John Cassady Interview: Odds and Ends

Pat Gallagher went to Lowell recently, and took this photo of Jack Kerouac’s grave. She’d placed Neal’s two posthumous books, “The First Third” (his unfinished autobiography) and “Grace Beats Karma” (his letters from Prison) on the gravestone, and I found this reuniting of the two old friends, who’d died a year apart, pretty touching.

I enjoyed working on this interview very much. What I liked best was that none of the three of us, John or Pat or myself, knew what we wanted to get out of the project. Most of the time we even forgot that we were supposed to be conducting an interview, and just had a good time exchanging friendly insults (Pat was pretty good at this, though I am the champ) or chatting about our mundane and, sometimes, not-so-mundane lives.

What is here is only a sample of the conversations I saved — many of them were interesting but not relevant enough to include in the “real” interview. Like this exchange, which took place after John and I discovered we were both into Marx Brothers movies:

John: Duck Soup is my favorite. A buddy and I opened an alternative cinema in a college town in ’72 and showed all of them as well as W.C. Fields, Laurel and Hardy, etc. Two shows per night for a week; I saw them all 14 times each and know every line.

Me: That’s great. My favorite was prob. Horsefeathers, like when Groucho is in the canoe with Thelma Todd and she says “will big strong man give icky baby the bad little football signals?” and he says “Was that you or the duck? Because if it was you I’m going to finish the ride with the duck?”

John: And then he sings “Everyone Says ‘I Love You'” while accompanying himself on guitar, at which he was quite proficient, a
leftover from their old vaudeville acts. He used surprisingly sophisticated diminished chords as passing phrases in that arrangement (not that I studied it or anything) and of course finishes by throwing the guitar into the lake, argh! But showing future Pete Townshends how it’s done. Chico’s version of the song had a great line: “The great big mosquito and-a he sting you” (had to have been there). Zeppo turned it into a torch ballad, and of course Harpo ripped it up on the harp.
Horsefeathers was indeed a classic I had (almost) forgotten.

I don’t know if anybody will fully believe this, but I knew all about those diminished chords.

Anyway, here are some Neal and Neal-related links from the rest of my web pages.

My Neal Cassady Page

“Cassidy’s Tale” by John Perry Barlow

Ken Schumacher’s Cassady Quest

John Cassady’s Letter about Jerry Garcia

Yet another interview
with John Cassady, this time with his two sisters, conducted by Bill
Horbaly, who is also a member of the extended Cassady family.

“On The Road”

My Carolyn Cassady Page

My Jack Kerouac Page

My Ken Kesey Page

Another “Beat Child”: Parrot Fever, a Story by Jan Kerouac

* * * * *

This is the fourth part of the four-part John Cassady Interview.

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