One of the best things about house sitting is the interesting people we meet. When Mark and I applied for this current house sit in Kent, we did not know much about the owners. Once we were pre-screened for the “job”, Mark had a phone conversation with them to set up a meeting (I was in Belgium at the time) and to find out if they were reasonable people. 🙂 Then, we did a quick Google search for Steve Katz and Alison Palmer, and learned that they were both accomplished artists. (I will share Alison’s main website in my next blog.)
“Alison and I are both jealous of each other’s careers,” Steve said, when we met him and his wife, last fall. They had invited us over for lunch at their house so we could meet them and their four pets: Henry and Mickey, the dogs, and Tutu and Koo Koo, the parrots. We were overwhelmed by engaging stories – Steve is a great entertainer – and a tour of the house revealed a lot of memorabilia and artwork. Steve had just written and published a book about his career as a rock star and is touring again, giving insights of his book and playing guitar. We talked about that and our three month house sitting duties. To prevent us from backing out of our commitment, Steve lured us with “If you take this house sitting job, I’ll give you a signed copy of my book!” We had no choice but accept.
Steve Katz is arguably the most famous rock star you have never heard of. Or, if you grew up in the 60s and 70s and were into the rock scene, you might have an inkling of who he is. He is a founding member of Blood, Sweat and Tears and the Blues Project before that, and produced albums for Lou Reed and other musicians. He was part of the whole rock ‘n roll scene, from his Greenwich Village beginnings, to a performance at Woodstock and future international fame, and hung out with the elite of the blues and rock scene, as he so amusingly and honestly writes about in his book “Blood, Sweat, and My Rock ‘n Roll Years – Is Steve Katz a Rock Star?”
I was born in the mid-seventies, so am not too familiar with that whole generation. Of course, I know Bob Dylan and Jim Morrison, whose grave I have visited in Paris, and like their music, but to read about Steve meeting these guys – and many other idols like Janis Joplin, Chuck Berry and Neil Armstrong – and playing music with some of them puts everything into perspective.
Now I know that Lou Reed was a jerk, for example!
What made reading Steve’s book even more interesting is that I was surrounded by the very albums he writes about and the posters of the venues he performed at. I listened to his songs, while reading his words. I stared at a photo of him and Sir George Martin, the producer of the Beatles, while learning about his attachment to the man. Mark and I watched the movie Fargo again, now knowing that Steve’s song “Sometimes in Winter” is featured in it. This is so very cool, since Steve is a fan of the genius Coen brothers, something that is very obvious when looking at his immense DVD collection, part of which we enjoyed in the evenings as well.
Needless to say, living in the house of an ex-rock star adds some extra excitement to our three month stay in Kent. We walk along the annals of music history on the walls to the basement, could pick up one of Steve’s guitars if we wanted (if only we could play), Mark works at the desk under Steve’s quadruple platinum album, we listen to an emotional voice message of an ex-band member and exchange emails with the rock star himself, while we shower his pets with love. I’ll remind him about that signature when he comes home…
Yes, it’s a pretty unique lifestyle we have chosen. And, I have barely mentioned Alison yet! Stay tuned…
This blog has been written with the approval of Steve Katz.