The Tim Buckley Archives


‘Joni Mitchell, my dad, and the mysterious Tim Buckley imposter’

Emil Amos of Holy Sons recalls adventures of his father in 60's South Florida

This appeared on the dangerousminds website in 2016

by Emil Amos

Sailing became trendy among the folk music set in Miami probably because you could feel more free by getting off land, away from the eyes of straights and law enforcement while indulging in the drugs of your choice or trafficking them yourself by picking up dropped shipments. The great folksinger Vince Martin had set off a trend of moving to Coconut Grove by being the first to abandon New York in the early 60’s for Miami’s tropical beauty.

Fred Neil, one of Bob Dylan’s early idols, followed him down and wrote classic songs like “The Dolphins” during the period when he’d go sailing with my dad. My father told me they’d actually met when Fred Neil collapsed in the corner of his boat to sleep off an underestimated high before he knew whose boat he was stepping onto. In line with classic Fred Neil legend, he was hiding to avoid a show he was supposed to be playing that night.

My father would sometimes look after David Crosby’s boat “The Mayan” while he was gone on tour and had sailed it back from the Keys along with my mother and I. The Mayan was built in 1947 out of an extremely rare Honduran mahogany that termites couldn’t easily eat and was featured on the picture sleeve of one of my favorite CSN seven inches for the song “Dark Star.”
Joni Mitchell said “That’s strange…
I just played with Tim Buckley in New York.”

The story he told me from the hospital bed began on one of his trips back from the Keys. I never really asked him if he was trafficking drugs back and forth… maybe I didn’t want to risk shutting the conversation down. He didn’t seem to have much interest in the stories himself and I had to pry a lot of it out of him. In this particular story he was about to sail back to Coconut Grove when he was introduced to a man on the dock who needed a ride into town. My father being generally pretty kind and fearless, told him that as long as he helped out with the sails and docking the boat he could come along. Immediately he noticed how skilled and inquisitive the man was and acknowledged that he had a kind of hyper-intelligence.

While they were talking about their backgrounds the man explained he was a musician named “Tim Buckley” and quickly pulled out his new LP to prove his identity. My father, probably not knowing who that was and being relatively unimpressed, went back to manning the boat but was ultimately charmed and invited him to come over and hang out with some friends after they got to shore. By the time they reached the dock the man had literally asked my father about every single motion he’d made on the boat and seemed to have memorized each task so that he’d be able to try and sail the boat himself next time.

The irony of the stranger’s identity would become more bizarre as they pulled up to the cottage my dad had been living in. Joni Mitchell had just gotten to town and was staying with Vince Martin, Fred Neil’s singing partner. She was looking for a slightly more stable place to stay where she could have her own room and my dad offered his place. So when my dad pulled up to his house with the stranger in tow, Vince Martin and Joni Mitchell were sitting on his porch. As my father approached them, the man introduced himself as “Tim Buckley” and Joni Mitchell said “That’s strange… I just played with Tim Buckley in New York.”

The way my dad told it was that the guy was so incredibly charming that he was able to laugh the situation off, eventually admit he wasn’t that Tim Buckley and charm her just the same. In fact, he ended up charming her so quickly that he moved into my dad’s place to stay with them where he and Mitchell fell in love. The way my dad told it, their romance didn’t last all that long as she had to leave for a huge tour in a month or two as her career was exploding in the summer of 1968. They began to argue more and more as the tour pulled nearer and just like that, as soon as Joni left for tour, my father said the fake “Tim Buckley” was never seen again.

© 2016 Emil Amos of Holy Sons

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