Canned Heat

I was held up as a clerk in a 7-11 in the summer of '67 in Salinas, California. The perp had a 22 revolver and a nylong stocking over his head obscuring his face. His accomplice waited in the car, engine running (I assume), out of view of the front store windows. First of two places they hit that night. Another 7-11 robbed half an hour later in Santa Cruz. I was 17 at the time.

He walks in about 8 PM at night, points the gun at my belly and says "give me all the money in the cash register or I'll blow your fucking head off." So I did, and he left.

Apparently the criminals were above average. They must have watched and waited until there were no cars pulled up in front, so when the robber walked in, there was only one customer in the store, local radio DJ Mark Sherry (his radio name, I've forgotten his real name), who lived down (east) and across San Miguel Avenue in an apartment and walked to the 7-11 store occasionally. So when the police arrived, I overheard who he was and we got to be friends. He was about 10 years older than I, and I went with him on a couple of occasions to things like judging "battle of the bands" and beach rock concerts (Youngbloods was one).

Also in the store at the time were two of my friends in high school, hanging out. The robber ordered everyone to lie down on the floor behind the counter while I filled a paper sack with money and checks. Even the pennies! They got several hundred, and lifted the wallets of the other three. I got to keep mine, probably an oversight on the thief's part.

Anyway, Mark Humphries (with whom I still correspond from time to time), Steve Clasmeyer (dated and lived with Georgie Deighton, Len Deighton's (the author's) neice) and Bobby Katner used to hang out and have various adventures. Mark is dying of liver failure from hepatitis C, and Steve died a few years ago from the same thing. Both got it from shooting heroin. Lucky I got out of town when I did, eh?

Anyway, Mark, Steve, and I used to hang out and listen to music. Some of our hippie/biker friends turned us on to Canned Heat's first album (Boogie with Canned Heat) and we would drink wine and pass around joints. We liked On the Road Again, and played it for Mark Sherry. He played the single on the Salinas top 40 station, and the next thing I know Canned Heat has a hit single (On the Road Again, short version) and is touring California. They played the gymnasium at the Salinas community college, Hartnel. I saw Canned Heat again in the Warehouse in New Orleans, Louisiana, a month or two after Grateful Dead got busted while playing there. I was in tech school in the Air Force then.

So nobody got hurt, the insurance company covered Monte and Connie Carpenter's (store owners) loss, and Mark and Steve and I became friends with a local DJ who knew a lot more about music than just top 40. I don't think the robbers got rich, but that night they must have had a good time.


Canned Heat's first album cover.

Email Richard dot J dot Wagner at gmail dot com


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