The Tim Buckley Archives


Excerpt from Blue Melody

by Lee Underwood
pp. ix-xiii



When Tim Buckley and I met in Greenwich Village in the spring of 1966, we were a study in contrasts. He was a Loara High School graduate from Bell Gardens and Anaheim, California, who had attended nearby Fullerton Junior College (now Community College) for two months and dropped out. I had graduated from San Francisco State College and done some graduate work at UC Berkeley. Tim had worked at a Taco Bell. I had worn a suit and tie and taught English for one year at The Peddie School in Hightstown, New Jersey, a posh private high school for boys near Princeton.

© Unknown
Author Lee Underwood on stage with Tim

Tim hailed from Orange County’s blue-collar neighborhoods, and had abandoned his wife, Mary, to come to New York, where, according to him, he was later informed she was pregnant. He had written a handful of songs that constituted a synthesis of the lives he and his friend and talented co-lyricist Larry Beckett had experienced in high school.

He had just signed a recording contract with Elektra Records. I owned three acoustic guitars, had abandoned my wife, had one year’s experience singing and playing my own songs, but had no contract with anybody, and no work in sight. I didn’t care. I was taking my shot. So was Tim. The Big Apple. We liked each other and teamed up, with me as his lead guitarist.

For some seven years we worked and played together—clubs, concerts, records, TV shows, wine, women, song. The last time I performed with him was on a Greetings From L.A. tour in early 1973. In April 1975, I saw him perform at the Golden Bear in Huntington Beach, where I met his ex-wife Mary and their eight-year-old son, Jeff, who was later to become a first-class singer and songwriter in his own right.

The last time I saw Tim on stage was May 9-11, 1975, at a three-night whirlwind get-down roadhouse funk-rock gig at the Starwood club in Hollywood. I attended every performance, and had never seen him in better shape.

The last time I saw him at all he was dead. An overdose of alcohol and heroin killed him on June 29, 1975, age twenty-eight.


Part I, Blue Melody: The Life is a celebration of Tim Buckley and his multifaceted personality, a musical appraisal, a partial biography, a heartfelt memoir. I focus on Tim not only as a young man coming of age, but as a dedicated artist whose evolutionary creative journey was nothing short of extraordinary.

Part I draws from direct personal experiences, showcasing my recollections of playing lead guitar with Tim during the sixties and early seventies, including behind-the-scenes anecdotes with explicit details about the wild, wonderful, strange, whimsical, and sometimes dangerously crazy things we were involved with. It also draws from exclusive interviews, conversations, and letters, as well as solid research into interviews and articles written by others while Tim was alive. It spotlights his story, my story, and the music we played, celebrating the people we knew and the tumultuous times we lived in.

Part II, Timewinds, touches upon a few of the many complex circumstances surrounding Tim’s rather sordid death, the funeral, the aftermath.

I am happy to include exclusive interviews of my own with some of Tim’s key family members, friends, loved ones, and bandmates, and to bring to light certain biographical information and quotes from writings by various outside journalists. However, it is not my intention to include everybody’s viewpoint, or to reduce all viewpoints to equal value, or to cover each and every external detail of Tim’s life. I leave that to biographers.

For the most part, I discuss events and conversations in which I participated. I often quote from Tim’s interviews with other writers, giving appreciation and due credit to them in the Sources section, so we might have his exact words regarding matters he spoke directly with me about, or regarding matters that need to be included for their insight and informational value, whether I was personally pres­ent or not.

Also, in the interest of readablity I have used quotations to reflect certain conversations between various people, although I may not have been present at the time the conversations took place. While the words in these quotations likely were not the exact ones used, they reflect the substance of those conversations as they were told me.

Tim was intelligent and insightful right from the beginning, but it is fascinating to watch the ways in which his language evolved as he himself evolved psychologically and artistically. Linguistically, he moved from the blue-collar profanities and light-hearted street-rat vulgarities of his youthful background in Bell Gardens and Anaheim, to the obscenity-free, highly articulate, and even graceful elegance of his later interviews with Frankie Nemko, Sam Bradley, and Michael Davis.

My loyalty is to the truth of Tim and the music and to my own experiences of the context in which we lived—the music, the times, the people we knew. That does not mean I am blinded by friendship. To the contrary—I am no idolater, and know all too well he had his faults and weaknesses. But I also know that I see clearly the totality of his contributions as an individual and as an artist. I have come to see the whole of the man and his life and work—the goods and bads, the ups and downs, the strengths and limitations, the joy and heartbreak—and that is what I am presenting in this book. I am equally forthright about my own strengths, contributions, weaknesses, mistakes, and shortcomings during those years.

What an extraordinary adventure Tim’s musical voyage has been! And the music lives on, happy to say, vindicating those who from the beginning knew it would endure. This is very satisfying, of course. Very satisfying, indeed.

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Entire contents copyright 1966 - 2008 The Estate of Timothy C Buckley III
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