Mosley quit the band in 1969, answering his draft notice by entering the Marines, a move that baffled Jerry Miller. Lewis is more sympathetic: "He couldn't take all the manager/record company bullshit." It was a bad time to be in the military, especially if you were an artistic, ex-hippie psychedelic rock band drummer. Discharged nine months later, allegedly after a fight with a fellow Marine, Mosley was diagnosed as paranoid-schizophrenic. Genuinely troubled, his father had to drive him to the recording sessions for Truly Fine Citizen, the last album from that first period of the band's incarnation. Two years later, they reformed to record 20 Granite Creek, with Mosley playing his part. That same year also saw the release of his eponymous solo album. Nothing more was heard from him until Live Grape in 1979, followed by Mosley Grape, a Katz-engineered behemoth of an album put together a decade later, along with a few reunion gigs. He was finally reported on the streets of San Diego in a 1994 article in a San Francisco weekly on bandmember Skip Spence.
"Omaha" rocked with the classic, great Grape energy; I wrote in my notes, "they still got it!" And then we had so many encores: their signature song, "Murder In My Heart For the Judge," and as they announced from stage, "a surprise for you, a song by our good friend, Skip Spence," the short melodic "Naked If I Want To." Then Tiran called Mosley back to the stage, saying "Bob Mosley to the stage," and the crowd picked it up, chanting "We want Bob! We want Bob!" A smoking "Miller's Blues" followed, perhaps the highlight of the night for Miller - he was on fire. The final song was a wonderful "Trucking Man," a fitting comment to close with, and they walked off just before midnight.
It's difficult to evaluate exactly what I heard tonight in the context of the band's career. Nor do I know a great many older Grape fans. Most of us were too young to go to shows in the Sixties. But I did speak to my few older hip friends, who were either in the thick of things then or just cool enough teenagers to get in on the fun, play on that celebrated hippie openness, 'hey man, you're not puttin' me down 'cause I'm in high school, are you?' 'Uh, no kid, no, sure, have a hit.' In my little skewed poll, everyone thought they sounded good - a unanimous opinion, as near as I could tell, something that the admittedly highly partisan crowd buzz echoed.
Doing research is difficult: outside of the albums, I know of only one bootleg, from a 1969 show in Amsterdam, and it isn't even listed in the standard bootleg discography, Hot Wacks (Dartmouth, Nova Scotia, vols. 1-15). One other tape has crossed my path, bought from a dubious looking tape vendor at a record fair. It purports to be New Year's Eve at the Avalon, a gig that is corroborated by a poster; and the generally abysmal quality of the tape makes it hopelessly plausible. But neither of these is enough to approximate a comparison - suffice to say that they sounded good, and the music and arrangements sounded as fresh as they did when I came home with the debut album and put it on and was first bowled away by what made their producer say, "the American Rolling Stones."
The next day I called up a friend, also an enthusiast of the San Francisco scene, and raved about Miller's playing in particular, wondering if his recent album would match the virtuosity I saw that night. "I think you'll be disappointed, if you're expecting what you heard. I think he was just so happy to be playing with his old band."
Yeah. So were we all.