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Homegas

My brother-in-law found this rare 1971 LP for fifty cents at a Goodwill store many years ago and picked it up merely because of the Takoma/Fahey connection. Of the most obscure LP’s we have come across in our many years of collecting, this is our all-time favourite.

I especially love the picking on Bumblebee and the haunting Bulldozer Blues. The liner notes (below) mention that two other (unknown) groups used to play with Homegas: Greazy Green and Stoney Lonesome before their Bloomington, Indiana house was destroyed by fire.

Liner Notes:

Dear Peter & Rinda,

Last Thursday night 610 caught fire and a good portion, of the building was destroyed. We were sitting around, me & Dave, Robin (Cathy was at work) the Blausteins & another girl, when the lights upstairs went out and I suddenly smelled smoke. By the time I reached the back door to investigate, smoke was pouring out of the basement door. I ran in and called the fire dept. trembling, & in the middle of the call all the lights in the house went out. I stumbled into Cordelia’s room in the dark and found her still sound asleep in bed. Some how, using all of my strength I managed to carry her out the side door where David met me & helped me get her to safety.

We had no sooner flushed everyone out of the building when the kitchen burst into flames while we stood helplessly in the back yard. The fire spread very rapidly, probably only 7-10 minutes elapsed from the time we smelled smoke until the whole back of the house was in flames. We are glad in a way that you aren’t here because you’d be freaked out by the sight of 610 if you were.

The kitchen and back room (your favorite place, where the music of Greasy Green, Stoney Lonesome and Homegas was born) are charred pitch black & everything inside is in shambles. All the windows are broken out and the furniture is tattered and burnt, lying in battered heaps on the floor.

When I walked in the house in the daylight and could actually see the extent of the damage, I started crying (and you know me, I don’t cry easily), And I guess the notes for Homegas are gone.

Love to all,
Bernella

Track Listing:

  1. Bumblebee – 2:50
  2. Bulldozer Blues – 4:13
  3. Inertia – 3:44
  4. Maine – 3:07
  5. Tired – 2:29
  6. Die for a Dime – 1:53
  7. Wreath – 3:02
  8. Any More – 2:46
  9. Busted Brown – 2:35
  10. It’s Time – 4:14
  11. Vegetable Farm – 4:39
  12. Grasshoppers – 2:36

Personnel:

Vocals: Peter Aceves, Dave Satterfield
Fiddle: Richard Blaustein
Guitar: Peter Aceves
Mandolin: Neil Rosenberg
Bass: John Hyslop
Hand Harps: Jim Barden, Dave Brock
Rack Harp: Peter Aceves
Banjo: Neil Rosenberg (“Die for a Dime”)
Technical Assistance: Jack Gilfoy, Ray Fournier, Bernella Satterfield
Spiritual Assistance: Jeff Morris
Engineers: Ray Fournier, Cecil Charles Spiller, Bob Bourassa, Peter Seplow
All selections copyright 1968, 1969, 1970 by Peter Aceves
Published by Caleb Music Inc. ASCAP

Front Cover Design: Jim Barden
Photographer: David Starke
Produced by John Fahey
Takoma Records, P.O. Box 5403, Santa Monica, California 90405

I emailed Neil Rosenberg and found out that he is still playing and recording in Newfoundland, Canada in a band called Crooked Stovepipe.

The Homegas Story:

Everything you might want to know about Homegas can be found in an article by Dr. Neil Rosenberg in the May 2001 issue of the Canadian Folk Music Bulletin, which I have archived here. The following is an excerpt:

Homegas gathering at home in Bloomington, IndianaPeter, who has been my colleague in the Department of Folklore here are Memorial since 1974, took his mother’s surname shortly after he moved here: Narvez. He’d come to Indiana to study folklore three years after I started. He’d played in local folk scene, had a jug band, and was into blues in a big way. We’d often shared venues but not until the fall of 1967 when Dave Brock, who played harp, was just ending a long spell (couple years) as part of duo with Peter, did we start jamming on his bluesy stuff. We played his new compositions, which were based on various traditional models but often took novel and complex forms. Although this was acoustic music, we were doing what most people in folk-rock were doing in the late 60s.

For me it was a radical move from banjo to mandolin. I’d owned lots of old Gibsons but almost never played in public except at some square dances with Birch Monroe. Peter and I did one gig that fall as The Blues Rejects. Dorson saw the ad and ordered me to “layoff the music.” We started again jamming in January ’68, with Richard Blaustein. Just jammed 2-3 months, did a gig at the U of Illinois as The Friends of Greasy Greens, and then added a bassist, John Hyslop. He was studying music at Indiana University. In June, right before I left for Texas and Peter left for Maine, we did a demo tape.

I was in Austin that summer, teaching a summer school course in folklore at the University of Texas, when I had a call from Herbert Halpert inviting me to apply for a job at Memorial University of Newfoundland. More about that later; what happened was I came to St. John’s in September, 1968, and at the same time Peter moved to Maine.

That fall Vanguard Records told Peter that on the basis of the demo they were interested in hearing us. By some cosmic co-incidence, the American Folklore Society meetings were in Bloomington that fall, and to make a long story short, Peter and I both made it back from up North. This was my first time back to the US from Newfoundland, where I’d only been for a couple of months. The audition was lots of fun, but eventually (after the young DJ-producer who came to hear us went home and came down) we got a Dear John letter from them.

At the same time we got a letter from John Fahey, the avant-garde blues guitarist (“Blind Joe Death”), also a folklore graduate student (at UCLA, studying Charlie Patton) who then was the operator and co-owner of Takoma Records (he was from Takoma, Maryland). Fahey liked everything about us but the name. We recorded for him in April 1969 in Bloomington. I came early with a draft of my dissertation and met with my supervisor, and then we had a recording session. I spent my pension refund money from Indiana to buy a better mandolin. Peter had written more new songs. We added a second vocalist for the recording: David Satterfield, with whom I’d done a lot of bluegrass gigs earlier. A great singer from Columbus, Indiana, he also recorded with another Bloomington band of the time, Salloom-Sinclair. They did a couple of albums for Cadet, a Chess subsidiary. Anyway, we rehearsed intensely for three days and recorded for two and a half days. Dave Brock played on one track at that recording session.

That summer we learned from Fahey that he liked the material but that he wanted us to record again in a bigger studio, so he could get better separation. In August we met at Peter’s place in Maine, rehearsed intensely for three days. Here we added a new harp player, Jim Barden, a conceptual artist from New York with whom Peter had hooked up and was gigging in Maine. He played in the style of Little Walter. Here also is where we got the name. The local bottled-gas proprietor was a company called Homgas. The logo was on a tank at Peter’s house; that gave us the idea for Homegas, which Fahey accepted. We then drove down to Cambridge where we stayed at Old Joe Clark, the folk music commune. We recorded for a couple of days at studio in another nearby suburb of Boston.The record didn’t come out for another two years, in 1971. Fahey had problems with our Boston recordings, so in the end only two new numbers were released from them; the rest came from the original recordings. At the same time he released our album, Fahey also released Leo Kottke’s first, which ultimately sold 500,000 copies and has recently been reissued on a Rhino CD.Although this musical experience was extremely important in shaping my musical life, Homegas was definitely not a best-seller! It did sell a few copies here in St. John’s. A young local singer-songwriter named Ron Hynes bought one. Recently Ron was telling me about when Peter Narvez first moved to St. John’s in the fall of 1974 from Maine. Early on he went into a local nightspot where Ron was playing and was amazed when he heard two or three of his own songs!

7 Responses

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  1. avatar
    barahsachman February 2, 2010 at 6:55 pm |

    I am working on reissuing this album. Should be in stores by June

  2. avatar
    One Kind Favor November 2, 2011 at 12:32 pm |

    somebody needs to reissue this album!! Concord Music group owns the rights to all Takoma properties. If anyone reading this want’s to band together (financially) to license it for a vinyl reissue, I’ll handle all the legal stuff and pressing plant stuff. I’ve talked to members of the band and they would love to see this happen.

    info@onekindfavor.net

    http://www.onekindfavor.net

  3. avatar
    nellrose November 13, 2011 at 11:48 am |

    Peter Narvaez, the creator of Homegas died of lung cancer early Friday morning Nov. 11th. I am Bernella, who wrote the letter that appeared as the liner notes on Homegas. It would be a wonderful tribute to Peter if Homegas could be re-released. This is music that has become an underground treasure and it deserves a wider audience. I do hope that One Kind Favor is able to pull this off.

  4. avatar
    johnvallison January 9, 2012 at 12:38 am |

    I stood in the middle of the linoleum kitchen floor as David Satterfield, Neil whatshisname and somebody else were playing Bumblebee and the other songs that afternoon – or was it morning? I was the microphone stand; since they didn’t have those or think of them and I could be moved during tunes, or would adjust positions as I saw the need, and I knew the music and the musicians; and now, the house is burned and razed; Peter has risen; the sun has set over the Pacific where I now live in Eureka!.
    Bloomington was a rich source, a spiritual, artistic and intellectual center during those years; and from west to east, unseen, flowed out the mind of the greatest sages of our time.
    As always, Peter was both elegant and eloquent in choosing 11/11/11 for his departure from the stage.
    This is our time.

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