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Rod Pitman – A New Series Of Stories

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Veteran film producer and director Rod Pitman introduces a new series of stories from his work with the classic artists of the 1960’s and 70’s. Rod is an award-winning film and television producer airing over sixty (60) shows as well as creating entertainment programming for Warner Bros. Records, Warner Bros. Television and MTV. His work has been featured internationally at the British Film Institutes’ London Film Festival, and the IDFA International Documentary Festival Amsterdam, with distribution including NETFLIX, Amazon, iTunes & Hulu.

So many of those classic moments and clips of all of our childhood musical heroes were given to us through Rod’s eyes. What follows is an excerpt from an introductory interview about the early motivations for a career that played out in front of us all. Giving us the images that would shape a generation.

In 1968 or thereabouts I was going to school at Martha Turner Reilly grade school in Dallas. I remember arriving there in 1966 and the textbooks were from the infamous Texas Schoolbook depository in downtown Dallas. I remember being in my English class (the teacher’s name will come to me) and she was “issuing” kids their textbooks. So, when she set the book on your desk you were instructed to open it and on the inside of the cover on the left was where you “put your name” in the book. There was like a template where people had been writing their names from the first person that had the book forward. Even at nine years old I was astonished by what I saw . . .

There were people who I knew from the community whose parents were in the book. That was when my critical thinking kicked in and I went uh oh, what’s wrong with this picture? Immediately I realized I was being taught from books that were written in the late 20s and early 30s? How could this be? What I realized later in geography, sociology and history classes was that the books had an obvious tone and tenor that had to do with a mythological America that was being written to conform to a narrative that was not really, well, the truth. One of the best examples was the actual story of the formation of Texas as a state and things like the Alamo. And then there was Davy Crockett and everything else you could possibly imagine. The only person missing from these fairy tales was John Wayne.

That’s when I realized “If I am going to ‘live’ both metaphorically and literally I have to get out of here”. Go west young man. 36 months later I lucked out and my parents decided to move back to The Golden Gate as my paternal grandparents had sold the ranch in Saratoga, California and my father needed and wanted to be close to his parents as they were heading towards glory.

And who was the first ‘adult’ I met when I moved back to the Bay Area? Sonny Barger the President of the Oakland Chapter of the Hells Angels.

You see, what had happened was in 1968 at M.T. Reilly School there was a 6th grade music class taught by this woman that looked like someone’s great grandma named Mrs. Pocklington. David Kerely was in this class as was Sharon Dalern (sp?). Now Sharon was a friend of mine, as was Barton Drake and Becky Boone. I would go over to Sharon’s house and it was striking. Like a film set. In the living room was a giant velvet painting (remember those? Think Elvis) that stretched the length of the sofa in the living room. It was Sharon’s mother in either a nightgown, lingerie or both. Let’s call it sultry. And on the floor of the living room was a motorcycle in pieces that her father was working on. There was also a vibe. Very Americana at the time.

You see, before meeting Sonny Barger, the President of the Oakland chapter of the Hells Angels, I played Pop Warner football for the White Rock Rebels football team. We won the state championship and were scheduled to play the national championship in Fontana, CA. We were going to play the game and then go to Disneyland. The families of the team we were playing hosted the players from out of town. Which was interesting in and of itself. There were velvet paintings and motorcycle parts on the floor. The mother called me into her room and said out of nowhere, “I want to tell you something” . . . “Fontana has one claim to fame, we are the birthplace of the Hells Angels Motorcycle Club”. At eleven I found this to be surreal. Then she said “I have a present for your mother.” She gave me a “jewelry box” made out of a Redwood tree. I can see the box like it was yesterday. The last time I saw it was in my mother’s bedroom in her jewelry drawer. I believe it was later sold in a garage sale. Man, I wish I had that box.

So, back to miss Pocklington’s music class. The thing that I liked the most about Sharon was she had fortitude, a mind of her own and she was easy on the eyes. Every Friday we had a musical version of show and tell where kids in the class would bring their vinyl records in and play one of their favorite songs.

Sharon brought in a Steppenwolf album. The track that she played was Suki Suki Sue. The lyrics sounded like this. Let it (guess what) hang out baby, let it hang out nah, nah, nah, nah, let it hang out baby, do the Baltimore jig, or something like that. I like doing it from memory. Then the chorus was suki, suki, suki, suki, suki, suki, Sue! The funny thing was. Hilarious actually, it sounded like they actually (which I am sure they did) sang; “suck me, suck me, suck me, suck me, suck me, suck me Sue!”

Well, needless to say Mrs. Pocklington nearly had a stroke. She dashed to the record player and I think scratched the record trying to get the needle off to that loud sound of the needle being dragged across the vinly. The whole class had huge smiles on their faces. It was one of the best music lessons I ever had. Steppenwolf.

I was into photography from an early age. I took my camera, grabbed David Kerely and said let’s go when the bell rang. The window behind Kerley was Pocklington’s class on the day of the musical cultural event horizon!

The next year there was another event. Down the road was a drive in movie theater called The Lone Star. We never actually drove in because we were under age and the Lone Star only showed pornographic movies at the time. But we would steal Kent McKinney’s mother’s blue mustang (we were 12) and drive over and park in a lot on the other side of the fence just far enough back for a full close up view of the screen. That was the beginning of my becoming an amatuer gynocologist. I am glad I did not answer that calling (my parents wanted me to be a doctor) because it would have ruined it for me. Too much of a good thing. You need balance and need to take everything in moderation.

But there was another drive-in. And for the life of me I can’t remember the name. But we had heard that there was a cool new movie coming out that we wanted to see. So, Kent’s sister Michelle drove, Kent was in the front of the Mustang and I can’t remember who the three were in the back and then myself and two others were in the trunk. That’s how we did it back then. So, we had our Annie Green Springs wine, a matchbox of birdseed, grass stems and oregano that Kenny Hill had sold us for $3, pretend pot and several packs of Marlboro cigarettes. Ready to go!

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