A guitar instrumental by Steve Mann

" Holly " was written in San Jose California about 1964 or 65. It started out as a strictly finger picking piece, with no bossa nova part. Here is the story behind the song, as told by Steve



When I was living in Los Angeles (I grew up there with my folks), I was performing a lot in my early twenties and doing studio work with lots of well -known musicians and I confess I loved the bright lights and flashy girls and just general excitement and nightlife. Holly was my girlfriend and she was about the flashiest, fanciest exotic dancer and everything else imaginable and I would do anything she wanted me to. I even let her drive my car, (an old green and purple Pontiac convertible) and one day she answered and ad for exotic dancers way up in Seattle Washington. She needed the money. It was a huge one-night stripping gig on a big palace of some kind in Seattle.


The plan was for her to drive my convertible up the west coast all the way up to Seattle.   I would go up by train to San Francisco, call her when I arrived and she would come down and join me. I was getting a little strange at this time, and whatever condition eventually landed me in the mental health system was already beginning to dog me around a lot, especially when I became stressed out. So I liked to be somebody who knew me as much as possible, rather than all alone.

Holly took off before I did in the first week of September 1964. I packed my bags and took a train one and a half days later, going up to San Francisco, where I had heard there was a good music scene going on. I got off the train hoping that Holly would be there, but this didn't happen, so I got out the number and called her gig place in Seattle.   Some how I got in touch with her up there (Holly was not hard to describe) and she said she would come right down to be with me in San Francisco. Oboy. Sure enough she came down, but not driving in my convertible. It seems she had crashed my car along the way up to Seattle, so she flew down to San Francisco. She had made big bucks at her Seattle gig and was ready to celebrate.


I loved her so much I didn't care about the car, and I was just glad to hear from her when she phoned me from the San Francisco Airport. She got herself into town and met me at the corner of Columbus and Grant and we checked into the bridal suite of the Dante Hotel, for about $20.00 a week (outrageously high for those days), We stayed in San Francisco for two months and enjoyed ourselves thoroughly for the whole time (I mean, I was exhausted...)!

We went to hear Elmer Snowden, (who used to play banjo behind Lonnie Johnson), at the Coffee and Confusion in North Beach, plus we ran into Tom Hobson at the Coffee Gallery. We also met Paul Kantner (later of the Jefferson Airplane) and David Freiberg (later in Quicksilver Messenger Service) and hung out at a lot of music parties. Paul and David offered to take Holly and me down to Redwood Estates, six miles outside San Jose so we could check out the South Bay music scene, especially at the Off Stage, run by Paul Foster in San Jose.


OK so down we went to the San Jose area where we stayed with Paul and David together in a sort of communal house with Paul Foster in Redwood Estates, a suburb of San Jose. I played one show at the Off Stage, opening for Dino Valenti, and made $10.00, which covered us for a few days. Holly, bless her flashy, fringed wardrobe, also worked Very Hard to earn us some extra money and we did OK for awhile, but the money ran out pretty soon. While we were in Redwood Estates, Holly met someone else and took off for parts unknown. I was just broken-hearted, to say the least, and probably turned into a blob of jelly and agreed with Paul Kantner and David Freiberg that maybe I should just go back to my folks' house in Los Angeles to get my bearings.


In December of 1964 the two of them put what was left of me in a car and both of them drove me down to 6301 Cold Water Canyon where my parents lived, in North Hollywood. I hung out there for awhile, tried playing guitar a little, and eventually put together the finger picking part of the instrumental, "Holly." This picking-only version is what I performed at the Ash Grove at that time for awhile.

While staying at my folks' house, I gradually got in touch with my old music scene in Los Angeles, and started doing gigs and recording sessions. I bought a book of jazz chords by Mel Bay but didn't apply them too much to my playing until after working with Frank Zappa and the Mothers of Invention--(and lead singer Ray Collins). I played mostly blues harmonica with the Mothers, and occasionally guitar as well, but often they wanted a jazzier sound. Not being a real jazz guitarist at that point, I went home and started leaning more jazz chords to include in my repertoire. With a few more cool substitutions from a Nick Maniloff guitar book my ear started to get turned on to new jazz voicings for old chords, and this gave me ideas for many other arrangements from then on.

At some point I added a second part to "Holly," using a bossa nova beat. The new section, with jazz versions of the original chords, was added some time about May of 1965, just before I started doing recording sessions with Sonny and Cher. Eventually the bossa nova part of "Holly" ended up at the beginning and end of the piece, while the original picking style section is sandwiched in the middle. It can be done either way, actually.



Sometimes you got to be like an oyster; if you get a hard old grain of sand in your shell, and can't get rid of it, work with it the best you can, add something of yourself and make it a part of your life that you can live with and look back on, and come to terms with. Later it may even prove valuable...



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