Saturday, 25 May 2024

CyberSoulMan: Tee Dot Journalism (The Formative Years)

T. Watts at the KPFZ microphone. Courtesy photo.



…at the age of eight I was livin’ in the haight-

ashbury, if you prefer.

hangin’ with the flips, we wuz doin’ the dip

i was a stone cold procurer…

T. Watts, circa 1979

Though I was born in uh, San Fran Ditto, I spent many of my formative years in the East Bay – Oakland and Hayward.

The city was cool. We lived there until I was 10 years old.

I remember when my dad took me to the Boys Club in the Haight-Ashbury neighborhood we lived in and signed me up. I think I was in about the second grade.

Show and tell was a big thing then in the classroom. I remember sharing with my class about my new Boys Club membership. When I was done talking, an unusual thing happened. Every boy in the class got up and told the same story about how their dad had taken them to join the Boys Club. It was like some form of a mass hallucination or somethin’…

My dad also took me to Seals Stadium for my first baseball game experience. I was pretty young and pretty tiny. This was before the San Francisco Giants, Candlestick Park and Willie Mays. The minor league team called the San Francisco Seals played there. I was so small, the only visual recollection I have is seeing knees, grass, glimpses of uniformed ball players, more knees and more grass. Nonetheless, it was exciting. I stayed hooked on baseball a long, long time …

When I was 10 years old my folks moved us to North Oakland. They actually bought a property that contained a small mom and pop grocery store that was called Unity Grocery. The former owner was a man named Mr. Sweeny. He showed my parents the basics of grocering and bam, suddenly I was a 10-year-old grocery clerk after school and on weekends …

When I was about 11, I really started getting into music and record collecting. The first record I ever bought was, “Will You Love Me Tomorrow,” by the Shirelles. There was a record shop around the corner from our house called Ray Dobard’s Music City. Ray Dobard was an infamous entrepreneur. He managed a record label and production companies. He recorded many Rhythm & Blues performers on the East Bay scene. He also cheated many, if not all, of them.

One bargain Mr. Dobard did have was the $.59 special. On weekends he sold 45 rpm records for $.59 or two for a dollar. That was like half off the regular price. He also had artists of some stature do promotional appearances. I traipsed down to Music City when an appearance by Little Richard was advertised. I only knew a little bit about Little Richard at the time. I’d seen him jamming on Bandstand, heard “Tutti Frutti” and “Lucille” on the radio and was entranced.

As I recall I was at Music City when Little Richard arrived. As he exited the vehicle parked at the curb, rose and extended to his full height, I for one, was completely astounded for you see, Little Richard was no little dude. He stood about 6 feet 6 inches tall. Ah, the contradictions of show business and life in general. He was sharp though!

When I was 14, my parents had had enough of the grocery business and moved us to Hayward. Talk about culture shock. Though it was the middle of the school year, on Thursday my last day of school in Oakland I was a ninth grade, junior high schooler. The following Monday I was a freshman in high school. Took me a long time to process that quantum leap …

Shortly after I started legally driving at age 16, Ray Dobard opened up Music City No. 2 in East Oakland. My buddies and I would drive there on Sundays to get the latest sounds via the Music City $.59 specials. Plus, there was a really good lookin’ girl who clerked at Music City that I developed a major crush on. For the purposes of anonymity, she shall remain nameless for now.

The vernacular, my CyberSoulChildren, was different then. When a girl was good lookin’ , finer than fine, we would call her fwine in my neighborhood. So, it was with great, painstaking pleasure that I set about establishing a social relationship with this fwine clerkette at Music City No. 2.

One of our favorite pastimes as teenagers was figuring out where the parties were on the weekends. You didn’t necessarily need an invitation, just an address. Or an intersection even. We didn’t call them parties, we called them gigs. The question would be, “where’s the gig at?” So, after exchanging some crucial gig information with the clerkette and actually attending a couple of gigs that she was at, I proffered my heart to her at Music City one Sunday afternoon, my buddies in attendance.

In what has to be the most unrequited response to a lover’s question of all time, much to my consternation and the hilarious hoorah amusement of my buddies, she responded, “Oh, I that we were just giggin’ partnah’s.” Took me a long time to live that one down …

Some of you may be wonderin’ where on earth I got the title for today’s column. Many of you may remember Herb Caen, the Sackamenna Kid, longtime columnist for the San Francisco Chronicle. I used to read his column frequently. He had a pet phrase that he used. It was called three dot journalism. Hence that title of today’s column.

When I was about 20 years old and had fully developed furor scribendi (latin; rage for writing), I sauntered into the offices of what was then called The Daily Review in Hayward and boldly told the editor that I’d like to apply for a writing job at the newspaper. At some point during the interview I told him that I thought I could write a column at least as good as Herb Caen.

Of course, the editor looked at me crazily and the interview was soon over. At that time there were very few African American columnists in so-called mainstream media. There were of course plenty of them in African American journalistic ventures. But we hadn’t cracked the other code yet …

Oh, and that fractured quatrain of a hip hop lyric at the beginning of this piece. Just a little somethin’, somethin’ I wrote in my 20s. Seemed like a good fit …

Keep prayin’, Keep thinkin’ those kind thoughts!


Upcoming cool event:

Tallman Hotel/Blue Wing Saloon “Concert with Conversation” Boogie Woogie Queen Wendy DeWitt, Friday, April 24, 6 p.m. to 8:30 p.m., 9520 Main St., Upper Lake. 707-275-2233.

T. Watts is a writer, radio host and music critic. Visit his Web site at

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