After my very first bands and early Folk career, I played and recorded only original music, until a session I had in 1977 working with STEVE KOMEN, who had been a member of local SF band the Coconuts. JYNX JENKINS was on rhythm guitar and harmony vocals, Steve sang lead and also played rhythm guitar, I played lead guitar, MIKE NANIA on bass guitar, and TERRY VAN ZANDT on drums. We recorded a couple of Steve's original songs; "I'm Alone Tonight" and "Candy", one of my songs, "Come Along For The Ride", and "Flip Flops", one of Mike's songs. SUSIE FOOT, my wife and partner, was the engineer on the session.
At the end of the session, Mike said he had a gig we could play that night at the Navy base on Treasure Island if we wanted to. I didn't know many cover tunes, but Steve said he knew a lot of blues songs, and we all decided to do it. We needed a name for the band that night. I came up with "The Bullets" because we were playing for the Armed Forces, and we made up jokes about if from the start "We always show up loaded!", "We never get fired!", "coming out with a bang!", etc.
We get to the Navy base and go to the venue. There were like 2,000 sailors and 20 rather odd-looking girls. We had to cover 3 hours! Sailors kept yelling "Free Bird!", and "Sweet Home Alabama". None of us knew those songs well enough to pull them off, so we stuck to our blues jams and songs like "Twist & Shout", "Kansas City". Everything was going along okay when Steve decided to get things going. Now Steve at the time was into a sort of androgynous look, and when he got no response to "Let me hear you say yeah!" except some mumbling in the crowd, he said "What is this, a fag bar? Let me hear you say yeah!" A couple dozen angry drunken sailors stormed the stage. The wings of the stage, luckily, had big, government, solid, lockable doors. We pushed Steve inside and moved out of the way. The MPs rushed in and restored order, but advised Steve stay locked in the wing to the side of the stage until we were finished. We managed to fill the time with music because we had good musicians. At the end of the gig, we were escorted safely away by the MPs, with the angry sailors taunting and threatening from behind the lines.
A couple of days later, we were asked back! I wasn't looking for a cover band, but it paid pretty well, so we went back without Steve (for fear of his safety), and with "Sandy" JACK REINER replacing Terry on drums (he didn't want to do it). One gig led to another, and The Bullets became a staple band for armed forces gigs at Treasure Island for the enlisted men at the big hall, and also at the officer's club, The Presidio Army base, Coast Guard Station in Sausalito, and venues for officers at a facility in Golden Gate Park as well as playing bars around town, getting our gigs mostly through the JOHN MARCH AGENCY in Brisbane. We recorded some of our cover tunes at WALLY HEIDER's and a couple of originals.
A couple of funny Bullets stories:
Mike had got us a gig at a nice bar in South San Francisco. After the first set, the bartender told us we were a "perfect fit" and suggested he would try to get us a regular there. Then, during the second set, a football team with underage players started streaming in. We quickly understood that this was like a private party, and we just kept playing. During the next break, a very drunk man just got up on stage and started talking into the microphone. Not having any idea who he was, and concerned about our gear as he was so obviously drunk, Jynx told him that "not just anyone can get up on stage and use our equipment". The guy yelled at us, saying he was the owner of the bar, and said he could use anything he wanted to. "If I want to play your guitar, I'll play your guitar!" he shouts. I told him he better not touch my guitar if he knew what was good for him and he fires us on the spot. Now there's no music and no microphone, and we break down our gear. Mike's father-in-law was his and the P.A.'s transport and he had been called before
we had started to break down, and we started to move our gear out to his car. The drunk football players were blocking our way belligerently but reluctantly gave way as we pushed our gear out. Mike's father-in-law asked him if he got paid. Mike told him what happened and that when the guy fired us, he told us he wasn't going to pay.
Mike's father-in-law was about 6'7" and in good shape. We followed him back into the bar. He shoved the young football players out of his way and we pointed out the owner. He grabs the guy by the jacket and slams him against the wall. "You're paying the band NOW!" he says loud and firm. The bar owner, in fear of his life, tells the bartender to pay us. We get paid and leave. So much for the steady gig!
Mike had been getting most of the military gigs through the JOHN MARCH, but wanted us to get other, non-military gigs by signing with the agency. He set up an early afternoon appointment and when we arrived, John suggested we walk a block down the street and have some lunch.
Jynx and I knew that the bands the agency signed usually wore matching uniforms and were super straight-o. We had told Mike that no way would we go that far; that we didn't want to be a professional cover band. We're walking down the block with the agent, when Mike pulls out some stupid matching shirts out of a bag he was carrying and tells John that we have matching shirts. But as he pulls out the shirts, joints fly out of the bag all over the sidewalk. Mike always smoked lousy weed, so he's have to roll twenty joints. He had forgot he had put them in the bag. We all scurry to pick up the joints, including the agent. We get to the restaurant and sit down. John calmly looks at Mike and says "Mike, if I send you out on a gig, you're not going to throw joints around, are you?" Mike was very embarrassed. During the meeting, John told Jynx to shave off his blonde mustache, saying it looked like a "dirty lip". He also told us "no tennis shoes".
Jynx didn't shave off his mustache, we continued to wear tennis shoes. We wore the stupid shirts for an agency promo pic, and for a few agency gigs, but they shrank badly (luckily) and everyone but Mike stopped wearing theirs.
Mike had a nice, older Fender Precision Bass. One night, we had a gig south of the SFO airport, but we had to pick up the drummer in Pacific Heights, on California Street.
When we got to the gig, Mike realized that when he loaded the drums, he had taken his bass out of the car. Even though it had been over an hour, and California was a busy street, we rushed back to the scene. Unbelievably, the bass was still there. Its black case had made it hard to see in the dark. Months later, that same bass was stolen out of the back of a van by a clever thief while we watched the front of the van.
Jynx, Susie and I were working on productions in the studio, and the doldrums of playing cover songs for the military and cruddy bars was getting old. We constantly quit,
telling Mike to get someone else, but would then agree to a gig or two, so it kept going for a while. Mike had different taste than Jynx and I, and we finally quit for good. The Bullets were shot.