Music at the Sea Gull is an ongoing post that will be updated periodically as new material becomes available. If you have stories or photos to share, please send them to firstname.lastname@example.org.
Origin of Music
When Orpheus caressed the strings of the lyre, the oak trees in the woods of Thrace danced by virtue of his melodies.
When Orpheus embarked with the Argonauts, the rocks heard his music, a language where all languages meet, ad their vessel was saved from shipwreck.
When the sun rose, Orpheus’s lyre greeted it from the peak of Mount Pangaeum and the two chatted as equals, light to light, because his music also set the air on fire.
Zeus sent a bolt of lightning to punish the author of such audacities.
Mirrors: Stories of Almost Everything, Eduardo Galeano
Whether or not the music at the Sea Gull offended Zeus is something yet to be determined. Based on what I personally know and what I understand from reliable sources, I can say, paraphrasing Lincoln, the music probably offended some people all of the time, all people some of the time, but never all people all of the time.
According to the previous owner, Marlene Hall, the music started about 1968 or 1969. A plumber they knew suggested they hire his eleven-year-old daughter to play the violin. Because they knew no other musicians at the time, they took his advice and hired her to play on a Friday night, the first night they tried live music.
Marlene: “Big, big mistake. Turns out she only had a few lessons and continued screeching out notes for at least twenty minutes. We didn’t know how to stop her without hurting her feelings. Most diners left the room.”
Unfazed by that first night, the Halls hired the Jug Band shortly thereafter when they asked if they could play.
Marlene: “One night the Presbyterian minister and three “suits” came. We all knew it was to investigate if drugs were being indulged in. Perhaps? Probably? But neither Martin nor I knew for sure, or cared.”
From that night on “Friday nights were fun for us all and we sold (I’m sure gave away?) lots of beer … that was before the Cellar Bar was made.”
From the time Bill Zacha founded the art center in 1959, many artists and musicians have made Mendocino if not their home a place of refuge away from the frenetic activity of the city, a quiet and beautiful place where they can work in peace.
One musician that frequented the Cellar Bar at the time the Halls were the owners, although he did not play there, was Gene Clark of the Byrds. John Einarson writes about Clark’s time in Mendocino in his book Mr. Tambourine Man: The Life and Legacy of The Byrds’ Gene Clark:
“The pastoral experience remained with him and he continued to visit Little River and the Lazy Eye often, making the winding drive up the Pacific Coast Highway in his 1964 Porsche. On one such visit, Gene ventured into the Seagull Cellar Bar in the town of Mendocino, where he befriended proprietor-bartender Martin Hall. Gene became a frequent visitor to the Seagull and to his delight was treated no differently than any of the other locals or passersby. No one knew he was Gene Clark of the Byrds. Martin informed Gene that he had a cabin for rent across from the Andiron Lodge in Little River. Gene soon rented the cabin and, inspired by his rustic surroundings, begin writing a body of songs that represented a more basic approach to his muse-just acoustic guitar and voice.”
A fire on December 12, 1976 destroyed the old Sea Gull building. Quoting from a California Living Magazine article shortly after the fire:
A part of us has died. Here, long before the more pretentious places – refurbished hotels and historic houses turned eateries – before many of these bystanders, before the woman in carmine evening wear and the subtlest touch of eye shadow, cigarette poised delicately in arched fingers, before retired professors strolling, hands a-pocket, beards shading gray – a scene days when this “village” was a retreat for artists and the few who “knew,” when the Halls were still owners and we held jam sessions each Friday night, clacking spoons or blowing across bottle lips, when Harry the Greek taught folk dancing and threw his wine glass against the wall, and Martin yelled, “Damn it! Those are crystal!” and Harry threw another, until they served him wine in plastic cups.
After the fire, the new Sea Gull Cellar Bar upstairs had an official music stage and live music was offered on Monday, Wednesday, Friday, Saturday, and Sunday nights. The pictures below provide a small taste of what was on offer there. More to come.