Fourth Coast Entertainment -

By Garret K. Woodward
Staff Writer 

Jim Yester of The Association

 

Last updated 8/2/2015 at 12:39pm

The Association Photo by J.Cast Productions

Enter The Young - A Conversation with Jim Yester of The Association...

Sitting there, I realized that I'd found the fountain of youth.

Situated in the front row of Proctor's Theatre in Schenectady in 2009, I watched as 60s rock sensation The Association transported an entire audience back to a time held dearly in their hearts. The well-earned wrinkles, grey hairs and battle scars of life were wiped clean as timeless melodies washed over the baby boomer listeners. With each subsequent hit song, the group broke down the walls where a promising past stopped at an everyday present reality.

The power of music resides in its solely unique attachment to our subconscious. You can be cruising down the road or at your desk during work when a particular tune echoes from the speakers. Immediately, the lyrics and tone strike you, as memories, for good or ill, start flooding your field of vision. You start thinking of old girlfriends, long-forgotten cronies, beloved family members six feet under, or, perhaps, your thoughts simply evaporate into the cosmos above as you let the music take hold of the moment and your pure emotion amid it.

For The Association, they are not just a time capsule of a horrifically tumultuous and staggeringly beautiful era in history, they are the ones still carrying the torch of a generation that never gave up on peace, love and the promise of a new day. Coming about in 1965, The Band hit the radio waves just as the suburban homogenized society of the 1950s clashed with the new dawn counterculture of America.

Originally all dressed up and clean-cut, The Association soon grew beards and mustaches, soon traded in the three-piece suit and shining shoes for paisley shirts, beads and roman sandals. It was a change experienced by the youth of the time, and the music of The Association became part of the cultural soundtrack. Mesmerizing four-part harmonies ruled the iconic love songs "Never My Love" and "Cherish," while more frenzied and frolicking hits like "Windy" and "Along Comes Mary" also became radio standards.

Led by singer/guitarist Jim Yester, The Association was another one of those immortal Los Angeles acts (alongside The Byrds, The Mama's & The Papa's and Buffalo Springfield) whose powerful sound spilled out over America, to the lonely Midwestern farmer's daughters and restless New England sons looking out onto the world with curious eyes.

Garret K. Woodward: You know when I saw The Association live; I took my mother, who was a coming-of-age flower child of the 1960s. It was pretty incredible to watch her sing along to every song, almost as if I was sitting next to her as a teenager.

Jim Yester: [Laughs] Oh, how cool, huh? Well, we do get a lot of that. People always tell us, "You took me right back - I was there." I always get goose bumps when I hear people tell me that. In fact, I'm getting them right now just talking about it. The feedback and response from people is just fantastic. We feel the reaction from the people, and we feed on that, and we have our own relationship with the songs. People always ask if we're tired of playing those songs all the time, and we aren't. Not at all.

GKW: You were born in Alabama in the 1940s. How did you end up in California?

JY: My dad was a professional musician and he wanted to get involved in the movie business. When I was three years old, he moved the family to California and did get involved in the business. So, I grew up in Burbank and wound up as a teenager getting into The Kingston Trio. My friends and I would be sitting around, singing songs, and six months later we got a manager and started playing the folk circuit in LA.

GKW: How did The Association form?

JY: Well, after I was in the Army, I came back to LA in 1965. There was a 12-guy folk singing group called The Men that I ended up in. After six months, too many personalities and too many conflicts, it blew apart one afternoon and the core of what was left became The Association. The whole period for us in those days was such a whirlwind. The 1960s was an exciting time, one heck of a rollercoaster that I was glad to be on, and also blessed to still be part of.

GKW: The Association opened the iconic Monterey Pop Festival in 1967. How did that come about?

JY: We had the same producer as The Mama's & The Pop's. Their manager Lou Adler and Papa John Philips (The Mama's & The Papa's) were the driving force behind the whole thing, so naturally we got pulled into it. I think we got put on first because they weren't really prepared and the crowd was getting restless. The lights and cameras were even set up yet when we hit the stage. They threw us on, they didn't even get out first song "Enter The Young" on film or on tape. With the festival itself. nobody knew what was going to happen. The thing I liked most was at that time we were working so much and going so fast, we never got to see anyone else we were performing with. So with Monterey, we went on first, then stayed the whole time, sitting in the front row watching everybody - it was fantastic.

GKW: So, you saw Jimi Hendrix burn his guitar?

JY: Oh yeah, from about ten feet away. We were blown away for sure. That was an eye-opener. I had heard from someone that he actually picked up the "Star Spangled Banner" in the Army from another guy in the Army, who is a guy I remember playing it at a show where we all were stationed at in Europe. We worked with Hendrix a few times, actually.

GKW: Oh?

JY: About three or four times. First one being Monterey. Last time I saw him, we were at the same hotel and I remember him coming up in the elevator, and there must've been 50 people waiting outside his room or somewhere around him. I don't know how the guy got any rest. There were so many people in the entourage and hanger-on people. He looked just burned out. Poor guy, I truly felt sorry for him.

GKW: When did you know the 60s were over?

JY: In the early to mid-1970s it got a lot different, then disco happened. It got a little strange there. [Laughs] We even got asked to do a disco version of "Cherish," which we recorded and never got released. As a matter of fact, we had a whole disco album, "Association 77," but it never got released.

GKW: What's the legacy of The Association?

JY: That we were a refuge for people when they were kids, maybe alone in their room, maybe didn't have a happy childhood or couldn't get out and be free, and they took refuge in the music - that's our legacy. I remember a Vietnam veteran one time came to me with tears in his eyes and said, "You helped get us through." To know that we were able to touch all those people is beautiful thing, really.

Editor's Note:

The Association will perform at 8 p.m. Friday, March 13, at Turning Stone Resort Casino in Verona. Tickets are $20.25. http://www.turningstone.com.

 

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