1971. Pete Sears in John Cipollina’s antique gun room at his house on King Street in Mill Valley.

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1971 Pete Sears in John Cipollina’s antique gun room at his house on King Street in Mill Valley.

Photo taken by Michael Moore.

This is right after I fin­ished play­ing the “Long John Baldry” USA tour. I came up to San Fran­cisco from Los Ange­les to start the band John and I had talked about form­ing before I left “Stone­ground”; before I left to fly to Eng­land to record on Rod Stewart’s “Every Pic­ture Tells A Story”.

When I arrived at John’s house he had already cho­sen most of the musi­cians, and we began rehears­ing at the old white “Quick­sil­ver” house up on the hill in Corte Madera. Ron Polte man­aged us. It took a while for John to come up with the band name, “Cop­per­head”. Ron bought us a car each at a gov­ern­ment auction…I got an old brown Ply­mouth V8 that went like a bat out of hell. I slept in John’s gun room for a while…wish I still had that jacket in the photo.
We’d lie on John’s bed and try and shoot down his Christ­mas tree hang­ing by a piece of string over the stairwell…with a cou­ple of 22’s. I’m not rec­om­mend­ing this behav­ior how­ever
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We had a lot of fun at that house…driving around in John’s old Dodge Dart; meet­ing up with John God­dard of Vil­lage Music, or check­ing out Char­lie Deal’s lat­est gui­tar made from a toi­let seat. Some­times the Vil­lage of Mill Val­ley would close off the down­town area and hold a rock con­cert out­side the “Old Mill Tavern”…or occa­sion­ally in Boyle Park…this prob­a­bly wouldn’t hap­pen today.

I cleaned up one of John and his girl­friend Jan’s down­stairs rooms and brought my girl­friend Lucy over from Eng­land. We lived in that room for a while, but even­tu­ally rented a small house in Fair­fax up the hill from Van Morrison’s place…Jim McPher­son lived in the house above us.

Jim and I used to race home after rehearsals to see whether it was faster to go through San Rafael or stay on Sir Fran­cis Drake to get to Fairfax…we never really came up with a defin­i­tive answer. Who cares?
Mill Val­ley was still a rel­a­tively undis­cov­ered vil­lage in 1971. It used to be a Mill Town and was full of col­or­ful old houses nestling amongst giant Red­wood trees. Most peo­ple could afford to rent, or even buy a house in Mill Val­ley back then. Strug­gling young artists, poets or musi­cians would live next door to wealthy attor­neys, old money, rock stars, philoso­phers or per­haps a well known author or two.
It was before peo­ple work­ing in San Fran­cisco dis­cov­ered they could com­mute to Mill Val­ley and live in this beau­ti­ful lit­tle vil­lage sit­ting at the base of Mount Tamalpias. That real­iza­tion grad­u­ally pushed prop­erty prices up, even­tu­ally reach­ing obscene levels…forcing out many elderly peo­ple who could no longer afford the ris­ing prop­erty taxes.
Although old Mill Val­ley fix­tures like Varney’s hard­ware store, where John used to buy his ammu­ni­tion or Lockwood’s drug store have been replaced by ritzy cloth­ing stores or art galleries…Mill Val­ley still retains some of the charm that attracted peo­ple in the first place. I have many happy mem­o­ries of Jean­nette and me later bring­ing up both our chil­dren in Mill Val­ley after I joined Jef­fer­son Star­ship in 1974. We got mar­ried in 1975 and bought our first house on Cas­cade Canyon in 1976…just down the road from the famous “Sweet­wa­ter” club. Our son Dylan was born in 1977 and our daugh­ter Natalie in 1983. I used to walk Dylan as a baby down to “Three Wells” in a lit­tle seat slung on my back. I’d some­times meet up with a neigh­bor who would do the same with his lit­tle boy…we had some won­der­ful walks together. Jean­nette and I recently recon­nected with him and his wife Em at a mutual friend’s house. It turns out his name is Mar­tin Cruz Smith and he was writ­ing the famous novel “Gorky Park” around the time of our walks. I loved that book when it came out, but hadn’t real­ized it was the same fel­low.
Jean­nette and I no longer live in Mill Val­ley. Many happy mem­o­ries there.
We recon­nected Mar­tin and Em recently…turns out we live in the same town.