Sunday, July 30, 2017

Roadie Report 76 by Camilla McGuinn - 75 Years - His Gentle Walk of Faith

July 24, 2017 at the WoodSongs taping.

Almost 40 years ago my life changed.

On New Year’s Day 1978, I woke up in Puerto Vallarta on the Wind Rose, my brother’s trimaran. We had been sailing from San Diego and were planning on continuing for months. But, it was time for me to go back to Los Angeles. There was no credit card or airline ticket in my pocket, but I was on a mission. I was going home.

It was a little strange to be drawn to "home." I didn't have a home.  I had recently left a two year relationship and quit my job at Playboy. I was either going to succeed in acting or starve. It was the kindness of others and their vacant guest rooms that put a roof over my head and the occasional dinner with friends that fed me.

My brother rowed me to shore. There was a hotel at the dock and a mother and daughter waiting for a taxi. I asked them if I could pay for half the ride to the airport but the mother said to just get it, it was on her.

At the airport, I walked up to an airline desk, smiled and asked if there were any seats available to Los Angeles. The desk attendant looked at me like I was nuts. This was New Year’s Day and everyone was trying to go home, but he sighed and began typing. All of a sudden, he shook his head, “A seat just opened on the next flight and it is a window seat.” I gave him some of the remaining cash I had. That seat was mine.

The plane circled Los Angeles and the layer of smog was the same brown it had been when I left it over a month ago, but something was different. I kept thinking, “My life is about to change.”

A series of events took me to an acting class where Roger was beginning the same night. I did write about the meeting in a previous blog, but I didn’t write about the life changing moment.

We were assigned to do a scene together. Part of the motivation was that he had to convince me of something I didn’t want. The night of the exercise, two chairs were put center stage. Roger pulled out his guitar and began playing. That did bug me. How was I supposed to compete with a musician? Pets, children and musicians are the definitive way to have a scene stolen.

He stopped playing, looked at me and asked if I would like to learn how to play the guitar.
“ Sure.”
“Okay, but you have to cut your finger nails on your left hand.”
“No problem.” I was smiling at myself. This was not going to get me upset. I wasn’t a girly-girl and finger nails were not important to me.

Then he pulled out his Swiss Army knife and began cutting my fingernails. I’m still secretly smiling. No reaction from me. He was losing this exercise.

He showed me a couple of chords and I awkwardly played them. Then he took the guitar back and said, “Let me play you a song.”

He began playing and singing a song the Byrds had recorded on “The Sweetheart of the Rodeo” album in 1968. When he finished the song he asked me if I liked it.

“Not particularly. It’s too country for me.”

“Well, what did you think of the words?”

Then it hit me! The song was “I like the Christian Life.” He was going to try to tell me about Jesus on stage in front of the acting class!

“How long have you been into Jesus?” I demanded with a very terse tone in my voice.

“A couple of months.” He quietly replied.

“Well give it a few more months and you will get over it.” Then I stood up and left the stage and stood seething in the back of the workshop as the students in the acting class all broke out into applause  and said: “Wow that was great! It was like a scene from Tennessee Williams.”

That was the beginning of the change. A week later I suggested we go to the Los Angeles County Museum of Art to work on our scene. I was stuck with this long hair musician. One of the few rules I had in my life was not to date musicians, but I had to find a way to work with him. Little did I know that the first room we walked into was an exhibition of the Crucifixion of Jesus. My attitude was less than humble, but after studying the first three paintings I had an epiphany about my life. I had given up on love. Love was someone else’s fantasy, but all of a sudden I realized that I didn’t have the author of love in my life. I didn’t even want to hear His name for the past ten years. A verse I had learned as a child kept looping through my head:

“For God so loved the world that He gave His only begotten son and whosoever believes in Him shall not perish but have everlasting life.” John 3:16

I hit the side of my head, hoping to knock those words out of my mind, but as I looked at the painting, I realized it was time for this prodigal child to go back to the love of Jesus. I had a strong feeling that if I didn't do it then, I was going to be in big trouble in the world on my own. By the time I walked out of the museum that day, I told God that I would go anywhere, do anything if I could know Him better. That day I understood what it was to be born again.

The story has more facets including how Roger told me about the shipwreck of his life during the early rock and roll years. Maybe someday I will write about what happened next with both of us, but for now, let’s just say through divine intervention Roger and I were married within two months. I was happy I didn’t have to become a nun since I was imagining that as the only way I could get to know God.

A few weeks after we were married, Roger’s new accountant called us to set up a meeting. For years Roger had trusted a gaggle of people to handle his affairs. Years of touring with a band on his credit cards finally caught up. He was on the verge of bankruptcy. It was time to get a bankrupt attorney and set the wheels in motion before someone else did.

In the mean time God took this Roman Catholic boy and Southern Baptist girl and set them in a Pentecostal Church, The Church on the Way in Van Nuys. The Wednesday before the Monday bankruptcy filing we were at the church listening to Jack Hayford open the mysteries of the Bible for us.

After the teaching, Roger looked at me and said with a tone of urgency in his voice, “We haven’t prayed about the bankruptcy.”

We walked into a small room where people went to go for prayer and approached an elderly gentleman named Lee. Roger told him we were going bankrupt on Monday. Lee smiled, shook his head and said, “That’s not God’s way. Your Father owns all the cattle on all the hills. Let’s pray.” He took Roger’s hand, and then looked at him intently. “I sense a need for repentance. Something about being un-equally yoked.”

Roger broke into a sweat. After filing for bankruptcy, he was going to sign a contract with Capitol Records for the group McGuinn, Clark and Hillman.
Lee continued, “There might be some gratification in that union but not a lot. How much money do you need to hold back the creditors?”

“About twenty-five thousand.” Roger whispered not really knowing how to answer.

“No. We need at least fifty thousand.” I interjected. Bookkeeping was one of my gifts.

We prayed with Lee and the next day Roger called the accountant and said there would be no bankruptcy filing. The attorney sent us a letter stating that he understood that we were going to try to pay everyone back and he hoped our faith would get us through it, but the creditors would bankrupt us anyway. Another attorney who was handling some of the lawsuits that were daily delivered at our door, stated blatantly that Roger didn’t have a pot to even pee in.

Well things happened. A few gigs for a good amount of money and the advance from the record company kept the creditors at bay. Payment schedules were worked out. It took over two years, but it was all paid back.

In the meantime McGuinn, Clark and Hillman was a train about to wreck. Gene Clark once again could not handle success, so his habits went into excess. He even forgot to show up for concerts. Roger and Chris had to fire him to keep the promoters from suing them.

Chris was having some trouble with his anger management and decked a Capitol records executive back stage at the Bottom Line. On the plane back to California Roger told him it was time to end the relationship. Capitol released the group and told them that they would not be sued for the altercation if they left quietly. The good news is that Chris is now a happy person with everything under control.

It was now time for Roger to pursue his dream of being an entertainer like his hero, Pete Seeger. Pete could captivate audiences with his stories and songs. All Roger had to do was to figure out how to tell stories; he knew the songs to sing.

The reason for this particular blog is to write about that man I married almost 40 years ago, his gentle walk of faith and to celebrate his 75th birthday. Here is another one of his stories.

 In 1982 we lived in Morro Bay, CA. We ran out of money and there was no work on the horizon.  I would walk a mile down the hill to the post office everyday hoping there was a royalty check from some unknown source.

On that Wednesday my walk back was a bleak one. There was no money in the mail and our $400 rent check was due on Monday. I was figuring we could live in our van but I didn’t even think about paying that monthly payment or even the monthly payment for child support. We were about to be homeless.

When I got home, Roger was sitting on the couch in the sunroom smiling and gazing at the distant view of the ocean and the garden. I sat down next to him with a deep sigh. Quietly I said, “There was no money at the post office.”

He joyfully told me, “Look at that bush right in front of the window in the garden. A few minutes ago it was filled with little red berries. As I was praying, a flock of birds swept down from the sky and ate them all! God had prepared those berries for the birds to eat just at the right time. If He cares for the birds and feeds them, He will care for us and feed us! Don’t worry it’s going to be alright, just at the right time.”

My weak smile reflected my voice, “I hope so.” I certainly wasn’t a tower of faith, but Roger’s faith was covering both of us.

The next day, the phone rang. The voice of our long time friend David, the owner of a business on Pico Blvd he called Rent-A-Wreck, was excited. A lady had walked in his shop to rent a car for a day. As she filled out the form David noticed she was the manager of the McCabe’s Guitar shop which had a back room where she promoted intimate concerts. David asked her if she knew Roger McGuinn.

“Roger McGuinn!” she exclaimed. “I’ve been trying to find him!”

David called us and gave her the phone. She introduced herself and said she wanted to have Roger play at the McCabes concert room. If we said yes, she would FEDEX the deposit today.

The deposit was enough to pay the rent and a little left over. The balance would finish paying all of our monthly obligations.

From that day forward, our life turned around. It wasn’t quick. When the children of Israel entered the Promise Land, God didn’t give it to them all at once because they wouldn’t be able to handle it. So it was with us. That was over 35 years ago. We slowly progressed in understanding our finances, our work and even moving across the nation to the place God wanted us to be.

We often smile at each other and say, ‘You’re my second best friend.” Jesus is our first. 

Before we celebrated Roger’s 75th birthday, we drove to Miami and helped Sophie and Michele celebrate the one they love his birthday, Dave Barry’s, 70th birthday. It was fun to see some of the Rock Bottom Remainders, Sam Barry, Mitch and Janine Albom and Scott Turow. The jam session was a great way to celebrate a friends birthday.


I did convince Roger to actually celebrate his birthday. He doesn’t like to make a big deal of anything, but I insisted he tell me what he loves to do. His reply “Be on the ocean.” This lover of sea chanteys wanted to be on the sea. I found a wonderful voyage and we celebrated the best birthday ever.

San Juan Puerto Rico July 2017

Besides being on stage, his next favorite place to be - on the sea.