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Watts Riots +1

keltner2

 

To me Henry Franklin is so great. We played together with the Afro-Blues Quintet + One on numerous occasions. Bill Henderson was on piano.

We played @ a place down on MLK Blvd called Memory Lane. It was exhilarating for me because we were playing to a crowd who really understood the music and loved it. I felt like it was the really big time.

Then the Watts Riots happened. I lived in Altadena at the time and my lifelong friend Jack Foulkes (who was the horn player in the AFBQ) lived in Pasadena.

Jack had a beautiful little Porsche. He took real good care of it. I had a little funky Volkswagen. I tried to ride with him as much as I could. During the riots he would pick me up and the drums were already set up down there because we were playing steady there for a minute.

As we drove out of Pasadena through an area to get to the freeway there were reports that whites were shooting blacks. Now I think that was highly exaggerated, I hope it was. I don't remember hearing any details of someone being hurt. That was the rumor, a nasty rumor for sure. I drove his Porsche through that area.

When we got to the Freeway, we'd change places and he would drive and I would get down in the well of the seat and as we drove down towards Memory Lane there were reports that young black kids were throwing rocks at cars that were driving by with white people.

It was a riot, a crazy race riot. It didn't start like that but that's what it turned into. We were very young and to me it was kind of exciting in a way. I'm very light skinned and I'm playing with all these beautiful black brothers. They just protected me in every way possible. They told me, "don't go out here, don't go out there. We're going to hang together."

We played and stayed inside. Normally we'd go out and grab some chicken or something. We got through all of that.

One night instead of driving straight home we went up to Mt. Washington which was close to Pasadena. We drove up this high hill where the drummer Paul Lagos used to live. He would have jam sessions there. Paul was a troubled cat, but he was brilliant. He had really good ideas and he was real generous with all that. I loved Paul. He had kinda of a reputation, so it was hard for some people to get on board but I loved him and was always really glad I could talk him up. So we parked up there and looked out and you could see Watts burning. I'll never forget that. Just these fires, it was a crazy time. Thank god for the music cause that got us all through it."