Santa Rosa woman recalls traveling inner circle of 1960s rock royalty in new memoir
Throughout her childhood, and well into her adult years, Julia Dreyer Brigden was known as simply “Girl.” As a photogenic ’60s Bay Area hippie — and the wife of guitarist David Freiberg of Quicksilver Messenger Service, Jefferson Airplane and Jefferson Starship — she traveled within the inner circle of rock royalty and wandered the world.
The Byrds celebrated her in a 1967 Chris Hillman tune titled “The Girl With No Name.” Photos taken of her and her friends during a legendary Grateful Dead party at Olompali State Park were among the iconic images of the time.
Ultimately, folk music star Joan Baez asked her when she was going to stop calling herself “Girl.”
The nickname was hardly a counter-culture affectation, instead dating from her childhood in South Africa, where “girl” was a common term of endearment for a daughter, Brigden, 70, explains in her self-published memoir, “Girl: An Untethered Life.”
She wrote the book over a period of two years, including in a memoir-writing class at Santa Rosa Junior College.
“I thought, ‘I’m gonna make this for my kids,’ but then it morphed into more than I planned,” Brigden said during an interview at her hilltop home north of Santa Rosa. She and her second husband, music producer and manager Mick Brigden, have lived in Sonoma County since 2001.
As she began work on her memoir, her years among famous musicians, from Paul Kantner and Grace Slick of Jefferson Airplane to Mickey Hart of the Grateful Dead, yielded memories and anecdotes that drew attention from her classmates. “I’d come to class each week, and they’d say, ‘Tell us about Quicksilver. Tell us about this and that.’”
But the result is not a tell-all expose of wild times during the Age of Aquarius, although Brigden is frank about her own misadeventures, including her yearlong struggle with cocaine addiction in the early ’80s.
“That was not my finest hour. I was so disgusted and mortified with myself,” she said.
“Then that was it. I was done.”
On the subject of free love, however, the book is demure.
“The one abiding mantra was ‘love one another,’” Brigden wrote.
“What that meant was not always clear. What were the rules on monogamy, for instance? Often the ethics were situational; whatever was most convenient at the time was cool.”
The book drops many famous names but reveals no specifics about torrid affairs.
“I didn’t want to throw people under the bus,” Brigden said.
“My husband said, ‘There’s no sex in the book. It’s more like softball, drugs and rock ‘n’ roll.’”
The book unfolds like a true autobiography, starting with her parents.
Her mother was the daughter of a prominent Cleveland family and her father a Dutch South African seaman who served in the British Navy during World War II.
The couple eventually settled in Marin County, where Brigden spent her teen years.
“It was a different time. If my child did the things I did, I would be panicky,” Brigden said.
“My parents were pretty laissez-faire. My mother was usually overwhelmed. She had five kids.”