Soon after Cervantes’s birth in 1936, his family moved from Virginia to Cuba, where he spent his childhood. He learned to play any instrument he could find, including the bugle, the trumpet, the clarinet, the violin and what would become his signature—the piano. The family came to San Francisco while Cervantes was in high school. He soon discovered the wealth of music in The Fillmore. His first job in the neighborhood was at the Ellis Theater, playing piano for weekly talent shows. He then began appearing at all the local clubs, which led to his joining the Bop City house band. Cervantes’s first recording was on World Pacific Records after his friend Chico Hamilton introduced him to the label’s owner. He went on to record several albums and toured all over the world, but would always return to the Bay Area. He passed away in 2004.
LISTEN TO INTERVIEW
Harlem of the West SF Project Interview: Federico Cervantes Interviewer: Elizabeth Pepin Silva Copyright 2017, Elizabeth Pepin Silva/ Harlem of the West SF Project
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INTERVIEW BEGINS IN THE BERKELEY SENIOR CENTER, BERKELEY, CA
ELIZABETH PEPIN SILVA: Can you spell out your name please?
FEDERICO CERVANTES: Yes, I certainly will. My first name has 8 letters in it. The way I’m going to tell you how it’s spelled is… aww, I’ll just give you the 8 letters.
FEDERICO CERVANTES: F-E-D-E-R-I-C-O
EPS: Okay so how do you spell your last name?
FEDERICO CERVANTES: C-E-R-V-A-N-T-E-S
FEDERICO CERVANTES: Do you know, on your own, Slim Gaillard?
EPS: Did I know him personally? I’m 39, so I’m pretty young. I missed all this stuff.
FEDERICO CERVANTES: Okay so what I’m asking is…
EPS: But I do know who he is as a musician.
FEDERICO CERVANTES: You know who he is?
FEDERICO CERVANTES: And did you also know that he was once the owner of Bop City?
EPS: Right. He ran it as Vout City.
FEDERICO CERVANTES: That’s right! Absolutely right! (laughs) Bop City! Or Vout City, right… Okay and that Nat Cole have it, too?
EPS: I didn’t know that.
FEDERICO CERVANTES: Nat Cole had it first.
EPS: Nat King Cole?
FEDERICO CERVANTES: Right, just a minute. I’m trying to think who had it first. Yeah, I think, yes, Nat had it. And I think it goes in this order: Nat, Slim Gaylord, and then Jimbo.
EPS: Huh… What was Nat Cole doing in San Francisco?
FEDERICO CERVANTES: Well, whatever he does in other cities. I don’t know what he was doing. I wasn’t around when Nat Cole had it.
EPS: Okay, so lets go back to you for a second. Were you born in SF or where were you born?
FEDERICO CERVANTES: No, I wasn’t. I was born in the state of Virginia. Want the name of the city?
FEDERICO CERVANTES: Portsmouth.
EPS: And, can I ask, what year?
FEDERICO CERVANTES: Sure… Don’t the others give their age? Or are they afraid to?
EPS: Everyone has. I haven’t had a single person not tell me their age.
FEDERICO CERVANTES: 1936.
EPS: And was your family a musical family?
FEDERICO CERVANTES: (chuckles) Well, my father was.
EPS: What did he do?
FEDERICO CERVANTES: Well, he sang a bit and he played a, do you know what a recorder is? Oh, ok. And the harmonica. And he had a knowledge of one of the string instruments. I put it this way because I don’t really recognize him as such. It’s more or like ¾ of a guitar, but I mean like the ukulele. Ok, so the last four strings are like so many other instruments that bear different names. So he had a knowledge of any one of those instruments you want to put down. Which would mean like a ¾ of the guitar is what I’m saying.
EPS: Right. I know what you mean. Did you start off playing music? I mean, were you just one of those kids who started off playing? Or did your parents shove you to a musical instrument?
FEDERICO CERVANTES: (MID-STATEMENT) do your practice? No, no, it wasn’t like that at all. No, I started off playing, the instruments that I was around. Even when there was not a musical instrument, I made it become one. Like the radiators in certain apartment buildings. That became one of my first instruments ''cos I found out that it had more than three tones on it. Then there was, I was around a xylophone, the true name of that instrument, and I started, you know, like fooling around with the xylophone. And then I was around many, many, many percussive instruments, you know, drums and the like. And I started doing all of that first on my own. And then someone one day brought a guitar over, and I started fooling around with it. But I didn’t do any major thing with it, until later, I got into playing the guitar. But I’ll just go chronologically. The first instrument that I actually studied, you know, took lessons off of, was a very strict teacher and I just love her for being so strict, was the violin.
EPS: How old were you?
FEDERICO CERVANTES: I was 11. That was my first instrument was the violin. The only, like you say, academic approach to a musical instrument I had was through her on the violin. All the rest of them – oh, where trumpet is concerned, I played bugle in the equivalent of the Boy Scouts in Cuba. I say the equivalent because they don’t have exactly that same name. but it is the equivalent. But I played bugle on my own. Then one of the teachers at this school heard me and said come on in, I want you to play, I want to show you the fingering on this instrument, and what he’s referring to was the coronet. And so he taught me the…I’m referring to trumpet instruments that have only three valves. So he taught me the… it’s a transpositional instrument, but he taught me the trumpet D which sounds on the piano like a C. So he taught me the D scale on the trumpet, which is like playing a C scale on a keyboard instrument. So they transpose, in other words. So in his teaching me the D, E, F#, open for G, A, B, you know, from then on. That was my only trumpet lesson, I had that for one day. And the next day I was playing, I was in the marching band.
EPS: You mentioned Cuba –
FEDERICO CERVANTES: That’s where I was reared.
EPS: You were born in Virginia?
FEDERICO CERVANTES: I was born in Virginia.
EPS: But you grew up in Cuba.
FEDERICO CERVANTES: That’s right.
EPS: How did you go from Virginia to Cuba?
FEDERICO CERVANTES: How did I go – oh, well, my mother with my parents decided to be here in the States because of my father’s making a transition for, getting employment in the States. And I think they had, or my, on my mother’s side, relatives in Virginia. So at that, during that time, her pregnancy was just about coming to an end where my birth was concerned. That was where I was born. And I stayed in Virginia for about, let’s say five full months. So I do not know the city of Portsmouth, and I don’t even know Virginia. But in telling the truth, I had to say you know, tell you where I was born. But I don’t know it. I don’t know it at all.
EPS: Cuba was where you grew up?
FEDERICO CERVANTES: Yes, Cuba, was pardon me?
EPS: Cuba was completely where you grew up? You didn’t spend any childhood time in the states.
FEDERICO CERVANTES: Except for the five months.
EPS: Did you play trumpet and coronet and violin in jazz bands? How did you get interested in jazz and what instruments did you start with?
FEDERICO CERVANTES: Ok, well, as I said, I had formal lessons on the violin from the time that I was 11. And in that particular school, they had a school band, and a school orchestra. And so I immediately, I don’t mean at the age of 11, you know, in two weeks, but I mean I qualified to be in both of those musical aggregations. And from that point on, I just decided, this is you know, this is really where I had to be - in music. Then I was surrounded by people who played the piano. And this is where, you know, I looked at the key, I remember when I first, you know, looked at the keyboard, you know, the piano, all 88 keys. And you know, I liked touching it and hearing this, the notes, the sound that would come out. Come from it. But I had to say to myself, now how in the world will I ever learn to play this thing? 'Cos I thought just by looking at it, you know, one black, two, three, two three, two three, and all the other 56, you know, it just didn’t seem like it was really gonna be a thing. A big challenge. But then that’s, I think that’s when I started really accepting all types of challenges because I had dedicated an awful lot of time to playing the piano, and especially after getting here. Because I had found that I could work as a musician playing a self-accompanied instrument versus playing a violin and trumpet.
EPS: How old were you then when you started piano? 12? 13?
FEDERICO CERVANTES: Well, when I was taking violin lessons from my teacher, I could, I have to tell you the truth, I started on piano at that time because often when she was not there, there was a piano in the room and I would just go to the piano and start fooling around with it. And so I had to count from that moment on. I can’t say couple of years later because that, that would be inaccurate. So from that time on, then I just dedicated myself to music. It got to be a thing where if I saw a musical instrument that I hadn’t even, whose name I didn’t know, it got to be a thing where, what I felt that I just had to play it. I mean, you know, I had to become familiar with it, and know the instrument. So it got to be a thing where whatever I was around it became my musical instrument. And at the time, I was doing it, I felt…IST. In other words, when I was around the violin, I felt like when I played the violin, I’d feel like a violinist. But then when the piano in the same room and I sat the violin down, I’d go to the piano, and then I’d assumed everything, and mostly I’d feel like a pianist. And the same thing with the trumpet and same thing with other instruments, analogous instruments, which at that time whose name I didn’t even know. Like the French horn, and the melaphone -- that the baritone horn. These are all three horns of the cup family of which I speak. But I’m saying at that time I didn’t know their names or anything. It just, I just knew they were musical instruments and I had to get a sound out of them.
EPS: Did you start playing jazz in your teens in Cuba, or not until you got here (USA)?
FEDERICO CERVANTES: No, I heard, there’s jazz there in Cuba that, that’s being played. But I didn’t become a… get it in my mind and in my system that I was going to be a jazz musician until I heard who I call my finished product, my goal, my goal… and what I’m saying is that I heard a pianist. I’ll call his name. .is name is Oscar Peterson.
EPS: I know who Oscar Peterson is.
FEDERICO CERVANTES: You do?
FEDERICO CERVANTES: And when I heard him, I was completely as they saw blown away. I said, that’s me. Because when I heard him, I heard him, you know, I wasn’t playing piano as such. I was still getting into the instrument. But I heard in him the fact that that was how I was going to be one of these days. That he became my goal. And that’s when I considered, started considering myself a jazz musician.
EPS: How old were you?
FEDERICO CERVANTES: 15.
EPS: So how did you get from Cuba to here?
FEDERICO CERVANTES: You mean traveling-wise?
EPS: Well, you now live here, so how did you go from living in Cuba to… I assume you relocated here or for a while did you go back and forth?
FEDERICO CERVANTES: No no no. It wasn’t a matter of for a while going back and forth with my parents. I lived through it. There were four of us in my family, father, mother and I have a sister. So when he decided, or they decided that we were going to go to the States, we came to the States all at once. At one time. And that time, we came at one time in the States, and we lived on the east coast for a bit, and then we gradually made it out to California, lived in Chicago, or the city of Chicago in Illinois. And gradually made it out to California when he decided we were going to come out to California. And when we came out to California, the city that we picked, the first city we went to was San Carlos. But the city that we, he decided that we would live in was San Francisco. So that’s where I stayed the longest.
EPS: Did you leave because of the revolution?
FEDERICO CERVANTES: No. This was… no. Not, no for that reason.
EPS: Was it before or after?
FEDERICO CERVANTES: No. It was, well, it was before. We left before Castro came in and took over.
EPS: So late ‘50s?
FEDERICO CERVANTES: Yeah, well, he came and took over in the late ‘50s. But we left earlier than that, and as you can figure, let’s say I was 15 in what? ’52? So that’s when we were here.
EPS: So you left at 15?
FEDERICO CERVANTES: Yeah. But what we, what your question was because of the revolution, no. We didn’t see that coming as such, as it turned out to be. Was not for that reason.
EPS: So when your family first moved to San Francisco, where did you first live?
FEDERICO CERVANTES: We, ok, you mean district, address?
EPS: Yeah, what district?
FEDERICO CERVANTES: Ok. We lived, well. When we first came to San Francisco, I don’t know how well my father knew it, but he just lived in maps and books of travel things of that nature. So we first lived in various little… hotels, I suppose. (EPS: rooming houses?) Something like that, I guess you, yeah, rooming houses. But we were like on the move. I mean, we’d stay at one place where, I think the longest was I think for about a month. That was the longest. Other places were a week, maybe a week and a half, two, that type of thing. Before we ended up in a… I think the building is still there. South of Market Street – you’re familiar with San Francisco then. South of Market, 30 Market. I’m on 3rd Street, going down southeast. In other words going towards Townsend. So we ended up, there’s a building down there. It was a big apartment house building, it has three floors. And that’s where we, the four of us lived – 574 3rd Street, right across the street from a little park called South Park.
EPS: So did you finish high school in San Francisco?
FEDERICO CERVANTES: Yeah, they had a hard time placing me because according to my age and all that sort of, and they wanted to go that way, so I just went only about four days of 9th grade, two days..a month in the 10th grade, that type of thing.
EPS: Which school did you go to?
FEDERICO CERVANTES: Polytechnic High School.
EPS: Out in the Haight. By Kezar.
FEDERICO CERVANTES: No, I didn’t stay in high school that, I mean, you know, that long. I had a hard time placing me. But the California laws said that they couldn’t just put me where I was really qualified because I had, there was a curriculum that I had to complete that. Because had they just, you know, skipped me all the way through, then I would not have had any credit to go any further with education.
EPS: Did you play in bands at Poly?
FEDERICO CERVANTES: Oh, yeah, oh, yes. I was in the marching band in the, what was known as the – I guess it’s a rehearsal band. And then I was in the orchestra. In the orchestra, I remember one time in particular, I don’t mean it happened only once, but there were mostly girls in the violin section, and I think there were three girls that were out, and the violin section was sounding very weak. And so I told Mr. Snider, who was leader well, I said, I’ll go over and help him. So I left the trumpet section where I was in and played in the violin section for the remaining week and a half or something like that. So I, you know, kind of skipped around. But I just loved it, just loved it.
EPS: Did you know about the Fillmore at that time?
FEDERICO CERVANTES: Well, let me get my internal calendar… (laughs). Well, I knew about the Fillmore district, I’ll put it that way. I knew about the Fillmore. I was just getting, yes, I’d say I’d was getting introduced to the happenings in the Fillmore. We never lived in the Fillmore, but I was getting introduced to the happenings there. What I mean by that is there were several places that had a talent show, I guess you could call it that. There was a radio personality or radio announcer whose name was Fatso Berry; as the name indicates, he was quite obese. But he ran a talent show for the neighborhood, for the district. And he ran it in a theater called the… I can’t even remember the name of the theater, but I can tell you where it was located. It was between Ellis and the …
EPS: The Princess Theater?
FEDERICO CERVANTES: It wasn’t anything like that.
FEDERICO CERVANTES: No. It didn’t have those names. I mean that name that I can recall. It didn’t have that name.
EPS: Well, lets see. There is the Primalon Ballroom
FEDERICO CERVANTES: Well, I learned about the Primalon but it was not the Primalon. I think we only knew it as the Ellis Theatre.
EPS: There was the Ellis Theatre, also known as the Princess Theater.
FEDERICO CERVANTES: Oh, it was known as, ok, that’s the place then I’m speaking of then.
EPS: That’s where Sugar Pie said she did some talent shows, too. So you went to the Ellis Theatre?
FEDERICO CERVANTES: Well, I got on the map musically from having attended that theater, I guess we’ll call it, from having been on those talent shows. First, as a… a contestant. First as a contestant, then I won as, you know, I won the show and they give you a little prize and $15 was the top at that time. That was big money you’d win. I think $10 was the second prize, and $5, you know, kind of dropped down like that. But then I was involved in the program as accompanist. Playing behind other people.
EPS: On piano?
FEDERICO CERVANTES: On piano, right. Now, the reason I’m a little hesitant about this, you must remember at that time, I might, I was underage. And according to the Musicians Union, you have to be 21 to join it. But I knew, and some of the people, the more it got around, they knew of me, so they kind of like turned their head. So that’s why I’m kind of used to, when I’m on this subject, I have to watch my words because I’m still thinking that I’m way underage, and I can’t throw a lot of stuff around that I’m not supposed to know because I’m not supposed to have been there.
EPS: Is it ok to put this?
FEDERICO CERVANTES: Sure. That’s what happened, really. I’m not going to modify
FEDERICO CERVANTES: That would be lying if I told any other kind of work.
EPS: Do you remember Were there famous musicians that came through the talent shows? Do you remember Etta James playing there or Sugar Pie?
FEDERICO CERVANTES: Not those that you just got through naming. But…Billie Holliday, it was announced, was in town; at the time, she was at a theater called the Tivoli. Are you familiar with the Tivoli? It used to be on Market Street.
EPS: Was it on the Barbary Coast?
FEDERICO CERVANTES: No. No. Do you remember a theater called The Strand? (EPS: Yes) Ok, it was right next to the Strand. It’s the Strand, Tivoli, and then another place, I forget what it was. There was the Crystal Palace Market? (EPS: I’ve seen pictures of that.) Ok, in that same block. So when Billie Holliday was in, it was rumored that, you know, she was in town. And she was supposed to drop in one night, and one night she did drop in. At this Ellis thing, right. The only one I remember, you were asking me were there other people or someone else who dropped in at that time, you see, I didn’t know a lot of those big names at that time. I had heard them, but I didn’t know them. Now, anyway, I actually ended up playing behind, with Billie Holliday.
EPS: She didn’t play at that… She just stopped in at the Ellis Theatre and didn’t actually sing?
FEDERICO CERVANTES: She stopped in, well, you know, people would say sing something, you know, she didn’t do it.
EPS: So she just sat there and watched other people?
FEDERICO CERVANTES: Well yeah. Yes.
EPS: What was it like to see her? I mean, you’re pretty young and this famous person comes in…
FEDERICO CERVANTES: Yes, but I couldn’t appreciate all of her glory at that time because I didn’t know about the name that she had, that’s what I’m saying. Billie Holliday, didn’t mean much to me. Except for the fact that everyone was naming Billie Holliday.
EPS: All excited.
FEDERICO CERVANTES: Right, right.
EPS: What did she look like? Do you remember?
FEDERICO CERVANTES: Well, yeah, Billie Holliday? Okay, She’s a light complexion. That doesn’t mean anything unless I can explain what light means. She was what we used to call like a high yellow.
EPS: Okay, I’ve heard that before.
FEDERICO CERVANTES: Ok, a high yellow is where are not real light to look mistakenly like a white person who has been sunburned – I don’t mean that. You’re not that light…
EPS: Right, so she could pass…
FEDERICO CERVANTES: You could pass.
EPS: But she’s just lighter complexed?
FEDERICO CERVANTES: Right. I remember, you know, from you asked me if I remembered what she looked like. (?) I was a different age at that time, anyway. I didn’t like her hairdo, if that, you know, you ask me things like that. But I remember, you know, what she looked like, that’s what I’m saying.
EPS: What was the Ellis Theatre like? What was the scene like? Was it an exciting place? Did lots of people drop in?
FEDERICO CERVANTES: Oh, yeah, well, the time, when I went down there, people did – people did drop in because there was a chance to play music, and a lot of people who played music had friends or had other people wanted to hear these musicians play something. And the somewhere to play at that time was the Ellis. But then other than that, what the clientele, what the crowd was, oh, yeah, there were a lot of people – a lot of people there.
EPS: Mainly younger people? Or was it all ages… family place?
FEDERICO CERVANTES: Well, I’d say it was a family place when they had the night shows. There was no, to my knowledge, no, there was no drinking there. I don’t know. I think people did sneak things, you know, but it wasn’t a bar, I’ll put it that way. It was the Ellis Theatre that we’re talking about. But people did drop in… I forget what the main question was.
EPS: I’m just trying to get a sense of… You, you would go down there and accompany people after you got hired there. So you’d accompany people– playing from 8 o’clock at night and you had to get dressed up and you were playing until the morning?
FEDERICO CERVANTES: Something like that, not quite those hours 'cos at that time, my father didn’t like my staying out beyond midnight. So but it was that kind of thing. It was a thing to dress up for it. It was a happening, I’ll put it that way. It was a happening, at least for me, from the way I was thinking, because I was getting introduced to music and the way it was blues, blues, jazz…rhythm and blues, I’ll put it that way. When I say rhythm and blues, I mean things like, first of all, I’ll tell you what I do mean. I mean Pee Wee Crayton, T-Bone Walker. Johnny Otis. You know who Johnny Otis is?
EPS: Uh huh. I’ve interviewed him. I’ve interviewed him for this book also.
FEDERICO CERVANTES: Oh you have? Okay. Well, he himself is white, but he has hung around many, many non-whites and I think his wife is, I don’t know….
EPS: His wife is African-American.
FEDERICO CERVANTES: Okay, I thought so. But I wasn’t sure to quote that. I was told that. Johnny Otis, Mel Walker, a lot of the-
EPS: Did these people come into the Ellis Theatre?
FEDERICO CERVANTES: No, they came in, no they would come in, but we would never know when they would drop in. It was a happening at this time, you know, it was the place to go.
EPS: Johnny said he went to the Ellis Theatre to find talent for his bands. Can you remember him doing that?
FEDERICO CERVANTES: Well, first of all, let me tell you this. Now, I knew… learned the name, Johnny Otis, and I had seen him but I had never stood face-to-face and shaken hands with him. Now, Johnny Otis, I knew that he was down there a lot in town. A lot. As I said, I never did face-to-face, you know, speak with him. But the person that I did have a face-to-face conversation with was a fellow named, he had a club called the…Champagne Supper Club. Don Barksdale. (EPS: The basketball player) Now, here’s how I’m going to describe Billie Holliday to you. Don Barksdale was a light complexed but not with the yellow tone that Billie Holliday has. That’s how I remember seeing them. You know Don Barksdale?
EPS: Yes we have pictures of him in the club.
FEDERICO CERVANTES: Right. Okay.
EPS: So he owned the Champagne Supper Club?
FEDERICO CERVANTES: Oh, yes, he did. Champagne Supper Club and he also got, later, much later, he bought two clubs in Berkeley that he called the… Lets see, I can’t think of them now, but I did work at one of them, but he had two on this side. I’m speaking in the years… in the ‘60s.
EPS: Yeah, I don’t know because I’ve been focused on the Fillmore.
FEDERICO CERVANTES: I’m just pointing that out because I didn’t know and meet Don Barksdale.
EPS: What was the Champagne Supper Club like. Did you ever go in there?
FEDERICO CERVANTES: Champagne Supper Club was, well – would I go there? Yes. Under age, but there again, I had to kind of…
EPS: That’s okay. I used to sneak into clubs when I was underage myself. It was fun that way.
FEDERICO CERVANTES: At the time, you’re scared to death because you could get caught, but you want to be there, you want to be on the scene, you know? But anyway, there again, was you know, was a place to do. Don Barksdale, I liked the way he ran the Champagne Supper Club. He let a lot of us musicians come by and play. They were a little older than I. Maybe a couple were in my age group, too, but he would just, you know, wave us in and look the other way type of thing.
EPS: Right. Was it a fancy place or was it more like a bar and hangout?
FEDERICO CERVANTES: No, you know, by yesterday’s standards, I would say it was, Champagne Supper Club was a nice fancy place. You know, for African Americans at that time. That that would be considered a nice place. Not just a place off the street where you walk in and got to duck your head right away, someone’s throwing a bottle or something, you know. It wasn’t anything like that. It was not dive-ish. It was not like a dive. It was a very pretty sophisticated type of club.
EPS: Did they have bands play there or was it just…?
FEDERICO CERVANTES: Yes, he had good… Vernon Alley played there. With his group. I didn’t know all of the people at the time, Curtis Lowe, saxophone player also became the president of the Musicians Union years later, is what I’m saying. He worked there. Sammy … Simpson, I think is his last name. (EPS: Yeah) Oh, you know who I’m speaking of? Yeah, ok. He became the FBI of the Musicians Union, because if you didn’t get your contract in, or you failed to have it signed and all that sort of thing, you come in catch you playing on a gig, you know, without a contract and you’re fined and you’re called before the board. You know, that type of thing. Anyway, that was where Sammy was. It was a real good education for me. Without which I don’t know what I, in which direction I would have gone. I loved the European classical music but I never did lean or make that my goal to be a Fritz Chrysler, even though I did admire Fritz Chrysler very much. The violinist. But as I (?) once I heard Oscar Peterson, I saw myself in the (?) I saw myself through him.
EPS: Did you know Charles Sullivan?
FEDERICO CERVANTES: Charles Sullivan? You know, that combination Charles Sullivan, are you… no, now when you say that, the name… it doesn’t sound unfamiliar to me, but I don’t know who or what he was or played or anything.
EPS: He was… actually owned a lot of the leases on the clubs. He owned the lease on Bop City and he’s the one who approached Jimbo to start Bop City after Slim Gaillard took off. What other clubs did you play?
FEDERICO CERVANTES: Do you remember or know where the Manor Plaza is?
EPS: Yes. The Manor Plaza Hotel. Yes.
FEDERICO CERVANTES: Well, right next to that, or in the block, up the block was getting toward Leola King’s … what’s Dewey’s…that was her husband – Blue Mirror. But there was a fellow who ran it and I can’t think of his name now. Dewey- was it Dewey? Because he was the only one with whom I was dealing. And then I found out later that Leola was the, she became the boss and then when through Dewey we would make arrangements to work there.
I know of a lot of places in the Fillmore, but because I know of them and that others were booked there, it didn’t mean that I worked there. The Champagne Supper Club, I sneaked in, got a chance to play, was never under contract, but I wasn’t in the Union, anyway. But I had that kind of an existence. I was in and out on the scene, but not really because I was supposed to be, and not supposing to be there, I couldn’t really propagate. I couldn’t advertise myself.
EPS: How did you end up at Bop City then?
FEDERICO CERVANTES: A friend of mine said that he wanted to take me to a place, wanted me to go to a place, and where there was live music, and he wanted me to hear the music. And when my father heard of, the friend’s name was Dwayne. He’s not a musician but he was very much involved with musicians. When my father heard of the fact that Dwayne wanted to take me to these place, wanted me to go, my father wasn’t that much, you know, that much in favor of it, you know, because he thought that Dwayne was mainly going to be a bad influence on me, hanging around the wrong people and things of this nature. But I finally did go – I’m trying to see if I can tell this accurately. I don’t think I sneaked, I think during the day I went by Bop City, and at that time, do you know where the Blind Center was on Buchannan? Here’s what happened. Dwayne wanted me to go to that place, so…
EPS: Were you blind at this time?
FEDERICO CERVANTES: No, no. So Dwayne wanted me to go to Bop City, but he didn’t called it by name. And knew my father didn’t have, it didn’t appeal to him that much and didn’t want me to go. But during the day, I would go up, 'cos we didn’t have a piano at that time, I would go to the Blind Center to play the piano. And if you, when I went used to go to the Blind Center, I ran into Dwayne one time. He was up in that part of the woods, and he said, hey man, you know, you just a few blocks away from Bop City. Come on over and I’ll show you the place. And that’s how it was I went over there. It was in the daytime. So I got to see, you know, Bop City. And he wanted me to go at night when the happenings were, you know, were going on.
EPS: It was just a little restaurant during the day?
FEDERICO CERVANTES: I guess so.
EPS: That’s what Jimbo said. He said he served waffles. He called it Jimbo’s Waffle Shop.
FEDERICO CERVANTES: Oh, okay, that’s what it was.
EPS: Probably none of the musicians knew that because they never went there during the day! (laughs) Did you meet Jimbo at the time or just kind of looked in?
FEDERICO CERVANTES: I just kind of looked in and you know, just looked in. But then I started… I think one night I did go in with Dwayne, we sneaked out or something like that. I did go in. And when Jimbo heard me play, he told me he wanted me, he used the word work, down there. And I said, yes, I would. It was a chance for me to go out and get on the scene. And that’s how I got –
(AUDIO CUTS OUT AS TAPE ENDS. TAPE IS FLIPPED AND INTERVIEW BEGINS AGAIN)
FEDERICO CERVANTES: What I’m saying to you is you asked me what inspired or how I could be so brazen or whatever, and I said the piano player. I thought he was not very good, that’s what I’m saying. He was the house pianist. And I figured, I said well, heck, I can do what he can do, and maybe even three times better. The name of the fellow, they called him The Wild Man. That was his –
EPS: Stanley Willis, his nickname?
FEDERICO CERVANTES: Yeah, but his name was Stanley Willis. (EPS: Okay I’ve heard of him) He was the one at the Bop City. So when I got up, you know, from that point on, you know, Stanley wasn’t the pianist there anymore, according to Jimbo.
EPS: So Jimbo said, “You’re out Stanley…”
FEDERICO CERVANTES: Yep.
EPS: “And Federico is in.”
FEDERICO CERVANTES: Yes, right. Now let me tell you this also. I, when I do music, under whatever circumstance, I have not, I don’t get nervous or knee-shaking and things of that nature. I haven’t got, you know, that’s one thing I haven’t felt. I’ve escaped it somehow. But I will tell you there was one time where it was that I was nervous at the Ellis Theatre, when I went out to play trumpet that one of those contests. And it was a $15 prize, you know, for, if you go in first place. And when I walked out on the stage, you know, all these, you know, all these lights just beaming up and I’m on stage and all these lights are on. And then it cast a glow, a glare over the people where I could not distinguish their faces clearly, but I knew they were some people out there who knew me. Then when I, I remember when I got out in the middle of the stage, my knees started doing that. I did have that going, you know, in my career as it were. And that lasted for about, well from where I walked to the center of the stage, you know, I was trembling. My knees were. And I guess that lasted for about, what, 30, 40 seconds. But once I put my horn to my, you know, and started playing, that’s it. I’ve never felt. I told you all of that to say that I never feel shaky, scared, nervous, oh, my goodness, you know, except for this time that I’m telling you now.
EPS: So when you got up for that first time at Bop City you weren’t nervous?
FEDERICO CERVANTES: No, but oh, yeah, when I got (?) no, not at all.
EPS: Did you just go up there and start playing solo or were there other people there?
FEDERICO CERVANTES: No, no. See, there was, Jimbo had a house band, a piano, bass and drum. So when he, he said, yeah, get up there, I’ve been hearing about you that was Jimbo was saying. So when I’d get up, the only person who went down was Stanley, Stanley Willis. But the rhythm section stayed up, so I got up to play with the rhythm section. So we played and swung and liked it.
EPS: What was Bop City like? So that first time you got hired and then you started playing there continuously. What was it like? Did you go down there every weekend? Every day?
FEDERICO CERVANTES: (laughs) Ok, well, let me answer this question. You know, at that time, you know, being of that age, I had various pursuits. And it was basically, it was music, especially on going down to a place where I could play. But so, and the only time that you could play was from the way of which I’m speaking was from 2 AM to 6. So I, Jimbo wanted me, I was going down there 7 nights a week. And I wanted to, also. You know, I wanted to. And you know, you said, what was it like? Well, basically, I went down to play music, to play the piano 'cos I didn’t have a piano then. I did not have a piano. So therefore, my main interest was to go down and play music. So much, practically everything else was really on the back burners where I’m concerned, you know? I mean… they were on the back burners. I didn’t go down there to, you know, flirt with the waitress or anything of that nature. I’m saying my thing was to play music. So to say what it was like, I can only measure it according to what my goal and my criteria was for me. To go down and play music. As long as I could do that, it’s fine. Now, other piano, did you know, Tommy Smith? Tommy Smith was on the scene at that time, too. Another piano player named Freddie Red. Had a real big mop of hair in front and he was on the scene. But what I’m getting at is that when a lot of the piano players start moving in, maybe to do what I had done and upset me as I upset Stanley, I did fraternize and sit down in the audience and meet people. But that wasn’t my main goal.
FEDERICO CERVANTES: after a while, it was nothing was exciting to me. My excitement was not my coming from the front line. In other words, the musicians who were coming in, because I thought they were too repetitive. They were not, they were hogs, they were trying to hog the whole show, you know, saxophone players in particular would blow chords after chords after chords after chords. So that was not pleasant for me. From musical standpoint, I certainly did get a chance to, you know, experiment, even when I’m playing the piano behind them, with chord progressions and things of that nature that I would not have had for me to be home, which later I, you know, when I was, when I did have a piano, I was on the practice bit. I was on getting technique. These other musicians, the horn players in particular, were on the kick of showing up each other, one themselves, as well as showing the public that they could play like whoever was popular on record at the time. That’s what blew, bored me. That’s what blew me away in the sense that I didn’t find it to be exciting. And it didn’t give me any incentive. I didn’t follow those saxophone players in particular. I…That was not my bag.
EPS: Were there any musicians you were close to in the Fillmore?
FEDERICO CERVANTES: Yes, a fellow name of… Frank Jones?
EPS: Frank Jordan?
FEDERICO CERVANTES: No, I don’t know who that is. Larry Lewis, Frank Jones, a drummer. I met a guy later who was, they call him Sputnik. His name was Dick Burke. But no one knew that until years, years later. I’d like playing with Dick Burke. Frank, I think his name was Frank Jones, a drummer, and Larry Lewis, a bass player. Those were the musicians that became my trio for the house, for Jimbo’s house band. I’ll put it that way.
EPS: What did Dick play? He was a drummer, wasn’t he?
FEDERICO CERVANTES: Dick Burk. Sputnik, oh yes, he was a drummer, right. That’s right. He was a drummer.
EPS: I heard you played with Cal? Did you meet him in the Fillmore
FEDERICO CERVANTES: Cal Tjader? No, no, that is not true. Someone said that I played with Cal Tjader? (EPS: Yes.) No, that’s not true. No. I know who Cal Tjader was, and there were times when he and I were at the Blackhawk simultaneously.
EPS: Down in the Tenderloin?
FEDERICO CERVANTES: 200 Hyde Street. I know who Cal…and Cal Tjader would have his little you know, little group in there, and on Sundays there were jam sessions, and Cal Tjader might hang over, before going on himself. But I never played with Cal Tjader. That is not true.
EPS: Did you ever record any records with anyone?
FEDERICO CERVANTES: Yes. That’s the other thing I was gonna tell you. I got my first introduction to recording for the World Pacific Records. That’s the name of the label. It was, I think it was originally called Pacific Jazz and then World Pacific, and then it had a bunch of names. It was LA-based, 8522… 80… I used to knew the address, I practically lived in the studio. But anyway, it was LA-based and I got a chance to do the recording at Bop City. What happened, you asked me did someone come in, how could I forget this person? Several people of notoriety had come in, but one drummer came in, he heard me and he played with me and he liked me, and he’s the one who got me to go down to Hollywood and get a recording contract, and that’s Chico Hamilton. So I didn’t mean to overlook him. I guess I did, but he was one person that I met down there who liked me. And put me on the recording map as it were.
EPS: So did you play on on a side with him?
FEDERICO CERVANTES: No, at Bop City, it was an open sessions. So I working there, so he came in and played drums. And from that time on, you know, he and I finished the morning, you know, playing. He was the drummer. And I think he, it was in town. I think the next night, he stayed over. I mean, he was in San Francisco. And I think we had two nights of that, and maybe even a third night. But he was telling me, urging me to come on, go down to Hollywood, down to get my, get a recording contract. And I went with, off the strength of his giving me that invite, and he was going to introduce me to a fellow named Dick Bock. He was the one who ran Pacific Jazz and the World Pacific label. Richard Bock. He spelled it B-O-C-K. And I went down and got a recording contract. Thanks to Chico Hamilton.
EPS: So you recorded down there? You didn’t record up here?
FEDERICO CERVANTES: No. If you’re thinking in terms of … in Berkeley. (EPS: Fantasy?) Fantasy Records, right, right. No, I never. I used to try to get in with whoever was down there. Get in with some of the Fantasy-ites. But I didn’t have any luck. I wasn’t down there meeting anyone. And when someone was down there, it was a group who was already established, like the Modern Jazz Quartet MJQ?
EPS: Or Brubeck…
FEDERICO CERVANTES: Or Brubeck down there, yeah, right. And but I didn’t go for Brubeck’s style. After Oscar Peterson, I couldn’t like, I don’t like anyone.
EPS: Did you ever play with Oscar or see him?
FEDERICO CERVANTES: I was gonna tell you, my dream that came true. You never would believe it. I wouldn’t believe it. It was… three days before my birthday I had a double billing with Oscar Peterson at the Blackhawk. It was the Oscar Peterson Trio and my trio. That was heaven, heaven on earth for me. Because I wanted, well, I wanted to meet him. And I wanted him to hear me. And I wanted to hear him in his glory, I mean, in person. And before that, I had every record that Oscar had ever recorded. And this was a chance for me, you know, to hear him in person and have him near me. So that dream actually came true, and he sat, you’ve been, have you ever been in the Blackhawk (EPS: No I haven’t) – ok. Whenever he, I was on stage was elevated, maybe it was just about as high as this table is. When you’re up. Oscar was seated right behind my right elbow when I was playing. When it was my turn.
EPS: Was he nice as you wanted him to be or did he turn out to be…?
FEDERICO CERVANTES: I know what you mean. The most beautiful, beautiful musicians that I have ever met who turned out to be even better than what I could fathom were Stan Canton, and…Barney Kessel. So how I’m going to answer your question is this: when I met Oscar, I think I was more low-key. Trying to play it cool but thrilled, excited, and not wanting to put my foot in my mouth in any way. But Oscar turned out, you know, Oscar was very cordial, hi, he was on the academic, the took the academic approach to me. I mean, he was very, all of his Ps and Qs as far as Emily Post is concerned, you know, manners were all in place. And this made a good impression on me that he should be that way; versus Earl Garner. When I first met Earl Garner in person, you know, when I met him – (EPS: Where did you meet him?) …at the Blackhawk – another year, you know, another day before this booking with Oscar Peterson I’m talking about. But at, on their intermission, I said hello, Mr. Garner, my I ask you a question? And he kind of mumbled something. I said, how did you happen to… it was intermission, and people were changing tables or getting, going to the bar for something to drink or the bathroom or whatever. And so I caught him and said, may I ask you a question, I said, what inspired you to write Misty? Now, I will tell you I’m sure you know the song, Misty, but Earl Garner introduced on record Misty in 1953. On record. Yeah, but I mean, it’s not a new song. I mean, for a lot of people that’s it would be.
EPS: It was his arrangement?
FEDERICO CERVANTES: His composition. And my question to him was, Sir, what inspired you to write Misty? You know, it was even the talk of the town at that time. And he does, I said, what inspired you, he says in an airplane, baby. In an airplane. And then he walked away. Now. I thought maybe he caught where I was coming from, maybe he did or maybe he didn’t. But where I was coming from when I asked him that question, I was coming from the song, Ebb Tide. You know, the song Ebb Tide. (EPS: Yes I do.) All right, well, you know, (begins singing the song) right on…I mean way before Misty. So I wanted him to give me an answer that would, it was an anticipated truth I think that I had in my brain to say. And he didn’t go that route. He just went the way that I told you -- in an airplane, baby, in an airplane. You know? And then he walked away. So what I’m saying about Oscar, Oscar turned out to be everything that I wanted him to be. I didn’t have a lengthy conversation with him. But he was everything that he should have been by the standards that in which I held and hold him.
EPS: That’s great. What a wonderful story.
FEDERICO CERVANTES: Yeah, versus Earl Garner. And I was on an Earl Garner kick for a long time because you know, I enjoyed the way Earl Garner played. But after that encounter, you know, that went down a couple of notches, or more than a couple. (EPS: I’ve had that experience) I guess, you know, when you’re that big and you meet a lot of people, you don’t know Joe from Paul, and so maybe he didn’t know where I was coming from. And asking him the question. Maybe he didn’t know who I was, or. I wasn’t anybody, but I mean, I could see him be leery behind certain people. Certain people can be leery about the audience that they meet. That’s what I’m trying to say. Anita O’Day, for example, you know her? Ok, she wasn’t that way with me at all.
EPS: Did you meet her at the Fillmore?
FEDERICO CERVANTES: Yeah, I met her at the Blackhawk. Different occasion, now I’m not talking about the same time I met you know, Earl Garner. Or at the time I had a double billing with Oscar. But a different occasion. I met her at the, she was performing on actually on stage, I met her there. And then I also ended up playing behind her because I knew her tunes, and I knew her keys. So she was quite taken, you know, by me. And she was outgoing and friendly.
EPS: Did Earl Garner… I heard a story that Earl Garner played at the Long Bar in the Fillmore?
FEDERICO CERVANTES: No, you know, you said the name Long Bar, it doesn’t sound unfamiliar, but I’m not familiar with a place called Long Bar. Where was it located?
EPS: It was on Fillmore Street, but it might have been earlier. It might have been before you got to San Francisco. The early 50s.
FEDERICO CERVANTES: Well, I’ll tell you the people that, so far, that I have not met, at least to my knowledge. I’ve never met Father Earl, Father Heinz. I never met him. I know of him, but you know, I never met him.
EPS: You played at Bop City for 15 years. What made you stop?
FEDERICO CERVANTES: Ok. You said 15 years? No, no, I said I played at Bop City for ten years straight, and then it kind of had an on and off type of thing. What made me stop? Well, I started working at other places. The first thing that made me stop was when I got a booking in Chicago at the Blue Note. You’re familiar with Chicago? (EPS: Yes, I’ve heard of it) Number 3 Clark Street. And I stayed at the Midland Hotel, which is about 3 blocks away from there, so it was really convenient. That’s one thing that broke that up. When I got booked at the Blue Note in Chicago. And musically speaking, that’s as far east as I have gone so far. You know, to the Blue Note. But along with that, I got bookings in, down in Hollywood and down in you know where the Crescendo and the Interlude are? (EPS: No, I don’t) But you’ve heard of them? (EPS: Yes) Ok. You know, I didn’t want to stay and – well, I did want to stay in one place in one sense, and in another sense I didn’t want to stay in one place. And more so, I became more both bold, brazen and daring after losing my sight. Well, yeah, because otherwise, then I would give the impression of just being a walking corpse. And I don’t even like people to relegate me to anything short of what I really am. You know, I’ve got enough hang-ups as it is, you know, don’t relegate me to some poor little, oh, this poor guy, you know, that type of thing. So I get more, yeah, you know, yeah, I’ll go and I’ll make the gig and things of that nature. I got more as I say, I use the word brazen and bold and all that sort of.
FEDERICO CERVANTES: Yeah, right, that’s right. Then the bass player that I met who was in Chico Hamilton’s group at that time, or had a lot to do with Chico Hamilton, was named Ben Tucker. He was the first professional bass player with a name that I had worked with, and let me stay at his place down in Pasadena when I was down there doing all my Hollywood adventuring stuff, Hollywood and Vine right there. You know, that was a big hangout. And the Renaissance down in – what do they call that? Down the hill from the Crescendo, I’ll put it that way. So those were the scenes at that time, and I wanted to be on them. So that’s what broke the Bop City thing up. As a continual thing for me, I’ll put it that way. So when I came back to it, there were other piano players on the scene. Richard…Rick (Appland?), if that name has ever been dropped. And a fellow by the name of Oscar Dennard. Little guy. I don’t know if that name has been dropped to you. He died earlier in that part of that time. But I’m just naming people as they come to me. Now, but when I came back, there were some piano players on the scene. And I wasn’t impressed by them and Jimbo let me come back, you know, whenever I wanted to. So that’s how that happened. So I had, don’t mean to burst your bubble, but the thing is, I’ve known a lot of these places in the Fillmore, but I haven’t even worked in half of them. That’s what I was gonna say on that part.
EPS: In the 60s, the clubs started to close. (FC: Yes, they did.) Do you remember that time?
FEDERICO CERVANTES: Well, the only place, lots of places closed, but there was a place called Jacks of Sutter. Right at the corner of Sutter and – I forget what the other street was. But people after Bop City would either go to the Plantation Club, which was right at the end of the block where Bop City was, on Post, but I think going toward Laguna. Towards Laguna and up Buchanan. Ok. Plantation. And or to a place called Jacks of Sutter. So in the ‘60s, the only place to go if you didn’t go to Bop City, places to go were Jacks of Sutter, or Jacks of Sutter. Because the Plantation had…was in its way out. It was closing. The Blackhawk had closed. You know, we were talking about in the Fillmore. I don’t know. I just, that’s the only place that I went to was Jacks of Sutter.
EPS: Why do you think all the clubs start to close?
FEDERICO CERVANTES: Ok. I think there were two, three I’ll use the word movements going on at that particular time. Number one, the integration scene hit pretty hard and firmly in San Francisco, and the end of the ‘50s and spilled back over into the ‘60s. Being able to go to these clubs where before you couldn’t go if you went. Only if you worked there, it’s all right to work it, but you can’t go in the front door, you can’t sit down – ok, so that, that's one thing that was going on. And another thing that was going on at that time is a lot of players who had been around for at least 10 years or so were dropping off the scene because they were into drugs. And they were either dying or getting arrested. You know, they were overdosing or getting thrown in jail or prison, you know, for one reason or another. And the third thing that was happening was a lot of the African Americans were leaving the Fillmore because it had changed, but the Japanese were taking over. It became Japan Town. So those are the, that’s why I used the word movement a little while ago, because that’s what happened. They all, it all came in together. At the same time.
EPS: What about… do you remember the redevelopment part of it, when they started to tear all the houses down in the Fillmore?
FEDERICO CERVANTES: Yeah, well, they started tearing a lot of the apartment, what do they call those things? Yeah, there was a lot of reconstruction. I don’t even know how to call the living quarters properly. But yes, there was a lot of reconstruction going on. Yeah. That’s for sure.
EPS: Did that have something to do with it, too?
FEDERICO CERVANTES: Well, probably. If a lot of your so-called top jazz musicians at the time were either dying off or going to jail or just moving, leaving to come to Oakland, then that all was interwoven into all the other things that were happening. And made them happen all the more.
EPS: Anything else you think people should know about the Fillmore or your time in the Fillmore?
FEDERICO CERVANTES: Well, as I say, a lot goes back, yes, but I think it affects the whole country and certainly California, and this part of California. You know, San Francisco. I think a lot of it has to do with the big movement and the thing that was happening in Arkansas with the school integration. And that moved us to San Francisco. It got our musicians union amalgamated, or unions amalgamated. And it had a lot to do with why some people were, you know, top musicians, people were leaving. And others were coming in who were new and green to me. So it was it’s a different scene, I’ll put it that way. So what people should know – well, I don’t, you’re educating me, you’re telling me about trying to bring jazz back to the Fillmore. I don’t know what the Japanese Town core is to say that jazz would be what it used to be there under whatever Japanese Town has become, or is. That’s what I’m saying.
EPS: You’re saying because it was mainly African American neighborhood, that’s why there were so many jazz clubs there? And now that’s it’s not that way any more it probably couldn’t support the clubs
FEDERICO CERVANTES: That’s what I’m thinking. I’m not saying by that that, I’ve met a lot of Japanese who do play jazz. They know about the history of jazz musicians better than my neighbor next door type of thing. But I’m saying that I don’t know the tenor of Japan Town now. I don’t know where they are there. I don’t know what it’s like to be in Japan Town, that’s what I’m saying. And if I knew that, then I could give you a more intelligent deduction or evaluation of what I think as to what degree jazz could come back. But I don’t think it’ll ever come back the way that it was when it was basically African American.
EPS: Do you think the Fillmore gave you you your jazz education?
FEDERICO CERVANTES: Oh, yes. Dwayne and Bop City, and Fatso Berry, and being able to play in Leola King’s.. Bop City – I already said that…all of that gave me, pardon me?
EPS: You played in the Blue Mirror as well?
FEDERICO CERVANTES: Yes. Do you know of Earl Grant? (EPS: Uh huh) Ok. Well, Earl Grant was, he played the Blue Mirror also. You heard him sing? (EPS: On record. Yes.) That’s what I mean, on record. Well, you know, he was in a car accident. That’s what killed him. Yeah, and somewhere between here and Arizona. I knew the details then, but you know, just it’s been so many years ago. But Earl Grant was there. What I liked about Earl Grant was the little that I knew, was the person that he was more so than his music. I don’t think his, he wasn’t anything that would make me do a double-take, hey, who’s that guy or anything. Neither in playing or singing.
EPS: Did you see him play at the Blue Mirror?
FEDERICO CERVANTES: Oh, yeah. I attended several of his performances there at the Blue Mirror. At the time, you know, he was unique to be on the scene doing what he was doing at the time.
FEDERICO CERVANTES: Why was he unique? Because there were no other, the African American approach to music was either deep into rhythm and blues or deep into the bee-bop scene. But not where you would sing and play standard songs like, What a Difference A Day Made. I’m not talking about the Dinah Washington version. But I’m just saying that wasn’t what was going on then. But Earl Grant was doing that type of tunes.
EPS: Did people like him at the Blue Mirror?
FEDERICO CERVANTES: Yes, yes. He had a following. Earl Grant had a following. Yes, he did. In fact, after he started recording you know, the following grew and Leola was just very happy with him. You know.
EPS: What was Leola like?
FEDERICO CERVANTES: I don’t know, but she was strictly business from what I could see. I mean, she was, you know, dollars and cents, cut out the talking, show me what you can do. You know, that type of thing. I didn’t know her that well. I just knew that she was a person through whom I would have to go and with whom I would have to deal since Dewy or Dukey, or whatever his name was, her husband, was either dead or arrested, I don’t know what, no longer on the scene. But when I was first introduced to the Blue Mirror, it was through him. I didn’t know Leola. So whatever happened to Dewy, that’s my contact, as small as it was, broad in some with Leola.
EPS: Was the Blue Mirror alot like Bop City, or was it a different kind of place?
FEDERICO CERVANTES: No, you couldn’t just go in and come in and sit in. It was on the sophisticated side. You know, it was not saloon-ish, what saloon used to mean 50 years ago. It was kind of like on the Don Barksdale Champagne Supper Club side. You know, it was kind of a sophisticated place. Getting sophisticated. But African American, that was saying something, you know, because other than that, it was like everything was, you know, like saloon-ish like. A place to get a drink, hang out. Score, that type of thing. But the Blue Mirror was you know, people are still people, they still did what they did, but it gave a little more prestige to the Fillmore. That’s what I’m saying.
EPS: Someone described the Fillmore as you would walk down the street, and just everywhere you went, at one point in the Fillmore’s history, you’d just hear music. Did you have that same experience?
FEDERICO CERVANTES: Someone described the Fillmore as being as if you walk just a block into the Fillmore you would hear music, cross the street, you would hear music again.
EPS: Right. They described it as a musical haven. You’d hear music everywhere.
FEDERICO CERVANTES: Well, that’s true. Because they had all of these little places, these little clubs that were open, or eating joints or chicken houses, and Kentucky Fried Chicken or whatever the others were – all had their juke boxes and had their doors and windows open and it was just blaring out in the street. The music is what I’m saying.
EPS: That must have been pretty exciting, to be young and hear…?
FEDERICO CERVANTES: Right at that time, that was the thing. That was the rage, that was the thing to do. Why stay at home and tune in Fatso Berry and Uncle Tiny or something, you know? Go out where the happenings were.
EPS: Do you remember the Melrose Record Shop?
FEDERICO CERVANTES: Yeah. Right, Melrose. Yeah, it was a real popular place. A lot of the records that I used to hear on the radio station KWBR and KSAN at that time, K-SAN, were record, could only be purchased at the Melrose Record Shop, right. You could get T-Bone Walker there, you could get Mel Walker. You could get a lot of people that uh…Charles Brown, oh I can’t even name them all now. But that, that was a place for buying your records.