Bernie Chiaravalle

Bernie Chiaravalle

Bernie Chiaravalle, lead guitarist for Michael MacDonald (formerly of The Doobie Brothers), grew up in San Rafael during the ’60s and ’70s.  He shares some photos and experiences below.  Please click HERE to learn more about his early Marin band Logos.

 Bernie remembers “Growing Up In Santa Venetia”

stacks_image_602_1   “Growing up in Santa Venetia in the 60s and 70s was an exciting time for a young budding musician like myself.  I remember walking from my house to my drummer friend Mitch Hinard’s house and hearing bands practicing in garages.  Sometimes they would open the garage door and you could watch them play.  My eyes and ears were filled with wonderment as I the guitars, amps and drums.  There was a band called The Ravens that were good and I used to love watching them rehearse.  One of their guitar players, Steve Acamazzo, literally showed me how to play a bar chord in the middle of the street.  That moment changed my life.

Bernie in SRAnother great memory of Santa Venetia was going to concerts at the Armory.  Many big bands of the day would play there.  One night Paul Revere and The Raiders were playing there.  My friend and I were outside and we ran into their lead singer Mark Lindsey who was looking for somewhere to relieve himself!

I went to Terra Linda High School and always had my guitar with me.  We would regularly head to the upper field at lunch time and play songs by The Beatles, CSNY, Buffalo Springfield and originals.  My guitar really got me through school to be honest. We also played many lunchtime concerts at all the schools through out Marin.

On Marin In the Sixties and Seventies….

 

Growing up in San Rafael & Santa Venetia in the ’60s was an adventurous time for me.  It was an exciting time for music with the British invasion and The Beatles.  There were garage bands sprouting up everywhere and you could walk through my neighborhood in Santa Venetia and hear bands practicing away.  I can remember meeting my friend Mitch Hinard at his house when he was playing his drums in his garage and I showed him the beat to “Paint It Black” by The Rolling Stones.  We hit it off and formed our own band after that day.

A lot of us used to hang out at a local burger joint called “Boobies” just along the 101 highway right across from the future Marin Civic Center.  It was the happening place to hang out in those days.

Speaking of the Civic Center, my friends and I witnessed the construction of the beautiful Frank Lloyd Wright design.  We would often go exploring throughout the buildings as they were under development.  Completely dangerous and illegal for sure but man, it was so fun!  I’m a big fan of Mr. Wright’s work to this day because of our Civic Center.

Another great place to grab a bite was Lou’s Burgers in Santa Venetia in the Littlemans’s shopping center.  It’s now all homes and apartments.  We also used to love hanging at Shakey’s Pizza Parlor in Terra Linda.  It was close to Joseph Court where I use to rehearse with my band Logos in the 70s.  Our neighbors were Soundhole who went on to become Huey Lewis and the News.

We used to love going to the Rafael Theater to catch movies.  That’s where I first saw “A Hard Days Night”, which of course changed my life.  I’m happy to see that the theater has been restored.

I went to high school at Terra Linda High and music was always interwoven into my daily life.  My band Logos played many times at noontime concerts in the amphitheater.  I nearly always had my guitar with me and even worked it into homework assignments for English.  We were to write a paper on The Grapes of Wrath but I wrote a song instead.  I actually got an A on that which was very rare for me!

My class and I made the front page of the Independent Journal once when we marched from Terra Linda all the way down to downtown San Rafael and staged a “sit-in” in protest of the bombing of Cambodia during the Nixon administration.  Again, I had my guitar in tow and we all sang “Give Peace A Chance” and other modern protest songs of the day.

I played many venues in Marin including The Lion Share, Sleeping Lady, Uncle Charlie’s and Litchfields.  One really cool concert hall in Marin was Pepperland.  I saw Leon Russell and Captain Beefheart there once and it was fantastic.  It was painted in the psychedelic style of the day, certainly inspired by The Beatle’s Sgt Pepper album.  The PA base speakers were like giant cones you could actually sit in.  I’m sure that did some major ear damage!

Once my band Logos played at Litchfields opening up for Clover and The Tubes.  One of our equipment vans was a Volkswagen bus which was parked outside as we played.  Somewhere during Clover’s set a gunshot went off inside which sent everyone running in panic.  No one was hurt thankfully but as the gunman tried to escape he crashed into our van, totaling it!

After high school I attended College of Marin, majoring in music.  I didn’t last long really because my band was getting busier playing all around the Bay Area.  We once played the Haight Street Fair to a crowd of 100,000 people.  Mickey Hart of The Grateful Dead mixed the sound for us that day and blew a few speakers out, I’m told.

We formed a relationship with Mickey because our drummer at the time was Johnny ‘d Fonseca who was raised by Mickey.  We recorded quite a bit at “The Barn” in Novato where Mickey lived and The Dead often recorded.  He took us under his wing for a while and produced some recordings on us.  On one occasion he decided that we needed some equipment.  he opened up the cellar doors to The Barn and started pulling out speaker cabinets.  We realized these were cabs from the infamous Dead wall of sound PA system they used.  Suddenly he pulled an old cabinet with “The Warlocks” painted on it.  He was going to give it to us and then gave it a second thought.  That was their name before they became The Dead of course.  That cabinet is worth some coin I’m sure!

We used to be invited to hang at the Dead’s rehearsal complex down in the Canal area of San Rafael.  One time we went there, Mickey had huge gongs submerged in giant vats of water for recording parts for a movie soundtrack.  There were big movie screens with timecode displayed above.  I recognized Marlon Brando in the footage.  The movie he was working on was Apocalypse Now!

Another great memory for me was being invited by my friend Kerry Nordquist to visit the film studio he worked at in San Rafael.  The studio was Industrial Light and Magic which was owned by George Lucas.  I got to see many behind the scenes props and equipment used in the Star Wars films and many others like E.T. and Poltergeist.  What an amazing experience that was!

I formed many friendships with many musicians in Marin.  There were so many great players like my friends in The News.  I played with Bill Gibson, Brian Marnell, Johnny Colla and Mario Cipolina several times and nearly joined their band Soundhole when I was asked.  I keep in touch with most of them to this day.

But I was so inspired by the musicians around me.  Players like Bill Burgess, Peter Manau, John Harrison, Bill Champlin, Peter Penthallow.  All the guys in Clover were so good.  No doubt I was a huge Beatle fan and drew much of my inspiration from their music.  But my roots really lay in the music I learned from the Marin musicians I played with and followed.  The “Marin Sound” is forever ingrained in me and I’m proud to say I’m from Marin.

Today Bernie tours the world as lead guitarist for Michael McDonald. Visit Bernie Chiaravalle’s website & purchase his music on CD Baby.

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