Alex Bendahan was quite the player in San Francisco; great singer, tremendous guitar player. For many years we were rivals (he had too much talent, I had too much attitude) and gradually became friends at one point sharing an old house in the Mission district around 1979.
But a few years prior in 1970, I (in what can only be described as generosity & guilt) gave Alex a '63 Lake Placid Blue Stratocaster. Why? Because I was working at Leo's music when we were rivals and a young Alex came in with a pile of stuff and some dough to trade for a guitar, the owner left the deal up to me and although I could have given him a better axe (an SG custom) than I did (a 63' Guild Starfire 6, sorry all you Starfire fans out there) I gave him the lesser of the two. My conscience got the better of me and a couple of years later in my old friend Leo's office, I did a deal for the Strat and a couple of days later, gave it to Alex and told him why.
Annnnyway. Alex loved that freakin' guitar he took it everywhere with him, and I mean everywhere. He played a million nights in a SF band "Elvis Duck" and jammed with everybody all the time.
In 1970 we were in a music class together at San Francisco City College that started around 1 in the after noon. We had some morning classes and met up (to smoke things over) and to drive out to the lower Mission (20mins from school) go to Alex's loft, pick up his guitar and hit El Faro for the best Mission style burritos on the planet (the carne' estada will kill ya!) on the way back to school for our one o'clock class.
Now the lower Mission is a lot of warehouses, industrial stuff, that eventually connects to Market street, none of what I would call a nice neighborhood by a long shot. In fact after dark, a little on the dangerous side. But during the day, the streets around El Farro are always packed with cars, jockeying for a space near burrito heaven, Spanish, White, Asian all swimming in the same stream, no pushing no shoving...
So we drive to El Farro, burrito up, (had a puff or two on the way) Alex's loft is a block away, so we walk, go upstairs (had a puff or two) got his guitar, walked back to the car and took off for Music Theory 101 at SFCC. (No wonder I couldn't get much theory as a kid).
We're half way though the class, a bit zoned out but conscious, when Alex jumps out of his desk and screams "Fuck! My Guitar!!! and runs like a madman out of class, doors flapping in his wake. I of course, hot on his heels.
It seems we have forgotten the Stratocaster somewhere along the line! Opps. Alex (who on a normal day drove like Paranelli Jones) is pushing his yellow Volkswagen like a test pilot at NASA with a license to kill, stop signs, oncoming traffic, pedestrians, crosswalks, red lights...all meaningless to us and our quest.
We screech to a halt roughly where we had been parked across from El Farro..........and there sitting on the sidewalk.........standing upright, I might add......just like it belonged there waiting for it's master is a black Fender hard-shell case, right where we left it AN HOUR AGO!!!
After reclaiming the missing axe, regaining our composure and normal breathing patterns, we pretty much blew school off, went back to the loft and jammed the day away. And the last time I checked (1995 or so) he still had it!
Guitar Stories & Alex and the '63 Strat © 2007 Billy Stapleton. All rights reserved.
"Keep pickin’ ... "
- Billy Stapleton