Summer of Love

Joel Selvin
Guitarist Terry Haggerty is buried treasure. As guitarist with the Sons of Champlin, Haggerty was always accorded the full respect of his peers on the '60s San Francisco rock scene like Jerry Garcia, Jorma Kaukonen, Carlos Santana. He has been known -- throughout the world -- among guitar cognoscenti via the handful of recordings he made over the two decades of the Sons' existence. Some of his demo tapes have attracted intense interest inside the industry over the years. But even now he remains something of an unknown, a titan hiding in the hills, a legend waiting to be discovered.

At the heart of it all -- both his legend and his obscurity -- lies his insistence on music for music's sake. Try as he might -- and over the years, rest assured, he has tried -- Terry Haggerty cannot corrupt himself. He is, uniquely and inexorably, himself. "Harmonically, I hear things that are out and emotionally, that's where I'm at," said Haggerty, "I've tried to stay as true to what comes through me as I can. I'm never going to take this stuff inside me and modify it to make money. Not because I don't need money, but because the music itself is such a wonderful, profound gift."

He lives modestly in a storage and rehearsal facility near San Rafael, California, the dead center of Marin County, where Haggerty grew up and entered the professional musical world as a member of the Opposite Six, a bad-ass band of Marin r&b rebels that eventually became the Sons of Champlin

His parents were musical. His Cuban mother, who grew up childhood friends with salsa great Celia Cruz, came to this country to sing and dance with Desi Arnaz (she later worked with famed aerialists the Flying Wallendas). His father was a busy studio musician who played on Dorsey records when the boy singer was some kid named Frank Sinatra. "There were these jam sessions when we were kids," he said, "that went on for days with all these cats that came up from L.A."

Out of this creative childhood, only strengthened through his many years with the uncompromising Sons, Haggerty has honed himself as an instinctual artist, not a craftsman. He doesn't do session playing. He turned down an offer to play with Barbra Streisand in the '70s. He doesn't play in dance bands. He does what he does wherever he can and keeps busy with other important parts of his life like the mushroom collecting.

This is a musician who said he likes to compose on keyboards because -- get this -- "that keeps my guitar playing free of anything intentful, more of a statement of the now."

Every so often, he forgets or agrees out of an impulse to please someone and accepts an invitation to a session, like the recent experience with Chris Isaak. ~What drives everybody crazy about me," he said, "is that I never play anything the same way twice. I don't even think that way. There's not a bone in my body that way."

So whether or not the world at large ever discovers the inter-planetary significance of Terry Haggerty doesn't matter. He is a fully realized artist operating at the peak of his human powers on occasion -- "I can do anything on any level," he said, "it's just indefinable as to what kind of music it is" -- and that is his earthly goal. As for the rest of the world, well, it won't be his loss.

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