Back in the '70s if you wished to spend a little time in the US and were engaged in any form of study, legitimate or otherwise, ISETA was the organization for you.
I can't remember what the initials stood for but, along with bookies, bartenders, jockeys and sundry blackguards, I was provided with a social security number on the assumption that I would return to Ireland and fund my studies with my legally gained remuneration.
I'm not sure if Gabe Hannon came to the US in that manner but he sure fit the profile.
Gabe from Ballydehob was a credit to West Cork. He passed away in Newport, RI some weeks back.
I can't even remember when I first met him. Seemed like I knew him forever. But then Gabe knew everyone worth knowing and many others besides.
He had that particular charm, earnestness, quick wit and easy intelligence that is peculiar to the wild west of Cork. He was also a bit of a soft touch and was drawn to musicians, actors and writers – not a good combination at the best of times, particularly if you were proprietor of Gabe's Bar in Ballydehob.
He was also a poet and a fine artist who delighted working in wood. This inevitably led him to theatre design, which is probably how our paths crossed.
He liked to hold business meetings over breakfast for he didn't trust liquidy promises made late at night. My first such repast with him was at the Dublin, Ohio Irish Festival when we agreed to produce a play of mine.
It was there he first informed me about the long lost tapes of Hendrix. In many ways this wooly tale sums up Gabe and the whole ISETA generation.
After Jimi Hendrix final date with The Experience in 1969 neither band nor crew had been paid in some time. Bassist Noel Redding decided to take out a little insurance.
He visited Hendrix storage rooms, filled a truck with guitars, amplifiers and the live tapes of the last shows, and lit out for West Cork where the living was easy and marijuana was not unknown to grow.
While driving through Ballydehob he happened upon Gabe. They struck up a conversation and Noel stated that he had would like to purchase a house. He explained, however, that while he had mucho dinero coming, his liquidity left much to be desired.
Gabe noted that such problems were common enough in the county of Cork but that the manager of the local Bank might be willing to grant a mortgage should Noel have anything of value that could be lodged for surety.
Indeed he had – Hendrix hot-off-the-board last concert tapes! The bank manager suitably impressed - the tapes were lodged in the vault, a house purchased and a mortgage granted – everyone being of the opinion that royalties and gig monies would be arriving forthwith.
Alas, life is rarely simple in the music business. Hendrix upped and died; his estate became mired in a Sargasso of litigation and an uneasy calm settled on Ballydehob.
Not for long, shady figures were seen lurking around the bank and Mr. Redding had occasion to believe that his life was under threat. His legal situation was no less fraught; while he was definitely owed monies, he was in illicit possession of some very valuable Hendrix chattels.
Added to this he was apparently often reluctant to settle his bills; this occasioned "burglaries" of his own storage room leading to the disappearance of certain Hendrix guitars that are still floating around the province of Munster.
Gabe had promised me final details at which time we were going to submit a full written account to Rolling Stone or National Geographic. Alas, the best laid plans of publicans and rockers...
Fear not, I have a ticket booked to Ballydehob! I plan to lease the now vacated Allied Irish Bank building, rescue the tapes and solve a mystery that began in that long-ago psychedelic summer of 1969 – unless you beat me there first.
So long, Gabe, I won't shed any more tears for you. I know you have a permanent front seat at the ongoing Hendrix jam in heaven.