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Wednesday, August 16, 2017

The Story of Neil Young’s Short-lived Santa Cruz Band The Ducks | Good Times

Neil Young - August 1977
Catalyst Club, Santa Cruz, CA
(Click photo to enlarge)

The stories are legendary surrounding the brief existence of The Ducks.

Here is a very detailed recollection of that remarkable summer of '77 -- 40 years ago -- in a small coastal Northern California town -- The Story of Neil Young’s Short-lived Santa Cruz Band the Ducks | Good Times by Geoffrey Dunn (Thanks Mark!):
Like a lot of rock ’n’ roll lore, the history of Neil Young and the Ducks—the band with which he played here during the summer of 1977—is wrapped in myth and nostalgia. Some of it’s true, some is no doubt bullshit, and much of it is in between. There were plenty of good drugs in town that summer, and no shortage of whiskey and tequila, and they definitely took a serious toll on the collective memory.

Last year, before he died unexpectedly of a heart attack at the age of 68, Johnny C. and I scheduled an interview about his summer-long tenure with the band.

“To be honest,” he said with a chuckle, “I don’t remember all that many details. It’s all pretty vague.” Indeed, there was one gig where Johnny C., who never met a party he didn’t like, passed out in the middle of a set from drinking just a tad too much.

All pretty vague, indeed.

I’ve heard a zillion versions of the legend—accounts vary wildly and considerably. And I was there for some of it. I’ve gone back to the original sources, and here’s the best I can come up with: The fledgling band played their first semi-gig on Saturday, July 9, at the Back Room bar in the New Riverside Hotel, at what was billed as a birthday party for legendary guitarist Jerry Miller of Moby Grape fame.

Performing on stage that night were several well-known musicians, including bassist Jack Register, keyboardist Dale Ockerman (from one of my favorite local bands of the era, Snail), singer Juanita Franklin, trumpet player John Maritano, Blackburn, Craviotto and Mosley. Young came out to play the final three songs.

From that point on, the Ducks played more than two dozen more shows (sometimes they played two shows a night) including at the Back Room, the Crossroads (a sweet little club at the Old Sash Mill), the Catalyst, the Veterans Hall, and the Pacific Coast Steamship Company (in Harvey West Park), until their final shows on Labor Day weekend at the Civic.
Full article The Story of Neil Young’s Short-lived Santa Cruz Band the Ducks | Good Times by Geoffrey Dunn.

Also, see Duck Tales by Patrick Mead posted to on 06 Jan 1996.



At 8/16/2017 07:34:00 PM, Blogger TOM said...

Saw them 5 times that Summer of '77

This was the best concert I've ever seen!

-Maybe 50-75 folks

-No stage

-Shook hands with Neil after "SILVER WINGS"
and was surprised how soft they were.

-Had a bud with him briefly out back in the moonlight with those wonderful California Coastal smells mingled in the cool Summer night air and the faintest taste of the salty Pacific...

First time he played "Sail Away"
" the winners in the dives.."

The Steamship, Santa Cruz, California, USA
w/ The Ducks
1. Deeper Mystery
2. Poor Man
3. Human Highway
4. I'm Tore Down
5. Hold On Boys
6. Mr. Soul
7. Car Tune
8. Sailor Man
9. Bye Bye Johnny
10. Long May You Run
11. Your Love
12. Younger Days
13. Two Riders
14. Gypsy Wedding
15. Sail Away*
16. Leaving Us Now
17. Wide Eyed And Willing
18. Trucking Man
19. Are You Ready For The Country?
20. Gone Dead Train
21. Shadows
22. I Am A Dreamer
23. I Don't Know
24. Do Me Right
25. Silver Wings

* - song debut
Tape Exists:
1977 Club Shows with the Ducks
The Ducks
Neil Young - vocals, guitar
Bob Mosley - bass, vocals
Jeff Blackburn - guitar, vocals
Johnny Craviotto - drums

At 8/16/2017 09:31:00 PM, Blogger Richie Cruz said...

I live in Santa Cruz, and the rich history of Neil and The Ducks are still talked about a lot amongst the locals who were there when it happened. (I didn't move here until 1991).

I used to live about a block away from the funky old house that Neil stayed in during the summer of 1977, which overlooks what was then known as Castle Beach, because there used to be an actual castle on the sand. Apparently, Neil used to ride a bike around town, and went to see Star Wars a bunch of times at the Del Mar Theater, which is still there. (I met Neil there once when they were showing the Greendale film).

Some of the places The Ducks played no longer exist. The Old Sash Mill is gone, and one of the bars eventually turned into a public library near the Pleasure Point section of town. The Catalyst still exists, of course, but it's a shell of its former self. The only music they have there now is hip-hop, death metal, and electronica. If you ask the people that work there now about Neil, they look at you like they have no clue what you're talking about. Sad, but true.

I saw Neil & The MG's at the Civic in 1993, but I can only imagine how cool it would have been to see The Ducks there back in that great summer of '77. I'm envious of those who were lucky enough to be there.

At 8/17/2017 03:53:00 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

This comment has been removed by the author.

At 8/17/2017 05:07:00 PM, Blogger thrasher said...

@ TOM - now that's very cool that you saw The Ducks in their prime and in all of their Santa Cruz glory. Tell us more, Tell us more.

" the winners in the dives.." -- truer words have never been sung...

@ Richard - thanks for sharing another Santa Cruz perspective. If you ever hear anymore stories, tell us more, tell us more.


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