The thing about musicians, at least the ones I know, is that they live for the music. Money, fame, name-dropping—that’s not where it’s at. I was always amazed when a musician, starving, unable to pay the rent, would show up at the drop of a hat to help with a fundraiser, a benefit for a friend, or just to jam with other musicians. What are these people, crazy?
So many incredible musicians played at the Sea Gull in the 70s and 80s, undiscovered talent without a taint of the commercial packaging that homogenizes genius and turns it into fluff.
I met Mickie Zekley early in my Sea Gull days. The previous owners had the foresight to decorate the dining room with old musical instruments. This gave the place a magical aura that I’m sure made the food taste better and the wine go down soft and smooth as a rare vintage but at a fraction of the price. The instruments were fascinating but no longer functional. Mickie suggested that I take a number of his rare and unusual instruments on consignment. Not only would they add to the ambience, but, being completely functional, they could be sold to aspiring musicians at a profit which we could split.
Mickie brought several wonderful musicians to the Sea Gull Cellar Bar. He was a successful businessman and musician, a rare combination. He has a full quiver of musical arrows and stories from the backwoods. This is one story he shared with me.
“I had a band that was booked to play at the Seagull Bar, McClouds Ceili band around 1981 or 1982. As at happens there were some band tensions and the band broke up before the gig. I had been playing at the Renaissance Pleasure Faire the weekend before and jammed some tunes with Michael Hubbert.
I asked him if he would play the Seagull with me and he thought it would be fun. We were not able to get together to practice so we agreed to wing it.
We played and sounded pretty good. At the evening a gentleman came up to me and asked for my card, of course I didn’t have any. I wrote it on a Seagull napkin.
Two weeks later I got a call from the assistant to the Vice Chancellor or UC Irvine saying that he heard us at the Seagull and wanted to book us for St Particks day. They offered us a sum of money that they would have paid to big name rock band. We produced the Mooncoin album and had it’s release party at UC Irvine. They than booked us at all the UC campuses and we became a name brand act.
Those Seagull napkins were magic!”
I have a few Mickie stories of my own. He organized (and still organizes) a summer music camp that brings together some of the best musicians in the world. One night I got a call from Mickie who asked if he could bring in a couple of fellows to play at the Sea Gull Cellar Bar. I told him I couldn’t afford to pay especially at such short notice without any advertising. No problem. They just wanted to walk in and play for fun. I will admit I was a bit concerned. The last thing I needed was two duds taking over the bar and boring all the sophisticated tourists who paid the bills. But, I had learned to trust Mickie, so I said yes.
That night turned out to be one of the most memorable of all my nights ever at the Sea Gull. Who would have expected those two “walk ons” to be two of the top fiddlers in Ireland, Andy Irvine and Paul Brady.
I’m sure anyone who was there still remembers that night. I do. That’s the thing about great music. It sticks with you.
Thanks Mickie and Michael too. You add so much to life and subtract so little.