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There are literary reminiscences that reek of self-congratulation over the authors’ proximity to famous movers and shakers. Andy Bernstein’s California Slim aspires to far more than that—and achieves it. Andy was there, at the onset of the post-‘50s revolution that, as a beat poet once put it, roared as it ripped the threadbare fabric of an age. Andy was no distant, casual observer during the tumultuous ‘60s and ‘70s; he was at the heart of the maelstrom, and writes about it with candor, humor, and originality.

The story begins, for God’s sake, with Andy and his then unknown banjo teacher, a young Jerry Garcia, finger picking in a back room at Dana Morgan’s Music Studio in Palo Alto in 1962. A skinny six-foot-seven-inch Jewish kid (later known as “California Slim”), Andy divided his time between the usual adolescent interests and music, for which he would go on to provide a capital M by promoting and staging concerts throughout the San Francisco Bay Area. His Palo Alto nightclub, Homer’s Warehouse, across the street from the Stanford University campus, brought revolutionary musicians (among them, Sonny Terry and Brownie McGhee) to young sensibilities hungry for new driving rhythms and thought-provoking lyrics.

The early chapters of this book set the stage for Andy’s eventual hooking-up with Willie Nelson and his Family—which felt, Andy said, “like reading a really good book that I couldn’t put down.” That feeling led directly, if gradually, to California Slim. And you, dear reader, won’t be able to put it down, either.

—Tony Compagno

California Slim - The Music, the Magic, and the Madness


ISBN 13 (TP): 978-1-4797-7045-8
ISBN 13 (HB): 978-1-4797-7046-5
ISBN 13 (eBook): 978-1-4797-7047-2