Memories (Herb Metoyer)

I was introduced to Fred Neil by Joannie Mitchel. She and I happened to be featured on the same show at the Gaslight in New York. When we finished, she suggested that we catch Fred’s last set at another well known Folk spot (the name of which escapes me at the moment). After the show, we all went to a restaurant where we spent the rest of the night talking and comparing notes. Joannie Mitchell had on a white mini-skirt. She has beautiful legs, so I had a hard time trying to stay focused on the conversation.

Our friendship was instant (Fred and I). Since I lived in North Carolina, Fred often stopped by to visit anytime he was enroute between New York and Florida. On one visit, he heard me sing “Mother Fools are a Long Line Coming” while I was performing at a local Coffee House called “The Other Side.” I had just finished writing it a couple of weeks prior. I wrote it as a reflection the many foolish things we are compelled to do over and over again, some whether we want to or not. He liked it, so I gave him a copy of the lead sheet. A few months later, he called and asked me to open for him on a concert he was doing in Atlanta, Georgia. I agreed and he asked me to include “Mother, Fools…” in my lineup. I, of course, was delighted to do so.

Later, Fred more or less moved to Los Angeles, California. I was taking a course in aeronautical engineering at USC at the time. He said he wanted to record my song, so we got together and rehearsed it several times. While I was there, he introduced me to Phil Ochs, someone I revere to this day. Phil and I got together several times to discuss the Civil Rights thing and its progress. What’s surprising is the fact that Phil was a militant as far as Civil Rights were concerned but deathly against the war in Vietnam. Me… I believed in the non-violent approach, and that’s strange because I was a career military officer and helicopter pilot. We argued about the merits of both on several occasions. I left shortly thereafter and returned to a 2nd Vietnam combat support tour. While I was there, Phil wrote me and stated he was gioing to be performing in Hawaii. So, I hopped a flight and met him there. He told me that Fred had recorded the song, and of course, I was delighted.

When I returned to the states (NC), Fred called my wife and she and some other friends of mine, Bill Rowre, Bill Ashford, Mayon Weeks, Steve Biggs, Vince Martin, Al & MG Cain and several others gave me a surprise party. When I arrived, I was surprised to see Fred had flown in, and I thought that his presence was the real reason for the party. As it turned out, Fred made the announcement that his album “Sessions” had been selected by the Astronauts to be included in the Time Capsule that was placed on the moon. Now, I was super excited. Fred also suggested that he thought the title of my song was probably the reason they selected his album out of the many candidates that were submitted to NASA.

Anyway, it was a great party. We drank beer, ate pizza, and jammed until the wee hours of the morning. I will never forget that night. Folk music, however, died a hurried death, and the places where we gathered to sing, closed their doors one by one. Some of us laid aside our guitars and tried to focus on other outlets for our creative energies… A few hung around trying to find a new nitch for their music and their souls, and… some closed their guitar cases and faded away into hibernation. Fred and I lost contact a few years later. He just sorta dropped off the end of the world. Phil, too, lost his grip when our world collasped. I suppose there will never be another era like the turbulent 60’s.


Herb Metoyer