The Fairfax Street Choir
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The Fall of 1972


      The hot summer nights had turned into the chill of fall and by early Autumn the Choir was huge. Word of mouth had attracted the curious, the flamboyant, the searchers for truth and yes even some serious musicians. The Choir had moved from Shelly Duncan's living room to Cheryl Gurley's house in Fairfax, California. Cheryl lived there with James Gurley, the guitar player for Big Brother and The Holding Company. She was quite the hostess even when she started realizing the intense situation she had gotten herself into. Every Monday and Wednesday night 25 or 30 people would park their cars outside in impassable places putting dents into neighbors cars and blocking their driveways. Then with loving smiles they would stampede Cheryl's living room tramping mud everywhere. The Choir kids would play upstairs in Hongo's and Django's room and tear everything up with great fervor. Then after a couple of hours everyone would leave. Marla's dream of getting to go Sufi dancing on Wednesday nights ended. Instead she played the piano and taught harmony parts to sections that had somehow become the altos, the middles, the sopranos and the guys. She had also enlisted Mary Gannon (the bass player for the all woman band The Ace Of Cups) to play the bass. Mary was a very good bass player and also a great entertainer. Later on she invited Diane Vitalich (also a member of the Ace of Cups Band) to play the drums. The music was incredible and heartfelt carrying a message that said "We just want to sing together because we love it and we will brave the wind, the torrential Marin County rains, the difficult (if any) parking and the mud to do it". And so they did. At times they were dysfunctional, often they were disoriented but they were always full of joy and grace. That was the Fairfax Street Choir in the fall of 1972. Everything seemed to be falling into place. We had sections, a bass player, and Lord knows how or why but we were blessed with David Carlson. It was a remarkable thing the way he kept coming to practice. He was an excellent guitar player and he was married to Karen Carlson who sang in the middle section.
What a lucky break for us all. David was so patient. Any other guitar player would not have lasted through one song. The group was ecstatic with this turn of events.  All of a sudden the Choir had a band backing them up and the band actually sounded good. But then tragedy struck. Mary Gannon decided to move to Hawaii. On November 25th of 1972 She got on a plane and left for Kauai. Everyone mourned her loss, especially David. Karen Carlson said that David got up every morning, faced the direction he thought Hawaii was in and prayed for Mary to return.The choir needed a bass player right away so Marla and David let this guy named Jeremy have a try at it. Jeremy had a thick English accent and was a true gentleman. He said he could play but he didn't have a bass. Marla loaned him her Fender Jazz Bass but in the end he had to move on as he didn't really know how to play the bass at all. Goodbye Jeremy, hello Clyde.
Karima, Karen, Doris and Gypsy, singing in the Middle Section of the Choir.