One of those good-hearted, immensely wealth eccentrics who seem to thrive in the San Francisco Bay area, Robert “Bob” Pritikin (born Chicago IL, date n/a) graduated from UCLA; joined top advertising firm Young & Rubicam, co-founded his own agency Pritikin & Gibbons, then found his greatest success with Fletcher, Richards, Calkins & Holden. From 1977-2001, Pritikin owned and operated the Mansion Hotel, a pair of connected Queen Anne mansions in Pacific Heights whose decor included life-sized stuffed dolls of Bill and Hillary Clinton as well as Richard Nixon’s letter of resignation as United States President and Gerald Ford’s letter of pardon.
In 1981, Bob Pritikin built a new home in the Glen Park neighborhood, known as Chenery House. It’s the largest private residence in San Francisco — there’s a swimming pool in the second-story living room — and has been the scene of many legendary parties, political fundraisers, and Passover Seders. Jam sessions at Chenery House have featured performers ranging from Bob Weir to Carol Channing, often with Pritikin joining in on his chosen instrument, the musical saw.
In 1975, Bob Pritikin financed the recording and manufacture of his own album of “saw songs.” He was sufficiently wealthy and connected to obtain the services of “practically half the San Francisco Symphony string section and a chorus from the Edwin Hawkins Singers” of “Oh Happy Day” fame. In November of that year, Pritikin submitted a copy of his LP to Mo Ostin, president of Warner Brothers Records, accompanied by this pitch letter:
Mo dutifully passed Bob Pritikin’s album on to Dean Chamberlain, a guitarist who’d passed through the ranks of several Southern California bands (including the early Motels and Code Blue) before signing as a WB a&r rep. Chamberlain opines that Pritikin is “not that good a saw player,” although the basis for this judgment is anyone’s guess:
In the end, Warners decided to passed on “Moonlight Sawnata,” “The Last Time I Sawed Paris,” and the rest. But the world hadn’t heard the last of Bob Pritikin and his musical saw, as we can see from this YouTube clip filmed in 2009:
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