The Block Island Times

Islands and Rock and Roll

By J. V. Houlihan, Jr. | Jul 05, 2012

One of the things that I like about my ferry dock gig, is that I can keep in touch with a slew of old friends. Today a friend from back in the 60's, Ed Vallee, came off the Nelesco after performing yesterday at the Yellow Kittens with "Steve Smith annd the Nakeds"-a longstanding  4 July tradition. Ed introduced me to his wife Paula, and said they were heading to Prudence Island where she had grown up and still has lots of family there. Ed mentioned deer ticks;more about that later.

I first saw Ed at the old Surf Hotel at Narragansett Pier in '69. He played in a tight little blues/rock band of renegade teenagers who called themselves "Universal Rundle." Ed played a Les Paul and a Stratocaster. It was a strange bar mix of older bar flies, blowsey, flitatious older ladies, sailors from Quonset Point, and a passel of young kids like me (who should not have been in the bar) but hey, it was a different time, and the beers were 50 cents;whattadeal! Whattacountry!

We've known each other for years, and I have to say in all sincerity, that Ed in my view is an exceptional guitarist. I hooked him up to give my son Sean lessons when he was 17. Seeing Ed explaining chord theory to Sean at the kitchen table was hilarious. Ed was explaining away, while Sean nodded in agreement playing some jazz scales, clearly not buying what Ed was selling. The young man had his way of playing and that was it. He was not a good student.

Several years ago I was flopping on my sailboat in Newport, and I ran into Ed heading to Christies to play a gig with the "Nakeds." Ed got me in for the bubble, then he got to work on-stage. What I didn't know, was that the late Clarence Clemons of Bruce Springsteen's outfit, was playing with the band (Clarence had played with the Nakeds many times). What I saw that night, will go down as one of the best live performances I've ever witnessed. Seeing Clarence wailing on his sax, and singing with such soul and passion was inspiring. I never saw a group of players having so much fun. They played one set, and that was it. What a show! Another E Street Band connection I saw recently, was a video of Ed trading licks with Miami Steve Van Zant; both guys were having a ball playing their guitars.

So Ed and Paula got their gear into the car to head off for Prudence Island. He started telling me and Paula about these deer ticks on Prudence. "Ya know I had this tick crawling up my arm really fast," Ed was demonstrating the quick zig-zagging track the tick was taking up his arm. "I guess it's a nervous tick," he said. Paula and I paused and rolled our eyes to Ed's plausible pun. Now that you know who Ed Vallee is, keep an eye out for him when you next go see "Steve Smith and the Nakeds." I forgot to mention, that Ed is a very bright and very funny old soul.


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