#23 Ms Santa Cruz County-Cracker: Who were the Blue Ladies? Ode to Santa Cruz.

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Miss Santa Cruz County-Cracker Forever Album.

Ms Santa Cruz County-Cracker/Leftover Salmon From O’ Cracker Where Art Thou?

So this is a Cracker Song from the 2002 album Forever. And in the last episode we were with Cracker in Southern California about 1992. Cracker never had any direct connection to Santa Cruz. So why are we in Santa Cruz now? And why are there at least 3 Cracker songs that reference Santa Cruz? While CVB had zero (Until New Roman Times). Well we have to go back to the early days of Camper Van Beethoven to explain this properly.

If the Inland Empire was a wonderfully weird and cheap place, a mecca for the poor cast offs of the midwest the south, Santa Cruz was the the land of a wierdos and nut jobs from the affluent enclaves of the east and west coast . In some ways it was a great place to be in a band. It was full of all kind of counter-cultural types. There were a ton of musicians and other creatives. There were 5 or 6 venues that we could play. And the town was loaded with college kids. This seemed like the perfect place for Camper Van Beethoven.

But let’s back up a moment. Camper Van Beethoven was formed in 1983 in Redlands California in the IE. Chris Molla and I were students at UC Santa Cruz at this point. But the economy was just so dismal we couldn’t find summer jobs and had to go back home for the summer and live with our parents. We had no choice. And since we had no work there either we formed Camper Van Beethoven with a mutual friend David McDaniel and someone my little sister knew, Victor Krummenacher. We quickly got a lot of other people involved. Bill McDonald as in Where the Hell is Bill on drums. Mike Zorn who sometimes called himself Zachary All(after a chain of men’s clothing stores in the Inland Empire) and Daniel Blume on violin. We worked up a nifty little collection of songs, (some borrowed from our earlier bands like Sitting Duck and the Estonian Gauchos). We played exactly two public shows and they were not really that public. House parties. And then Chris Molla, Victor Krummenacher and I left the rest of the band behind and went back to Santa Cruz in the fall.

There exists one recording of this incarnation of the band. it was basically a 4 tracked rehearsal. Until this point i’ve never let anyone hear it cause i found much of it embarrassing. It was recorded in Victor’s living room. What i find interesting about this tape is i sing relatively few of the songs. I was just one of 4 singers. Chris Molla, Zachary All, David McDaniel and myself take turns singing leads. We were like CSNY crossed with The Fugs. Some real desert hillbilly stuff. This is a full thirty minutes. You may want to listen to a little and come back to it later.

1983 Camper van beethoven rehearsal (takes about 20 seconds for the band to start)

Balalaika gap

Lassie ( Vox David McDaniel)

Vegetables (Vox David Lowery)

White Riot (vox Mike Zorn ?or Chris Molla?)

‘Fore I met you (vox David Lowery or chris molla?)

I was so wasted (vox david lowery)

take the skinhead bowling (vox david lowery)

i don’t see you at all (vox david lowery) (this was originally a sitting duck song)

The songs that follow are actual 4 track recordings. not from rehearsals.

border ska (instrumental) this recording is just me and chris molla in 1982. recorded on my dokorder 4 track.

skinhead stomp. this may actually be Estonian Gauchos. or a different Camper Van Beethoven Recording session.

I can’t take it anymore (vox David McDaniel and Chris Molla)

Once back in Santa Cruz Chris Molla and I went back to our much more poplular ensemble Box O’Laffs. Chris Molla, Chris Pedersen, and Anthony Guess were also in this group. Not all at the same time. Camper Van Beethoven sort of went dormant. That is until we one of us saw Jonathan Segel walking across the quad at College 5* carrying a violin case. (This college was later renamed Porter College). It was suggested that he come and jam with the dormant Camper Van Beethoven. Richie West and Chris Molla were on the drums at this point. We had a few rehearsals and realized that we could reform Camper Van Beethoven in Santa Cruz. We played a couple gigs opening for Box O’Laffs and we realized that Santa Cruz really liked CVB. Within a few weeks we were recording demos on my dokoder 4 track reel to reel. We were fortunate that we had a built in following because of our association with Box O’ Laffs. This band formed in 1981 had developed quite a following by 1984, and played in not just Santa Cruz but also San Francisco Fresno and LA. (See future post on Long Plastic Hallway). But it was the quirky demos that we recorded on four track that really got things going for us. This was the tape that got Bruce Licher from Independent Project Records to suggest we put out an album. But i’m getting ahead of myself.

Santa Cruz really embraced Camper Van Beethoven. If we’d stayed in the Inland Empire we would have never gotten this far. The UC Santa Cruz students embraced us like a normal university would embrace it’s sports team. A funny rumor began and we did nothing to correct it. Remember College 5 where Victor lived and we met Jonathan? Well Victor lived in College 5 or V B dorm. All of the furniture in the dormitory had stenciled on the bottom CVB. The rumor was we took that TLA (Military slang for Three Letter Acronym) and then just expanded it to the band name. Good enough for us. Nevermind that at that point he bands official name was Camper Van Beethoven and the Border Patrol. It had not been shortened yet.

Getting back to the theory that logistics and real estate have a much greater influence on a music scene consider this:

Unlike the IE in Santa Cruz it was difficult to find a place to rehearse. Once we got Jonathan in the band the problem was solved because we could rehearse at this fairly large McMansion that he and about 137 other college kids rented. Then Victor moved into the Hubbard Street house. Hubbard street was a house that pretty much only musicians ever lived in. It was really really funky, but you could rehearse there without the neighbors complaining. So suddenly Camper Van Beethoven had much better rehearsal options and we began to overtake Box O’ Laffs. We developed a more accessible sound, we were better rehearsed and we started to have a lot of songs.

In 1984 Santa Cruz was full of weirdos. Yes i’ve already stated that. But i just can’t say it enough. Unless you lived there you have no idea.

Perhaps the crowning moment of weirdness in the entire history of Santa Cruz weirdness is the story of the Blue Ladies. I can not vouch for all details of this story, Some of the key details are unverifiable. And some are surely urban myth. But regardless the verifiable parts are weird enough.

If San Francisco was the gay man’s Mecca, Santa Cruz was the lesbian Masjid al-Nabawi. Okay that reference is a little obscure for most of you infidels. Let’s rephrase. Santa Cruz was a little Isle of Lesbos. It was part of what made Santa Cruz so interesting. We didn’t have to go to the circus to see a bearded lady riding a bike.

The Blue Ladies were not bearded. In fact they were strangely clean cut and very normal looking in a way that a pastor who runs one of those Mega churches look “normal”. Me and my girlfriend Jennifer called them The Blue Ladies because they always wore light blue athletic gear and rode old street style ten speeds with the ram horn handlebars. Their hair was short but not too short. They were sort of sinewy. They wore wire rim glasses and reminded me of the sinewy kind of East German lady olympians or John Denver. Judging by what they bought at the local health food co-op they followed some extreme new age religion and/or diet. They were always together. They would cycle past our house regularly and Jennifer would come excitedly bounding into my studio room to announce a new Blue Ladies sighting. “One of them had a Mother-in-law-tongue plant on her bike rack!” A shared appreciation of the Blue Ladies was part of our bond.

One year we went to a halloween party and were surprised and shocked when two of our friends showed up in costume as The Blue Ladies. Light blue tracksuits wire rim glasses and vintage ten speeds. “It’s The Blue Ladies!” everyone kept saying. I remember looking at Jennifer and feeling slightly betrayed: you told them our secret name? Of course she didn’t. The moniker was obvious.

A few years later we heard that one of The Blue Ladies died. And the circumstances were very weird. These are the details for which i can not personally vouch. There are no details in the Santa Cruz Sentinel to verify this part of the story. But a friends brother who was a paramedic swore this was all true. Pneumonia or some such treatable illness befell one of the Blue Ladies and it was not treated by doctors. Instead meditation prayer, herbal remedies.crystals or some such bullshit were used for treatment. Of course the patient died. But then for some reason the paramedics or police were not called for another day or so. Some say the other blue lady and her housemates were still trying to revive her.


This is the weird part of the story. It turns out that the dead Blue Lady was not a Lady at all. The deceased Blue lady turned out to be a man. This freaked us all out. Did we make a mistaken assumption they were some lesbian couple? or was it an act they were putting on? Thinking back on The Blue Ladies it was obvious which one was the man. Why didn’t we see it at the time? But wait they frequented all the lesbian hangouts. Didn’t they? Polling my friends from the time we are convinced that the Blue Ladies were posing as a lesbian couple. It doesn’t make any sense otherwise. Also some accounts of the unverifiable part of the story have surviving Blue Lady freaking out that her partner turns out to be a man. They were platonic new age lesbians in this version of the story. The whole episode is almost like some dream that sticks with you all day. You keep trying to turn it this way and that to try to figure out it’s true meaning. But the meaning is obvious: Santa Cruz was full of Wackjobs.

Johnny Hickman loved this story. There is an incident of Hermaphroditism in his family and for this reason is fascinated by the people who choose sexual dysphoria. Think about this before you accuse me and Johnny of suggesting homosexuality and transgender people are making a lifestyle choice. We are not. The Blue Ladies story – in it’s most extreme telling- is a case of at least one person making some very weird choices. To Johnny this was classic Santa Cruz. And so it was very easy to get him on board to write an epic ode to Santa Cruz based on The Blue Ladies. He’d make a movie about it if he had the wherewithal.

Also Ms Santa Cruz County has a small nod to Marilyn Monroe who was the Artichoke Festival Queen in nearby Castroville California. In the song it is a modern day pot growers daughter that is Miss Santa Cruz County and the Artichoke festival Queen. And yes I do know that Castroville is just over the line in Monterey County. Poetic license at work.

Also Also. “Lola came from Mesilla”. Is a reference to my childhood friend, former cracker roadie and recording artist in his own right “Bugs”. Mesilla is one of the original spanish pueblos that make up the city of Las Cruces. typically this is where bugs hangs out. one year at a (New years?) party bugs got showed up in drag. His nom de drag was Anita Bebidas. Sort of a Spanglish pun: I Need a Drink.

Also Also Also. In response to someones comment. The bridge. How could i forget. Yes it is a nod to Sweet Virginia by the Rolling Stones. First Chords and all.

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[Dm] So let’s all[C] be someone[F] else[Bb]
[Dm] I’m tired of[C] being my-[F]-self
Let’s[Bb] all be someone[F] else
[F] [F+F#] [F] [F+F#] [F] [F+F#] [F] [F+F#]

[F] You could[C] be someone[Eb] else[Bb]
[F] I know you’re[C] tired of your-[Eb]-self[Bb]
[F] You say you’re[C] so bored you could[Eb] cry
Well let me[Bb] tell you, so am I[F] [C] [Eb] [Bb]

Well, Lola came from Mesilla
She sometimes called herself Anita (background shout: Bebidas)
But no-one ever knew why
But things just seemed to work out right, right, right

[Dm] So let’s all[C] be someone[F] else (do do do[Bb] doo do do do)
[Dm] I’m tired of[C] being my-[F]-self (do do do[Bb] doo do do do)
[Dm] So let’s all[C] be someone[F] else
Let’s[Bb] all be someone[F] else
[F] [F+F#] [F] [F+F#] [F] [F+F#] [F] [F+F#]

The blue ladies rode the bikes
And what they were, we assumed rhymed with bikes
But them one day one did not get out of bed
She was dead, and a guy, that’s what the paramedic said


[Bb] So come on[G7] down Miss Santa Cruz[F] County
Won’t you[Bb] come on down from your[G7] daddy’s hydroponic[F] farm?[F7]
‘Cause there’s[Bb] no shame in being[G] seen as the[F] Artichoke Festival[Bb] Queen
You know we[F] like what you’ve be-[Bb]-come
You know we[F] like what you’ve become


So let’s all be someone else (do do do doo do do do)
I’m tired of being myself (so tired)(do do do doo do do do)
Let’s all be somebody else
Let’s all be someone else


Let’s[F] all be someone else[Bb]
Let’s[F] all be someone else[Bb]
Let’s[F] all be someone else[Bb]
Let’s[F] all be someone else
Someone else

1 comment

  • Jhunter


    I knew there had to be some great stories and bizarre characters behind this song. Love the nod to Marilyn Monroe too. And artichokes are my fave veg. My parents actually visited Pezzini Farms in Castroville when they were in Monterey and sent me a box of artichokes from there. Best in the world! ;) Fantastic song, Johnny and David! California dreaming...

    I knew there had to be some great stories and bizarre characters behind this song. Love the nod to Marilyn Monroe too. And artichokes are my fave veg. My parents actually visited Pezzini Farms in Castroville when they were in Monterey and sent me a box of artichokes from there. Best in the world! wink Fantastic song, Johnny and David! California dreaming...

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