Maria Muldaur has had an amazing musical journey, from her early days as part of the 1960’s jug band revival, to solo stardom in the 1970’s with her sultry hit “Midnight at the Oasis”, to membership in the Jerry Garcia Band and many guest appearances with other artists, to her ongoing explorations of the blues.
This interview was for a preview article for Maria’s concert at the Ventura Beach Club in Ventura on 3/20/15 – tickets are available here. It was done by phone on 3/15/15, with Maria full of energy – “I’m all caffeinated up!” – and insight while talking about the upcoming show and her life in music.
Eleanor Friedberger first made her mark singing in the quirky, eclectic indie rock band The Fiery Furnaces, a duo with her older brother Matthew formed in 2000. After seven always-interesting albums that explored a variety of musical styles and ideas, The Fiery Furnaces went on hiatus in 2011. Since then, Friedberger has released two solo albums with clever, thoughtful lyrics and a wonderful indie pop sound, and another solo album is in the works.
This interview was for a preview article for Friedberger’s concert at Velvet Jones on 2/28/15. It was done by phone on 2/12/15.
In the 1970’s, Kansas arguably achieved a level of popularity that was unmatched by any other American progressive rock band, thanks to radio-friendly songs like “Dust in the Wind”, “Carry On Wayward Son”, and “Point of Know Return”, songs that still regularly show up on the playlists of classic rock radio. Their notable albums include their 1974 self-titled debut, 1976’s Leftoverture, and 1977’s Point of Know Return.
The band’s current line-up includes two original members: Phil Ehart on drums and Richard Williams on guitar. This interview with Ehart was for an article on the documentary film Kansas: Miracles Out Of Nowhere that premiered at the Santa Barbara International Film Festival on 2/2/15. It was done by Skype on 2/14/15.
Singer/songwriter Nell Robinson’s latest CD, Rose of No-Man’s Land, is inspired by her family’s rich family history, particularly their involvement with every major American war dating back to the Revolutionary War and reaching up through modern conflicts in Iraq and Afghanistan. The album weaves stories and songs together into a multi-faceted exploration of war and its impact, with guest contributions by Kris Kristofferson, John Doe, and Ramblin’ Jack Elliott.
This interview was for a preview article for Robinson’s show on 2/13/15 at the Lobero Theatre in Santa Barbara, with special guest Ramblin’ Jack Elliott. It was done by phone on 1/28/15.
Milo Greene is a band blessed with four lead singers and songwriters – Robbie Arnett, Graham Fink, Andrew Heringer, and Marlana Sheetz. Their self-titled debut album came out in 2012, and featured folk-pop songs with plenty of beautiful harmonies. Their second album, Control, expands their sound into a brighter, more rhythmic (and danceable) direction.
This interview with Robbie Arnett was for a preview article for the Milo Greene concert at SOhO in Santa Barbara on 2/10/15. It was done by email, with answers received on 2/6/15.
Brenda Russell has had a long, notable career as a singer and a songwriter. She is best known for the songs “Piano in the Dark”, which was a hit for herself in 1988, and “Get Here”, which was a hit for Oleta Adams in 1991. Other songs by Brenda include “If Only For One Night”, which was a hit in 1985 for Luther Vandross, and “She Walks This Earth (Soberana Rosa)”, for which Sting won a Grammy for Best Male Pop Vocal Performance in 2000. She was also nominated along with Allee Willis and Stephen Bray for a Tony Award for Best Original Score the Broadway musical The Color Purple.
Her songs have also reached the next generation through samples by Flo Rida (who samples “Piano in the Dark” for “I Cry”) and Kayne West (who samples “Think About You” by Brian and Brenda Russell for “See Me Now”).
This interview was for a preview article for a concert in support of The Rhythmic Arts Project (TRAP) on 2/6/15. It was done by phone on 1/23/15.
For over four decades, one of the best ways to “get your motor running” when you’re “looking for adventure” is to crank up “Born to Be Wild” on the stereo, the timeless first hit single from the band Steppenwolf. The voice that calls you to action in that song is that of singer John Kay. Steppenwolf went on to have other hits in the late ’60’s and early ’70’s, including “Magic Carpet Ride” and “Rock Me”, and their music has been used in seemingly countless movies and TV shows starting with Easy Rider, which featured “Born to Be Wild” and “The Pusher”. The band broke up in 1972, but has been active off and on since then in various incarnations.
In addition to musical pursuits, Kay and his wife Jutta devote much of their energy these days to the Maue Kay Foundation, which works to protect wildlife, the environment, and human rights.
This interview is for John Kay’s concert on 1/30/15 at SOhO in Santa Barbara; also performing is The Dirty Knobs, a band which features Tom Petty’s longtime guitarist Mike Campbell. (An earlier interview with Mike Campbell is here.) It was done by phone on 1/15/15. (Jutta Maue-Kay photo)
Patti Smith and her band first rocked the world forty years ago with her fusion of poetry and primitive three-chord rock. Their 1975 debut Horses is regularly ranked as one of the most influential rock and roll albums of all time, and Smith went on to release other acclaimed albums – and to continue to thrill audiences – throughout the decades, all the while growing as an artist.
Smith’s secret weapon throughout most of her musical journey has been guitarist Lenny Kaye, who provided accompaniment at her first public poetry reading in 1971, was in Smith’s band during her 1970’s heyday, and rejoined when Smith returned to action in the mid-1990’s. In a parallel life, Kaye also put together the well-regarded Nuggets compilation which rescued a smokin’ set of 1960’s garage rock gems from obscurity.
This interview with Lenny Kaye was for a preview article for the Patti Smith concert on 1/27/15 at the Granada Theatre in Santa Barbara. It was done by phone on 1/22/15.
Paul Williams has had an amazingly fruitful career as a singer, songwriter, actor, and author.
Williams’ songs include “We’ve Only Just Begun” and “Rainy Days and Mondays” (best known as hits for The Carpenters), “Rainbow Connection” (sung by Kermit the Frog in The Muppet Movie), “Evergreen” (sung by Barbra Streisand in A Star Is Born, a winner of an Oscar for Best Original Song), “An Old Fashioned Love Song” and “Out in the Country” (hits for Three Dog Night), “You and Me Against the World” (a hit for Helen Reddy), and “Fill Your Heart” (covered by David Bowie). More recently, he co-wrote two songs for Daft Punk’s 2013 album Random Access Memories.
His acting roles include parts in Smokey and the Bandit and Phantom of the Paradise; he co-scored the latter, and also did the music for the film Bugsy Malone and the aforementioned The Muppet Movie and A Star is Born. He also made multiple TV appearances during the 1970’s on shows such as The Tonight Show.
Williams is currently the President and Chairman of ASCAP (American Society of Composers, Authors and Publishers), and is a notable recovery advocate, co-authoring the book Gratitude and Trust.
This interview was for a preview article for his curation of The Elmer Bernstein Memorial Film Series at the Granada Theatre in Santa Barbara, with a focus on the movie The Great Escape which screened 1/26/15. It was done by phone on 1/7/15.
By any measure, Kenny Loggins has had an amazing career in music. Early success came from his partnership with Jim Messina as the duo Loggins & Messina, which gave us songs including “Danny’s Song”, “House at Pooh Corner”, and “Your Mama Don’t Dance”.
Loggins went on to become the King of the Movie Soundtrack with songs like “I’m Alright” (from Caddyshack), “Footloose” (from Footloose), “Danger Zone” (from Top Gun), “Meet Me Half Way” (from Over the Top), and “Nobody’s Fool” (from Caddyshack II). He also co-wrote the hits “This Is It” and “What a Fool Believes” with Michael McDonald, and had other hits including “Whenever I Call You ‘Friend'” with Stevie Nicks and “Don’t Fight It” with Steve Perry.
This interview was for a preview article for a concert by Kenny Loggins and Michael McDonald on 1/18/15 at SOhO in Santa Barbara. It was done by email, with answers received on 1/13/15.
Guitar legend Kim Simmonds founded British blues rock band Savoy Brown 50 years ago, and has been the only continuous member throughout the band’s notable career and frequent line-up changes.
The first Savoy Brown album Shake Down came out in 1967, and is credited with helping to spark the British Blues Boom with its covers of songs by the likes of Willie Dixon and John Lee Hooker. The band’s later releases mixed up covers with smokin’ originals, with classic albums including 1970’s Raw Sienna and Looking In, and 1971’s Street Corner Talking. Their most recent release is 2014’s Goin’ to the Delta, which shows that in Simmonds’ hands the blues are still alive and well.
This interview was for the Kim Simmonds & Savoy Brown shows at the Ventura Beach Club in Ventura on 1/16/15 and at SLO Brew in San Luis Obispo on 1/22/15. It was done by email, with answers received on 1/13/15.
Multi-instrumentalist David Lindley’s musical resume is simply incredible. He was a key member of the 1960’s eclectic psychedelic band Kaleidoscope, which was described by Led Zeppelin guitarist Jimmy Page as “my favorite band of all time – my ideal band.” He is arguably best known for his fretwork for Jackson Browne – for example, on the classic albums Late for the Sky and Running on Empty – and he also contributed to music by David Crosby and Graham Nash as part of The Mighty Jitters band, Warren Zevon, Linda Ronstadt and many, many others. Somehow he also found time for his own project, El Rayo-X, in the 1980s.
When you hear Lindley in concert, it’s easy to get the impression that he could pick up any stringed instrument – a saz baglama, a bouzouki, an oud, or a plain old guitar – and his magical fingers would make it sound great. And while he is best known for playing with other artists, his amazing talent particularly shines through when he is on his own.
This interview was done for a preview article for Lindley’s solo concert at the Lobero Theatre in Santa Barbara on 1/16/15. It was done by phone on 1/9/16.
A tribute to the famous and not-so-famous musicians who passed away last year
The following is a list of some of the notable musicians who passed away in 2014, including a few who performed in the Santa Barbara area in recent years. Some are well-known, many are not, but all are worthy of our respect. R.I.P. — Rock In Peace.
Handsome Dick Manitoba is the singer for The Dictators, now known as The Dictators NYC, a seminal New York City proto-punk rock band whose huge influence was sadly never matched by huge record sales. The band’s first album The Dictators Go Girl Crazy!, released in 1975, is a brilliant mix of irreverent lyrics and youthful energy. Two more albums followed – 1977’s Manifest Destiny and 1978’s Bloodbrothers. Their last studio album was 2001’s D.F.F.D. (“Dictators Forever Forever Dictators”), which is arguably their strongest album after their debut.
The Dictators NYC are headlining the mini-fest of almost a dozen bands at Billy O’s in Ventura on Sunday, January 11. This interview with Handsome Dick Manitoba was done by email, with answers received on 1/5/15. (GravelRoad76 photo)
Bill Champlin first made his mark in The Sons of Champlin, a San Francisco band which created a heady, horn-driven mix of R&B and psychedelia. Their 1969 album Loosen Up Naturally is considered by many to be a lost classic. The band continued into the 1970’s, reunited in the late 1990’s as a live band, and released a couple of albums of in the 2000’s.
Champlin also did session work with a number of artists during the 1970’s and 1980’s, including Patti LaBelle, Lou Rawls, Elton John, Boz Scaggs, Donna Summer, Nancy Wilson, George Benson, Jimmy Smith, Amy Grant, Neil Diamond and Kenny Rogers. He co-wrote “After the Love Has Gone”, a hit for Earth, Wind & Fire, and “Turn Your Love Around”, a hit for George Benson, and sang the theme song for the TV Show “In the Heat of the Night”.
Finally, for nearly three decades Champlin was a member of the band Chicago, joining in time for the album Chicago 16. He shared lead vocals on the hit “Hard Habit to Break”, and sang the vocals on “Look Away”, Chicago’s first Number One song after Peter Cetera left the band. He left Chicago in 2008 to focus on his solo career.
This interview was for a concert by The Songs of Champlin on 1/3/15 at the Lobero Theatre in Santa Barbara, a show co-billed with his son Will Champlin. It was done by phone on 1/12/14. And if you haven’t heard The Sons of Champlin before or just need a refresher, the first song “1982-A” from their classic 1969 album Loosen Up Naturally is a good place to start – click here.
Johnny Hickman is the lead guitarist and co-founder – along with David Lowery – of the alt-rock band Cracker, whose well-known early 90’s songs include “Teen Angst (What the World Needs Now)”, “Low”, and “Euro-Trash Girl”. Earlier this month the band released its 9th studio album, the very fine Berkeley to Bakersfield, with the Berkeley disc featuring the band’s original line-up for the first time in ages and drawing on their punk rock influences, and the Bakersfield disc in a California country vein.
This interview was for the 12/29/14 concert by Cracker at the Lobero Theatre in Santa Barbara, with Lowery’s previous band Camper Van Beethoven also on the bill. It was done by email, with answers received on 12/25/14. (Brenda Yamen photo)
Willie Watson co-founded Old Crow Medicine Show, a band known for blending traditional folk and bluegrass sounds with rock and roll energy. While busking on the street in North Carolina, the band caught the attention of bluegrass legend Doc Watson, which led to appearances at the Grand Ole Opry and other high-profile gigs. Their career took off with the release of the album O.C.M.S., which was released in 2004. Several more albums followed before Watson left the band in 2011.
Watson’s debut solo album Folk Singer Vol. 1 was released in 2014, featuring his revivalist treatments of various folk songs of yesteryear. He has also been touring with the Dave Rawlings Machine, whose namesake produced Folk Singer Vol. 1 and two early Old Crow Medicine Show albums.
This interview was for a solo show by Willie Watson at SOhO in Santa Barbara on 12/18/14. It was done by email, with answers received on 12/16/14. (Photo by monkeybird)
In 1977, while Fleetwood Mac was spreading Rumours, Jackson Browne was Running on Empty, and Eric Clapton had a Slowhand, musicians with an edgier aesthetic were taking a different path, the path of punk rock.
That year, a group of such musicians in Los Angeles formed The Dickies, who by now are one of the longest-running punk rock bands that ever was. The Dickies’ first release was a 1978 single featuring a hyper-speed cover Black Sabbath’s “Paranoid”, and other early singles included covers of the children’s TV show theme song “Banana Splits (Tra La La Song)” and The Moody Blues’ “Nights in White Satin”.
In addition to their masterful punk rock interpretations of others’ material, The Dickies also wrote loads of smokin’ originals, often with twistedly amusing lyrics and themes. Their classic albums are usually considered to be The Incredible Shrinking Dickies and the follow-up Dawn of The Dickies, both released in 1979, but that’s not the end of their story, with various additional releases by the band over the years.
This interview with founding guitarist Stan Lee was for the Dickies concert at the Majestic Ventura Theater on 12/12/14, for which they shared the bill with Pennywise. It was done by email, with answers received in the early morning hours of 12/6/14.
Tower of Power’s axis – Emilio Castillo (tenor sax) and Stephen ‘Doc’ Kupka (baritone sax) – first joined forces way back in 1968. The band’s debut album East Bay Grease was released in 1970, and notable follow-ups were 1972’s Bump City, 1973’s Tower of Power, and 1974’s Back to Oakland. Castillo and Kupka co-wrote most of the band’s songs including funk workouts like “What Is Hip?” and “You Got to Funkifize”, and soulful ballads like “Time Will Tell” and “So Very Hard to Go”. In addition to giving us their own hits, the Tower of Power horn section has appeared on recordings by numerous artists over the years, including Little Feat, Elton John, Huey Lewis and the News, Aerosmith, and many others.
This interview with Emilio Castillo was for a preview article for Tower of Power’s concert at the Granada Theatre in Santa Barbara on 12/6/14. It was done by phone on 11/26/14.
Singer Chris Robinson and The Black Crowes seemed a bit of an anachronism when they burst onto the music scene nearly twenty-five years ago, when hair bands were on the verge of being swallowed up by grunge, and the Crowes being in neither camp. Their sound instead was reminiscent of the Faces, or Exile on Main Street-era Rolling Stones, but with a dose of soulful Southern attitude. Their first album Shake Your Money Maker featured songs such as “Jealous Again”, “She Talks To Angels”, “Twice as Hard”, and a smoking cover of Otis Redding’s “Hard to Handle”. They went on to release other well-regarded albums over the next two decades, and built a reputation as a solid live act.
When the Chris Robinson Brotherhood (CRB) came along in 2011 during a Black Crowes hiatus – here’s a review of one of the first CRB shows – it wasn’t clear what the future held. Fast-forwarding to the present, it’s safe to say that the CRB is where Robinson’s heart and soul is at. The band now has three albums out, most recently this year’s Phosphorescent Harvest, and they’re still doing what they arguably do best – playing live shows full of cool original and cover tunes.
This interview was for a preview article for the CRB’s concert at the Lobero Theatre in Santa Barbara on 11/29/14. It was done by phone on 11/14/14. (L. Paul Mann photo)
Christopher Cross is best-known for his Grammy Award winning song “Sailing”, the Oscar winning song “Arthur’s Theme (Best That You Can Do)” co-written with Burt Bacharach and others, and his hit “Ride Like the Wind”, all of which came within a short span at the beginning of the 1980’s. In fact, in 1980 he won Grammys for Record of the Year, Album of the Year, Song of the Year and Best New Artist, a feat that has not ever been duplicated.
While he wasn’t able to maintain that incredible initial string of success, Cross has continued to release new music since that time, most recently his well-received new album Secret Ladder. This interview was for a concert on 11/22/14 at the Granada Theatre in Santa Barbara in support of this new album. It was done by hpone on 11/19/14. (Ethan Hill photo)
Allen Toussaint has left an incredible mark on music over the years. As a songwriter, he has penned classics like “Working in the Coalmine”, “Southern Nights”, and “Fortune Teller”. As a producer, he has brought his magic touch to noted recordings by the likes of Dr. John (“Right Place, Wrong Time”, “Such a Night”), The Meters (“Cissy Strut”, the Fire on the Bayou album), and Labelle (“Lady Marmalade”). He has also recorded several acclaimed solo albums, done horn arrangements for The Band and Paul Simon, and has worked with Paul McCartney, Elvis Costello, Lee Dorsey, and many, many more. His honors include being inducted into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame and receiving the 2012 National Medal of the Arts.
This interview was for Toussaint’s 11/25/14 concert with fellow New Orleans legends The Preservation Hall Jazz Band at the Lobero Theatre in Santa Barbara. It was done by phone on 11/11/14. (Glade Bilby II photo)
In the synthpop world, there aren’t many artists who have enjoyed the artistic and commercial success that songwriter/synth wizard Vince Clarke has. As a founding member of Depeche Mode, he wrote the early singles “Just Can’t Get Enough”, “Dreaming of Me”, and “New Life”, and spearheaded the band’s 1981 debut album Speak & Spell before making a quick exit. Next came the short-lived band Yaz(oo) and songs including “Only You” and the dance masterpiece “Situation”.
In 1985, Clarke joined forces with singer Andy Bell to form Erasure, a band that has been going strong ever since. They have sold over 25 million albums, and have an amazing list of hit singles including “O L’amour”, “Sometimes”, “Victim of Love”, “Chains of Love”, “A Little Respect”, “Blue Savannah”, and “Always”. Just over a month ago, they released their sixteenth studio album The Violet Flame, which has been getting favorable comparisons with their recordings of decades past.
This interview was for a preview article for the Erasure concert at the Majestic Ventura Theater on 10/26/14. It was done by phone on 10/15/14. (Joe Dilworth photo)
The Melvins have been dishing out their sludgy heavier-than-Black-Sabbath sounds for over three decades, and show no signs of compromising or slowing down. Their latest album is Hold It In, an awesome, diverse set of songs which feature founder/singer/guitarist Buzz Osborne, drummer Dale Crover who has been with the band through almost its entire existence, and guest guitarist Paul Leary and bassist Jeff Pinkus from fellow cult rockers The Butthole Surfers.
This interview was for a preview article for the Melvins concert at SLO Brew in San Luis Obispo, California on 10/22/14. It was done by phone on 10/16/14.
Matisyahu, which means “Gift of God”, is the Hebrew/stage name for Matthew Paul Miller, a (formerly Hasidic) Jewish reggae superstar. And although this might seem like an unlikely combination, Matisyahu is the real deal, with his talent and musical vision winning him the adoration and respect of fans across the religious and cultural spectrum.
Matisyahu’s career took off with the release of his 2005 album Live at Stubb’s, which captured a magical night for him and his band. He has since released a half dozen or so albums, and his musical style has continued to evolve within and beyond the realm of reggae, including 2012’s Spark Seeker that was more pop-oriented without pandering to the club crowd. This year he released Akeda, which is regarded as his most personal album to date and mostly features a less-is-more musical approach.
This interview was for a preview article for Matisyahu’s concert at the Majestic Ventura Theater on 10/21/14. It was done by phone on 9/8/14. (Steve Kennedy photo)
Hall & Oates have been described as the most successful musical duo of the rock era, and if you think for a minute about who that puts them ahead of, that’s quite an impressive accomplishment.
Daryl Hall and John Oates first started making music together in the early 1970’s, and that decade saw hits for them including “Sara Smile” and “Rich Girl”. But things really took off for the duo in the 1980’s, with songs like “Kiss on My List”, “You Make My Dreams”, “Private Eyes”, “I Can’t Go for That (No Can Do)”, “Maneater”, “One on One”, and “Out of Touch” tearing up the charts. In recognition of their artistic and commercial success, Hall & Oates were inducted into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame earlier this year.
This interview was with guitarist John Oates, who co-wrote many of the duo’s songs and even sang lead vocals on a few. It was done by phone on 10/3/14 for a preview article for the Hall & Oates concert at the Santa Barbara Bowl on 10/19/14. (Juan Patino photo)
In 1990, Jane’s Addiction told us that “The world is loaded / It’s lit to pop and nobody is gonna stop”, which in retrospect might be viewed as presaging the explosion of exciting music in the early 90’s. Grunge was launched in 1991 with Nirvana’s Nevermind and Pearl Jam’s Ten, a year that also saw the release of My Bloody Valentine’s Loveless and Slint’s Spiderland. Hot on the heels in 1992 were the amazing debut albums by Rage Against the Machine, PJ Harvey, and Liz Phair. One could go on and on.
An album that belongs in this rarefied company is Nowhere by the band Ride, released in 1990 and regularly hailed as one of the quintessential albums of the shoegaze genre typified by whooshing distorted guitars and hypnotic vocals. Ride went on to release several more albums before imploding in 1996. A key component of Ride’s sound was the guitar and vocals of Mark Gardener, who answered the following questions by email, received on 9/26/14. This served as the basis for a preview article for Gardener’s “solo acoustic loop show” at SOhO in Santa Barbara on 10/9/14.
Al Jardine was a founding member of The Beach Boys, and apart from a year off in the early days, he was a key member of the band up until 1998. He was also part of the 50th anniversary reunion tour that visited the Santa Barbara Bowl in the summer of 2012.
You can hear Jardine’s harmonies and/or playing on many classic Beach Boys recordings including “Surfin’ Safari”, “I Get Around”, “California Girls”, “Barbara Ann”, “Wouldn’t It Be Nice”, “Good Vibrations”, and many more. His best-known lead vocal is on the Number One hit “Help Me Rhonda”. He also brought the song “Sloop John B” with Brian Wilson’s attention, and helped to arrange The Beach Boys’ version. His songwriting credits include “California Saga: California” and “Susie Cincinnati”.
This interview was for the performance by musical genius Brian Wilson and Al Jardine on 9/27/14 at the Vina Robles Amphitheatre in Paso Robles. It was done by phone on 9/16/14, and has been edited slightly for continuity.
Jason Scheff joined Chicago at age 23 when singer/bassist Peter Cetera left the band in 1985 for a solo career. The band continued their winning streak with songs including “Will You Still Love Me” and “What Kind of Man Would I Be?”, both co-written and sung by Scheff, who has remained with the band ever since. Most recently, Scheff co-wrote the title track of the band’s new album Chicago XXXVI: Now. He also co-wrote the 1988 hit Boz Scaggs song “Heart of Mine”.
This interview was for a preview article for the Chicago concert on 9/14/14. It was done by phone on 9/3/14.
Scott McCaughey (pronounced Mc-Coy) is the leader of The Young Fresh Fellows, an often humorous alt-rock band that formed in the 1980’s, and the pop collective The Minus 5, an often more-serious venture which formed in 1993. From 1994-2011 he also played with R.E.M., both live and in the studio.
McCaughey is also a member of The Baseball Project with Peter Buck, Steve Wynn, and Linda Pitmon. This interview was for the Baseball Project show at Velvet Jones in Santa Barbara on 9/7/14. It was originally scheduled to be at the Lobero Theatre, which is why there are several references to that. The interview was done by phone on 8/27/14. (L. Paul Mann photo)
Airto Moreira is widely regarded as one of the greatest living percussionists. He is best known for playing on several groundbreaking jazz fusion albums including Miles Davis’ Bitches Brew, Weather Report’s first album, and Return to Forever’s first two albums. He has also contributed to recordings with Cannonball Adderley, Dizzy Gillespie, Wayne Shorter, John McLaughlin, Al Di Meola, Keith Jarrett, Stanley Clarke, Stan Getz, Carlos Santana, Paul Simon, Mickey Hart, his wife Flora Purim, and many others. Add to all this a couple dozen solo albums and numerous live performances, and you can begin to appreciate the mark that Airto has left on music.
This interview was for a preview article for Airto’s performance with Eyedentity on 9/4/14 at SOhO in Santa Barbara. It was done by phone on 8/8/14. (Janis Wilkins photo)
Billy Vera is best known for his song “At This Moment”, which became a Number One hit in 1987 after it was used in the TV show Family Ties. But there’s much more to the Billy Vera story than just that song. By that point, he had already been writing songs for over two decades, including a bona fide garage rock classic and songs recorded by Ricky Nelson and Dolly Parton, who had a Number One hit with “I Really Got the Feeling”. He has also acted in various movies and TV shows, and even won a Grammy for Best Album Notes for a box set of Ray Charles singles.
This interview was for a preview article for a concert by Billy Vera & the Beaters at Yolie’s in Ventura on 8/29/14. It was done by email, with answers received on 8/10/14. (Barry Druxman photo)
Mike Finnigan has been a part of an amazing amount of rock and roll music over the last four-plus decades. A big highlight was playing organ on the tracks “Rainy Day, Dream Away” and “Still Raining, Still Dreaming” on Jimi Hendrix’s Electric Ladyland album. He has also played organ and/or sang with many other artists including Crosby, Stills & Nash, Etta James, Dave Mason, Ringo Starr, Joe Cocker, Bonnie Raitt, Taj Mahal, and Eric Burdon.
This interview was for a preview article for a benefit concert in Santa Barbara on 8/22/14 for The Rhythmic Arts Project (TRAP), an educational program that integrates percussion as a medium to address reading, writing, and arithmetic, as well as life skills, with children and adults with intellectual and developmental differences. It was done by phone on 8/12/14.
Stu Cook was the bassist for Creedence Clearwater Revival, whose songbook includes classics such as “Proud Mary”, “Bad Moon Rising”, “Green River”, “Down on the Corner”, “My Back Door”, “Fortunate Son”, “Have You Ever Seen the Rain?”, “Travelin’ Band”, and “Up Around the Bend”. Creedence also did smokin’ covers of “Susie Q” and “I Heard It Through the Gravevine”. The band broke up acrimoniously in 1972, and was inducted into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame in 1993.
In 1995, Cook and Creedence Clearwater Revival drummer Doug “Cosmo” Clifford formed Creedence Clearwater Revisited, the name change reflecting the absence of singer/songwriter John Fogerty and his late brother Tom. This band, which not coincidentally also abbreviates to CCR, plays the hits we know and love from their days with Creedence Clearwater Revival.
This interview was done by phone on 7/25/14 for a preview article for Creedence Clearwater Revisited’s concert at the Ventura County Fair in Ventura on 8/8/14.
Harry Wayne Casey is better known is as “KC” from KC and the Sunshine Band, which he founded in 1973. KC co-wrote and sang the band’s smash hits “That’s the Way (I Like It)”, “Shake Your Booty”, and “Get Down Tonight”, plus “Boogie Shoes” which appeared on the Saturday Night Fever soundtrack. Enjoying immense popularity in the 1970’s and beyond, the band has sold over 100 million records and won three Grammy Awards.
This interview was for a preview article for the KC and the Sunshine Band concert on 8/7/14 at the Chumash Casino. It was done by phone on 7/22/14.
Mike Love has been a Beach Boy since the band began way back in 1961, and wrote the lyrics to some of their best-known songs including “Fun, Fun, Fun”, “California Girls”, “I Get Around”, and “Good Vibrations”. And that’s him singing lead vocals on the recordings of the first three of these, plus “Surfin’ U.S.A”, “Little Deuce Coupe”, “When I Grow Up (To Be a Man)”, and more. Overall, The Beach Boys have had three dozen Top 40 hits, and they were elected to the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame in their first year of eligibility.
This interview was for a preview article for The Beach Boys concert at the Ventura County Fair on 7/31/14. It was done by phone on 7/28/14.
Michael McDonald is a 5-time Grammy winner who sang for a time with Steely Dan and The Doobie Brothers, and has also had a notable and successful solo career. Highlights of his catalog include “I Keep Forgettin’ (Every Time You’re Near)”, “You Belong To Me”, “It Keeps You Runnin'”, “Minute By Minute”, “What A Fool Believes”, “Takin’ It To The Streets”, “Yah Mo B There”, “Sweet Freedom”, and his cover of “Ain’t No Mountain High Enough”.
This interview was for a preview article for a benefit concert on 7/27/14 in the Funk Zone of Santa Barbara for the organization Youth Interactive. It was done by phone on 7/21/14.
Don Felder joined the Eagles as the band’s lead guitarist in 1974, and helped to push them from their country rock roots to a harder rock ‘n’ roll sound. He remained with the Eagles until the band broke up acrimoniously in 1980, and along the way he wrote the music for the Eagles megahit “Hotel California”, which is regularly ranked as one of the greatest rock ‘n’ roll songs ever written. This song was on the 1976 album Hotel California, which has sold over 32 million copies, a number bested by only a dozen other albums including the Eagles Greatest Hits (1971-1975), which includes some songs on which Felder played guitar. Felder also co-wrote the Eagles song “Victim of Love”.
After the break up, Felder did session work, recorded a couple of songs for the movie Heavy Metal, and released a solo album in 1983 which included the minor hit “Never Surrender”.
In a shock to pretty much everyone, the Eagles, including Felder, re-formed in 1994, touring and releasing a live album called Hell Freezes Over, a reference to Don Henley’s statement that the band would get back together when hell freezes over. The Eagles were inducted into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame in 1998, the first year they were nominated.
The Eagles had many disputes over the years, and Felder was fired from the Eagles in early 2001. In 2008, he released a book called Heaven and Hell: My Life in the Eagles (1974-2001), which became a New York Times bestseller. Both his termination and the book led to lawsuits. In fact, since he was fired, Felder’s interactions with some of his former bandmates have reportedly only been through lawyers.
In 2012, Felder released his second solo album Road to Forever, which was written in response to his termination from the Eagles and the break up of his marriage. The album included contributions from some notable guests, and has received a positive response from fans and critics.
This interview was for a preview article for the Soundtrack of Summer Tour concert with Don Felder, Styx, and Foreigner at the Santa Barbara Bowl on 7/27/14. It was done by phone on 6/23/14.
Singer/songwriter/guitarist Tom Johnston is a founding member of The Doobie Brothers, and wrote a number of their best-known songs including “Listen to the Music”, “China Grove”, “Rockin’ Down the Highway”, and “Long Train Runnin'”. He also sang the band’s hit cover song “Take Me in Your Arms”.
Johnston’s role in the band was reduced in the mid-70’s while he recovered from a stomach ulcer, and he eventually left the band. However, when they re-formed in 1987 he was back in the game, and he has stayed with The Doobie Brothers ever since.
This interview was for a preview article for The Doobie Brothers concert on 7/25/14 at the California Mid-State Fair in Paso Robles. It was done by phone on 7/3/14.
There are a number of musicians who might not be household names, but have been instrumental (pun intended) to the music that we have known and loved over the years. A great example is Chris Pinnick, who from 1980-85 played guitar with Chicago, an era that included monster hits like “Hard to Say I’m Sorry”, “You’re the Inspiration”, “Hard Habit to Break”, and “Stay the Night”. And lest we think that Chicago went completely soft during that time period, check out this YouTube clip from 1984 with Pinnick on guitar.
Pinnick describes himself as semi-retired, but he still plays at times with the band Pockets, which is made up of other amazing musicians whose resumes include stints with America, Oingo Boingo, The Black Crowes, Rick Nelson, and others. This interview was for a preview article for the the Santa Barbara County Frack Free Music Festival with Pockets and other bands on 7/20/14. It was done by phone on 7/7/14.
In the 1970’s, Kansas arguably achieved a level of popularity that was unmatched by any other American progressive rock band, thanks to radio-friendly songs like “Dust in the Wind”, “Carry On Wayward Son”, and “Point of Know Return”, songs that still regularly show up on the playlists of classic rock radio. Their notable albums include their 1974 self-titled debut, 1976’s Leftoverture, and 1977’s Point of Know Return.
The band’s current line-up includes three original members: Steve Walsh on vocals, keyboards, and percussion, Phil Ehart on drums, and Richard Williams on guitar. This interview with Williams was for a preview article for the band’s 7/11/14 concert at the Santa Barbara County Fair. It was done by phone on 6/25/14.
Amy Ray and Emily Saliers have been together as the Indigo Girls for nearly three decades. Their career took off with their 1989 self-titled second album, with key songs like “Closer to Fine” and “Kid Fears” reminding us that music can be simultaneously beautiful and thought-provoking. Both Ray and Saliers are amazing songwriters, with some additional song highlights being “Strange Fire”, “Secure Yourself”, “Prince of Darkness”, “Galileo”, “Least Complicated”, “Power of Two”, and “Shame on You”. Over the years their music has evolved – perhaps most notably they started plugging in their guitars more often – but their wonderful lyrics and harmonies have always continued to shine. Their most recent album is 2011’s Beauty Queen Sister. The Indigo Girls are also politically active, and have long supported environmental, Native American, and gay rights causes.
This interview with Amy Ray was for a preview article for the Indigo Girls concert on 7/2/14 at the Santa Barbara Bowl, which they co-headlined with folk music legend Joan Baez. It was done by phone on 6/25/14.
Neal Casal is the lead guitarist for The Chris Robinson Brotherhood, fronted by singer Chris Robinson of Black Crowes fame. The CRB has played over two hundred live shows since forming a few years ago, and has three studio albums out, including 2014’s Phosphorescent Harvest.
Before joining the CRB, Casal played with Ryan Adams & The Cardinals, including on the albums Easy Tiger and Cardinology, plus Willie Nelson’s 2006 album Songbird. Casal has also released a number of solo albums, most recently 2012’s Sweeten the Distance.
This interview was for a preview article for the Chris Robinson Brotherhood concert at the Santa Barbara Bowl on 7/3/14, for which they shared the bill with Bob Weir & RatDog. The interview was done by phone on 6/19/14. (John Margaretten photo)
There aren’t many musicians who, from the 1960’s to the present day, have consistently released first-rate material that’s always worth a listen. One of the few who belongs in this category is guitarist/singer/songwriter Richard Thompson.
Thompson got his start with the British folk-rock pioneers Fairport Convention, playing on their early albums including the 1969 landmarks What We Did on Our Holidays for which he wrote “Meet on the Ledge”, Unhalfbricking for which he wrote the lead track “Genesis Hall”, and Liege & Lief for which he wrote “Fairwell, Fairwell” and co-wrote “Crazy Man Michael”.
Thompson went on to record a series of albums with his then-wife Linda, with notable releases including 1974’s I Want to See the Bright Lights Tonight and 1982’s Shoot Out the Lights. After the latter, he has primarily pursued a solo career, with releases including 1991’s Rumor and Sigh with fan favorite “1952 Vincent Black Lightning” and, most recently, 2013’s Electric. And coming soon is an album Acoustic Classics, which revisits songs spanning his entire career in an acoustic format.
This interview was for a preview article for Thompson’s concert at the Lobero Theatre in Santa Barbara on 7/9/14. It was done by email, with answers received on 6/10/14. (Pamela Littky photo)
When I interviewed punk rock bass guitar hero Mike Watt a couple years ago, he referred to guitarist Nels Cline’s musicianship by saying, “He has no fear”. And when you consider Cline’s diverse discography, that seems like an apt description.
Cline is best known for being the lead guitarist for Wilco, a position he has held for the past ten years. He has also performed and/or recorded with a variety of other artists including Watt, Thurston Moore, Charlie Haden, and his wife Yuka Honda, in styles including jazz, free improvisation, and avant rock.
In a new project, Cline and Honda will be composing the soundtrack for an upcoming documentary called Almost Sunrise, which follows the healing journey of two veterans who don’t want to become part of the shocking statistic that 22 former American soldiers commit suicide every day. Almost Sunrise is directed by Michael Collins, who also directed the award-winning film Give Up Tomorrow, and recently received $100K in support from a Kickstarter campaign to help finance the editing of hundreds of hours of footage.
Cline graciously took part of a rare day off to talk about the Almost Sunrise project, plus his former job at Rhino Records and making music with Wilco and Mike Watt. The interview was done by phone on 6/10/14.
Jimmy Webb’s songwriting credits are quite remarkable. He is most closely associated with Glen Campbell, who sang the definitive versions of Webb’s songs “By the Time I Get to Phoenix”, “Wichita Lineman”, “Galveston”, and more. (A lesser known gem and Music Illuminati favorite is “You Might As Well Smile” from Campbell’s 1974 album Reunion: The Songs of Jimmy Webb.) Other songwriting credits include “Up, Up and Away” (The Fifth Dimension), “MacArthur Park” (Richard Harris, Waylon Jennings, Donna Summer), “All I Know” (Art Garfunkel), and “Highwayman” (The Highwaymen). Other artists who have recorded and/or performed his songs include Linda Ronstadt, Barbra Streisand, and Frank Sinatra. Webb has also released his own wonderful albums over the years, most recently 2013’s Still Within the Sound of My Voice.
This interview was for a preview article for the concert by Webb and Karla Bonoff at the Lobero Theatre in Santa Barbara on 6/7/14. It was done by phone on 5/21/14. (Jessica Walker photo)
Karla Bonoff is arguably best known for having several of her songs covered by Linda Ronstadt, including “Someone to Lay Down Beside Me,” “Lose Again” and “If He’s Ever Near” from Ronstadt’s 1976 album Hasten Down The Wind. But to call Bonoff a “songwriter” doesn’t do justice to the fact that she has also released her own wonderful albums over the years, including her 1977 self-titled debut that included the aforementioned songs and had quite a cast of supporting musicians, plus the hit song “Personally”. Before her solo career, she was a member of the folk-rock group Bryndle.
This interview was for a preview article for the concert by Bonoff and Jimmy Webb at the Lobero Theatre in Santa Barbara on 6/7/14. It was done by phone on 5/20/14.
The Beatles invaded America fifty years ago, and The Animals weren’t far behind, with their definitive version of “House of the Rising Sun” spending three weeks at the top of the Billboard charts in 1964. Other hits followed for The Animals, including “Don’t Let Me Be Misunderstood” and “We Gotta Get Out of This Place”, with the only constant bandmember during their 1960’s run being singer Eric Burdon.
After The Animals disbanded, Burdon continued to make great music, with War (“Spill the Wine”) and in a notable solo career. His latest album, 2013’s ‘Til Your River Runs Dry, shows that he’s still got it as a seventy-something.
This interview was for a preview article for Burdon’s birthday performance on 5/17/14 at the Libbey Bowl in his current hometown of Ojai, California.
(Marianna Burdon photo)
Husband-and-wife songwriting team Alan and Marilyn Bergman have been nominated for an incredible 16 Academy Awards, winning twice for Best Song (“The Windmills of Your Mind” and “The Way We Were”) and once for Best Original Score (“Yentl”).
Other notable songs that they co-wrote include more for the big screen (“In the Heat of the Night”, “How Do you Keep the Music Playing”, and “What Are You Doing the Rest of Your Life?”), some for the small screen (the theme songs to the TV shows “Good Times” and “Maude”), and other musical gems (“You Don’t Bring Me Flowers”, “Nice ‘n’ Easy”).
This interview was for a preview article for Alan’s 5/17/14 performance at the Lobero Theatre in Santa Barbara.
Bill Frisell is an acclaimed, eclectic jazz guitarist whose playing has graced a number of solo recordings including the Grammy Award winning album Unspeakable, plus many recordings for the jazz label ECM Records where he served as “house guitarist”, and with the band Naked City with John Zorn.
This interview was for a preview article for Frisell’s 5/16/14 concert at the Lobero Theatre in Santa Barbara, a concert focused on the music of John Lennon, which inspired a Beatles-related focus to the interview.