When I first met Steve Salazar, I was also introduced to his record collection. Now, at the time, I considered myself somewhat of a record collector. I probably had about 150 LPs (ok, maybe even 200) and even then I was a completest, so I had like all of Led Zeppelin’s albums and everything by the Doobie Brothers. You know. A real, hard core record collector. When I met Steve Salazar, he showed me his collection, which he kept in his room at Salazar central in L.A., and I’d never seen anything like it.
He had probably close to 1000 LPs, all meticulously sorted by artist, and most impressively, each album was housed in a clear plastic sleeve. He had a lot of great stuff. Of particular interest to me was his Frank Zappa and the Mothers collection, which was quite complete. I couldn’t really relate to his extensive and ever expanding collection of film soundtrack albums, but I had to respect it all the same.
One LP he showed me made a big impression. Not because I was familiar with the artist - I’d never heard of her. But, it was on a label I was familiar with (Prestige - a “prestigious” jazz label) and the 1st track on the album was called “Shortie’s Portion”.
Even though there was a slight spelling discrepancy, I knew what the title of the song referred to.
Patrice Rushen was a child prodigy pianist and multi-instrumentalist near genius. When Steve Salazar met her as a fellow music major at USC, she was everything he wanted to be and so much more. The plain fact is, Patrice was far beyond anyone else Steve knew musically, and Steve knew quite a few talented people.
Andy Gonzalez played me a tape of a Shorty’s Portion concert at USC where Patrice came up and “jammed” with the band. Andy noted how the level of the band’s musicianship went through the roof once Patrice chimed in.
A couple of years later, Patrice began making hit R&B records. Songs like “Hang It Up”, “Haven’t You Heard” and “Forget Me Nots” were staples of urban radio formats in the early ’80s. At the time, I remembered the Steve Salazar connection, and wondered what happened to the jazz purest I’d heard at Steve Salazar’s house that day.
In the intervening years, I would sometimes be reminded of Patrice Rushen and would wonder whatever happened to her. Not to worry. Patrice has done just fine. Go ahead. Google her.
The other day I was browsing records at one of my favorite stores and came across “Prelude”, the album Steve owned which features the song, “Shortie’s Portion”. It’s kind of a rare record these days, and it was in pristine condition, so the $15.00 price tag seemed more than fair.
What it comes down to is Patrice Rushen knew Steve Salazar and respected his take on music enough that she was inspired to write a song, who’s theme was based on a Salazarian mode. And although she takes full writer’s credit, the title says it all.
The following is a partial repost of an article I wrote originally for RecordRobot.com:
Shorty’s Portion was centered around singer/composer Steve Salazar. Steve was born with a hole in his heart, and underwent 2 corrective surgeries by the time he was 10. Unfortunately both surgeries went awry and doctors gave him only a couple of years to live. Steve beat the odds and stayed alive despite the dire predictions of his doctors, but was not able to enjoy physical activities like other kids. He was brilliant though. He excelled in school and proved to have near genius intelligence. He was the oldest of 5 kids in a very tight half Hispanic, half Armenian family. The Salazars lived in a big old Craftsman style house in the El Sereno neighborhood of Los Angeles, and despite Steve’s pessimistic prognosis, they were a very positive, happy bunch. Steve’s siblings all looked up to their big brother, even though by the time he was fully grown he stood about 5’3”, and weighed about 90 lbs.
Steve took piano lessons at an early age. Of course he discovered rock music by the time he reached puberty, and he admired artists like Neil Young and Todd Rundgren. But when he discovered Frank Zappa, he went into hyper-drive and began writing not only pop songs, but also complex, near symphonic musical pieces with sardonic, self depreciating lyrics. In high school, he soaked up music theory classes, and was quite popular with the other “music geeks”.
Later he attended USC, and eventually got a degree in musical composition. The Shorty’s Portion album was recorded during his USC stint, and the band was comprised mainly of other music majors. Steve had high hopes for a career in music. He had an almost equal passion for film, and especially loved film music. About half of his massive record collection was comprised of soundtrack albums, so if given the opportunity, I’m sure he could have easily segued into composing film music ala Danny Elfman or Randy Newman. True to his quirky nature, he often said that if he made some money, he’d like to open a liquor store in Beverly Hills, and sell booze to rich people.
From Steve’s liner notes: Bear in mind that most of this was done in our spare time and under not-so-opportune conditions. I’m sure that under the proper conditions with access to better facilities, it would still sound the same.
1st time we rehearsed with Steve Salazar was at Andy Thoreson’s parent’s house in approximately September of ‘77. I think the reason we chose that site was because there was an upright piano there for Salazar to play. Here’s a version of 4th of July from that session.
On the same tape with Steve Salazar’s first attempt at writing a punk rock song (Long May She Wave) was another demo for a song he had written previously and thought might be a good fit for us. The song was called 4th of July, and yes, it was a good fit for us.
Upon receiving these two demos, we made copies for everyone and then each of us worked on our parts. Playing bass was new to me, and since we now had a serious song writer who wrote specific parts, my work was cut out for me. I remember playing records like Born To Run (I’m not a huge Springsteen fan, but the bass on that album is great), Deacon Blues by Steely Dan (a head scratcher now that I think about it) and My Aim Is True (the whole album) by Elvis Costello, and trying to learn the bass parts. I can figure out parts easy enough, even if I don’t fully understand them musically. I knew great music when I heard it though, and those two Steve Salazar songs were great, and were dying for the “band treatment”.
There was only one way The Skabbs could perform 4th of July though, and that was with Steve Salazar singing it. There’s no other way that songs works, so Gonzalez asked him if he’d care to join The Skabbs, and he said (and I paraphrase), “Sure. Why not?”.