(in his own words)

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Stephen Martin

I was born on February 22, 1946, in Worcester, Massachusetts, the only child to Benjamin and Doris Martin. We lived downtown, in a small apartment at 80 Chandler Street, over McIntire's furniture store, next door to the Blue Belle Diner. My father, a recent graduate from the University of Rhode Island, was locked into a wartime job at Western Union. My mother shared all her waking time with me until I was almost 4, when she was stricken with Multiple Sclerosis and was no longer able to care for me. My earliest musical memory is of my mother singing Little Man, You've Had a Busy Day, popularized by both Perry Como and Eddy Arnold. I still get a little verklempt when I hear it.

On workdays when my grandmother was unavailable, my father would give me a handful of nickels and leave me at the Blue Belle under the watchful eye of short order cook Charlie Malonis, my day care provider. He'd cook my breakfast and lunch, which I ate in my own special booth, with my books and my own little Nickelodeon, mounted on the wall. My favorite tunes were Ghost Riders in the Sky by Vaughn Monroe, and Mule Train by Frankie Lane. I played them so often that Charlie had to make a rule that I could only play them once a day.

We moved to 49 Fountain Street, around the corner from my grandmother's flat, where I spent hours listening to Duke Ellington, Harry James and Tommy Dorsey 78s on her big hand-cranked Victrola.

In 1954, we moved to Oberlin Street in Worcester's Main South district. I would stand in front of my record player, chopstick in hand, and pretend to conduct light classical pieces. My favorites were Prokofiev's Peter and the Wolf, Rimsky-Korsakov's Scheherezade, and Grofe's Grand Canyon Suite.

In '56, my favorite pop tunes were The Wayward Wind, by Gogi Grant, and The Little Blue Man, by Betty Johnson. But that was also the year that Rock and Roll was born, with Rock Around the Clock by Bill Haley and the Comets, Hound Dog by Elvis, and Little Richard's Tutti Frutti and Good Golly Miss Molly.

We moved to the corner of May and Winfield when I was 14. By that time I was immersed in the jazz of Errol Garner, George Shearing, Nancy Wilson, Cannonball Adderly, and Herbie Mann.

At 15, I discovered folk music with the Kingston Trio's Live at the Hungry I. I saved up to buy a ukulele, and learned every song on that album. I wanted a bigger sound, so I graduated to baritone ukulele. At the public library I discovered Alan Lomax, the guy who preserved for us the music of such immortals as Leadbelly, Robert Johnson, John Lee Hooker, Woody Guthrie, Cisco Houston and Sonny Terry. I needed an even bigger sound to play stuff like that. I'd been coveting an old classical guitar that had been gathering dust in my Aunt Rosie's attic. She freely gave it to me. It was easy to learn - basically a baritone uke with two extra bass strings.

Then came 1963 and Peter, Paul & Mary's hit cover of Dylan's Blowin' in the Wind.

It touched something deep inside me. I immediately bought The Freewheelin' Bob Dylan, and was knocked out by Masters of War and A Hard Rain's A-gonna Fall. I got a harmonica rack and taught myself how to play harp and guitar simultaneously. It wasn't so hard, because blowing harp is so much like singing.

I sought other "protest singers," and found such folks as Phil Ochs (I Ain't Marchin' Any More ), Pete Seeger (Where Have All the Flowers Gone? ) and Buffy Sainte-Marie (Universal Soldier ). They had the courage to speak out against war, civil rights abuses, and whatever else needed speaking out against. They were changing the world one person at a time. And I was one of those persons.

I wrote my first song at the age of 16. It was titled When I Was Young. I played it during my first gig, at the Worcester Auditorium. Originally scheduled for November 22, 1963 - the day of JFK's assassination - the "First All Collegiate Hootenanny" took place the next month. I added to the set list my second song, The Ballad of Lee Oswald, which started out:

            Lee Oswald went down, down to Dallas Town,
            Took good aim and shot the president.
            They were taking him downtown
            When Jack Ruby shot him down,
            And I still can't understand what-all it meant.

I also did Cisco Houston's New York City, which contains one of my favorite lines:

            Gal come up to Woody, said to Woody, would he?
            Woody said he would, but the gal said, could he?

In 1964, I fell in love with jug band music. My favorites were Jim Kweskin and Dave Van Ronk. My friends and I would party every weekend, and invariably the instruments - guitar, harmonica, mandolin, washtub bass, jug, washboard, bongos, finger cymbals and three kazoos - would come out and we'd all start playing. We performed publicly once, in the Temple Emanuel auditorium. Members of note included artist Jack Coghlan and writer Gitch Jackman. Jack's jug was deeper in tone by the end of the show.

Worcester's Silver Vanity, with its wonderful smells and bitter chicory espresso, was the first coffee house I ever went to. There I was privileged to experience for the first time the late, great Wobbly folksinger-storyteller, Utah Philips. His stories and songs of anarchy, peace, railroads and hobos made me laugh, gave me chills, and inspired me to go out and experience America for myself. By 1970, Utah and I and Mark Rockwood were staying up all night trading songs in Rocky's kitchen.

Back in '66, I became a regular at the Y-Not, a coffeehouse owned by the Worcester YMCA and managed by Norman Schell. There I shared the stage with such folks as Schell, Jaime Brockett, Livingston Taylor, Chris Smither, Bill Staines, Chris Pearne, and John Henry. I began playing coffeehouses and colleges throughout Massachusetts.

Printer's Devils
My first actual "group," Printer's Devils (1965).
I'm the one with the shades and guitar.

I spent the Summer of Love in San Francisco's Haight-Ashbury. Returning to Worcester in the fall of '67, I was determined to create a little Haight-Ashbury in Worcester. I got a bunch of local hippies, musicians, artists and poets to move into a Crown Hill neighborhood surrounding Congress Alley. By the summer of '68, over 350 people were involved. My first wife, Nancy, gave birth there to my oldest daughter, Crystal.

Congress Alley
Stephen Martin in 1967 1967

By then I'd gotten the rockin' pneumonia. I had everything by the electric Dylan, the Stones, the Who, Beatles, Animals, Pink Floyd, Velvet Underground, Lovin Spoonful, Moody Blues, Cream, Hendrix, Buffalo Springfield, the Dead, Jefferson Airplane, the Doors, Doctor John, Credence, Blue Cheer, the Kinks, Vanilla Fudge, and so on.

Stephen's House
Where I lived on the Alley.
(Photo: courtesy John Vytal)
Congress Alley
On Congress Alley.
Clockwise from lower left: Me, Walter Green, Alex McGinnis, Frank "Pasquale" Caricchio, Norman Shell,
Marie Green, Michael "Gitch" Jackman, Kathy Woodbury, Manasha Bilsey

Bruce Arnold, one of the founding members of Orpheus who also lived on the Alley, came over one day, seeking material for the first Orpheus album. He left with Congress Alley, Music Machine, and The Doorknob Song.

The Alan Lorber Orchestra and Chorus, Clean Living, Lee Andrews' Congress Alley (named after the song), and I have since recorded versions of Alley.

Plagued by multiple addictions and writer's block, I wrote only one song, Just Got Back, for Orpheus' second album, and none at all for the third.

the Second Orpheus
Putting together the second Orpheus.
Elliot, me, Bruce and Howard

Then the original Orpheus broke up, and Bruce approached me once again. I had my own band, along with pianist Eliot Sherman and bassist Howard Hersh, named (what else?) Congress Alley. Bruce asked if we would like to join him as the new Orpheus. We recorded the fourth Orpheus album, produced by Alan Lorber and released on Bell in '71. I wrote or co-wrote all 11 songs, and shared the lead vocals with Bruce. Our studio drummer was none other than Bernard "Pretty" Purdy, of Aretha Franklin and James Brown fame. Remember in Cold Sweat when James says, "Give the drummer some?" That was Bernard. As Orpheus, we appeared with B.B. King, Johnny and Edgar Winter, and the Tokens (The Lion Sleeps Tonight ), before breaking up for good. (note: there's more about the Orpheus period on our Orpheus page.)

Bernard Purdie
Purdie, back in the day
Stephen Martin in 1971
Me, in 1971

I moved to Amherst in '71, and continued playing with Howard and Eliot in local venues like the Quicksilver and the Blue Wall. I once shared the Amherst Folk Center stage with Arlo Guthrie, Spider John Koerner, and Arthur "Big Boy" Crudup.

In '72, South African mandolin player Bob "Honey Bear" Denton and I hit the road, playing colleges, clubs and sidewalks in cities like Syracuse, Toronto, Flint, and Ann Arbor. In Saratoga Springs, we split a bill with Utah and Don McLean. That was the last time I saw Utah, but I followed his career until the end. He was a major influence, and in his lifetime he built a bridge of truth spanning three generations.

Stephen Martin in 1973
Me, in 1973, somewhat the worse for wear

Several Rescue survivors went on to form the Charles Biscuit Band, a five-piece rock-n-roll ensemble. We were a cult favorite throughout Northern California for a year and a half, appearing twice with the Tubes at the Great American Music Hall. We performed our rock opera, Let It Out, at the North Beach punk palace Mabuhay Gardens.

In '73, I left behind all my worldly belongings - my records, furniture, and split to California to join a band called Rescue. The lead singer and keyboardist was Robin Sinclair, formerly of San Francisco psychedelic rap-rockers (Roger) Salloom, Sinclair and the Mother Bear. Worcester expatriates Bobby Bradford and Timmy MacDonald added their voices and guitars to the Rescue mix. We were runners-up in the 1974 KSAN Battle of the Bands, winning a live broadcast/recording session at the Record Factory in Sausalito.

Charles Biscuit Band
Charles Biscuit Band
Me, Christopher Shelton, Timmy McDonald, Ginnie Whittaker

I got kicked out of the Biscuits in '76, not long before they crashed and burned. I joined up with the beautiful and talented Rebecca West, and together we played in three successive groups - Becky and Grady, Mirage, and The New Harvest Moon Band.

By '78, the Moon Band had waned and my unemployment extension had run out. Early one gray morning, my umpteenth old lady kicked me out, with nothing but ten bucks and my harps. I wandered the rainy streets of San Francisco all that day, alternately blowing harp and crying as I walked. From 24th Street I walked in time to the music, through the Castro where, as I played while waiting for a green light, somebody stuck a five dollar bill in my pocket. I wailed and whimpered through the Fillmore, the Haight and Golden Gate Park to the Great Highway and the Pacific Ocean. I rested, then went back down Geary to Market, and the Embarcadero. I slept for a couple of hours in a cardboard box in a Mission alley. Early next morning, I checked into a "transitional facility" called La Posada. The intake worker observed that I had a "serious psycho-emotional problem."

The State of California was kind enough to pay for a two-week stay at "The House," and for five weeks of clay fruit, group sessions, counseling, assertiveness training, and career-change workshops.

California further footed the bill for a full year of semi-weekly psychoanalytic psychotherapy sessions. My Freudian shrink and I agreed that I should stop depending on music for a living.

I felt better.

Perhaps generous to a fault, the Golden State then proceeded to pay for a few courses, including one in the Orff-Schulwerk method of melody, rhythm and movement. Designed for the social and physical development of kindergartners, I remodeled it for use with adult schizophrenics. I got a job as a music therapist for the City and County of San Francisco. I worked exclusively with schizophrenics of all ages, both at the Plum Alley Day Treatment Center and at various group homes throughout the city.

Funding for the program was cut after the passage of Prop 2-1/2, and in 1980 I was out of a job again. At the end of my rope, I answered a want ad for a market research interviewer. After a few weeks, I was promoted to supervisor. I was soon offered a better job as branch manager for another market research firm, and then another. In '86, I was elected President of the Northern California Market Research Association.

Stephen Martin in 1983

In '83, a couple of friends and I drove down to San Luis Obispo to participate in the Abalone Alliance blockade of Diablo Canyon Nuclear Power Plant. After two days of non-violence training camp, we were arrested on line with clown/Digger/Woodstock MC Wavy Gravy, dressed in a Santa Claus suit. About 300 pacifists, including Jackson Browne and John Trudell, were being held in the Questa College women's gymnasium. Every one of us had signed in as Karen Silkwood. We organized into groups and plotted the peaceful revolution. Jackson had finagled in a guitar, and every night he hosted an open mic. I got to play a few of my songs for the captive audience. The whole experience was really empowering.

In '87, I moved back east to Little Compton, RI with my second wife Mary and our two daughters, Mika and Corrie. I played in a folk trio, Gale Warning, with Gary Fish and Dana Snell. We separated two years later, and I moved in with Norman Schell (of Clean Living) in Barre MA. We got together with Bruce MacKay and formed Martin, MacKay & Schell. We played around central and western Mass, recording a cassette titled Recipe, on our own label. I wrote four songs for the project: the title track Recipe, Breakdown Lane, Bear the Burden, and Elephant.

I relocated to Hull, MA in '91, and fell in with a group of performing artists at a black box performance space named The Box. It had an analog recording studio in the back. There, backed by the Lucky Charms (formerly the Tsunami Poets), I recorded a see-through green vinyl EP titled Ball Peen Platter. Released in '95 on Noisy Revolution Records, it contains art-grunge versions of Elephant, California, Whiskey Waltz, and The Past is Gone. The entire Platter project was an art-for-art's-sake work of love, and an expression of my disregard for commerciality. Young "hippies" with painted faces and flowers in their hair attended the 60s-style multimedia record release "happening."

Martin, MacKay & Schell: Stephen Martin, Bruce MacKay, Norman Schell
Me, Bruce, and Norman in 1992

In 1999, I married Kathe, who is the love of my life. The photo below shows us celebrating our tenth anniversary in Puerto Vallarta, Mexico.

Kathe and me in Puerto Vallarta
Kathe and me in Puerto Vallarta, 2009
Stephen Martin: Oroboros promotional pic Promotional picture for Oroboros

In 2000, I got together with my old friend Jaime Brockett, who agreed to produce my first solo CD, Oroboros. Recorded at Sunset Ridge Recording Studio in Hampton Falls, NH, by the great Chris Biggi. I was lucky to have vocalist T.S. Baker on board, along with a band made up of Kent Allyn, Ray Brunelle, Cathryn Norris, Tom Hall, Rocky Rockwood, Stan Moeller, Jay Smith, and spoken word artist David Nader.

Stephen Martin at the Blue Plate, 2000
At the Blue Plate in 2000

Reunion, 2004
Scituate, 2004
Left to right: Snake, me, Jack. Harry is in the rear, on drums.

For the next few years I worked as a journalist, playing sporadically in local clubs, and producing “Nantasket Unplugged,” an acoustic performance series for the Hull Channel. I also returned to political activism, producing video documentaries with Jessica Marrocco. I became secretary of the Hull Democratic Town Committee, and was elected three times as a delegate to the State Democratic Convention.

In 2004, I reunited with original Orpheus vocalist Jack McKennes for an impromptu performance at Marshfield’s Bridgewaye Inn. Promoter Jerry McMorrow was there, and offered us a set at that August’s Scituate Heritage Days Music Festival, at which I had played solo the year before. We invited Snake and Orpheus’ original drummer, Harry Sandler, to join us. We had a lot of fun, and this led to the formation of Orpheus Reborn.

With the addition of lead guitarist Bob Dunlap and percussionist Kathi Taylor, Orpheus Reborn played festivals, street fairs and colleges for three years, including a two-month residence at the Seaport Bar and Grille in South Boston. Currently on hiatus from performing, we nevertheless hope to finish our first CD fairly soon. Several songs from this can be heard on our Records page.

Snake and Stephen, 2006
Snake and me in 2006

Orpheus Reborn, 2007
Orpheus Reborn, 2007
Clockwise from left: Snake, Bob, Kathi, Harry, Jack and me

Stephen Martin, President of Lakota Kidz
Me, as President of Lakota Kidz
Seaport poster, 2007
Seaport poster, 2007

Also in 2004, I assumed the presidency of Lakota Kidz, a non-profit organization dedicated to helping the 800 Lakota Sioux in the poorest town in America – Wanblee, SD, on the Pine Ridge Reservation. Please visit us at

In 2007 I signed with the Iris Music Group to do three CDs. The first, produced by Alan Lorber and released late that year, was a compilation of previously recorded songs titled Even Autumn. The second, tentatively titled Congress Alley Confessions, should hit the Internet some time in 2010.

Meanwhile, Snake and I have been developing our own project called Stephen & The Snake, an experiment in poetry, guitar, bass, and ambient sound. IMG released our first single, Heat Lightning / Left Hand, Right Hand, at the end of 2008. All this stuff is available everywhere on line.

As Projects Coordinator at the New England Wildlife Center (NEWC), 500 Colombian Street in South Weymouth, MA, a post I assumed in '06, part of my job is to involve the community in our activities. I host an open mic at the Center's Catbird Café, from 5 to 9 p.m., every Saturday. Unless we're playing somewhere else, Snake and I do a set each, every week. Admission is free, as is our freshly brewed coffee. Hot, freshly baked cookies cost only 25 cents each. Donations are gratefullly accepted. NEWC is an environmental learning center, and the only wildlife hospital in the Northeast. Come and join us; it's a lot of fun!

New England Wildlife Center
New England Wildlife Center
Stephen & the Snake
Stephen & The Snake at the Catbird

That's a plug, and that's my musical biography in a nutshell.

Click here for

(in his own words)

I was born on May 4, 1942, in Jersey City, New Jersey, the first child to J. Walter Gulliksen and May F. (Lindgren) Gulliksen. While I was still a baby my father got a job with Worcester Pressed Steel Company; we moved to Worcester (MA) and a rented apartment on Pleasant Street. I have only vague memories of this.

While I was still quite young, my folks bought a house on Perrot Street, where we lived until I was five. Then we moved to 288 Burncoat Street, into a large center-hall Colonial that had been a rooming house. My Dad remodeled and renovated the second floor, creating a small apartment for his mother and another for my Mom's folks. My brother Dave was born when I was six.

My father, who by that time had been promoted to Factory Manager at Pressed Steel, used to go in to work on Saturday mornings. He'd often cart me along, maybe to give my mother a break. I'd hang out upstairs in the Higgins Armory, where I became a regular "fixture." I remember one day my father introduced me to John Woodman Higgins; Mr. Higgins told me "Young man, whenever you shake hands with someone, look him straight in the eye!" I never forgot that.

Eric Gulliksen

Music-wise I was a late bloomer, I guess. Both of my folks sang in the church choir, and my mother was an accomplished pianist and a piano teacher. She told me much later that, when I was really little, she had hoped to instill a love of music in me. She'd sit me in her lap while she played the piano. I just cried. When I was a bit older she tried to give me piano lessons - that was a complete disaster.

I was primarily interested in the sciences, especially archaeology and astronomy, and in journalism. I published a neighborhood newspaper that I'd peddle in the parking lot of Slattery's Spa across the street, on the corner of Clark Street and Burncoat. That got written up in the Worcester Sunday Telegram. I may still have the article somewhere.

My father was a big fan of Bing Crosby. He'd sing Easter Parade to my mother every Easter. I thought that was dumb. He'd sing another Crosby hit, Swingin' On A Star, to me, maybe in an attempt to brainwash me into making something of myself. Thought that song was dumb, too. Today I include both of them in my "Standards and Show Tunes" presentations.

There was one song that I really liked: Vaughn Monroe's Riders In The Sky. Maybe once a month, after church, we'd go out to Sunday dinner at Nick's Grill on West Boylston Street. My father loved their rice pudding. I hated rice pudding with a passion. Dad would tell me "You'll learn to like it!" and try to force me to eat it. Finally he resorted to bribery - if I'd eat the rice pudding he'd give me a nickel for the juke box. I never played anything but Riders In The Sky.

But I never did "learn to like" rice pudding.

Nineteen fifty-three. I was eleven years old on June the ninth. It was a Tuesday. My father had only been home from work for a few minutes when the sky turned a weird shade of orange, huge hailstones and a deluge of rain started to fall, and the wind began to howl. We all ran frantically about, grabbing pots and pans to put under leaks and trying to hold blankets in front of windows that had been shattered by apples from the tree in the back yard. I looked out our front window, and all of the branches on the two huge blue spruces in the front yard were pointing in one direction. The roar was like an airplane coming through the house.

Then, in a few minutes, it was gone. The big apple tree had split in two; half had fallen on the house... but we were all OK. Limbs and branches littered the whole area, and the rear wall of the house in back of ours was lying in their yard. My father grabbed his 8mm movie camera and ran across the street to Slattery's to buy film. A big tree had fallen across Burncoat in front of the house next door, making the road impassable. My father had just started filming when a man came staggering down the street from the north, covered in blood. He told my father "You don't know how lucky you are. Up the street they're dying in their houses." This, of course, had been the infamous Worcester tornado, rated at either an F4 or an F5, that killed 94 people, injured well over a thousand, left more than 10,000 homeless and caused over $400 million in property damage (in 2009 dollars).

My father looked up the street and saw a huge cloud of black smoke. Fire trucks couldn't get by the big fallen tree, so he and anyone else around were pressed into action hauling hose. Six three-deckers in a row burned as a result of the storm. When he reached the fire he was "relieved of duty," and started to film again. He got the first on-the-spot movie record of the storm, and later was sent to several insurance conventions to show these films.

Worcester tornado aftermath Worcester tornado aftermath
Worcester tornado aftermath

Worcester tornado aftermath
Worcester tornado aftermath

Our phone was one of the very few in the area that was still working, so our home became a sort of ad hoc assembly point for victims, looking for loved ones. The National Guard and Red Cross set up their command posts in Slattery’s parking lot. I remember the generators running all night and searchlights shining through my bedroom windows.

As I said, we were all OK, but we were lucky. Several of my friends lost family members. That’s a day I will never forget, let me tell you now!

I do remember hearing one song in 1953 that stuck with me - Jo Stafford's You Belong To Me. It painted pictures in my mind of strange and exotic places, awakening a wanderlust that I have never lost.

A couple of years later my father got another job, with Chase Brass and Copper Co. in Waterbury, CT. We moved to Cheshire, a farm town that was rapidly changing into a bedroom community.

My folks decided that I should give piano lessons another try, so I was stuck with that for a bit over a year. My teacher threw me out and told my parents that I would never be a musician. Funny thing about that.

I had, however, discovered popular music. Central Connecticut being decidedly "whitebread" at the time, local radio was only playing stuff like the Four Lads and Pat Boone. I remember, while Boone's version of Tutti Frutti was popular, one of the older kids got on the school bus one morning raving about another version he'd heard somewhere by a guy called "Little Richie" (sic). I figured I'd better keep my ears open. I picked up on Elvis, Carl Perkins, Jerry Lee, Bill Haley, the Platters and Buddy Holly. Sometimes, at night, I could pick up WINS in New York (Alan Freed) or WKBW in Buffalo ("The Hound"). This was different stuff, doo-wop and R&B.

I convinced my parents to let me take guitar lessons, and I took to it like a duck to water, playing a rented Harmony archtop whose strings were about half an inch above the fretboard. I graduated to a Gagliano flattop - much nicer - and decided I'd like to add a pickup and "go electric." My Dad wasn't too keen on that idea, fearing that I might decide to "run away and join a jazz band," but finally relented. My first time on stage was in a High School talent show when I was a freshman; I was one-half of a duo that played Tumbling Tumbleweeds. I have a picture someplace. (Note: Found, with the help of Sue Hartt, a classmate. Posted on the Pics page.)

My folks had a summer place in North Jersey; we'd go down there for two weeks every year. I discovered a radio station down there that flipped me out - WNJR in Newark. This was anything but a "whitebread" station. I listened to it constantly. WNJR put on a rock-and-roll show in Patterson, and I got my Dad to take me. Chuck Berry, Little Joe and the Thrillers, Illinois Jacquet, Bobby Charles, Della Reese, Screamin' Jay Hawkins and a whole bunch of others. We were about the only white faces in the place. And Chuck Berry totally blew me away. One of the biggest thrills of my life was to come almost a decade later, when Orpheus did a TV show with him, and we sat around kibitzing in the dressing room.

Back in Cheshire, I formed a GB band playing "Combo-Ork" arrangements with me on guitar, a drummer, an upright bass player who could double on trombone, tenor and alto sax players and a trumpet. This eventually evolved into a four-piece combo: guitar, bass, drums and tenor sax. I occasionally doubled on piano, sax, tenor banjo, upright bass or marimba. Over the next few years I got really good at solo "cocktail piano" jazz improvisation.

I spent the summer of 1959 at the University of Bridgeport, having won a National Science Foundation grant to study electronics. I was first exposed to folk music there, in the form of the Kingston Trio. I also started doing some standards and show tunes solo - girls really liked the romantic ballads.

In September of 1960 I returned to Worcester as a freshman at Worcester Polytechnic Institute (WPI), where I was destined to spend far more time and effort on music than on my studies (imbibed just a wee bit as well). Joining the Epsilon Deuteron chapter of Phi Sigma Kappa, my first musical effort was a folk trio with pledge brothers John Nichols and Dave Beaber - two guitars and a banjo. That didn't last; John flunked out after one semester. Next was a four-piece group called the Flares; this started out as a GB band with Tom Zagryn on lead guitar, me on rhythm, Ray Wilson on bass and Harry Wright on drums. I'd do an occasional vocal on an old standard. We actually became pretty popular. Our last gig in the 1960-61 season was in the Alden Memorial Auditorium at WPI (don't remember the occasion) when we dared to rock the boat, as it were, with an instrumental rock version of And The Angels Sing.

Bear in mind that this was 1960, and WPI was pretty conservative (although Phi Sig was the "animal house.") Bands for parties were usually a Perry Conte trio (guitar, accordion and cocktail drum). Once in a while Phi Sig or one of the other houses would get brave and bring in Paul Chaplain and the Emeralds (Shortnin' Bread ), but not often. Sometimes we'd walk down to Summer Street and the Golden Nugget to watch Roland Lee and the Puzzles, an amazing R&B band.

Now, before he went to college Tom, who was from Bristol, CT (not far from Cheshire) had been in a very popular instrumental rock band called Tommy & the Bel-Aires. Both his rhythm guitarist and his bassist had been drafted during our freshman year, and I replaced them for the summer of 1961. When we returned to school and the Flares we were hired to play the first "mixer" - the boys would go in suits, and the girls would be brought in from Becker, Salter Secretarial and some of the nursing schools, wearing party dresses. Our first set was GB - the conservative stuff that everybody played. But, after our first break, we kicked aside the music stands, ripped off our jackets and ties, and let it rip with instrumental rock & roll. The WPI faculty was aghast, but the kids loved it.

After that night we added a sax and concentrated on rock gigs, doing quite well until Tom got pneumonia and dropped out. I put together a couple of other pick-up bands, but these went nowhere. I did acquire a cheap bass guitar, though, which I would loan to anyone I could find to play it. 1961 was also the year that I got the nickname "Snake." That's another story.

In the fall of 1962 I was rooming with Dave Beaber, who had formed a folk duo called the Wanderers with a townie named Jack McKennes (Jack was destined to become a founding member of Orpheus in 1967). Dave played six- and twelve-string guitars, while Jack played six-string guitar and five-string banjo. Dave kept trying to get me to join the group, but for some reason I held back until October or so, when they had a gig playing an event for WKBR in Manchester, NH. As a favor to Dave, I sat in on bass guitar. After the gig we went over to the WKBR studio and performed three songs over the air, live. Response from listeners was great.

The Wanderers: Dave Beaber, Eric Gulliksen, Jack McKennes
The Wanderers
L-R: Dave Beaber, me, Jack McKennes

Well, to make a long story short, I decided that I would join the group, and rented an upright bass. We'd put it in the back seat of Jack's Ford Fairlane with the neck hanging out the window and the head wrapped in plastic just in case it rained. We played a lot, including another live over-the-air set at WKBR, but I missed the excitement of rock and roll.

I had acquired a custom-built DeLeone flattop guitar in the summer of 1962, and electrified it. One of my fraternity brothers - tanked, of course - came into my room one night and fell over it, smashing it. I couldn't afford to buy another guitar, so I decided to build one. This was perhaps the first solid-body electric twelve-string anywhere - certainly pre-Byrds.

In the early spring of 1963 Tom Zagryn (the Flares, Tommy & the Bel-Aires), who had returned to health, decided that he'd like to get back into music. We spent an afternoon jamming, playing mostly R&B and New York "shake" music, doing a lot of vocals (which we had not done in either of the other groups). We each put together a homebuilt echo chamber by adding an extra playback head to an old Webcor tape recorder, and feeding the signal back to the input. Professional echo boxes were prohibitively expensive back then. We played several fraternity gigs with various drummers, trying to find one that could play the shake beat. Finally we found Tom Collins, with whom I had played at the Golden Nugget for a weekend the year before, and we were off to the races. We called ourselves the Blue Echoes after our homebuilt echo devices. It wasn't long before we became so popular that I had to quit the Wanderers. I primarily played twelve-string, but also doubled on bass guitar. The Wanderers replaced me with a fellow named Bruce Larsen, and continued to perform through June of 1964.

The Blue Echoes: Eric Gulliksen, Tom Collins, Tom Zagryn
The Blue Echoes
L-R: me, Tom Collins, Tom Zagryn

Tom and I watched Billboard, the trade magazine of the record industry, and became aware of a British group called the Beatles. We learned a couple of Beatles songs, and were to learn several more the following fall.

The Minute Men in the studio at WKBR: Dave Beaber, Eric Gulliksen, Jack McKennes
In the studio at WKBR
L-R: Dave Beaber, me, Jack McKennes

However, I wasn't quite finished with folk music - or it wasn't through with me. In April of 1963 the Wanderers were approached by a record producer from Manchester named Jimmy Parks, who wanted the group to record a budget album for Strand Records. I got drafted for the project. We arranged and learned all of the material in three days of concentrated effort; I played bass and six-string guitar. We recorded the whole album at WKBR in one long night. Because there was another active recording group called the Wanderers, Parks renamed the group the Minute Men, for purposes of this album.

Unfortunately, we were so wiped out after the session that we didn't wait to get a copy of the tape; we were assured that we'd get copies of the album. It didn't happen - not until year 2000 (more below). We were told that the label had gone out of business, and the album never released.

The Echoes went on hiatus for the summer... except that we decided we should make a record. Tom and I put together a couple of instrumentals, Blue Bell Bounce and Tiger Talk, which we recorded at the Audio Center in Hartford and, upon returning to school that fall, we released them on our own Bristol label.

This was 1963, remember, and AM radio was still king. Worcester's WORC-AM was one of the most influential stations in the country. Under the direction of Dick "the Derby" Smith, the station had an all-request format. Airplay was determined by the number of telephone requests for a tune that the station received. WORC also published a weekly survey, listing songs in the order of request popularity. This chart was watched by every radio station in the country, and WORC broke many national hits. In fact, they actually broke the Beatles, long before the famous appearance on the Ed Sullivan Show in February of 1964.

At that time the Beatles were huge in Europe, but hadn't done a thing in America. Several US labels, including MGM, VeeJay and Swan, had released material which had essentially been ignored by the public and the industry. WORC broke I'll Get You, which was the flip side of She Loves You, in the fall of 1963.

But back to the Echoes. We, of course, got everyone that we could to phone requests to WORC and, in October, Blue Bell Bounce started to roar up the chart. Suddenly we started getting calls from distributors and labels that wanted the record. We ended up signing with Swan records, who released it on their Lawn subsidiary. However, fate was to intervene.

You may have read above that Stephen's first gig was originally scheduled for Friday, November 22, the day that JFK was shot.

That was also the day that Lawn released Blue Bell Bounce. You can imagine how much attention it attracted. As I recall, almost every radio station across the country switched its programming to patriotic, religious and/or classical music for the next month as a sign of respect.

Tom and I, as we sat around kind of in shock, speculated to one another that somebody was probably going to do a Kennedy tribute record and make a lot of money. Somewhat cynically, we decided that it might as well be us, so we stayed up most of that night writing The Man and its flip, Song Of The Traveler. Saturday morning we got the Wanderers together again, and recorded the two sides in the game room of WPI's Lambda Chi Alpha fraternity, using two ElectroVoice 664 mikes, a small Radio Shack mixer, and Tom's monaural Webcor. Jack sang lead on The Man, Dave sang lead on the flip; I played acoustic 12-string on The Man and bass on the flip.

Tom and I piled into his '57 Chevy and raced down to Hartford, where we had Audio Center dub the tape onto 15 IPS and add a bit of echo. Monday morning we were off to Philadelphia, to Swan Records. Swan bought the record, changing the group name (again!) to the College Boys in an attempt to make it seem less like the commercial exploitation of a national tragedy. The record didn't do much but, for many years, we received small airplay royalties from all over the world. Both sides are now available on the Internet. All of the folk stuff is also available on a Trak12 CD.

As Blue Echo Productions, we also recorded Kenny & the Night Riders, the Chanelles and Ronnie Dowd, but only the Night Riders have been released to date.

February 9, 1964. Another historic occasion, when the Beatles made their US debut on the Ed Sullivan show, changing rock and roll forever. The Blue Echoes, though, had been playing Beatles songs for months. Suddenly we were seen by the public as having been way ahead of the pack, and our popularity exploded.

Capitol Records had poured a lot of publicity money into the Beatles prior to their arrival in the States, probably to avoid getting egg on their faces the way MGM, VeeJay and Swan had. They succeeded well beyond their expectations. I Want To Hold Your Hand went instantly to the top of the charts. The group's earlier releases also hit the charts; Swan’s She Loves You also went to number one, and the principals of the label made so much money that they essentially retired and let the label fall apart.

The Echoes' next record, Rosanne b/w How Do I Tell Her, was supposed to go to Lawn. However, since the label had essentially dissolved, we were released from contract and issued it on our own BEP label.

I spent much of the summer of 1964 in Europe. When I returned, I built a 5 pickup stereo version of my solid body 12-string, and a matching bass guitar. When I cut that big twelve loose it sounded like six guys had just come on stage.

The Echoes continued to play and record until January of 1966, totally dominating the Central Massachusetts scene. We could, and did, play anything from Motown through folk-rock to psychedelia. Competing bands later would say that, during that time, we got all of the jobs and they had to be satisfied with our leavings. Among other gigs, we shared the stage with Barry and the Remains, and backed the Chiffons twice. We rarely played Boston - frankly, we were too busy in central Massachusetts and northern Connecticut, performing on the average four nights a week (and for good money, too). We became so popular that several smaller towns banned our performances because their Police forces just couldn't handle the crowds we'd draw.

In the summer of 1965 my wanderlust kicked in, and my friend John Lee and I threw a mattress in the back of my old Falcon station wagon and headed west, sleeping in forests and cornfields. By the time we returned we'd been through nineteen states and toured several national parks. I was to take several other road trips like that in the next few years. Can't do that these days without getting arrested.

From September of 1965 through mid 1968 I lived in a basement apartment at 24 North Ashland Street, on the fringes of what was to become the Congress Alley "district." I had several roommates during that period, including Jeffrey Herdman, who was to become Orpheus' first road manager, and an amazingly talented artist and poet named Richard Swallow. Actually, both Richard and his wife were to live with me for a while during 1967.

Campsite, somewhere in Indiana
That's my buddy, John Lee

I had met Richard in a bar (where else?), and had been fascinated by his poetry even before I saw his paintings. One I particularly remember was called A Platoon Of Tricycles, talking about the way even radically different people ended up being sucked into conformity as they aged. That really hit home, and I was determined not to allow it to happen to me!

I had dabbled just a little in poetry; Richard really showed me how to write it, how to select the precisely correct words and such. Ultimately I developed a unique style, combining words with graphics. You can read this stuff in our Poems section.

My last "roommate," while at twenty-four, was my then-wife. Our leaving twenty-four in 1968, while necessary, marked the beginning of my own descent into conformity from which it was to be a major undertaking to escape many years later. But I digress.

Returning to the story... in January of 1966 Tom Zagryn decided to pack it in, which was the end of the Blue Echoes. I then formed a soul group, with a couple of my guitar students, called the High Tide, in which I screamed like James Brown. I did a few gigs with pickup bands as well. By that time I had realized that there were a lot of guitarists out there that were better than I was, but very few bassists that were as good as I was. So, logically, I decided to concentrate on bass.

Meanwhile, my old bandmate from the Wanderers, Jack McKennes, had formed a folk duo with another Worcester native, Bruce Arnold. Called The Villagers, they had become very successful, particularly in Boston and on the Cape. They were voted "Best Folk Duo" by readers of Broadside magazine two years running. However, their world was beginning to change, as folk music started to wane.

One of Jack's friends had some connections in the music business and told him that, if the Villagers would add bass and drums, he could get the group an audition with a New York producer named Wes Farrell. Farrell's claim-to-fame, at that point, was Every Mother's Son (Come On Down To My Boat ).

Jack called me one night in April of 1967, and asked me to come over and jam on bass with him and Bruce. I did so, and was quite impressed. Bruce had worked up an arrangement for Don't Be Cruel to which I provided a driving James Brown-style bass - I remember Bruce shouting "Wow! Rock and roll!"

We continued to practice as a trio, trying out various drummers without finding anyone that could handle our arrangements. Then Jack stumbled on a drummer named Harry Sandler, who was also a terrific showman; that rounded out the quartet. We practiced almost every night until late summer, playing an occasional freebie intermission set at one of the Surf Ballrooms and then went to New York for a live audition with Wes Farrell. By that time Bruce had written not only Can't Find The Time but several other songs as well that I felt had real potential. Farrell said that he was very interested, and that we should put together a few more songs, enough for an album. We thought of the name Orpheus for the group while sitting in Howard Johnson's on the Connecticut Turnpike on the way home.

Ultimately we were to be offered a total of nine recording contracts without ever having played a paid gig together. We decided to sign with Alan Lorber Productions, and became known as a part of the ill-fated Boston or "Bosstown" Sound. We released three albums and four singles on the MGM label. (There's a lot more about Orpheus on our Orpheus page).

The original Orpheus melted down at the end of 1969, and I took a "straight" job at Koehler Manufacturing Company in order to support my family. I did get a bit of travel right away, which was great; a week in West Virginia followed by a week in England and a five week stint in Sweden.

Except for some part-time teaching, I had nothing more to do with music for many years. My parents and my wife were glad that this period of my life had ended, and hoped that I'd now settle down to the serious business of making money and lead a more ordinary or conventional life style. I, however, was far less enchanted with the straight life. My folks were good people but, as far as I was concerned, their lives were boring. As I mentioned above I had a wanderlust, and craved adventure. Music had given me that, allowing me to travel and setting me apart from the "mundanes" (no offense intended!). But you do what you have to do.

I stuck it out and eventually made VP of Engineering and Product Development. Along the way I had earned two Master's degrees by going to school at night, and had been awarded 17 US Patents. If youre interested in that type of thing, you can view the first page of each of these Patents by clicking here.

Eric Gulliksen's DJ Service
Doing a DJ Gig

Musically, I started an all-request format mobile disc jockey service in 1983. Ultimately I would carry over 60,000 charted hits with me to each gig, dating back to 1890.

My job entailed about 10% travel, but that wasn't enough for me. After I got my second Master's I made a lateral move and became VP of Marketing for Koehler's Mining Division. I was charged with developing an export business. Now THAT was cool - a lot of travel, seeing the world on somebody else's nickel! Worked hard, played hard, indulged my wanderlust, met a lot of great people, formed some very fast friendships and learned a lot about cultures and history around the world. I felt alive again.

Eric Gulliksen: Belém, Brazil, 1994
Belém, Brazil, 1994
Eric Gulliksen: Santiago de Chile, 1995
Santiago de Chile, 1995
Eric Gulliksen: KwaZulu-Natal, Republic of South Africa, 1995
KwaZulu-Natal, Republic of South Africa, 1995
Eric Gulliksen: Mexico, 1996
Mexico, 1996

My marriage dissolved in 1989 and, after I got over the trauma, I realized that I was actually far happier being alone than I ever had been in a relationship. I've never even considered having another.

In the early nineties I did a series of gigs with Jack and, in 1994, the two of us, plus Harry, did three sold-out concerts at the Kendall Café in Cambridge, billed as Jack, Harry & the Snake.

I could tell a lot of stories about the mining days - bombings, riots, earthquakes, floods, typhoons, etc. - I even had an Uzi stuck up my nose. I loved it!

''Jack, Harry & the Snake:'' Jack McKennes, Harry Sandler, Eric Gulliksen
''Jack, Harry & the Snake''
L-R: Me, Harry Sandler, Jack McKennes
ERic Gulliksen (aka ''the Snake'')

I traveled extensively until early 1999, and was generally recognized as being the top man in the underground mine lighting field, world wide. However, by that year the firm had been sold to a conglomerate and we came to a parting of the ways. By that time I'd been in 44 out of 50 states plus Puerto Rico, and in 40 countries from Argentina to Zimbabwe, on every continent but Antarctica. Most "in-country" travel had been by car or truck, so I had really been able to experience the ambience from a "non-tourist" viewpoint. I thought I should be able to get another international marketing job, but the world had already started to change. Few people wanted to travel, so companies had derived other ways of conducting international business through telecommunications. While I wasn't looking I had become a dinosaur.

The trend toward discouraging travel has continued, especially post-9/11. To be sure, travel can be expensive, so trying to keep it down in a down economy makes some sense. However, when I hear that ad for video conferencing on the radio that says "Today I did a presentation in Sydney, attended a meeting in Paris, solved a problem in Tokyo and I can still keep my date tonight with the very lovely Rachel" my reaction is "Good grief! What's WRONG with you???" Ask me to do a presentation in Sydney and I'm on my way to the airport!

The world seems to be filled with people who want to be mundanes.

To me this trend is really sad - with these electronic approaches people will never have the opportunity to experience other cultures, and at the end of the day this can only lead to isolationism, provincialism and parochialism. That's my rant for the day.

When my severance and unemployment ran out, I took a job with a small market research firm for which I worked for 15 years. I fully retired in early 2014, which gives me time to enjoy my life and to concentrate on music.

Eric Gulliksen (aka ''the Snake''): South Boston, MA, 2007
South Boston, MA, 2007
Photo: Kathi Taylor

In 2000, through a long chain of unlikely events, I finally got a CD Dub made from a beat-up test pressing of 1963's Minute Men album. I found out in 2005 that it had, in fact, been released on Strand before the company's demise, and was able to buy a couple of battered copies on the Internet. I also discovered that it had been re-released on the Gladwynne label, and got a pristine copy which I used in the production of the Trak12 Orpheus Precursors Vol. 1 CD.

As Stephen mentioned above, we formed Orpheus Reborn in the summer of 2004, which marked my return to performing. I will never walk away from it again, as long as I am physically able to play. I used to hope that, when the Good Lord called me, I'd have my boots and hard hat on and be visiting a mine somewhere. Well, that's not going to happen. Now my hope is that He'll call me while I'm on stage.

As Stephen also mentioned above, since Orpheus Reborn has been on performance hiatus he and I have crafted a unique sound and act. I enjoy Stephen & The Snake more than any of my previous musical efforts, with the possible exception of the Blue Echoes. Stephen and I are the best of friends, continually challenge each other musically, and put up with one another's idiosyncrasies and foibles. Both of us have seen our instrumental skill levels grow exponentially, and our egos don't get in the way. Our program primarily comprises original material, although we do dredge up and rearrange some obscure folk, blues or spiritual songs. I also do a few of my "standards and show tunes" in longer performances, and at various open mike venues in the area.

I also did an occasional blues gig with Walter "Bear" Zaremba before he passed away, record occasionally with Birdz Sessions, do a bit of other session work, play bluegrass occasionally with Rocky Run, back up folksinger-songwriter Rick Fetters and the Peter, Paul and Mary tribute trio Rick, Andy and Judy, and record and perform with singer-songwriter Colette O'Connor.

Eric Gulliksen (aka ''the Snake''): Plymouth, MA, 2009
Plymouth, MA, 2009

And, just to put in my own two cents, please do stop by the Catbird Café at the New England Wildlife Center some Saturday. It's fun, and helps with what to us is an important cause. Frankly, I like animals a lot better than I do some people.

Stephen Martin & Eric Gulliksen: at the Catbird Café
Stephen & The Snake, at the Catbird Café