Most sunny skies for David Laflamme

Posted 7/2/09

It’s still a beautiful day in David LaFlamme’s neighborhood. In some ways, little has changed in four decades for this California-based violinist …

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Most sunny skies for David Laflamme


It’s still a beautiful day in David LaFlamme’s neighborhood.

In some ways, little has changed in four decades for this California-based violinist and founder of the band, It’s a Beautiful Day — though he has moved down the coast from San Francisco to Burbank.

During the late 1960s, LaFlamme’s typically beautiful day went like this: He led a band with his wife, Linda, and diligently booked the act’s shows himself. In his spare time, he butted heads with a music impresario named Matthew Katz and travelled the length of California carrying a box of tapes for a vagabond friend.

Fast forward four decades. LaFlamme arranges live appearances for his band, which still features his wife, Linda. He continues exchanging lawsuits with Katz. And, until about four years ago, he was still lugging around that friend’s box of tapes every time he moved though the Golden State.

Never mind that the box’s rightful owner is serving time for mass murder — or that the bandleader is now married to a completely different woman named Linda. The more things change, the more they get weird for David LaFlamme.

“It’s been very hard for her,” the violinist said of wife No. 2. “Because when you’re doing autographs and people are asking all kinds of questions — on the bill, it’s been advertised as David and Linda LaFlamme — they don’t know so they get confused about it.”

LaFlamme’s band name has been even more problematic.

Since wrestling back the copyright for It’s a Beautiful Day from Katz, the California musician, his spouse and his band mates have been playing a limited number of gigs each year for a limited number of very devoted fans, whom the bandleader calls “Dayheads.”

It’s a Beautiful Day plays its mix of folk, psychedelia, jazz and rock on July 17 at the Swallow Hill Music Association, 71 E. Yale Ave., in south Denver.

“If I bring 100 CDs, I sell 100,” LaFlamme said. “If I bring 200, I sell 200. But I wish we had more work. Everything is just media-driven. There was a time when the majority of the music was just good music.”

Times have a-changed, according to this 68-year-old 1960s troubadour.

“Now, you see Jessica Simpson and her sister, and it’s all just about media,” LaFlamme said. “They’re on TV. They’re in the movies. They have an album. I mean, is there anything they’re not doing? Stripping on off nights? How do you compete with that?”

Things were different — save for nudity — in San Francisco’s Haight-Ashbury, circa 1967 when singer Scott McKenzie immortalized the city in “San Francisco (Be Sure to Wear Flowers in Your Hair).”

It was a flower-power climate in which one could even get away with naming his band something as, well, eternally hippie-dippy as It’s a Beautiful Day.

“It’s an abortion, for sure,” LaFlamme said of the lengthy moniker. “I wanted one of those other names like Vanilla Fudge. It sounded too optimistic, nothing but daisies. It didn’t really represent what I wanted, either, because I wanted the music to be dark.”

LaFlamme’s original group was called the Electric Light Orkustra, six years before Britain’s Jeff Lynne founded a so-named band with a more conventional spelling.

The San Francisco outfit later became the Electric Chamber Orkustra, and finally just the Orkustra, before someone — LaFlamme cannot remember who — conceived what may have been the first band name to consist of a complete sentence.

LaFlamme is certain that it was not Katz — then acting informally as the band’s manager — who thought up the cheery weather forecast. The savvy producer copyrighted it anyway, unbeknownst to the band, which wound up having to pay Katz for using the title.

The Pollyanna-like name would prove ironic in other ways. Among the players in LaFlamme’s earliest sessions was a Haight-Ashbury drifter known as “Bummer” Bobby Beausoleil, a talented musician who was well known for being unreliable, according to LaFlamme.

The last time he saw Beausoleil was in the Haight around 1968 when “Bummer” was walking the neighborhood with another struggling singer-songwriter by the name of Charles Manson.

“It was the only time I’d ever met the fellow,” LaFlamme said of the infamous cult leader who later wrote a song recorded by the Beach Boys. “They were on their way to Los Angeles — the two of them — and Bobby asked me if I would keep a small box of possessions for him while he was gone, because he knew I always had a place.”

Beausoleil never made it back to San Francisco to retrieve his possessions. By the time LaFlamme finally returned the box of tapes to him, about four years ago, “Bummer” was already 35 years into a life sentence for participating in the Tate-LaBianca murders.

In 1969, while Beausoleil was being held for questioning, things began to go comparatively beautiful for LaFlamme and company.

Although It’s a Beautiful Day never saw the success of some of its Haight-Ashbury contemporaries, including the Grateful Dead and Jefferson Airplane, the band’s song “White Bird” from its self-titled debut album became a staple of underground FM.

Its composer gradually learned a thing or two about copyright law too.

“[Katz] had so many balls in the air and he was so busy with all these other lawsuits that in 2004, he just forgot to reregister the name, It’s a Beautiful Day,” LaFlamme said.

The bandleader quickly registered the name himself. At last, the man who was most responsible for It’s a Beautiful Day’s music was able to play and tour unfettered under its auspices. The musician’s forecast had suddenly gone from partly cloudy to darn-right sunny.

But then, Katz rained on LaFlamme’s parade with another lawsuit.

The violinist does not want strings played under his story — though he still enjoys playing strings with his band. And that enjoyment is what matters most to him as It’s a Beautiful Day celebrates its 40th anniversary.

“It’s what keeps my band together, quite frankly,” LaFlamme said. “There’s no money in it. So we end up doing our own thing, going around the hard way, like I did originally, building little audiences, selling CDs, hand to mouth. It’s because the band really enjoys playing the music. It’s the kind of music that allows them to express themselves.”

If you go

It’s a Beautiful Day will perform July 17 at Swallow Hill Music Association, 71 E. Yale Ave., in south Denver.

Advance tickets are $25 for the general public, $23 for Swallow Hill members.

For more information, call 303-777-1003 or visit


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