I just got the word that Anthony Bledsoe just passed away. In his prime he was the best street musician on Telegraph Avenue. A combination of Sly Stone and Jimi Hendrix. When I was recording the Telegraph Avenue Street Music CD in 1994, Anthony was one of the guys that I knew HAD to be on it. And somehow he managed to show up for the recording session (as street people we all lived a pretty scattered life and it was a miracle that we could get it together). And he delivered one of the best tracks on the CD. We did several over-dubs to get it right… He nailed it… Years later, whenever Anthony was busking on Telegraph and he saw me, he’d do an impromptu version of “White Punks on Dope” by the Tubes. Ha ha (it was an inside joke between us—long story).One of my favorite Anthony Bledsoe memories. When I was promoting the “Telegraph Street Music” CD in 1995, this disc jockey at KPFA—the “listener-sponsored radio station” in Berkeley—invited me and my whole crew of crazy street musicians to come down to the station and do a live music show from midnight to 4 a.m. He might have gotten more than he bargained for.

A black and white image of Bledsoe, a Black man with dreadlocks playing an acoustic guitar.
Bledsoe, a talented street musician who was well known amongst the 1990s Telegraph Ave street scene, died in 2021. (Courtesy of Ace Backwords)

Of course Anthony Bledsoe showed up for the show with his guitar and his beautiful young girlfriend. He was on top of his game at that point. And we’re playing live music over the airwaves of the radio station and being interviewed and etc. But in between songs Anthony decided to sneak off to the KPFA restroom for a smoke break (don’t ask me what he was smoking, ha ha). Long story short, his smoke set off the smoke alarm. Causing a ruckus. The station manager of KPFA had to get out of bed and show up at the station at like two in the morning in his pajamas to investigate the whole 911 emergency call. Ha ha. Right in the middle of our show.

Needless to say, we didn’t get invited back for a second show. But what did the KPFA deejay expect?? Inviting a crew of crazy street musicians down to the station in the middle of the night?

I still have cassette tape recordings of that four-hour show (recorded right from the board of the radio station so it’s excellent recording quality). Another tape I’d like to listen again some day. From 1995. RIP Anthony Bledsoe.

This article originally appeared on Ace’s blog, Ace Backwords Photos.

Ace Backwords is a homeless writer and artist who lives in Berkeley, California. You can find more writing on his blogs.