A serial memoir by Jean Fogelberg


The Trip

In the Fall of 1969, Dan entered the University of Illinois as a wide-eyed mid-western boy, hungry for new experiences. A year later, he was establishing himself as an accomplished solo performer and hanging out with a small group of artistic freaks and hippies. For him, they represented a clean break from the repressive high school environment where growing his hair long and dressing like the musicians he admired were grounds for dismissal.

    In his last years at Woodruff High, he was the award-winning actor who got his pick of the good parts, despite his small stature and acne. In the U of I drama department, though, his past accolades were worthless; the competition tall and clear-skinned. He was on the bottom rung and if he wanted the lead roles again, he would have to work his way to the top by taking bit parts and kissing up to the instructors, something he was incapable of doing. 

    Donna, on the other hand, was thriving. Students and instructors alike had crushes on her. It wasn’t just that she was pretty; there was something about her that drew men in. She and Dan had entered the drama department as equals, but she was quickly surpassing him. He decided to transfer from Drama to Art, where his work would be judged for the work itself.

    It was a good move for him; he liked his instructors and was enjoying the chance to delve back into drawing and painting. He connected right away with a girl in drawing class named Suzy Drell. She had long, thick, light brown hair, blue eyes, and the dry wit Dan related to.

    Dan would go to Suzy’s apartment and she’d make him Creamette noodles with butter. Even as a small child, noodles and butter were the only thing Margaret Fogelberg could get her youngest son to eat some days. He hated lima beans, and some epic dinner-table wars had been waged between Dan and his father over his refusal to eat them. There was no budging him, though; once Dan made up his mind, the Hounds of Hades could not change it.

    Outgoing and confident in high school, Dan became increasingly withdrawn in college. He was only comfortable with his closest friends, a creative lot who were into books, music, art, pot and LSD.

    The U.S. federal government made possession of LSD illegal in 1968, but many of Dan’s idols had talked about acid trips that changed their lives and enhanced their music, so he felt compelled to try it. Readily available, it was widely used on campus. He was experimenting with drawing, painting, writing, and playing music while high. It was also fun, and a lovely escape from the pain of unrequited love.

    Weeks would pass with no sign of Donna, and then he’d see her out with some jock or fraternity guy. Meanwhile, Dan was drinking herbal tea with hippies, reading Carlos Castañeda and Hermann Hesse and dropping acid; not exactly a sorority girl’s dream guy.

    In the spring of 1971, the dean of the fine arts department called Dan into his office one day and told him that the college was considering dropping him for non-attendance. Dan said he understood, and as he got up to leave, the dean added that he’d enjoyed Dan’s recent concert at Smith Hall. The writing was on the wall.


    Peter Berkow wanted to record another Red Herring album, but the Herring collective were concerned about going into debt. So Peter scraped together almost two thousand dollars (a lot of money for a 19-year old kid in 1969) and got the musicians back to RoFran Studios. He had wanted to put Dan’s song, “Looking For A Lady” on the first Red Herring album, but had been outvoted in favor of “The Actress and the Artist.” Now he would put “Looking For a Lady,” on the new album, believing that it would get airplay on the campus radio station.

    The album came out under the Red Herring umbrella, but since, according to the coffeehouse management, it was an “unauthorized” release, it was called The Red Herring Bootleg Album. The risk paid off for Peter: the album broke even and sold out in a month, and would have several more pressings due to popular demand. Local radio stations began playing it. Looking For a Lady reached #5 on WPGU’s Top 40, and Peter’s song, Rhythm of the Winter and the Fall reached #11, aided by Dan’s stellar guitar playing and harmonies. Business at the Herring increased as people came in to hear the songs performed live.

REO Red Lion.jpg

Irving Azoff was a well-known U of I alumni who had gone on to create a small empire by booking and managing rock groups with fellow fraternity brother, Bob Nutt, at Blytham, Ltd. They booked bands into venues like the Chances R and The Red Lion Inn, in a circuit of clubs throughout Illinois, Wisconsin, Iowa, and Michigan. Irving never ventured into coffeehouses, so his path hadn’t crossed Dan’s, but people were telling him he needed to hear this talented kid, Dan Fogelberg. He booked rock bands, he would say; he wasn’t interested in folk singers. Finally, though, to stop a friend from bugging him, Irving said he’d give Dan a listen. The friend was aware that Donna knew Dan, so she was sent to get him. 

    Dan was asleep when she arrived at his door, but she kept knocking until he finally got up. He hadn’t seen her in a couple of months and his heart leapt at the sight of her. She said that Irving Azoff wanted to hear him play, so he needed to get it together and get over there now.

    Dan was a "radical, left-wing folkie"; Irving a "hip capitalist." The two of them couldn’t have been more different, which is reflected in their memories of that first meeting.


    Irving recalls sitting in his little office on Green St., next to the Red Lion Inn, and having Dan play some songs on his guitar. Dan had ridden his new 10-speed bike over and, as he was playing for Irving, the bike was stolen.

    Dan’s recollection is more cinematic. It takes place in the Chances R bar, and includes a rowdy brawl going on as he plays his quiet love songs for Irving, whose attention never wavers despite the pandemonium.

    However it happened, Irving loved what Dan played for him that day. Their temperaments and ideologies were worlds apart, and yet they bonded immediately. Dan would consider Irving “family” for the rest of his life.

    When it came to the music, their differences worked for them. Dan was the introverted, sensitive musician; Irving the energetic, assertive manager who would break down record company doors that Dan would have hesitated to knock on.

    The letter from the college arrived, informing Dan that they were dropping him, and a copy was sent to his parents. Dan drove home to Peoria and told his parents he was leaving college for a life in music. They weren’t happy. Dan’s father had been a talented professional musician, playing in big bands and touring with the USO, and he knew that a successful career in the music industry was a long shot. But he also believed that Dan was very talented, so he made a deal with him: Dan could pursue his dream, but if he’d made no progress after one year, he would go back to college and get a degree. Dan agreed.


Irving went to Los Angeles first, and would send for Dan in a couple of weeks. Dan gave up his apartment and was living in Irving’s office, sleeping on a mattress on the floor, anxious for the big move and going stir crazy. Irving arranged for Dan to pick up a “driveaway” vehicle in Chicago and deliver it to a dealership in Las Vegas. Upon delivery, Dan would get $500. It was a brilliant way for a penniless musician to drive across the country. Dan took a morning train to Chicago, picked up a compact truck, and drove it back to Champaign. Irving had sent $200 for food and gas. Everything was in place for Dan to make the long-awaited move to L.A. the next day.


    To pass the time and distract his mind, he dropped a hit of Window Pane acid and spent a lovely, nostalgic day in the park. That evening he took another hit. Nothing happened, so he took another. Again, nothing happened. He figured they must have been duds. After five hits, there was still no effect.

    He drove the small truck to see Jon and Bob and hung out with them at their apartment, talking and listening to music. After a while, he decided to drive to the Red Lion, to see who was playing. On the way there, he hit a bump in the road, and all five hits of LSD exploded in his solar plexus.

    It had rained earlier, but the stars were out now. The street was wet and there were no other cars on the road; no people anywhere. It was a scene from The Twilight Zone. He thought he had been in a car accident, and was dead. 

    Somehow, he made it back to Irving’s office. When he woke the next morning, he knew something was different. He had experienced “ego death” before on LSD: the temporary loss of self that can lead to a transcendent feeling of enlightenment; of being one with all things. But as he began moving around and preparing to leave for L.A., he realized he was still experiencing it, but without the feeling of transcendence or enlightenment. He realized that the massive dose of acid had erased his ego. 

    He knew who he was, where he was, and what he was doing, but he had no sense of self-identity. It was like waking up in a house he had built, and lived in, for many years, with no memory of the construction.

    With no ego, there was no fear. A little voice was saying he should be freaked out, but he found himself considering his situation dispassionately. There was nothing to do but continue on, so Dan put his amp, two guitars, a sleeping bag, and a backpack full of clothes in the back of the truck and headed for the west coast on I-70 west. He got to Denver as the rising sun was hitting the Rocky Mountains. Exhausted, he found a quiet place to park, and slept. He woke in the afternoon and ate, then got back on the highway, astounded at the size and majesty of the mountain peaks. 

    A sign for the Rocky Mountain National Park proved irresistible, so he took the next exit. Now and then he’d park in a pullout to stretch and breathe, or hike a trail if one presented itself. He continued into the mountains and ended up in Estes Park. It was so peaceful and regenerative, he didn’t want to leave, so he got a room at the small inn.

    Over the next few days, he hiked in the mountains and searched for books by the eastern gurus, as well as Timothy Leary and Richard Alpert. He wanted to learn how they had come back from the death of the ego, after having gone there willingly, the gurus through meditation, and Leary and Alpert, through acid.

    He called Irving to say he was almost out of money, and Irving said he’d wire funds via Western Union. It took time to arrive and the kind inn-keeper said Dan could stay until the money got there.

    One day he hiked to the top of Half Mountain to take in the incredible views. At the summit he saw a jar filled with pieces of paper that had the names of others who had reached the top, and where they were from. Dan added his own scrap of paper to the jar. Back at his room, he wrote a few lyrics for the song that would become “Song From Half Mountain.”

    When the money arrived, Dan was sad to leave the mountains. So much waited ahead of him, though, so he loaded up the truck and got back on the road. He was a nineteen-year-old guy on the adventure of his life, so when he got to Utah, rather than heading south, to the dealership in Las Vegas, he impulsively headed north to San Francisco.

    On the top of Mount Tamalpais, the wind nearly knocked him off his feet as he looked down on San Francisco Bay. On that windy coast he added another verse to  Song From Half Mountain.

Song From Half Mountain
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Song From Half Mountain 

Now the wind is still 

In a moment it will be raging 

Now my soul is young 

In a moment it will be aging 

And high above the pines I wrote several lines 

And left them in a bottle for you to find 


Now the dream is rising 

In a moment it will be past 

This breath is my first 

It will all too soon be my last 

And on a windy coast I made several toasts 

To you and me and the sea and no one heard 


Now the wind is still 

In a moment it will be raging 

Now my soul is young 

In a moment it will be aging 

And high above the pines 

I wrote several lines 

And left them in a bottle for you to find 


Colorado 1971 

    It was a six-hour drive to Los Angeles. As he got closer to Hollywood, he saw signs for Topanga Canyon, Malibu, Sunset Blvd.; all the places he’d read about in articles, interviews, and stories about this city that was the center of the music universe. He could hardly believe he was really there. He met Irving at the Whisky A Go Go on the Sunset Strip and followed him to their temporary digs at the home of Irving’s Aunt Bernice. 

    Two days later, Dan drove the truck across the Mohave Desert to the dealership in Las Vegas. He planned to use some of the delivery money to buy a plane ticket back to L.A., but that was not to be. The dealer had expected him over a week ago, and when he saw his brand new truck, which was filthy and had a dent in the tailgate, he chewed Dan out and said he wasn’t giving him a penny. Dan hitched his way back to Los Angeles.

    A few weeks later he and Irving moved to an apartment on Holloway, just above Tower Records. Irving was working at the Heller-Fischel Agency in Beverly Hills, across the street from David Geffen’s Lookout Management. While Dan was writing music, Irving was making inroads with his customary energy and determination. He ended up getting Dan a record deal with Clive Davis at Columbia Records, and Dan was on his way to the big time.


Posted August 29th. 2020 Copyright ©Jean Fogelberg 2020