Q & A with Jeffrey Halford
Jeffrey Halford, who plays Friday, Aug. 3 at the Crystal Bay Casino with his band, the Healers, released his sixth album, “Broken Chord,” on July 1. He writes songs about his observations of America. He spoke last week with Lake Tahoe Action Editor Tim Parsons.
Q: You make a powerful statement in your song “Louisiana Man.”
A: I couldn’t help it. I was surprised.
Q: Are you political?
A: I grew up in the ’60s and ’70s and there was a lot of political folk songwriters and I was never like that. Those guys were growing up in the face of Vietnam and racial change. And I think it affected them heavily. When I grew up it was a different climate. I wasn’t in the heat of that fire, so I didn’t write about that. I choose to write about women and the great things about America. Now we’re all in this Iraq and Louisiana and all these things that have been happening. So those songs just came flying out. I didn’t even have to try to write those. They were just real easy songs to write. I don’t even write politically. But that was enough to make the whole country sick.
Q: Tell me about being a street musician in San Francisco.
A: Something about that experience made me good. I got my chops. I remember Lightning Hopkins was happier playing his street corner in Houston.
Q: Who was your mentor?
A: Jimmy Ventilator. He was a rock ‘n’ roll and blues guy. He knew all the Chicago blues, all the Beatles rock ‘n’ roll. He did a bunch of Larry Williams. I’d just sit there and try to learn the stuff. Like a lot of guitarists, I wanted to play the lead. He said “You can when you show me you can play the rhythm and you’ve got that down. Don’t play any lead until I see the rhythm.” He was a real bitch that way. It’s just funny. A lot of guitarists, they just want to go for the lead right away. Whether it’s carpentry or being a mechanic with a car. You don’t get to put on the fine trim work until you learn how to get down on the inside and learn how to do the bare knuckle stuff. Because that’s all gravy.
Q: Street musicians need to be pretty good, don’t they?
A: These guys were serious. They were living in hotels. They were living just right on the edge. In one guy’s hotel he probably had 1,000 records in there. It was just records and guitars in this little 10-by-10 hotel room. Playing on the street was great but we were always being kicked off the street by the cops because we were too loud. We’d get money, not enough money, but a lot of times we’d get drugs. You know, joints and pills , and that cracked me up. I was like, “Can we see some green in there?” I’m not taking some pill that somebody threw. I don’t think so. Then we’d go to North Beach and drink pitchers of beer. That was fun.