I spent a few days in Berkeley with Glenn in 2017, where he lived for most of his life. It was apparent that he was a musician from the start – the first thing we did was listen in awe to the Vertical Voices recording of Maria Schneider’s compositions, on an incredible stereo that had its own back story: They were given as gifts to members of a studio house band Glenn was in, after an executive got a line on them following a record label meeting in Germany — something like that. I’m messing up all the details, but it was a fantastic amplifier/speaker set I’d never heard of, before or since, and we let the recording run. Did he invent the gig bag? Uh, yeah, pretty much.
I don’t think we talked much about the bags probably until the middle of the week, a day after Glenn drove in to San Francisco to hear Maria Schneider and her band, while I was next door checking out the San Francisco Symphony for the first time (I went to college with their extraordinary first bassist, Scott Pingel, and my tix were free. Ha!).
Turns out, he learned to sew as a kid, on a farm in Indiana or Illinois, if I recall, and even made some stick bags way back. 60-some years later, he estimated that he had designed about 15,000 patterns. Some were in his basement, some in his stable, most in his warehouse, and we got to digging through things by Thursday the week I was out. At one point, Glenn found himself crawling around in the rafters at his Oakland, CA factory looking for something I’d need — while I was having an Oakland Stroke down below. He assured me he would not fall, “something something about having trained as a trapeze artist.”
Wait. Huh. WHAT?!
He told me about a circus act that wintered on a farmstead near where he grew up — Not the Flying Wallendas, but close enough. He became friends with a circus kid who lived there, and the family taught Glenn how to … uhh … trapeze, I guess. He wasn’t joking about any of it, decades later, walking across a rough hewn beam 14 feet in the air without any safety nets, while I was trying to decide if I’d try to break his inevitable fall or not. Thankfully, he got down well enough and we got back to sorting the leather I’d end up buying.
Ask me about the historic landmark Wells Fargo stable in his back yard sometime. It’s the shed he shipped out of, and where he made his patterns, and smoked the cigarettes that were causing a pretty ferocious cough as we talked through the details of transferring his life’s work to Minneapolis.
I’ll see if I can’t remember more of the stories down the road apiece. There were plenty. Maybe the one about drawing the first tenor bag ever made around his friend Lenny Pickett’s Selmer. Or the fact that David Garibaldi was his roommate way back. Or that Glenn played on some of the Peanuts sessions, and was in both Journey and Jefferson Starship before they were either. Or that a young Jimi Hendrix used to hang out 2 or 3 doors down from Glenn’s house. Or that one of his handbags was central to an episode of Fantasy Island.
For now, though, I just want you to know that it’s good that Glenn knew leather goods.