photo by Michael G. Bush
You never know who might need it next. In mid-May, I was summoned to Pittsburgh to assist Davy Jones in the taping of a PBS special (to be aired some time late 2010). While playing guitar and singing, it was my job to be “point guy” for a seven-piece rock band, string quartet, horn/reed section, and a (marvelous) vocal quartet, Ju-Taun… this in front of twelve cameras and a live audience at the Benedum Center. It was fun but hectic, as the producers were taping 58 music acts in 2.5 days in this place.
Prior to our set, I was warming up backstage, not noticing a quiet little lady reading her lines. Finally, it sank in… wow, Jackie DeShannon, writer of “Put a Little Love in Your Heart” and “Bette Davis Eyes,” the singer who first hit with “What the World Needs Now,” toured with The Beatles, collaborated with Jimmy Page (who supposedly wrote “Tangerine” for her), yadayada, and here I am ignoring her. After our set, we shook hands, and I said how honored I was to meet one of the Great American Songwriters. I can’t remember the rest of my drivel, but (for whatever reason) she told me that she “really needed to hear that tonight.” I thought, “Right, like she needs encouragement from a twit like me…″
Next day, I met Chad and Jeremy in the hotel restaurant. While most people know them for a couple of 60s British Invasion pop hits, in my book they’re renaissance men as arrangers, musicians, and craftsmen for screen and studio. Jeremy Clyde is an accomplished actor, and Chad Stuart is one of England’s most underestimated acoustic guitar stylists (able to leap alternate tunings in a single bound). Before they were fired from Columbia Records in 1968, C&J released two brilliant albums loaded with humor, intellect, pathos, and psychedelia: Of Cabbages and Kings and The Ark. Both albums bombed commercially.
As Chad sawed at his pancakes, I blabbered about how my friends and I used to study The Ark for production, guitar tones, songcraft, vocal harmonies, and “how to make a top-notch recording,” and that I used to buy copies of it to give to people. He replied, “Thank you very much, I really needed to hear that today.”
Either there was a Manchurian contagion or I was on to something. In general, I try to acknowledge the efforts of others and train my tongue to edify rather than tear down (that can be so hard to do—going negative is quick and easy). I don’t always know what to say, but it’s worth aiming for even when you’re gushing or inarticulate. You don’t always know how an uplifting comment can zero in on what ails the person who’s hearing it. “Paying it forward” makes a difference.
On the Stage: Upcoming Shows
Before we head off to Japan this Friday, I want to express my sincere thanks to everyone who came out to my solo gigs in New Jersey and Massachusetts in June (we got some great video of Felipe Torres and myself in NJ). For July I’m rolling out on bass and vocals with Davy Jones (date and ticket details here).
…coming up in August: Des Moines, St. Petersburg, FL, Ontario, Canada.
In the Studio
I’m laying off solo gigs until September, as I’m concentrating on studio work. In recent weeks I’ve done keyboards for Fletcher Kaufman in his Williamsport lair, then up to Douglas, MA, to do bass and vocals for Sam Bowen’s next album. I’m also producing “a mystery truck driver” and making headway on my next one, I Like the Street.
Some people have asked if they can pre-purchase a CD of I Like the Street… yes, you can. Send $15 (or whatever you can afford) to my PayPal account (the3blrs at comcast dot net). I will sign and number CDs bought in advance of the release date, and I thank you immensely, as pre-purchasing helps with the studio bills.
We’re still playing around with the Beyondo/Blair mix of “Night Garden,” as I was blessed to be able to add a piano track by Mike Garson. He has played with everyone from Stanley Clarke to Nine Inch Nails, but is best known as David Bowie’s pianist. In one pass, Mike tore into the song and flew in a wild improvisation, somewhere between a Latin Stravinsky and “Aladdin Sane.” Thanks, Mike!
On the Air
After a heated jury session, the winner of the May photo contest was chosen: Jeffrey Fields of New Jersey. The caption (plus names of two runners-up) has been posted on my Facebook musician page. Thanks to everyone who chimed in… they came from all over and it was hard to pick just one!
Just a reminder that my Snapshots CD is now on sale for a mere $5… cheaper than downloads. Details here.
And on that note…
Play skillfully with a loud noise (Psalms 33:3)!