Monday, February 20, 2017

Manson Family Connections to San Luis Obispo (CA) County

My bucolic home county of 13 years, San Luis Obispo, CA, is, strangely, an area of much Manson related activity.  The city of SLO (population 45,000) and SLO County (population 276,000) is located just about half way between Los Angeles and San Francisco, about a 3 ½ drive to either city.  It’s an area of gently rolling hills, beautiful beaches, and wineries.

The Manson connections are numerous.  Taking them somewhat chronologically:

BOBBY BEAUSOLEIL WAS ARRESTED HERE.
While on his way to SF, Beausoleil was arrested on 8/6/69.  He was driving Gary Hinman’s car, and the murder weapon was contained in the car.  Not too bright, our Bobby.  He was parked, probably napping, on the northbound side of the 101 freeway, about 100 yards from the “Cuesta Motel.”  Finding the exact location of the arrest has been challenging, because the Cuesta Motel is no longer extant.  The Chamber of Commerce has been able to provide me with the former location of the motel.  It’s now a real estate office, about half way up the Cuesta Grade, the hill that separates SLO from its north county bedroom communities of Atascadero, Paso Robles, etc. There is indeed a turnout about 100 yards south of the former motel.

The former Cuesta Motel

After his arrest, Beausoleil was taken to the SLO County Jail.  The location is the same now as it was then.  The building has been remodeled in the intervening years (no surprise), but I’m told that it looks nearly identical from the outside.

SLO County Jail today

TEX WATSON SPENT 90 DAYS AT ATASCADERO STATE HOSPITAL
When he was finally extradited to California, Watson refused to eat or communicate much, and they took him to ASH (one mile from my house) for observation and to force feed him.  ASH is a maximum-security facility that houses mentally ill criminals.  Security is at the highest level.  No one escapes, though staff members and inmates are injured with some regularity.  Notable inmates include Edward Allaway, who killed a bunch of people in the library at Cal State Fullerton in the 70s (while I was in the building), and Jim Gordon.  Gordon was a session drummer in L.A. and famously was the drummer in Derek and the Dominos, Eric Clapton’s band that recorded “Layla.”  He played both drums and piano on that track.  He was also on Joe Cocker’s famous Mad Dogs and Englishmen tour, played on Pet Sounds, and many more records.  In 1983, after hearing voices, attacked his mother with a hammer and a butcher knife, killing her.  People around town see Clapton every now and then, and the rumor is that he is here to visit Gordon.  In 2012, it was reported that Manson’s attorney, DeJon R. Lewis, wants Manson moved to ASH, because he needs treatment, not punishment.




Atascadero State Hospital


CALIFORNIA MEN’S COLONY
Beausoleil, Watson, and Bruce Davis spent varying lengths of time at this all-male facility.  Davis is still there.  Located on Hwy 1 between Cal Poly University and Cuesta College (where I teach), the prison opened in 1954.  Maximum capacity is 3800, but it presently houses 5100 inmates (all of California’s prisons are overcrowded.)  Security level is presently listed as “minimum to medium.”  Beausoleil was there for a time in the ‘90s.  Watson arrived in the 70s.  They moved him in ’93.  As I understand it, all three Manonites were working together in the chapel, and this was seen as a no-no, so they moved BB and CW, leaving Davis there.  Watson was married there and had his conjugal visits there.  BB’s wife lived near the prison while he was there.  Other well-known past inmates of CMC include Timothy Leary (who escaped), Charles Keating of banking scandal fame, Ike Turner for drug offenses, “Hollywood” Henderson, and the Black Panther Huey Newton.  Jim Gordon (see above) was at CMC for a time, until they figured out that he is insane and he was then sent to ASH.    Personal stories:  One of my retired colleagues took the Cuesta Jazz Ensemble to CMC in the 80s.  On arrival, my colleague was met by a prison representative, who introduced him to his “inmate escort” who would stay with the band, answer questions, etc.  The inmate offered his hand and said, “Hello, I’m Charles Watson.”  My colleague reports that a huge chill when down his spine, and he’s sure that both of the other men had to notice his reaction.  A few years ago, I had a CMC guard in a night class that I taught.  Of course, near the end of the semester, I asked her about Davis.  She said that she can’t say much about inmates (for obvious reasons), but she said that she could tell me that “Bruce is just a nice little old guy, a deep thinker, fun to talk to one-on-one but quiet in groups, good to everyone he encounters.”


California Men's Colony today



Doris Tate at CMC for a Watson parole hearing.  photo:  SLO Tribune

Watson parole hearing at CMC   photo: SLO Tribune

Watson preaching at the CMC chapel.  photo:  SLO Tribune

If any of you find yourself in our little corner of the world, please do make contact through this blog's administrators, and I’ll be happy to show you around.

Jenn  

46 comments:

St Circumstance said...

Thanks Jenn. In one of my very favorite movies - Sideways- one of the characters mentions she commutes to SLO. Otherwise I have never heard much about it.

Not a place filled with fond memories for the family lol but I'm sure a lovely little community all the same

:)

Panamint Patty said...

Jenn, you did much better than patty and stoner did in locating the cuesta motel. Thank you!

Robert C said...

Great little SLO-Manson Family connection down memory lane plus extra features ! Thanks.

Dreath said...

Jenn,

This is very cool. I love pictures and personal connections- makes it 'real'. Anyone else see a little Bates Motel in the Cuesta Motel?

Lynn said...

Thank you for posting this. I looked up Jim Gordon. Interesting career...his ex girlfriend being Rita Coolidge. He also played with Gene Clark (who was with the Byrds) and delaney and bonnie. Delaney used to live in my neck of the woods, I went to an estate sale at his house. You have inspired me to do a mansion connect the dots where I live. I love SLO....beautiful area.

lostgirl said...

Really enjoyed this post. Thx!

Dreath said...

Rita Coolidge, Gene Clark and Delaney and Bonnie- that might be a trifecta.

Lynn, please do!

Mr. Humphrat said...

Thanks Jenn. I went to Cal Poly for a year and it was so beautiful. Another student told me one day that her family had been held hostage by an escaped inmate a day or two earlier and they were actually able to get him to talk to them, pray with them and give himself up! I don't know which prison he was from, but must have been CMC, since the Atascadero is too secure according to your article.

I didn't know Jim Gordon was at Atascadero! Derek and the Dominoes' Layla and other Love Songs is one of my favorite albums. That's very cool if Clapton goes to visit him. I thought drugs had driven him crazy, but Wikipedia says he had severe undiagnosed schizophrenia. And it says he beat his girlfriend Rita Coolidge while on Joe Cocker tour, ending their relationship. I think Clapton may be the only member alive and not in prison.

St Circumstance said...

Graham Nash once stole Rita Coolidge from Stephen Stills for a few minutes...

Lynn said...

It almost ruined their friendship. Rita is fond of Graham but Stephen, not so much. According to Dallas Taylor, Graham also slept with John Sebastian's wife. Dallas was not a Graham fan at all.

St Circumstance said...

Dallas was Stephens right hand man. It bothered Neil as well a bit from what I have read.

St Circumstance said...

I also read when Graham told Stephen - stills tried to spit on him.

Fiddy 8 said...

Rita Coolidge wrote the piano coda in Layla and never got credit.

St Circumstance said...

Yeah I read that too. Talented lady and quite the looker lol

St Circumstance said...

I once read an article - or watched a TV special- I can't remember which...

That said they use no weapons at Atascadero. They patients are so drugged up they don't need them.

Hard to imaging a place where Charlie was had no guns at all. But I'm pretty sure I heard that somewhere.

Jenn said...

Thanks everyone for the nice comments. I've just always found it interesting that our little area has so many Manson connections.

A couple of comments on the comments:
- Manson was never at Atascadero. His lawyer wants to have him sent there.
- It's true that guards at ASH don't carry weapons.
- It's true that the inmates are quite doped up at all times, at least most of them are.
- Yes, Jim beat Rita, and yes, she was cheated out of songwriting credits on Layla, in most people's opinion. She credits that to her relative star level at the time, and sexism.
- Yes, Nash was/is quite the horndog.
- The whole Laurel Canyon scene from the 60s/70s is so interesting. I go there several times a year, looking for the houses and just catching the vibe. The thought of all of those people sitting on their porch jamming, writing, etc just 5 minutes from the Sunset Strip is amazing. People must not have known, or they would be driving around up there all the time! Or, it was just different times. Anyway, so interesting. If you have a good arm, you can literally through a rock from Zappa's house to Joni Michell's, for example. And they are just a block off of Laurel Canyon Blvd, which crosses the 101 freeway and Sunset Blvd. It must have been amazing.

St Circumstance said...

Thanks again Jenn. I always thought Charlie did spend some time at that Hospital but I stand corrected. It still amazes me they have no guns there...

I agree totally. I went to the country store by myself on my last trip out to LA. I drank a six in front then walked around trying to imagine back in the day.

I just love it in that area. Will be back this May :)

Jenn said...

Saint, while at the Canyon Store, you were across the street from Zappa's house (the lot, actually. The house burned down), and about 100 steps from Jim Morrison's house, where he would sit in the bathtub and write songs. :-)

Logan said...

I find it really interesting that watson, beausoleil & davis all worked/lived in the same prison & spent time with one another. I know it's been discussed on this site many times before, but their prison relationships seem like a part of the history which is seldom mentioned.
I wonder what they would talk about when they worked in the chapel...I guess it makes sense that they'd be friendly with one another, though. Prison seems like an unimaginably lonely, depressing & brutal place, so I'd guess friendly faces you knew on the outside would be welcome in such a negative setting.
It makes me wonder, though...IF the "free bobby" motive has any (or total) validity, I wonder if that subject ever came up in prison chapel conversations between Bobby, Bruce & Watson...
It certainly seems to me that if Tex & Co killed all of those people to get the heat off of Bobby, then that would affect Bobby n Tex's relationship greatly during their time working together in SL Obispo.
Great post Jenn! Like St said, I love seeing photos of TLB-related locales as they exist today. Really reminds me that the ghosts of the past linger everywhere humans have dared to tread!

Lynn said...

If you go, right next to the canyon market is Pace Restaurant. Will definitely give you that 60s vibe. Organically grown and quite good.

St Circumstance said...

I went by those lots Jenn lol " Love Street" I have read, was the area across the street from the Canyon Store where Pamela lived when Jim met her and wrote that song about it?

I have read about the " Log Cabin" and own a book by Micheal Walker about the Canyon- who still lives in the Canyon- and is sold at the counter at the Country Store.

Laurel Canyon is a surreal place to me. Every time I have been there the weather has been perfect and I love catching a buzz and walking around listening for the sounds of what had to be the most magical time in musical History. I love the Dead and that whole scene too- but I like to drink and smoke- not trip so much- so the LA scene has always been a little lore interesting to me....

But I dig it all lol

Mr. Humphrat said...

I forgot another bit of trivia on Jim Gordon can be seen in a movie on Netflix about the Incredible Bongo Band, which he played some sessions with. A lot of rap/hip hop records took snippets off the band's instrumental "Apache". Very interesting movie.

grimtraveller said...

Logan said...

I find it really interesting that watson, beausoleil & davis all worked/lived in the same prison & spent time with one another....I wonder what they would talk about when they worked in the chapel...I guess it makes sense that they'd be friendly with one another, though. Prison seems like an unimaginably lonely, depressing & brutal place, so I'd guess friendly faces you knew on the outside would be welcome in such a negative setting

Well, at one of his parole hearings back in the 90s {I think '93} Bruce talked of how he liked Charles Watson and described them as good friends. Both men had been Christians at that point for coming up for 20 years and were brothers in Christ.....
This is that same parole hearing in which Bruce said he didn't think Tex should be let out and very firmly placed him not only at the scene of Shorty's murder, but as the striker of one of the blows, maybe even the first blow, if my memory serves me right.

It makes me wonder, though...IF the "free bobby" motive has any (or total) validity, I wonder if that subject ever came up in prison chapel conversations between Bobby, Bruce & Watson...

I don't know if they ever did cross paths in the same prison with Bobby or if they did, when, but Bobby had this to say in an interview that is dated "1998/9":
Michael Moynihan: There is an assertion from some people involved that the other murders were done in an effort to get you out of jail, by creating crime scenes that were similar in order to give the impression that Hinman's killers were still at large, and to thereby take the blame off of you. Now, this may have been very naive thinking, but in some ways that actually makes more sense than the "Helter Skelter" theory.

Bobby: I suppose it does, but I don't think it's true. Maybe that was in someone's mind, but I really don't think it was the motive or the reason, because I actually was not that close to those people—

Michael Moynihan: That somebody would go to those lengths to try to free you?

Bobby: Yes. For the most part I didn't command that much loyalty from them. I think that it was an attempt to put a noble face on something that was really pretty hard to explain, which probably didn't make a whole lot of sense. There was the house, which at one point belonged to Terry Melcher, who owed Manson about $5,000—at least that's the figure I've heard—for a song that the Beach Boys had recorded and he didn't get paid for. There were reasons why the people in that house were picked, and I think it was believed that Terry Melcher still lived there. But this is territory that I really have no business getting into, because I have no idea what really happened. It's second-hand, third-hand, fourth-hand information really.

Which doesn't suggest that he believed the copycat.

grimtraveller said...

Which doesn't suggest that he believed the copycat

Or that at any point any of the Family said "we did this to get you out, Bobby !"

Logan said...

It certainly seems to me that if Tex & Co killed all of those people to get the heat off of Bobby, then that would affect Bobby n Tex's relationship greatly during their time working together in SL Obispo

Although Bobby intimated to OUI magazine in the early 80s that the copycat was so, later on in the 20th century, we find this exchange on his website:
Questioner: Are you aware that your incarceration caused the sharon tate killings?

Bobby: If you believe that you would go for fried ice cream. I think they're selling some of that around the corner.

Does anyone know for sure if Bobby was ever incarcerated in the same place at the same time as Bruce or Tex ?

St Circumstance said...

Bobby and Clem played music together in the clink.

grimtraveller said...

St Circumstance said...

I love the Dead and that whole scene too

Musically and socially that was a fascinating period in rock history. At one point when he thought LSD was the way to go, John Lennon got it into his head to up sticks and move to Haight Ashbury, which he thought was a kind of paradise. Paul went to the West coast and conceived the idea for "Magical mystery tour" when he heard about the Merry Pranksters and George went to the Haight expecting a Hippy paradise and was turned off by what he saw going on there. And this during the summer of love too. That was what fired his decision to stop taking acid. Those three Beatles were either "spiritually" or actually connected with the kind of scenes that were the centrepiece of the West coast at that time and there was a bouncing back between California and the Beats, expressed, not least with the Family. In the end, once the acid dream descended into militancy and protest fired political action, those three Beatles all transferred their allegiance to the East coast with Harrison hanging with Dylan & the Band and others, McCartney marrying Linda and the connections they brought and Lennon actually living the last 9 or 10 years of his life in New York.
That was totally off topic and was me doing some rambling without editing ! What I really meant to say was that The Grateful Dead's "Blues for Allah" album cover is one of my favourites ever from an era when the covers were almost as important as the music. The title is something more in keeping with a British band of the times.

Lynn said...

Gene Clark (who was with the Byrds)

In my opinion, the first great American songwriter of the rock/pop era, even more so than Dylan though nowhere near as consistent, prolific, daring or influential. In fact, 'influential' isn't a term I've ever seen or heard applied to him. Sadly underrated.

Mr. Humphrat said...

I didn't know Jim Gordon was at Atascadero

I thought he was in the medical facility Charlie used to be in, Vacaville. Apparently, he's still deemed as dangerous if not taking his medication and he doesn't like taking it. I've known people with various mental health concerns including members of my own family and no one I know likes taking the medication. They all say the effects are almost unbearable after a while. For some, their episodes that occur when not taking become almost a respite.
Apparently, Jim Gordon used to get taken terrible advantage of by other inmates because he gets pretty good royalties from "Layla." He'd be hit up for money and he'd just give it. I hate stories like that.

Jenn said...

Yes, Jim beat Rita, and yes, she was cheated out of songwriting credits on Layla, in most people's opinion. She credits that to her relative star level at the time, and sexism

It would appear that the main beneficiaries of the 60s sexual revolution were the blokes. They no longer had to worry about having to marry someone if their sex partner fell pregnant ! And on the other hand, you had the "group marriage" situation of the Family with not a contraceptive in sight but still falling in favour of the men. Talk about a "win~win."

St Circumstance said...

I confused Vacaville and Atascadero lol.

I knew Charlie was at one of them. Do they use guns at Vacaville?

St Circumstance said...

Never mind I just looked it up. I had read about both and just got them mixed up lol

Jenn said...

Charlie was at Vacaville before his present location, Gordon is at Atascadero. Yes, guns at Vacaville for sure.

Logan said...
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Lapinot said...
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Lapinot said...
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Lapinot said...

I'm generally less comfortable with the Californian scene than with what was happening in England or in France (where Serge Gainsbourg, Francoise Hardy, Jacques Dutronc, Michel Polnareff etc. were following their own distinctive paths) but California produced some of my favourite songs.

Lapinot said...

grimtraveller said...

Gene Clark (who was with the Byrds)

In my opinion, the first great American songwriter of the rock/pop era, even more so than Dylan though nowhere near as consistent, prolific, daring or influential. In fact, 'influential' isn't a term I've ever seen or heard applied to him. Sadly underrated.

A wonderful songwriter and singer, sadly plagued by his demons. For the uninitiated, 'For a Spanish Guitar': https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=xXkr94anfPE

I'm often interested in the one who left (or was left) along the way (Brian Jones, Syd Barrett, John Cale, Brian Eno).

That's probably partly sentimentality (and in some cases their departures were caused by personal problems which shouldn't be romanticised) but I think there's a lot to be said for those who don't quite fit in.

St Circumstance said...

I read Graham Nash's latest autobiography. He did a good job of painting a picture of the music scene in Europe for me. It was very interesting and very cool at the time I bet.

Syd Barrett is an amazing story but sad

Lynn said...

Speaking of Gene Clark, there was a tribute on Wednesday in NY and one this Saturday in Pasadena: The songs of Gene Clark: A 50th Anniversary Celebration. His son, Kai, will be performing.

St Circumstance said...

If you’re searching for the perfect example of a cultish (and long-dead) singer-songwriter, Gene Clark likely won’t be the first name that comes to mind. His story is tragic but not like Nick Drake’s story is tragic. He wrote sad songs but not like how Townes Van Zandt wrote sad songs. He was a pioneer of mixing rock with country, but Gram Parsons is already the guy most associated with that. He had a lot of famous friends, but Harry Nilsson’s Rolodex was more impressive

Old photos, captured during a flash of mid-’60s pop stardom when Clark briefly fronted the Byrds, show him almost too handsome to credibly play the antihero. He looks instead like a chastened former high school quarterback, all angular facial lines and perfectly mussed-up hair and mournful eyes. Some musicians are so singular they can only hope to ever be understood by a select number of people. Clark at first glance seems like he had it all and somehow screwed it all up.

St Circumstance said...
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Lynn said...

A really good read and to understand Gene better, I recommend reading "Mr. Tambourine Man: The life and legacy of the Byrds' Gene Clark" by John Einarson. Mr. Einarson is a wonderful writer who researches his subjects thoroughly. It's a fun ride and read. He also wrote a great book on The Buffalo Springfield.

grimtraveller said...

St Circumstance said...

If you’re searching for the perfect example of a cultish (and long-dead) singer-songwriter, Gene Clark likely won’t be the first name that comes to mind

I agree. But he'd nonetheless be a good choice. There's plenty in rock to choose from.

His story is tragic but not like Nick Drake’s story is tragic

I think a case could be made for Clark being the first rock acid casualty, even before Syd Barrett. Difference between those two was that Clark managed to get out of psychedelia and at least function for some years while Syd imploded and never managed to find his way out of that uncharted zone of inner space. His songs just got worse.
Both Clark an Barrett were a tragic waste. They were the main writers in their respective bands and their songs were of such high quality that they still resonate now and they goaded their bandmates into becoming good writers as well. While it is universally recognized that Pink Floyd would never have gotten off the ground without Barrett, I think Clsrk's influence on the rest of the Byrds' story has been somewhat marginalized. He didn't write that many songs but the ones he did were, ah, propulsive.

He was a pioneer of mixing rock with country, but Gram Parsons is already the guy most associated with that

Even before Parsons was doing that, Mike Nesmith was doing that with, would you believe, the Monkees. Come to think of it, as early as 1964, The Beatles were chucking in a country feel on both the "Hard days night" and "Beatles for sale" albums, though it kind of came out as being something completely other, as per their usual idiosyncratic bent.

Lynn said...

Don't forget Chris Hillman of the Byrds, who started out in a bluegrass band and wrote a couple of country flavored songs for the Byrds, including "time between" and "the girl with no name". He, along with Gram Parsons, was a founder of The flying Burrito brothers. He also went on to play in the amazing super group, Manassas, founded by Stephen Stills.

St Circumstance said...

By the way Grim that last comment wasn't mine. I copy and pasted it. I started to pilot the whole thread I read up and credit the person who wrote it but I had to run out. Now I can't remember where I saw it lol

starviego said...

For what it's worth, Charlie almost certainly would have passed through San Luis Obispo on his way to and from the Esalen Institute at Big Sur, which is another 100 miles up the coast on Highway 1.

Zelda Formaldehyde said...

Thanks to Jenn for the interesting thread. It's fun to see how aspects of this sprawling story have changed (or not changed) relative to 1969. Funny to see this thread today ... I was just listening to Gene Clark's White Light last night. And lastly, I'd recoil at Tex also .... thinking what those hands had done.

starviego said...

Charlie told some in the Family that he was headed to Big Sur to pick up new recruits. But couldn't he have found more young loves closer to home? And then about 48 hours later, Bobby is on the same road, going in the same direction. Coincidence? I wonder if they weren't planning on meeting up somewhere up north. Maybe Bobby had been told to hold on the knife because he might be needing it.

Sanders has Charlie hanging out in Big Sur for a couple of days, AFTER his appearance at Esalen, like maybe he was waiting for someone. OO-ee-OO!

grimtraveller said...

BOBBY BEAUSOLEIL WAS ARRESTED HERE.
While on his way to SF, Beausoleil was arrested on 8/6/69. He was driving Gary Hinman’s car, and the murder weapon was contained in the car


starviego said...

And then about 48 hours later, Bobby is on the same road, going in the same direction. Coincidence? I wonder if they weren't planning on meeting up somewhere up north

Yeah, Charlie bought some petrol not far from where Bobby was arrested. But let's not turn this coincidence into a happening of significance. I mean, San Luis Obispo is an area they must have all driven through loads of times on the way to Frisco or some of the other towns in and around their sphere. They were young and free and travelled the spaceways.