Martha and Girl Met David and David and Paul and Skippy and
Dino and Michael and...
of the most fondly recalled Jefferson Airplane songs is "Martha,"
on the After
Bathing At Baxter's album. Paul Kantner wrote the song in
honor of a young lady who had befriended him and David Crosby
early in their rock days. As I heard their story, it occurred
to me that Martha Wax and her friend Julia Dreyer were what
we all tend to think of when we consider the carefree days of
flower power and free love and the hippie ethic and all that
other groovy '60s stuff. I corresponded a few times with Martha
while researching the book and interviewed Julia (who is known
to San Francisco rock aficionados as Girl Freiberg and who inspired
the Steve Miller Band song "Quicksilver Girl"). I
only used a small piece of this story in the book. Here is the
a popular band, or associated with one, had always been a drawing
card for guys looking to score. Countless musicians tell tales
of being nobodies, unable to draw a second glance from women,
until they strapped on a guitar. San Francisco at its peak,
in a sense, negated that needhere even the street people
were celebrities, so to speak, and the everyone-is-groovy ethos
eliminated much of the usual navigation of a popularity hierarchy,
the wall between star and fan. Also loosened was the long-standing,
undeclared rule that women could not approach men for sex. With
feminism taking root, a female looking for a toss in the sack
no longer had to wait around to be asked, she could do the asking.
of the traditional mating ritual thus eliminated, along with
relaxed inhibitions and the widespread availability and acceptance
of birth control, circumstances in the '60s allowed for rampant
sexual experimentation to take place. While sexually transmitted
disease was always an overhanging threat, most everything in
the age before AIDS was curable, and not enough of a reason
to keep most young folks in this scene, at least, from being
frolicsome. And there was no longer a need to expect a further
commitment beyond the initial encounter; many a night of passionate
lovemaking was followed by a see-you-whenever, without either
participant even learning the other's name.
was generally procured more easily, however, doesn't mean there
weren't girls who liked to hang around musicians and try to
befriend them in all manner of waysjust the opposite was
true, and the word groupie was coined around 1965 to give the
rising phenomenon a proper name. But because, perhaps, attitudes
toward sex were already more relaxed there, making this particular
acquisition rite seem somewhat superfluous (and even silly),
the San Francisco bands didn't attract as many groupies, in
the traditional sensegirls who followed the groups around
solely for the purpose of trying to land a musician in bedas
did bands in, say, L.A. or London at the time. More common among
the Airplane, the Dead and the other San Francisco bands was
to count a number of women as friends, individuals who would
come to their shows, visit or stay in their homes, talk to them,
get high with them, care for the musicians and be cared for
of free spirits who came into the Airplane's orbit were Julia
Dreyer (Julia Brigden today) and Martha Wax. Friends since they
were 11 or 12, the two Marin County girls were recidivist troublemakers
who met at Tamalpais High School in Mill Valley. Martha's father
was the mayor of Sausalito, where Julia also grew up, and when
the two girls took to running away on a number of occasions,
their parents understandably became more exasperated with each
came to be known as Girl because she was the only one in a family
that included five brothers, was what parents might call a handful.
I was very wild, what can I say? I can't believe I'm still
here. I was a runaway. I ran away to Mexico. And then I ran away
with Martha at one point. We were kind of the young, cute girls
in town, in the Sausalito scene, Martha and I and a couple others.
At the time, I thought that we were so charming and intelligent
that these older guys liked us for our minds. They were a bunch
of child molesters!
guys" the girls took up with were often musicians, among
them Skip Spence, David Freiberg, Paul Kantner, David Crosby,
Dino Valente, and future Byrds drummer Michael Clarke. Julia and
Martha, though underage, spent more time hanging around the musicians
than they did in school.
Byrds in 1965: (clockwise from top left) Jim (later Roger) McGuinn,
Gene Clark, Chris Hillman, Michael Clarke, David Crosby
When I first met David Crosby and Dino and Michael Clarke,
they were hanging out at Juanita's Galley, which was this old
ferry boat that was run aground and falling to pieces. It was
this sort of club, a coffeehouse. My mom used to come down in
a panic and drag me out of there. These older guys were making
passes at us, and we thought we were so cool. At 15, I started
smoking pot with those guys. David Freiberg was in jail, but I'd
heard about him. He was kind of a hero, because he was in jail.
In those days it was definitely a sign of coolness.
managed to get himself busted twice in short succession. The first
time came while he was living with Kantner and company on Turk
Street, for possession of marijuana. Kantner bailed him out and
while awaiting trial in San Francisco, Freiberg moved to Marin
County, got a job, and spent his evenings smoking dope and singing
Beatles songs on his 12-string guitar. He was doing just that
when a weed-smoking acquaintance came by one night and asked him
if he could spare any. Freiberg obliged by offering the last of
his stash to his friend. The next night, the police paid Freiberg
a visit. His friend, it turned out, wasn't such a friend: he was
a police informer.
They found the pot and busted me. And off I went to Marin
County Jail. I still hadn't gone to trial for the first one. I
couldn't get any bail. I didn't know anyone who had enough property
at that point. So I sat there for 30 days until they figured out,
"Hey, he isn't going to get any bail and we're going to have
to feed him."
let Freiberg out into the wilds of Marin County, at which point
he met Jim Murray and John Cipollina and they formed the basis
of the band that would become Quicksilver Messenger Service.
David Freiberg: Cipollina and Murray and I, we had bonded.
Then all of a sudden, one day, my trial came up in San Francisco.
They sentenced me to 60 days in jail for my first offense, or
90 days. But these were all good things that were happening, because
if I hadn't gone to jail in Marin County I never would have been
in Quicksilver, I would have ended up working for the stupid Freight
Forwarding Company for the rest of my life. So
I was hearing Byrds songs on the radio, "Turn, Turn, Turn,"
and I made up my mind I was either going to be a bass player or
a farmerthe only two things that made sense. And the bass
player won. So I got out and Gary Duncan and Greg Elmore turned
up. Dino was supposed to be in the band too, but every time it
was supposed to happen, he'd go off to jail.
convicted of his own drug offense and sentenced to jail time,
missed out on being a member of the original Quicksilver, which
ultimately encompassed Freiberg, Cipollina, Murray (who left after
a brief while), Elmore and Duncan. Before going away, though,
Valente had, under his real name of Chet Powers, written "Let's
Get Together," the song that the Airplane would cut on their
first album and the Youngbloods, an East Coast band that later
moved to the Bay Area, would later turn into a Top 5 hit single.
(Unfortunately for Valente, he sold the rights to the song to
Frank Werber, manager of the Kingston Trio, in order to pay his
own legal bills.)
Messenger Service: (l. to r.) Dino Valente, David Freiberg, Gary
Duncan, Greg Elmore, John Cipollina
Freiberg weren't the only ones in their crowd flirting with the
I got busted for being a runaway a couple of times, and put in
juvenile hall. It wasn't that I was running away so much as I
just wanted adventure and excitement. Our parents were all pretty
concerned, because they're all educated upper-middle class people
trying to protect their errant children. So Martha and I got sent
to a prep school in San Francisco called Drew School, for kind
of smart but wayward kids. Anyway, we were going to school there,
and Paul Kantner and David Crosbywhen he was in town, because
he was in the Byrds by thenwould meet us for lunch and then
they'd whisk us off to Paul's place, and we'd smoke pot and then
get back to school. Martha Wax had this crush on Paul Kantner
and, I must admit, I was always a fan of Paul Kantner's; he was
a nice guy, although people have differing opinions on that.
David CrosbyI wasn't sleeping with him or anything, at that
pointwould say things like, "Oh, if only you could
come and stay with me." He didn't really mean it but one
day on the way to school, Martha says to me, "Hey, I got
$200, let's go!" And
I was always up for anything. I said, "Okay, let's go."
So her dad dropped us off at school, and as soon as he leaves,
we jump in a cab and go to the airport, and Martha says, "Let's
go visit David." So we fly to L.A., we call him from the
airport, he freaks out: "Oh, my God, oh, my God, the police
are gonna come get me, oh, my God." He goes into this big
freakout, and then he says, "Take a cab, get out three blocks
from my house, walk up the street and whistle Tambourine
Man' so I'll know it's you." All that drama, you know.
I'm feeling really bad, like we really screwed up by doing this.
Anyway, we go to his house and he's all freaked out and he hides
us at someone's house. Paul Kantner happened to be in L.A. at
the time. He called Paul up, Paul comes over to see us, and Crosby's
going, "What are we gonna do?! Where are we gonna put em?!
The police are gonna come and get us!" And Paul's going,
"Let's go swimming!" David's pulling his hair out and
Paul's like, "Hey, let's go get a burger." David ended
up hiding us at some friend's house and we weren't allowed to
leave. And I thought, my parents are much more lenient than this.
So I split.
returned home, Girl ran away again, this time to Mexico, and got
caught. With the juvenile court threatening to hold her until
she was 21, there was only one way out: become an instant legal
adult. Julia Dreyer was now Girl Freiberg.
David Freiberg agreed to marry me in order to keep me out
of juvenile hall and all that stuff. I was 17. There was no thought
of this is forever or wedded bliss, it was just convenient. I
liked David and he liked me. We had crushes on each other. I think
we were both quite shy. And I'm very fortunate that it was David.
To be honest, it could have been anybody, when I look back on
it, but it was David. And he is a very nice guy. I love the guy
and we have a great daughter, Jessica, and we ended up staying
married for like 15 years. Well, technically we did, but realistically
it was a very transient affair.
began living a nomadic life almost from that first time she and
Girl went to L.A. to stay with Crosby. That event had stirred
up her politician father big-time, and when word eventually reached
him that Crosby was involved, he turned to his contacts at the
Chronicle to see if any could help get his daughter back.
Ralph Gleason played intermediary between Crosby and Mr. Wax,
and Martha was finally convinced to call home.
But while she was on the phone with him, the police arrived at
the door of the place she was staying. Martha screamed at them
that they couldn't enter without a warrant and managed to get
out of the house and slip away. She and the woman who owned the
house drove to New York, Martha spending much of the trip hiding
under a blanket. Eventually, she headed back to the Bay Area,
first staying for a while with Hugh Romney (later known as Wavy
Gravy) and with Kantner, before going home. She later became an
artist and a poet, working in film, holding on to her ideals.
by her spirit, wrote a song in 1967:
she listens for the ticking of my footsteps, patiently
She sifts the hairy air that's worn and woodswept, pleasantly
She does as she pleases, her heels rise for me."