By LA Weekly
By Henry Rollins
By Weekly Photographers
By Shea Serrano
By Nate "Igor" Smith
By Dan Weiss
By Erica E. Phillips
By Kai Flanders
Apple has come for his interview from his home in sleepy Lancaster. He's seen a lot. In order to support his music career he did many things he calls "unscrupulous stuff." Alapatt says it's hard to believe that Apple was out on the streets hustling at the same time he was making music that is so heartfelt and warm.
But, Apple says of his drug-dealing years, "It was a scenario that went on and it really happened. You can't justify it wrong or right. To some extent I feel bad about it. But I was dealing with adults. I wasn't dealing with kids," he adds soberly, before going quiet.
Although Apple struggles constantly with money and has a hard time paying the phone bill and taking the train everywhere, he's still holding on to the same dream that brought him to L.A. from Louisiana in 1960, when he was drunk on stories from his Dixieland-playing grandfather about gigs in Beverly Hills mansions.
"I had family out here," Apple says. "I came to pursue music and to experience things. I was a bad cat, a bad teenager. I was drummed out of New Orleans. I just got tired and wanted to move up. I told my mother, 'I'm going to L.A.' I came here for a while, got married twice."
"I hooked up with some local cats playing local bars. Cat named Jimmy Gresham, vocalist from Alabama, and his brother was a helluva sax player, Ben Gresham. And I hooked up with them and we were working these local bars in L.A. — California Club, the Tropicana and places like that. Some of them on Central Ave.
"My first recording came with Jimmy Gresham and I played on his sessions and then I went up and was doing things for Leon Haywood. I was cutting demos for Charles Wright, it just went from one extreme to another. With some cats, I played a lot of jazz, but I liked that funk."
Those were the R&B years, which then mutated into something called soul. "Soul — the word soul before was quiet, you know. They'd always speak about a prisoner, you know, 'He sounds soulful.'"
The word triggers a thought for Apple and he switches to the present.
"I got a song I just recorded," he says excitedly, pointing at his bag. "The name of the song is, 'I Am a Rock & Roll Soul Man,' and I speak about Mick Jagger, and the Rolling Stones, and Janis Joplin. I met her at the Whisky."
At the Whisky, far from the funky joints on Central Avenue, Apple also met Hendrix back when "he was clean, before he went to England." He also met Otis: "He was a loud cat — he had a big voice." He remembers Sonny Bono "when he met Cher on the Strip. A little flower girl, blemishes in her face, a little weight on here. Sonny had a company. Dr. John was there. I look back and think about it, that's the way it was."
The memories of all these boldface names, all far more successful and famous than he is, are not without pain: He says Dr. John (or "Mac," as Apple calls him) has recently contacted him to do something together but the drummer is skeptical.
"Mac's good people, but ... I've been trying reminiscing but ... I'd be bleeding and asking for a band-aid, and I can't get a Band-Aid. Dr. John ... he's made so many promises, you know. I'm gonna keep doing what I'm doing." An anecdote about Solomon Burke turns into a reminder that the legendary soul man allegedly owes Apple a lot of money from a gig way back when.
And yet, sipping his tea next to the young friend who's trying to tell the world about the greatness of his obscure singles, Apple hasn't lost the flame that brought him to L.A. all those years ago.
"Music nowadays is such a jigsaw puzzle. Much goin' on and yet not enough happening. But music is here [points at his head]. It will always be, you know.
"If you're in the industry and love it the way I love it, you never give up on your hopes and your dreams."