Thursday, June 4, 2009

1968 part 2 - McCarthy Lost His Y

I had been an early supporter of Gene McCarthy when he decided to challenge President Lyndon Johnson for the 1968 Presidential nomination. I opposed the war and while I supported Johnson’s significant and very progressive domestic accomplishments, I could not support him for another term as President. At the time, the war was the overriding factor.

I acquired a McCarthy bumper sticker which I stuck to the top of my guitar case (I still have the guitar and the guitar case but the sticker is long gone).

McCarthy, against all conventional wisdom, almost bested Johnson in the New Hampshire primary and the race was on.

Then Bobby Kennedy got in the race. There was tremendous animosity toward Kennedy from many McCarthy supporters. They felt that Kennedy had stood on the sidelines until it became clear that Johnson could be beaten in the primaries and then had jumped in.

I remained a McCarty supporter for the time being. Then there was the Johnson withdrawal.

It was a Sunday night, if I remember correctly. Steve, Rosemary, Ron Duce and I (The Happy Folk at the time) were playing a gig at Taco Sierra, a 3.2% beer and taco restaurant (I’ve played many sterling engagements and high-class joints in my time).

We watched Johnson on TV and then played our gig: A pretty dramatic night.

Through April I began to reassess my support for McCarthy. Not that I disagreed with him, but I began to see in Bobby an object of real change. A person in whom I not only believed but in whom I thought there might actually be the possibility of building the better world many of us were striving for. That capacity for change, in part was based on the fact that he had the best chance of winning and keeping Dick Nixon out of the White House. (I have a maxim I use in politics – You can’t govern if you don’t win, you won’t win if you don’t govern).

I became a Kennedy supporter. But the bumper sticker, which by that time was becoming a bit tattered, was still on my guitar case. Then one day, Steve looked at it and noticed that the ‘Y’ at the end of McCarthy’s name had been torn off.

Steve: “McCarthy’s lost his Y.”

Denny: “Yes he has.”

Wednesday, June 3, 2009


A memorable year. A sitting President decides not to run for another term and a potential President is killed in Los Angeles. A memorable year. A watershed year. A year marked by death. Young Americans dying in southeast Asia. The murder of Martin Luther King. The murder of Robert Francis Kennedy. Violence and death in our urban centers as people take to the streets in anger and frustration. Violence in the streets of Chicago during the Democratic National Convention.

I have been thinking a lot about 1968 lately. As I posted earlier, my friend Steve is celebrating his 60th birthday with concert of family and friends. The friends include me.

Steve and I are referring to our part as Happy Folk Redux. In 1968, Steve and I along with Rosemary Doran were the Happy Folk, a trio bound for fame, fortune and success in the music business in Los Angeles. Preparing for the concert and rehearsing the songs is conjuring up many memories of that year and that trip.


We actually left Colorado in June of 1968, right after Bobby was assassinated. As I noted earlier, it was a bittersweet time. We were full of hope for our future but bereft of hope for the future of our country. We could not know that the events of March and June of that year were just the start of what would be a terrible year in our country.

The California primary was on June 4th that year. Bobby won and everyone was poised to, as Bobby said that fateful night, go ‘on to Chicago and lets win in November’.

Shortly after midnight, now June 5th, Bobby was shot.

Interestingly, Steve’s birthday is on June 4th. That will be the night of our concert. It will be celebratory, it will be fun; it will be full of hope. But for me, and I think Steve too, it will be bittersweet again. It will be hard not to think of that time, that year and that trip for us.

The music thing didn’t really work out for us, but we both gave our shot at ‘the big time’ in L.A. in the entertainment business. We both had some success, but perhaps not enough. We both waited for that ‘someday’ when the big break would come. We are both back here now.

Our concert closes, appropriately, with a song Steve wrote: "What If Someday Never Comes?"