage!” And I told him what they looked like and he bought it. And I came back and did I say to you, ‘Oh, I went to New York’? No. It’s not my job to tell you how hard it was for me. But now that you ask me ‘What do I do?’ — this is what happened to get it.”
Finally, the group huddled and came in with the verdict: “We’re sorry this came up, let’s just go ahead and do the best we can.”
But Marcum, said Graham, was still intent on taking over — “He set up his own office and I never went down there.” It is not like him to hang out. “But you should ask Stan Marcum how they went about telling Bill Graham he was no longer needed. They had a gig in Tanglewood that I loved so much that I set up for them, with Miles Davis and the Voices of East Harlem. I mean just music, and excitement and warmth, and after the gig I got a trailer for the boys in the back and we were just happy. ‘Bill you’re the greatest.’ Love, love, love. I went back into New York for the next gig and they came out to California. The day after this joyous togetherness, I got a call 3,000 miles away from Stan Marcum saying, ‘Bill, we decided we want to do our own thing, man, and we’re not gonna be with you anymore.’ I remember distinctly on the phone — I wish Stan was here right now — I said, ‘Stan, regardless of whether it’s right or wrong, how dare you call a man 3,000 miles away to tell him that you’re taking his lover — like a woman saying to her man, hello, honey, this is your wife, Charlotte. I’m in Hawaii with George. How do you do that?’ And I said, ‘Why couldn’t you be man enough to tell me when you get back here for the meeting? Or say something to me at Tanglewood?’ ‘Well, yesterday everybody was so happy.’ I said, ‘That’s right.’ I was extremely disappointed, not because of the money. They owed me a considerable sum of money. They still owe me a considerable sum of money. I was really hurt. And he didn’t want to get together. He didn’t want to discuss it.
“He made his move at a time when the group was gonna break, I mean big. I’m not talking about hundreds of dollars. I’m talking about hundreds and thousands and millions of dollars. At that point, did he ask himself with respect to the group could he handle a multimillion-dollar piece of talent? And if he couldn’t, who was he really helping? One of the meetings I had with Stan Marcum afterwards, I said, ‘I have to be honest, I don’t think you can do it.’ And he mentioned a lawyer and an astrologer friend who was going to run it for them, and I said, ‘It’s only a matter of time. Because some of the people you mention, I think, are of ill repute, and I think they are what you accuse me of being, but they don’t know anything about your industry and in the long run they’ll hurt you. Now what happened to Stan Marcum is that he dropped Bill Graham and he went with these people, and not two years later … How many times in life do you say to yourself, ‘I’m sorry — I was right’?”
Marcum hired an accountant who worked with Santana a year and a half. “The accountant — I won’t give you the amount — stole in six figures,” said Graham.
We asked Marcum about this. “The accountant is in the process of being sued for embezzlement,” he said.
“Check out the attorney they went to.” said Graham. “Who are these people as opposed to the people I had? And my ten percent covered all bookkeeping, all accounting, all tax work. And how much did Bill Graham make from Santana in all those years? Under $20,000 in commission. Under. What did Stan Marcum pay for the privilege of money being stolen from Santana?”
Marcum couldn’t give much of a figure for the attorney, Herb Resner. “We were only with Resner a few months. I had to fire him for misrepresentation. He would make judgments for the band without asking the band. They turned out to be poor judgments. But,” Marcum reasoned, “that’s irrelevant.”
Bill Graham, by the way, says he isn’t suing. He did feel he deserved compensation for the jobs he’d booked for Santana up to the day of his dismissal, and he felt he should’ve gotten a few percent of the band’s earnings after August 1970. Graham says he’s received nothing — especially after a meeting at Santana’s then-lawyer Herb Resner’s office. “And there was this feeling that we deserved absolutely nothing. We got very heated and he started calling me some names and I lunged at him.” Graham chuckled.
Stan Marcum insisted that he could recall no meeting where Graham produced a list of Santana milestones. And despite documentation from Graham that he had indeed acted as manager, Marcum still maintained there was no agreement. He’s right; in 1968, Graham worked on handshakes; he changed his policy in August 1970.) As for the Woodstock pay: “I think we made $7,500 … or maybe it was $750.”
“What he says and what went down is a bunch of shit.”
Marcum was getting testy. We’d gotten along so well together in person; he’d shown off his castle-like house, the patio and pool, the greenhouse, the width and breadth of seven acres of healthy Marin County woods, showed me his 24-track toy in one of a half dozen spare rooms, and convinced me he deserved it all, after seven years of toil in holiday-and-out motel rooms all over this world. And when his lady, as he still refers to members of that species, pranced in all triumphant because of a reindeer-encrusted flannel shirt she had found in Sausalito, he felt right at home feeling her width and breadth for five minutes before letting her go to the kitchen to make cookies. And now, over the phone, he was getting these suddenly knowledgeable and very petty questions.
“Look,” he said, “If Bill Graham wants to look good, let him.”
Still, would he agree that the switch from receptionist Bill Graham to his astrologer/attorney/accountant team was a mistake?
“Well … yeah. It was you make one mistake after another to get in the position to make things better. Which is where we are now.”
Voted out of his job, Marcum’s position, it appears, is high and rather dried up. He talks about being involved in music — “with certain people, on a laidback basis.
“I’ve got a lot of creative things in mind in music, and I’ve also got a lot of living I want to do, and I’m gonna make them work together.”
But earlier, he had hinted some kind of association with the remainder of Santana (Rolie, Brown, Schon and Carabello) as one body. Rolie, now working on demo tapes with Bobby Winkleman (ex of Steve Miller), states flatly: “I’m taking care of myself.” Brown, now working with his sisters on the project he’s conceived three years ago, says much the same thing. Carabello and Schon are the ones trying hardest to carry on with the sound of Santana at its commercial peak. Their album, in fact, includes contributions from Brown, the old bass, and Rauch the new one, and Mike Shrieve and Carlos Santana as well as Carabello and Schon. And out past South San Francisco, in County Jail, with a few of the suburb’s ticky-tack, David Brown said anything could still happen. “The attitude and stuff. Like everybody thinking that they’re gonna come out with a superstar Cream group or something like that. I think that could change with really sittin’ down and looking at the thing. We’re not just talking about like how I’m gonna feel in a year, but how I’m gonna feel five years from now, you know.”
Marcum, Schon and Carbello seem to think that Carlos Santana had surrounded himself with a band of yes men. Well … yes. Shrieve is definitely with Carlos, spiritually; Rauch appears to be getting there, having accompanied Carlos and Armando Peraza to the Mahavishnu sessions in New York; Peraza appears to be an old-timer going along for the ride, getting some dues after years of work in the Afro-Cuban-Latin music scene, and Chepito is in it for the dinero, as Carabello says.
The little half pint of brown sugar is thumping his chest, gesturing with his hands, fourteen more inches, and he is asked by proud husband and father Tom Koster if he likes the Caravanserai music.
“They are heavy musicians,” he says thickly, “but I don’t like the music so much. I write my own music, a lot of Latin and rock, but they don’t like it. I stay in the group because I like to stay with what I start.” Chepito came to the U.S. — to New York, to join the Latin-jazz scene there — six years ago from Nicaragua. There, at age eight, he first injured his head in a fall onto hard rocky road. “And I never grow up,” he said, to explain his five-foot lack of height.
“In the hospital,” Koster is saying now, “he screwed all the nurses.”
“Yeah,” Chepito agrees. “But I don’t remember nothin’.”
Carlos Santana has hired this band; pays the new members a salary; exacts supreme discipline. Even a system of fines, a la James Brown and Ray Charles, it is said. Carlos will no longer be abused by brothers for his phrases, for trying to take over a band. Carlos, today, is Santana.
And Santana, on its complex new levels, is at this point so solid musically that fewer and fewer people are demanding the old evil ways. The crowds were sparer than expected in a few spots this recent first tour, but there were standing ovations in San Francisco and New York, and encores almost everywhere else.
“You have to give the man credit,” Bill Graham says. “He has to live with himself. If he gave in, just to success, just to keep the band going, and if he himself was miserable — well, he’s at least being honest, and he’s saying the most important person in the world to me is me.”
Carlos took a risk few musicians could afford, and fewer, still, would dare to make. He pauses for a moment of prayer before each set; for an encore he’ll bring the caravan back to “Jingo” or “Samba Pa Ti” to say thanks for accepting the change.
“The name only dies when a person dies inside. There’s a lot of dead people walking around, you know. And they don’t have the eyes to see these things.”
Carlos is standing up against a hotel room wall this morning in Seattle, his eyes closed as the photographer blitz-clicks around him. Incense is burning, and on the cassette now is Dionne Warwicke. Also on that tape: Aretha Franklin and Nancy Wilson. “Dionne,” says Carlos. “She doesn’t OD on soul. She carries the melody. And that’s hard to do.”