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Frankie Banali's Fight For His Life

December 2019

Frankie2017CroppedNeil Young famously sings, “Hey hey, my my, rock and roll can never die. There’s more to the picture than meets the eye.” We see what happens on the stage. We see what the press presents to us as the “reality” of artists. Too often, we learn of very real challenges that celebrities are facing until it’s too late. Conversely, some artists are quite brave and share their challenges with the world, ostensibly to help others who might be going through something similar.

Such is the case with legendary Quiet Riot drummer, Frankie Banali, who recently let the world know that he is battling Stage IV pancreatic cancer. I think it’s safe to say that most of us know someone who has battled that demon. My mom did (RIP). Friends of mine have. So, when I heard the news, it shook me to my core.

I’d interviewed Frankie back almost nine years ago (here) and a second time (here). Both occasions, he revealed himself to be a kind and compassionate person – both towards humans and animals. In fact, Banali is quite an animal lover and rescuer. So, when the news broke of his cancer battle, I once again asked God why the good people are the ones who face horrible monsters like cancer (I hate to even think of that word in my mind).

Because of the seriousness and soberness of the matter, I reached out to Frankie to see if he would share his story with Boomerocity. He graciously agreed to.

I called him at his California home. After exchanging small talk and pleasantries, Frankie shared:

“I've been up since 4:30 this morning because there's the Getty Fire. Which is not that far away from us. We got the automated call at 4:30 this morning to be prepared to potentially evacuate. So, we have to gather all the pets and some of the valuables and papers and stuff like that and just be ready. But so far, so good.

“I think it was last year or the year before. No, I think it was last year, my wife and I were on vacation in New Orleans when we had the other fires here and, literally, I had standby flights just in case we had to check out of the hotel and come back home. I get it.

With the conversation shifting to the purpose of the call, Banali said:

“I was diagnosed with terminal, stage IV pancreatic cancer on April 17th, but decided to wait until I started treatment and see how that went before I went public. So, you know, it was six months, just about six months when I got the news and coming out publicly and letting everybody know, which I did a week ago Monday. The treatments have shown some improvements and I've been already greenlighted to go back out on the road with Quiet Riot. We're scheduling the next round of chemotherapy and side effect recovery time so that it makes it possible for me to continue on the road with Quiet Riot. I just finished playing this past Saturday, the 26th, at the Whiskey with the band. I'm going to play. We're winding down the year or so. And, then, I'll start 2020 touring cycle again next year. We already have a number of dates on the books.

I was stunned by what he was saying. I asked him how on earth he was getting through all of this.

“Well, you know, the thing about it is that I'm not I'm not pessimistic about the situation. I don't kid myself about it. I mean, pancreatic cancer is the most serious cancer and it's a difficult one to treat. Having said that, my entire life, everything I've ever gotten, I had to fight for, and this is the biggest battle of my life and it's worth fighting for because I've got everything to gain. By not fighting, I've got everything to lose. So, I continue to move forward. The disappointment for me was that after the diagnosis, I only played two shows with Quiet Riot - one in April and then the M3 Festival in May. This was the first time that I have not performed Quiet Riot shows that 38 years in. And that was - that was a difficult. That was a difficult thing for me to accept but accept it I had to.

Frankie 2019 1reducedBefore moving our chat over to the subject of the band’s new album, I asked Frankie what he says to those who are in the same boat as he is and fighting similar battles; What words of encouragement, what advice, does he offer?

“Well, I mean, I would give the same advice that I had given to people in the past that I had met. They confided with me and told me they had cancer, which is: you pay attention to your doctors; be educated. If you have a question, ask it. Look at every resource possible that you can, not just the doctors that are treating you; and, fight the good fight because it's worth fighting.

“My position is that it's better to do as much as possible on this side of the grass than it is to do absolutely nothing underneath it. So, you know, it is worth fighting for. With life, you only get one shot. Don't waste it. Make the most of it. It's not an easy thing. It's going to be difficult. Chemotherapy is brutal. The side effects are brutal. But, you know, you have to do it. There is no other way around it. So, fight the good fight.”

With that said, I asked Frankie to tell me about Hollywood Cowboys.

“I'm really happy with the way the record turned out. I started writing material for the record almost immediately after ‘Road Rage’, our previous album, came out two years ago. I started writing the music again with my writing partner, Neil Citron, who is also our recording engineer. We had a discussion, he and I, and I told him that I wanted to create a more varied record than some of the things we've done in the past, but still have it, you know, connected to Quiet Riot. I'm very happy with the way things turned out.

“A real bonus on this record is that I went to outside writers for some of the tracks. The first person I reached out to is Jacob Button, who is an incredibly talented songwriter, guitarist, and singer. He wrote the lyrics and the melodies for 'Don't Call it Love', 'In the Blood', which is the video song, 'Heartbreak City', and 'The Devil That You Know'.

“We cut demos with him. Everything was already blueprinted where those tracks were concerned. And, then, a couple of the heavier songs, 'Change or Die' and 'Insanity', I reached out to another friend, Neil Turbin. He's a great metal writer. He stepped up to the plate and knocked it out of the park with lyrics and melodies and he did background vocals on those two tracks, as well.

“And, then, what I call the odd song on the record, 'Roll On' - which is sort of a modern blues - I went to I went to another friend of mine, August Young, who I work with in a Led Zeppelin thing that we do with Jimmy Sakurai, who is Jason Bonham's guitarist. He's very much in tune with the whole Robert Plant vocal style. I thought that that would be a great contribution. He wrote the lyrics and melodies and did the demo to 'Roll On' and sang background on the record as well.”

When I said that ‘Roll On’ was my favorite cut on Hollywood Cowboys, Frankie said:

“Well, it's really interesting because so many different people that have interviewed me - because the records are not out to the public hasn't heard it yet - the consensus has been across the board that they really, really like that song. That makes me very happy. We also have an acoustic version of it, but it's going to be released on just the Japanese version of the record.

As for how long the album took to make, Banali said:

“The drum tracks didn't take that long to record. I recorded all the drum tracks in one session, and I did it old school. No click tracks and I recorded on two-inch analog tape. I'm crazy that way. And, then, after we recorded the tracks, Neil and I - because Neil is also a guitarist - we were able to put demos, really quality demos together. I first sent it out to Chuck Wright, who is a great bass player, and he put his DNA on it.

“Then I sent the tracks out to Alex and brought him into the studio to cut guitars over two sessions. He did a great job with Frankie 2019 2that. In the meantime, I had taken the songs that Jacob Button had contributed - the four songs he contributed to - and the two that Neil Turbin contributed to, and the one that Augusts Young, and sent those complete demos with vocals and melodies and backgrounds and everything to our former singer because he opted to really work for whatever reason, on only five of the twelve songs on the record.”

I asked about James Durbin’s participation. I felt that his voice is quite unique for a Quiet Riot album and that it fits nicely. I wondered what made Frankie reach out to Durbin to fill in the gaps.

“Well, it didn't happen that way. What I did is, I sent the original twelve songs without any lyrics or melodies to him and he was only interested in working on five of the songs, which is why I reached out to the outside writers. Once I did that and those seven songs were completed demos, I sent those demos to James and all he really had to do was copy it from there because the songs were completed with background vocals, great lyrics and great melodies. All he did was copy what was already there.”

And which song would Banali point to as a calling card for the entire album?

“That's a difficult one on this record because I made a conscious decision when the writing process started with myself and Neil to have a more varied record. So, if you listen to the first four tracks on the record, 'Don't Call It Love', 'In the Blood', 'Heartbreak City', and 'The Devil That You Know', which are all the tracks that Jacob Button wrote lyrics and melodies to, some people have termed them ‘’Arena Rock’ or a classic Quiet Riot sound.

“But then you get into 'Change or Die' and 'Insanity', which is two that Neil Turbin contributed lyrics and melodies, too. Those have a heavier edge to them. Then, as we have already discussed, 'Roll On', is sort of an offbeat blues track for a better term. So, it's really hard to pick one track that might be, you know, the definitive 'this is what this album's about'. Having said that, one of my favorite tracks on the record is 'Don't Call It Love'. I'm really happy with the way that that turned out. But, you know, there's not any one track on the record that you could say represents the entire record.

As for touring to support Hollywood Cowboys, Frankie shared:

“Yeah, you know, traditionally, I don't add any new songs to the Quiet Riot set until a record comes out. ‘Hollywood Cowboys’ is coming out November 8th and we're almost done with the touring year. So, I'll add one, possibly two tracks from the record to the live set. But you have to be really aware when you do that because, by and large, when people come to a Quiet Riot show, they want to relive maybe a happier time or a more fun time with the 80s decade. So, you really have to play quite a few things from the Mental Health record and things from the Condition Critical record and some things off of QR III. So, when you're adding two songs to a set and you know that you have an allotted of time that you can play live, it means you have to delete two of the classic songs from the set. You have to be very conscious of what you pick and choose to take out and what you pick and choose to put in – especially if you're doing if you're doing a festival date with a number of other now national acts. Sometimes, you only get to play 20, 30, maybe 40 minutes, if you're lucky. Not even a 60 minute or 75- or 90-minute set. So, even that becomes more of a challenge.”

What’s on Frankie’s radar for the next year or two?

“Well, I've already started I've already started writing material for future a Quiet Riot record if I have the opportunity to record another one, which is kind of my M.O. Right after we released Road Rage two years ago, I started writing material with Neil, which became the songs that are on the Hollywood Cowboys record. So, you know, I'm looking forward to going back out on the road and continuing touring with Quiet Riot. And I'm looking forward to the possibility of doing a follow up record to Hollywood Cowboys and very much enjoyed doing the video for 'In the Blood'. I was very happy with the way that turned out.”

Though I asked Frankie this question when we talked in the past, with everything he’s gone through, his answer may have changed. The question was: How does he want to be remembered and what does he hope his legacy will be?

“Well, I mean, it's not up to me to say, but I would like it to be that people appreciated what I tried to do with Quiet Riot, not just as the drummer, but also keeping the band alive in spite of some major, serious setbacks. The fact that I've always appreciated all the fans because I've said this many times and it's the truth: If it wasn't for the fans and the support that we have had for thirty-five, thirty-six plus years now, there would not be a Quiet Riot. So, it's not just Quiet Riot that has survived the test of time, it's the fans that have made that possible.

“I got to tell you, I had no idea how the news when I went public on my situation. You know, I had no idea how it was gonna be received. But I have to tell you, the amount of love and prayers and support that I've received, both over the Internet and private messages and texts and emails has given me additional strength to continue this fight and take it wherever my life leads.”

As you keep Frankie Banali in your thoughts and prayers, keep up with him and Quiet Riot at https://quietriot.band .

John Schneider - His Life, His Way

Posted December 2019

Schneider John 004Reduced CroppedBaby boomers most definitely remember the hit TV show, Dukes of Hazzard. For those who are too young to know what I’m talking about, it was a show that you would get if you mixed Smokey and the Bandit and The Andy Griffith Show.

Ah. Y’all are too young to know about those shows, too. Your loss. Just keep reading anyway.

Despite my description of the show, I’m told that it was actually inspired by the movie, Moonrunners. The show revolved around two cousins, Bo Duke (John Schneider) and Luke Duke (Tom Wopat). They lived in the fictional Hazzard County, Georgia, with their Uncle Jesse (played by the legendary Denver Pyle) and their hotter-than-summer cousin, Daisy (played by the perennially beautiful, Catherine Bach). They hot-rodded all over the county, evading the crooked sheriff and county commissioner while still finding themselves in the middle of some sort of trouble.

It was good, clean television fun that kids loved and was a guilty pleasure for adults. Shows like that are sorely missed in family’s homes today.

With all of that as a backdrop – and before getting to the purpose of this piece, I want to share a true story that illustrates how the show mesmerized kids.

Back in the late seventies, I was a volunteer church youth leader, and we were having Vacation Bible School in the weeknights of one of the summertime weeks in Phoenix, Arizona. There a two grade-school aged brothers who lived on the cul-de-sac I lived on and I invited them to come to attend. They accepted.

When it was time to leave, they walked up to my car (which had the windows rolled down). As I was about to open the door forSchneider John 003reduced them, they said, "No way! We're getting in this way – like ‘Dukes of Hazzard!’” and they jumped through the windows into my car.

When I learned that John Schneider had recently released a new gospel album (“Recycling Grace”), a new book (“My Life, My Way”), and a new movie coming out (“Christmas Cars”), I had to talk to him. When I called him up at his Louisiana home, I started off by telling him the above story. His response was:

“I think that's great! That's great! That's how you're supposed to do it, isn't it?”

When I said that I was likely too old to do that; that I might hurt myself, John replied:

“Well I can still do it. So, come on man!”

Shifting the focus away from my lack of gymnastic ability over to Schneider’s most recent album. I asked him what the story was behind it.

“Alicia and I decided to get back into music in a big way. I'd been away from music for a long time. I mean, decades - back in the 80s. After Duke's, music was a huge part of my life, probably the biggest part of my life. So, when we got flooded back in 2016, twice, she noticed a habit that I have - and I mean, like destroyed, devastated, flooded in Louisiana. She noticed a tendency I had to pick up my guitar and start playing music whenever life was kind of taking a nosedive.

“She came in to talk to me one day and I put the guitar down and she said, 'Why do you do that?' I said, 'Well, playing the guitar makes me feel better.' And she said, 'I didn't ask you why you picked it up. I asked you why you put it down.' And from that simple question, we've since done I think the count now is one hundred and six brand new songs. We released a five C.D. project called The Odyssey Project 2018 and released a single every Tuesday of 2018. So, fifty-two singles in 2018 and a Christmas album called Merry Christmas Baby. And a Greatest Hits Revisited - 'Greatest hits Still' - all in 2018.

“Then this year, 2019, we did a kind of southern rock. It's not a tribute because it's all brand new songs. We've done a record called, ‘The Redneck Rebel’, which sounds like stuff that I listened to when I was in high school - like Marshall Tucker Band, and the Allman Brothers, Lynyrd Skynyrd. That is being very well received.

Schneider John 002reduced“We have single out now called Stoned on The One which is a football and relationship gone awry reference. And we released a gospel album, an inspirational album called, ‘Recycling Grace’; that was this year. And we did a movie called, ‘Christmas Cars’.”

As the old Ronco commercials used to scream: But wait! There’s more!

“I've been noodling on a book, noodling on a book for a number of years. I had it in my phone. I kept writing chapter after chapter of things that came to mind: about getting The Dukes of Hazzard; what life was like before it and what life was like during it. So, I wrote a book that is called, ‘My Life My Way’. From that book, Alisha said, ‘You've got to write a Dukes of Hazard’ - it's the 40th anniversary of Dukes of Hazzard - she said, 'You've got to write a nod to the Dukes of Hazzard movie and we'll make it and we'll put it out for the 40th anniversary of Dukes. It should be based on all the stuff you have in the book. A lot of it can be in the movie.’

“So, you know, she was right again. So, I wrote a script called, ‘Christmas Cars’. In June of this year, we filmed it. People can pre-order it now, but it comes out officially on what we call Orange Friday, which is the Friday after Thanksgiving. I'm calling it Orange Friday in honor of the General Lee instead of Black Friday, just because, you know, why not? General Lee's the most famous car in the world. I drove it. I drove him. So that's what we've done. People are loving the trailers on my YouTube channel: John Schneider, YouTube channel. It will make you feel like a kid. It's as close to Dukes of Hazzard, I think, as we're ever going to get. I really do, because there's a pace, there's a morality, there's a lesson, there's the good guys; good guys are flawed, and bad guys have a conscience. That was always a part of what made the Dukes of Hazzard recipe work so well. And, as of late, they've not gotten that right. I say with as much humility as I can muster, I believe I know the recipe that makes Dukes work and Christmas Cars is exactly that because I was there.”

Then, as an obvious reference to our opening conversation, Schneider added:

“I climbed in and out of those windows myself. I still can. I still can. Harder to get out than it is to get in.”

When I asked if the movie would wind up on the Hallmark Channel, John said:

“Well, we addressed the flag issue. You know, my car and the show is the General Lee off of Dukes. So, no, it’s not going to wind up anywhere because people are afraid to combat the lunacy of revisionist history that's running rampant in our country today. I don't know why. We have more of a global voice on our phones now than we've ever had before, a global presence, if you go after it. People are afraid to have any opinion that's in opposition to anybody else, which basically means everybody just has to be quiet. But that's not in my nature.

“Well, you saw in Christmas Cars, I say in the trailer, 'Wait a minute: symbols don't hurt people. People hurt people.' I'm trying to interject some of what I feel was common sense into entertainment and celebrate the Dukes of Hazzard at the same time.”

Shifting our attention to John’s new book, My Life, My Way, Schneider shared the background on it.

“The book the book is a real inside look at what it's been like being me; having a dream at a very early age, which I think we all do. I just think life and love wants to talk us out of it. But I started in theater when I was eight years old. I've had a passion for doing exactly what I've been doing ever since. I explain that to people, because there's a tendency for people to think you just kind of appeared on the scene when they were first aware of you. Well, as they say, that's kind of the tip of the iceberg. There's a whole lot of stuff underneath that got you to that point.

“So, I talk about that and talk about the tenacity of a 16-year-old skipping school and climbing a fence so I could talk my way onto the Smokey and the Bandit set and into the movie. Or, I talk about, did I really bring a six pack of beer to the Dukes of Hazzard audition? Well, yeah. I talk about that and what led to that decision and how that worked out and how it might not have.

“I talk about music; talk about what it was like on the set and talk about relationships with the different people on the set. It's kind of like an opportunity to hang out with me over the last 40 years.

“And I'm going to do an audible book. I'm going to do an audible version of it and I'm going to read it myself. If you've got audible on your phone or you want to get a hold of that, I haven't yet. But I'm going to do that a couple of weeks. And then it'll really be creepy because it would be like, you're really in my pocket.

“It’s really quite entertaining. I've got a bizarre sense of humor and an odd way of saying things. People who read my Facebook page or people that read any of the blogs, I do, I think that they'll agree there's a there's a different perspective that I have. So, me telling the story of how this life has evolved so far, I think you're going to love it. I wrote it and I'll read it and go, 'Wow, this is just this is cool. It seems like I'm right there. Lake Sherwood.’

Schneider John 005Reduced“Then a lot of I would say 90 percent of Christmas Cars comes right out of the book. There's been some great stuff; there's been some not great stuff. There's been financial issues. There's been great financial success and there's been not a dime in the pocket. There's been having to reach up to touch grass kind of a kind of thing going on, too.

“So, if people think chasing your dream is easy, they're wrong, but it's worth it. And that's the general point: we all have a dream; we all have something I believe we're designed to do. And the only thing in the way of us in our dream is us. We have to go for it no matter how old or how young you are. Go for it with everything you've got. Because I believe it's better to spend a life pursuing your dream and even not make it than it is to spend life not pursuing your dream and wishing you had tried. So, it's really good. ‘My life My Way’ is what it's called. And that's how I live my life. And it's how I recommend it to other people.

A story about Schneider that I had read about elsewhere is how Johnny Cash introduced him to Christianity. I wanted to hear it straight from Schneider, so I asked him about it.

Well, John was really the first Christian I had met that wasn't concerned about trying to appear to be nicer than Jesus. And it's an important designation because what a lot of Christians don't know or don't remember is how syrupy and saccharin and phony, they can sound to someone who doesn't know what they're talking about. 'Oh, how are you doing?' 'Oh, I'm just blessed. I'm so blessed. And this wonderful.'

“Well, come on. Sometimes it's not. Sometimes, you might say, ‘Well, I think I must have slept through my blessing today because I feel like crap. Johnny was a man; he was a scarred, flawed, wonderful Christian man who didn't have to pretend everything was just great. I had seen a lot of the other.

“Prior to working on Stagecoach - that's where John and I met - he had actually done the Dukes of Hazzard album for that, but we'd never met. We met when we did Stagecoach together and we became friends right away. I got to see I got to see how he treated people. And I got to see a really terrific, honest-about-everything man who also believed in Christ was like and to say, ‘Jesus is my lord and savior’. Then I guess there's something to it.

“My agent at the time would say the wagons were circling. So, I'd been surrounded by Christians and church folk and they were kind of like the church lady from Saturday Night Life. There's nothing less attractive to a fledgling Christian than the church lady. So, I like to think God put Johnny in my life so that I could see what it was really like. And I did. I lived it with live with Johnny and June for a little over a year and it was great. I never saw a dishonest moment with Johnny Cash. It was great and it's a lesson we could all take. Don't cover up your scars because scars are really what attract people to the truth because life ain't easy but it's worth it. If it is easy, I question the value of the path you're on or the validity of the path you're on.

“Nobody said that God makes things easy. Just look at Jesus. Right? This is not in the book, but I remember John saying at Schneider John 006Reducedone point, ‘You know, why is it that Christians expect to have a better day than Jesus?’ So, yeah, it was a remarkable time. I miss him every day. I'm looking at a picture of him right now.”

Because Boomerocity’s wheelhouse is classic rock, John asked me if I had listened to his CD, “Redneck Rebel”, which I had listened to a couple of cuts from it, to which he said:

“Listen to ‘Southern Rock Survivor’ and then listen to ‘Backwood Soul’, just because you said classic rock, this is like a brand new classic Southern Rock. I think you'll appreciate.”

Is that what Schneider would consider to be his favorite to go to music?

“Yeah. Because it's you know, it's the truth. It's ballsy and it's great fun to sing, and it's that's why I'm hoarse right now. They're great show songs. We're doing a show tonight. We're doing a thing called, ‘John Schneider's Hideaway’. We're taking over the second floor of the Whiskey Bent Saloon tonight. So, we do these pop-up concerts in various places and this is the first one. So, if it works, which I think it will, we're going to do it in a couple of other places. Gavin DeGraw is a friend and he's offered me the rooftop of his place down there (his The National Underground in NYC). So, when it warms up a little bit, we'll do it down there.

“I don't know how many people we're gonna have because we're advertising by word of mouth and trying to get people who live here the music experience they used to get and give people who are visiting the music experience that they thought that we're gonna get. No cover tunes. It's all singers and songwriters and musicians who are playing our own stuff. So. Yes. Come on. Let's let them know you are with the press and.

As side-note: I did attend John’s “pop-up” concert at Nashville’s Whiskey Bent that night and it was a blast. I highly recommend you catching one of them if you have the opportunity.

As our chat was winding up our chat, I asked John the question I often ask artists who have been at their craft for a long time: How does he want to be remembered and what does he hope his legacy will be? I also asked him what is on his radar for the next year or so.

Schneider J 001“Wow. OK, well, what's on the radar here is I'm writing a Smokey and the Bandit tribute we're going to do in February called, ‘Stand on It’. The band will be Hellcat and I'll be in the red shirt behind the wheel. Cody McCarver is going to be my Snow Man. But his name is Roy in the movie, so we're recording music right now. We did four (songs) of ten. One song's called ‘Roy’. My name is Roy and I Like To Drive. Ones called, ‘Cowboys Don't Get Old’. Ones called, ‘Drinking Buddy’, and I don't remember the name of the other one. That's on that's on the radar for immediately. And that will be on the heels of, hopefully, a tremendous success with ‘Christmas Cars’.

“When I'm up there, I want to be remembered as somebody who went for it with everything I had, always. I'm not a believer that the phone will ring, and someone will just come in and save your life and give you a job. I'm not that guy anyway. I'm a job creator, not a job searcher.

John Schneider: So that's what I want. In fact, if they've got to have anything on my tombstone, it would be, ‘He went for it’. Yeah, I kinda like that.”

You can order the book, CDs, and DVD that John and I talked about by visiting his website, here, or by clicking on the items, below.

Jo Wood Talks About "Stoned"

Posted November 2019

JoWood2CroppedThere’s a line in the Elton John song, Philadelphia Freedom, that says, “I used to be a rolling stone, you know?” In a different context, that line could apply to Jo Wood. In the 32 years that she was partnered and married to Rolling Stones guitarist, Ronnie Wood, she was as much a Rolling Stone as one could be without actually performing in the band.

In that time, Ms. Wood amassed a near-infinite number of photos (“snaps”, as she calls them) of her life with Ronnie and the Stones. After much badgering from friends and family, she was finally coaxed into gathering a fraction of those photos and compile into a book entitled, “Stoned: Photographs & Treasures from Life with the Rolling Stones” (see our review of it here).

The book is an amazing collection of truly insightful and intimate behind-the-scenes views into the Rolling Stones family. I will go as far as to say that it is the most insider photographic peek into their world to date.

I had the privilege of chatting with Jo by phone, reaching her at her home in the idyllic British countryside to which she had just recently moved to and was still in the process of unpacking.

After comparing notes on such things as country living in our respective countries, losing a parent (she lost her mother a couple of years ago), visiting our fathers and family, and other life-matters (such as her ten grandkids about whom she says, “I adore them all!”), we got down to chatting about “Stoned”. Jo shared that the initial buzz is all positive.

“Everybody is really likes it! I was I wasn't sure. I knew I liked the pictures. And I'm very proud of the pictures, but I didn't know what response I was going to get. But everywhere I've gone, they love the book. Not one negative comment at all. I'm very proud of that.”

Jo then shared how the book was started, came together, and how long it took.Stonedcover

“Well, of course, I've had those pictures in boxes and albums for years and years now, and I started putting them on Instagram. A very good friend of my son in law, Jon Bennett, is an ex rock journalist. He pops over to the house. And I was just going through just a few - I just piled on the table and going through them. He said, 'Oh, my God, Jo! These are great pictures.' I said, 'Yeah, I've got loads of those boxes of them, Jon.' And he said, 'Come on, let me see.'

“So, I brought a box down and we started going through it and he said, 'You have got to do something with these pictures.' I said, 'No, I'm just going to put them on Instagram. My kids can sort them out when I'm - I can't do that.' And he said, 'No, Jo, you've got to.' He nagged me so much. And then he dragged me off to a publisher and I thought I'd go just to see what they would say. And they loved it. And they said, 'Come on, let's do it.' I went, 'Oh, my God.'.

“So, I told Ronnie. I said, 'Ronnie, I'm going to do a picture book with all my old snaps. He said, 'Fine, just let me see it so I can edit it.' I took it to him before when I got the draft done. He just took out one letter from 1978 from the accountant, saying, 'Here's an advance, 250 dollars.' He said that was irrelevant to the book. I said, 'All right. You're right'. Then I sent it to Keith and Patti (Richards), as well. Patti took a couple of pictures out of her that she didn't like, and they said, 'You're good to go.'

“Ronnie looks great in all of the pictures. I knew he'd like it.

I told Jo that the collection showed for the first time that there is this tight knit camaraderie, family type of feeling within the Stones organization, despite the fact that there's this reputation of being the bad boys of rock and roll. She validated those observations.

Jo Wood“You know, we're always like a family. They have - I think when you spend a lot of time with people by going on tour day in and day out, month to month to month, you become very close to them and you share so many memories. Yeah, we are like a family. Even though I'm not with Ronnie anymore, whenever I see him, you know - he's my great friend all through the years. And the same with Patti and Keith. I adore Patti. I'm in contact with her all the time. We shared so many memories. We are all really good friends.

Regarding how long it took to sort through the photos for submission to the publisher, Ms. Wood said:

“Well, once I had sat down to make a really made a big effort, I had to take loads of albums and just sort them out, really; go through boxes; find my old diaries. I had everything on the table, a big table, and I just started putting them into sections first. And then, once I got my favorite ones - there was so many of them. Anyway, I put them all in folders, so it had some chronological order. And then I took it all to the publishers and they said, 'We will do the final edit because you're too close.' Because I was like, 'Oh, my god! You've got to use that one! Oh, don't get that one!' They said, 'You're too close, Jo. Step away. We'll do the final edit. Otherwise, you'll have thousands of pictures in your book.'

I asked Jo if she could tell me what her three favorite photos in the book are.

“Yeah, I think Ronnie and Keith asleep on each other. I love that one. I love Ronnie and Keith walking backstage. I've made it into a print. I love that one. Which other ones do I love? I love the one – it’s bit a bit tattered and battered - but it's Keith by the tuning room door. Yeah. Yeah. So those are the ones I like. I mean, there are so many of them that - I love the one of Keith with Angela (Richards), Keith and my daughter. I love that one of Ronnie asleep with a saxophone and a bottle of beer. Yeah. There's lots of them. I love, actually. I have seen those pictures for so many years. It must be nice to look at them for the first time.

Is there anything that Jo feels that the fans will be particularly amused with or surprised about or shocked to see within the pages of Stoned?

“Gosh! I don't know. Maybe us all having such love all the time. We really did have lots of love. Maybe they will enjoy that note that Keith said, 'Jo, I owe you two Derringer pistols.' Ha! Ha! That is so Keith.

Is there anything about the book that isn't readily obvious that she would like readers to know about in the book?

“No, not really, because the pictures tell the story. Now, when you just look at the pictures - I mean, I didn't really want to write as much as I did, but the publisher said I had to. So, I just wanted it to be all pictures. But I think when you look at them, they tell the story themselves. I really don't need to say much about them.”

As for plans for a “Stoned” sequel, Ms. Wood said:JO Wood2

“Easily, I could do a sequel. But let me see what the publisher says.”

Jo shared with me what is on her radar for the next year or so.

“I do a podcast called, Alien Nation, where I interview different people from celebrities to the man on the street about UFO experiences and abductions and all that, I'm fascinated with that. I spoke to Dan Akroyd, Robbie William. Shaun Ryder . . . just to name a few. That's ongoing.

“Then next year - because I'm mad about organics - everything organic as far as organic - you know, you clean up the world when you buy good, natural product. I'm bringing out my skin range next year. I've already got candles, body oil, and fragrance. So now it's going to be the skin range. And you know, I work a lot with my son Tyrone, because he has this charity called Project Zero, which is all about saving the oceans. Next year we got a big concert at the O2. That's like a Live Aid for the ocean next May. So, watch out to that.”

When I asked if she could share who will be performing at that concert, she playfully said in a sing-song way: “I'm not allowed to say.”

While we will all have to wait to see who will hit that stage, we don’t have to wait to order “Stoned: Photographs & Treasures from Life with the Rolling Stones”. It will be a great addition to your library as well as a great gift for that Rolling Stones fan on your gift giving list.

You can follow Jo Wood here on Facebook, Twitter, and Instagram.

Jonathan Cain & His Journey To Be More Like Jesus

Posted November 2019

 

Jonathan Cain Ph Cr Sheila Withum.j CroppedPhoto by Sheila WithumThroughout the history of rock and roll, there have been many notable artists who have not only expressed their faith but have also gone as far as recorded “gospel” albums or, at least, albums heavy with religious/spiritual themes.

In the 60’s and early 70’s, Elvis recorded His Hand In Mine, How Great Thou Art (the title song gave him his only Grammy), and You’ll Never Walk Alone). In the 70’s, Bob Dylan, B.J. Thomas, Dion, America’s Dan Peek, Grand Funk’s Mark Farner. In Country music, even more artists have recorded gospel albums.

In more recent years, other artists have proclaimed their faith by way of recording albums of faith. Journey keyboardist/songwriter, has recorded his second gospel album (third, if you count his Christmas album).

After Journey’s Knoxville concert last year, Jonathan and I talked backstage about (among other things) the yet-to-be-released album. He ran a couple of possible titles by me and asked my opinion as to which title I liked best. I gave my answer and we went on to discuss other things.

Fast forward to May of this year. The album lands. Different title. No offense was taken but I was curious what led Cain to the title he selected. So, he called me from his Florida home, and we finished our small talk, I led with that question.

“We decided to go with More Like Jesus just because of the song had gotten so much attention. You know, it was everybody's favorite song. And I just felt like it was a good statement to make, you know, in this crazy intolerant time we live in, you know.”

With the recent appointment of his wife, Pastor Paula White-Cain, as chair of President Trump’s evangelical advisory board, I posited that he and his wife are experiencing a certain amount of intolerance themselves. He replied:

“We sure are. But, you know, I think that's going to find a way for all of this to turn around. And I'm confident that going forward, that He'll (God) make a way.”

Paula’s background and current theological leanings are largely Charismatic/Pentecostal in nature, originating within the Cleveland, Tennessee, based Church of God. Jonathan is Catholic. I asked him what kind of synergies they had as a result of the differing spectrums of their faiths.

“You know, it's funny because she's more based on Scripture. Mine is more doctrine. But certainly, the common denominator is Jesus and the Holy Spirit. She is amused at my stories about the worshipping of Mother Mary. Growing up, she had no idea . . . (of) the Catholic doctrine. ‘You pray to Mary.’ May is Mary's month. We have all these prayers. She was fascinated with all of it. I'm a holy water guy; Rosary guy. I like incense, frankincense and myrrh. I go old school on her, you know? And she finds it fascinating. I shared with her the Latin that I used to sing - Gregorian chants and the high mass, the sort of ritual that mass was. It was very close to the Orthodox style, except it was in Latin.

“But it's nice to come from a background of the ancient beginnings of church and then to see where church has gone. The common denominator is, again, the teachings of Jesus Christ. And so, we both are completely respectful. And to me, it's fascinating that a fatherless child would find her true father, you know, at 19 years old. Her book is amazing, 'Something Greater'. I also have a song that I wrote about her story called ‘Something Greater’. If you get a chance, listen to it. It's on iTunes and Spotify.

Jonathan Cain Paula White Michael Tait Ian EskelinJonathan Cain, Paula White, Michael Tait, & Ian Eskelin“So, I just am really just a big fan of her evangelizing and her complete devotion to that kingdom work that she's done
faithfully for the last 35 years. It's remarkable that she wasn't allowed to preach in a pulpit. You know, women weren't allowed to preach in certain churches. And yet she was so successful and so bold. She just has a bold heart for the Lord. And that to me is just really, really attractive. You know, she finds my faith attractive. I find hers very attractive. So, we're sort of a sort of mutual fans of each other's.”

When I commented on some of the beautiful liturgies and prayers that have been written by prominent Catholics throughout history, Cain concurred.

“You know, it's true. There's a whole legacy there, you know? And I pray that the church has vision and going forward.”

Then, circling back to the matter of church leanings, Jonathan added:

“You know, I'm sort of, you know, really probably more leaning towards what Church of God. I mean, I'm sort of in that realm myself. I don't feel that ‘Catholic’ anymore. But I respect the pastors that taught me; the sisters that were patient enough to work with me. So, it's like, ‘This is where you come from and this is good. I took Jesus very serious at a young age. I said my only community, my Holy Communion. It was like an out of body experience for me at eight years old. This was no passing thing. It was a serious thing. My father was a very, very prayerful man and led me that Jesus, a personal relationship with Christ. I owe my father so much when it comes to that.

“And, of course, me being a dad of three, I try to lead mine to a - I ended up at a Lutheran church with them and I found a good place for us for a while. I mean, once you're divorced, it's hard to come back, you know, because you're sort of outcast from the Catholic Church. No one has to ever become an outcast. I don't agree with that doctrine, but, you know, that's what it is.

To put a nice bow on that subject, Cain concluded:

“So, the reality is that that's your reality. At least I'm comfortable worshiping anywhere.”

Bringing the conversation back around to his new album, I asked Cain what the story behind it was.

“Well, More Like Jesus was written at the tail end of What God Wants To Hear. It was so bold and different than the other music on What God Wants to Hear that I decided I would make it a cornerstone for the new album and all the music seemed to be bold and confident. It was just sort of just very upbeat, intense in a lot of ways. Songs like Unleashed just have this joy and this confidence about them; as kingdom-minded music. I think in a lot of ways it's very kingdom minded.

“So, What God Wants To Hear is just kind of a first attempt at asking the Lord to lead me into a worship place, you know? And then, there was the confidence that came from the obedience that led me to this boldness on this second album. I'm really happy. Kingdom Come Down On Me - there's songs on this record that, to me are - Only in the Arms of Jesus - there's something for everyone. Every worshiper that is going through something, there's a song for everybody on this album.
“Ephesians 3:23 - 3:21, is my one of my favorite Scriptures. I saw it as a song unto Him and it just came out perfect. And looking back at the school fire (that took place when he was a youngster in school), I understood that ashes for beauty is a song. So, this song comes forth - 'Take These Ashes'.

“There's a song that’s on the album that's for women. I was asked to sing at the E Women's conference, and I couldn't find anything - a worship song that just really lifted up the heart of a woman. And then I ran into Proverbs. 'She's worth my far more than rubies.’ I was like, ‘Well, there it is'. So, I think there's something for everybody on this album. I mean, it's 14 songs. It's got quite a spectrum and there's probably fifteen or twenty places in the Word that you'll see where I landed. And I try to take a very kingdom-minded approach with this album.”

Jonathan says that response to the album has been great.

“People love it. I mean, I've been on iTunes and they say there's not a bad song on the album. ‘We like it'. And More Like Jesus is definitely a departure. Even my kids like it. It's a joyful song. It's progressive. It asks some questions about your faith and I think that it does it in a positive way. You have to prepare in your hearts. I mean, that's one thing everybody talks about Jesus' birth. Are you ready to prepare for Jesus? And I think that's one thing that I found, is that there's preparation that goes into it for sure.

“I just had a lot of hearts and a lot of a lot of new followers from it. People are digging on the album. They are buying it; they're playing the songs. I wish I could get some more people to write reviews, but I don't know if iTunes doesn't publish them or what.”

As for new music coming down the pike:
“I wrote a song about my wife's book, Something Greater. We dropped that. And then the new Christmas single is coming at the end of the month, Wonder of Wonders. So, there's two more songs for me and next year, there will be another new single. So, I'm going to go on the single thing for a while.”

Which song on the new album would Cain point to as its calling card?

“You know, to me, I would have to say Unleashed. It's a great place to go because it is sort of a kingdom minded worship song JonathanCainUnleashedConfin a way. We can go to a place where we become unleashed; that we will be totally free; that through worship we would find true freedom. And I think that truly is the spirit of this album.

When I asked if there wasn’t going to be a Christmas album in the offing, Jonathan said:

“Well, I dropped Unsung Noel and it kind of just disappeared as quickly as I put it out. I feel that it I feel like it's time to try that thing out again. We're going to give it another look; give it another listen. It's deep. Its 14 songs deep. There's a lot of songs on there. I wrote 10 original Christmas songs. So, I don't know if there is a worship album with ten original Christmas songs. I doubt it. I dare you to find one, okay? Ha! Ha! That's producing a lot in one setting. I think that speaks for what I feel. But Wonder of Wonders belongs right along with the things I wrote on Unsung Noel. The melody is very catchy. And once again, we look at the miracles of the Nativity and we consider that Christ is the heart of Christmas and that is a wonder. It looks at the miracle of what the Nativity actually represents for all of us.”

Journey will embark on a stadium tour next year (see the itinerary here). I asked Cain what else was his radar in the next year or so.

“Well, Paula and I have a daily show we minister on together on Daystar - Paula Today with Paula White-Cain. I'm having fun with her getting in that lane and doing the preparation to ministering together. Certainly, I play a lot of music when she ministers, I'm usually present on the piano, keyboard in some way.

“We have a project coming called ‘Prayer Glories’. I recorded my Christmas album - a live version of Unsung Noel at New Destiny, and we're excited to finally put that out and release it. There's a possible Amazon Prime situation that might happen. I think I'm working on that angle. More video. There's a prayer piano worship I got I'm also going to be releasing next year where I'm just playing free form worship music on the piano. There's that, too.”

You can order More Like Jesus, Jonathan’s other solo work and his autobiography by clicking on the album icons below. You can also keep up with Jonathan at his website, JonathanCainMusic.com.

You can also read our first interview with Jonathan here and our second one here.

John Berry Back From The Brink

Posted November 2019

JohnBerry001Baby boomers and long-time country music fans are likely quite familiar with country artist, John Berry. He took the 1990’s country charts by a storm with huge hits as Your Love Amazes Me, She’s Taken a Shine and Standing on the Edge of Goodbye. Twenty of his singles hit the country charts with six of them hitting the top five and the three aforementioned tunes hitting number one on a variety of charts.

According to his website, JohnBerry.com, “he has earned multiple Gold and Platinum records over the years. John was nominated for the ACM Top New Male Vocalist in 1994, won a Grammy Award in 1996 for his participation in Amazing Grace: A Country Salute to Gospel Vol. 1, was nominated for another Grammy in 1995 for his smash hit Your Love Amazes Me and was nominated for the CMA Horizon Award and Top Male Vocalist Award in 1995. In 1997 he was nominated for Vocal Event of the Year (for Long Haired Country Boy with Charlie Daniels and Hal Ketchum) and in 2013 John was nominated for the Mainstream Country Male Artist by the ICM Awards. And thanks to the miracles of modern technology, he even sang a duet with the late, great Patsy Cline.”

In more recent years, his annual Christmas tours are a recurring hit for the thousands during the holidays with fans coming back each year. Maybe it has something to do with his delivery of the Christmas classic, O’ Holy Night.

Despite all of that success, John and his family were hit with hardships including John knocking on death’s door not once but twice with the second time being just earlier this year.

I met John at a Nashville area theater where he was about to shoot a video for use in his concerts (more about that in a few moments). We talked about his recent victory over tonsil cancer, other key events in his life, among other things.

But anyway, how are you feeling, man? Have you had a rough year at first? Yeah. Yeah.

“The first five months of this year, if I had to do that again, I don't if I would. That was pretty tough. But things are getting better, improving, and starting to gain a little weight back. I hope I control that. I don't wanna be bigger than Elvis, or anything. Ha! Ha! I've been able to eat a little bit more.”

When I asked if he had completed all of the necessary treatments, he responded:

“Yeah, all that ended. That was seven weeks. Started mid-February. I did seven weeks of five days a week for radiation. So, thirty-five radiation treatments and once a week for chemotherapy. So, seven chemotherapy treatments. 'Sucks' is not quite strong enough. People talk about how sick it makes you and make in the first two weeks. I was, like, 'What are you talking about?' Third week, 'This is easy.' I mean, it's a little bit uncomfortable and all that. Week four was a whole new ball game. It started really kicking in strong in the fourth week, fifth week, man. And then from the fifth week, fifth, sixth and seventh week was unbelievable.”

Obviously, I had to ask what got him through that hell. John’s answer was instant and unequivocal.

“God got me through it.

“There's that wonderful verse in Philippians 4:13, 'I do all things through Christ who strengthens me' and not just physical Courtesy of Trinity Broadcasting Network Photog Kris Rae 3Courtesy of Trinity Broadcasting Network - Photo Kris Raestuff, emotional and spiritual stuff. That's the verse that Robin and I clung to. But knowing that as tough as it was - I mean, I've been through I've had faced a lot of battles in my short life and God's been faithful to me. The other side has always been worth what I've had to fight through.

It's funny. The night I got the diagnosis, we actually went down on January 4th for an appointment. All this came about because a year ago, right at a year ago now, we were recording Thomas Road, getting it wrapped up. But while we were recording in October and first part in November had this tickle in my throat. I explained it, like I had the skin of a Spanish peanut stuck in my throat. Wow. Exactly what it felt like. Just annoying. I couldn't drink enough to get it washed down. It was driving me nuts.

Finally, I went to a doctor. He said, 'Oh, you have tonsil infection.' A round of antibiotics. Finished up the album, started the Christmas tour. Midway through the tour, I never lost the note. It was just driving me crazy. I got another round of antibiotics. Finished up the tour, got home, still the same thing. Hadn't gotten any worse. Hadn't gotten any better.

Finally, I got a flashlight and looked in the mirror; shined it in my throat and looked in the mirror and my tonsils are, like, huge! I was, like, 'What in the world is that?' I said, 'Robin, come look at this. It's like a big ol’ tumor.' She looked at it and she tried not to scare me with her response. She said, ‘We’re going to call and get you in to see a specialist!’

“So, they got me in to see Dr. Spire at St. Thomas West. I walked in and Dr. Spire - his said, 'It sure is good to see you again.' And I said, 'When did I see you the last time?' He said, 'You wouldn't remember.' He said, 'I was an intern with Dr. Ossoff in 1997 when you had vocal cord surgery. I was in on that surgery.'

“So, here God's put a man in line who knows that I'm a singer and that this is my livelihood. We need to address it. We talked for a few minutes about what was going on and all that. He said, 'Well, let's take a look.' And he took a flashlight. Looked down my throat. Turn the flashlight off. He said, 'I'm a no B.S. guy. It looks like cancer to me.'

“You could push me over a feather. I mean, I mean that's nothing in the realm that had ever entered my mind. Never. Not once. My bass player, Mike Steele, had the same cancer last summer - the summer before me. So, he is just coming back to work in the Fall and did the Christmas tour with us.

“And now I got the same thing. You know, it's just unimaginable. No history of cancer in my family except my sister had breast cancer. But as far as any other, I can't think of any relatives who've died from lung cancer or whatever. It's just not that kind of history. And so, when he said cancer, I was like, 'Are you sure?' And he said, 'Well, we'll do a biopsy. I've been doing it a long time. I can pretty well tell you that's what it is.' So, they took the tonsils out. They took both of them out. And of course, one of them - that tickle in my throat was a tumor leaning against the back of my throat, just touching it.

“That's what it was.”

“The other tonsil had a tumor developing in it. So that was coming. With both tonsils having tumors, malignant tumors, they were real aggressive with the treatment. They wanted to be sure they burn up everything that they could burn up. It's funny, the last week of treatments, radiation treatments, we were in there and my neck was real leathery from the radiation. But there was a white stripe right here. Robin asks the doctor, 'Is he OK? That white stripe?' He said, 'It is funny that it looks like that. But what we did is we bent the radio waves to go around his vocal cords.' They told me that they'd plot a course and take those waves around vocal cords. So that skin ended up not getting zapped. Isn't that crazy? They would just radiate and get everything they can get. That's pretty cool.”

Photo Credit Just Kaicles Photo by Just Kaicles John gave advice for those who are going through tough battles, especially medical ones.

“Well, it's a real spiritual thing. All circumstances Are used for good or bad. They'll either draw us closer to God and more in touch with God and more in tune with God and what He wants for our lives and those opportunities to get to know Him better; not for Him to get to know us better because He knows us better than we know ourselves; but for us to grow in Him or go the other direction. One or the other. We're not going to stay the same.

“And so, whatever circumstance you're in, it's going to be used for good or bad. Whether your car broke down on the way to work today and how you handle it, it's going to be used for good or bad. You go to the doctor and you get a cancer diagnosis. It's going to be used for good or bad. How do you choose? What direction do you want to go with the challenges in your life? I don't believe that God goes, 'Ooo, John. Cancer.' I just think that it was in my genes. It's just ‘there it is’, you know. But what do we do with it? What do we do with what comes our way?

John continued by sharing a story about a huge financial hit that he and his family experienced.

“We've we lost everything we had in 2009, 2010, financially. The stock market crash in 2008. It's funny, we started construction on our house and the end of that week, the stock market tanked. It wasn't a small house, and, for us, it was a lot of money. It wasn't crazy, stupid money but it was a $500000 house or something like that and a lot of property around it. We just, like everybody, said, 'It's gonna get better.' And we kept plugging away. Then, a few months later, the first thing we realized was that, what happens, is the first thing that gets dumped is singers coming to town. So, all of a sudden, the work has dried up. We ended up having - we finished the house up and we ended up letting it go and land and the bus and everything.

“But God used the circumstances to draw closer to Him. It could have been good or bad. We could have been all pissy about it. I look at it as the best thing ever happened to me.

“So, here we are. Well, see. That was 2000, everything finalized in 2011. So, eight years away and our family's as solid as it's ever been or better - better than it's ever been. And, you know, God has been good to us. And so, we just that that's the biggest thing. Whatever challenge, whatever the challenges are. And, you know, when I was a kid.”

Berry then shared some insights into his younger, formative years.

“I just I just had some issues growing up. And then I was, I guess, right at 20 years old, got run over by car riding a motorcycle; broke my legs and my hip. That was in November, November 8th of 81, January of 81, my mother passed away. I was a really young 20-year-old, really young, and still lived at home with my folks. I didn't go to college. I just I just didn't go. And my dad had helped me build a recording studio in the basement of my folks’ house. And I just had a setup down there. It's just where I lived. My own entrance and exit. I'd come and go as I wanted to. No reason to go anywhere. Great folks.

“My mom died in January of that year and my dad moved out. He just couldn't come home. They've been married 34 years and he just couldn't they couldn't be there. A lot of times I'd see him pull up to the house and just keep going. He couldn't pull into the driveway.

“My brother came home for a little while, but then he went back to college and I ended up living in my folks house for a Photo Credit Just Kaicles 5bPhoto by Just Kaiclesnumber of years after my Dad moved out eventually, for good. And I ended up living in that house until he moved to Athens in eighty-five. So, yes, another full 4 1/2 years.

“I lived in Athens, Georgia, and that's where I lived most of my life there. And that's where I met my wife, Robin, and all our children were born there. It's a neat town and a great place to raise a family. When we talk about home, that's what we're talking about. Athens's is home. We had a farm outside of Athens for many, many years and I wish we still had it. Talk about can't even drive by a place. That's me, I can't even drive by there. It breaks my heart. I wish I still had it.”

Our chat then segued about the filming that was taking place in that night in the theater we were in.

“ We're recording a video that will play after the final song or the final song of the last song of the set before the encore - should we and hopefully get called back for an encore - this video will play instead of me coming out and talking, This is going to be because I'm not going to talk about my cancer during the show, during the night. But we're going to put this video together and talk about that and what God has done in my life and use that.

“The guys who are doing it are from Long Hollow Baptist Church where my wife and I are members. And I don't know if you know anything about Long Hollow Baptist Church - It's a massive church. Robby Gallaty is the pastor. Robby's from Chattanooga been in Chattanooga for a number of years. He's from New Orleans. He was in Chattanooga for a number of years. And then he was called to come up here. He's a great pastor and has a great team.

“I was talking to the guy who's going to be producing this clip. And he said, ‘Our goal is to get about twenty-five minutes worth of great conversation.’ And he said he'll edit into three and a half minutes of sheer power video. They show these videos at church. They're fabulous. They're so good at it. They use good angles. Good ‘feels good’. Good vibes They ask the questions in such a way that, you know, that the answer has the question in them. So, you never hear them asking the question. You know what I'm talking about. They have great guys doing the editing. They know how to edit and put it together right.

“They were talking about shooting it at our house. I said, 'You know, everybody sits in a theater coming to a concert to see us. Let's sit in a theater and shoot this.' So, they rented this place for the day. We just thought it'd be a great opportunity to have a real concise me-not-stumbling-over-what-I'm going-to-say story at the end of the night and then we'll close the show.

“There's a song on our cd, Thomas Road. It's a song called, 'Why Didn't I?' Barry Weeks was one of the writers on it. And, you know, it's a powerful song. 'Words I should have spoken, things I should've said, why didn't I?' And there's lots of scenarios in there. It's just a powerful piece of music. And so, this video will lead into us be onstage doing this song. So, we're excited about that.”

With everything John told me, it begged the question: Is he going to write a book about it all?

“My manager Brian's been badgering me, almost with a hammer and nail in my head, to get me to write a book. I don't know. I wrote a chapter. I wrote the chapter, ‘Thomas Road’, which is the road I grew up on down in Decatur, Georgia, that's reallPhoto Credit Just Kaicles 2Photo by Just Kaiclesy where we're from - from eight-years-old, seven-years-old to thirteen-years-old and a very formative time in my life. Wonderful time. And there are some good things that happened. There are some tough things that happened there. I wrote a chapter just to see what it was and just have a few people look at it and see what their thoughts are. I've had a few people look at it, but unfortunately, they all love me, and they think it's fabulous. So, it would be nice to get someone to look at it who don't know me, don't like me, don't know to like me; to have somebody look at it and read that chapter, see if it holds their attention; see if they want to hear anymore."

“John St. Augustine. He was on Oprah's radio network for a long time and he's written a lot of books. He was really, really close friends with John Denver and John Denver is one of my favorite people in the world and favorite musicians. There was an anniversary coming up of the passing of John and I went to Chicago and did the radio show with him and ever since then, we've just been pretty good friends. So, he just came out with a new book this past two weeks or so and he's (John’s manager) been talking to Brian some about coming down and just sit with down me for a few days and just talking and reporting and coming up with an outline; do some things and let him run with it and see what he comes up with.”

John then talked a little bit about his CD, Thomas Road.

“The cd was a lot of fun and it was great to work with Chuck Howard, again. Chuck produced all the records I had radio success with. And it was a lot of fun to work with, Chuck. And he brought Barry Weeks into work with us. And Berry was awesome. It all came about because Chuck had a song that he produced. It was written by a girl here in Gallatin, Jenny Slate Lee. What's Jenny's father's name? It's John Slate. Anyway, Chuck - he produced this movie. It's a true story about the genocide in Rwanda in the late - mid late 90s.

“Of course, I didn't know there was a genocide in Rwanda. I was busy having babies and hits. We were all running up down the road, going crazy and, plus, I had a little brain surgery mixed in there - which I don't recommend unless you really need it.

“Basically, one group of people didn't like the other group of people and they slaughtered them. Over a million people lost their lives in a very short period of time. I mean, a horrific, horrific story; true story. This story is about three families - a family in Franklin, Tennessee, and two families in Rwanda - and the tapestry that God weaves for these three families literally that saved each other's lives in different ways.

It starts by these two young girls writing each other. Then the family in Franklin decide they're gonna go to Rwanda to visit because the little girl here in Franklin started became a teenager getting a little out of control. It's like, 'Maybe we just need to get away from the influences here. Let her see a different side of life.' They go to Rwanda, Africa on a trip and they get to meet this other family. They’re there when it's post-genocide.

“It's just a remarkable, true story. One of one of the families from Rwanda lives here now in Nashville - the Nolensville area. Photo Credit Just Kaicles 3Photo by Just KaiclesThey have a mission there and they help refugees get acclimated to U.S. culture, find jobs, find housing, all that. They give every Thursday - I think it is - or the first Thursday of the month or something - the number of diapers they give away is astounding. Thousands of thousands of them. And they have music class, guitar class and stuff and just different things that keep them doing more positive things than getting mixed up with the wrong crowd. So, they're real active.

“When I got the rough cut of this movie that Chuck Howard sent me, I watched the rough cut. I was like - the scenes with the genocide's taking place - it's so realistic. It's horrifying. I called him and I said, ‘I'm in', and I hadn't even heard the song, yet.

'Beautifully Broken' is the title track. But in the meantime, I sent the rough cut of the film to my son's father-in-law in Texas, who's become a dear friend. He's a fine Christian man and said, 'Take a look at this. See what you think, faith wise and how it stands up.' He called me back and he said, 'Man, it's awesome.' "He said, 'It's a great story. Good faith story, good message, everything.' He said, 'But you know what's really cool?' I said, 'What's that?" He said, 'You know the scene where they're at the airport in Kigali, Rwanda, Africa?' I said, yeah. He said 'That's where we're flying into on our mission ship mission trip in July. You want to go?'

“So, a year ago July, we went and there we're getting off the plane in Kigali, Rwanda, Africa, where this all took place. The first thing we did, we went to the Rwanda Genocide Museum and Memorial. And we took the tour. And it was heartbreaking. Heartbreaking. It was a great setup for what we were about to go do that week because we had an understanding of what the culture had been through in the past 20 years. Just 20 years ago - twenty-five years ago! And one of the things that really hurt me the worst is there was a story, pictures and all this of where all these people went into the church and hid and the clergy from the church told where they were and they were all slaughtered in the church. I don't know why but they'll get theirs.

“Then, when it's all over with, you walk outside and there's this kind of a garden area and there's three slabs of concrete at each one about the size of a tennis court and you're like, 'I wonder what the heck that is?' And there's a memorial you read and there's a quarter of a million people buried there; what to do with all the bodies? A quarter of a million people. That's like taking Athens, Georgia, with the University of Georgia and the entire surrounding area, seven, eight counties, and killing everybody. Even more than that. I don't think there's that many people there. Just because I couldn't get along. It's amazing what hate will do. It was quite a trip. It was quite remarkable and quite remarkable to be a part of that scene; what the other side of the world does.

Photo Credit Just KaiclesPhoto by Just KaiclesAs for Berry’s TV show, he said, “We did two seasons, so we'd love to do it again. We're going to propose it around a couple of places and see if we can get somebody interested and help us put it together again. I know there's some new network things popping up. So, if there's some interest . . . because it sure was a lot of fun. And as much fun as I had doing it - and I know the audience thoroughly enjoyed it, the artists - every show, every taping, the two weeks we taped for season one, we did a week. In season two, we did a week - they were just like, 'Man, this is so cool. You got to keep doing this somehow.' I'd love to figure out a way of doing it. You know, we could do it if the publishing wasn't so expensive. It's insane. Crazy.

“Who would've thought that, for a little cable TV show - I mean, how many people watch cable TV? It's not like a network show on cable. It's just a little cable show, you know. And it's like, 'You're kidding, right?' They were gonna make me pay royalties on songs I'd written; get clearance on them. 'You're crazy. I wrote that dag gone song!”

Because of those comments, I asked John if he thought the music business was broken and, if he were made “Music Czar”, what would he do to fix it.

“I don't think the music is broken. I think the music is evolving. And that's what music does. It follows trends. It follows fads and what tells what good music is, is time. What are you still listening to thirty years later? You can tell real quick because of all the music came out in 1978 - I'm not listening to a lot of disco. It was fun when it was out. It was a fad, and everybody went dancin' and all that kind of stuff.

“It's going to evolve and it's going to - and that's the thing about it, especially about rock and roll music. It's all experimentation. It's all experimenting. And you can't go getting all high and mighty, 'It ain't what we're used to. That ain't rock and roll.' It is. It is what they want it to be.

“That's the whole thing about it. You don't put any rules on it. If you go putting rules on it, then you're being what you are fighting against back in the 60s. Don't be putting rules on it. Let the kids do what they want to do. Time will tell. If it's not what you want to listen to, find something else to listen to. I don't like it. I don't. There's not a lot of modern-day music that I listen to, but I'm 60 years old and you know? I listen to what I like. And I find new things that I like from time to time. But let the youngsters go, do what they want to do. And if and if radio wants to play it, let him play it. And if the audience doesn't like it and the radio keeps playing it, let them die by what they put, let them live or die by it. But, you know, the way the format is or the form the technology is, you can find what you want to listen to.

“The only fix I would find for the music is the business part of it and being sure that guys and girls that write the songs get paid for. There are songwriters I know that are not turning in any more songs. They're just not going to turn them in. They're closing out the publishing deals and fulfilling their obligations and they're not going to write for publishers anymore. They're going to write their songs, are going to hold on to them until the tide turns, until they can earn - I mean, why write a song like 'The Dance', and turn that sucker into a publishing company who's going to get it recorded by somebody and it's going to get 4.5 billion plays on Spotify and you're going to make enough money to go buy a burger, you know? Just hold on to that baby man because it's going to turn. Somebody is going to figure out how to monetize it for the songwriters.

“If I was going to change anything about music business, that's what I do: figure out how to monetize it for songwriters and also, I'd figure out how artists don't have to pay for everything. You know? They just do it; they pay for everything!

“I mean, it's like me. I paid for my albums through my royalties. I had to pay back the advances from my work. So, if you loan me money to record my album, and I pay you back for that album through my royalties, I pay the advances back, shouldn't I own that album? Oh, no, never. You don't ever own it.

“That’s one thing is that Buck Owens - he was always - he was a very nice to me - and he said, 'Whatever you can do, if you can ever get a hold of your masters, get them.’ He said, 'If you ever record and you can pay for the masters and you own them yourself, own your masters.' He says, 'It's like real estate.' It's true. It's a weird business model, but it's a business model that's been refined like a real estate contract. Over the years and years and years, refined by the people who are in the business all the time. Because people buying real estate - who don't buy a lot of real estate - they buy a house three in a lifetime. You know what I'm saying? They don't have much experience in it. But the people that are developing those real estate contracts, they're in it 24 hours a day and they have been for years and they’ve got those contracts dialed in. Same thing with entertainment. They’ve got lawyers out there just tweaking those things.

“I had an offer come across my desk in recent history - couple of years ago where they wanted to sign me. They literally made an offer for whatever the percentages were. They were good percentages, but they owned everything. They owned my touring. They owned my publishing, my recordings, my songwriting. They owned my signature. They owned my likeness. They owned everything. Literally everything. And I was like, 'I'm good’, and it was chunk change. It was it was big ol' dollar figure and I couldn't do it.”

To conclude that subject, I asked Berry if he had any idea what would facilitate the kind of changes he sees needed.


“Dinosaurs die, man. On one on one hand, the Internet has been an evil force and making all the music available for nothing. But, then, on the other hand, it's leveled the playing field where this kid can record a song in his house and get it out there. And if people dig it, it can go crazy and he can become a rock star in 24 months. You live in royalty because of nothing else other than the availability of the Internet. But, on the other hand, the evil part of that is, is people are just giving music away. It used to be you put a record out and you go and tour to support that record and you'd take dates in Los Angeles because it wasn't the best money in the world. But you've got to play Los Angeles, visit the radio station, promote the heck out of it, and you pick up other dates along the way. You're out there.

“Now you tour so you can give away albums. You give away music to get people to come to your show. It's completely bass ackwards. And, you know, you give the music away for free and, hopefully, you'll sell tickets as a result.

“I was down at McBride's studio, Blackbird, yesterday, and Richie Furay's recording an album there. He's awesome and I'd never met him before. But we've chatted online a few times. And because of a friend of mine who saw him post something about me and 'Your Love Amazes Me', and how much that song meant to him, he ended up getting us in touch with each other. So, we had great online conversations and it was great to meet each other yesterday. But, man, everybody was there. I mean, there are so many artists from years gone past and rock and roll legends, you know, from his era. It was just awesome. They were getting ready to track a song and the solemnness of it. Oh, my gosh! It was so cool! Dan Dougmore was playing pedal steel and they had an upright bass, which sounded like a million bucks and they were in there playing. There's no click tracks. It's just playing music. Just a bunch of guys, sitting around a circle, playing music. It was awesome. It was just awesome.

Wrapping up our chat, I asked John Berry what was on his radar for the next year or two as well as how he wished to be remembered and what he hoped his legacy will be.

“Yeah, well, as far as upcoming projects, I have no idea. After the Christmas tour, we've got a cruise. We're going to go on with the Opry, the Opry cruise, the end of January, first of February and next year. I don't know. Maybe we'll record something and see what happens. I don't have any real projects in mind. Of course, you know, if Brian was here, he'd be going, 'Write a book! Write a book! Write a book!' So, we'll see about that. I know my wife is putting together a cookbook called Mixed Berries. She's doing it with her, our daughter and our two daughters-in-law. They're putting that together, working on that. That’ll come out this time next year. And, then, hopefully, we'll get a biography together, something like that.

“As far as the legacy, you know, I guess more than anything, I hope people know where my faith is. That's the most important " allowtransparency="no" width="120" height="240">thing that they know. I would just walk through this earth, you know, doing my time here. I was here. I had a reason for being here and my purpose is Christ.

“Yeah, it's an interesting question. I don't have a need for a monument when I'm gone. You know, there'll be people that will continue to enjoy my music for some period of time after, I guess. I guess that's the main thing: just people know that my faith was in Christ and that I was a kind person. I hope people will know that. I think that, whatever trials I faced in my life, that I'd had a God that was faithful to me. He was faithful; has always been and that’s important stuff to me. Trying to get out there and be remembered for ‘he sold so many records and sang for so many people and three presidents and all that kind of stuff’, it doesn't really matter.

I invite you to keep up with John Berry at his website, JohnBerry.com, and to catch his shows and order his work!