The Goat Hill Girls are five longtime friends who have been making music together for over 40 years. They started out as Side Saddle, born in the Bay Area and breaking from the all-male bluegrass tradition. Back in the day some of their guys were in an outfit called The Bear Creek Boys. The girls said, “You know? We can do this too!” So, they went and made their own way.
“While live music venues abide in the days of covid, revolutionaries have taken things to the streets and out over livestream. At the corner of 41st and Portola in Pleasure Point, in front of an abandoned service station with weeds growing in the cracks, the Joint Chiefs play to a masked gathering of passersby. A few days earlier, overlooking Monterey Bay from the deck of a private residence, Anthony Arya’s Chasing Ophelia performs to beachgoers below. A neighborhood gathers at The Hook to hear Ted Welty, Alex Lucero, and John Caruth belt out some serious blues while a cavalcade of bicyclists and boarders, toddlers, and dogs on leashes meander past. From side streets to front lawns to the roofs of local businesses, and all via livestream, Santa Cruz surfer, skater, writer, and radio personality, Neil Pearlberg, is turning live music on its ear.”
By Julie Horner with Tiffany Gillett, Jessica Gullo, Jennifer Thompson, Elicia Burton, and Eric Burman
The phone rang the morning of November 27, the day before Thanksgiving. The voice on the other end of the line was gravelly, fondly familiar, but the words were uncharacteristically hesitant and choked with emotion. It was Damdave. Children’s laughter could be heard in the background; family and friends from near and far were gathering in Hilo for the holiday. In a watery voice, Damdave said that he wasn’t going to make it. They couldn’t kill the tumor on his lung after all. Months of treatment and pain, hope, humor, and boundless heart, but nothing more could be done. He said, “They say it could be a day, or it could be a year.” His voice trailed off. The musical timbre of grandkids running amok filled the silence. I told him, “I love you so much.”
There had been quite a bit of optimism in August. Dave had been living in Hilo, Hawaii with his daughter Tiphany while undergoing treatment. Dave worked diligently over the summer to regain his health, enough so that doctors would allow him to fly home to Boulder Creek to visit his friends and to attend the Good Old Fashioned Bluegrass Festival, of which he had been a part for many years. It was a rich time spent playing music and sharing memories and laughter. The memories linger still, warm and sweet like the summer sun.
David Gillett, Boulder Creek singer-songwriter, local legend, dad, grandpa, and dearest friend, passed away surrounded by his loved ones on Wednesday, December 4th, 2019.
Daughters Tiphany Gillett, Jessica Gullo, and Jennifer Thompson and their families were by his side to read aloud well wishes sent from beloved friends. Bandmate “Mando” Mike Reynolds joined the family to bid his compadre farewell.
Just a couple of years ago, heads close together in comfortable familiarity in the late afternoon light, Dave Gillett and I sipped our “usual” and went to town reminiscing about spirited times in old haunts around the San Lorenzo Valley. Known affectionately as “Damdave,” he was the front-man singer-songwriter and guitar player for the Boulder Creek-based Americana group, Damdave and the Left-Hand Band.
I asked how he got the name “Damdave.” He explained how he had moved to Brookdale and started a folk jam at the Brookdale Lodge. “I didn’t drink at the time,” he said, but he wound up “earning his PhD” hanging out in the bar. At one point someone asked his name. When he said, “David,” someone at the far end of the bar shouted, “Not another damn Dave!”
Tuesday nights at the Brookdale Lodge were the slowest. “You had a couple of guys from the bar and we formed Damdave’s Odd-Ass Instrument Jam on Tuesday nights from ‘98-ish to 2008 or so,” Dave said. The popular Tuesday night jam became the forerunner of the Brookdale Bluegrass Festival. Eric Burman remembers coming to Dave’s jams and they decided after a time, “’Hey this would be a great place for a festival’…and it took off.” Burman recalled, “We’d all get together and come up with crazy things…like the underwater banjo contest. One of the girls asked if it was important to have a costume…when we said no, she jumped in the pool, and the only thing she had on was a tattoo. People forgot that she actually had a banjo. Damdave was definitely one of the judges that day.”
Burman also remembers one of the most fun things that the two of them would do together was take common songs and rewrite all of the words. “They were all awful,” he joked. He notes that “the biggest thing that Dave did was have that jam at the Brookdale Lodge on Tuesday nights. That’s where we formed our bands, that’s where we wrote our songs, that’s where we jammed with all the musicians from all over. Because we were working so closely with the Brookdale, that was because of Dave. He was instrumental in forming the Brookdale Bluegrass Festival and ran the ‘tweener stage at the Good Old Fashioned.”
Dave later became a Boulder Creek townie. “It’s a nice little town. I’ve written five songs about this town, I Love These Mountains, Bear Creek Road…there are more.” He’s also written three Brookdale songs, among them, Brookdale’s Burning and Highway 9, a takeoff on the old song Highway 55 co-written with Eric Burman. “She always walks alone, neither flesh and neither bone, ooooo!! There’s some really good lyrics. Eric always made it a 20-minute long instrumental thing with audience participation.”
For a while he was Damdave and the Hot Damn Band. The name change reflects the distinction that Dave plays left-handed. Along with Graham MacFarlane (standup bass), “Mando” Mike Reynolds (vocals, mandolin), and occasionally “Joebro” Adams (any of whom may or may not also play left-handed), the guys could entertain you with “a mix of dysfunctional bluegrass, country, blues, soul, and a healthy dose of Damdave originals.”
He’d said at the time, “I’m not bluegrass, I don’t want a bluegrass band.” His sound was Americana tending toward the bluesy. “I’ve always been a blues kind of guy.” He was raised in Ann Arbor, between Detroit and Chicago. “My voice is kind of gravelly, I grew up with Bob Seger. I like Gregg Allman…I like all kinds of music. I was thinking about this not too long ago. When I listen to people singing, when I listen to blues or Motown, the way they sing a song, the emphasis is on the words and music together. I want to develop my voice and my songs to be able to express the parts of the music I want to express…with an honesty in my voice.”
“Dave was the kind of guy who could ramble, talk, talk talk, and talk, without any particular point or reason, no punchlines, just thinking out loud,” said fellow musician, Elicia Burton. “I remember playing with Damdave at Don Quixote’s where we featured him and his music. I loved playing the tune Tennessee Whiskey on my fiddle, backing him up. He was always a standard and was great help at the Good Old Fashioned Bluegrass Festival signing folks up for the ‘tweener stage. I also loved his song “Blue Day,” his gruff vocals on that, his backward guitar playing – as you know he was a lefty. And the song about growing up in Kalamazoo was a really great, real American song. I am missing him now.”
“He had a huge sweet side to him, he totally loved his family, his girls were always the apple of his eye.” – Elicia Burton
“Daddy, Dampa, DamDave. The community lost a one-of-a-kind man. Your silly light-hearted disposition will be missed. I thank you for your artistic, musical nature that you shared with your children, grandchildren, and friends. While I myself have no musical talent inherited, I will forever sing your original song you wrote about our special town, “I Love These Mountains. Jam on Dam dad” – Jenny
“Dear Naddy (Daddy). I’m so relieved you are no longer in pain and are free to jam, jam, jam until the end of time. You fought hard, stayed positive, continued to play music, and kept a sense of humor to the very end, even when you were in unimaginable pain – qualities that will never fail to amaze me. I am honored to have gone through this journey with you and grateful we were all together during your final days. I envision you surrounded by love, light, music, and hopefully the finest of tequilas! Somehow, It feels appropriate to complete the circle and send you off onto your new journey with the words you wrote on my birth announcement, ‘peaceloveandkeeponkeepin’free.’ I love you forever.” – Ninny (Tiphany)
“Rest in peace damn dad. I know you’re up there jamming, free of pain. You are loved andmissed more than I have words for. I am so grateful you were surrounded by family and your BFF. I am so grateful for our time together. I’m so grateful I was able to fly out to spend these last few days with you. I will cherish the memories. Thank you for teaching me to not take life so seriously. Your humor through your suffering was admirable. Aloha, Daddy” – Jessica Gullo
“Love and hugs to our man, Damdave, The Tom Waits of Boulder Creek Bluegrass. Your wonderful family and great songs will carry your name into the future…I’m teaching them to everybody. Enjoy the ride Brother, wink and smile with that twinkle in your eyes as you make that left hand turn.”
– Joe Adams
A memorial for island locals was held on Sunday, November 8 at his favorite spot, the Makuu Cliffs. A memorial for mainlanders will be held after the holidays. With the help of Barry Tanner and Bruce Bellochio, a commemorative collection of Damdave’s music will be made available soon. For more information, send email to Barry: email@example.com
New owners, Erin Maye Zimmer and Josh Miller invite you to the new Henflings of Ben Lomond
By Julie Horner We’re working through the final stages of the liquor license with the California Department of Alcoholic Beverage Control (ABC) and making sure our neighbors are comfortable. It’s our goal to distinguish ourselves from previous owners and really run it with some integrity and make sure that it serves the community. We feel it’s a really important hub for Ben Lomond. This is where everybody comes together and supports each other. It’s the life of the town, and one of the big reasons why we love Ben Lomond as much as we do. To have it dead…it’s eerie. Everyone’s kind of on edge. “When are you going to open?”We’re definitely anxious to give that date but we also need to tread lightly. It’s not set by us, it’s set by the ABC and the State. We’ve done all the health inspections – we haven’t gotten the final word – and we’re waiting for some new equipment to finalize behind the bar – but we want to make sure we have everything dialed in for the inspector. There were a couple of things he wanted to see get done, but he was very excited with what he saw so far.
It’s good to see things get a little TLC. And little by little it’s coming along. It’s still Henflings – we did not want to take that away. We’ve repaired or replaced everything but the kitchen sink. Everything has gotten a thorough scrub-down. More than one. It was playing 99 layers of filth on the wall – we were takin’ em down and passing ‘em around – I tell ya, it was nasty. We have all new equipment behind the bar: Ice machine, dishwasher, commercial freezer. We’re actually waiting on another new sink. We’re re-doing all the lines, got all new taps coming in. We’ll still have the eight beers on tap that we had before, but we’ll also have IPA and ciders – Erin’s more knowledgeable about what’s popular at the moment.
We’re likely going to do a soft opening to get all the kinks worked out. We have a new point of sale system, and we’ll want to make sure everything’s functional there. We’ve got employees coming back and some who are new. The kitchen has all new equipment. It will surpass the old taco stand reputation in a big way. If anyone asks, I’m a chemist…I’m just pitching in. Everything that doesn’t have to be done by a contractor, we’ve done by hand. The floors are all new. We’re waiting for new lighting, especially around the bar area and the stage. It’s all been dialed in by Mountain Service Company, making sure that the venue doesn’t bleed energy.
The bathrooms are nice and sturdy now, both men’s and women’s got a complete overhaul with doors that actually close and a sleek vintage appeal. The fire department did some work on the electrical – they had to replace breakers for safety reasons. The ceilings are scrubbed and stained, and we saved many of the dollar bills that were stuck up on the ceiling…we wanted to retain part of the history. The lucky few – the ones that popped – got their dollars photocopied into new framed art in the bathrooms. You can’t actually use the copies of the bucks to buy beer, but the art is a nod to the old days at Henflings.
We’ll have live music, mostly on Friday, Saturday, and Sunday, we’ll have big acts then. We’re trying to cut back on the during-the-week stuff to make it more inviting and less a burden on the local community. Barry Tanner is helping set the standard. We want people to feel invited when they’re coming here, and a lot of that has to do with the atmosphere and the environment and the respect people pay to the environment.
We are starting a brand new business. Erin has been behind the bar for years. I made up a 30-page business plan and the community stood up and said, “These are the right people.” Henflings is owned by the Ben Lomond fire station and we’re looking to remedy the lack of information about the history of Henflings. According to legend, the building was originally located up Love Creek and was relocated in 1949 to its current location in Ben Lomond. It’s a legendary venue with a storied past.
And we have amazing plans for the back deck area.
We’re hoping to open by the end of November, once the neighborhood and the County are satisfied. We’ve weatherproofed the windows and we’ll be dropping some sound-dampening curtains that go down after 10:00 pm. We’ll have a good solution for any local noise concerns. The marquis is being relocated out of the western window, and the liquor licence is pending – we’re just about ready. We’re using every hot second that we’ve got while we’re closed to make sure we do as much as we can to the place, because it’s not going to close again if we have anything to say about it. Every day, every hour we have – we have a 4-year old – everything we’ve got is going into this place right now. This is the one chance we’ve got. We want to make a strong impression when this place opens.
Music has always been a part of the roadhouse culture, personifying the spirit of freedom and independence. Our very own Santa Cruz Mountains provide a glimpse into the classic roadhouse culture at Henflings Roadhouse Tavern in Ben Lomond. For many, Henflings epitomizes the history and tradition of Ben Lomond. In the 1950s Henflings Tavern moved from its original location on Love Creek Road to its current site off Highway 9 next to the Ben Lomond fire station. The name is the family name of the original owner. The land is still owned by the Henfling family, but the tavern is not run by them.
For more than six decades, locals and visitors alike have frequented this favorite watering hole. Henflings plays host to everyone from the Ghost Mountain Riders to the saltiest of locals, and is a historic notch on any band’s live music belt.
“For anyone who hasn’t experienced Henfling’s, it’s an unusual recipe in itself. Imagine a lively roadhouse setting, with a rough-hewn bar and rough-hewn bar patrons. Add a nice little seating/dance area and a perfectly presentable stage. Top this all off with an astounding mix of Americana music, legendary blues and slack-key guitar, jumping jazz and sweet acoustic ballads. Now stir in a spicy medley of top-line acts from all over the world. Not only is there not a bad seat in the house, there’s hardly a bad inch in the house. The unusual setting makes for musical events that are uniquely intimate.” – Ann Parker
With the intensity of Scorpio, the craftsmanship of Virgo rising, and the joy of personal contact from a Libra moon, Ben Lomond craftsman, Robie Hiroz, makes magic and music in the mountains.
By Julie Horner
With steady hands rough and stained with varnish, Robie slowly takes the top of the fiddle off with a butter knife. The top releases. “The seal breaks – makes that sound – POP! Scares you at first,” he says. A four-inch crack running parallel to the neck where it meets the upper bout has necessitated a visit to Robie’s Fiddle and Banjo Shop in Ben Lomond. In business for 17 years refurbishing violins and banjos from an outbuilding behind his home that he built and named “The Saloon,” this is a visit home to where this fiddle, salvaged and refurbished from a prior lifetime, was purchased nearly a decade ago.
Once the top is removed, Robie repairs the crack with wood glue and clamps, easy enough. While he’s got the fiddle open, he is compelled to practice a new technique that he has recently discovered that coaxes a warmer tone from the old wood. “First, using little thumb planes, I shape the inside of the fiddle’s top to get more sound. Then I shorten the base-bar (a wooden ridge running nearly the full length of the top’s underside), which allows the bass tones to take over. You get richer tone even in the high strings, and the low strings have that growling sound.”
Wiry and unstoppable at 78, Robie retired in 2010 after 33 years as the graphic arts teacher at Santa Cruz Harbor High School. His specialty? Having fun with the kids. “Especially break dancing!” His philosophy in teaching is this: “If you make a mistake, it’s good, because it will take you someplace else where you’ve never been.”
Robie’s been playing banjo since he was 27 and fiddle for about 19 years, he says. He used to bring his banjo and fiddle to his classroom to practice. “I like the banjo, it’s exciting, but my heart is with the fiddle. I love those Irish melodies…and not fast…I like to get the beauty of it. The classic Irish melody.”
His craft is evident in projects large and small on his sunny quarter acre, including the old-time saloon (which doubles as his workshop, complete with a miniature bot-bellied stove) and a wee elf house handcrafted to exquisite detail inside and out. His latest idea shrinks the elf house to doggie size, and he has begun selling these custom canine dwellings at Mountain Feed & Supply in Ben Lomond. The hand-made sign on latest doghouse reads: Welcome fairies and earthlings! “Each one is different, and I get faster as I go.” Each doghouse takes about two weeks of solid work to make.
Robie Hiroz – Robie’s Violin and Banjo Shop, Ben Lomond, CA
Clara, Robie’s wife of 56 years, inspired him to take up the fiddle. She plays with the Cabrillo orchestra and with quartets at Ben Lomond Library, he says. They’ve known each other since they were kids. “I think I was seven. I first saw her in church playing violin as a youngster, her brother playing piano. She fixed someone’s fiddle for them and I thought, maybe that’s something I can do! He’s discovered after nearly 20 years of working on them how to make them sound good.
Robie repairs and refurbishes banjos and fiddles. He also makes his own banjos. Known by word of mouth and open by appointment, “I usually have about 30 full size fiddles on hand, and many smaller sized ones for youngsters. Come to the shop to try all the fiddles!”
You can also find Robie playing banjo or fiddle once or twice a week at Mountain Feed, usually noon to 2:00. “…playing out there in the sun…been doing that for about six or seven years. People especially seem to enjoy the Irish music. I enjoy talking to the people. Astrology is a big deal for me, too, and I sometimes get a chance to discuss that with folks.”