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Stu Cook "Revisits" Creedence, Litigation, Woodstock, & Retirement

June 2019

 

StuCook 1 cropBoomerocity readers are more than familiar with the iconic band from the sixties and early seventies, Creedence Clearwater revival. Their music catalog includes Proud Mary, Who’ll Stop The Rain, and many other songs that occupy the soundtrack of baby boomer’s youth. They were veterans of Woodstock and other huge festivals of 1969. Wikipedia states that, just in the U.S., they’ve sold 28 million records.

All of this led up to their induction into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame in 1993 – twenty-one years after the band broke up on pursued years of litigation between Stu Cook and Doug Clifford and their lead singer/guitarist, John Fogerty.

For over twenty-years, Stu and Doug toured as Creedence Clearwater Revisited (the germ of one of the post-breakup lawsuits), bringing back musical memories to long-time fans and new fans, alike.

That is, until their recent announcement that they are retiring from the road after this year.

That news came on the heels of a re-hashed announcement that Stu and Doug and settled their pending lawsuits with John Fogerty. I reached out to Stu to have my second interview with him to chat about these announcements.

When I called Stu up at his home, we made some small talk, among which was the fact that it had been almost five years since we last spoke. He chuckled and said, “Holy Mackerel! We’re on the five-year plan!”

We engaged in some small talk, joking about their retirement as well as those of other artists who have announced their retirement – some as far back as thirty-something years ago. As I mentioned that CCR’s itinerary didn’t seem all that long, I hoped that more shows were going to be added. I didn’t like his answer.

“No. We don’t play in East Tennessee. We haven’t been in East Tennessee in quite a while. We never know where we’re going. We have virtually no say in it. The offers come in and our booking agency, William Morris, and our management, they try to figure out – they put the dart board on the wall then they decide, ‘Which dates they can possibly make it from A to B to C without killing themselves.’ We call it “No heroics,’ ha ha! If we can’t get there safely overnight, we probably shouldn’t take the gig.”

" allowtransparency="no">Later in our conversation when we chatted about the “Revisited” incarnation of CCR, Stu indicated: “Twenty-five. This is year twenty-five of ‘Revisited’. Who knew that it would go on like that? We used to have a plan. It was actually a five-year plan. But, after the first one, we just said, ‘Ah, what the hell? We’ll just do it year by year and see how it feels. At the end of each year, we’ll take a look, run the year backwards, see what worked and what didn’t, what we can fix and what we can’t, and decide if we want to move forward from there.’

“At the end of last year, we said, ‘You know? The playing is as great as ever. The audience is as great as ever. And, of course, the music is supreme for us. The road is just not much fun.’ Twenty-five straight years of straight of – you know, most bands take a break. Most artists tour behind product – new product or recent product. We’re touring on our legacy. We do it every year but when you start going back to the same place multiple times and it wasn’t your favorite place to begin with, the travel has really gotten unromantic.

“We’re not retiring from the music business, as such, or from music, or from being CCR, or even Creedence Clearwater Revisited. We’re just taking a break from the road which, at our age, this will likely be the last year of regular revisited appearances anywhere.”

I stopped my questioning to thank Stu and the band for such an incredible body of music that is stamped all over the soundtrack of my youth; what all it represents and the memories it conjures up – both good and bad – when I hear their songs.

“Well, you’re welcome! I love it!”

I then segued into another area by telling Cook that I had seen where he and the band had settled litigation with John Fogerty and then, right after that, I read about the retirement announcement. Why this? Why now?

“Well, the settlement actually occurred a couple of years ago. The settlement I refer to is ourStuCook 2 most recent legal battle. It started at the end of ’14 and then went through ’15, ’16. I think we settled at the beginning of ’17. It really had no connection at all, that I can call on or pull down and attach to our decision to get off the road. But, that said, to your question what it feels like; what our settlement looks like: at this point, it’s just a business arrangement but it’s far man than we ever had in the last forty-five years. We have a company together and we hope to do some interesting things with it.

“In the meantime, other projects have been in the wings and are now about to take stage. I believe that Creedence’s full performance, the quartet’s first and full performance at Royal Albert Hall is going to be released. It’s a DVD. Coming up also, I believe, this year, because this is the fiftieth anniversary, of course, of Woodstock. We’re trying to get together a complete set to be released on DVD, as well. We weren’t in the movie. Hopefully, people will be able to judge for themselves how good that performance was. I think it was one of the best of the event. A journeyman set under any circumstances, but Woodstock was not your normal circumstance.

“Other artists didn’t fare as well as we did. We were so well drilled that it really didn’t matter where we were or what was going on. We could play that set! Ha! Ha! That was our thing, you know? We were ready, always, to go into the studio. We never went into the studio when we weren’t ready. Never went on stage unless we were ready. So, I’m not surprised that our set still stands up.”

When I said to Stu that it had to be a bit surreal and mind boggling to think, Wow! Such a major, pivotal event in pop culture, society, and history, to be a part of that. When I admitted that it was a “freshman question” to ask what it was like, Stu said:

StuCook 3“Well, you know? At the time, it wasn’t that big a deal. There was some startling, amazing visuals at Woodstock for us. The artists had a completely different world than the audience. We were backstage where there was comfort of all kinds, right? There was no suffering backstage. There was no grit, as they say. Ha! Ha! That was all out in the audience.

“As time has gone by, I’m ever more convinced that the event was really about the audience. The music sold the tickets and was the draw, the bait. But what transpired was truly unique – probably unheard-of for population of that size. So diverse. Thrown together for a weekend – especially considering half the people paid and the other half didn’t.

“There wasn’t any misbehavior or social nonsense. I call it anti-social nonsense. If it did exist, it was immediately controlled by the people. They were self-policing. Two deaths. Two births. Something like that. For a city of nearly a half a million, that’s pretty unique, especially given the circumstances.

“The film, I think, shows it more clearly. The film is about the audience – the event that they created. The bands were really the soundtrack. The Muzak, if you will, for that elevator ride! We played the Dionne Warwick special the night before. Flew all night to Boston. Caught a private jet up to Bethel. The, I believe we helicoptered to the Holiday Inn where everybody was. Sort of camp headquarters. Everybody from Production was there. Everybody from all the bands, crews, everybody was there. But they weren’t at the site working.

“So, we helicoptered into the site. We came over the hill and saw that mass amount of people. It was just pretty amazing – to see so much humanity . . . and hair everywhere! Hair and teeth! Ha! Ha!”

I joked that if there was a reunion of those people held today, there wouldn’t be much of both, to which he laughed and said:

“Yeah, really! Ha! Ha! I went to a Woodstock party Saturday night. I was asked to speak. I asked the audience, ‘Is there anybody here this evening who had been to Woodstock?’ Actually, two people that said they were at Woodstock! I was surprised. Most people had seen the film. Some people had actually seen the film more than once.

“It wasn’t the biggest festival of the summer. Atlanta. California had one. Denver had a Pop festival – a rock festival; whatever they were called at the time. So, ’69 was the summer of festivals. At the time, for us, it was really just another one. We played four or five of them that year. The logistics were far more difficult, especially when it would start to rain, which threw the whole second day’s schedule off. We were supposed to play at ten Saturday night – we were supposed to headline.”

A technical glitch blanked out a few minutes of the recording of our chat, so I don’t have the StuCook 1 Fullrest of what Stu had to say about CCR’s performance at Woodstock. To say that it was fascinating would be an understatement.

I asked Cook what advice he would give aspiring artists who wish to subject themselves to the rigors of the music business.

“Professional advice not meant to start an argument. Creedence didn’t have that. We didn’t have someone to step in and say, ‘Hey, you know, this person is making a good point. You’re making a good point. But you’re wrong here, they’re wrong there.’ Have everyone honestly express themselves. This is what I would recommend you consider doing.

“I read a Science Fiction book – I forget by which guy it was. Frank Herbert, maybe. He was talking about the concept of a fair witness. Someone who can call ‘bullshit’ and they get the final say sort of a thing. That’s what was missing from our organization. We had the drive. We had the dedication. We had the friendship. What we didn’t have was someone who could navigate the dangerous waters of the music business which led to our early demise, just to wrap that thought up.

“That, and my advice would be to not let things simmer and fester. I think being candid, open, and honest is always a preferable route so that you don’t end up making compromises that you later regret. You thought this might be that way if you did this because you thought that’s what the other person wanted or needed or expected. Then, come to find out, they hadn’t even considered what you’d done as some sort of offering or compromise or something because you never really had the conversation about what needed to be done; who was willing to do what.

“So, there needs to be a really high level of honesty among all of the participants so that you all stay on the same page as long as possible. It’s inevitable that people will lose interest or finds other directions because that’s the way life is. Change is inevitable. But you shouldn’t be surprised by it and it shouldn’t cause a lot of grief. And it won’t if you understand what your relationships are, how they work, and you all are in agreement as you move forward. That would be my advice. I know it sounds overly ‘ivory tower’ or intellectualized, perhaps. You gotta be honest with yourself and with your co-workers and partners. And you need someone you can be honest with and they can be honest with you, to help you through uncharted waters.”

When I opined that people still have the idea that once a talent signs a record deal, they are instant millionaires and flying on private jets, he laughed and said:

“People need to get a grip on their own realities. How many people are going to be travelling like the Stones or Elton John or Billy Joel? That’s the stratosphere, up there. First, you gotta find a band. Then, you gotta find a manager. He has to find a deal. Then, you have to get an agent. Then, you have to get on the radio. It’s all much harder now.”

I commented that I hoped that the settlement with John Fogerty meant that there can be healing and a mending of the fences where there can be true friendship, again. He responded by saying:

“Well, you know, I’d been pushing for this for years. It was quite expensive, but we finally got it done. If nothing else, our heirs will like us because they won’t have to do it.

“I’m with you. There’s just no point in carrying grudges, being bitter. Life is far too short. We can all do much better than to carry that baggage around. Life has got enough challenges without carrying the past in that particular way. You look at it and say, ‘Yeah, well, everyone has a part in their pasts. You weren’t always the winner and you weren’t always right.’

“So, yeah, I’m with you. Let’s act like big people.”

I reminded Stu that, during our last chat, he had commented on the then-pending lawsuit between Randy California’s estate and Led Zeppelin over “Stairway To Heaven”. He said:

“Right there! That should tell you why you don’t want twelve strangers deciding your fate. The first lawsuit we were in with Fogerty when he blocked us, temporarily, from using the name, ‘Revisited’ – ‘Creedence Clearwater Revisited,’ actually – we were in front of the Ninth Circuit Court of Appeals – the three-judge panel; heard the arguments. At the end of it, they went and did their deliberations. They sent us a message a couple of months later, saying, ‘We’re going to give Cook and Clifford back the right to use the name, ‘Revisited.’ In other words, John lost his injunction. It was overturned. Both lawsuits – his and ours – remained in place. They said, ‘We consider your actions against each other a family matter and suggest that you solve them in that manner.’ Ha! Ha! They could see, already, that if they were us, they wouldn’t want twelve strangers deciding these issues for them. We eventually took that message to heart. We got the first lawsuit out of the way. The second one Doug and I felt that we had to bring because we felt that John was inappropriately making a move to take over the trademark, which would’ve given him the power to do anything if we hadn’t fought it.”

The contractual war is over. CCR is giving peace a chance. “Revisited” is ending touring as we have been accustomed to seeing them this year. Visit Creedence-Revisited.com, purchase tickets and plan a trip to catch this iconic act one last time. They will put a smile on your face as you remember the times when their songs were new to – and dominating – the airwaves.

Thank you, Stu, Doug, Tom, and John, for the songs and the memories tied to them.

Nils Lofgren Talks Lou Reed, Dogs, and Family

Posted May 2019

 
NilsLofgrenPR1PHOTObyCarlSchultzCroppedPhoto by Carl SchultzTo the casual rock music listener, the name, Nils Lofgren, may not ring a bell. However, you can be assured that you’ve heard him if not as a solo artist, you most definitely have as guitarist in Bruce Springsteen’s E Street Band, or time in Neil Young’s Crazy Horse (“then” (in the seventies) and now), in Ringo’s All Starr Band, or as the front man for one of his bands, Grin.

So, yeah, you’ve heard at least some of Nils’ work.

It is because of the release of his latest album, Blue With Lou (featuring several songs he co-wrote with the late Lou Reed) that I reached out for my third interview (our first interview with him, here) with the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame inductee by phone at his home in beautiful Scottsdale, Arizona. I hadn’t spoken with him since I interviewed him about his “Face The Music” release almost five years ago (here).

After some small talk, Nils cut to the chase to tell me about Blue With Lou.

“I’m still in Scottsdale (Arizona). I’m getting ready for my tour in May. Amy and I are having an invasion of band and crew to put a show together, as we did with the album. So, we’re getting prepared for that and a whirlwind rehearsal with a great show we want to put together quickly and hit the road with the band that made the record. My brother, Tommy, is along, to play keyboards, guitar, and sing, so we’re excited about it. I’m excited to tour with the band that made the record – a new record that I feel great about; that I worked long and hard to do it live in the studio; at least, the bass, drums, and my parts. It’s a lot more fun to add touches around it.

“We tried to keep it as simple as we could; hang onto the kind of organic nature of it when the three of us tracked the record. We banned the click tracks so it was like the old days. We didn’t have baffle rooms and isolation booths with windows. We were in the same little room, looking at each other. We learned about twenty songs before we even rolled tape for about a week. It’s kinda neat ‘cause, that way, if were into something, we’d play it. If we were boggin’ down, we would go to another song that we had already torn up for a week or so. We had a lot of songs ready to go. We experimented with arrangements. We just tried to keep it as live as possible, which is when I am at my best. I struggle a bit with the patience for over-dubbing – especially my own parts.”

“I’ve worked with great producers and done stuff live. Crafted records. It’s all part of the creative options. But, for me, Nils Blue with Lou CVR rvespecially as I get older, I’m more and more in my element playing live with people. My favorite thing to do in my job is to perform. I don’t like leaving home. My dogs and my wife are just wonderful. Amy does all my merchandise, the artwork, and helps me out on a lot of creative issues.

“Having a home I love, and wife, and dogs, when I actually get out on the road, it makes me more engaged by the show, because it’s the only reason I left home. Walking out to sing and play – last September was fifty years on the road – so it’s something that I’ve got a greater gratitude and focus on, actually, at this point, because, now, I really don’t enjoy leaving home, anymore. Ha! Ha!

“I’m excited to have a band of a great group of friends that made a record. My dear brother, Tommy, who I don’t get to play with enough. It’s going to be exciting to get some new music out. Six songs co-written with Lou Reed is something I knew those songs had to be shared on this record, too. Just a lot of elements that I set out to try to accomplish. Very important were the Lou songs and being able to play and sing everything live and really know the songs well; not having to write a line or two and, then, a bridge. ‘I’ll figure out the melody there later. I like the chords.’ I’ve done all of that. Now, especially as I get older, I know I’m much better off creating something as live as possible. With good friends and great players, I was able to accomplish that, thankfully.”

When I asked Nils what the catalyst of the new CD was and what drove him to record it, he shared:

“It had been a long time since I made a studio record and I don’t have a record company, per se. We have Cattle Track Road Records – our own label here and a great part of old Arizona. There’s Cattle Track Road art galleries and dear artists and friends there. So, we took the name, Cattle Track Road Records.

“But I was coming up with some ideas. Certainly, years ago, Lou and I wrote thirteen songs together. Eight of them have been released. Three by him. I put out three, originally, and a couple of that. And I always thought – regarding the ones left behind – Lou might call and say, ‘Hey, let’s take a look at those.’ And, then, of course, tragically, we lost Lou Reed, who was an incredible rock and roller, lyricist, poet, artist. I knew at that point – in the back of my mind – that the next record that I made, it would really be appropriate to get the notebooks out and get those songs in shape to record. That was part of it, too.

“But I started writing. I keep riffs on tape. I write music pretty easily. Lyrics come a little slower, but I had a lot of ideas. So, I started beginning writing in earnest with a handful of riffs and ideas that were kinda just being logged through the years.

NilsLofgrenforExclusivePHOTObyCarlSchultzReducedPhoto by Carl Schultz

“Then, I got to the point where, ‘Okay, I have more than enough for a record of songs I like. I’ve got the five Lou songs that nobody ever heard, and I wanted to re-do ‘City Lights’. That was a song that – when I sent Lou this tape, cassette, of thirteen songs, that was one that he said, “Look, I love your chorus. I’m going to keep it and write a song about Charlie Chaplin. It’s a beautiful chorus.’ Lou’s version on The Bells, he chose to narrate the song, which is beautiful, and the music was reflective of my melody. But I always wanted to do my own version and sing the melody of the song that I liked.

“On the first song after Lou and I did the first six, he put out three on The Bells. I put out three on Nils. There was a song called, Lights. This beautiful, haunting lyric that we wrote to some music I had. It was my title and my lyrics, and my lyrics were pretty awful. So, he wrote this brilliant song and Branford Marsalis came and played some very haunting, cool saxophone throughout. Very soulful.

“When I did my version of City Lights, I asked Branford to just kinda come full circle. I said, ‘Look, I got this Lou Reed song I’d love for you to play on if you would.’ He played brilliantly. I asked him to kinda jump in at the top and riff anywhere and everywhere he could and color the whole thing. I didn’t feel like adding more.

“I also, for years, I loved the sound of the small, male choir you hear on the Elvis records; Ricky Nelson records.”

I knew that asking this might be a little touchy, but I wanted to get Lofgren’s thoughts on Lou Reed since it’s been going on six years his passing and if this project was emotional for him in any way.

“It was, of course, very emotional. I always thought Lou – especially after he got a new liver and survived that – that he would be with us a long time. But I was always a fan – especially of his lyrics. Still one of my favorite rock tracks is ‘Sweet Jane’. There’s so many great things he’s done. So, yeah, to write thirteen songs with him and have him use some and like the ones I did, it was very special for me. I knew after he passed, I had to get these songs on the next record. During the process, I read his biography by Anthony DeCurtis - very great biography - to keep him in the project, keep him alive through the book while I was writing, arranging, recording.

“I’m proud to be able to share the songs we wrote that no one ever heard. My version of ‘City Lights’. I’ve got the other half of the album are songs of mine that I feel great about. I think it’s some of my better writing; to have an earthy record recorded and ready to hit the road with the band in May is an exciting thing.

Since there are the “Lou” songs and Nils’ “solo” songs, I asked which song from each group would he point to as a calling cardNilsLofgrenPR2PHOTObyCarlSchultzReducedPhoto by Carl Schultz for the entire disc.

“Oh, man! That’s a pretty heavy question! Ha! Ha! Well, look, I’m very mostly proud and attached to all these songs. Just because of the nature of the lyric, there’s a song called ‘Give’ that I think is kind of representative of the record in the sense that it’s a classic lyric by Lou. Give everything you got. There’s a six- or seven-minute jam that we kept on the record live as it went down. It reminded me of the old days of Cream and the Hendrix Experience where there were power trios and long jams, which people don’t put on records any more. So, that’s sort of a calling card, if I had to pick one from the Lou batch of songs that represent the record well. There’s a lot of guitar – not just flashy lead, but just riffing and power trio kind of stuff. Not a lot of overdubs.

“As far as one of my songs, it’s a rough one. I feel really good about ‘em. There’s a song, ‘Rock Or Not’ that I feel great about. It’s kind of a protest song. My wife, Amy, is a big part of the resistance and speaking truth to power and madness regularly. Really sticking up for what’s right on Twitter and social media. That’s a real rocker. It’s also representative of the band effort that all of this is where Andy Newmark and Kevin McCormick had demos in advance. They came in with great ideas. Andy had this James Brown meets The Who drum part he was diggin’. It’s also kind of a protest about, hey, are we gonna rock or not? We’ve got a lot of problems. It’s time to step up and stop talking about it and fix things.

“So, those are the two I’d pick from the Lou batch and mine. But I feel great about every one of ‘em!”

One of the “Nils Songs” is called “Remember You”. The press release said it was about his and Amy’s dog, Groucho, who they lost a little over a year ago. I asked if that was the same dog that was in the photos used in my first interview with him (here).

“Yeah, vaguely, I remember the picture. I’m not positive, Randy. But Groucho we lost a couple of Christmases’ ago. Then, just this weekend, we lost Rain, who was in the picture. They were our first two dogs and we’re devastated now that Rain’s gone. It brings so much light and love into our home. We were up in Sedona. We had taken a trip up there. We were in this hotel in the middle of these Indian burial grounds. There were a lot of haunted spirits around. It wasn’t that relaxing, actually. There is a lot of energy and pain in there. There was a side room when I couldn’t sleep and I would go in there and quietly write the song, ‘Remember You’. It was inspired by Groucho and, of course, there’s a verse in there about our dear Rain, who we lost. She’s also taking a ride with me in my old ’51 pickup, playing a Tom Petty song at the start.

“Yeah, just the love – unconditional love – and light they bring into your life every day - I was still missing Groucho and, then, Rain passed this week. Again, we’re devastated. There’s a verse in there, too, about when Rain was younger, we were in the desert and she came limping to Amy with a bad thorn in her paw. We couldn’t get it out and she was really in pain. Finally, Amy laid her down and put her paw in her mouth and grabbed it (the thorn) and just pulled it out with her teeth. Rain, from that day on, just followed Amy around. They had a special bond. We all loved her and there’s a verse in there about that, too.

“But it’s inspired by Groucho and all our animals. But life, in general. My mom passed at 91 last October. When you’re lucky to have beautiful souls and people in your life, it’s even harder to say good-bye. You’ve got the memories and the dignity, hopefully, of how you treated each other, and the love and respect you showed. But, still, it’s a real hole in your life and your heart when they pass. So, that’s one of my favorites and I wanted those last to songs – the song about Tom Petty. I didn’t plan to write that song. It just came out. Then, the ‘Remember You’ that I wrote up in Sedona. I knew they had to get on the record. I was just so upset about Groucho’s passing. It just gave me a chance to express it in a positive way and honor his memory. And, now, Rain’s gone, too, and we’re just reeling. But, fifteen years is a good run with our dog. It’s never enough. Amy saved Rain and Rain saved us. Our two dogs left with us – of course, they’re hurting, too. Dogs are on a higher plain than us but, still, we’re staying close with each other and looking after each other. That’s where that song came from.”

Shifting gears, I asked Lofgren if he felt the music business was broken and, if he was elevated to the non-existed role of Music Czar, what would he do to fix it.

“Ha! Ha! Randy! You’re killing me, man! The whole what-if/imagining thing is not my forte. I haven’t had a record deal in NilsLofgrenPR3PHOTObyCarlShultzReducedPhoto by Carl Schultztwenty-five years. I have a website. I do what I’m proud of and put it out. So, honestly, I don’t pay much attention to the record business. I don’t really feel qualified to – I don’t really if the word is ‘fix it’. I mean, you always have this corporate entity that the bottomline is money. That’s one of the reasons why I left my last record deal in the nineties and went with the website just so I would have freedom. I’m not making the companies money. I don’t have hit records. They’re annoyed by that. I don’t want to work with people that are annoyed by me. There’s no good deals out there, anyway. There’s plenty of bad deals.

“I’m not an expert on the music business, one, so I can’t tell you how I would fix it. I don’t want to be the czar of business – any business. Music is like my sacred weapon. It saved my life. It continues to. It’s a sacred weapon for billions of people on the planet. Most people, actually, are tuned into music. But I will say that, thanks to technology - there’s a lot of downside to it - but you can make records without losing your home. You can be creative and find ways to share things on the internet without signing a bad record deal. And that’s kind of a brave, new world. It’s been around, now, and a lot of younger people are taking advantage of it and finding ways to share music, create music, and get it out there without having to go after the traditional music business record deal which, to me, has been fraught with way too much bureaucracy and the focus on we gotta make money. I don’t begrudge that but any time you get in a situation where the bottom-line has to be money and you’re trying to mix creativity with it, some people do get it done. There’s great artists that sell millions and millions of albums and it all works for them and the company. But, for me, that’s not conducive to being creative for me.

“First of all, I’d have to be an expert on it to tell you how to fix it and I’m no expert. So, I can’t really go there with you. I apologize.”

As for what’s on Nils’ radar for the next couple of years, he said:

“Right now, my focus is getting a great show together and touring through May; promoting my new album, which is out April 26th. You can pre-order it at NilsLofgren.com. I’m very excited to have new music to share. That’s really my foreseeable future. Trying to spend time with my wife, Amy, and our dogs, Dale and Peter; trying to get used to life without Rain and Groucho, now, and take care of ourselves and just move forward. Hope the planet turns around and starts letting common sense and truth and dignity rule the decision making – which is not the case, right now, and do our little part in it. Try to be good citizens of the planet and love our family and our animals. Live each day as best we can.

“Musically, that’s my big thing is making a great tour; putting it together and trying to make whoever shows up happy when they leave and try to leave them with some musical inspiration that might linger in their lives and souls, which music, at its best, does.”

Because of the loss of friends such as Clarence Clemmons, Lou Reed as well as his and Amy’s fur babies, I re-asked a question that I asked at the end of our first interview together: Once you’ve stepped off the tour bus of life up at that great gig in the sky, how do you want to be remembered and what do you hope your legacy will be?

" allowtransparency="no">“Ah, man! That’s another rough one. I’m not ready to answer that. I do know that I’m trying every day to become a better person; a better musician; a more kind and compassionate person. Amy has been an enormous help with that because, of course, show business and the music industry itself kind of begs the narcissism. The healthy aspect of it can turn bad quickly and I really try to monitor that. Fame can become a mental illness quickly. Fortunately, I don’t have the kind of fame where people are camping out, following me around. I don’t even know what that is. I would certainly never want it.

“Nevertheless, just as a person, I’m trying to create and write my legacy. I hope I have a good piece of time ahead to be even a better person. Learn how to be more kind and compassionate to anything and everything around me, and all life. That’s about the best that I can say. Randy, I’m not ready to write my epitaph. I can’t go there. Ha! Ha! I hope I got a good piece of time left. I’ll be a bit more excited about what I’ve accomplished in the next ten years than the past sixty-seven years or whatever. But, anyway, that’s the best I can give you right now.”

Bernard Fowler Inside Out

Posted April 2019

Fowler Bernard 2019 001croppedBoomerocity and its readers are Rolling Stones fans. Not just fans of Mick, Keith, Charlie, and Ronnie but also of Lisa Fischer, Daryl Jones and, of course, Bernard Fowler. Mr. Fowler first graced our pages six years ago (here) and, more recently, almost four years ago (here).

With a Stones tour already announced and Bernard’s release of his own new CD, Inside Out, it was a great time to catch up with him again. I called him while he was at Denver’s airport on his way to a performance of A Bowie Celebration with some of David Bowie’s former bandmates.

“It’s called The Bowie Celebration and it’s, basically, a tribute to David Bowie. It’s kind of an alumni tour that Mike Dawson, Carmine Rojas, and Earl Slick – all three spent years with David. We’re just celebrating his music,” says Fowler of the tour.

When I asked if he had met Bowie before he died, Bernard said, “Yup. I loved Bowie. I listened to that stuff early on (while) growing up. I brought Diamond Dogs to Show and Tell at school. Ha! Ha!”

As for crowd acceptance of those shows, Fowler said, “The audience is loving it. The audience is loving what we’re doing. They’re up on their feet. They’re laughing. They’re crying. It’s a wave of emotions for the fans. So, the response is really good.”

According to Bernard’s press release for Inside Out, Mick Jagger made a comment about how he was handling a Stones song during a sound check and that’s what kicked off this album. Fowler said, “It was that comment from him that made me get the recording process started. I had plans to do it already but getting that comment from him just put a stamp. I went to work (on it) – right after the tour I went to work on it.”

With such a vast Rolling Stones catalog to pick from, I was curious what Fowler’s criteria was in selecting songs.

“The criteria was strong lyric content. Then I opened the Rolling Stone songbook. I read some lyrics and I saw the lyric content and I went to it. Sympathy For The Devil is a previous obvious thing. That’s the last thing that I recorded because I had a deadline and that lyric content, it was strong. So, it just made sense to add that to the whole thing.”

As always, Bernard has some heavy hitters helping him out on this album. In addition to some names that I know have helped him on his last album, I saw that he also brought in Carmine Rojas in on bass.

“Yes, he has! Carmine is one of my oldest friends. Carmine played bass on my Nickelbag project. He played bass on that and other things. He’s also on this new one; he’s on the song, Under Cover of the Night. That’s him at the beginning where the girl is running the jungle and she gets spotted by a soldier. That’s Carmine that’s the soldier. He’s travelling with us now.”

Naturally, we all want to know what, if any, response there’s been on this disc from the Stones.

“I’m sure that they’ve probably heard it by now but I have not spoke to them so I don’t know. I’ve not performed it, yet. It’s not even released, yet, officially. It’s the 19th of April. But the people that have heard it, the response has been incredible.”

Is there a Stones or fan favorite?

" width="240" height="120" allowtransparency="no">“I can’t say that there is a specific favorite. When I was recording it, I played Keith a little taste of it. I wrote that in the liner notes. He looked and me, smiled, and said, ‘Damn, Fowler! You went deep!’ I was really in the early stage of recording. He hasn’t heard it in its completion, as far as I know. I’m not sure if he’s heard it.”

When I asked Bernard which tune he would point to as a calling card for the entire CD, his answer surprised me.

“Ha! Ha! Probably ‘Sister Morphine.’ I like how it turns out. It’s exactly what I wanted when I envisioned for it which was a jazz piece and it worked out perfect. I couldn’t have asked for any more. It’s exactly what I wanted.”

Fowler went into the studio determined not to sing the lyrics which may disappoint some of his – as well as Rolling Stones – fans. We all love hearing Bernard’s silky, Smoky Robinson-like voice. But don’t let it keep you from getting the disc. It’s a keeper. That said, I did ask him what made him decide to take the non-singing approach to the Stones catalog.

“It’s something I wanted to do. Although people pretty much know me as a vocalist. I’m a producer. I wanted to do something different. I didn’t want to do a record like The Bura again this particular time. I wanted to do something different – something really different coming from me. It would be a spoken-word record.”

Since Fowler mentioned The Bura, I had to tell him that “See You Again” was one of my favorites of his body of work.

“It’s a beautiful, beautiful piece. It’s probably my favorite song from that album, as well. I think that sang and ‘Shake It’ are my favorite songs (from The Bura).”

I can’t talk to Fowler without asking about plans with the Stones. At the time of our chat, the band had announced a new tour. This, of course, was before it’s postponement due to Mick Jagger’s recently announced heart surgery. That said, I asked Bernard what fans can expect from the tour. His answer was short and sweet.

Fowler Bernard April2019002“You know what? You know what I know. I won’t know what that is until I get to rehearsal. I’ll start rehearsal the end of March/first of April.”

Wrapping up our chat, I asked Fowler what was on his radar for the next year or two.

“Well, on the radar right now is finishing this David Bowie Celebration and going right into the Stones. When this (the Bowie tour) ends, I’ve got maybe five days before I start rehearsing with the Stones for the next tour. When the Stones tour is over, the plan is to go out and turn people on to Inside Out. I’m going to try to put a tour together with just a night of Bernard Fowler. The spoken word record will kind of let me be my own opening act. I can open the night with spoken word and finish the night with The Bura and more songs.”

Be sure to order Bernard’s new disc, Inside Out, but clicking on the widget on this page and keep up with him at his website, BernardFowler.com.

Jimmie Vaughan

Posted May 2019

 

JimmieVaughn croppedAs my friends and some Boomerocity readers know, I spent the better part of twenty-five years in the Dallas, Texas, area. Prior to launching Boomerocity in 2009, I was, obviously, a music nut, and it didn’t take long to hear about two brothers from the area who were each amazing guitarists in their own right: Stevie Ray Vaughan and his brother, Jimmie Vaughan. SRV was taken from us in August of 1990 but left an indelible mark on rock music. Jimmie Vaughan (I and many of my friends would erroneously refer to him as “Jimmie Ray Vaughan” – sometimes, I still do) was the guitarist and signature sound behind the Fabulous Thunderbirds.

I want to state here that my daughter and I attended Stevie’s funeral. I mention it only because, a) Jimmie and I discuss his brother’s death towards the end of our chat; and, b) I briefly mentioned it to him at the beginning of our chat as we were making introductions and small talk.

Being a Vaughan brother’s fan – both individually and in their duo and respective bands, ever since the launch of Boomerocity, Jimmie Vaughan has been on my short list of artists that I’d give my eye teeth to interview. With the release of his new album, “Baby, Please Come Home,’ the opportunity to chat with him became available . . . and I still have my eye teeth.

After our introductions and small talk, I asked Jimmie if I had counted correctly that “Baby, Please Come Home” is his seventh solo record.

“You know, I don’t know. I’m not sure. I’d have to go figure it out. Let’s see, I’ve got Strange Pleasure – you’re talking solo. You’re not talking T-Birds? I did the Jimmy Reed Highway (with Omar Kent Dykes). I guess you’re right. Seven solo albums excluding the T-Birds.”

When I asked Vaughan how this LP is different for him than all of the other albums – solo or otherwise – in recording, approach, and related areas, he shared:

“Well, I didn’t change my approach. I mean, basically, what I do is record live in the studio. I’ll get together with my band and we rehearse and just play the songs. Then, we just go into the studio and record them. If we need to overdub something, we do. But, basically, it’s live.”

Not to get too deep into the recording weeds, I did want to know if he recorded the disc digitally or, did he go the analog route that some artists are going back to.

“Oh, no, they have everything now. Most studios have digital. We end up on tape. The tape sounds better. These songs are definitely on tape. When you’re recording it, you utilize everything you need and then you put it on tape, and it does the same thing. You get the tape compression. It happens after you record it and you’ve manipulated it. Whatever you’re gonna do, you mix it. Then you play it on tape. That gives you the same thing. I think everybody is concerned and notices any difference, uses tape. You can really hear the difference. When you put it on tape THEN on digital, you don’t lose that (the analog quality). It’s all about the compression and the way you do it. We know how to do it!”

Regarding the story behind this album, Vaughan shared:

“It was just a lot of songs that I love. I went and recorded them down in San Marcos (Texas). It’s my band. We went and recorded what we wanted to and there it is! It sounds more simple than it is, I guess. It’s the real deal for us.”

Artists will often point to a particular song on their discs as a calling card for the entire album. When I asked Jimmie which cut he would choose as this album’s calling card, he was actually stumped.

“Gosh! You know? Listen, I like everything on it. I’ve got Lefty Frizell, Jimmy Donley. Songs by Lloyd Price, Bill Doggett, Earl Garner. Did I say T. Bone Walker? It’s really all over the place. When I first started playing, the first record that I bought was by a band called the Nightcaps. You know them. They were into the same thing. They even did some of the same songs. That’s really what I’m into. If you come see me, you’re gonna get all that and I play stuff from my career over the years. But, basically, I’m playing what I love, okay?”

I commented that the album is a “feel good” album that makes you involuntarily lift up your head and shoulders while tapping your feet.

“I agree with you! That’s really why we did it ‘cause – it might be kinda hard to explain ‘cause it’s just what we do. It’s real and we’re not trying to put on any airs. This is us.”

Recording albums is often a long and laborious effort for artists and wondered how long this project took for Mr. Vaughan to record.

“Ah, I like to record and pretend that I’m making singles. I pretend that I’m making 45’s. I’ll do two or three, four at a time. So, I spread it out over a few months.”

I often ask “tenured” artists this question: If you were made music czar, how would you fix the business, or does it need fixing? I asked Vaughan this question.

“Go-olly! Ha! Ha! Maybe I’d just fire everyone and start all over. Ha! Ha! That would be the most fun, right? Well, you know, first of all, government shouldn’t have anything to do with music. It’s the absolute opposite. If the government told me what to do, I’d tell ‘em to go screw themselves. So, that’s the way I feel ‘bout it. Ha! Ha! Because it’s art and it has nothing to do with government. I don’t like all the government this and that; subsidize this. That’s bull. I think it’s for entertainment.”

Is the business broken?

“I don’t know because I only think about what I like to do, and I don’t listen to all the other stuff unless it’s somebody I know. There are some really good examples of new music that I like. And there’s a lot of new guys coming up in my hometown that I really like. Have you heard Dylan Bishop? Jay Milano. Gary Clark. He’s from Austin. Paul Walker is coming up.

“See, here’s the thing: I don’t pay any attention to what’s going on out there. I’m sorta in my own world, musically speaking. I don’t really care what they’re doing. As far as I’m concerned, I’m in the anti-music business. How ‘bout that? I’m anti all the stuff that’s goin’ on. I don’t want to be mean, but, at the same time, I’m really in my own world, musically speaking, okay? I have a manager and I have people that help me do the business part – and I really don’t know much about that. I’m only concerned with the music. I try not to let myself be taken advantage of. At the same time, I’m really focused on the music part of it.”

I know that Jimmie Vaughan/Fabulous T-Bird fans would want to hear an answer to this so I had to ask: Will there ever be any sort of reunion with the Thunderbirds and is Jimmie ever going to do any more recording with Dennis Quaid?

“Well, actually, I just did a song with Dennis Quaid and Tanya Tucker. They came to town – they came to Austin and called me and said, ‘Hey, come over here and we’re gonna record. Come over and play guitar on a song.’ I just did it! There’s the answer to that one.

“I would love for the Thunderbirds to get back together! ‘Course, a couple of the guys have died. We had a lot of drummers and bass players. So, maybe we could talk Mike Buck into it and get us another bass player. I’d love to play with Kim (Wilson). I’m playing anyway and very proud and happy about what we did, Kim and I, back in the day. That would be fun!”

And what’s on Jimmie’s radar for the next year/next couple of years?

“Well, we just started promoting the record. We’ve been out on tour with Buddy Guy. We’re going to play the Hollywood Bowl with Buddy Guy. We’re going to play in London. The record’s coming out. We’ve got a lotta shows coming up. I’ve got my whole band with the horns in it. Everything. We’re out here tearing it up! Oh! And we’ve got (Eric Clapton’s) Crossroads coming up, too!”

As we closed, I said I hoped to catch one of his gigs in the future since the last time I saw him was at his brother’s funeral in Dallas back in 1990.

“It’s been twenty-eight years since Stevie got killed. Stevie was a fabulous musician but what nobody thinks about is, it seems like, Stevie Ray Vaughan is my little brother. Anybody’s that’s got a little brother or little sister will know what I’m talking about. Just think about it if you lost your little sister tragically. What would you do? There’s no way that you can explain it. There’s no way you can feel okay about it. Now, it’s been twenty-eight years and I’m just pissed off that he got hurt and killed and I’m not gonna get over it. I have a wonderful family, children, a beautiful wife and I have a wonderful life. I get to play my guitar every day. I’m very grateful. But it’s very hard to deal with losing someone like that.”

Switching to a more “light” subject, I asked Jimmie if there was a “holy grail” of guitars and did he own it.

“I like Stratocasters and Telecasters. Now, I have a couple of Gibson’s I like to play. An ES-350. I like guitars but I love to play Stratocasters. Stratocasters are like hot rods. You can always put a different neck on it or change the pick-ups or do a paint job or whatever you want. They’re like ’40 Fords, you know what I mean? I’ve always got ‘em tore apart, doin’ somethin’ on ‘em.”

Wrapping up our chat, I asked Vaughan how he wanted to be remembered and what he hoped his legacy will be.BabyPleaseComeHomeCover

“Oh, gosh! I don’t know that I want to come up with that answer. I just want everybody to say what they want to say. I just have a lot of fun. I always have fun out her on the road with my buddies and me. We drive around and play guitars and play music, laugh and joke. This is the best job in the entire world! There couldn’t be a better job than this! You get to express yourself every night! Hang out with your friends. Sounds like a Willie Nelson song, doesn’t it? Ha! Ha! I can’t imagine that there would be a better job than this.”

We all envy him and what better person to have a job like that Jimmie Vaughan?

Keep up on the latest with Jimmie at JimmieVaughan.com and be sure to catch one of his shows if you’re lucky enough to have him and his band stop near you.

Graham Nash Talks About His Album, Over The Years

 

Posted March 2019

GrahamNash2cropped creditAmyGrantham cropPhoto by Amy GranthamI have often heard it said that the baby boomer generation had the greatest music. I happen to agree wholeheartedly. One of the reasons I feel that way is because of the iconic work by the legendary Graham Nash. Whether it was his work during his time with The Hollies or the prolific period with Crosby, Still, Nash (and, sometimes, Young) or in his various solo pursuits.

Because Nash was, once again, going to be performing in East Tennessee (this time at Chattanooga’s Walker Theater), I was granted the opportunity to chat with the musical icon about his latest album, Over the Years, and the supporting tour.

After some small talk about his recent vacation that he just returned from, I mentioned that he was going to be playing in Chattanooga (easy driving distance from me) and that I met with him during his show in Knoxville (even closer to me). He interjected with this neat bit of news:

“You know, in Knoxville, I was approached by the City Council just very quickly. The idea was that the Everly Brothers spent the first eight years of their life in Knoxville. They were on their parents’ radio show in Knoxville. So, the Knoxville City Council approached me and said that they’re going to make a small park in honor of the Everly Brothers. Part of their design is, on the walk through the park, there are marble stones on the floor that are carved with quotes from quite famous people about the Everly Brothers. They wanted to know if I could help find people that would give a small quote and get permission to put their signature carved into the marble. So far, I have me, of course. I have Keith Richards. I have McCartney. I have Paul Simon, Art Garfunkel, Brian Wilson. Incredible stuff, you know? I just thought I’d tell you that because you familiar with Knoxville. How could I not be involved when it’s the Everly Brothers? They’re part of the reason we are talking right now! Ha! Ha!”

Shifting our chat to his new CD, I asked Graham to tell me about it.GrahamThinkingBW2

“I realized a year ago that there’d never been a ‘Greatest Hits’ of my music. Yes, greatest hits of CSN. Greatest hits of CSNY. Greatest hits of the Hollies, etc. But not of me, personally. So, I went on the internet and found out what my friends’ fifteen most favorite songs of mine are and I put them on. And, then, I thought, ‘You know, people have probably bought all this music – maybe even several times. How could I make it more interesting and more desirable?’

“So, I decided that I would go into my archives and find the demos of those songs and put them on. That’s what it became. The artwork was done by my wife, Amy Grantham.”

When I asked if the album cover was shot in Switzerland (which I thought it looked like it had), he said, “It’s actually a National Geographic image from many years ago and Amy put the boy in there.”

Over the Years is a two-disc collection that includes original demos of some of Nash’s biggest hits. I asked him which song he would point to as a calling card for the collection.

GrahamNashColorBackstage“It would be ‘Marrakesh Express’ because that was the demo that I sent The Hollies and they made a very half-hearted attempt to record it. To me, in my mind and being the writer of that song, I needed the energy of a moving train through it, which Stephen (Stills) brilliantly did on the CSN version of Marrakesh. I think if people hear the original demo, they’ll realize a couple of things. One: that the arrangement of the song didn’t change that much from my demos. I notice that the arrangement of each was already complete in my mind when I made the demo.

“And ‘Teach Your Children, of course, is another one. I started that song in the north of England, and I finished it in Los Angeles in early ’69. But you can hear that the arrangement – apart from the fact that there’s a solo in there that was done, of course, by Jerry Garcia – the arrangement is pretty much the same as my demo.”

Clearly, those songs and the songs of Nash’s peers in the same periods of time, they still stand on their own. In fact, a recent study showed that millennials more readily recognize that era of music more quickly and readily than their own era of music. I mentioned that to Graham, and he interjected.

“You know why? First of all, the melody. It’s the melody of all those songs. Today’s music – there’s a great deal of great music, of course. Particularly, ‘This Is America’. There are some great Hip-Hop songs; great songs out there. But I love an identifiable melody and identifiable lyrics. I think that might be one of the reasons why that they’re preferring our genre to theirs.”

A few days prior to our chat, the Super Bowl had just been played and there was tremendous buzz about the pros and cons of the half-time show by Maroon 5 and that classic rockers should be chosen for those shows because they’re historically much more well received. To that point, I asked Graham if he, David Crosby, Stephen Stills, and Neil Young were offered the gig to play halftime, would they do so?

“I cannot speak for David and Stephen and Neil, but I can speak for myself and I would not do the half-time show at the Graham pondSuper Bowl because of Colin Kaepernick, you know? This man has been trying to bring awareness of the fact that black kids are being killed almost daily by the police. His protest against that by taking a knee was incredibly symbolic. Regardless of what Maroon 5 did, musically, on the half-time show, they could’ve put people on their side instead of all the incredible negative posts I’ve seen about their performance. If they would’ve taken a knee. How hard would that have been?”

I asked Graham what form that the “knee-taking” have taken, his opinion.

“Adam Levine could’ve – at the beginning of one song – on his knee. Even if it was for only ten seconds of a song, it would’ve been incredibly symbolic for him to have done that and they chose not to. I think it was to their detriment.”

I then asked Nash if they (CSN) would not have done the same thing (take a knee during part of a song).

“I have a feeling that if we – the four of us - did do it, it would be an incredible ten minutes of protest. Ha! Ha! I just can’t imagine singing Ohio with the boys – well, I tell you, I could imagine it, but that’s the kind of stuff that we would do. We would turn that – because of Kaepernick – we would turn our performance into a protest, I believe.”

And what causes are on Graham’s front-burner about these days?

“We get asked to do a lot of benefits and you have to prioritize your time. You have to figure out the two or three things most important to you because you can get scattered by supporting many, many causes. It kind of dilutes everything because you can’t put a great deal of time into every single cause.

Nash3“And, so, certainly climate change. Certainly, the future of our children in terms of education, and the nuclear problem, still. I read yesterday that Russia supposedly has the ability to explode a nuclear bomb underwater, creating a tsunami that would wipe out Miami and parts of New York, all of Bangladesh. It’s insane. The world is run by these major corporations and several of them are military manufacturers. They’re just playing a game. They don’t give a f*** about people’s lives. They only are interested in making more profit for their company. And, unfortunately, war is an incredible way for these military people to make money. That’s a crime, as far as I’m concerned.”

When I opined that the difference between Russia and the United States is that we know how to pronounce the names of our mobsters, Graham chimed in and said, “Yes! Trump, Trump, Trump, and Trump!”

What’s on your radar for the rest of the year and next year?

“More creation. More music. More art. More trying to make the world a better place for myself and for my immediate loved ones. Just more creation. I can only do what I do best. When I find something that is worth writing songs about and talking about, then I will do that.”

And when will we see another Graham Nash album?

“When we did my album, This Path Tonight, we recorded twenty songs and we only used ten of them – thirteen if you bought the deluxe thing from iTunes. So, I have songs left over from those sessions. I have new songs that I’ve been writing and, together, I’ll start preparing the next album while I’m on the road.”

Graham Nash is touring this year so I asked him what can fans expect from him during his shows.NashSteps1

“They can expect me to want to be there. I want them to know that I want to be there making music for them and I also want to see them smile on their way out so that I know that I’ve done my job.”

You can order tickets to put that kind of smile on your face – courtesy of Graham Nash – by visiting GrahamNash.com to order your tickets as well as keep up on the latest with Graham and order his music.