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Frank Goad’s brutal honesty on canvas and in audio influenced generations of Santa Barbarans. | Credit: Courtesy

Frank Allen Goad: 1938-2019

Frank Allen Goad, who passed away June 1 at the age of 80, was one of the South Coast’s major artists too few knew. No doubt a writing teacher would want to rap her student on the knuckles if said student created a character with the doubly obvious name Frank Goad. The funny part is that Frank Goad did exist, even if he was quite a character, and was perhaps most himself being frank while goading people. But what else would we want from our artists but brutal honesty? Frank loved to tell the tale of his favorite rejection note. He would quote the disapproving editor: “Dear Mr. Goad, I think I know what you’re trying to do … and I don’t like it.”

And there was so much art to like/dislike, even if going to his home and watching a naked canvas stare his muse down for weeks at a time made clear that his creativity was far from effortless, despite all the avenues in which he expressed himself. Powerful, gestural, emotional, his paintings are vividly thrilling and often capture the Santa Barbara he loved — and felt a tad betrayed by, but ain’t that Santa Barbara? — with typical larger-than-life force. It didn’t hurt that many canvases were five-and-a-half feet by five-and-a-half feet, challenging you to have a house big enough to hold them. His work was exhibited from our Santa Barbara Museum of Art to the United Arts Club in Dublin, Ireland.

There was also his pioneering audio work beginning in the 1960s. Frank played with tape manipulation and performance and timing and panning in ways ahead of his time. His out-there recordings would often get presented live, too, most spectacularly in A Legal Assembly at a packed UCSB’s Campbell Hall in May 1970, just a few months after illegal assemblies led to the Bank of America torching in I.V. That night even had Rolling Stone in the house, and their story hailed Goad as a “freak genius.”

Landing a recording contract, Goad went off to a studio in Connecticut to woodshed, but instead did what he sadly too often did when his due fame was almost in his grasp: his genius freaked. Maybe it was the drugs, maybe it was just non-pharmaceutical paranoia, but he suddenly felt for certain that his recording contract sponsors were the Mob (as if that hurt Sinatra any, c’mon), and he ran.

Although he lacked a killer instinct, he wielded a killer wit — that goad part of him was perceptive enough to hone in on your deepest secret weakness and bring it to the public surface (fashion-conscious me has a sweater I stopped wearing after he belittled me in it, for instance). He hurt so good he couldn’t help himself from hurting others. He always wanted a bit of distance. So while he was one of the Mountain Drive men of the ’60s-’70s, and you’ll find his hippie-Jesus visage staring out at you in practically every other hot tub shot of the era, he never wanted to be defined by that, either. Not a joiner in any way.

Photo: CourtesyFrank Goad with his beloved dog Maxwell.

He’d rather be known by those individuals with whom he collaborated, such as UCSB English prof Ed Loomis, with whom Goad did audio work like Zendada and an autobiography-once-removed novel ironically titled Clean and Sober. Or Wayne Yentis (think Joe Frank’s weirder radio cousin), who also invented the keytar. Or Noel Young, founder of Capra Press and publisher of Henry Miller and more. Goad designed many of those 1970s and ’80s Capra books. (Full disclosure, the last book he designed, featuring a detail from one of his paintings, is my poetry volume The First Night We Thought the World Would End. And part of it now has.)

And then there’s his radio time, which began in the early 1970s — there’s a recording of a KCSB pledge drive segment in which he’s raising funds so the station can go from mono to stereo! He took a hiatus for a couple of decades but returned for an almost nine-year run as my cohost on KCSB’s “Frank ’n’ George.”

I’ve got no better way to end than with the words of esteemed writer/musician Joe Woodard: “I have been a major fan of ‘Frank ’n’ George’ for several years now. It was only with the recent passing of Frank that I went through the natural Googling process and discovered that Mr. Goad had a considerable influence on my formative years, and my slide into the realm of experimental/eclectic/left-of-mainstream (and left of the dial) culture. His stylistically wide-angled KCSB shows ‘Dr. Nogan Allkeaf’s [note: spot the anagram] Headphone Rush Hour’ and the classical-spun ‘Breakfast with Frank and Helen’ show were among other defiantly personal and idiosyncratic shows on KCSB that left an indelible mark on my early adolescent brain. Those early seeds have left me ever curious and seeking/writing about edgy sounds decades later, while still savoring Sinatra and all good music in between. Safe travels, Frank. Wish I knew thee better. But in some ways, I did, and have.” 

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