Sonoma Gear Tales: An amp and a Bug
This week’s installment of Gear Tales involves a bit of kismet in addition to good timing and sheer luck for a well-known local musician.
In fact, the vignette involves three musicians whose lives have crossed many times, on stages and softball fields, beginning back in the 1970s. They are Tim Eschliman, Andy Kuhlberg and Peter “Pops” Walsh.
These three musicians were living in Mill Valley in the mid-1970s. “The Summer of Love was over, the hippies were all dead,” said Eschliman. Mill Valley had become a musicians’ haven of sorts, kind of a Laurel Canyon of the north. “You’d see Carlos (Santana) at the record store, Jerry (Garcia) at the gas station,” Eschliman said.
Eschliman is an ex-Sonoman and is frequently seen playing his bass in many bands in the area. He is the guy with the Panama hat. Back then, he spent his time playing with Commander Cody and Dan Hicks, but now can be found with the R&B&Z Band and BackpOrchEstra, his new project.
Eschliman bought a bass amp from his musical pal Peter “Pops” Walsh in 1976, a Fender Dual Showman Reverb. He spent $600 on it, a small fortune at the time. A few months later, after saving some more gig money, Eschliman bought a blue 1966 VW Bug from another music buddy, flutist/bassist Andy Kuhlberg. It, too, was $600.
Walsh and Kuhlberg had been in bands together, notably the Marin County band Seatrain. (Note: A founding member of Seatrain was Roy Blumenfeld, an active drummer now living in Sonoma.)
After a few modifications, and many gigs with Cody, Hicks, and also Jesse Colin Young, Eschliman still uses the amp. It sounds great, with a “really clean low end.”
The VW was stolen shortly after he took possession of it. It turned up about six months later. Eschliman paid the fees from the impound lot, and within weeks sold off the car.
But the plot twist of the story goes back to those days in Mill Valley, when everybody knew everybody else. Eschliman learned recently that another transaction had occurred several years before. Walsh and Kuhlberg had struck a deal and they traded the VW and bass amp between each other straight up.
At least Eschliman paid a fair price for both the car and the amp. Incidently, the amp is now worth about $2,500. A 1966 VW Beetle in great condition can fetch between $10,000 and $20,000. Maybe that car thief was clairvoyant.