Guitarist/singer/songwriter Dave Mason was a co-founder of the English psychedelic/folk rock band Traffic, and he stuck around for their first two albums, the second of which contains his original version of “Feelin’ Alright”, a song that became a huge hit for Joe Cocker.
Mason also had a notable solo career, with albums including his 1970 debut Alone Together and 1974’s Let It Flow. Some songs from Mason’s solo career are “Only You Know and I Know”, “We Just Disagree”, and “Let It Go, Let It Flow”.
As if all this wasn’t enough, along the way he also worked with other artists including Jimi Hendrix for his cover of Bob Dylan’s “All Along the Watchtower”, George Harrison for his first album All Things Must Pass, Paul McCartney for “Listen to What the Man Says”, and much, much more.
This interview was for Mason’s performance at the Santa Barbara Bowl on 9/1/16. It was done by email, with answers received on 8/16/16. (Chris Jensen photo)
Jeff Moehlis: What can people look forward to at your upcoming show (Santa Barbara Bowl on Sept 1, opening for Journey)?
Dave Mason: I will be playing some material from my Traffic days, with a couple of variations on a couple of the songs, for example a bluesy version of “Low Spark of High Heeled Boys”. The rest of the set will be songs from my solo career – Alone Together up to some new material.
DM: From my point of view it was a maturing of my songwriting, and much more cohesive as an album.
JM: Around that time you also recorded with Jimi Hendrix. How did that come about, and what was that experience like?
DM: I met him at an after-hours club called the Speakeasy. It was somewhere recording artists could go hang out, get something to eat without being bothered. He was a Traffic fan and I was a huge fan of his. I got to spend time with him both socially, and in the studio, Olympic, where Traffic, The Stones, and Hendrix would record. We also all shared the same engineer Eddie Kramer.
I recorded some things with him, a couple of them with me playing bass and sitar. This led to me singing on “Crosstown Traffic”, and playing the acoustic guitar on his version of “All Along The Watchtower”.
JM: When I saw you at the Granada Theatre a few years ago, you commented that when you moved to the US in 1969 the only person you knew was Gram Parsons, who let you sleep on his couch for a month. How did you know him, and are there any
stories you’re willing to share from that month?
DM: I got to know Gram at some Stones sessions at Olympic Studios. He also introduced me to Delaney And Bonnie who later had a Number 2 record with my song “Only You Know And I Know”.
DM: I wanted to make something that was relatively simple – acoustic guitar, electric guitar, bass, and drums.
JM: A couple of songs on the albums I’ve mentioned became even better known through covers – “Feeling Alright” performed by Joe Cocker, and “Only You Know and I Know” performed by Delaney & Bonnie. What do you think of their versions?
DM: I did “Feeling Alright” on the second Traffic album. Joe made it into the classic that it has become. I think every bar band has played it and it’s been recorded by some 50+ artists, not mention the movies, TV shows and commercials it’s been in. “Only You Know And I Know” was an excellent version.
JM: Over the years, you’ve had a number of notable musical contributions to other artists’ work besides Hendrix, including “Across the Universe”, “Street Fighting Man”, All Things Must Pass, Delaney & Bonnie, a few shows with Derek and the Dominos, and “Listen to What the Man Says”. Which of these particularly stand out to you?
DM: They all do…
JM: What advice would you give to an aspiring musician?
DM: In this day of no record sales, it’s hard to say, but like anything in life if you want it bad enough you’ll find a way.
JM: Do you want to set the record straight on anything about your career in music?
DM: The music speaks for itself.
JM: What are your plans, musical or otherwise, for the near future?
DM: I will keep playing until I can’t… Don’t miss the last show!!!