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  • Black Jacket Symphony Performing Abbey Road – 2015

    Black Jacket Symphony Performing Abbey Road – 2015

    February 21, 2015

    Bijou Theater

    Knoxville, Tennessee

    Photo courtesy of


    When I first saw Black Jacket Symphony perform the Led Zeppelin IV album last October, I wrote (here) many glowing superlatives about their amazing talent and delivery of a musically difficult album. 

    Last night, I saw one of the BJS bands (fronted by vocalist/guitarist, J. Willoughby) deliver an equally accurate and crowd pleasing treatment of the Beatles’ historic “Abbey Road” album.

    Like one of those “fade-to-the-past” methods used on TV shows like “Cold Case,” I watched a crowd be taken back to their teens or young adult days as they remembered key events of their past set against this particular soundtrack. 

    From the opening chords of “Come Together” to the closing notes of the crowd pleasing encore, “Hey Jude,” BJS had the capacity crowd and the beautiful and intimate Bijou Theater in downtown Knoxville. A crowd, I might add, that braved slushy streets and cold rain to catch this show and BJS did not disappoint.

    In between those historic, musical bookends were fun and memorable deliveries of the entire Abbey Road song list during the first half of the evening and other hits from the Beatles catalog during the second half of the evening. 

    Most of the vocals were performed by Willoughby with significant contributions by Oak Ridge’s Mark Lanter on drums and lead vocals. Between the two, they wowed the crowds.

    Rounding out the band was Aaron Branson on bass, Allen Barlow on guitar, Andres Berrios on violin, Bob Taylor on keyboards and vocals, Brad Wolfe on guitar, Nathan LeFevre on Cello and Peyton Grant on keyboards and guitar.  Corporately, they delivered a performance that was as tight as it was fun  - and they looked like they were enjoying it as much as the crowds.

    If you want a great night of musical nostalgia, catch a Black Jacket Symphony performance. You won't be disappointed.

  • Bobby Keys

    Posted April, 2012


    Bobby Keys With the Stones in 2003. Courtesy of Jane Rose/

    I’ve been a Rolling Stones fan since my teen years in the seventies. Tunes like Brown Sugar and Can’t You Hear Me Knockin’ (along with many other Stones tunes) commanded my attention on so many levels – especially the sax solos.

    Since those days, the sax figured prominently in other favorite Stones tunes like Miss You, the live version of Going To A Go-Go, to name a couple. Because of my appreciation of those solos, I became very aware of the man behind that sax: Bobby Keys

    What I wasn’t aware of until recent years – and especially until I read Keys’ autobiography, Every Night’s A Saturday Night, was the long list of other rock and roll royalty and their iconic tunes that he’s played on. Musical monsters like B.B. King, Carly Simon, Delaney & Bonnie, Eric Clapton, George Harrison, John Lennon, Joe Cocker and many, many, many others. Saturday Night is a wonderful read and you can catch the Boomerocity review of it here. But it bears repeating that the tone and feel of the book is very conversational. You get the feeling that you’re chillin’ in Bobby’s TV room, shootin’ the breeze and listening to him share a ton of stories of his life in the business.

    I recently called up Bobby at his Nashville area home. It was my first time to have the privilege of chatting with him. His warm, Texas/Southern drawl told me that he’s the kind of person that I can immediately connect with. He’s as country as cornbread and never meets a stranger – my kind of people.

    As we got down to starting our chat, I asked Keys how he liked Nashville.

    “Ah, man, I love the town! It’s just a rotten place for saxophone players – but I LOVEthe town, I really do! I like the people that live here and I have a lot friends that live here. There’s just not a lot of sax biz that goes on here. That’s nothing personal against me. Ha! Ha!”

    As we set the stage for what the chat would cover, I mentioned that I would not ask if his main gig, The Rolling Stones, were going to tour or not. I was startled that he gave me a comment about it anyway.

    “Boy, I hope they do! I tell ya what, I really hope they do! I honestly don’t know. I found that it’s best for me not to speculate – especially publicly. Every time I think that they’re gonna jump left, they jump right. I just had one little brief line from Keith. He just said that he’ll let me know. That’s the extent of it. I’ve learned after all these years – you know, I’ve been playing with the band since, I don’t know, ’69 – forty-three years – and in that time I’ve learned that speculation about what those guys are gonna do is no way, really, to base your future on what you think they’re gonna do. I think there’s a good possibility of it, are my own thoughts on it. I hope so!”

    We shifted our attention to Bobby’s book. Since the book is a tales-from-the-road kind of tome – sharing all sorts of funny stories, I asked him what the reaction has been to it.

    “Well, so far, it’s been really good. I went to New York about ten days ago and did a gig there with my band and also did a lot of media – some radio, interviews and stuff. It’s all been really, really good! When I finished speaking into a microphone – I didn’t do I any writing – you always wonder, ‘Well, I wonder what is gonna come of this – how are people going to receive it?’

    “It’s been very rewarding to me because I’ve had nobody come back at me – except one guy said that there wasn’t enough sex and drugs in it. The thing of it is is that scene has been pounded into the ground for years and years and years by everybody that’s ever written a book about the Rolling Stones. But most of them knew very little about the Rolling Stones. The thing that I like about the Stones is playin’ with them! I love their music and that’s what I wanted to talk more about in the book than anything else was the music.”

    When I commented about all the people he’s worked with over the years such as Buddy Holly, Bonnie Bramlett and a whole bunch of others, I told him that he struck me as the friggin’ Forrest Gump of rock and roll. He cackled out laughing and said, “Now there’s a hell of an analogy! That’s funnier ‘n hell!” Then, obviously turning to his wife who was in the room with him, he said, “He just called me the Forrest Gump of rock and roll! Ha! Ha! Ha!”

    After having a good laugh, I asked Forrest – er – Bobby who hasn’t he worked with that either he wishes he had before they passed away or, if they’re still alive, want to work with?

    “Well, you know, that’s a very good question. I’d like to work with Stevie Wonder – LOVEhis music, you know? I’d love to work with more of the Motown acts, too. But, you know, I’m really pretty happy with what’s happened and what’s happened has really been kinda the left hand of God puttin’ me through a lot of this stuff. I never really planned out any master scheme to achieve what I’ve achieved. I’ve just been in the right place at the right time with a saxophone and was able to do pretty much what needed to be done. It’s just the feel of the music and the way rock and roll had an impact on me.

    “When I heard Buddy Holly playing that guitar on the back of that flatbed wagon and Joe B. up there playin’ bass and J.I. playin’ drums, man! That had an impact on me. I fell into the saxophone by accident. It didn’t start out that way. I got hurt playing baseball and I couldn’t play football so I went into the band and all that jazz. Somebody else has been pullin’ the strings – I’ve just been dancin’! Ha! Ha!”

    Since I’m real partial to the great Bonnie Bramlett, I was stunned to read in Saturday Night that she was one of those originally considered for the female solo on Gimme Shelter. I told Keys that I would have spent his last tour check to have heard her sing that – not that Merry Clayton was any slouch on her solo, of course. That revelation prompted to ask, Bobby if, from where he sits, there any one thing that he feels should have been done majorly different on a Stones song and, if it had, would’ve changed rock history as we know it?

    “Huh! Well, I’ve never considered it but, personally, I’ve agreed pretty much what the Stones have done – at least during the times I’ve been recording with them and the tracks that I’ve played on - and, of course, with Jim Price. He was a big part of that, too! But, as for the Stones, one of the things I’ve always tried to get them to do is I’ve always wanted them to do an instrumental and put it on one of their albums. It was never seriously considered. I seriously considered it but the minute it got it out of my mouth the laughter didn’t die down for about two hours!

    “But, nah, I don’t think there’s anything that I would go back and change, particularly. But I tell ya, the way I play, I play a lot off of the other musicians. I listen to other elements – what the guitar is doing rhythmically. I’ll play along with that. I’ll pick something out of that strata or that level. I’m very much a rhythmic saxophone player so playing with the Rolling Stones is really fun for me!”

    Keys says in his book that he always viewed Keith Richards as a kindred spirit – that, if he wasn’t born in England, he would’ve had to be a Texan. I asked him to expound on that just a bit. He was laughing his genuine, infectious laugh as he said, “Well, I had him made an honorary Texan. I had the Texas flag flown over the Alamo on the day of his and mine birthday (they both have the same birth day). I knew some people in Texas who were associated with the Texas Historical Society so I had them fly the Texas flag over the Alamo on December the 18th, got it documented and sent it to Keith, hoping it would finally induce him to take into consideration about coming down to Dallas and joining the team! Ha! Ha!”

    Since we were on the subject of Keef, I asked Bobby what the least understood thing is about the Stones guitarist. Without even a nanosecond of hesitation Bobby said, “His temperament. This is a guy, man, that goes out of his way to save the life of a little stray dawg in Russia. Keith is portrayed as a dark person, more or less and he’s anythingbut that! He’s one of the funniest sumbitches I’ve ever known in my life, man! 

    “Some people look at him as having his blood changed at some Transylvanian medieval castle, you know? Those people are not going to believe anything I say. I mean, I’ve met people in bars in hotels we’ve stayed and they’ll go, ‘How about that Keith Richards thang? Were you with him when he had his blood changed?’ and I’d go, “No, man, the guy didn’t have his blood changed!’ They’d say, ‘Ah, man, you can’t say anything about it, huh?’ It doesn’t make any difference how many times I say somethin’ ain’t right, they ain’t gonna believe me anyway. But the guys a sweetheart and chicks dig him for some reason! They really like him - chicks and critters! Ha! Ha!”

    A Boomerocity reader wondered how it worked out that Keith just let Bobby write his own side of the stories in Keith’s book - like maybe, Keith, "Hey Bobby, man I don't remember any of that, here why don't you write the story?"  Here’s Keys’ take on how that all happened.

    “He’s got a hideaway sort of place down in Turks and Caicos Islands and the writer, James Fox, was going down there to talk to Keith. I was asked to go down there. I spent five days down there. Keith would be in the same room. I’m not bashful, man. James Fox just asked me questions and I gave him answers. Keith didn’t say anything like, ‘No, I’d rather you not say this. Maybe not touch on that.’ He didn’t say anything about what I said. He said, ‘Just talk to James Fox and tell him whatever he wants to know.’ And that’s exactlywhat I did! I answered James Fox’s questions and we spent a lot of time talking over a period of a couple of days.

    “But it’s easy to talk about Keith. He’s a pretty memorable fella! I’ve been around him sometimes when it got verymemorable but the thing I remember about him and the most important thing is that he’s the most honest sumbitch and the best damn guitar player. I love playing music with Keith! He’s just got a feel for it that I can really relate to.”

    Success and failure are often determined by the opportunities grabbed or passed on and Bobby has certainly jumped at lots of great opportunities that have brought him to where he is today. Is there a particular song or album that he had a chance to work on and, for whatever reason, didn’t or couldn’t and now looks back and says, “Crap!”

    “Well, shoot! Let’s see. Well, of course, during the recording of Exile on Main Street, George Harrison did his Concert for Bangladesh gig. Jim Price and I had played on the All Things Must Passalbum from which he (Harrison) took most of the material to play at that concert. Anyway, he invited Jim and I to go play at the concert. I thought it was for a real good cause and I wanted to go do it and Jim wanted to go do it but we had already obligated ourselves to work there in the South of France. I would’ve always liked to have been there for that. It’s not like a great big, huge hole in my life because I wasn’t. I was having a pretty good time down in the South of France.

    “Also, not that it ever would’ve happened, I would’ve liked to have played some live stuff with John Lennon. I really loved him - and Harry Nilsson! I tried and tried and tried to get Harry to do a live gig but he was dead-set against it. He never did do a live gig. He did one video.”

    Bringing a little levity to the conversation (as if we needed any more), I interjected that, according to his book, he did manage to provide a frog sound on one of Yoko Ono’s albums to which he chuckled, “Oh, yeah, man, that was indeed a red letter day! There, again, man, some hand of Providence touched me there because I had no idea what I was gonna do. I was looking at John like, ‘Hey, man, give me some feedback here, son! Help me!’ He just looked at me and rolled his eyes like, ‘You got this one all by yourself, Bobby!’

    During my recent interview with Keys’ fellow Stones band mate,Chuck Leavell, I told him that I was working on an interview with Keys. He had this to say about Bobby and his book: “Bobby is a great friend of mine. We are ‘Southern Brothers’ - he from Texas and me from Alabama. We talk a lot about both on tour and off.  I'm so glad he is getting his story out there. It is a remarkable story. He has played with so many icons . . . John Lennon, Bonnie and Delaney, The Stones, the Mad Dogs and Englishmen tour and so much more. He has so many great experiences to tell about. I can't wait to get my copy!”

    At the time of my chat with Keys, I hadn’t yet these comments with him. However, I asked him what his thoughts were of the Stones keyboardist.

    “Oh, yeah, I’ve got lots of good thoughts about Chuck! One thing is he’s a brother from the south! So, we’re both brothers of the Confederacy. Heh! Heh! I believe that the earth is a southern planet! Ha! Ha!

    “Before I met Chuck I knew his name and was aware of his work, man! He stepped into some pretty big shoes and just by virtue of the fact that was, more or less, recommended by Ian Stewart – whose opinion really resonates with all the members of the Stones, I can tell you that – or it did before Stu died. Chuck stepped into a situation, man, where he had a lot of bases to cover that hadn’t been covered before. All of a sudden he was actually the musical director on the stage. He was the one that was in charge of going in and making sure that the songs were the correct tempo and that everybody started and ended at the same place which, generally, didn’t take a whole lot. But he brought together a lot of people. It’s a big band. I think there’s 13 or 14 of us counting the singers and horn players. Chuck has to walk a pretty tight line, sometimes, between the camps of Keith and Mick. He’s very much a southern diplomat to be able to do that because many have tried and few were successful.”

    With a well received book now under his belt and waiting to hear if the bad boys of rock and roll are going to tour, I asked Bobby if he was going to come out with a solo CD.

    “Yeah, well, actually, the guys I play with here in town – we call ourselves The Suffering Bastards – we’ve been into the studio. We’ve got four tracks that we’ve recorded and we’re probably going to be doing some more future gigs we’ll be having a CD available pretty soon online and at the gigs we play.”

    And when Keys boards that great tour plane to heaven, what does he hope his legacy will be and how does he want to be remembered?

    “A guy who loved rock n’ roll music.”

    It’s Bobby Keys’ love of rock and roll music that has allowed him to be a lively part of the soundtrack of our youth that continues to play to this very day. Somehow, I have this sneakin’ hunch – I just know it in my knower – that Bobby is going to be on many more great rock tunes to come. 

  • Chuck Leavell Interview 2011

    Posted January/February, 2011

    Photo Courtesy of Chuck Leavell

    The Allman Brothers. Don McLean. Bonnie Bramlett. Marshall Tucker Band. Charlie Daniels. Sea Level. Aretha Franklin. Chuck Berry. Dion. Gov't Mule. The Black Crowes.  Eric Clapton. Larry Carlton. George Harrison. Rolling Stones.

    How would you feel if those names were on your resume in some form or fashion?  I can tell you that if my resume had those names, my head would swell to twice the size of Texas.

    Chuck Leavell’s resume includes those names and many, many more. When you add to that the credentials of an expert forester, conservationist, author, husband, father, and grandfather and you get an idea of who the man really is.  All of that and, yet, his head retains its normal size and shape.

    How does he do it?  I don’t know but my head did swell just a little bit when I had the good fortune of posing a few questions to the legendary keyboardist.  I pursued an interview with Leavell after reading his 2004 book, Between Rock and a Home Place. As a huge Rolling Stones fan, I, of course, knew about of Chuck’s monumental work with the band and with his own band, Sea Level.  I just wasn’t aware of the huge volume of other work he’s associated with.

    I was also aware of his conservation work – especially at his beautiful home, the family tree farm known as Charlane Plantation. The plantation, in the family since 1932, was inherited by Chuck’s lovely wife of 37 year, Rose Lane, after the passing of her grandmother.   After working their way out of onerous inheritance taxes, Rose Lane and Chuck have developed a thriving, successful tree farm that also hosts hunting and other kinds of retreats.

    It was about Charlane Plantation that I opened the discussion with Leavell, asking about what were the latest developments at the farm.

    “We are always working on our place. My wife, Rose Lane, says it means ‘job security’ for me as I will never get done! Currently we have a good bit of maintenance going on. We’ve just started renovating the exterior of our horse barn, the upstairs of which serves as Rose Lane’s art studio. We built the barn some 18 years ago using lumber that was taken from our own trees . . . mostly ones that were dead or dying… and it’s time to polish it up some.

    “We also just finished renovating an old tenant house into a nice guesthouse. We’ve built most all of our structures out of our own wood, and most of the renovations we’ve done to our existing structures as well. It’s quite a good and special feeling to look at them, walk through them and say… ‘yeah, that came

    Chuck Leavell With Grandson, Miles - Courtesy of Chuck Leavell

    from our own grounds’ . . . and to think that our grandchildren and future generations will be saying ‘our grandparents (or great-grandparents) built that back in 1990’, or whenever we built or renovated any particular structure on our place.

    “Of course, we’re always working in the woods, too. We did some light thinning of a few areas last year that had yet to be thinned - sort of like weeding the garden. We probably touched on 150 acres or so, opening the stands up to a slightly wider spacing, which will help the trees left standing grow much better and faster. It also helps encourage natural grasses, weeds and legumes to grow better underneath the stands, making it more attractive for wildlife.

    “We are in the middle of our hunting season, and January and February are booked pretty solid with our traditional southern quail hunts. I’ve been working some new dogs, which I love doing…so there has been quite a lot going on.”

    When I asked if he was the Ted Nugent of Georgia, Chuck’s response polite but direct.

    “With all due respect to Nugent, he’s an ethical and expert outdoorsman, but he’s a bit radical for me. I try to take a more gentle and gentlemanly approach to our hunting. As far as what we offer the public, it’s again, the traditional southern quail hunts, from November through the end of February. We have the jeeps, dogs, excellent guides and have a top notch and top class operation. We have several comfortable accommodations. Our lodge was built about 8 years ago, again, with our own resources and we renovated a historic 1830’s home back in the early 90’s that we use as well.

    “Rose Lane directs our staff in terms of the food, etc. and we have lots of repeat clients year after year. During the off season, we offer ‘retreats’ from time to time. Since Rose Lane is an excellent artist, some of these are centered around art. But some folks like to come just to be in the country, take a tour, walk our nature trail and such. We enjoy sharing our place and meeting new people, helping them to understand and appreciate nature and conservation issues. It makes for a good balance with our ‘other life’ of rock and roll.”

    Leavell wrote in his book, Between Rock and a Home Place, that, because of the predatory nature of our rich Uncle Sam’s inheritance tax code, he and Rose Lane had to sell off a big chunk of the original plantation.  In the seven years since that book was published, I asked if they were able to re-purchase the property.

    “No, that property was in another county, about 50 miles from us. It was about 300 acres of land that Rose Lane’s grandfather had passed on down. It was heartbreaking and really hurt to have to sell it, but we didn’t see any other way out at the time. While we’ve never recovered that tract, the good news is that through the years we have been able to acquire more land, much of which was adjacent to us. Rose Lane inherited about 1100 acres back in 1981 and we now have about 2500 acres, 1800 that is contiguous to her inheritance.”

    Before shifting my questioning to his other conservation endeavors, I asked Leavell what their long term plans for Charlane were.

    “We will continue to manage it as best we know how, and to share it with others through our hunts and retreats. Of course, I would love to continue to expand it, but it’s getting really hard to do because of how expensive land is. While the housing market across America has been hit hard as we all know - and prices for normal housing has dipped - that has not been the case for most timberlands, agricultural lands and recreational lands. It takes a lot of resources to purchase these kinds of lands and to maintain them. But I’m always hopeful that we can find select opportunities. We all know that old phrase, ‘land rich and cash poor’. That applies to a lot of landowners I know. I don’t think anyone would be impressed with our bank account but I’d rather have the land than bits of paper.”

    Chuck is a self-taught forestry expert, having begun his studies while touring with The Fabulous Thunderbirds.  Since then, he’s gained much respect and notoriety as an expert in forestry and conservation, having been award many awards and acknowledgements.  He’s also written two books on the subject with a third on the way.

    Before venturing into the finer points of this field of his expertise, I swallowed my pride and asked Leavell what the difference was between a conservationist and an environmentalist.

    “It’s a good question. I like to think that we are both. The definition of conservation is, in part, ‘The action of conserving something, in particular protection, or restoration of the natural environment, natural ecosystems, vegetation, and wildlife; the preservation, repair, and prevention of deterioration of archaeological, historical, and cultural sites and artifacts; and the prevention of excessive or wasteful use of a resource.

    “In a nutshell, I think it means to be wise and careful with the resources that you have - to practice a sort of sustainability. I tell people that trees are an organic, natural and renewable resource. We all use things that come from trees every day of our lives - wood furniture, our homes, musical instruments, books, and so many other things. As a conservationist, I want to use this resource for these many fine things but I want to make sure that I am doing it in a way that is conserving the resource - that is, in a way that will assure me it will always be there.

    “As for the word ‘environmentalist’, the definition in part is: A person who is concerned with or advocates the protection of the environment . . . who considers that environment, as opposed to heredity, has the primary influence on the development of a person or group.

    “This can get a bit complicated, and the ‘catch’ is how far you take the second part of the above definition. I certainly care deeply about our environment and want to keep it healthy and vibrant. But when it comes to making certain decisions about what to do with our lands and how that affects us as humans, hard choices have to be made from time to time. We all have to have places to live, to work, for our kids to go to school, etc. So, while it might not be the best thing for our environment to build such structures, or to build more highways, rail systems, expand airports and such, it’s inevitable that we are going to do it. We have to make compromises.

    “Actually, this is the subject of my new book, Growing A Better America, that will be out in mid March of this year. It’s about making careful and thoughtful choices about how we are going to grow. We have 310 million people in our country now, and predictions are that we’ll have 400 million around 2040. There are about 6.8 billion on the planet, and predictions are to have 9 billion by 2045. We are going to have to make some critical choices about accommodating that kind of growth, and how that will affect our environment.

    “My book talks about ‘smart growth’, and looks at positive models of community design, community expansion and such. I get in to energy issues; transportation issues; keeping our carbon footprint as low as possible; preserving natural areas when possible; the importance of green spaces in our metropolitan areas and much, much more.

    “I know that’s a long answer, but I think it’s important that people have an understanding of these things.”

    Chuck Leavell With The Rolling Stones - Courtesy of Chuck Leavell

    As a direct result of Chuck’s incredible accomplishments in conservation and forestry, he co-founded The Mother Nature Network and serves as its the Director of Environmental Affairs.  When I asked what the latest developments are at MNN, he answers with the same kind of pride as he does when speaking of Charlane or his musical work.

    “MNN has been a phenomenal journey for me. My partner, Joel Babbit, had the idea to build the site and asked me to participate. He has had a life long successful career in public relations and advertising, serving really big clients like Coca-Cola, Dell Computer and others. We’ve been friends for a while, and he came to me one day saying that his clients wanted to get out to the public over the Internet all the things they were doing to “green” their businesses. And by the way, these companies and all the companies that are sponsors with MNN are doing some great things in that regard.

    “Anyway, Joel did not feel comfortable with any of the existing environmental sites in terms of placing ads and getting messages out on behalf of his clients. After discussing it in depth and doing a lot of research, we looked at each other and sort of said at the same time: ‘should we build it?’ So, we did.

    “Through Joel’s connections, we raised commitments of up to ten million dollars to get started. He resigned his position as CEO of GCI, a huge firm he was heading up, and we went to work. We hired really talented and dedicated enviro-journalists, website developers and other staff and opened our offices in Atlanta. We launched in January of 2008 on a wing and a prayer. Since then we have grown from a ranking of something like number 7,200 on the list of environmental websites to be the number one most visited independent environmental site in the world.

    “I have to give credit to our incredible staff.  We have really great folks - about 25 at present - working for us. Joel and I are elated with the progress. The last numbers I had are that we are getting over 2 million unique visits a month, and about 12 million page views per month and still climbing each month. We actually became profitable towards the end of last year, which is quite amazing for any website in 2 years time. We thought it would take at least 5 years to get into the black, so we’re thrilled.”

    With public discourse often dominated by subjects to protecting and preserving the environment, I asked if there is anything that keeps him awake at night from a conservation perspective.

    “There are a lot of things that I’m concerned about. I described some of that in talking about my new book, but in terms of forestry alone, I have many worries. One is that we have seen a great deal of our industry move offshore in the past 10 years or so. This is for many reasons. Like so many other industries, companies find that labor is cheaper in other countries; there is less regulation in other countries; less cost for construction, cheaper land and so forth.

    “I’m not suggesting that we should do the same thing some of these countries are doing, because some of their practices are not good for the environment and somewhat suppressive on their labor force. But any way you look at it, it has caused a huge drop in US forestry markets. What people have to understand about this is that to a degree, it’s ‘use it or lose it’. In other words, if folks like me and so many other family forest landowners don’t have a decent market, there is no good reason for us to keep our lands in trees. So when that happens, families begin to sell their lands. They can’t afford to pay the taxes, the upkeep, etc. and they are backed up against a wall. I’m not saying it’s that bad at the moment, but if the markets for wood keep going down it will definitely get that bad.

    “Other concerns include that tax structure for forest lands, the uncertainty of biomass and carbon markets, the pressures of growth and development, outbreak of diseases and insects, severe weather events and more.”

    Before moving my questions to music related subjects, I asked Leavell what homeowners, or those who don’t even own a home, can do to green up America and the world from a forestry perspective.

    “Anyone can plant a tree. There are many programs around the country where they give out trees to people. Plant a tree in your yard, your neighborhood, your school, your church. I also encourage people to conserve. Turn out the lights when not in use, set the thermostat at a reasonable temperature, drive less when you can and walk or bike to work. Talk to your neighbors about keeping your parks in good shape. Consider buying Energy Star appliances when you need to replace your refrigerator, washing machine, dryer, whatever. I give a lot of these and much, much more in Growing A Better America.

    Chuck Leavell has played keyboard for the Rolling Stones for almost 30 years. As I said at the beginning of this interview, he has also played with other of the biggest names in rock. What many people may not know is that he has also produced several solo albums and is working on a new solo project. I asked Chuck about the album.

    “The working title is Back To The Woods and it is a tribute to pioneering blues piano players from the 30s/40s/50s era. Most of the songs come from artists that are little known: Little Brother Montgomery, Skip James, Leroy Carr, Jesse James and others. I did do a very early Ray Charles track called Losing Hand, and an Otis Spann tune called Boots and Shoes, but those would be the two best-known names.

    “I’ve been recording it up in Athens, Georgia, at Jim Hawkins’ studio. Jim was a principal engineer at Capricorn Studios back in the 70’s and actually built Capricorn in part. He has a nice, comfortable space in Athens now. I used Chris Enghauser on stand up bass and Louis Romanos on drums - both live in Athens and are great players. So far I have Danny Barnes (renown banjo player and guitarist), (guitarist) Bruce Hampton and Randall Bramblett (Sea Level, Traffic, Steve Winwood, Levon Helm and Bonnie Raitt, among others) as guest artists, and have some commitments from others, including Keith Richards. I’m about 80% done with it and hope to finish it by March. No release date yet, but probably May or June.

    In describing his solo work, Leavell says, “Well, I am first and foremost a piano player. That’s what most of my own CDs center around. I might throw in a bit of Hammond B-3 or Wurlitzer now and again, but it’s mostly piano. In terms of style, I’ve been influenced by a wide range of great players, and I think my style reflects that. You’ll hear tinges of blues, rock, jazz, and country, but hopefully you’ll say ‘that sounds like Chuck’.

    “It takes a long time to develop your own sound and style as a player, and hopefully I’ve done that. I don’t think of myself as some ‘master’ player - just an honest one. I do my best to paint pictures with the notes I play - to project emotion, color, and feeling. That’s about the best I can do to describe myself. Perhaps descriptions are best left to others.

    Early in his book, Between Rock and a Home Place, Chuck shared how his late mom talked to him about how he played his music, leading him towards how to inject various feelings into the sounds he produced on the piano. When I asked Leavell if he still feels that she still “speaks” to him today in how he plays today, his reply was short, sweet and from the depths of his heart.

    "Every day, in every note I play."

    From a fan’s perspective, it’s hard for me to think that, with the musical resume that Chuck has, there would be anything left that he hasn’t done musically. However, I had to ask him what he hasn’t done that he would still like to do.

    “Fortunately, I’m still getting calls to work with other artists. I still love working with those I’ve worked with in the past, but also like the challenge of working with those I haven’t. Recently I recorded with John Mayer in NY for a week. Fantastic session, fantastic artist. I hope I get another round with John some time this year. Next week I record for about 10 days with Martina McBride. So, I just take it one day at a time and hope the phone keeps ringing! Of course I’ll continue to do my own stuff as well. I know the Stones have been contemplating their options, but they have not come to any final decisions, so we’ll all have to wait on that. I can tell you that I’m ready when they are.”

    Photo Courtesy of Chuck Leavell

    Later, Chuck said about his contribution to the Mayer disc, “It was mostly Hammond B-3, but I did play a bit of Whurly and a pump organ on a couple of things. John is an amazing talent. He wrote three of the songs we did right on the spot. He’s got tremendous and infectious energy.”

    I don’t know what on earth possessed me to do this, but I dropped some names from Chuck’s musical past and asked him to share what comes to mind regarding his thoughts about the following musical greats:

     Ray Charles: “The MASTER. Probably my main influence.”

     George Harrison: “One of the sweetest guys on the planet. Truly as great a humanitarian as he was a singer/songwriter/performer.”

     Duane Allman: “Changed the direction of the electric guitar with his slide playing. Never got to know him personally, but always admired him and heard him play many times. Unquestioned and unbridled passion in his playing.”

     Eric Clapton: “Well, he’s Eric Clapton, isn’t he?! Eric likes exploring, changing, experimenting and I have always appreciated him for that. He doesn’t rest on his laurels and isn’t afraid to try things.”

     Gregg Allman: “In the top five of the greatest blues singers ever. A good friend. A survivor.”

     Ronnie Wood: “Effervescent, fun, diversely and multi-talented. Made me feel at home when I came into the Stones, for which I’m forever grateful.”

     When asked if there is any talent that is commanding his attention, Leavell shares that, “I’ve been listening a bit to Grace Potter (and the Nocturnals) and like her stuff. Not complicated, but with deep soul.  I like that. I honestly haven’t been to many concerts in the last couple of years, so can’t say much about live performances I’ve heard. I played with Keith Urban on the Jimmy Fallon show, and have come to really admire his artistry. I’m trying to learn a bit of mandolin, and have been listening to some bluegrass players. Love Chris Thele, Doyle Lawson, Sam Bush. I don’t listen too much to contemporary radio much these days, so I’m not the best person to ask about hits on radio.”

    Since he’s seen a lot of changes in the music business, I asked Chuck what he thought it was going to take to save the business.

    “Man, that’s too deep for me to get into, but I will say that if something isn’t done to improve how musicians and artists are paid for downloads and preventing illegal downloads, it’s going to be a tough future. The genie is out of the bottle, and I don’t know if it will ever be back in. We’ve lost a lot of control over how our recorded music is sold.”

    Wrapping up my time with Chuck, I asked if we were going to see him on the road with anyone any time soon.  While I wasn’t hinting for some advanced info about a Rolling Stones tour, he does comment about it at the end of his answer: “I have very few select solo shows booked - playing Macon at the Cox Capitol Theater Jan 22nd with the Randall Bramblett Band, and a gig at the Wheeler Opera House on March 12th. Other than that, I’ll be promoting my book and finishing my CD as well as doing the sessions I have booked. Nothing to report at present on Stones activity.”

    After the interview was over, I reflected on the vast, rich body of work that Chuck has.  From his iconic keyboard work on the landmark Allman Brothers tune, Jessica, to the Stones, Clapton and many others, I just ran the music through my mind and smiled.  Like the beautiful trees of Charlane Plantation, Chuck Leavell’s work shades our entire musical landscape with the beauty of his work.

    You can find out more about Chuck, his music, his books, and his conservation work at the following websites:


  • Concert for George

    concertforgeorgeConcert for George
    Performers: Various
    Studio: Rhino
    Year of Release: 2003

    Ten years ago, the world lost “the quiet Beatle”, George Harrison. I thought it appropriate to review the 2003 DVD of the Concert for George as a way to mark the ten year anniversary year of his passing.

    When I opened the packaging of this star laden concert DVD, I honestly didn’t know what to expect. I’ve often witnessed memorial “projects” -whether they be services for the deceased (celebrity or mere mortals) or concerts – turn into demonstrations of macabre self-absorption or out-of-place evangelistic services. In the case of Concert for George (organized by Eric Clapton), neither is the case.

    Concert for George is a brilliantly organized and produced musical memorial that beautifully presents the beauty, brilliance and kindness of Mr. Harrison. A devout follower of Hinduism, the DVD appropriately opens with a sitar performances by Anoushka Shankar (daughter George’s dear friend, Ravi Shankar). One doesn’t have to be a practitioner of Hinduism in order to appreciate the beauty and emotion of Your Eyes, Arpan and The Inner Light. The latter song was joined by ELO’s (and Harrison’s fellow Traveling Wilbury’s bandmate) Jeff Lynne and was followed by a “crack” line up from Monty Python (you’ll have to watch the video to appreciate the previous comment).

    Also performing various Harrison related tunes are Gary Brooker, Eric Clapton, Joe Brown, Jools Holland, Sam Brown, Tom Petty and the Heartbreakers, George’s son, Dahni, Billy Preston, Ringo Starr and Paul McCartney. To say that this DVD is precious history in the making would be an understatement. You will laugh, cry, smile and muse at the memories that this wonderful collection of music performed by some of the most exceptional talent gracing this planet.

    If I was asked to select a favorite performance from this video, I would find it near impossible to choose. If I Needed Someone by Clapton would wind up on my short list as would Taxman by Tom Petty and the Heartbreakers. Although, come to think of it, While My Guitar Gently Weeps (by Clapton and McCartney) and Wah Wah by the entire roster of performers would also jostle for the top position of my favorites. Clocking in at almost five hours of total viewing time, I would wager a guess that you, too, will have a very hard time selecting a favorite.

    Whether you’re a classic rock historian or loyal Harrison fan, Concert for George is a must-have addition to you DVD library.

  • Connected

    Gary Wright
    Label: Larkio
    Reviewed: June, 2010

    It’s been quite a while since we’ve been able to enjoy anything in the pop genre from Gary Wright. In fact, it’s been over twenty years. With his latest album, Connected, he has reconnected with an incredible collection of incredible, new, vibrant music.

    Gary Wright’s career spans 40 years and through his 70’s hits like Dream Weaver and Love Is Alive, is credited as a pioneer of in the use of synthesizers in pop music. With Wright’s continued mastering of all things “keyboard” along with the latest in recording technology, he delivers a set of tunes that are destined to be remembered by his fans as fondly as his first hits.

    The album is musical message of love, encouragement delivered in a positive and deeply spiritual manner. A great example of this is the first song, Satisfied. In the spirit George Harrison’s My Sweet Lord (but different, musically), Gary sings an anthem of acknowledgement of where he is in his faith. Wright is aided on this tune by Ringo Starr and Joe Walsh. How cool is that?

    Slated as the first single off of Connected, I predict that someone in the gospel or contemporary Christian music community will cover this song sometime in the next couple of years.

    Remember: You heard it here first, folks.

    Equally encouraging and positive is Get Your Hands Up. Also tagged for release as a single, this song will have Gary’s audiences dancing in the aisles when he performs this lively tune. If you’re feeling down or less than positive, this song will change your mood and outlook for the rest of the day. Try it sometime.

    Under Your Spell is one of the most touching and moving love songs that I’ve heard in a very long time. If The Gary Wright sound on this beautiful tune is instantly identifiable with its soothing melody and words of vulnerability and openness. If a song on this album was going to be labeled “Son of Dream Weaver”, this would be it even though it really does have a very different sound.

    Next on the line up is No One Does It Better. No, it’s not a cover of the great Carly Simon hit. Perfectly written and produced with his signature prowess, Wright knocks this one out of the park. This song could have easily been a song that the late Michael Jackson could have proudly recorded and taken to the type of the charts. This song is GREAT!

    Can’t Find No Mercy is another deeply spiritual tune but one that could easily be sung as a love song. When I close my eyes while listening to this song, I can envision this song being performed with an awesome African-American church choir providing vocal support that only they can. This song clearly has heart and soul.

    The next tune, Life’s Not A Battlefield, is a song of hope and peace. If you begin listening to this song while you’re angry at someone, I will bet you a dollar to a donut that by the song’s end, your anger will have greatly subsided.

    Another future single, Gimme Some Time is a great dance tune (if I could only dance!). With former Steely Dan and Doobie Brother guitarist (and current defense technology consultant), Jeff “Skunk” Baxter providing the axe work, this offers up awesome “earworm” material with its musical hooks and positive lyrics.

    The CD’s title cut is placed in the last third of the disc (or, in the middle of the digital download version). In my mind, it’s perfect. If I had a gun held to my head and was ordered to say what I thought would make this song better, they’d just have to shoot me, it’s that good. What I COULD say would be an equally cool delivery of the song would to be to hear it sung as a duet with Peter Gabriel . . . then they could pull the trigger.

    Now, the next song is going to be loved by grandparents the world over. Kirra Layne is Wright’s song of love to his first granddaughter who is the namesake of this song. I am not a grandparent yet but, even so, I found this song taking me to the point of gazing at the miracle of birth and heritage that one experiences when gazing at their first grandchild. This one tugs at the heart strings.

    The CD version of Connected closes with You Make Me Feel Better. This love song/song of faith (you can take it either way), is a perfect end to a perfect CD. Positive, encouraging, loving, the song will leave you feeling refreshed.

    As the old Ronco commercials used to say, “But WAIT! There’s more!”

    If you really want a special treat, you’ll want to download this project either on iTunes or at Gary’s website, Why? Well, you’ll get some great bonus tracks including “Son of Love Is Alive”.


    Yep, that’s Wright – I mean “right”. At either website, Gary’s son, Dorian, offers an awesome version of his dad’s iconic hit, Love Is Alive. I thought the song could not be improved upon but Dorian nails this one. For us old timers that think the original hits are “sacred” and should be left alone may re-think that thought when they hear this classic covered.

    For the rest of the iTunes download, you’ll also To Discover Yourself that was co-written by Wright’s late good friend, George Harrison way back in 1971. Wright recorded this song, just him and a piano, on November 29, 2001, upon hearing of Harrison’s death. This song is worth the purchase of the entire download.

    The bow on the iTunes bonus package is a great song that Wright contributed to the soundtrack of Fire and Ice, a German movie released in 1986. This beautiful song will haunt you long after you’ve listened to it.

    If you decide to download Connected from Gary’s website, you’ll be treated to a different buffet of delectable bonus tracks in addition to the remake of Love Is Alive also offered on the iTunes digital version.

    One such delicacy is the ethereal Never Give Up. The excellently written and produced song colors the deep, meaningful lyrics with beautiful, melodic hues that decompress the heart and soul.

    However, I especially like – make that “love” – Without You. This song will resonate with those who have lost a friend or loved one who they were especially close to through death or separation. Although I neglected to ask Gary about this song during our interview, I suspect that this song is about his dear friend, George Harrison. Regardless of who the song was written about, like all great songs, this is one of those that all of us can make it our own.

    If you loved Gary Wright back in the seventies, you will definitely want to add Connected to your listening library. You can add this great CD to your collection by clicking on one of the images at the top of the page.

  • Dave Mason Discusses His Traffic Jam Tour

    Posted October, 2014

    Photo by Chris Jensen


    If one were to make a list of attributes of a rock and roll icon, all of the qualifying boxes on that list would be checked under Dave Mason’s name.

    • Great guitarist. Check
    • Songwriter.  Check.
    • Wrote and recorded songs that are part of the soundtrack of the baby boomer generation.  Check.
    • Played with rock’s most historic figures like Jimi Hendrix, George Harrison, The Rolling Stones and more.  Check.
    • Has been – and still is – an actively amazing performer and concert draw. Check.
    • Still putting out great music that people love. Check.
    • An inductee into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame. Check.

    Dave Mason is all of that and more.  An energetically dynamic sixty-eight year old rocker, the co-founder of the legendary group, Traffic, still records fantastic, relevant music and still tours the country - and the world.
    I recently contacted Mason at his California home to discuss his latest album, “Future’s Past,” and his current tour.  This was my second opportunity to interview the rock legend (the first interview is here).  Always warm and engaging, we started off our chat by discussing “Future’s Past”. For the rare fan who might not know the story behind the album, I asked Mason if he would tell readers what motivated him to record it.

    “I have a studio at home. Making a CD or album like we used to, it’s something that I’ve kind of throw out the window at this point. But that being said, music is my life so, when I’m home, I’m always working on something in my studio. Albeit, it may be a revised version of an older song – I have versions of songs that I loved when I was growing up. There’s Eddie Cochran that I’ve done that hasn’t been released. And, then, I have new stuff that I’ve worked on.

    “So, to say that I was consciously putting an album together – I wasn’t. But what I do have, as I said, is I just have a collection of music that I constantly keep making. A lot of it is never in one style, which has presented a problem in the sense that it’s hard to pigeon hole me, musically. Am I rock? Am I ballads? Am I blues? I’m not any one of those. I just want to cover the gambit of songwriting.

    “So, I have a collection of stuff and I had some things sitting there and there was some stuff that I revisited. Like, I did a re-write of that version of ‘Dear Mr. Fantasy’ and, yes, I was going out to do ‘Traffic Jam’ so it seemed appropriate to put a couple of things on that CD from that era. Then, I had some things like, ‘Sad and Deep As You,’ that I put on there that was from ‘Alone Together’ – my first solo album. It was such a strong and powerful version that I felt that it should go on there.

    “So, essentially, I had a mix of stuff that was new and old and, hence, the title eventually becoming ‘Future’s Past’. A lot of my fans who have been following me for years, for them some of that stuff


    Photo by Chris Jensen

    is old material. As an artist, one lives in the hope that there are some younger people that, to them, this will all be brand new material.

    “Music, for me, doesn’t span any age or style. The music’s just good music. Essentially, ‘Future’s Past’ was just me putting together a collection of stuff that I thought was pretty cool and represented some things I was doing at the moment and part of what I do in my shows. Then, I was lucky enough to have a friend send me some stuff from Graham Nash’s art show and one of the things that he had was the cover which is done by Graham. It’s a photograph of me in the seventies when I was at his house in Kauai and he did artwork on it. So, the cover is done by Graham and it sort of seemed to fit perfectly with the title.”

    Record sales for most artists in all genres have been tough over the past several years. Internet piracy is still a problem, detrimentally affecting album sales and decimating what we once knew as the record industry.  When I asked Dave what sales for “Future’s Past,” his matter-of-fact answer echoed those I’ve heard from virtually every other artist I’ve had the privilege of interviewing.
    “Well, record sales are pretty much non-existent these days for anybody. We just basically have CDs at the shows.”

    He continued by responding in a way that validated everything else I’ve heard about record sales.

    “Everybody is stealing everything. That’s the easy way to put it. They’re taking it all off of the internet – which goes for literature, as well. All intellectual property is somewhat being decimated by the internet – but that’s been happening for a few years now.

    “For any artist, it doesn’t really matter. I mean, even with Beyoncé and that new record, because a big corporation ordered a bunch of CDs to give away, otherwise, there are no record sales. They’ve just disappeared because everybody is just taking it from the internet. Some people are downloading and purchasing stuff, but for all us artists, a huge part of our life has disappeared. If I was to say, ‘Record sales are great!’ I’d be bullshitting and lying to you. It’s not just me. It’s pretty much any classic artist and any other artist. What would’ve been a big selling record, say, a half a million records or something like that, would now be maybe twenty thousand CDs.

    “I’m not just cryin’ the blues for myself. I’m just saying that’s what’s happening to all of us. People would rather spend five dollars on a café frappe latte mocha than they would spend a dollar on a piece of music that’s going to last them forever.”

    That all said Mason has, obviously, faced the piracy issue head on and has been an early adopter of online marketing and social media engagement of his extensive, global fan base.  One only has to sign up for his newsletter on his website (here) or follow him on Facebook (here) or Twitter (here) to see that he’s mastered the medium. As he remains resilient and adaptable to market changes, I’m sure that we’ll continue to observe Dave implement technology and changes in social media and implement them into his marketing efforts.
    Our conversation shifted to his current Traffic Jam tour and the shows that are going to be held in my home region of East Tennessee.

    “I’m looking forward to playing down there in Tennessee and some other states. I haven’t played these places in years! I’ve played Atlanta but not a lot of other places like Chattanooga and some other places but, I mean, it’s been years and years since I’ve played those places. I’m very much looking forward to playing there and hoping people will remember to come out. The band is great. The show is great. I’m as good at being Dave Mason as I’m going to be .Ha! Ha!”

    As for the current band line-up and what fans can expect at one of the Traffic Jam shows, Mason said, “Alvino Bennett is still playing drums with me. Johnne Sambataro is playing guitar as well and I have a great keyboard player named Tony Patler but he also handles bass. So, basically, it’s just a four piece band and we push out a lot of music for a four piece band.

    Photo by Chris Jensen


    Mason said about the show, itself, that, “Basically, the Traffic Jam show runs about two hours and we do it in two sections. The first half of it is pretty much the songs from Traffic days when I was with them. Then we take a fifteen minute break and then we come back and we do stuff from my solo career. Along with it all there’s some visual stuff that goes with it. I’ll BS a little bit and tell some stories. You’ll get a bit of everything but I’m sure that there’s something that I’m going to not do that somebody will want.”

    To that point, I had to ask Dave which version of “Dear Mr. Fantasy” he would be playing during the Traffic Jam tour.

    “It will be the way it is on ‘Future’s Past’. Song-wise, I prefer it. I really came up with it because I was doing acoustic shows a year or so ago and I was trying to find a more interesting way to do it acoustically. The original version, basically, only has three chords to it and, so, there wasn’t a lot of places to go, acoustic-wise, with it. I came up with this version, again, I just started messing around with it and we thought it started sounding pretty cool.”
    When I ordered “Future’s Past” directly from his website, I took advantage of a pre-release offer wherein he also sent gave his live album, “Dave Mason Live at Belmont Park 1978”. What an amazing offering! Naturally, I was curious if he had any other goodies in the vault that might be released.

    “Yeah, I’m planning on a new CD which comes out at the end of this year or the beginning of next year – I’m not sure, yet. But, yes, we are working on some other combinations like that.”

    Almost as an afterthought, I told Mason that my favorite song of his was “How Do I Get To Heaven” from his “26 Letters, 12 Notes” album, to which he replied, “Yeah, it’s a really beautiful song. It’s an example of something that would have – to our opening conversation – had this been twenty years ago that would probably have been a hit song.”

    As our call was winding up, I asked Mr. Mason what 2015 looked like for him, tour (and other) wise.

    “According to my agents, there seems to be a large demand for Traffic Jam so we may be playing this out through 2015. And, then, I’m hoping in April, to go to the United Kingdom. I’m not sure if it’s going to entail some of Europe but I haven’t played there in over thirty years. That’ll be interesting. After that, we’re toying around with the idea of doing what would be, ‘Alone Together, Again,’ where part of the show would be the whole of the ‘Alone Together’ album. But, at the moment, it seems that the Traffic Jam thing – there’s still venues that still want to do the show so it will probably go through a good part of next year.”

    To see if Dave Mason is going to be appearing in or near your town, be sure to visit his website, While you’re there, be sure to shop around his online store and take advantage of his signed CD offerings. They’re a definite must-have for your own collection and excellent gifts for the music lovers in your life.

  • Gary Wright

    Posted June, 2010

    Photo by Rob Shanahan

    As a teenager growing up in Phoenix, I worked at the long gone Sun Maid Grocery in the then agricultural suburb of Peoria. One of my rituals after work was to hop in my car, role down my window, crank up my radio (no, it wasn’t even a stereo at that time – just an AM radio). The music and the wind blowing in my then-long hair as I made my way home down those then-desolate country roads helped me unwind.

    On more than one occasion, after a particularly rough night at work and getting my ritual underway for my commute home, the soothing sounds of Dream Weaver by Gary Wright would crackle out of the radio.  The ethereal melodies of the song would cause me to decompress as I drove through the desert night with the stars smiling down at me as I conjured up big dreams, convinced that anything was possible.

    Another of Mr. Wright’s iconic hits, Love Is Alive, was a favorite of the many dances at Moon Valley High School.  A lot of us kids viewed the song as one of the more danceable songs to be played. Of course, for me, it took a lot of dream weavin’ of my own for me to think that I could dance to anything, let alone Love Is Alive.

    For many of us, great songs like these by great artists like Gary Wright are what make up the soundtrack of youth. Now that our hair is shorter, thinner and grayer (if it exists at all), we hear these tunes or see these icons and a smile effortlessly comes to our faces as memories come flooding to our minds.

    So, it was with great pleasure that I was recently offered the opportunity, by way of Boomerocity friend and rock photographer extraordinaire, Rob Shanahan, to interview Gary Wright.  With his first pop album out in over twenty years coming out on June 8th, 2010, and his second tour with none other than Ringo Starr, it was with giddy excitement that I chatted with Mr. Dream Weaver himself.

    My first group of questions surrounded Gary’s new album, Connected.  Because it had been over two decades since his last mainstream release, I asked him what he waited so long to come out with this disc.

    “It’s because I’ve been involved with doing other kinds of music that I needed to get out of my system – World music, in particular. The last studio pop album I did was called Who I Am, which was released in ’87. I was just starting to get involved with world music at the time through my relationship with George Harrison.

    “Then, I did an album in ’95 which was recorded in Brazil with some great musicians and I also used a couple of African guys. It was kind of an Afro-Brazilian world music album.  I did another album in ’99 which came out called Human Love, with some African guys, too.

    “Then, I spent the last decade doing different stuff like producing.  My son, Justin, put a band together and released his first album. His group is called Intangible, on my own record label and that took up a lot of my time. And then I decided that I wanted to go back into the studio and do a full-fledged album.

    “So, after I did the Ringo tour in 2008, I started writing for the new album and it finished in January of this year. So, I’ve been working on it for a little over two years.”

    I’ll be the first to admit that, among the dummies I am, I am one when it comes to world music.  I’m just not that familiar with it so I asked Wright what the receptivity of his world music projects have been like.

    “You know, that’s kind of like a taste-specific kind of thing.  Some people like it. Some people are alienated by it and don’t understand it. You have to have a taste for it.  Like Peter Gabriel, same deal. He has his company, Real Music, I think that’s the name, any way, he does the same thing.  He produces artists who are really great musicians but are obscure to the mainstream of buying people.”

    Briefly returning to his work while in Brazil, Gary says that the country “has always been involved in music. They live and breathe it down there. I went down there in ’79 and it was an amazing experience. Their people just LOVE music because of their roots – their Afro roots – it’s a combination of different things. But it’s great!  There are some great players there!”

    In the days before the interview, I listened to Connected several times before ever reading the press release that came with my copy.  I do that in order to see if my impressions of a disc align with the expectations of the artist.  I shared with Wright my four impressions that I personally had of the album and asked him if my perceptions were accurate.

    Those four impressions were:

    ·  The vibe of the album is very positive and uplifting theme throughout the entire disc.

    Before I could go to my second impression, blurted out, “That was my goal!  You hit the nail right on the head!”

    Ah!  I love it when I’m right!

    Moving on, I shared the rest of my impressions.  I said that:

    · The disc had a spiritual, almost “gospel” sound to it on some cuts

    ·   When it didn’t come across as “spiritual” then they felt like love songs of a deep, spiritual kind

    ·  I was amazed at the intricate musicianship on the disc supported by equally intricate production/engineering

    Were the rest of my perceptions accurate?

    “I think your take on the album is very perceptive.  I agree with everything you just said.  Number one, I firmly believe that music is an art and, as an art, its chief function is to uplift people. There’s enough negation in the world that we’re constantly reminded of in our daily lives that we don’t need more of that.

    “In India, they say, ‘everyone has a choice: You can either go smell the flowers or you can look down in the sewers.’ It’s each individual’s choice as to what he chooses to do and the more you program your mind to only allow thoughts that are positive and uplifting, and people do all of that, the world will be a better place.

    “That’s why I call the album Connected because we are all connected, really, through our thoughts.  The mass thoughts of everyone influence the karma, so to speak, of the world.  The weather patterns, the calamities that happen, the wars and all of that stuff – it’s all man’s thinking.

    “There is definitely a spiritual level to the album. I try to write the lyrics to my songs that one can either sing them to God or sing them to your wife or your girlfriend. That’s all in the mind of the person who’s listening.  You can do it either way. So that is true, what you just said.

    “The intricacy of the music?  Well, I’ve been doing this now for almost forty years so I’ve learned a lot about production and worked with the greatest people throughout my career and have also cultivated a group of friends – musician friends – who have generously offered talents to play on my album. People like Ringo and Skunk Baxter and Joe Walsh. I’ve always, throughout the years, managed to get these kinds of people to play on my records and it’s always been a joy to work with that kind of musicianship.”

    I shared with Gary the positive nature of Boomerocity, whether it was in the interviews conducted or within the product or concert reviews shared on the site.  The intention is the same: accentuate the positive.

    Mr. Wright is supportive in his response. “I think that’s good.  I think it would be nice if more people were to have that kind of attitude for like, go to this website if you want to hear somebody’s positive reviews on an album – not to, necessarily, need to gloss over the flaws of it. But I’m thinking if the album is not really your cup of tea, then don’t review it.  People will then get a feel for your taste by the albums you review.  Then people will say, ‘Oh! This guy is good because all the stuff he recommended, I like! So, I’m going to go by what he says!’

    “There needs to be more of that in the world because time is such a rare commodity that we have, with the world being so fast. With technology and everything, people don’t have time to look at 8 zillion releases. There’s no way you could walk through all of that. So, we need to have more ‘taste makers’ – people whose tastes you can trust.

    “It’s like going into a wine store, let’s say.  You don’t really know all the wines but you know that the owner has good taste. So, the first time you buy a bottle of wine from him and it’s really good, you go, ‘You know? I really liked that.  What else would you recommend?’ And then he starts recommending many things and you go back again and again because you trust the person. You can apply that to all kinds of art.”

    Returning briefly to the premise of Boomerocity, Gary says, “It’s great for people who leave their work for a few minutes to visit some place that’s positive, you know? It’s like

    Photo by Rob Shanahan

    taking a short vacation – it just takes the tension off of your mind.”

    My head sufficiently swollen from the positive feedback from Mr. Wright, I brought the conversation back around to Connected.   Many artists go into a studio with songs that may have been put away years ago and were recently dusted off.  It’s also not unusual for songs to be written while in the process of recording.  I asked Gary what were the oldest and newest songs on the record.

    “Okay.  You’re going to laugh but the oldest song was Satisfied. Satisfied, I wrote with a friend of mine, Bobby Hart. Bobby was in a band called Boyce and Hart. They wrote and produced most of the Monkees’ hits and he wrote Hurt So Bad and Come A Little Bit Closer – a bunch of big hits – a great song writer!

    “The version that Bobby and I wrote, though, was more like a shuffle. It was a different kind of feel. So, when I was in the studio – a lot of times when I write songs, I’ll put up some kind of sound on one of my synthesizers that has a rhythm pattern going through it. And then I’ll put a bass line on and a little bit of little bit of drum and I get a feel for the direction of the song is going to be. I might even sing a little melody over it or whatever.

    “So, when I did Satisfied, I had this great groove and I was thinking, ‘Boy, wouldn’t it be great if I could plug in one of my old songs.  I was thinking, thinking and then BANG! - into my mind pops up Satisfied – but done as a swing feel rather than a shuffle, which is different and it worked! It took me a little while to get used to it but when it did, it worked really well. So that was the oldest song . . .  from the early to mid nineties.

    “The newest song – let me think, now, about this – the newest song I wrote probably would be – I want to say either Get Your Hands Up or No One Does It Better.”

    It’s at this point that I confess that I have three favorite songs for one reason and then another favorite song for a completely different reason.  The three are Can’t Find No Mercy, Life’s Not A Battlefield and Connected.  I like them for their sound, feel and message.  You know, the reasons why most any of us like a song.

    However, Kirra Layne struck me in a unique way. I listened to it over and over again, trying to figure out who Gary was singing about.  Finally, I was pretty sure that I figured it out:  The song had all the things I would say if I was a grandfather.  The song HAD to be about his granddaughter, no?

    With a chuckle, Wright gives me yet another reply that causes my already swollen head to swell just a wee bit more. “You’re right!  I was wondering what people would think who Kirra Layne was. Yeah, that’s my first granddaughter. That’s good! I wrote that song when I was in – I go to Italy every year to an island called Sardinia in the Mediterranean. I wrote about half on my album on an acoustic guitar when I went there on various vacations – one in particular. The one when I wrote Kirra Layne, she was about three months old and I missed her so much, you know, being so far away. So, I just picked up my guitar one morning and knocked that song out.

    “The treatment I wanted to give it was not like one with the piano and voice and drums and all that.  I wanted to make it special and one track that always stuck out in my mind that I LOVED by the Beatles was She’s Leaving Home. It had a beautiful cello arrangement and I went in that direction with it with a harp, strings, cello’s and stuff.”

    I was curious if, when Gary writes songs, does he only write them with the thought that only he would be recording and performing them or does he write any with another artist in mind.  The reason I wanted to know is that I thought Satisfied sounded as though it was written for Michael Jackson to sing and Quincy Jones to produce.

    “I can see that. I can hear that for sure, definitely. Usually I don’t write for others - not unless it’s specific thing for a movie where somebody asks me to write a song. I’ve done that in the past where they say, ‘Okay, I need something romantic song and this is the kind of scene’ and then I would write it to that specific kind of thing.

    “But, usually, when I write songs, they’re usually for me.  I find that, when I do it that way, more people are likely to cover it.  My stuff in the past has been covered by artist like Eminem and Joan Osborne and Joe Cocker and Anastacia, Maya – quite a few big artists. And they’ve always taken my original songs.  It’s usually the big hits like Love Is Alive.  No one’s ever done a big version of Dream Weaver.”

    I posited that that particular song would be awfully hard to top – that it really can’t be improved.

    Gary offers a very objective counter to my thought. “Or, at least that version of it unless somebody took the song and gave it an entirely different treatment. That’s never been done.  I mean, it has been. Erin Hamilton did a dance version, which was, actually, quite successful.

    “I had another one of my songs from an album I did call The Wright Place which had that hit on it called I Really Want To Know You. One of the songs on it that I wrote with Barry Mann and Cynthia Weil – big, big writers who wrote You’ve Lost That Loving Feeling and Under The Boardwalk – the big, classic hits. They wrote one of the songs on that album called Coming Apart. Nothing ever happened to the song and then 25 years later, a DJ named Armand Van Helden, who is quite well known in the techno world, he took the song and just added a drum loop to it, sped it up and it was a HUGE hit throughout the world excluding the United States. It sold something like ten million copies.

    Clearly humbled, Wright concludes this line of thinking by saying, “So, I’ve been fortunate in my career to have had my stuff continually recorded by other artists or be in soundtracks, movies, or whatever.”

    Being the prolific writer, arranger and recording artist who has worked on many excellent recordings with some of the biggest names in the business, how was Connected different than all of the other projects he worked on?

    Gary methodically, and without hesitation, answers the question. “One, I think the caliber of the songs that are on the album, I think they’re all strong as individual units themselves. Two, I think I took advantage of a lot of modern technology in the production and in the sound of things. And, the musicianship of the people that actually played on it – really top caliber.

    “Most of the album I did by myself. Of course, the drums were done by – Ringo played on one track and Will Kennedy, who is a great drummer from the Yellowjackets, played on the rest of the album. But, they weren’t real drums. They weren’t acoustic kits. They were samples because I wanted it to have that electronic feel to it. That’s the direction I went, sonically, with it.”

    With such a great album and a tremendous fan base, surely there’ll be a tour to promote Connected?

     “There will be. I’m in the process of getting that together now. Right now, I’m just jamming to get ready for the Ringo tour. There’s a lot of stuff to learn. The tour is finished on the 7th of August. I’ll want to take some time to just relax for a little bit. But I’m thinking in the fall of doing some work, touring with my own band. I just got back from the east coast. I did five shows on the east coast and they all went down really well. The new material was really well received and we sold out of all the CD’s. That was good to see that from people.”

    Because Mr. Wright had mentioned George Harrison and, earlier in our conversation, India, I was instantly reminded of Donovan’s autobiography and some of the other books I’ve read relative to George Harrison’s spiritual journey.  In those books, I read where “the Quiet One” was instrumental in introducing his band mates and Donovan to Eastern Philosophy.  I asked Gary if George had introduced him to the philosophy, as well.

    “Yeah, I mean, George was my mentor, spiritually, when I first met him.  He was very much into Eastern Philosophy and he gave me a lot of books. I definitely became interested and have been practicing Yoga Meditation now for 35 years.  It’s dramatically changed my life. I try to live my life in a spiritual way, as best I can. That’s what’s great about it.

    “In India they say, ‘Don’t accept the concept of God until you have actually had the experience of that.’ You get the experience through deep meditation. That’s what I’ve been doing for these last 35 years and it’s true.  It works like mathematics if you practice it.  It’s just a different level – it’s a different commitment thing that you have that manifests in all parts of your life.”

    While discussion faith, I mention that I’m reminded of the great quote by Blaise Pascal in which he states something to the effect that we all have a God-shaped void in our being.

    Wright responds enthusiastically.

    “Absolutely! Especially with young kids now, because growing up without a concept of God is so hard with the world as it is now. With all the violence and all the negation, the drugs and all that’s around, kids are lost unless they have a fundamental concept of God or religion.  All the religions I see are all the many different rivers flowing into the same ocean. It’s which one you choose to take.”

    In discussing the “lack of center” in kids today with regards to faith or even music that inspires action like there was when we were kids growing up, I comment that kids today seem aimless.

    “You’re absolutely right. I think a lot of it is that there are not a lot of heroes like there were then - like Crosby, Stills and Nash and Joni Mitchell and Jackson Browne, and the Beatles, of course – people who had lyrical messages and people who stood behind them.

    “Now you find that the business is dominated by entertainers rather than songwriter/artist.  A lot of the artists don’t even write their own songs. It becomes trivialized. They’re great singers and they’re great dancers but they’re not artists in the true sense of the word in so much that they’re not writing a lot of their own material.  You’ll find some people who are. That makes it more difficult.

    “We live in a world with so much competition for the entertainment dollar with cell phones and video things, there’s very little attention span.  ADD is almost rampant as an epidemic amongst young kids. They’re over stimulated and they don’t concentrate.  They don’t sit down – well, you remember! You used to sit down and listen to an album and turn the lights down and totally get into it.  Now, you play one song and then on to the next thing, on to my widget, blah, blah, blah! It’s just so fast!”

    Are there any artists today who command Gary’s attention?

    “I will turn on, sometimes, some public radio stations. We have one here in L.A. called KCRW and they have some cool, interesting, young artists who are making some very interesting music but you never hear it.  This is very eclectic.

    “So, it’s there but, unfortunately, the way the business has turned into this huge marketing machine based on the American Idol generation, you’re not going to hear a lot of that kind of stuff unless you dig for it and really know how to do it.

    “The good news is that, as kids become more and more aware of the choices out there and start getting into older artists.  I see little kids that have heard Led Zeppelin or the Stones for the first time that think they’re new artists and don’t know the difference.  You don’t know when you hear something on the radio.  They don’t say, ‘This was recorded in 19-whatever’, you know? That’s the good news and I think, ultimately, people are going to use the internet as a giant jukebox and be able to choose the stuff that they want to hear.

    “And, like I mentioned before about the taste-maker aspect, the degree that those websites are around that you trust what they have on their site and the content, I think that’s going to be a real big – that’s the new record company model.”

    Photo by Rob Shanahan

    In responding to my question about what he sees as positive changes in the music business, Gary Wright provides intuitive insight into the machinery.

    “Well, I think one thing is that artist are taking control of their careers and are not being ripped off by major labels like they used to be so much. Now artists are just saying, ‘I’m not going to release anything on a major label. I’m going to do it myself.

    “It’s a bolder step.  You don’t have the machinery of the big labels but the labels can’t offer that anymore like they used to be able to. So, now, every artist’s is a self-contained entity, which is good, in a way, because you’re your own record company. It becomes a lot more work and time consuming because you’ve got to go out and market, promote and do all of that. So, that, I think, is ultimately a good thing because there were a lot of artists who were just so badly mistreated by labels, getting ridiculously low royalties and don’t have anything to say  for the success or fame they had.”

    With our time already having expired by at least twenty minutes, I ask one final question of the iconic, musical genius: Are we going to have to wait another 20 years before we see another album from him?

    With his ever-present, pleasant chuckle he responds, “No. No, I would say it will be more like another 4 or 5 (years) or even less. I do have a project that I want to do and that’s to write a book because I think I have a lot of stories and experiences that I would like to share with my fans. I will do that, probably, next and then I’ll do a new album.”

    Now THAT’S a book I look forward to reading!

    After our chat, I clasped my hands behind my head, leaned back in my chair and digested the incredible conversation I had with Gary Wright.  What an incredible talent with an intriguing story to tell!

    And, as I reflected on what had just transpired, Dream Weaver was playing on iTunes and I closed my eyes as, in my mind’s eye, I was once again driving down dark, country roads in the Arizona night, conjuring up big dreams and remembering once again that anything is possible.

  • Rain: A Tribute To The Beatles






    Rain: A Tribute To The Beatles  

    Tennessee Theatre – Knoxville, Tennessee

    March 01, 2016


    Let me just say from the git-go that I went to Tuesday nights performance by Rain expecting some sort of lame treatment of Beatles tunes. Of course, I thought that not


    Photo by Richard Lovrich

    ever having heard them or anyone’s take on the tribute band.

    Boy, was I ever wrong!

    As their press packet says, “RAIN - A TRIBUTE TO THE BEATLES is a live multi-media spectacular that takes you on a musical journey through the life and times of the world’s most celebrated band.”

    I’ll add that RAIN just might be the next best thing to seeing the Beatles that one will ever experience. These guys are just downright amazing!

    This amazing tribute band covers the Fab Four’s work and performances from their touchdown in the U.S. through their last work together. Whether as suited, clean cut kids, Sgt. Pepperians, or looking “hippyish,” they did so to audio and visual perfection. 

    The current configuration of RAIN’s homage to the Beatles apparently adds more hits than they did in the past. Whether cranking out “I Want To Hold Your Hand,” “Let It Be,” “Come Together,” “Hey Jude,” or many of the other iconic hits, the sold out crowd at Knoxville’s historic Tennessee Theatre was on their feet and singing along – even dancing. 

    If you’re a baby boomer, a Beatles fan or just love a great performance, I strongly encourage you to catch RAIN: A TRIBUTE TO THE BEATLES. If you do, I can just about guarantee that you’ll want to see them again. I know I do.

    Follow RAIN at:


  • Ringo And His All-Starr Band - Greenville, SC 2015

    Ringo And His All-Starr Band

    The Peace Center – Greenville, SC

    February 17, 2015

    Photo by


    Regular Boomerocity readers know that, when we review a show, we focus on the music and what takes place on the stage. That certainly is the case during the recent performance by Ringo Starr and his merry men he calls The All-Starr Band.

    However, what I want to focus on first is something that I witnessed backstage before the show began. 

    My business partner/cousin and I were guests of Ringo’s guitarist, Steve Lukather of Toto.  While visiting with Luke, there were four others there, including a pre-teen young man and his dad.  After greeting everybody, Luke started sharing stories of his younger life – stories that reflected some of the craziness and “youthful behavior” that he probably shouldn’t have done. 

    He turned to the boy and said something to the affect of, “I’m telling you this so that you don’t make the same dumb mistakes I did.” Right after that, Todd Rundgren walks in, looking for his invited guests. He couldn’t find them and was expressing his concern that he had goofed up in some way.

    At that point, Luke pipes up and says, “Do you guys want to meet the boss?”  He and Todd then lead us down the hall to a reception area. Gregg Rolie and Richard Page were hanging out there as we came in. Right after we came in, Ringo Starr walks in. He and Luke’s attention was immediately focused on the young man that was part of our small group. He was kind, gracious and asked him if he wanted to have a picture taken.  His concern and attention was genuine and heart felt. It was peace and love in action and it touched me deeply to watch it take place.

    That, my friends, is what made this show very special. Sure, it was a major item on my bucket list to be able to meet Ringo. However, what made it incredibly cool was to see Ringo actually walk his talk. Not only that, but to see that same message personified in the band members. Each and every one of those men showed themselves to be first class all the way and has made an incredible impression on me that I’ll never forget.

    Oh, and the show?  AMAZING!  

    Ringo delivered his signature hits throughout his show. As in past All-Starr tours, the band – stars in their own right – each performed three of their hits that they’re known for. Lukather did three Toto tunes and joined Gregg Rolie teamed up to perform three Santana hits to perfection (Rolie played for Santana before joining Neal Schon’s then-new group, Journey). Richard Page offered up a couple of Mister Mister hits along with a new composition of his that was phenomenal. Rundgren enthusiatstically delivered three of his crowd pleasing monster hits, too. Gregg Bissonette and Warren Ham (both have played for God and everybody) played in the background with their oh-so-noticeable drum and sax work, respectively. Each of the band members are a real treat to watch perform and worth the price of admission by themselves. Ringo being with them makes it a memorable and historic bargain and all while demonstrating true peace and love towards each other.

    If you have the chance to catch Ringo and His All-Starr Band, do. It will prove to be one of the most enjoyable and memorable shows you will ever have attended.

  • The Traveling Wilburys Collection

    travelingwilburyscollectioncoverThe Traveling Wilburys Collection
    The Traveling Wilburys
    Label: Concord Bicycle Music
    Release Date: June 3, 2016

    Concord Bicycle Music announced recently that it has entered into a worldwide licensing agreement with The Traveling Wilburys to represent the iconic band's entire catalog, including physical and digital reissues.

    It’s about flippin’ time that somebody finally stepped up to the plate and did the deed. Fans have been waiting!

    For the first time ever, the super group’s music is available on streaming services along with the re-launch of the hugely successful Traveling Wilburys Collection box set as a limited-edition, uniquely numbered 2-CD 1-DVD box set, standard 2-CD 1-DVD package, deluxe 180-gram vinyl box and for the first time as high-resolution downloads. The release includes albums (Vol. 1 and Vol. 3), bonus tracks and a DVD featuring footage of the band from the first chord to the final mix.

    How cool is that?

    When originally released in 2007, The Traveling Wilburys Collection debuted at #1 in the U.K. and six other countries and entered the U.S. charts at #9, making it the highest chart debut of a box set at the time, and has since been certified Gold.

    The previously released albums Traveling Wilburys Vol. 1 and Traveling Wilburys Vol. 3 feature music's greatest singer-songwriters — George Harrison, Jeff Lynne, Roy Orbison, Tom Petty and Bob Dylan — as the legendary band the Traveling Wilburys.

    The Wilburys formed in 1988 after Dylan, Harrison, Petty, Lynne and Orbison assembled at Dylan's Malibu, California studio to record a B-side for the Harrison single "This Is Love." The resulting song, "Handle With Care," was instead released under the Wilburys name, with the artists posing as a band of brothers. George later said, "I liked the song and the way that it turned out with all these people on it so much that I just carried it around in my pocket for ages thinking, 'Well what can I do with this thing?' And the only thing to do I could think of was do another nine. Make an album." The original album release, Traveling Wilburys Vol. 1, achieved great success; after hitting No. 3 on the Billboard Top 200 chart, the certified double Platinum album earned a GRAMMY® for Best Rock Performance by a Duo or Group.

    Traveling Wilburys Vol. 3, the group's second album, was released in 1990 and dedicated to Lefty (Roy Orbison) Wilbury, who passed away in late 1988 before recording could be completed. "She's My Baby" and "Wilbury Twist" became radio hits as the album reached #11 in the U.S. and was certified Platinum.

    Scott Pascucci, CEO Concord Bicycle Music and Sig Sigworth, SVP Catalog Concord Bicycle Music said in a joint statement, "The global success of the Traveling Wilburys reissues in 2007 was one of our career highlights. So, we are very proud to bring the Wilburys' catalog to Concord Bicycle Music and work with these incredible songs and musicians a second time."

    Rock fans will most definitely want to add this collection to their, well, collection.

Featured Photo



george lynch

Our Featured Photo by Boomerocity friend and famed rock photographer, Rob Shanahan (, is of Dokken's George Lynch! Check out more of Rob's work at!



The Boomerocity Interview Vault


Posted May, 2013   Beth Hart.  Haven’t heard of her?  Okay, wel...

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