In the recently published “Sex, No Drugs & Rock’N’Roll: Memoirs Of A Music Junkie,” Lenny Kalikow tells the story of his journey from suburban teen trekking to Greenwich Village to sing in clubs in the 1960s to success as a singer-songwriter in the 1970s to longtime music industry executive. The 342-page paperback was written in two parts — the first covering the 1950s and 60s, then the 1970s — as his evolution in music corresponded with what was going on in the news and American culture.
“I had this thought that my Baby Boomer generation went through the same maturation process as the country. After World War II, we were innocent. We could do anything, and everything was simple — black and white,” Kalikow told the byteclay.com. “As we became teenagers and we got into the 60s, it was a time of revolution and rebellion. The country was going through the same stuff. Then as we became cynical, there was Nixon and Watergate and all that.” The first half of the book recounts his aspirations to be in the music business and how he tried to succeed, while the latter tells how he started getting record contracts and living his dream.
While Kalikow was still a student at White Plains High School, he became a regular performer in the legendary clubs and coffeehouses of Greenwich Village in the 1960s — the Gaslight Cafe, Cafe Wha?, Gerdes Folk City, The Bitter End, etc. — during the peak of folk music popularity. “I was a kid in high school, and there were hundreds of high school kids all over Greenwich Village. And we would go from one place to another, on Hootenanny Night and get on a list to be able to sing,” he said. “I was originally playing the trumpet. But I couldn’t sing doing trumpet, so I got a guitar, taught myself how to play, and became a folk singer.”
After high school, he became more serious in his pursuit of a music career. While he was a student at Indiana University, he also played in the Village clubs when in New York, opening for the likes of Richie Havens, Phil Ochs, and Buffy Sainte-Marie.
He recalls that music during this time “started to go through an evolution, where it went from just singing folk songs to getting into commentary.” The singer-songwriter was involved in civil rights activism and protests, which influenced his writing. He also caught the attention of talent agents at the prestigious William Morris Agency, who offered to represent him and book him in Las Vegas. They promised he’d become a major star — if he’d drop out of college. “I had a real difficult decision to make at that point: would I leave college, which also made me vulnerable to the draft? And did I actually want to be a Vegas act? It was a really difficult decision, but I decided to go back to college and finish, and if I’m still as good as these people think, maybe they can find work for me [later],” Kalikow said. “And I always question that decision for the rest of my life. It was a pivotal time and I think I made the right decision.”
Since then, he’s held a variety of executive positions in the entertainment business. By 1976, he was the editor and publisher of the subscription-based music industry information service “New On The Charts,” a publication by Music Business Reference, Inc., of which he was president. Kalikow has also served as co-founder and president of a TV, film, and video production company, as well as vice president and general manager of Music Equity, Inc., a music publishing organization.
The paperback edition of his memoir was released in February, while the eBook is expected later this month. The delay in the release of the eBook is because he found cassettes of songs he sang in the 1970s and is having some embedded (via a new technology) into the eBook and audiobook.