"I moved to Eugene, a college town in Oregon in 1977, as a young songwriter and guitarist, and began playing at local coffee houses and concert venues there. At a Eugene coffee house called The Home Fried Truck Stop (which no longer exists), I heard an amazing percussionist and recorder player named Jeff Stier playing with an acoustic trio. When I played at the same place a week later he was in attendance, and I asked him if he was interested in performing with me in the future. He had a friend at the time, Rachel Laderman, a classical flautist and daughter of the classical composer Ezra Laderman. Thus The Tree People came into being.
After a year or so of performing and practicing as a group, we went into a studio in the woods called Rockin' A Ranch (which also doesn't exist anymore, but the engineer Michael Ayling, now Michael Brewer, is still involved in music). James Thornbury, a Eugene blues musician at the time, joined us on bass and background vocals and played slide guitar on the last song. We recorded the entire album in one summer weekend at the Rockin' A Ranch. I remember Michael's wife Linda bringing us fresh warm cookies at one point in the proceedings. I recall a new born baby in the house. I remember the feeling of waking up in that A-frame studio in the woods knowing that this was where I was supposed to be: surrounded by good musicians and good people and creating music.
Because my two children were very young at the time, and because Jeff had work commitments (he was a bike mechanic and then a car mechanic during those years) and Rachel was attending the University of Oregon, we never thought about touring. But we did perform all the time in Eugene: at coffee houses , outdoor market places , concert venues, local festivals and live radio shows. Rachel moved away when she finished school, but me and Jeff kept performing as The Tree People, with various guest musicians, for about 7 years. We made one more recording as The Tree People, a cassette called Human Voices. Jeff eventually moved to Washington D.C. to work for a U.S. congressman, and The Tree People came to an end.
"I just remembered one other thing about the history of The Tree People album. Soon after it was released I sent a copy to a record company in Seattle on the recommendation of my engineer. The people at the company loved it, and wanted to press additional copies and market it across the United States through college radio stations. They even sent me a preliminary contract. But before they could do anything with it, there was an economic recession in the United States (this was now the early 1980's), especially in the northwest United States, and the company decided to put the whole project on the shelf. By the time things got better economically the A&R person from that record company had left the music business entirely and was selling real estate, and the deal was effectively dead. "
"Some memories about some of the venues that The Tree People played around the time of the album:
The Home Fried Truckstop was not really a truckstop but a cooperatively run coffee house and restaurant near the University of Oregon that had a nice wooden stage and featured music 7 days a week. If someone was passing through town and asked where they could hear some music, The Home Fried Truckstop would be the place they would hear about. It attracted students, professors, working people, people passing through, people hanging out, artists, musicians, people in the community- there was always an audience there. Sunday brunches always drew the biggest crowds and I remember playing there on many a Sunday morning, letting our music merge with the sounds of plates and muted conversations and scattered applause, walking out back during breaks and looking out at the hills in the distance, and then eating the breakfast that came with the gig afterwards of eggs and homefried potatoes with band members and friends.
The Loft was a short lived venue a few blocks from the Home Fried Truckstop that was a loft perched on the second floor of an old wooden building and provided an intimate concert setting for local folk and jazz performers and theater groups. We did several concerts there and I remember the winding staircase leading up to The Loft, the good acoustics with the music bouncing off the wooden walls, and the good audience of listeners that made it up the staircase when we played there.
In July of 1979 we played in the woods east of Eugene near Elmira, Oregon on the main stage of the Oregon Country Fair, a counter-culture festival like no other (which still happens for 3 days every July) that features music, arts and crafts booths, vaudeville performers, marching bands in colorful states of dress and undress, stilt walkers, fire-swallowers, drummers, buskers, and what have you. In our short set there we did some of the pieces that we would record on the Tree People album a month later down the same road further into the Coast Range at the Rockin' A Ranch in Greenleaf, Oregon. That main stage overlooked a field, and I remember playing a song I was working on called "Fields of Light"("I had a most wonderful dream, dreamt I was in a field, everything was just so bright, and the warm wind blew ever so nice") that we recorded at The Tree People session but didn't end up using on the album. I do remember someone approaching me years later and telling me he had recorded that set at the Oregon Country Fair on a little tape recorder and still listened to "Fields of Light" on occasion.
We played at the Eugene Saturday market, an outdoor marketplace with food, arts and crafts and music that still goes on every week in Eugene. And I remember us playing at an event at the Erb Memorial Student Union at the University of Oregon soon after we released the album and selling all of the albums we brought with us that day during and after our set.
We also put on some of own concerts at various settings, including art galleries and The Eugene Garden Club (which, yes, was a real garden club that you could rent for events).
We did several live radio performances on the local NPR station KLCC's Music from the Center program, which was recorded live from the WOW Hall (a local concert and event venue in Eugene which still is around.) And when The Tree People Album came out, the whole album was played on a KLCC show called From the Leff Side (Howie Leff was the host of the show). I never met Howie Leff until a few years later when we each were coaching our sons in a 5th grade basketball league.
That's the way I remember Eugene back then- we all were just living our lives, music was a big part of it- and that seemed to be enough in that college town back then.
But The Tree People still live! In the last few years I have been getting e-mails about and orders for that 1979 vinyl album,The Tree People, from all over the world. Here in Portland, Oregon, I have placed The Tree People album at Jackpot Records, which has two Portland locations. The people at Jackpot Records have been very enthusiastic about the record and to my suprise they have been selling! I was down to just a few of the original vinyl copies, when I found out there were 25 more in Ezra Laderman's house (Rachel's father) in Cape Cod. My son Oryx and his wife Kristin picked them up there for me and sent them to me. As soon as they arrived Jackpot Records bought half, a man in Seattle bought the other half, so now I am back again to just a few personal copies.
But when I told the owner of Jackpot Records, Isaac Slusarenko, that I am now down to just a few Tree People albums, he told me that Jackpot Records would like to be the company doing the re-issue. It is an album they and their customers like, an album with a history and a story behind it, and an album he feels they can get to more people around the world this time around. So on September 8th, 2005, I signed a record deal with Isaac and Jackpot Records, and they will be releasing and distributing the re-issue of The Tree People album as a CD in the spring of 2006!
The Missing Side!
"I've been searching and searching for that missing side and I haven't found it yet. I also just called and e-mailed Michael (the original engineer) in Eugene to see if he has anything stored away from that long ago project. I'll keep looking and let you know as soon as I come up with anything. If we can't find that missing side, can that side be made using the actual vinyl?
I'm going to go back down to the cellar now to look again!" Stephen
I don't have anything from that era. I would have givin up the masters to you. Probably a 1/2 track stereo master and 15 ips. Sorry but congrats on the re-release." Michael Brewer
If you can't find the reel for side one, can you find the original 2 inch master? We can remix the tapes to match the sound like the sound of the side 2 of the album. As far as transfering off vinyl, we won't be able to because after listening to the vinyl and the master tape I noticed that there is a slight echo on the entire vinyl mix that is not on the master tape, and the quality of the side from the vinyl would come close to matching the quality of the side from the master. But the good news is that we were all able to get all of side 2 taken care of today and it sounded fantastic!!!! Let me know what you find out about the missing tapes." Isaac
Some stories have their twists and turns, and now the Tree People story has taken another turn. I gave Isaac of Jackpot Records what I believed to be the two master tapes for that first Tree People album. But Isaac discovered that while one tape was side two of The Tree People,
the second tape was actually a master from our second recording, Human Voices. I have searched and searched but so far I have found only 2" track tapes from that second Tree People project, and no tapes from the album in question, the first Tree People album. So the story of the missing side goes on: I am checking on several houses that I lived in the last 26 years and searching our house now, but so far nothing. If this was something I recorded recently on CD, there would be no problem, since the digital process retains the same quality in the copies as in the masters, but that is not the case with an old vinyl project: we must have the original master on tape to proceed. So the search for side one continues!
The missing master of side could not be found, but the reissue will still happen in 2006 because of this new development:
Jackpot steps out, Tiliqua steps in:
Subject: Little question from Tokyo
Dear Mr Stephen Cohen,
Please forgive me to barge in like this. I guess you receive rantings like this mail on a fairly regular basis but I thought I would give it a try. Recently, I got my hands on a copy of the Tree People from a contact I have in Seattle Washington. He suggested it to me and I followed his
recommendation. The end result is that I am hooked to the disc now. Just plain fantastic.
I wondered if you still have some copies of the LP available and if so if you are willing to part of them since I have some musician friends here who would love to have a copy. I would be grateful if you had any. Next thing I wanted to ask is weather there is a reissue of this disc in the works or not. If not, my label Tiliqua Records would love to restore the album to its former glory, on LP as well as CD (CD housed in a mini-sizedcarton LP jacket - no plastic cases of course). Please let me know if you might be interested in a project like that. I hope to hear from you soon, and until then I continue to spin my just found copy with much pleasure.
Thanks you for the nice music,
Johan Wellens - Tiliqua Records
Please do let me know what Jackpot decides. I do certainly not want to intrude Jackpot's intentions and hope they are willing to reissue the album. Only if they back down, I will be more than interested to step in. Of course I am interested in releasing the Tree People, even if the original master doesn't show up. Of course I hope it does show up and that Jackpot Records reissues it. Stuff like this have to get out, it is just too beautiful. Working with only a vinyl copy as source is fine, I have another project scheduled that is similar, one master survived, one went missing over the years. But it is the music that counts so I really do not mind, it gives it even an extra edge?(remember to pre-war blues recordings they reissue now, all crackling and dusty sounding, it does not affect the quality of the music).
Johan Wellens - Tiliqua Records
I am sorry to hear that Jackpot Records steps out of the project, but then again I am more than happy to step in. I just love the music and that is the main driving force of my label. Until now I have released only Japanese artists but I was already for a long time on the look out in order to include European and US artists on the label's roster. Only problem was that there is not so much stuff out there that make me go wild. But then I heard the Tree People record and I went ballistic. While everyone is raving about Six Organs, Tower recordings and that kind of bands I discovered that you were doing basically similar stuff but only way ahead of everyone else so I was so (and still am) so excited!! Hell, even my 2 year old daughter loves it.
Johan Wellens - Tiliqua Records
Sometimes waiting becomes part of the process:
Waiting for the reissue:
I really enjoyed your chronicle of the Tree People LP... I don't suppose you ever turned up any additional copies of the record since your last post? I would love to get a copy if you have any to spare.
Thanks again for all the info -
Dear Mr. Cohen,
I'm a composer/performer, originally from Belgium, based in Tokyo. Some people around
me have been raving about your Tree People album, but so far I haven't been able to
locate a copy of it. Would you happen to have any (well, one will do fine) left?
Thanks in advance - best wishes for 2006,
when is the tree people album being reissued on cd? i'm
- Chris W., a fan
Dear Mr Cohen,
Let me start off that the Tree People is of course still on.
The recent months have been extremely busy on this side.
Once I am back from Belgium, which will be at the end of March
I will make work of the Tree people reissue. For starters
I think of starting off with a CD reissue, housed in a fold out
jacket with liners and obi. If that moves smoothly a limited
Lp version will follow. So if all goes well I hope it to be in
print by June - July.
Thanks again and till soon,
And today, April 15th, 2006, Johan Wellens, the owner of
Tiliqua Records called me at my home here in Oregon from Japan
and we had a nice conversation about the reissue. He sees it
now being ready by July or August of 2006.