San Bernardino is a city located in the Riverside-San Bernardino metropolitan area (sometimes called the "Inland Empire"). It serves as the county seat of San Bernardino County, California, United States. As one of the Inland Empire's anchor cities, San Bernardino spans 81 square miles (210 km2) on the floor of the San Bernardino Valley and has a population of 209,924 as of the 2010 census. San Bernardino is the 17th-largest city in California and the 100th-largest city in the United States. San Bernardino is home to numerous diplomatic missions for the Inland Empire, being one of four cities in California with numerous consulates (the other three being Los Angeles, San Diego and San Francisco). The governments of Guatemala and Mexico have established their consulates in the downtown area of the city.
Links To Peel
In 1966, Peel along with his wife, Shirley Anne Milburn, moved from Oklahoma City to San Bernadino, where he worked for radio station KMEN. In Dallas and Oklahoma, John had relunctantly stuck to the playlist, playing popular tracks for screaming teeny boppers and Beatles fans. But at KMEN, he began to act like the broadcaster that British audiences would become familiar with, testing the limits of the station's chart format and, when given the chance, playing pretty much whatever he liked. San Bernadino's location helped; John was only 60 miles east of Los Angeles - an ideal location to check out gigs and hang out with bands. It was during this period that he encountered two of his lifelong favourites; Captain Beefheart, seen live in LA, and Neil Young, whom he introduced as part of Buffalo Springfield when that band played in San Bernardino.
According to his own account, he got to know the Seeds, and more importantly, also discovered a band in the nearby town of Riverside, called the Misunderstood, whom he supported even to the extent of encouraging them to go to London and stay at his mother's house (much to her surprise) in 1967. However, in San Bernardino he wasn't at the hub of events - he later recounted that his bosses at KMEN had told him not to sound too English, as that would "alienate the surfers" who listened to the station.
Peel didn't often talk about his life in San Bernardino, and his memories of his time there were "scattered, to say the least", according to Sheila Ravenscroft in Margrave of the Marshes (p. 223). But he seems to have lived at some point with his wife and a group of other young people "by an orange grove," in the kind of arrangement which would later be called a hippy commune. He became more socially aware while working in the town when the Vietnam war was escalating, as Sheila Ravenscroft recounts in Margrave of the Marshes (pp.213-214):
One lunchtime in 1966, for example, John sat in a bar in San Bernardino and listened to a draftee describing, with no little relish and in some detail, the death of the first Vietnamese he had killed. John found the account as shocking as the changes that had come over the raconteur. He had gone from being an amiable, laid-back, liberal sort of fellow to a bloodthirsty killer. Many, if not most of the other people drinking in the bar would have applauded that transformation, of course, but John was horrified, and often wondered what became of that friend of a friend....
Peel's journalistic career began in San Bernardino when he contributed regular articles to the Kmentertainer, which developed from an information sheet into a full-size newspaper during 1966. For a time at the end of that year, Peel was editor, and used his column to praise and promote artists he liked - many of whom he would later play on the Perfumed Garden on Radio London. He also took the side of the young people who had been attacked by the police during the Sunset Strip riots, as he had regularly visited clubs on the Strip to see California bands of the era.
But his stay in San Bernardino was ended when he came under suspicion as an Englishman who displayed hippyish tendencies in what was a socially conservative town. The local sheriff's department pursued him and he was accused of drug use and of having sex with under-age girls (the Californian "groupies" of the time were often very young). Under pressure from these allegations, Peel decided to return to the UK, abruptly ending his US career. Peel later described the situation which led him to leave San Bernardino in a letter to International Times. A slightly different version by his KMEN colleague Brian Lord explained that he and Peel were sacked from the station after parents of a groupie read a fantasy letter written by another of her sexual relationship with him and Peel, which led to them complaining to the police, who spoke to the radio manager threatening possible criminal charges against Lord and Peel.
The exact date of his departure is not known, but the last issue of the KMENtertainer in which he appears is dated 18 February 1967. On his return to the UK Peel began the next stage of his career, as a DJ on the pirate ship Radio London, in early March. There, he was able to put into practice the ideas he had had while working in San Bernardino, by creating his Perfumed Garden programme. His experience of California's emerging hippy culture made him unique among British DJs of the time, and in the early years of his UK radio career he became fashionable because he was seen as an expert on the West Coast music scene. Yet in the 1970s it was Bob Harris, rather than Peel, who became associated with West Coast sounds and travelled to the USA to interview artists for the BBC. By then Peel had settled down in the UK, and a fear of flying made him unwilling to travel beyond Europe; only in later life did he visit the USA, and he never went back to San Bernardino.