James’ Brand New Blog

Zal Yanovsky & London Towne Criers (language alert)

- December 1st, 2010

Former Londoner Brad Myers has provided a rich & delightful assortment of memories of the old Towne Criers, a London folk group who met such stars as Joni Mitchell in the 1960s. The Joni encounter was the subject of a My London column recently.

This brief reminiscence has them meeting future Lovin’ Spoonful guitarist and Kingston restaurateur Zal Yanovsky.

The late Zally (aka “that Jewish Kid” as a fan mail excerpt on the back of the old Daydream LP calls him) was the true spirit of The Lovin’ Spoonful to me. Moreso than John Sebastian, who wrote almost all of their 1965-1966 hits, it’s true.
As for Zal Y . . .
Funny: Zal talked about the bed bug bites you could see on the Spoofullers’ arms on one LP cover shot.

Brilliant: what a guitarist, those riffs on Do You Believe In Magic?, also plays “electric gorgle” & sings lead on the cover of Bald Headed Lena (who did it first? I don’t know) on Daydream.

A child of the 1960s: Zalman Yansinski (spelled that way, there are many variant spellings) & bandmate Steve Boone are identified in the April 1967 Mojo-Navigator as helping a California undercover police officer in a “two lids of grass” drug bust in a May 25, 1966 . . . the magazine quotes the bustee, William B. “Bill” Loughrborough as being quite forgiving of his friends:
“They didn’t know any better . . . they really didn’t mean any harm. They had no idea it would lead to all of this. They’re just puppies. I think they’ve learned a lesson.”

Mojo-Navigator (managing editor, Greg Shaw) suggests the rest of us could forget the whole thing in light of Loughrborough’s statement . . . but also counsels “our readers to be wary, personally, in the company of these musicians.”

The bust/informer fallout hurt the band’s career . . . the Rough Guide says that Zal was forced to choose between deportation (as a Canadian who had been busted himself) & informing on his supplier & then was forced to quit the band anyway, even if he rejoined after Sebastian quit . . . & really, all of this, is a huge preamble to what Brad sent along about Zal Yanovsky. He met the Criers at the Bohemian Embassy (B E)

Thanks for this, Brad . . . there is more on The Towne Criers, but let’s recall Zal Yanovsky who became a star briefly just a few years after you met him here c. 1963-1964:

“A brief aside about the B E here, We were playing a week-end set there at one point, under the watchful eye of our then manager, Ruth Schacter. This bummy looking guy came to our table, at which time Ruth asked him to repay a loan she had made to him some weeks earlier. “Fuck off, Ruth” he said. Then he up and asked me if he could borrow my guitar, as he didn’t have one (but he could play) to do a song or two, which was the custom on such an evening. So I loaned my guitar to Zal(man) Yanofsky, who at the time was really “bumming” around the folk scene, almost penniless and sleeping in laundromats, at this was wintertime, as I recall.”

Categories: Entertainment

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3 comments

  1. greg simpson says:

    Two memories from the old days cross my mind…first off, regarding the Towne Criers, I recall when Valdy played at Fryfogels, he remembered the building from the old folk club that was in the basement (way predating Uncle Billie’s) which may have been called the Hot Stove Lounge, where he had played with the Towne Criers.
    Secondly, I recall Zal being interviewed on This Hour Has Seven Days by Janice Zolf’s uncle Larry Zolf, who, first, asked him for a loan of ten dollars back, to which Zal replied, “too late Larry” and confessed not only to sleeping in laundromats, but, in fact, sleeping in the driers because they were warmer.

  2. james.reaney says:

    By any measure, Zally was a hot guitarist …. we miss him. The club might have been the Smoke House, where The Towne Criers recorded a live album. (Not so … it was actually at a London radio station — see Brad Myers comment.)

    As always, my friend, you rawk.

  3. Brad Myers says:

    Slight correction, James

    Our album, The Towne Criers at the Smokehouse, was, in fact, recorded from about 10 PM to about 3 AM on weekday evening in the sound studio at one of the London radio stations…. CFPL, I believe. From the title you were right to assume it was recorded at The Smokehouse..

    We all crowded around a single floor mike and sang our hearts out. We had a musical friend, Roy Turner, join us on electric bass, and Tim Rowat, the founding member, join us on banjo.

    No entertainer, at the time, thought about flogging your own records at live performances as is so successfully done today. Wish we had done so. Brad Myers

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