Sunday, December 16, 2007

The Grove........Now and Then



Funny, but what got me going on this riff was a Friday afternoon stopover to the Titanic Brewery by the University of Miami fopr a brew or two with my buddies the other day. It just hit me that this was the old Flick coffeehouse that I used to go to in the 60’s to see all the great musicians that lived in Coconut Grove back then. Back in the late 60’s I lived in a duplex apartment complex on Aviation Avenue in the Grove. It was owned by an old doll that had been a bit player in the movies back in the 20’s and 30’s and was a ringer for the Norma Desmond character in “Sunset Boulevard”. As with everyone else in the Grove she was a lovable eccentric. The complex was a big one acre property with four duplexes surrounded by beautiful vegetation that sat just above the bay looking down on Monty Traynor’s old place and the Dinner key marina. I shared the flat with a college buddy from UM that worked selling buttons for his uncle in New Jersey. I had just gotten a job for the county government as a photographer that barely paid me enough money to live but included a car so I was set.

Back then, the Grove was a pretty funky old fishing village and all the old Miamians would warn you not to drive through it lest you got shanghaied by some shady character. In the center of town was the Peacock family ship’s chandlery where Cocowalk now stands and the Florida Pharmacy catty corner to it where we all went to the luncheon counter to have breakfast. Peacock Park and the old Public Library stood just south of the main drag as it does today, running down to the bay. If you had a few extra bucks you went to have a few drinks at the Old Grove Pub, got dinner at the Taurus Steakhouse on Main Highway and went to see “Hair” or “Equus” at the Playhouse just down the street. Scornavacca had his art studio down the alleyway between the Pharmacy and St Stephen’s school which I attended for one year when it opened in 1959. Except for these landmarks, the Grove was a series of heavily vegetated little streets lined with old Florida slash pine bungalows built by the original Bahamian settlers back in the 1920’s. Most of these which ran along Oak Avenue were converted to “head shops” where the high school kids would go to buy psychedelic posters, pot paraphernalia and tied dyed anything. The town was patrolled by “Bob the Cop” on horseback and all official duties, including weddings, were performed by “Joe Bicycle” the local notary public and merchant.

The guy who really “discovered” the Grove in the 60’s and made it a favored haunt for the musical community was Vince Martin. Martin at the time was a folk legend and considered one of the great folk singers of his day by Bob Dylan Joni Mitchell, John Sebastian and many other contemporaries. As Vince tells it, he was here doing a gig in the early 1960’s when he found himself driving down South Bayshore Drive and happened upon this beautiful little village. There was a full moon and he could smell night blooming jasmine in the air. He was struck and eventually moved down here from Greenwich Village. He lived just down the street from me on Aviation Avenue. As his friends visited him and were struck by the natural beauty of the Grove, many moved here or spent a big part of their time here. One of these was the great Fred Neil who died here in 2001. Inspired by the Grove, in 1969 Vince wrote and recorded with Fred Neil “If the Jasmine Don't Get You ... the Bay Breeze Will”. John Sebastian was a close friend of Martin and Neil and spent a lot of time in the Grove at Vince’s house. If you’re old enough to Remember Spanky and the Gang, they got their start here in the Grove when Oz Bach and Nigel Pickering were showing Elaine “Spanky” MacFarlane around the Grove and a hurricane hit. They spent the next eight hours hiding out in a chicken coup jamming and that’s how the group eventually got together!

All these artists and so many more played the circuit here in Miami back in those days, including the Flick and the Gaslight Coffee House in the Grove. Joni Mitchell was discovered at the Gaslight by David Crosby who was passing through on his sailboat the Mayan which was docked at Dinner Key. In fact, Jimmy Buffet was then an unknown young kid who was the opening act for many guys like Martin and Neil at these coffeehouses. Besides Martin’s song, the Grove was immortalized by John Sebastian after he left the Lovin Spoonful and wrote the song “Coconut Grove”. As the song says “its really true how nothing matters, no mad, mad world, no mad hatters. Nobody’s pitching, cause there ain’t no batters in Coconut Grove” When I think back to those days, I can truly say it was a magical place. No resemblance to the crass commercial locale it has become. I know in many ways it is a “better” place today, but I can honestly say that what it was will never be rivaled by what it may become.

39 comments:

C.L. Jahn said...

Stop in to John Martin's Pub in Coral Gables on Sunday nights. John Brown is running an acoustic night that is the direct descendant of those nights at the Flick.

John played at the Flick, as have several of the other regular players, including Coconut Grove's Bob Ingram.

Dave said...

Thanks CL: I forgot to mention Bob Ingram in the story, but Bobbie was close friends with all those named in particular with Freddie Neil. If you go to the Coconut Grove Grapevine blog, you can see he is now street band director of the Grove Business Improvement Committee. I think he is probaby now the last old timer from those musical days still left in the Grove.

C.L. Jahn said...

Just last week Bob was asking me to pass word around that he's looking for street performers; he's particularly anxious to find a living statue.

As you can imagine, he's got musicians covered.

Come in some night for the music; it's a great night out.

dallas said...

Great memories of the Grove and many came flooding back after reading Steve Martin's new book, Born Standing Up. On page 149 is an image of a playbill for Bubbas folk club. It includes Vince Martin, Teri DeSario, and Mike and Barbara Smith.

Although I never went to Bubbas I do remember seeing all the above (sans Steve) at the Flick Coffee House. And on other nights I enjoyed Uncle Dirty, Gabe Kaplan, and George Blackwell. And I remember one fine evening going down to the Flick and could not get in...the place was a zoo...filled beyond capacity spilling out onto Ponce because David Crosby was there.

Dave said...

Thanks for the comment Dallas! I can't remember Bubba's for the life of me. I do remember we had a lot of good stand up comics at the clubs in those days. Uncle Dirty was a regular as I recall. I understand he's retired and living in NJ. I also remember Rich Little and Frank Gorshin coming to Miami to do shows.

JimmyD said...

I can't believe i stumbled across this. A new job landed me back in Miami Beach, which brought back alot of memories. Most of which are very cool, although somewhat sad at the same time. My father was responsible for the demise of The Flick, around 1972. He bought the club from the guy resposible for telling Joni Mitchell not to sing that song about Clouds! I came out of high school and was in showbiz , which was very cool indeed. Bob Ingram taught me my first three chords , which i still play today. Interesting how Jimmy Buffet talked about being a headliner at the Flick, in his book. The real story is he played there for $75.00 a week and was glad to get that. He talked about the owner of the club messing up his booking and dissing him while looking over a produce order, checking a cantalope. I remember a guy coming around one afternoon, and auditioning. I called my father , who said offer him 75 bucks , we dont need another act right now. There was no cantalope on the menu! The night David Crosby played with a host of others was and is a fond memory indeed. Thanks to Vince Martin for saving me when the mic broke back stage and I had to go out front to make the announcment in front of people !! Jerry Jeff Walker came with two bottles of Jack a night and somehow remembered the words. Amazing. I still have a photo of JJW , John Vandaver, and Donny playing that night. And still remember them talking back stage about holding him up on the stool!Bob and Vince took me to The Feedbag one night to hear a new guy they wanted my dad to hire. His name was Frank Stalone. Good to hear Vince is alive and well, along with Bob, and some of the other players. This might be as good a place as any to apologize for my fathers business plan or lack thereof. Uncle Dirty imparted some wisdom on that one for me ,when I revisited Miami a few years after leaving the Flick ( not the memories) behind. Towns Van Zant said it best on Rear View Mirror.

Ralph said...

Just visited Mike Smith at Glen Lakes MI - was doing a high school benefit there - he is better than I remember him in 1963 and he was nigh on to great then. He mentioned having been in contact with Bob Ingram recently - maybe there is a possibility he and Vince Martin will show up back in the Grove in the near future?

Ralph Houghton
Bass player - The New Coachmen 63-64

CKNIGHT said...

Really cool stuff here, I was a bit later to the Grove, I remember "Four Way Street" being a hip clothes store obviously named after CSNY's live album, along with various head shops and eateries. Free concerts at Peacock AND the Miami Beach Convention Center. Lum's was always an experience as were the many alleyway bars. I really miss the innocence of it all.

Cynthia said...

Great memories. Grew up in Miami and moved to St. Auugstine ten years ago. I googled coffee houses in the Grove in the 60's. Spanky & Our Gang will pay tribute to Nigel Pickering this Sunday at the Tradewinds Bar Elaine "Spanky" McFarlane is coming in from California to honor him on his 81st birthday.

Houghton Manor said...

Driving down from Michigan to attend Nigel's birthday. Will be stopping Brevard NC to visit the gravesite for Oz Bach. Did bass backup for him on a gig at the Lion's Head Oct 1964 and while bassist for The New Coachmen. Sent a friend of mine, Tina Billias, to visit Nigel last summer when she went to St. Augusting to visit some of her friends there. They really had a good visit.

Ron said...

Wow, what a blast to read this. I played a few songs at the Gaslight while I was in college in 1965, auditioned in the back alley for Vince Martin. I still play a guitar I bought from Bobby Ingram when he had the guitar shop next to the bike shop. I was married, for a short time to Joe Bike's ex. And still see Buddy Helm, of the Bethlehem Asylem, part of the "second wave" of musicians that came in to be near Fred Neil.

It was a great time to be in a great place. I also remember the Doors show at Dinner Key...

mojo said...

I remember sitting in The Grove Pub in 1972 having a beer with my friend Bill Strickland. Bill had to go to the men's room and I was sitting at the bar with the 2 full beers we had just ordered. As soon as Bill walked away some guy walks up and guzzles Bill's beer. I told this guy that was my buddy's beer he just guzzled. He replied, "He's my buddy too!" This guy turns out to be Tony Scornavacca. His personality was such that we couldn't be mad at him and we ended up buying him beers for the rest of the night. I knew him for the next decade or so until he died of cancer. A lot of people don't know that he and another artist named Bill Clark were responsible for influencing The Chamber of Commerce to start The Coconut Grove Art Festival.

Righteous Rants said...

You forgot Mama Mangoes , the Tom Thumb and Scotties, that great deli. We lived on our boat at Dinner Key for 2 yearts - $45/month including power and water. The restrooms a the Old Grove Pub were memorable. The Taurus was where all the sailors met and then there was Martin, the guy who made sandals. I'm glad I had a chance to experience it before it got screwed up.

Larry K. said...

I'm so glad I found this site.....I would go to the Flick every weekend while I was in high school at Miami Norland from until 1966. Mike Smith, Vince Martin, Oz Bach, etc. still etched in my 62 year old brain!
Lum's, the Gaslight, English Pub on Key Biscayne, Taurus Restaurant, and a great little shack on Main (or Grand) that made the best conch fritters......when I went to U of M, I moved into Jamestowm apartments near Dinner Key...THAT Coconut Grove was truly majical....

Ralph Houghton said...

Larry K - Vince is doing well in Brooklyn and is on Facebook. Mike Smith also has a Facebook presence with a fan page and a personal page.
Oz Bach died in September 1998 and is interred in Brevard NC. Many Grove veterans are still active.

Larry K. said...

Ralph,
good to know they are still around!!
Where did the New Coachmen play? Probably saw you perform somewhere.
Just to leave the Grove for a second, remember Thee Image in North Miami Bch.?

Ralph Houghton said...

Larry,

The New Coachmen were active from Palm Beach to Miami from about April 1962 to September 1964 when we lost our lead singer. I played bass briefly for Oz Bach (later helped found Spanky and Our Gang). We were the house band in the movie Once Upon a Coffeehouse filmed in Miami June 1964. This film featured Vince Martin as one of the 4 lead characters. It was the first filmed appearance of Joan Rivers in a trio known as Jim, Jake, and Joan. Lots of others in that film who went on to other things.

Do you mean The Image? Vaguely familiar, but the NC didn't play there - that I remember.

Ralph Houghton said...

Larry,

We played the Cafe Catacomb and the House of Pegasus in Ft Lauderdale and the Hootenanny Coffeehouse in Miami. We played a lot of parties and special events all through that area. We were first billed with Alix Dobkins who later married Sam Wood who set up the Gaslight South. That place and some others including The Flick came a year after we left the area.

Larry K. said...

Ralph,
Thee Image was a venue made from a converted bowling alley on Collins in N. Miami Beach...Led Zeppelin, Vanilla Fudge, Iron Butterfly......all played there!
I mean, we had that, Pirate's world (saw Edgar Winter there), Miami Jai Lai, The Flick, Gaslight....great music all over the place (not to mention seeing Leonard Cohen, Richie Havens, and Janis Joplin at the University of Miami in the late 60's (also don't forget Gulfstream Park in Hallandale where we had 2 Music Festivals!)
BTW...loved the Oz!

Mrs. Bubba said...

I am so glad I ran across this post. My husband and I owned Bubba's in the Grove. What wonderful days those were. Jimmy Buffett played in our place for free just to work on material. We had Steve Martin for New Years in 72 or 73. Steve Goodman, George Blackwell, Teri Desario, Mike and Barbara Smith. Vince Martin, Uncle Dirty...what wonderful memories. If anyone knows where Dave Cohen, our soundman and very dear friend, I would love to reconnect. Thank all of you for the wonderful "trip" down memory lane.....Rita

C.L.J. said...

You can find Dave at John Martin's Pub in Coral Gables every Sunday night.

Mrs. Bubba said...

Thanks CLJ...It just occurred to me to check the white pages and there he was...I just got off the phone with him. Had a wonderful visit. Will definitely check out John Martin's Pub in Coral Gables on my next trip to FL.

Mrs. Bubba said...

Just had a wonderful memory surface. When Buffett used to stop in on his way back to Key West he would play for wine :). I used to tease him about keeping my girls so busy. One night Bubba and I hooked a "hot water bottle" to a mike stand, filled it with wine and all he had to do was open the tap to drink from it. Since these things were used for enemas and other "stuff", his only concern was if it was new. I assured him that alcohol will kill anything and he proceeded to tap on it all night long....funny stuff!!

ponz said...

Hi, this is saxophonist Peter Ponzol (known then as Pete Ponzol) Anyone out there remember me from my jazz quartet playing at the Gaslight and the Opus One on 27th Ave? I also played with Spanky. I used to live down the street from Fred Neil and would play flute with him by his pool on Hardee Ave.Oz Bach stayed in my apartment in San Francisco for a while in the late 60's. Played in NYC in the 70's with Richie Havens, Buzzy Linhart, etc.

Floridahistoryhunter said...

Fred Neil, Vince Martin & John Sebastian - "The Dolphins" 8/2/76

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Lms7Gxbe-Jo

What a gas, thanks for all of it. The blog, the stories and responses. I learned a lot, thanks.

Ralph Houghton said...

A bunch of Grove Folks (and some of their friends) are gathered in a closed Facebook group and would welcome anyone who wants to join us. You need a FB account. Friend me at Ralph Houghton (Albion MI link) and I will add you to the group.

You can lock down your FB access in Settings. Best advise - don't use any of the applications. They always ask you to accept and list access to all your FB details. I just cancel any of those.

Ralph Houghton said...

Drop in and say hello to Vince Martin, Mike Smith, Pete Neff, Panama Red, and many others.

Ralph Houghton said...

For those who may not know, John Brown recently passed away. Contact the South Florida Folk Club for information.

Ralph Houghton said...

Mrs. Bubba - Peter Neff is building video projects on the Flick Coffeehouse and performers around the Miami area and would like to start one on Bubba's. He wanted to know if you had pictures inside and outside Bubba's. A real plus would be audio tapes and or video from the time Bubba's was open. Please contact Pete directly or if you need his contact information, contact me at rhoughton at albion dot edu. You will need to convert this to a standard email address. I list it this way to prevent spammers from snatching my email address. Hope to hear from you soon, Ralph

Sparroweye said...

My Father was the Post Master in Coconut Grove for many years in the 50's and part of 60's. I used to help sort mail. I met John C. Lily, and he signed my copy of his dolphin book. It was a wonderful free time. I still love the grove and all its history and eccentric artists.

Daisy Jane said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
A Lone Wolf said...

There has never been and will never be a better time and place to come of age than Coconut Grove in the 1960s. Being a kid there in the 50s wasn't too bad either. We had all the good - music, art and people - with little or none of the bad.

How do you spell Scornavacca? "S" as in Scornavacca, "C" as in Cornavacca...

Bob Phonylastname said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
Bob Phonylastname said...

Thanks for the peak into the past! I came to Coconut Grove in 71 and stayed a few months,I ended up returning 6 months later and stayed for a year. =)
At first I was just one of those 17 yr old street kids 'spare-changing' aroung Peacock Park and the library. We would try to get up enough money for 'eats', which was usually bologna and bread, with a very small package of sliced cheese to turn it into a 'fancy' meal! If we were successful in our begging, we would have enough for breakfast at the luncheon counter on the corner!
We eventually discovered sopers and our lives changed forever. Tween outdoor rock concerts on the keys (even leaving our boots in the van of a casual aquaintance, that we didn't see again for 10 days!) and pot and sopers, and lots of friendly ladies, it was a testosterone filled young mans paradise!!
The friend that I hitchhiked down from Illinois with took off for six weeks to Clearwater with a friend we met from Atlanta named 'Spoon'! His moniker wasn't what you may think at first, he aquired the name from a very ordinary looking tablespoon that he carried with him that he used for his meals! ;)
I happened to meet up with a nice gal from Toledo, who called herself 'Holly'. I never knew if that was her real name or not. The two of us stayed together at 'crashpads' set up throughout the Grove. Those places weren't exactly advertised by the way. lol. I remember Bubbas, and all the headshops, the Dinner Key Auditorium and just hanging out at Peacock Park, where also we would catch the big Hare Krisna luncheon and dancing. =) . We had a great couple months together, but I had to go back to Illinois to finish up some court business. I said I would be back asap. She said " I hope it doesn't hit you too hard." I didn't know what she was talking about exactly. Love? Separation? I was a naive young lad and didn't know anything about drug withdrawal until somewhere south of Indianapolis.
She was a great woman, I miss her still to this day, and yes I think I fell in love with her.
And all that was my two month, first visit to Coconut Grove. A place that will remain deeply ingrained into my consciousness forever. Even perhaps into my next life. =)

A.M. said...

I came across Miami Memories while looking for information about the folk music scene in Coconut Grove in the 1960s. Thank you Dave for a wonderful portrait of what must have been an amazing time and place!

I’m wondering if anyone remembers Seraffyn, aka Donald Mork. He was my uncle. He performed at a coffeehouse in Coconut Grove in April 1964. Seraffyn was pretty unforgettable. He dressed as a wandering minstrel in a doublet, tights and boots, sang, told stories and played the lute.

The gig in Coconut Grove was one of his last before he was killed in a car accident on his way home to New York. I’d like to hear from anyone who met Seraffyn Mork during his time in The Grove.

Alison Mork
mork@gmx.com

GrrBear said...

I'm Bear Sawkins. My partner and I, as High Autumn, played The Flick several times 1970-72, and I remember those nights so, so well. At various times we were on the same bill as Dion, Elizabeth (Liz Seneff), Jeffrey Arthur & Friends, Ron Kickasola and Don Dunaway (for whom I wrote a couple of tunes.) Does anyone remember a folk pub in Key West (early '70s) called Bull & Bush or some variation of that???

slingsandarrows said...

bull and whistle in key west, i think

slingsandarrows said...

bull and whistle in key west, i think

Barry Dunaway said...

I've enjoyed all your posts regarding The Flick Coffeehouse..such good memories that I've been hearing about since I married my husband, Barry Dunaway, 20 years ago. Barry first started playing bass with his big brother, Don Dunaway, at the age of 12. They played at The Flick ('69-'74) with various folks I've recognized from this blog, but never had the honor or pleasure to meet in person. Barry's continued his career and in August of 2013, Barry was blessed with the bass slot for southern rockers .38 Special www.barrydunaway.com Don and Barry both continue to live with their families in St. Augustine, FL. God bless you all and your memories of Coconut Grove! Lydia Dunaway