In a career that's taken him from London to Los Angeles, Alex Call will always consider Marin County home. It was on his property in Mill Valley, sitting underneath a plum tree, that Call wrote his most famous song, also the name of his new memoir. 867-5309/Jenny: The Song That Saved Me tells Call's story as the lead singer of Clover, a band that included Huey Lewis and Doobie Brother John McFee.
After gaining a following in San Francisco, the band spent the 1970s primarily in London before disbanding in 1978. It was back home in Marin that Call later wrote 867-5309, a song made popular by Tommy Tutone.
Now Call is a resident of Nashville, but is coming back to Marin for a pair of concerts to celebrate the release of his new book.
"It's a real homecoming gig," Call explains. "I’m going to have the original drummer from Clover, Mitch Howie, playing with me. Gary Vogensen is playing lead guitar. I was playing Gary’s Ovation guitar when I wrote 867-5309."
The events will be both concerts and book signings, with Call talking about his memoir and solo playing songs from across the spectrum of his musical career. He refers to his book as a "rock 'n rollercoaster," chronicling his life in music starting in early 1960s Marin. Call empahiszes that his book is more than just his own story.
"It really covers about thirty years of rock 'n roll, and it's not just a personal account -- it's a look at the times as well. I tried to take readers behind-the-scenes; to give them a backstage pass to what it was like to be in a band at that time: all the ups and downs people go through when you're in showbiz and trying to make records."
Call has referred to Clover as "the band that almost was." Member Huey Lewis went on to form Huey Lewis and the News, while several core members of Clover worked as Elvis Costello's backing band on his critically-acclaimed debut, My Aim is True. Clover played with many of the era's biggest names, including Big Brother and the Holding Company, Lynyrd Skynyrd and Thin Lizzy, but never broke through in a big way themselves.
"Our sum was weaker than our parts," he summizes.
Call was in need of a break when he wrote 867-5309, which quickly reached the top of the Billboard charts. He later wrote Little Too Late for Pat Benetar, and two singles (The Power of Love and Perfect World) for Huey Lewis and the News. Collectively, these singles afforded Call the opprotunity to head his own band, which he toured around with until his eventual move to Nashville.
Now that he's written his memoir, Call currently has several other book projects in the works, including a novel and stories in the genres of fantasy/adventure and baseball. He assures anyone who may be worried that he has every intention of continuing to write and sing songs. He does, after all, owe some of his success to strumming on a guitar in his backyard. Reflecting back on the day he wrote his big single, Call attributes its creation to what he calls "song0writing magic."
"You know, the title came out of thin air. There was no Jenny, there was no 867-5309 – I made it up. It was just one of those lucky things. I wish there was a better story behind it," he said.
Alex Call's Return Home”Book Concert takes place at , 27 Kensington Rd. in San Anselmo. The two shows are scheduled for Oct. 14 and 15, from 7 to 10 p.m. Tickets are $20. For more info, or to purchase tickets, visit: http://www.alexcall.net.