Tim Cain

MP3 AUDIO SAMPLE (2:40-5:00), MZ000010, P. 8-9

Countdowns 325 In the middle of Tim's second grade year he contracted polio, afflicting the movement of both legs. His subsequent difficult and challenging rehabilitation involved missing parts of two separate academic school years. He speaks here about going to a new junior high school for his eighth grade year where he experienced the epiphany that led him to play the saxophone.

And then, I went to this other school, and it was all new people, and I was great with new people, because I don’t care what they think. At the other school, I had girls that I’d loved in the 6th grade, and there were a couple girls in particular, when I got back, they were all fully developed, and way too beautiful for me. I just didn’t feel like I could do this, you know? I can’t fight my way back up. We used to play tetherball and 6th grade, and there was no more  tetherball  in the 7th grade. So going to the other school worked out well. And my mom started me  playing  piano  when I got back from the hospital. So I have been playing piano from about the time I was 8 years old. So when I got to be in the 8th grade, we would always have dances, probably once a month, or every 2 months, back when people use the dance. We’d  listen to records all the time in the multipurpose room. And for our 8th grade graduation, we had a band. Instead of records. And these guys wore blue sports coats and white pants, had white ties on and they had music stands that were white, and the guy was playing a white Stratocaster, and the colors were kind of blue and gold, and there was the sax player with his gold sax and everything. And I thought that, man, they really look good! And at one point during their set, the sax player started playing Tequila. And then, this girl burst out from the dressing room, which was really an 8th grade classroom attached to the MUR. But it was right next to the stage, it had a door to the stage, and she burst out wearing a shiny blue leotard, with long blonde hair and danced to Tequila. (laughter)  And I had been worried, that I’m here standing against the wall, I can’t really dance, you know, I kind of felt out of place at a dance. And all of the sudden I saw this  sax player sitting out there, and this girl dancing, and I thought, well, this is the way to get chicks, and be able to dance and play with the music too. (END MP3 SAMPLE)  

Tim sax 250By being, just sitting up there with the sax… All of a sudden it was like a light went on. I no longer have to figure out how to be cool, because I can be as cool as that guy, and that guy never even got up once. He was just doing his up thing there, you know? And so, when I got to high school, as soon as I could, as soon as they let me take an elective I think it was the 2nd semester of my freshman year, I got to take band!  Every night I had the Sears catalog out, and before I went to sleep, I’d open it up to the section on saxophones and musical instruments, the old Silver Tone sax, if you remember that.  Then I turned to the pages with women in bras and, and I figured, this was definitely the connection. Any why not, it’s all the same book! (Laughter) Something will happen. It just went on like a light. And, Mr. Perry Smith was the band teacher. He was a very good musician and was a guy that played on the Mississippi River boats, played Dixieland music up and down on the river. This was like a summer job for him,  maybe even before he became a teacher. So, I went into his introductory band class, and he was going around the room asking what everybody wanted to play, and I said, “I want to play sax.” And he said that all sax players start out playing the clarinet. That’s just the way it is. So I said, “Well, see you later.” And I left.  I didn’t come here to play clarinet. (Laughter) And so, a week later or so I was in study hall now that I wasn't in band, and I got a pink slip from the band room. It said to come up to the band room  at 4th period or lunchtime or whatever. So I went up there, and he said, “So what’s with you?” And then I told him, that I didn’t have time to waste playing clarinet. I wanted to play sax. I’ve got to play sax! So he said, that we’d give it a try. And so, I was in beginning band for 3 weeks. And then I went into advanced band. I already played piano, and was a good piano player. So it was just a matter of figuring out the scale on the keys, and it didn’t make any difference. So I was right in there and started playing. And then, a guy named Pete Metts was playing drums in the advanced band, and it was Mr. Smith’s habit, I will call him Mr. Smith because that is what  we used to call him, it was his habit to invite people to eat lunch in the band room with him. If you took band, or if you were in the chorus, or a music person I suppose, but it was all band people. Fourth period was advanced band so you could just pull out your lunch and eat together, and talk about music and whatever else. And he would sit at his desk and eat his lunch, and we’d all sit around and talk about music. He really was a surrogate father for me, Because my dad left when I was 2. I’d see him every summer, but he was really never around during the school year. So, Mr. Smith, without me knowing it became a father figure for me. I didn’t know anything about father figures, I just lived with my mom and brother. But he was a really good guy, and he was willing to discuss pretty much anything. So he was a good mentor, and, you know, because I was such a bright student, he really liked me of course. A music teacher really likes a bright, attentive student, that is willing to help. This kid is with the plan. So I joined jazz band in the afternoon, and I spent every summer at school taking music and began to really learn the insides of music with Mr. Smith. He taught 3 hours every morning during the summer. So 5 days a week I got 3 hours from 9 to 12  Of nothing but music. And would go over music theory, and writing music, and what various instruments do, and how band works, and what sounds good when you write stuff, and what doesn’t. He just went over everything. Not only was he a good music teacher, but he was a good jazz player. So he introduced me to Coltrane and Miles Davis, Cannonball Adderly and all the players of the time. He would say, “Yeah, go get this record.” That scene, the jazz scene was pretty cool. I liked the way everybody kind of sat around in a dark room, and drank and listened. It was cool! And smoke cigarettes. You know at the time, smoking cigarettes was great. My mom smoked, so I started snitching ciggies when I was pretty young. So by the time it was time for jazz, booze and ciggies, man, it was great, I was there! (laughter) It all went well together you know,  in the jazz clubs, there were always mysterious women over there,  off in the corners. I saw Gerry Mulligan at the Black Hawk in San Francisco. They used to have a screened off area, where you couldn’t get into the main floor, but there was a place you could hang if you were a minor. You had to buy 2 soft drinks, two cokes or whatever, and then there was the screen that separated you from where the other people were, but it was a kids room. It was really great. It was the underage room. It was just a little room,  you know, it wasn’t interfering with the people being at the cool jazz club, but we could go in there, and because  there was no entrance between one room and the other, we could sit right up next to the stage and watch the great ones play. I saw Joe Jones playing with Red Garland, Gerry Mulligan for sure, Cannonball Adderley… I don’t think I ever saw Miles or Coltrane, but I saw a lot of great musicians.

Listen to an interview excerpt.

Return to the main page.

Slideshow Tip: Click on a thumbnail to open and use > and < keys to quickly navigate back and fourth. Hover over thumbnails to read captions.

Excerpts from the biography

  • 1

L  I S T E N   T O   T H E   M U S I C :

Sons of Champlin: Home Grown in Marin

1. 1982-A: from Loosen Up Naturally (1969)


2. Turn On Your Lovelight/Drum Solo/Goldmine: Live from Winterland Auditorium, San Francisco (October 4, 1975)

Turn on Your Lovelight/Goldmine

3. Hey Children: Final Band Performance, Kirkwood Meadows (1977):

Hey Children

4. Beggin’ You Baby: Live Performance, from Minus Seeds and Stems (1968):

Beggin' You Baby