When I was 18 yrs old I hitchhiked from Miami to Los Angeles. It was spring break, April 4th 1968. I was a freshman at the University of Miami.
Two friends joined me. The very first person who gave us a ride brought us to Memphis, Tennessee. It was not a direct route to Los Angeles, but it was progress, or so we thought, and we took it anyway. Little did we know, at 6pm that evening, Martin Luther King was assassinated in Memphis. When we arrived at 10pm, the city was under siege. Flames were everywhere.
We didn’t sleep in Memphis. We found a tiny town near the Arkansas border instead. The following morning we awoke to the sound of armored tanks driving down the freeway.
Our next ride was from a man in his early 20s, a dwarf who had recently gotten out of the Air Force. He was driving straight to Los Angeles. We stopped at many national parks including the Petrified Forest and the Painted Desert
When we got to LA, we “crashed” at an apartment on Rossmore near Vine. The apartment wasn’t far from the intersection of Sunset and Vine, where the Kaleidoscope, one of the leading music venues, reigned supreme. The Doors, the Byrds, and Steppenwolf were playing a gig in a couple of days.
I couldn’t afford a ticket, so I didn’t think much about it, until I guy named Johnny, a friend of a friend, said, Don’t worry. We only need to buy one ticket. That guy goes inside and then opens the side door and everyone runs in.
I ran in and saw The Lizard King, Jim Morrison, in his prime.
Not having much to do on Easter Sunday, I went back to the Kaleidoscope. The James Cotton Blues band was performing. I paid three dollars for my ticket. Once inside I discovered that there were only nine other people in the audience. Half way through his set, Mr. Cotton put down his harp and said, “Mannn, don’t get hung up about Easter.”
The following day I went to an agency that paid drivers to deliver cars across the country. I’m heading back to Miami I told them. You’re in luck, the woman said, we have a 55 Thunderbird that needs to be driven back to West Palm Beach, Florida.
Since one of my friends was not returning to college, the other joined me for the drive back.
James Cotton died on March 17th 2017. He was 81 years old.