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The Fifth Beatle Posted - Jul 24, 2021
Back in the mid-sixties, when the Beatles were hot, it seemed everyone was claiming to be "The Fifth Beatle"; in New York City, a popular DJ named Murray the K said it so often Beatles' management threatened a lawsuit if he didn't stop. In the late 'sixties, when a gifted keyboard player from Texas named Billy Preston, sat in on the Beatles' "Get Back" sessions, the English press couldn't resist calling him "The Fifth Beatle".

However, there's only one person with a right to the title, and that's the one record executive in all of England who saw their potential and signed them to a contract, when no one else would, and that's George Martin.

Unlike many American record producers, Martin was not a cynical, street smart hustler who got his start grooming talentless white kids for stardom, but an articulate, button-down Englishman known for recording classical music, and for making household names of such comedy acts as Peter Sellers, and Dudley Moore. Ironically, he didn't understand the first thing about rock 'n' roll, nor did he at first appreciate the Beatles' songwriting ability. What he did have was the knowledge and experience on how to utilize the experimental aspects of the modern recording studio, something that would prove valuable when the Beatles entered into their psychedelic phase, in the later half of the decade.

Martin took a chance on the Beatles because they adored his comedy albums, and because he enjoyed their company.

While Martin did not understand or even appreciate rock 'n' roll music, he understood in his gut that the key to selling pop records was to capture the listener's attention within the first ten seconds, and that required a hook–an instantly recognizable sound or chorus.

Because they insisted on writing their own songs, Martin let them record "Love Me Do" as their debut single. The record broke into the vaunted top forty, mainly on the strength of their fanatic fans back home in Liverpool. Still, when John and Paul presented Martin with their latest song–a ballad, entitled "Please, Please Me"–as a follow-up, he rejected it. "The song needs a hook," Martin told them, and insisted they record "How Do You Do It" instead. "It's a number-one hit," Martin said.

The Beatles reluctantly recorded the song that afternoon, but that night completely retooled "Please, Please Me", adding Lennon's harmonica as the opening hook, and speeding up the tempo, thereby transforming the ballad into an uptempo rocker. The following day, Martin was so knocked out with the changes, that he sent the boys back into the studio to record it as their next release.

"Please, Please Me" became the first of the Beatles' twenty number-one hits.

(Martin was right about "How Do You Do It" which became a number hit for another pop group from Liverpool, Gerry and the Pacemakers).

In the early years, while the Beatles were still finding their way in the studio, Martin called all the shots. For example, with "She Loves You", Martin decreed that the song begin with the chorus ("She Loves You, Yeah, Yeah, Yeah") rather than with the first verse ("You think you've lost your love . . . ") as Lennon-McCartney had written it. Not only did the song go number one in a big way, but the chorus refrain, "Yeah, Yeah, Yeah" defined their musical brand for a generation of record buyers.

For the next six years–until their breakup in 1970–the Beatles could do no wrong; every single they released went number one. Still, Martin would lay awake nights worrying about how to further enhance the Beatles' sound, and was continuously experimenting with new recording ideas, such as altering acoustics, reverse echo, and backward recording techniques. In 1964, at the height of Beatlemania, Martin slowed the tape of "A Hard Day's Night" to half speed, then doubled George Harrison's guitar solo on piano. Played at normal speeds the instruments combined into a "hybridized electronic instrument," that beguiled the ear, and that no other producer had a clue as how to duplicate.

When Lennon stumbled upon the controlled guitar feedback that opens "I Feel Fine," Martin embraced the unique sound as a yet another hook to sell their records.

Martin also composed arresting arrangements, such as the string quartet on "Yesterday", and the double string quartet on "Eleanore Rigby". On Lennon's exquisite "In My Life" Martin played the harpsichord on the bridge. In this sense, Martin had moved beyond being the band's producer, to the more creative role of song arranger, which would become particularly evident with "Sgt. Pepper's Lonely Heart's Club Band" and "Magical Mystery Tour".

In 1966, the Beatles were clearly in a mood for something different, and turned to George Martin to revolutionize their sound world, particularly while making their next album, "Revolver". The result was their first step into psychedelic music, where guitars sounded like keyboards (and vice versa), and drums sounded like echos from an alternate universe.

After that the Beatles were poised to make what many consider to be their masterpiece–"Sgt. Pepper's Lonely Heart's Club Band", in which the quartet moved beyond their usual guitar-bass-drums sound, and advanced into a new sound world of 100-piece orchestras, cello, keyboards, and horn accompaniments, heightened by Martin's inventive use of studio electronics. It seemed no request made by Lennon-McCartney, however outlandish, was beyond his ability.

Having revolutionized pop music, the Beatles took time off, and retreated to India to take part in a Transcendental Meditation training course. Away from the studio, with only their acoustic guitars to play, they wrote a number of very simple songs that would become the basis of their next album, the eponymous "The Beatles" a.k.a. "The White Album". After the extravagance of "Sgt. Pepper's Lonely Heart's Club Band", and the psychedelic anthems, "Strawberry Fields Forever" and "I Am The Walrus", the relative simplicity and quietude of "The White Album" came as something of a shock to the pop music world. Fans of the Beatles, however, embraced "The White Album" as yet another example of their range and genius.

Believing they could do no wrong, the Beatles dismissed Martin ("we don't need your studio rubbish", Lennon bluntly told him) and decided to self-produce their next album, "Get Back", which would be recorded live for a feature film. At some point they realized what they were recording was weak tea. It was then they called back George Martin to see if he could somehow breath life into the stillborn sessions. As it turned out, he could not.

By this time, a hard-nosed New York attorney named Allan Klein had replaced the late Brian Epstein as their manager. To rescue what everyone agreed had been a disaster, he called in American producer Phil Spector to work his magic. Taking a page from George Martin's playbook, Spector overdubbed string and horn arrangements on some tracks, and remixed and revised the rest with various studio enhancements, and, with Klein's blessing, turned the finished tapes over to the record plant for release as an album.

Paul McCartney, for one, hated what Spector had done to his–and the Beatles'– music. As great as Spector was, he was no George Martin. The Beatles needed Martin, particularly now, when they were on the verge of breaking up. McCartney called the other Beatles together, and strongly suggested they return to the studio, put George Martin back in charge, make a complete new album, and thereby finish on a high note.

The result was the impeccable, "Abbey Road", which many critics have cited as the Beatles' greatest album. Nicole Pensiero of PopMatters called it "an amazingly cohesive piece of music, innovative and timeless", while Neil McCormick of London's The Daily Telegraph dubbed it the Beatles' "last love letter to the world" and praised its "big, modern sound", calling it "lush, rich, smooth, epic, emotional and utterly gorgeous."


The digital age has been particularly kind to the Beatles. While George Martin was able to work miracles in the recording studio, something was lost in the transfer of analogue recordings onto vinyl. Listening to today's digital remastering, for example, of "Sgt. Pepper's Lonely Heart's Club Band", is to hear their music with new ears. The sound of the cello, for example, was often lost or muddied in the transfer to record. Not any more. Digital remastering, similar to what's being to done to restore renaissance art to its former glory, and thereby revealing the brightness of its original colors, has with the Beatles' recorded output revealed a sound world that heretofore had not been heard since the day it was recorded by George Martin. While all the Beatles' albums have been re-released in remastered digital form, you can hear the highlights in one 90-minute CD, entitled "Love", an arresting medley compiled by George Martin, and his son Giles.

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The Three-Minute Mozart
Posted - Jul 17, 2021
Beatles' producer George Martin called him "The Three-Minute Mozart". He was referring to Paul McCartney, of course, and to his gift for composing memorable melodies, such as "Yesterday" and "Michelle".

Even before composing these two classic Beatles' ballads, McCartney revealed his ear for melody, when he sang two show tunes, "A Taste of Honey", on the Beatles' debut album (PLEASE, PLEASE ME, March 1963), and "Till There Was You", on their second album (WITH THE BEATLES, November 1963).

It was on their third album (A HARD DAY'S NIGHT, July 1964) that McCartney wrote his first bonafide ballad, "And I Love Her."

After that, you could count on at least one McCartney ballad on each new Beatles' album, beginning with "I'll Follow the Sun" on their fourth album (BEATLES FOR SALE, December 1964).

Being a classically-trained musician, George Martin had an exceptional ear for music, and was deeply moved when, in early 1965, McCartney presented him with "Yesterday". Martin was so taken with the ballad that he composed an arresting arrangement for string quartet. But would the public buy it, mixing classical music instruments with a pop song? In fact, they loved it, making "Yesterday" the Beatles' biggest selling song of all time. The ballad appeared on the Beatles fifth album (HELP! August 1965).

What follows is a list of McCartney's ballads, a word about the instrumental accompaniment, and the albums on which they appeared.

"Michelle" – (RUBBER SOUL, December 1965 ). This time Martin scored the arrangement quite simply, for guitar and piano.

"Eleanore Rigby" and "For No One" (REVOLVER, August 1966) , With "Eleanor Rigby" Martin scored the accompaniment for double string quartet. John Lennon considered "For No One" to be one of Paul's best songs ever; the French Horn heard on the bridge, and as counter-point in the final verse, was performed at Martin's direction, by Alan Civil, who considered it among his finest work in the recording studio.

"She's Leaving Home" – ("SGT. PEPPER'S LONELY HEARTS CLUB BAND", June 1967). This time, the arrangement for small string orchestra was composed not by George Martin, but by one of his lieutenants, Mike Leander.

"The Fool on the Hill" – (MAGICAL MYSTER TOUR, November 1967). The flute accompaniment was performed at McCartney's direction, by Ray Thomas, of the Moody Blues.

"Martha My Dear", "I Will", "Blackbird", and "Mother Nature's Son." – (THE BEATLES, aka "The White Album" November 1968). The only instrumentation on "I Will" and "Blackbird" is acoustic guitar, by Paul, while "Martha My Dear" features piano by Paul, and a string arrangement by George Martin; "Mother Nature's Son" features acoustic guitar by Paul, and a muted brass arrangement by George Martin.

Also recorded during the White Album sessions, was McCartney's seminal "Hey Jude" featuring Paul on piano, and on the long coda a string arrangement by George Martin Released as a single in August 1968, the song stayed atop Billboard's Hot One-Hundred for nine weeks.

"Let It Be" and "The Long and Winding Road" – (LET IT BE, May, 1970). The title track is a gospel tune that songwriter Paul Simon considered to be the equal of his gospel masterpiece, "Bridge Over Troubled Water."

"The Long and Winding Road", is a haunting ballad that guest producer Phil Spector enhanced with string orchestra and choir. McCartney always resented Spectator's enhancement as overcooked, and strongly believed the original version was superior. In 2003, McCartney met with Apple recording engineers to remove Spector's enhancements, and return the song to its original sound, which can be heard on LET IT BE . . . NAKED (Nov, 2003).

"Oh! Darling", "Golden Slumbers" – (ABBEY ROAD, Sept. 1969). This time, McCartney's ballads were upstaged, by George Harrison' two ballads: "Something" and "Here Comes the Sun", and by Lennon's gem for three-part harmony, "Because."

What's interesting is that most of McCartney's ballads are rather sad songs, in stark contrast to his happy-go-lucky nature.

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Posted - Jul 10, 2021
The last thing I needed was to read another Lincoln biography. But a Lincoln biography given to me by my brother Charles, continued to beckon from the bookshelf where I had placed it. One day curiosity got the better of me, and I picked it up. It was a hefty tome entitled, "Team of Rivals", by historian Doris Kerns Goodwin. Once I opened it I was trapped–I had to read it. I'm glad I did, as it was full of anecdotes and personal insights, that rendered the Lincoln legend a living, breathing man that I felt I could understand as well as know. This was the Lincoln who quoted from memory Shakespeare and the poetry of Robert Burns, and who recommended to friends, various Bible passages as a means of problem-solving, and in facing with courage an uncertain future.

It has often been said that Lincoln was no ordinary politician, true enough, but the Lincoln who emerges in Ms Goodwin's biography is not only a profound political strategist and thinker, but a man who spoke with religious zeal–more pastor than politician–particularly when confronting the great evil of his day–slavery.

Lincoln's gift for public speaking developed over time, particularly while riding the legal circuit of southern Illinois. In speaking before juries over several years, Lincoln gradually learned the art of persuasive speaking. In his day and place, most people comprising juries were uneducated farmers and common townsfolk. These people may have been unsophisticated rustics, but they weren't stupid. Lincoln recognized this, and realized that the best way to reach them was not to talk down to them, nor take himself too seriously; that the key to winning a case was to keep it simple and to be direct, and above all to speak to them as his equal. The fact he had a gift for humor and telling amusing stories, proved helpful because it put jurors at ease, and allowed them to see him as one of them.

Always well prepared and friendly, he won case after case, and perhaps most important of all, learned to trust the wisdom of common people, that, when properly informed, they could be relied upon to do the right thing–whether serving on a jury, or casting a ballot on election day. When he entered politics, this proved to be a valuable advantage over his rivals, notably during the Lincoln-Douglas debates, when he was up against a better-known, more experienced politician, the Senate incumbent candidate, Stephen A. Douglas.

Lincoln had earned the right to share the stage with a politician of Douglas' stature and reputation, with the so-called "House-Divided"speech. After that followed the seven Lincoln-Douglas debates, that vaulted Lincoln from an unknown shrewd country lawyer, to a national leader, and a shot at becoming president.

Below are excerpts from eight speeches and two letters, which clarify his political views, while revealing his deep-rooted humanity. To my mind they read more like sermons than political treatises, indeed, I find Lincoln the president to be a more effective leader as Pastor-in-Chief, than as Commander-in-Chief.

1 - Letter to Joshua Speed (Aug 24, 1855) – (note: the Know-Nothings were a populist political party that held sway in mid-nineteenth century America). "I am not a Know-Nothing . . . How could I be? How can anyone who abhors the oppression of Negroes be in favor of degrading classes of white people? Our progress in the degeneracy appears to me to be pretty rapid. As a nation we began by declaring that 'all men are created equal.' We now practically read it 'all men are created equal except Negroes.' When the Know-Nothings get control it will read 'all men are created equal except Negroes and foreigners and Catholics.' When it comes to this, I shall prefer emigrating to some country where they make no preference of loving liberty–to Russia, for instance, where despotism can be taken pure, and without the base alloy of hypocrisy."

2 - Speech at the Republican State Convention, Springfield, Illinois (May 19, 1858) – "A house divided against itself cannot stand. I believe this government cannot endure permanently half slave and half free. I do not expect the Union to be dissolved–but I do expect it will cease to be divided. It will become all one thing, or all the other. Either the opponents of slavery will arrest the further spread of it, and place it where the public mind shall rest in the belief that it is in the course of ultimate extinction, or its advocates will push it forward till it shall become alike lawful in all states, old as well as new, North as well as South."

3 – Speech at Edwardsville, Illinois (Sept 11, 1858) – "When you have succeeded in dehumanizing the Negro, when you have put him down and made it impossible for him to be but as the beasts of the field; when you have extinguished his soul in this world and placed him where the ray of hope is blown out as in the darkness of the damned, are you sure that the demon you have roused will not turn and rend you? What constitutes the bulwark of our own liberty and independence? It is not our frowning battlements, our bristling sea coasts, our army and our navy. These are not our reliance against tyranny. All of those may be turned against us without making us weaker for the struggle. Our reliance is in the love of liberty which God has planted in us. Our defense is in the spirit which prized liberty as the heritage of all men, in all lands everywhere. Destroy this spirit and you have planted seeds of despotism at your own doors. Familiarize yourselves with the chains of bondage and you prepare your own limbs to wear them. Accustomed to trample on the rights of others, you have lost the genius of your own independence and become the fit subjects of the first cunning tyranny who rises among you."

4 – Reply, seventh and last of the Lincoln-Douglas debates, Alton, Illinois (October 15, 1858) – "That is the issue that will continue in this country when these poor tongues of Judge Douglas and myself shall be silent. It is the eternal struggle between these two principles–right and wrong–throughout the world. They are the two principles that have stood face to face from the beginning of time; and will continue to struggle. The one is the common right of humanity, and the other is the divine right of kings. It is the same principle in whatever shape it develops itself. It is same spirit that says, 'You toil and work and earn bread, and I'll eat it.' No matter in what shape it comes, whether from the mouth of a king who seeks to bestride the people of his of own nation and live by the fruit of their labor, or from one race of men as an apology for enslaving another race, it is the same tyrannic principle."

5 – Speech at Independence Hall, Philadelphia (Feb 22, 1861) – (as president- elect, on his trip to Washington D.C., Lincoln delivered seven speeches, the most profound of which was his last, given at Independence Hall). "I have never had a feeling politically, that did not spring from the sentiments embodied in the Declaration of Independence. . . . I have often inquired of myself what great principle or idea it was that kept this Confederacy so long together. It was not the mere matter of separation of the colonies from the motherland, but the sentiment in the Declaration of Independence which gave liberty not alone to the people of this country, but hope to the world, for all future time. It was that which gave promise that in due time the weights would be lifted from the shoulders of all men, and that all should have an equal chance. This is the sentiment embodied in the Declaration of Independence. . . . I would rather be assassinated on this spot than surrender it."

6 – First Inaugural Address (March 4, 1861) – "This country, with its institutions, belongs to the people who inhabit it. Whenever they shall grow weary of the existing government, they can exercise their constitutional right of amending it, or their revolutionary right, to dismember it.

"Why should there not be a patient confidence in the ultimate justice of the people? Is there any better hope in the world?

"We are not enemies, but friends. We must not be enemies. Though passion may have strained it, it must not break our bonds of affection. The mystic chords of memory, stretching from every battlefield and patriot grave to every living heart and hearthstone all over this broad land, will yet swell the chorus of Union when again touched as surely they will be, by the better angels of our nature."

7 – Second Annual Message to Congress (Dec 1, 1862) – "A nation may be said to consist of its territory, its people, and its laws. The territory is the only part which is of certain durability.

"If there ever could be a proper time for mere catch arguments, that time surely is not now. In times like the present, men should utter nothing for which they would not willingly be responsible through time and in eternity.

"The dogmas of the quiet past are inadequate to the stormy present. The occasion is piled high with difficulty, and we must rise with the occasion. As our case is new, so we must think anew and act anew. We must disenthrall ourselves and then we shall save our country.

"Fellow citizens, we cannot escape history. We of this Congress and this administration will be remembered in spite of ourselves. No personal significance or insignificance can spare one or another of us. This fiery trial through which we pass will light us down in honor or dishonor to the last generation. We say we are for the Union. The world will not forget that we say this. We know how to save it. We, even we here, hold the power and bear the responsibility. In giving freedom to the slave, we assure freedom to the free–honorable alike in what we give and what we preserve. We shall nobly save or meanly lose the last, best hope of earth. Other means may succeed; this could not fail. The way is plain, peaceful, generous, just–a way which if followed the world will forever applaud and God must forever bless."

8 – The Gettysburg Address (Nov 19, 1863) – (There's an irony in Lincoln being a wartime president, the very Abraham Lincoln who abhorred violence and could not stand the sight of blood. That he should preside over the bloodiest war in our nation's history is irony indeed. With the Gettysburg Address, he was attempting to make sense of the war, to find meaning in the ongoing violence and killing. What he decided was that once the war ended, the nation could never return to what it had been, that something good would have been gained. That, in short, is the meaning of the Gettysburg Address).

"Four score and seven years ago our fathers brought forth on this continent, a new nation, conceived in Liberty, and dedicated to the proposition that all men are created equal.

"Now we are engaged in a great civil war, testing whether that nation or any nation so conceived and so dedicated can long endure. We are met on a great battlefield of that war. We have come to dedicate a portion of that field as a final resting place for those who gave their lives that that nation might live. It is altogether fitting and proper that we should do this.

"But, in a larger sense, we cannot dedicate–we cannot consecrate–we cannot hallow–this ground. The brave men, living and dead who struggled here, have consecrated it far above our poor power to add or detract. The world will little note nor long remember what we say here. It is for us, the living, rather to be dedicated here to the unfinished work which they who fought here have thus far so nobly advanced. It is rather for us to be here dedicated to the great task remaining before us–that from these honored dead we take increased devotion to that cause for which they gave the last full measure of devotion, that we here highly resolve that these dead shall not have died in vain; that this nation under God, shall have a new birth of freedom; and that this government of the people, by the people, for the people, shall not perish from the earth."

9 – Letter to Mrs. Bixby (Nov 21, 1864) – (on the wall of Brasenose College, Oxford University, England, this letter of the "rail-splitter" president, hangs as "a model of purest English, rarely, if ever, surpassed." So say the academics who placed it there). "Dear Madam, I have been shown in the files of the War Department a statement of the Adjutant-General of Massachusetts that you are the mother of five sons who have died gloriously on the field of battle. I feel how weak and fruitless must be any words of mine which should attempt to beguile you from the grief of such a loss so overwhelming. But I cannot refrain from tendering to you the consolation that may be found in the thanks of the Republic they died to save. I pray that our heavenly Father may assuage the anguish of your bereavement, and leave you only the cherished memory of the loved and lost, and the solemn pride that must be yours to have laid so costly a sacrifice upon the altar of freedom."

Yours very sincerely and respectfully, Abraham Lincoln

10 – Second Inaugural Address (March 4, 1865) – "Fondly we do hope, fervently do we pray, that this mighty scourge of war may speedily pass away. Yet, if God wills that it continue until all the wealth piled by the bondsman's two hundred and fifty years of unrequited toil shall be sunk, and until every drop of blood drawn with the lash shall be paid by another drawn with the sword, as was said three thousand years ago, so still it must be said, 'The judgements of the Lord are true and righteous altogether.'

"With malice toward none, with charity for all, with firmness in the right as God gives us to see the right, let us strive on to finish the work we are in, to bind up the nation's wounds, to care for his widow and his orphan, to do all which may achieve and cherish a just and lasting peace among ourselves and with all nations."

(as I write this, Abraham Lincoln once again has been proclaimed by a group of noted historians to be our nation's greatest president).

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The Lost Mission
Posted - Jul 02, 2021
The California of the 1850s that greeted the first wave of American settlers was primarily comprised of large, fenceless cattle ranches that stretched over hill and dale, for as far as the eye could see. Wherever one looked, there was cattle grazing lazily in tall grass. It was an idyllic scene that reminded one observer of a phrase from the Bible (Psalms 50): "the cattle on a thousand hills."

The people who ran these cattle ranches, or ranchos, as they were called, were pensioned Spanish soldiers, who were granted large tracks of land (about 40-square miles each), as a reward for having served faithfully in one of the four presidios that the Spanish government had built to protect the missions. The missions, in fact, were a part of Spain's larger plan to secure and colonize the territory they had claimed for the Spanish crown. The Spanish land-grant ranchos were yet another step in securing Spain's claim on the territory.

The California Gold Rush of 1849 was the lure that drew Americans to the West Coast. What they found was a Spanish culture that, to their Puritan work ethic, was indulgent and wasteful. While the Spanish ranchers were incredible horsemen, who could ride, rope and round up whole herds of cattle in no time, they also frittered away much of their time in drinking, and games of chance. They also slaughtered cattle merely for their hides (which they sold to the ever-present Yankee cutters that plied the coastal waters).

Richard Henry Dana, the proper Bostonian, who arrived in California as a sailor on one of these cutters, and later wrote about it, observed, "Horses are as abundant here as dogs and chickens. There are probably no better riders in the world. They are put upon a horse when four or five years old, their little legs not long enough to come halfway over his side, and may almost be said to keep on him until grown to him." The Californios (as they were called) "can hardly go from one house to another without mounting a horse."

Horsemanship was not simply a matter of displaying an acquired skill–it was essential to the sole business of the province–the raising of cattle. To keep these Yankee cutters supplied with hides and tallow, there were frequent round-ups and rodeos for counting and slaughtering stock.


California's pastoral period, as it has since been called, began around 1820, and lasted until the drought of 1863-1864, which destroyed much of the grass, and decimated most of the herds, forcing many of the cash-poor Spanish ranchers to sell their properties to the Americans. By then, California no longer belonged to Spain, but was a territory of the United States, and the Spanish ranchers, who had crowded out the Indians in their grab for land, were themselves now crowded out by the influx of land-hungry Yankees.

Novelist Helen Hunt Jackson spent several years in Southern California toward the end of the pastoral period, and wrote a classic novel about it, not to romanticize the time of the ranchos, but to illustrate the plight of native Americans, who, during the secularization of the 1830s, had been shut out of the missions, with nowhere to go. A few, but only a few, managed to find work on one of the ranchos, one of whom was a sheep shearer named Alessandro, the fictional character in her book, "Ramona".

The setting of her story, is Rancho Camulos, in the Santa Clarita Valley, not far from Los Angeles. Rancho Camulos is one of the few Spanish ranches to have survived the drought of 1863-64, thanks to its proximity to the Santa Clara River. It's still a working cattle ranch, as well as one of the last majors growers of oranges in the state. The ranch house is among the last surviving Spanish ranch houses to have remained it its original state, and has served as a model for what has become known as the Western ranch house. Indeed, I spent the first ten years of my life living in a Western ranch house, but more about that later.

Rancho Camulos is located about midway between Mission San Fernando Rey de España and Mission San Buenaventura, and, back in the day, was a welcome stop for weary Franciscan padres traveling on El Camino Real. There was even a chapel on the property, for them to hold services. Rancho Camulos was sometimes known as "The Lost Mission."


Jackson captured life in the Camulos ranch house, which is the only record we have of how these people lived. "The house was of adobe, with a wide veranda on the three sides of the inner court, and still a broader one across the entire front, which looked to the south. These verandas, especially those on the inner court, were supplementary rooms to the house. The greater part of the family life went on in them. Nobody stayed inside the walls, except when it was necessary. All the kitchen work, except the actual cooking, was done here, in front of the kitchen doors and windows. Babies slept, were washed, sat in the dirt, and played, on the veranda. The women said their prayers, took their naps, and wove their lace there . . . The herdsmen and shepherds smoked there, lounged there, trained their dogs there: there the young made love, and the old dozed; the benches, which ran the entire length of the walls, were worn into hallows and shone like satin; the tiled floors also were broken and sunk in places, making little wells, which filled up in time of hard rains, and were an invaluable addition to the children's sources of amusement, and also to the comfort of the dogs, cats, and fowls, who picked about among them, taking sips from each.

"The . . . veranda along the front was a delightsome place. It must have been eighty feet long, at least, but the doors of five large rooms opened on it . . . Here the Señora kept her flowers; the great red water jars, hand-made by the Indians, stood in close rows against the walls, and in them were always growing fine geraniums, carnations, and yellow-flowered musk . . . Besides (these) there were many sorts of climbing vines–some coming from the ground, and twining around the pillars of the veranda: some growing in great bowls, swung by cords from the roof of the veranda, or on shelves against the walls.

"Between the veranda and the river meadows, out on which it looked, all was garden, orange grove, and almond orchard: the orange grove always green, never without snowy bloom or golden fruit; the garden never without flowers, summer or winter; and the almond orchard, in early spring, a fluttering canopy of pink and white pedals . . . Nothing was to be seen but verdure or bloom or fruit, at whatever time of year you sat on the Senora's south veranda."

While most of the ranches ended up being subdivided and sold as individual land parcels, and their adobe ranch houses allowed to melt away in the rain, the ranch names live on as the names of various California towns and cities. For example, Rancho La Habra, is now the City of La Habra. Another, Rancho Cañón de Santa Ana, now occupies present-day Orange County, and includes the cities of Santa Ana and Irvin. On the other hand, Rancho Las Cienega, is now the site of "El Pueblo de Nuestra Señora La Reina de Los Angeles", or, as it is better known, Los Angeles. Hollywood occupies land that had once been Rancho de la Brea (Brea is Spanish for tar, as a tarpit was located on the ranch, which Spanish Californians used to seal their roofs against the rain. Today the La Brea tarpits are famous for the excavated bones of ancient animals, that long ago became mired, sunk, and died there).

Another is Rancho de los Palos Verdes, a cattle ranch that resided on a peninsula mountain bluff. Today, the one-time cattle ranch is known as Palos Verdes Estates, home to about 14,000 Southern Californians.

My parents fell in love with the green rolling hills of Palos Verdes, on their first visit. At some point thereafter they met architect Cliff May who, at the time was designing Western ranch houses for clients in the San Diego area. This is what May wrote about the houses he was designing. "Whether built a century ago or day after tomorrow, the Western ranch house has several recognizable characteristics that set it apart from other types of homes.

"In its original form, the ranch house owed many of its qualities to architectural patterns that stretched back several centuries into the history of Spain. Some features came from the reapplication of familiar building methods and materials in a foreign but familiar climate and terrain. Some were the result of compromise forced by poor materials and poorer labor. At its best, the results were simple, sane, and craftsmanlike . . .

"The early Californians had the right idea. They built for the seclusion and comfort of their families, for the enjoyment of relaxation in their home. We want to perpetuate these ideas of home building." One of May's ideas that attracted clients such as my parents, was his quest to build homes "with a garden in every room", likely inspired by Hunt's view from the veranda of the Camulos Ranch House in "Romana."

- END -
Work of My Sons

Morning Softly - Water Echoes Movement
-Released in 2014. Bill made guitar riffs and synth tracks at home, got Lya Finston to write some lyrics and sing, and got Scott to provide some bass.

Morning Softly - Early Eerie Feeling
-Recorded in 2014. Songs written by Bill, at home. Synthesizers were added later. Some drumming done by Brendan Lenihan.

Scott Nisley - Brick City Skies
-Released in 2014. With his piano melodies and vocals, Scott entrusted the production of his album to several studio musicians.

The 45's - Roof-Hopping
-Recorded in 2010. A collaborative effort between Scott and Bill Nisley, Adam Sherman, and Zach Belka.

Oh, Yeah...

Richard Nisley's Brothers in Cars
Thanksgiving Day, 1967. From L to R: my brothers David, Charles, and Rob. Photo by John Nisley.
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