Article Search...

Jan Carlo DeFan

Posted April, 2012

L-R: "Cheech" DeFan, Elan, Jan Carlo, Charlie Padilla and "El Pato" Lopez

What does the Guadalajara area of Mexico have to do with rock and roll?  Well, I can’t say that I would blame you much if the only answer you could come up with is that Elvis sang the song, “Guadalajara” in that movie, Fun In Acapulco.

What isn’t known here in the good ol’ U.S. of A. is that in a small village just outside of Guadalajara, Mexico, a brother and sister were born, raised on rock and roll and learned to speak English – perfect English . . . better English than I speak – and grew up to form an incredibly success rock band that literally blazed its own trail of success.

That trail is fifteen years long and marked with 1.7 million albums sold and will be marked with a lot more in sales with the release of their new album, See Us Spin and a tour that will wind up hitting the U.S. in the near future.

Oh, yeah, the band!  The band is called ELAN (spelled with all caps) which also happens to be the name of its beautiful and highly talented lead vocalist (and keyboardist), Elán DeFan.  Her brother, Jan Carlo, is the lead guitarist for the band and they are joined on drums by Michel “Cheech” Bitar DeFan, Jan’s wing man on guitar, Maurico “El Pato” López, and, on bass is Carolos “Charlie” Padilla Maqueo. Together, they make the latest 15 year long overnight sensation to hit the U.S.

I recently received an advance review copy of See Us Spin (as well as a copy of their Retrospective 2002 – 2012 2-CD set) and I became an instant fan.  It’s great rock and roll in all its varied beauty.  Hard. Soft. Bluesy. They’re great. Really great.

Naturally, when the opportunity arose to interview Jan Carlo, I jumped at the chance.  He called me from his home in Mexico and, if I do say so myself, I immediately felt as though I was talking to an old friend.  Not the kind of old friend to whom I’ve owed fifty bucks to for the last 30 years but you get my point.

As I said earlier, Elán and Jan Carlo were raised on rock and roll so I asked the guitarist to fill me in on some details of that starting with who his biggest musical influences were.

“Well, actually, it was Mom and Dad. My father and mother had a really beautiful – actually, they still have – a really beautiful vinyl collection. It was a very big one. You have to understand that we grew up in a little town on the outskirts of Guadalajara, Mexico, so radio and television were kind of rare. The radio signal did not get there that well so we grew up kind of isolated from what I think now would be called Modern Music. So, for us, the Freewheelin’ Bob Dylan and Zeppelin III and all those records that are cherished for us were our cornerstone. I mean, that’s what we knew. That’s the music that we liked!

“So, I think when we got a little older, technology advanced a little more and we actually had a chance to listen to “modern music” and we didn’t really know what was going on. We were really turned off by it.

“My first acoustic guitar was my father’s first acoustic guitar – which I loved to death. My mother played the piano a little and I think that’s what got us going. Between the Stones – to us Sticky Fingers was really modern. It sounded really new. So, when we finally got radio, needless to say, we kinda had a consistent case of explosive vomit! We really didn’t like the way things sounded. This must’ve been ’86, ’87 – that’s when I first became aware of music on the radio. It was a very shocking time for me . . . because the vinyls that we listened to had emotional impact. I felt that and I feel that now more than ever.

“I feel that people really have this need to be liked. When you write a song for radio – the concept of a single, to me – I try to comprehend but I just do get. How do you write something so that somebody else will like it?  You can’t do that. Either you write and you play because you love it – and, I mean, you hope that people like it but you can’t do it so they like it because it has absolutely no class. It has no honesty to it.”

Regarding other influences, DeFan added, “If you listen to the Allman Brothers and then you move into Skynard, when you realize that Warren Haynes walks on water, that’s when you understand guitar work. That man! It doesn’t get much better than that!”

While listening to Jan speak, I was struck – confounded even – by the clarity of his English.  As I wrote at the beginning of this interview, his English is much better than mine.  At the risk of offending him, I asked how was it that he was able to speak such flawless English.  His answer is a testament to the wisdom of the child-rearing skills of his parents.

“Basically, we’re really bi-cultural. Our parents made sure that we spoke both languages without any accent and they used to do it with vibrations. You can actually pick up accents with vibrations – cheek-to-cheek or hand-to-cheek. You can pretty much pick up any accent that way.”

My daughter has said a time or two that, because of the music, she feels that she was born about 25 to 30 years too late. Because of Elán’s and Jan’s love for classic rock, I asked DeFan if he felt the same way.

“To be honest, we feel so disconnected from – I love how people say ‘the music scene” – we’re so far away from that. We’re so disconnected from it. I wouldn’t know how to describe where we’re at regarding that thing because we’re just not part of that ‘music scene’. So, I definitely feel – oh, god, if we could only go back to those times, things would be really, really good!”

My next question pertained regarded if there was a particular one who turned Jan on so much that he knew that he wanted to pursue a career in music.  I expected an answer that included – oh, I don’t know, say, the Stones or Janis Joplin, judging by the incredible sounds that he, his sister and the band produce.  His answer surprised me but it was a great one.

“To me, I think that there was a more modern band that, to me, was very modern but they didn’t sound modern to me which really gave me an uplifting hope which were the Black Crowes. When I heard the Crowes, I thought – and I had a chance to hang with them for a little while – the Crowes were very, very key. There’s a buddy of mine that I had a chance to record with, he’s been a very dear friend for many years, Nathan East, who plays the bass for Clapton. He made me feel that it didn’t matter when you were born, you had to make the kind of music that you love and everything was going to be okay.

“So, I think between the Crowes being a younger band that was playing real music – they still had slide guitar and Rich (Robinson) really cared about the sound and the lyrics still mattered.  After some years passed I realized that it didn’t matter the age, what mattered was the fact that they had something to say and they didn’t care what other people thought of them. That was a cornerstone for me.”

The band is almost single-handedly responsible for blazing the concert touring trail in Mexico, playing wherever they could – from small cantinas to large venues.  DeFan shared the story with me. With a laugh, he said, “We call it a ‘paper route’. We figured out how to make our own paper route and we’re very proud of it. And, yes, we still do it to this day.

“You have to carry three of everything. Whatever guitar you’re going to use with a certain tuning, you have to have three of them because if one breaks down.  I read articles all the time and we meet bands from other countries – especially the States and England . . . and a little bit from Australia – and they complain so much about how tough it is to tour. We just look at them and we laugh our butts off. They have no idea how hard it is to tour.”

So, does ELAN still run into surprises that they have never anticipated?

“No, no, no, no, thank goodness. After success comes, you start having a crew and you start needing guards and you start needing chauffeurs and all that stuff. After awhile, you’re travelling with a whole bunch of people – really nice people. We’re a big circus family! The checklist started maybe eight years ago so now that’s all taken care of before the tour starts. Things just run smoothly. All we have to do now is step on stage and have a good time!

“We do most tours on land. The whole flying thing has become a real pain in the butt. We travel in vans now. We can’t do buses because the buses can’t get through the streets in some towns so we do a van caravan. We’re not very high maintenance. We’re very easy to maintain. We have a couple of bottles of Jack and tequila every night and everybody’s happy!”

With the release of See Us Spin, the band’s attention is now focusing more in other countries in addition to Mexico. While they’ve had exposure overseas, Jan and the band realize that keeping the buying public’s attention is very, very tough. In talking about previous attention in Australia, DeFan said, “These days, people’s attention span is so short. People now – they don’t read and everything’s Twitter, which is 140 characters. So, they might like you one day but they’ll forget who you are the next. The way we do it, we try to do it the Rolling Stones way. We record once a year and then we’re on tour all year long because, if not, they’ll forget you in one second flat!”

As for formulas for success, I shared something with Jan that Sam Andrew from Big Brother and the Holding Company shared with me three years ago. It had to do with the fact that, when BBHC was starting out, there were no classes, training books, videos or anything else to help them.  They were inventing the sound from their heart as the went along.  Jan pounced on that.

“That man really knows!  I don’t know if we’ve really got a formula and I don’t know if we’re going to be successful but something that was true with Janis and Jimi and the rest of them was that they didn’t really care if they were successful. I think that’s important for us because we’ve had this conversation many a time when we’re re-evaluating things.  We realized that we really don’t care. We’ll do this for beer or for money. Nowadays, when we get paid to do this, it’s amazing to us. We would’ve done this for free if someone wouldn’t have told us differently.”

Since Defan is coming with the whole band instead of by himself, I wondered what he’s anticipating while in the U.S.

“I’ll be honest. I’m really, really excited about the south. If we get to play Texas, Alabama, Louisiana – if we get to go to Jacksonville, Florida, I’ll pee myself twice!  Other than that, we’re just excited to be playing in front of a crowd that speaks English! At the beginning, that was a tough call for us (singing and recording in English). It wasn’t like we were trying to do something so that we could sell records. Everybody now, these days, are very calculating. Everybody calculates everything. If you make this kind of music, it will be this successful. The only thing we were calculating was if we get paid enough beer to get drunk and, if we were really lucky, we would have a bottle of Jack. That was, basically, the biggest calculation we did was that!

“We hear a lot of ungrateful bands. We’re really grateful! We’re really grateful to be alive. We’re really grateful to keep on playing music for a living. The fact that we now get to play in the states – we just can’t wait to play in front of a crowd that speaks English. Down here, you have to try fifteen times as hard because we chose the kind of music that we know how to make. I think that God and destiny and life allowed us to play the kind of music that was kind of hard to translate to other people. When people are playing pop in Spanish and you’ve got all these guys singing and dancing and then you go up there with a slide and my sister gets up there with that fantastic voice and yelling into the mic, it was, I guess, shocking, to some and disappointing to others.”

Jan’s comments begged the question of whether or not singing in English caused them any problems such as people wanting to beat them up or anything along those lines.

“Well, people love us here, we are kind of a source of pride now. But of course you get in a little hot water! The good thing was that our parents put us into martial arts when we were young so, before we had body guards, we could just get down, you know? but truthfully we are so loved down here . . . we have had tons of support. And there are mean people everywhere but they are very few and far between.”

Shifting our conversation to the subject of how ELAN approaches recording an album, DeFan said, “Let me put it this way: I don’t want to sound like a snob. I need you to understand this part. For us making an album, it’s a process of putting down, on tape or hard drive, one year – a chapter of our lives. We do it every year. They’re all our babies.

“We do it, number one, so that we can get it off our chests so that we can move on with the memories and the stories. Number two, I think we do it so, next year when we go on tour for another eleven months, that we’re happy to play some new stuff so that we can mix it up a little bit. The way we do it, we usually do three takes as a band with Elán gone. But, usually, she blows it out on the first take. If it takes more than three, we skip the song and it doesn’t go on the record because we figure that, if we can’t get it down in three takes, we’re not really going to get it down live.”

Like many other artists, Jan just said that the band’s songs are like their babies. Even so, I asked him if he could pick one song that he would like Boomerocity readers to listen to that he thinks would make you want to buy See Us Spin, which song would it be.

“To be honest, my sister’s voice on Stranger – you know, she doesn’t do two or three takes. With Stranger, there’s something about it. We always have Dad come to the studio and take pictures. He’s an amazing photographer. I looked over. My sister was belting it out. I remember looking at my dad and seeing tears coming down his face. So, I think Stranger would be the one for me if I had to pick one.”

Since Elán’s and Jan’s parents were – and are – rock and rollers, I was curious what they had to say about ELAN’s music.

“Just to clarify, we also had classical music shoved down our throats, too. We also listened to a lot of mariachi and a lot of flamenco music. My dad flamenco. He made me and Pato – the other guitarist – he, Charlie the bass player, we’ve all be friends since we were eleven years old. He (Mr. DeFan) made us study flamenco. He said, ‘If you want to study guitar, you can’t play like Keith if you don’t study flamenco.’ So we studied flamenco for a little while. I only went to one class because I’m not very good with school or authority figures so that didn’t work out very well.”

Then, with some emotion, DeFan continued answering the question.  “To be honest, now that you mention it, they’re proud. It’s kind of touchy to even think about it now. They’ve been so supportive for so many years. They weren’t the typical parents who wanted us to be doctors or lawyers. They’re just two of the most amazing people I’ve ever met. What’s weird is today, when everybody get divorced 16 times and nothing really matters, they come from an age where, if there’s something broke, you didn’t throw it away, you fixed it. I think they passed that on to us. I’m in such awe that two people can give so much love to five other people – actually more – that pride makes us work harder.

“It’s weird because we really come from a country sensibility - familiar with family ties. I think it’s a southern sensibility – ‘good day, sir’, ‘good evening, Ma’am’, ‘yes” and ‘please’ and ‘thank you’. I think that they gave us a foundation where you’re grateful for everyday regardless of what you do. Sometimes it rocks, sometimes it rolls but you smile every day and you’re just thankful for what you’ve got.”

As ELAN begins to make forays into the U.S., I asked Jan what he hopes the American audiences take away from their shows and how they view the band.

“To be honest with you, I hope for the same thing that I hope for every night. When you decide to become a musician, there’s a couple of things that my grandma asked us to do and our parents asked us to do which is your problems are secondary to everyone else’s because, basically, you’re soul doctors. You go to that night and people get to get drunk off their butts and forget about their problems for a little while.  It’s tough sometimes. We’ve had two recent deaths close to us in the last year and a half. My grandma being one of them. We had to play the show, go to the wake and then fly to the next show. We have to do that because that’s what we do.

“So, what I hope is that they enjoy themselves at the show and that we take a little pressure and weight off of the life we all have to live every day. Times do get easier, they get tougher, the economy gets a little tighter and the government gets a little crazier. That’s the way life goes. Hopefully, they’ll come to the show and they can forget about all that crap for an hour or two and we’ll enjoy each other’s company, get down and have a drink together and tell each other stories, move on and become better people.”

In his career, DeFan and the band have collaborated with the likes of Slash and David Immergluck.  I asked him if there is anyone he still wishes to work with.  His answer came in the form of a great story.

“One day, I was at Capitol Records, mastering a record. The gentleman there who used to be our mastering engineer – an amazing man by the name of Mark Chaleki – tells me that we have to go down to Studio C where we’d recorded before.  He wanted me to help him put up a mic, which I did. Then he said, ‘Now we get to hang out here and meet George Harrison’. I said that I couldn’t do it. The best way to put is how Jim Keltner put it – an amazing drummer and I had the pleasure of working with him.  He’s seen so many people come and go who have died from all the crazy stuff but he’s very straight forward.  We were having lunch and I asked him what John Lennon was like. He said, ‘Exactly the same person that you think you know through his music. That’s who he was.’

“I didn’t want to meet George – Mr. Harrison – because I didn’t want to have that changed. So, I never shook his hand. But, to be honest, when things happen naturally and when you meet somebody and you both laugh and you’re both having some drinks and things flow like they had with Slash or Dave or any one of those guys we’ve had the honor of working with, that’s wonderful. But when you get all these labels, these money people and bankers who need you to do something with somebody because they think it will sell more records, it makes me want to puke. So, if we’re lucky enough to work with people that we meet or we love and admire, that’s wonderful. But if we gotta do it forcefully and it’s gotta be done because you want to be liked – people just got to stop trying to be liked!  People have to go and do what they think is right and if you me for it, great, and if you hate me for it, then that’s life and you move on.”

When asked if he thinks that ELAN’s music has the message and passion that the music he and his sister grew up with, Jan replied with an very insightful answer.

“There’s something about being born Mexican is the Spanish, sadly, when they came here, they instilled a thing in the local tribes that I don’t think is very good called humility. I think respect is wonderful but the brand of humility that was installed in this country was not a very good one because it basically means that you have to look down on yourself. You can’t get rid of that with a song.

“I would love to say yes to your question but we’re not trying to carry on a torch because I don’t think anyone in the 60’s were carrying a torch. They were free enough and they were educated enough where they were going to say what they were going to say. Sometimes it was a beautiful thing, sometimes it was a horrible thing to say. But I think that amount of freedom alone allowed them to do the best they could with what they had. All I know is that we’re truly trying to do the best we can with what we have. I don’t know if it’s a big thing or a small thing but it is what it is. I’d love to say yes because I’d love to feel that we are part of that musical family – part of that generation that had the audacity of being honest – the audacity of being who they were. I think only time will tell that. The only thing that I can say is that we’re not going to stop until our heart stops ticking.”

As for the band’s plans for 2012 and their goals five years from now, DeFan said, “Number one, we’re going to try not to die. Number two, we’re going to be on tour for the entire year and, hopefully, we’ll bring out another record like we’ve done every year. I don’t think we’ll stop until one of us is gone. I think it’s going to be our version of Groundhog Day.

“Five years from now?  We’ll have recorded five more records!  Ha! Ha!  To be honest, I’m not that ambitious. I don’t think any of us are. We’re so truly happy to do what we do every day that I honestly believe that, if life gives us a chance to keep on doing this, we’ll hopefully be in the exact same place and continue to tour.”

While Jan Carlo, his sister and band mates presumably have a long and prosperous career ahead of them, I asked him how he hopes they’ll be remembered and what the band’s legacy will be.

“Wow! I love it! I hope we go down as boozers and brawlers and womanizers – and ‘maninizers’ in my sister’s case, I guess – I  hope that we’re known as good sons and daughters and pretty good brothers.”

Then, getting more serious, he added, “I hope that we’re looked at as amazing friends because when you look back at the records, you realize they’re not just musicians, they’re your friends.

“I remember the first letter that we got from this boy from Canada of all places. He wrote us a very nice, kind, long letter saying that his mom had cancer and that one of the last moments that he had to share with her was with our music. I realized then that we have a really interesting career because we get to take a little weight off of people’s shoulders if we do it right.”

Then, with a sincere humbleness that permeated our chat, he concluded, “We’re just really grateful and hopeful that we’ll have the chance to continue that.”

Ron Dante

March/April, 2011

RonDante1As a pre-teen kid growing up in the Phoenix area, one of my usual Saturday morning routines was watching “The Archies” cartoon show.  It was good, clean entertainment and had me hooked for a year or two.  I also developed a crush on Veronica but that’s a whole ‘nother story and one that will be kept between me and my therapist, thank you.

As a teen, I began buying as many record albums as my meager, minimum wage funds would permit.  Among my pristine vinyl discs were some Barry Manilow albums.  There just wasn’t a better love song writer in the 70’s than Manilow.  Oh, and the girls I wanted to date seemed to like him a lot so that helped my record buying decisions significantly.

I know what you’re thinking.  You’re thinking, “Great stories, Randy, but what the heck do The Archies and Barry Manilow have to do with each other anyway?”

I’m glad that you asked.

It just so happens that one man, Ron Dante, had everything to do with both The Archies and those Barry Manilow albums.  Dante sang all of the male parts on the Archies’ records.  He was also the singing voice of many commercials including the famous “You Deserve A Break Today” by McDonald’s.  A few years later, he produced the first six albums that Barry Manilow recorded and which sold multiple millions of copies around the world.  He has also produced albums for countless other artists including Cher and Pat Benatar.

As if all of that isn’t enough, Ron Dante is also well known by theater goers for his production of “Ain’t Misbehavin’ (which earned him a Tony) and “Children of a Lesser God” which won the Tony for best drama.  He’s also invested in the stage versions of “Crimes Of The Heart”, “Whose Life Is It Anyway”, and “Duet For One”.   For two years, Ron also held the position of publisher for Paris Review.

Do you think the label, Over Achiever, could be slapped on this guy’s forehead?

When I was planning the launch of Boomerocity, I made a very long list of people who I wanted to interview.  Ron Dante was on that list but I hadn’t approached him.  During a conversation with a dear, mutual friend of ours, Rob Parissi, Rob encouraged me to contact Dante for an interview.  Introductions were made and, soon, I had the privilege of talking with this musical icon.

As I just mentioned, Dante has his hands in a lot of different projects that include live shows and producing other acts and shows.  I first asked Ron about his live work.

 “I go out about once a month – in between session dates and things that I do here with my music in Los Angeles. I do go out and perform. I just got back from New York City where I did a gig at B.B. King’s on Broadway. That was fun. I play Jackson, Tennessee, every year for a charity benefit. I play Boston regularly. I get around and really enjoy it.  The last couple of years have been a little leaner than others because of the economy. The first things to go are the live shows – they usually get impacted.  I have a group of guys that I perform with – legendary lead singers from different groups from the sixties and seventies – we go out.  I have the lead singer of The Buckinghams, Dennis Tufano, who does Kind of A Drag, one of the big hits of the 60’s, as well as Susan.

“Also part of the group is Sonny Geraci, who did who did the hit Precious and Few with the band, Climax, and Time Won’t Let Me with The Outsiders.  I also go out with Gary Lewis and The Playboys. I’m working with them here in town this month, actually.  So, I get around. I like the live stuff. It keeps me fresh because you can’t hide in the studio. You’ve got to go out and perform. I do enjoy that.”

As if his schedule of live performances aren’t enough to keep him busy, Ron is neck deep in other creative work.

 “I’m doing that and I’m working on a brand new company in Vegas that I can’t say much about right now but it will be debuting in a few months.  I’m in the studio with a legendary guy by the name of Steve Lawrence.  Guys like Tony Bennett and Steve Lawrence have a following and they’re not forgotten.”

I thought that avalanche of work was all there was but, like the old Ronco commercials of the 70’s used to say, “But, wait! There’s more!”

“I just did a children’s project for PBS. I supplied the voices for a bunch of songs. I brought in Tommy James  to sing one song. I brought in Davy Jones from the Monkee’s.  I brought in both of those guys to sing for this kid’s show called Shush-A-Bye which will be on in April.  I always have something to do. I keep myself active, I must say.”

No kidding!

Of all the variety of accomplishments that Ron Dante can proudly point to, I wondered which area of work he enjoys doing most.

“I’m basically a singer who, by necessity, has become a producer. So, singing is my first love. Producing is my second love. I have found magical moments in both of those endeavors over the years. They have brought me great happiness, I must say - especially in producing with Barry Manilow. We had three or four number one records. We had ten hit albums. I did some vocal work with him on his latest album, recently. It’s a 35 – 36 year relationship of knowing him and producing with him. Both of those things do give me pleasure but I do love performing live. That’s a great kick – to get out on stage and interact with the audience with my hits and with songs that I like. That’s a lot of fun. “

“If I had to put it in order of preference, on a scale of 1 to 10, 10 would be performing; 9 would be producing.  Producing is so much fun.  Orson Welles once said, ‘Producing movies is like having the biggest train set in the world to play with.’ It’s the same thing with making a record – producing an artist like Manilow or Cher or Benatar or my own records. You get to play with every aspect of it, from the inception to the rhythm section to the strings to the mixing, then, to get it out and even help promote it. It’s a full event for anyone like me. I always enjoy it. I never get bored with the music. Anything to do with music, I have the most fun – whether it’s a live show, recording or producing. Thank goodness, it still inspires me because the music keeps changing and evolving and I have the energy and imagination to keep it going.”

As we chatted, our conversation drifted to the current state of music.  Ron shared that, “It’s tough.  The pop music field has gone to pot.  Unfortunately, singing and songwriting has gone out the window and what you hear is a new form of entertainment but it’s not music.  A lot of it is in between music and live performance.  There’s a lot of very strange stuff out there and I’m not very impressed. I love country and Christian music. All of the good songwriters and singers have gone into those fields.  Country music is the pop music of the late seventies. To me, it’s unbelievably good. There are some great, heart-felt songs out there and great lyrics. People are still writing songs and good singers are singing them. That’s why I was so placed pleased to see Lady Antebellum win their five Grammy’s this year.”

While talking about the current strength of country music, I asked Dante if he thought the strength was due, in part, to the fact that there are two strong cable channels that drive interest in the music.

“Thank god!  The boom in the music industry came when MTV debuted in the early 80’s. All of a sudden, there was a visual medium that helped promote the music.  Now, MTV has gotten completely away from that. So, who has picked up the slack?  The country networks.  You get to see a visual of your favorite song.  The thing is, they get played in a regular rotation and people get to catch it.  I’m a big fan of that and I’m so sorry that MTV became the ‘reality show network’ because it absolutely ruined music television and pop music. 

“I remember that Epic Records almost had to sue MTV to get Michael Jackson on there.  They weren’t playing R&B or black music. They had to say, ‘Listen, Michael Jackson is bigger than all of that.’ That’s when Beat It and Thriller got all of its exposure. That was a great time but, unfortunately, it’s not happening today. Thank god for YouTube where you can pick up your favorite artists and listen to everything that they’ve ever done, almost, and see it. It’s an amazing medium.”

Having witnessed several paradigm shifts in the industry, I asked Ron what he thought, from his unique vantage point, were the biggest positive and negative changes in the music business that have taken place during his career.

“Wow! The positive change has been access. That has been the overwhelming positive change for me. It has to be the internet and places like YouTube and iTunes. iTunes, especially, revolutionized the music business. Until iTunes came out, nobody had a handle on this internet thing. It was all thievery. The record companies – the MAJOR record companies – who knew what to do, didn’t do it. They lagged behind and got caught in the switch between how they (the record companies) delivered music and the way people access it. That’s been the revolutionary change – the way people can listen to their favorite song, their favorite album, their favorite artists, anytime, 24 hours a day; buy it and have it instantaneously. That’s unbelievable! And, thank goodness for Steve Jobs who, ten years ago, was on the cover of Newsweek with Sheryl Crow and said, ‘I’m opening up a company called iTunes and everything is going to be 99 cents.’

“Some scoffers said, ‘He’s not a music guy. He doesn’t know what he’s doing.’ Now, everybody has taken his model and run with it. That’s a very good development.  And people can see you. The technology allows you to make a video of your music – doing whatever you want – because the cameras are so inexpensive and so high def. You can put it on YouTube and start a fan base and you can interact with millions of people who are like-minded and who like this kind of music. The opportunities have grown so much. That’s the very good thing that has happened in the music industry, in my opinion.”

And what does Ron feel is the biggest negative change in the business?

“The negative change is the lack of songwriting credentials. The good songwriters in popular music and the top 40 area, they can’t seem to find a niche and they get pushed out by the new ‘beats’ and by the new types of entertainment that are intruding into it. That’s been the biggest negative, is the rise and the preference of the radio stations around the country that only play hip-hop or rap or the latest novelty record. That has hurt. 

“The demise of the songwriter has been a terrible thing. They have to look for other avenues for their songs nowadays. If Paul McCartney and John Lennon were starting out and writing today, they couldn’t get anybody to record their songs. It would be very difficult. They would have to go into the Christian market or country music because popular music stations wouldn’t play them.  It’s a tough time and that’s been the biggest negative – the demise of the songwriter.”

With an added touch of melancholy, Ron adds, “I’m looking for the resurgence of the independent songwriter/singer, people who can touch you in many ways through a melody and a lyric and not get too angry. A lot of the stuff today makes you angry! It’s venting and raging against things. I understand that there’s an area for that but there should be room and balance. That’s what I miss.”

I often ask the following question of many people I interview.  I was especially interested in what Dante would do to fix the music business and it’s business model if he were made Czar of the music industry.

“Well, it’s a question of talent rising to the top. You must find the best talent. Not the derivative talent. The best talents, the new Bruce Springsteen, the new U2, the new Garth Brooks in different areas. These people who are coming up who have incredible talent and expose them on a platform that people can access and listen to and watch. I’m actually working with a new company – a press release will be coming out in the next few weeks – that will allow new bands and new artists to show their wares and rise to the top and to be seen by professionals in the music industry – songwriters, producers, musicians who have succeeded in the music business over the years – and they will help and mentor these young artists and new artists coming up. It will give access to millions of people. That’s the kind of thing that I would do and, in fact, am doing now with a good friend of mine from Las Vegas.”

“If I was running the world of music right now, I would start new radio stations that would come to you through Sirius, through local distributors that give you the opportunity to listen to a collection of different music instead of bombarding you with just one type. That would be the second thing I would do – revamp radio a bit.”

What about the societal and cultural similarities and differences he sees today from when he first started out in the business?

“One of the similarities that I’m seeing is that teen pop is still prevalent and making in-roads and is a huge influence on America. Look at the teen idols of the 60’s – the Monkee’s to Bobby Sherman to David Cassidy to today’s young teens – the Disney group of teens like the Jonas Brothers, Hannah Montanah and that beautiful country girl, Taylor Swift, she seems to be the Shelly Fabre of this generation. She’s very talented, very pretty and a great singer/songwriter. I love her success!   But, there’s a connection between the girl groups and the girl singers of the sixties. That’s a similarity that seems to go on forever and I love that: that the teens want their own idols and their own music. 

“Even the pre-teens want their own music. The Archie’s was a pre-teen group, really. Even though we crossed all generations and it became an adult hit all over the world, it was mainly aimed at pre-teens and young teens and succeeded beautifully on that front.

“The dissimilarities are that more people were exposed on TV and radio – Shindig, The Ed Sullivan Show and the Dick Clark shows – a lot of acts got on those shows and got to show who they were.  Today, there’s a narrower focus so not too many acts can get their shot nationally. Not everybody can be a Lady Gaga in terms of publicity – getting all of that media attention. Unfortunately, it’s become narrowed so much that they’ve become a sound bite.  There was a broad exposure in the 60’s and 70’s of the artists and now there’s a very narrow exposure of artists. Thank goodness for the internet because it’ll open it up to new and upcoming people.”

As I mentioned at the beginning of this piece, I watched “The Archie’s” cartoon as a kid. I also had the Sugar, Sugar 45 rpm.  Even in those pre-teen years, certain musical hooks caught my attention.  One of those hooks was the soulful voice on the line, “I’m going to make your life so sweet . . .” on Sugar, Sugar.  While conducting my research on Dante, I got the impression that he overdubbed his voice on all of the parts of that song, singing falsetto on the ‘Betty and Veronica’ parts.  I asked Ron about that.

“No.  On Sugar, Sugar, there’s a female voice singing for both ‘Betty’ and ‘Veronica’ and that’s Miss Toni Wine.  She’s the voice of ‘I’m going to make your life so sweet’.  She sang the lower part and the higher part. So, she was both ‘Betty’ and ‘Veronica’.  She’s a fabulous singer and a fabulous Nashville songwriter.  She wrote Tony Orlando’s biggest hit, Candida.  She also wrote the Mind Benders/Phil Collins hit, Groovy Kind of Love and another song called Black Pearl (recorded by Sonny Charles and the Checkmates).  She was married to a legendary Nashville producer, Chips Moman for many, many years.  She was also the voice on Gene Pitney on his song, It Hurts To Be In Love – a very cool song. In the middle of it, there’s a little female ‘answer’. That’s her doubling her voice.  She was ‘Dawn’ for Tony Orlando and Dawn. She was the background group on that Candida record, Knock Three Times and a whole bunch of other songs.  She has a very beautiful voice.  She still sings and is on the road today with Tony Orlando, in his band.  Everywhere he goes – there’s Toni on the keyboards, singing background.

 “No, I did a lot of voices on all of those records but, especially that first album, that’s all Toni Wine and myself.”

Our conversation migrated to the subject of his musical relationship with Barry Manilow. I was bragging about Manilow’s body of work – especially in the 70’s and in which Ron played a key role.  From the first album through Even Now and the various compilations and greatest hits albums that the first albums fed, Dante’s skilled production was instrumental in helping drive multiple millions of album sales around the world.

Ron shared his thoughts and feelings about that music. 

“Those songs hold up.  Mandy stopped traffic.  We knew we had it the night in the studio when it was recorded. We knew that lightning had struck.  That was a live vocal. That’s Barry playing the piano. We just did it with a few instruments.  The third take was the final, magic take. Later, I overdubbed strings and backgrounds, horns – you know, beefed up the track. But that’s the live vocal.  We just knew that we had some very special – a special song and the voice that was meant to sing it sang it.  It launched his career.

“Then, six months later, we put out a song that we recorded before that called Could It Be Magic.  That solidified his hold on that part of the music industry. Those were very wonderful sessions.  It’s amazing, the strength of the music and the records we made that, to this day, get used in movies and they get played constantly. I’m very proud of all that work. It was the best years in the studio. It was just so smooth.  The musicians were the top guys in New York City and L.A. The top people were arranging for us. It was a labor of love. I just had to make it perfect. 

“Each album was a little gem – especially the Even Now album. I’m very proud of that one.  That was the first one we did in Los Angeles.  We had done two or three albums in New York City and then he moved out here to do some work so I came out here to produce him.  We worked at the A&M studios on Even Now.  The magic of that studio got into our music, too. It’s the same place that Carole King recorded, the Carpenter’s, Sergio Mendez,  and Herb Albert. It was a great studio.

Ron concludes his thoughts about Manilow by sharing some news about his soon-to-be-released album.

“He’s got a new album coming out. It’s called 15 Minutes. He’s written all the songs. It’s great. It’s about 15 minutes of fame – what fame does to an artist in this world. It’s very deep and, yet, very entertaining. It’s a very entertaining album. It should be out this summer.”

What advice does Dante have for anyone wishing to enter the music business?

“I would say to really concentrate on the songs. Really find or write the very best melodies and lyrics out there. Record it on your own dime. Do a little video and put it on YouTube. Develop a really hot live act and get it out there in some cities. Develop your fan base that way because the internet is the new star making vehicle. Look at what it’s done for Justin Bieber. He might have never gotten a shot if it wasn’t for the internet. Look at what it’s done for him.  There are stars being developed on the internet. 

“More and more, artists are going directly to their fans. Every artist I know are selling their CD’s at their live shows. Everybody has a CD at the show. That would be what I would be doing but I would start with great material - something that is a little different – something that catches people’s hearts and minds. That’s very important. That would be the first order of business. You can’t go out and make a great movie without a great screenplay and it’s the same thing with a new artist. You can’t make a great, new artist without a cool song that breaks down the barriers.

“This is all off the top of my head – that’s what I would be doing if I were starting out today or advising new people. You also have to concentrate on the look. Not everybody can be an instant star on American Idol. Some people have to work long, hard years to develop their style, their look and their songs. It’s, like 0.1 percent of the population gets a chance on American Idol. The rest of the population has to really get out there and work the clubs and bring what they bring.  Also, have a good PR person if you can find one. It’s very important to have a good PR person when you do perform to let people know about it.”

As for the style of music that he would gravitate to if he were just starting out, Dante says, “There are great bands out there with lead singers that are writing great songs – really cool songs and are accompanying themselves really well with their bands. I would be doing a band type of thing.  Also, as a producer, I would be doing exactly what I am doing now and that’s working with younger people and older people – everybody!  That’s because there’s a market out there for everyone. I would work with teens on Disney projects, which I have. I would also work with the classics of the 60’s and 70’s who want to make new records. I would honor the music.”

I’m always curious what people have on their iPod’s that they’re listening to and I’m never afraid to ask. I asked Dante that question, expecting to hear some cool, eclectic range of music.  His answer surprised me.

“You know, I’m not listening to much lately. I’m trying to my input to a minimum since I’m producing an album. I try to keep music in my head. I haven’t been listening to a lot of music. When I do, I listen KOST (103.5 FM) which plays the greatest songs in the world. It’s a big radio station here in Los Angeles. It’s a middle of the road station. And, of course, I listen to 101 FM out here.

“When I’m at home, I’m listening to new songs from songwriters. I’m producing this incredible girl from Australia this summer and I’m now looking for songs for her. She’s kind of a Katie Perry type of artist. I’m listening to people submitting songs for her by MP3. I spend most of my day listening to those. When I have to relax, I listen to a little bit of classical music once in awhile.  That’s it. I try to keep the input a little low when I’m making an album because you don’t want to be influenced by too much. You want to go by your instincts and create a combination of things and you don’t want to be influenced by one genre or another.”

Bringing the conversation back around to our own generations, Ron adds, “When you look at the biggest tours of the last two or three years have been Paul McCartney, Simon and Garfunkel with the Everly Brothers was a huge tour. Or Carole King and James Taylor together was a huge tour. Bon Jovi, which had their biggest tour ever. And my friend, Davy Jones and the Monkee’s are regrouping and they’re doing a tour in Europe, as you know. That’s going to be a huge tour when they hit the states.”

“I just produced a single with Davy called Amoré and it’s on iTunes. It’s a really cool dance number that I did with him. He sent me a video of him at a concert with U2. Bono brings Davy up on stage a couple of years ago at Dodger Stadium, I think.  Eighty thousand people were there and the entire audience was singing Daydream Believer.  I said, ‘Look at that! Bono brings Davy up and the entire audience sings the choruses!’  The music stops and all 80,000 people were singing the chorus!  Think about that!  That audience wasn’t full of people in their 60’s. It was a cross-section of people of all ages.  I find that inspiring that music can still bring a crowd to its feet.”

As our schedules pressured us to draw our conversation to a close, I asked the legendary singer/songwriter/producer what haven’t he done yet that he would like to do, career wise?

“I’ve been very blessed and fortunate. Every dream I had as a kid came true. So, right now, I’m just doing what I love to do. There’s nothing that I haven’t done. At one point, I’d love to produce Aerosmith or the Rolling Stones.  I’d love to do a couple of records with those people or Elton John.  Faith Hill – I’d love to produce her. Those are the kind of people that I would like to work with. I’ve gotten to do a lot of what I dreamed of as a teen and young man.”

David Cassidy

Posted January, 2010

CassidyhbIf my aging, feeble memory is serving me as I hope, I was introduced to David Cassidy by way of TV.  The year was 1970 and it was during my family’s first trip to Tennessee to see family since our move to Arizona.  A bunch of family was gathered at my maternal grandparents’ house when my cousins started to excitedly chatter about the Patridge Family about to come on television.

I thought to myself, “What’s this?  My cousins would to quit playing so we can watch some dumb documentary about BIRDS???”

Silly kid.

I quickly discovered what all the fuss was about.  The show was an engaging, fun filled, innocent show about a single mom (the ever gorgeous Shirley Jones) and her singing brood of talented kids.  The eldest of these was David Cassidy and, judging by the sighs, giggles, and muffled squeals, it was apparent that he was the biggest star of the show.

Over the next four years, I had to endure the many girls of my various dreams swoon over the image and voice of Cassidy.  Yeah, as I’ve already admitted previously, I was mildly jealous of the teen heart throbs of the day and all for legitimate reasons.  That said, I quickly outgrew the jealousy, but not the healthy admiration, of Cassidy and his peers.

Many years have passed since those days.  However, Cassidy is still wowing girls of all ages by way of concerts, TV appearances, films and Broadway performances.  It was because of an upcoming concert with fellow teen idol, Davy Jones, whom I had the privilege of talking with David by phone.

Cassidy projects a warm and gracious presence over the phone.  I say this because I knew that he literally walked in to his Florida home from the airport after a long flight from LA.  And, yet, he enthusiastically obliged to the interview.


We first chatted about a friend of his (and acquaintance of mine), legendary record producer and former U.S.

manager of Apple Records, Ken Mansfield, whom I interviewed in 2009.  Ken produced an album for David that, due to corporate thick headedness, never made it to American record stores.

Mansfield said of Cassidy wrote in The White Book, “David and I had spent an intense six months together, and I don’t believe I ever enjoyed my chosen vocation more than I did when I was working with him.”

In chatting about his upcoming Dallas appearance, David relayed his last experience in the DFW Metroplex back in 1995.

“I had such an amazing experience there.  I’ve done a couple of concerts there but I also did a Broadway show, Blood Brothers, with my brother, Shaun, in Dallas in ’95, I think it was. The audiences were amazing and my fans have been fantastic.

“Because it’s been so long since I’ve done a concert there, I’m going to do, basically, a whole – I’m going to do a lot of hits - both Partridge Family and myself.  I’ve gone back and dug out the really great songs from the 70’s.  I’ll take people through a musical journey of my life.”

At this point in our conversation, Cassidy takes a surprising and entertaining turn down memory lane.

“When I was thirteen, the Beatles broke.  I got to know all of them.  I got to know John very, very well.  I played with him a couple of times.  He came over to my house and we played some great Beatles songs.  He had forgotten them – the early stuff which I had really remembered.  I’m talking about Meet the Beatles and The Beatles Second Album.

“You know, when you’re thirteen and I saw them on the Ed Sullivan Show, like a million other guys, I went out and bought an electric guitar – like the next DAY!  I started playing in bands and garage bands through junior high and high school.  It was such an amazing, musical time.

“I also played with Paul once.  They were doing their final dress rehearsal for their Wings Over America tour (spanning 1975 and 1976). They did it for me and my guitar player.  They were in Paris at the time, rehearsing and I got to hang out and play a bit.

“But I got to know John really well.  I really think his spirit and his impact on the planet was so great.  I truly believe that he had more to do with changing the world and was willing to die for what he believed in.  He was just lambasted by the media and the press when they did the Bed-In; Nixon wanted to deport him.  But he was such incredibly inspirational guy – hysterically funny and amazingly bright.  They (The Beatles) all did – but he had such an incredible impact on me.”

Later in our conversation, I brought the subject of Lennon back up.  I asked him what his reaction was and what went through his mind and emotions when John was killed.  I could tell that Cassidy genuinely felt angst and pain as he recalled that horrible night in December, 1980.

“I got on an airplane and flew back to New York for reasons that are personal.  I didn’t want his funeral to be a circus.  I spent some time with Yoko at their apartment with a mutual friend of ours.  I spent a couple of days there.  It was, for me, a very personal thing.  I actually never talked about it because I talk about him and his life as opposed to the tragedy.

“But I miss his voice.  And I mean his voice, now more than ever, his belief in ‘All you need is love.  Love is all you need and all we’re saying is give peace a chance.’”  Trying to choke back tears, David continues, “And his commitment to that was a real and genuine as anyone as I had ever known.  I think he had a lot to do with changing the world and its perception.  He was a tremendous spirit.”

However, well before the emotional remembrance of his late friend, he excitedly shared his musical influences and memories, he lists a “who’s who” of rock royalty.

“I saw Hendrix when I was a kid FOUR times.  I saw Clapton and Cream.  I think it was the last show they did.  The live version of Crossroads – I think I was there for that legendary, incredible performance of Crossroads.  I saw THAT SHOW.  They did two nights.  I believe that was the last show they ever did until a couple of years ago when they got back together and played Royal Albert Hall. That’s gotta be, shew, forty years ago!”

As if to snap back from memory lane, David seamlessly brings the conversation back to his upcoming Dallas appearance.

“I might take people back to when John and I first got together and played.  Anyway, I might take them all through that and up through my last platinum album.  I’ll do a couple of my remixes from two years ago which I premiered on Oprah.  It was February two years ago and my album went to number one on Amazon the next day.  The impact of Oprah is quite remarkable.

“I just came off of doing a television series with my brothers, Ruby and the Rockets.  I cut down a lot of the dates because of my work back in television and I’ve moved back out to L.A.   I’m going to start doing a feature film – really a great script.  I’ve only done three features in my life – I’m talking about theatrical releases.  So, we shall see how it goes.  It’s the first show of the year for me and I’m very excited to do it.

“I did a show last year with Davy Jones, which was really successful.  He’s going to open for me and do the first half.  God knows, he really surprised me.  We forget that the Monkees had an awful lot of hits.  His shows are REALLY good. I think a lot of the audience – they were from the 60’s and mine are from the 70’s.  I think the audience will be filled with a night of incredible high energy.

“I’m chomping at the bit to get back and do it.  With all of the work and being in Los Angeles, I haven’t performed, I think, since the first weekend in December so it’s been a while.  I’ve got a lot of different sets that I do.  Every show I do different.  I don’t have any set pattern.  Who knows?  I may do a little bit of blues since I’ll be in Texas.  I’ll do some acoustic stuff.

I’ve learned from Cassidy and others that he is quite the equestrian.  I got the impression from him that, aside from his career and his family, that horses are the next thing nearest and dearest to his heart.

“Oh yeah!  I raise and breed thoroughbred race horses.  I’ve been doing that for over thirty years.  I race in New York.  I’ve got one in Louisiana at the fairgrounds that actually is going to start tomorrow.  He’s going to make his first start.

“But I’ve been breading and racing almost exclusively for the last ten years in New York.  I’ve been the leading breeder by percentage of stakes winners and average earnings although I don’t have anywhere near the kind of earning that some of the big farms do.  I have a small breeding operation with six or seven mares.  It’s been a real passion of mine, too.”

Ever the gentleman, David Cassidy brings the conversation back around his appreciation for Dallas.  He starts off by saying, “I am genuinely, genuinely excited about going back to Dallas.”  Then, switching gears, he tells a story about one of his last visits to the Metroplex.

“I had come from Detroit.  It was, like, 37 degrees and freezing in Detroit.  I got there (to Dallas) and it’s, like, 89!  And this beautiful, BEAUTIFUL girl, who was working for the promoter and producer, greeted me.  She said (and he puts on his best genuinely Southern, make that, Dallas, accent), “Hi, David!  Welcome to Dallas!”  It was 89 degrees and we’ve got gloves on.  It was night and day!  So, I have great memories of Dallas.

“I’ve played the Houston Astrodome.  I played a big Reunion Arena there in Dallas.  I’ve heard fantastic things about the Nokia Theater so I’m looking forward to playing there.  We’re going to try to blow the roof off of that place when we come down.”

THEN, he dropped this little teaser that I don’t think anyone has heard yet.

“My brother, Shaun, actually may come.  I don’t know for sure.”

You heard it here first, Dallasites.  If you were contemplating buying tickets for the Cassidy/Jones show, there MIGHT be an extra added bonus.  I dunno.  I’m just saying.

With our conversation about to wrap up, I asked Cassidy if there was anything unique or special that was going to be offered at the souvenir tables in the lobby.  His answer floored me.

“I think the experience itself – for me – it’s a celebration.”  Clearly, for Cassidy, it’s about the fans and the memories.  Isn’t that what it’s all about?

To relive your teenage thrills, catch David Cassidy in concert at a venue near you.  His tour schedule is available at www.davidcassidy.com.

Ken Corday

Posted August, 2010

KenCorday001Corday Ken Corday with Alison Sweeney (L) and Kristian Alfonso Photo Courtesy of ©jpistudios.comMy first few years of life were spent in the states of Tennessee, Florida, Alabama and Texas. Whether my playtime was on the rolling hills of Tennessee and Alabama or the sandy beaches of Florida, there was one thing I could almost always count on: My mom stopping whatever she was doing so that she could watch her “stories”.

Now, in my childish southern lexicon, “stories” had several meanings.  One meaning of the word, of course, was something that would be told or read to me at bed time.  Another meaning of “story” was a sugarcoated word for telling a lie. For instance, if I ate a cookie when I was told not to, and, when asked if I ate one, I said I didn’t, my mom would ask (knowing the answer), “Randy, are you telling me a story?”  You get the picture.

Finally, “story” is often used by the broadest cross-section of America to refer to daytime soap operas.  Soap operas was what Mom was talking about.  I believe that every mom and housewife in the country would pop up their ironing boards, fire up the iron, and watch their favorite “stories” while pressing pants and shirts with the grand finale being the sound of Faultless Spray-On Starch sizzling as it was being pressed into our clothes.

By the way, the commercial that I just hyperlinked to was so convincing to me that, while my mom left the room during a commercial break from one of her “stories”, I tried spraying stars out of her can of Faultless Spray-On Starch.  Nothing.  It must have been how I was holding the can.

Back to the “stories”.

One of the giants of daytime soaps, both in those by-gone days of the sixties as well as today, was (and is) Days of our Lives.  Even now, as I evoke the name of that monster hit program, the majestic, authoritative voice of Days’ late cast member, Macdonald Carey, gently echoes in my brain, “Like sands through the hourglass . . . so are the days of our lives.”

Days of our Lives debuted 45 years ago this November. I didn’t stutter: Yes, I said, “45 years ago”.  Let that sink in for just a moment or two.  The show was created by Ted and Betty Corday , Irna Phillips and Allan Chase. Sadly, Ted Corday passed away before the show completed its first year on the air.  Betty Corday helped lead the show to incredible ratings popularity.  In the late seventies, Ted and Betty’s youngest son, Ken began his work on the show by writing music for it.  He learned about production along the way, eventually earning the Associate Producer slot and then ultimately took over the reins of the show when his mom felt that she was no longer strong enough to produce the show.Ken Corday has recently published a book about the history and family (both cast and “blood”) that have been or are currently involved in the iconic TV drama,  entitled The Days of our Lives: The True Story Of One Family’s Dream And The Untold History Of Days Of Our Lives. While I admit that I’ve never had the opportunity to be a regular viewer of daytime soaps, I was very intrigued by the engrossing history of the show (as well as of him and his family) that Mr. Corday shares in his book.

One of the stories that I was naturally intrigued by involves Ken’s band, Lucky Mud. that he played drums in.    I asked Ken what it was like opening for Jimi Hendrix in Hawaii in 1970 and for more details about it.

“Well, I hate to use the phrase ‘out of body experience’ because the band had moved to Hawaii approximately three months before, playing with some ‘name’ groups over there like Quicksilver Messenger Service and Buddy Miles’ band – which was then called ‘The Buddy Miles Band’ before it was called A Band of Gypsys. That’s how we got to meet Jimi Hendrix.  We played with Buddy on July 4th and word got around. Then Hendrix came and played in Hawaii – I believe that it was on August 2nd or 3rd, 1970 and the concert promoter booked us as the opening act – the only other act on the bill.

“So, you can imagine playing what was then called the Honolulu International Center – HIC – it’s some other name now. It’s the biggest concert venue in Honolulu .  We got to spend some time with him when he arrived during sound check and after sound check.  Then we played.  It was an amazing hour because we hadn’t played in front of that many people.  You can imagine that many people coming to a Jimi Hendrix concert – the level of their intoxication or drug influence.  It was pretty much as high as it was going to be – or, at least, getting there – so we had a captive audience, so to speak.

“He looked like any guy coming in off of a golf course when we saw him  before the show – a golf shirt, white Levi’s, VERY short, black hair.  We went back into the dressing room before he went on and he put on the big afro and all the rainbow colors  . . . “

It was at that point that I had to interrupt Ken.  Hendrix wore a wig?

“At that time it was a wig. Yeah, he went on and he played for over two hours. As I said in the book, it was the most " allowtransparency="no" width="120" height="240">remarkable performance I had ever seen – before or after – from any musician – classical included. The energy he exuded was incredible and to do it with just a trio and to play for that long  . . . we were literally stage right and stage left watching.  I remember looking at our guitarist and he couldn’t close his mouth. Jimi Hendrix could do so many things with a guitar. He had amazing physical ability.  He had very large hands. He was able to use his thumb to play the bass line, chord with his three fingers and trill with his pinky.

“But he was a very soft-spoken fella. After the concert was over, we talked to him and our guitarist gave him this peacock feather, of all things.  He was into the Hare Krishna thing. Jimi said, ‘Hey, thanks, man!’ and he laid it on top of his Stratocaster and closed the case. The next day he was on his way to England to play the Isle of Wight concert the last week of August and he was dead almost three weeks after that.”

We continued discussing our classic rock roots, chatting about icons like Janis Joplin, the Stones and many others.  Corday opined, “I think it was the seminal moment in changing rock and roll from, say, 1964, not including the advent of the British invasion but what happened to rhythm and blues rock and roll in this country – moving into a different place – first in L.A., really, and then in San Francisco.

“You know, I don’t think anyone will ever get close to Janis Joplin for female blues singer. I remember watching her jump in what was then the pool in front of the stage at the Hollywood Bowl, mic in hand. Those years – I would say 1966 thru ’70 – spawned so many amazing groups that then continued to influence music. Well, there was a strange period called ‘disco’ but after that went away, that influence was still there AND is still there today.”

Wrapping up the subject of music, I asked why he got drifted away from rock music.

“Well, funny that you should ask.  Coming out of that period – I talk about it in the book – from ’70 to ’73, the band came back to California and knocked around.  Rock and roll had kind of the fatal shot fired at Altamont and just faded out in the next three years. I found myself in ’73 without the real musical knowledge to do what I wanted to do except play the drums. So, I was fortunate enough to enter the University of California in Santa Cruz in ’73 and graduated from there in ’75. I went to graduate school at San Jose State and graduated in 1977 with a Masters in Music and was going to teach composition because that is what I always wanted to do.

“You know, percussion performance is somewhat limiting but I always had the desire to write so I learned how to write for the entire symphony orchestra in those four years.  That was it!  That was what I was going to do and happy doing – write symphonies and concertos and a song or two here and there.  As luck would have it, I came to Los Angeles in the summer – I believe it was the summer of ’77 and met the music director of Days – I should say ‘dated’ the music director of the show.

“She said, ‘Well, why don’t you write a few music queues for the show?’ The rest is history.”

Corday joined the Days staff somewhat reluctantly.  However, he did so out of love and support for his mother.  I asked Ken if he ever looked back after making that decision and wished he had stayed in the music business.

“I never looked back because, of course, this is an amazingly larger pond down here than in the academic world. But, the grace of it all – my mental health break, so to speak – is that I still write all the music for the show unless we license a song from a popular artist. So, being able to go into a recording studio two or three times a week in the afternoon and either pen or score a song for the show  keeps my hand in that (music). Things have changed over the last 30 years of writing music for daytime television. 

“So, in direct answer to your question: no, I never really looked back and went, ‘Darn! I should’ve stayed in school!’” Concluding his answer with a chuckle, Corday adds, “Actually, in hindsight, I’m glad I didn’t because at 27, with all of those beautiful, young coeds and being a professor, I probably would have found myself married and divorced a few times.”

I commented that my mom would say when I was a little kid, “It’s time for me to watch my stories.” Ken enthusiastically pipes in by saying, “Oh, I know! And I think it’s such an apt thing to say because I hear it all through the nation – rural and urban – ‘I want to watch my story.’ And that’s what it’s about.  People don’t want to see one actor or one set. They want to watch ‘the story’ and if the story is not there, the viewers aren’t there. If the story is there – and I hate to say this, but – no matter how terrible the acting may be, they (the viewers) are still with us. The acting is important. I shouldn’t diminish that but stories are what drive daytime drama.”

With its remarkable ability to stay on the air with an incredibly loyal fan base, I asked Ken what he felt is the single biggest attribute or reason why the show has been so successful and has had the staying power that it has.

“It’s simple. Again, my mother’s lesson to me was it’s about the ‘story’. You’re only really as good as last week’s ratings. You can’t rest on your laurels.  But, directly, it’s about family values. I’m sure that all of the other shows would say this but this show, more than any others, still has the founding family at its center – the Hortons and two other families, now, over the last 35 or 40 years: the Bradys and the evil DiMeras. But, more than anything, it’s about family values, the redemptive power of love and, to be honest with you, we deal with the Deity on this show – much more than any others.  We take flack for it from certain of the less religious groups but I believe that it’s an important part of the show. It’s referenced right back to the opening couplet, ‘Like sands through the hourglass, so are the days of our lives” - I believe that is the second or third  to last line of the 23rd Psalm.

“So, whether subtle or not, whether people cop to it or not, it’s there. We try to keep our pulse more on the mainstream --- what is really the quiet, common person in this country as opposed to the outspoken Conservative or Liberal.”

Is Corday saying that faith and the family values stance has been the one constant throughout the life of the show?

“That is the one constant. It also holds true behind the scenes.  What I call our ‘Days family’ – the crew, the cast, the staff .– they know – how do I put this - that I ‘have their back’.  This is the only one hour soap opera that’s family run – it’s a family business.  The others are owned by ABC or Sony. Bill Bell did start The Bold and the Beautiful and kept that one in the family but, again, it’s a half-hour show. I don’t know if the same thing is going on with their set. But, yes, that’s what has kept us together: a belief that in loving the genre and loving the work we have to do every day and loving each other, there’s something greater than the sum of all of the parts.”

In order for the show to survive for 45 years, Corday most definitely had to make sure the show adapted to the plethora of changes that have bombarded the genre over the years.  I asked him what was the biggest of those changes.

“That’s a VERY interesting question and is somewhat tough.  I would just have to ‘knee-jerk’. I’d have to say the financial changes – hopefully, you won’t see it on screen.  We used to be able to do the show five years ago any way we wanted to – all hours of the night.  Lavish exteriors.  Lavish locations. Because of the constraints of the economy, we’re dealing with a budget, now, that is less than half of what it used to be.  I don’t think it shows on screen as much as it does with whom we cast.

“So, the thing that has changed most is the economy and the networks’ desire for paying top dollar for a soap opera. In the nineties, the joke was that Days of our Lives and the Jay Leno Show – and, before that, the Johnny Carson Show – paid the rent at NBC and allowed them to do all of the pilots that never went on the air. That really isn’t the case as much today.  However, last year, we were the only show on the network that showed growth. They don’t want to admit that but they’re happy to admit that in front of their advertisers when they sell time for the next year.

“So, yeah, that is the biggest change and it certainly affects my job daily.  How do we make the same product every day for half as much?  I think ‘downsizing’, unfortunately, is the word. We still want the show to seem larger than life.  It can’t be the news.  It can’t be public service.

“I see other soap operas get stuck in that rut. ‘Let’s do something that’s topical or public service oriented; do something current.’ I think that you lose the fantasy. It’s about romance. Period.  Our show is about romance.  You can call it anything else but it’s about watching two people fall in love for the first time or the first time again after 25 years. That’s what makes it go.”

The business geek in me couldn’t help but ask Ken if he saw signs of the economic pressures turning around so that you can go back to the way it was producing shows or was the proverbial genie out of the bottle.

“It’s hard to say. I have very optimistic feelings – and, certainly, more optimistic associates that believe – that soaps MIGHT make a comeback. My feeling is that the genie really is out of the bottle. Once the network gets something, they are very, very much chagrined to give it back. We deal with what we deal with today. My job is to keep the show on the air year-to-year or, in some cases, 18 months to two years at a time and let all of the employees know that they don’t have to look over their shoulder every year.”

Corday starts his book with a tragic “bang”, literally, and shares his heart as to how that event impacted his late brother. Near the end of the book, he shares a great story as to how he obtained closure with his brother’s passing.  I asked Ken what he says to people who have family or friends who are suffering as his brother did and what advice does he have for them.

“Well, the first advice that I give them is to not keep it in the closet. Mental illness is something in the country that is swept under the carpet - kept in the closet. ‘Oh, there’s nothing wrong with him or her. They’re just having a bad week.’ Or, ‘It’s just the affects of this, that or the other thing.’ We’ve come miles in the last ten years in medical treatment for mental illness.  Yet, it’s still that six or eight inches between our ears that’s still the new frontier – the unknown.

“So, the advice that I would give to someone who has a family member who’s suffering from this is, a) EXTREME patience. B) Faith.  Whether it’s through a psychologist, a therapist, a minister or priest, try to believe or reach out for this person – for themselves - through faith. And, C), most importantly, don’t hide it because, with hiding it, the same wound scabs over and over. It needs to be cleaned out.

“This was the case with my brother.  My parents really, really never had to look square in the face how ill – how tragically ill – he was.  I dealt with that in the three years after my mother died to the point that it was dangerous to have him around my family. My wife was afraid of him for her sake and the children’s sake. This is the case with someone who is paranoid-schizophrenic or severely manic-depressive.  You know, one day or another, it can be night or day – a totally different person.

“Bottom line: Don’t give up hope. Hemmingway said it best.  ‘I’m not hopeless as long as I have hope. The day I don’t have hope, you’ll know it damn quick.’ And he did.  He certainly did.  Without hope we have nothing. That’s what people have to hold on to. There IS light at the end of the tunnel with ALL mental illness. Some people would say that I’m extremely naïve or ridiculously optimistic to say that but it’s not as terminal as some might think, you know?  The day that my brother was diagnosed, it was as terminal as having cancer only there was no period of time.  It could be a year or it could be twenty years, as it was with my brother. But that’s not the case these days.”

Moved both by Ken’s comments and the stories about his brother that he shares in the book, I commented that I think the book will be a helpful read to those who have family members who suffer from mental illness. His humility and sincerity was clear in his response.

“Thank you very much.  To me, that was the most curious thing in the way this book resonated was that I had a number of psychologists, talks shows, radio shows call me – not to talk about Days of Our Lives but to talk about this very issue.  If I can be of any help to anyone by writing about it, then it’s extremely gratifying.”

Shifting my emotional gears to a lighter speed, I bring up the hysterical story Corday tells in the book about Andrew Masset being accosted in the produce department of a grocery store by a lady with a zucchini.  I asked him if he felt that much of the viewing audience has a hard time separating life from art.

“I think that because we have  a shrinking world, more of an informational world these days, it’s not as much as we would see in the seventies or eighties. People are less naïve no matter how far into rural U.S.A. they are.  Yet, I still see it. I still see, at fan events, crazy fans just run up to the actors, refer to them by their character name and say they want to have their baby, et cetera, et cetera. And they’re completely in earnest about it!

“The eye opener was in New Orleans, I believe in 1983 or 1982, with our two characters, Bo and Hope, who were very young then.  We landed at the airport there and there were ten thousand people waiting. Fire Marshalls were beside themselves and all the crowd wanted to do was see this couple. And it was the same. “Oh, Bo, I want to have your baby!” or, “Hope, will you marry me?”

Ken shares a couple of incredible paranormal events that happened in the studio; one involving Deidre Hall and the prop man, Bob Bateman, and the other having to do with an apparition that he and the cast felt was Macdonald Carey. When you read about those events, you’ll swear that they could have been right out of the show’s script.  I asked Corday how he interpreted those events and, “We have a celebratory pictorial coffee table book coming out the first of November for the 45th anniversary It’s beautiful because the pictures are not what you would call ‘posed pictures’. They’re a behind the scenes look at mostly cast and crew. So, people are allowed inside the walls of the studio.

“We have three romance novels that are extended stories of very popular characters who are no longer on the show. ‘What happened to . . . Jack and Jennifer, Deidre Hall’, etc, etc, etc. written by our former head writer. And, then, I have a work of fiction – my first work of fiction, good lord! – that will be out next May.”

After our conversation, reflecting as I always do after an interview, I was struck but the sheer calm and serenity that Ken Corday projected over the phone.  I can imagine how much more warmth would permeate the room if I were meeting him in person.  Despite incredible pressures from all directions because of the crushing responsibilities he carries for the show and its cast and crew, he is calm.  Despite the pain of losing his father while young, losing his loving mother or the trauma and challenges of coping with  and then tragically losing his brother, Corday exemplifies a peacefulness rarely seen in the world today.

That’s my kind of story.

Jonathan Cain

Posted February/March, 2011

1cainathomePhoto Courtesy of Jonathan CainIf you are into rock music at all, then, in all likelihood, you’re more than aware of the incredible musical legacy of Journey.  How many school dances in the late 70’s and throughout the 80’s played such great slow dance songs as Faithfully and Open Arms?

In their concerts, these songs and many, many others are greeted with squeals of approval and delight at the very opening piano riffs on those songs as well as on Who’s Crying Now.  The closest that I came to ever experiencing anything close to that reaction was the shrieks of horror during my piano recital performances.

But that’s a whole story of its own.

Always a huge Journey fan, my daughter bought me the Journey: Live In Houston 1981 Escape Tour DVD this past Christmas.  I smiled as I enjoyed the performances and remembered all the thoughts and memories their treasure chest of musical gems brought to mind.  Gems that drove worldwide sales of their albums to over 75 million. What also came to mind is the idea of chatting with one of the boys in the band.

I tracked down Journey keyboardist and co-writer of many of the band’s hits, Jonathan Cain.  He was gracious enough to grant me a phone interview. I was especially flattered that he would spend a considerable amount of time on the phone immediately after spending an hour in the dentist’s chair near his home in the Nashville, Tennessee, area.

After living in California for 30 years, Jonathan, his wife, Liz, and his three children, Madison, Weston and Liza, moved to Nashville late last year.  I go to the Bay Area a couple of times a year on business and, while I do find that part of the country absolutely beautiful and vibrant, I must confess that I left my heart in Nashville long ago.    I started our chat about what prompted his move to God’s favorite city.

 “Well, you know, I’ve been coming here since 2000 – writing with different people and we made a lot of friends in the last 10 years.  My daughter’s doing a recording down here.  We have this friend that was writing and I heard her (his daughter) sing country and I said, ‘My god, you’ve gotta sing country!’ because she’s got a great voice.  She was messing around with different styles and I heard her sing Redneck Woman and it was like, ‘Girl! This is your deal!’

“I wanted to get her in the studio right away so we did. She cut a couple of sides and we kept coming. Then, I got her into the songwriting room.  Now, she’s seventeen.  She auditioned for Capitol records a couple of days ago, so it’s pretty serious. We’ve got a couple of other labels and some other people interested in her.  She’s got a Carrie Underwood kind of thing going on.  She’s into the progressive country – kind of ‘crossover’ country.  She has a very strong voice and she writes some good songs.  She’s been fortunate enough to get into some songwriting sessions.  I’m getting a few licks in myself.”

Bringing the subject back around to why he moved to Nashville, Cain said, “I started in Nashville back in ’69 with Buddy Killen (the late, legendary producer and publisher). He signed me to Dial Records. I just had a singles deal down here. I kind of come full circle by coming back here.  Plus, I guess we kind of wore out our welcome in the Bay Area. It used to be such a vibrant, musical community and I think it’s kind of missing there.”

However, there was more than just the change in the music scene that compelled Cain to move his family to the Volunteer State.

“The whole school thing there (in the Bay Area) wasn’t so good and we knew that the schools are great here. You just know when it’s time. I just wrote a song about it – about leaving a place and just knowing that it’s time to go. I’d been there 30 years so my kids were all excited about meeting some new friends and getting the heck out of where they were. I guess we needed a life change and now we’re getting snowed on!”  With a laugh he adds, “They say that an ice age is coming and I believe them!  That’s what everybody’s saying – it’s not global warming – it’s the ice age!”

As a die-hard Nashville fan myself, I’ve been to the town several times and found how “celebrity friendly” it is compared to, say, Los Angeles, where there seems to be paparazzi behind every bush . . . or Bentley, so to speak.  Cain’s response reflected a refreshing matter-of-fact humility that permeated the rest of our chat.

“It is cool. I don’t have to worry about that, being a keyboard player. It’s a different way of life. I find people here are accountable citizens for people who live here.  It’s like a welcoming spirit – more than ever. It used to be, ‘Californian’s, go home!’ but I think they see that the changes are cool. The town really has a lot of culture and it has a conscience. I love the writers that are here and to get the opportunity to sit down and to sing with these great songwriters.

“I did a show on (satellite radio) XM with Jonathan Singleton, who wrote Red Light for David Nail. The opportunities you get are just incredible. I did a show with J.D. Souther and Brett James at Tin Pan South last year. So, it’s pretty cool to kind of sit in. My daughter (Madison) and I will do gigs. I’ll sit in at Puckett’s or the Blue Bird with her. Just the other day, she was asked to sing on a David Nail record.  That will be her first background on a big time record. So, yeah, you just get opportunities here that you never have in California.

“We got to go to the CMA awards together. My daughter has a website (www.madisoncain.com) and she’s tweeting all the time. She got to go down the red carpet at the CMA’s and she drug me along. She actually had a little feature on the E! Channel. It was ‘Rock Dads and Their Daughters’. They interviewed me, her and the family. It was a pretty good little blurb for her.”

One thing that many Journey fans may not be aware of is that Cain is quite the wine expert.  My pre-interview research uncovered the fact that Jonathan moved from an expert wine connoisseur to a successful entrepreneur of higher end wine.  Cain explained his venture to me.

“I’m sort of a wine savant. I go out and find the best grapes I can and make really high quality juice. We get a lot of money for it - $50 to $60 a bottle. I really like great wine. The wine I make is not for everybody. You have to have a palette to spend that kind of money on wine.

“I’m a ‘virtual winer’.  I don’t really have my own vineyard, per se. I get grapes from cool places and make the wine. I only do a couple of hundred cases a year. I do business here in Nashville and am trying to break out in Atlanta with it.  I’m trying to get into Chicago. I partnered with Horizon Wine and Spirits here. But that’s it. We have fun.  I like wine making and I think they’re (Horizon) awesome people. We have a lot in common.”

One of the tragedies in Chicago history took place on December 1, 1958.  A fire broke out at Our Lady of the Angels grade school, killing 3 nuns and 92 children.  From the research I conducted on the sad tragedy, families moved away, divorces destroyed several marriages of the parents of the victims, and emotional scars remained on all who were touched by the fire.

One of the children who was at school that day was Jonathan Cain.  The fire obviously had a tremendous impact on young Jonathan and was instrumental in leading him to immerse himself into music.  It’s against that backdrop that Cain uses to write a book.  I asked Jonathan about the yet-to-be published tome.

“It’s a memoir.  I end the book where I’m about thirteen years old. It’s about nine years of my life that I spent in Chicago. The new consensus is to finish the story and tell everybody how I got into Journey.  I don’t know. I’m going to give it a shot in the next couple of months. It’s called Mixed Blessings. I’m probably going to self-publish. It’s been a labor of love. I’ve been at it for four or five years. I’ve got some interest. I’ve got to keep going at it. The book business is in bad shape right now. It’s not good. So, the audio books are a good way to go. There are some more meetings we’re going to have next month. So, we’ll see. At this stage of the game it’s just a neat thing to be able to say you did.”

 “I was in a school fire back in ’58 where a hundred kids were killed and three nuns.  It’s telling the story of that neighborhood and how music really saved my life – from going insane. It helped me out a lot. I’m an old accordion player. We didn’t get any grief counseling or anything like that. I think that getting that squeeze box helped me get my mind straight. It’s really about the love affair I have with music.”

Cain continued, explaining how he got into songwriting.

“It was challenging. I wrote my first song in 8th grade. I had a piano teacher who saw something in me and challenged me. She was actually the music teacher at school – she taught choir. I wanted to get off the accordion and start playing the piano. So, she came to the house and gave me lessons. She said, ‘You have a good imagination with your music. You should try to write a song.

“So, we had this school play – an 8th grade play – so she said, ‘I want to leave a spot in that play for your song.’ So, I was on the spot to write the song. I wrote the song about a little girl that I had a crush on. I got up there and sang it and played it. It was copyrighted and the whole deal. That was the beginning. But it wasn’t easy. I was going to school and I was interested in the writing part – and my dad thought I could do it – so I kept writing, trying to get songs done.

“Then, when I was playing in clubs, we had a little slush fund that we saved money for studio time.  After about a year and a half or two years, we had enough money to go into the studio so that drove me to come up with ten songs. We went into a studio down in Pekin, Illinois, and recorded these songs I had written. I had been going downtown to see this guy, Bill Trout, from RCA. He would see me at the end of the day and listen to my songs and critique them and help me. I kind of had a mentor there. I was really fortunate to have him because he was big time – for Chicago, anyway. He was a producer and had his own production company.

“So, we made this little demo. The studio owner was sending tapes around to different people. He was quite a cool dude. He sent my demo to Buddy Killen – a big time producer and publisher – and that’s why I came here (to Nashville) in ’69 and did two or three sides with him.  We had about three years together, coming down here and doing that.

“That was my first plane flight. I got on an airplane to Nashville from Chicago and signed a record deal. My dad was with me. He was kind of my Svengali. Dad was always believing that good things were on the horizon with me. He pretty much was my cheerleader in rock for me.

“I always tell kids when I give seminars that you have to have a ‘vision keeper’. Somebody that buys into your plan and believe in what you want to do.  He (Jonathan’s dad) was that for me. I was blessed to have a vision keeper who was my own father.  In his mind, I was always going to be a success no matter what happened. No matter how dark or shadowy the thing got – and it certainly got like that a few times.  We thought we were off to a roaring start, getting signed at 19.  Then, it was just harder than hell after that.

“We slugged it out. Ended up on American Bandstand – went to L.A.  It was funny.  I had a friend who had seen the band. He liked our songs and liked what I was writing. He said, ‘You should come to L.A.’ It turned out that his partner was managing Wolfman Jack and they signed me as a solo artist. So, I moved to L.A. and slugged around there for awhile – hung out with Wolfman.  We got a little indie to sign us and had a Top 40 record in L.A. called Until It’s Time To Say Goodbye.  Then, I got on Dick Clark. Wolfman knew him and Dick Clark wanted somebody different. I was on the show with Natalie Cole – 1976. It was a pretty big break for me but it didn’t matter much having a single out in L.A. on the L.A. charts didn’t mean much so I still ended up doing gigs. That kind of went by the wayside. I kept going out with my band and playing different places and continuing to right a little more rock stuff.

“We were seen by Albert Grossman, who was Bob Dylan’s manager and Janis Joplin and Albert signed me to Bearsville in ’76 or ’77. I made an album in Bearsville called Windy City Breakdown. That didn’t go so good. Everything went wrong that could go wrong. Albert said, ‘Oh, come to Bearsville.’ And, I said, ‘Why can’t we just do it here? It would be so much easier.’ We had several studios we could have done it at.  We could have done it for nothing, you know?  But he was insistent that we go all the way up to Woodstock and record this thing.

“We went there and the studio was in shambles. Nothing worked.  The air conditioning was out and it was the dead of summer, out in the middle of forests. The place was haunted.  We were like, ‘What the hell?’  Everything that could possibly go wrong went wrong.  Tape machines breaking. Counts were going out. Not having enough tape. So, we would make little trips to New York City and party, trying to make the best of it. We were far from focused. You take city boys and bring them out into the woods and they go nuts.

“He (Grossman) got me to the Chateau Marmont and he said, ‘You made a piece of crap album.’ First he got me stoned – good and high – and then he told me that he didn’t like my record and he wasn’t going to put it out. So, I stormed out, telling him, basically, to stick it you-know-where. I got my lawyer and said, ‘I want the album coming out.’”

“We printed five thousand of them and made them put it out. And, nothing happened. Then, I got dropped from that shortly after.  I got to make a demo that was fun – with some of the Toto guys.  I got close to getting some interest but they didn’t want to know about it.”

While Cain was one of the few people to successfully flex his muscle against the notorious manager, the experience left him disillusioned about the music business.

“I quit the business for about two years and sold stereos in L.A. I just kind of had it. My dad was, like, ‘Well, you gotta do what you gotta do.’ I remember I had Manpower gigs where I would stack beer – Budweiser. I would do anything to get my mind off of show business. I continued to write songs in my apartment there.

“Then, I got a phone call from some guy that found me that wanted to write with me. I said, ‘Well, sure.’ I went over to his house. He had been writing with Fleetwood Mac. His name is Robbie Patton. We wrote a couple of cool songs. He was telling me about this audition for this band called The Baby’s. He said, ‘You know, you’re a rocker. You should really go there.’ I go, ‘I don’t know. Maybe.’  He said, ‘Well, show up for the audition and see what happens.’

“So, I did. It was a song I had written, really, that I think got me the gig. It was called Stick To Your Guns. I wrote it for my dad because that was his war cry.  When I would call him up and borrow money from him, that was the last thing he would always say to me, ‘Stick to your guns.’

“The audition went well but it was the song that stuck in their head.  So, I was the Stick To Your Guns guy. They had auditioned 40 people.  These guys (The Baby’s) were completely in debt.  It was just John (Waite), Wally (Stocker) and Tony (Brock).  They had been through it already in L.A.  They had a manager that just completely buried them.  They did a 99 city tour and he let them live like rock stars. They had roadies from England and rental cars.  After a year or two of that, you’re buried in red.

“I got the gig.  They called me a month later. I must have went back about six times and jammed with them and played with them.  The next thing I know, I was flying off to Amsterdam to do TV shows with them because they had just released Head First. Hanging out with John and those guys was really cool because they were really the rock and roll that I always wanted to know about. John had that voice. I wished that I could sing like John. He had a swagger about him that he taught me. I learned a lot him and those guys real quick – how to be a pro and how to act like a pro; how to do an interview.”

After the proper grooming, Cain’s education into the rough and tumble world of rock and roll went to the next level.  While the lessons learned were invaluable, the expected big payoff didn’t happen.

“We went on tour with Alice Cooper. That was an awesome tour, meeting Alice and his wife. He flew us around on his plane and pretty much treated us gold plated. Being around him is an honor because he’s a legend. It was the Welcome To My Nightmare tour. So it was me up there opening up with The Baby’s and Alice.  The Baby’s had been doing a bunch of Midnight Specials for (Burt) Sugerman back in L.A. We were almost like the house band for Wolfman. He was so proud of me because he had seen me kick around in L.A. When he found out I got the gig, he always had us on it seemed like. God bless Wolfman!

“It was cool.  We were just kind of bubbling under but we just couldn’t seem to get over the hump – so in debt and selling records but not really getting air play to sell enough to go platinum – you know, break the big one. I guess Midnight Rendezvous was the biggest record we had after those ballads that they had out and they didn’t even write them.  These two guys wrote them – (Jack) Conrad and Raymond Kennedy – these two songwriters from L.A.  They had worked with (Ron) Nevison, so we branched away from that Nevison thing and worked with Keith Olsen. So, we made a new album with Keith called Union Jacks.

“Then Chrysalis (The Baby’s label) wanted my publishing. I’m like, ‘No, you can’t have my publishing. I’m only making $250 a week.’ So, I had to get a lawyer to slug it out with Chrysalis and we won and I kept it.  I was fortunate – not unfortunate as with John, who they had a lien on. They had John’s publishing. It was one of those deals like with The Police. I felt bad for John because, even when he left us and went to EMI, Chrysalis was there attaching his new deal.

“Anyway, we had some success with Union Jacks. Union Jacks was what got me into Journey.  Journey always was kind of progressive. They heard the Union Jacks album and loved it so they wanted us to open for them. So, we showed up in San Diego and began a tour with them – 50 cities or so. I’d get to watch them every night. I started hanging out, watching the band because I was kind of curious as to what their deal was. I really liked the pieces. I liked Steve Perry voice. I liked Neal’s guitar playing. The fans were just unbelievable. They just loved that band.

“We used to open every night. We’d do our little 40 minute set and they’d get up there and figure out how to follow us.  So, they kept changing their set around. And, finally, they hit on this much more Spartan rock and roll set than what they were doing. They really started tearing it up.

“After the shows, Neal and I would go out drinking and jamming. John Waite would go out with us on some nights and Ricky Phillips, our bass player. Sometimes, Steve Perry would show up. We’d stick him on the drums and then we’d do all these old Motown/Wilson Pickett songs – all this old stuff and just have a good ol’ time.  Neal and I got going with each other and he would go, ‘Wow, I didn’t know you knew all those chords!’ and we’d get pretty out there and start fusing.

Taking the conversation off course just a bit, I asked Jonathan what he feels is the most positive change in the record business that has taken place.

“I guess digital downloads, really. The internet is somewhat honest now. You still have the sharing sites that you can’t stop – the Limelighters and stuff. I think iTunes and the iPhone have really revolutionized music in the way it’s played. The fact that Don’t Stop Believing is number two in the most downloaded songs is still outrageous to me.  We get compensated for the downloads. ASCAP and BMI are looking after us.  It’s all worked out. It’s a far cry from when our album was ripped off back in 2000. Napster got hold of it and people were getting it for free. I hate to see people giving away music. I think it’s disturbing. These young bands have to stop that or they’re not going to get anywhere.”

I asked what Cain what he thought it’s going to take to fix all that’s wrong with the music business.  Again, his shrewd business sense kicks back into high gear.

“The biggest problem is sustainability. You have to have a sustainable product. That means when you sign an act, they have to have a place to play. You have to get the fans out to see them. You have to make sure that the fans are kept up to date, all that stuff. That’s a whole look at how we’re going to continue the process. If you sign an act that you think is great, you have to make sure that the garden is tended to and that it will continue to flourish. It’s a brand.

“Back in the old days, we had an army of people doing that on behalf of Journey. Today, they put a band out there and unless they have a shrewd manager and a team behind them, they just get lost in the shuffle. I think that’s a big issue. And I think that the places to play are sort of vanishing and clubs are dying. It’s not good.

“I talked to Bill Graham about this before he died. We need a sort of circuit that you can count on. A record company’s music people need to look at making sure that these places stay open. Maybe getting creative and doing things with the malls or something. If there’s no place to play for these acts to grow then how are they ever going to get anywhere?  How are they going to get seasoned? It’s a problem – the performing venues that are available. They’re far and few between. It all takes money but it can still happen.  You have the live streaming stuff that can happen. I just don’t think that the labels are thinking progressively enough.  If they’re going to feature a band and do a live feed somewhere and get the stream on the internet and let them have their shows and let the people see what they’re going to be buying. Show them what they’re doing. There’s just too much of this cloak and dagger thing going on right now.

“Rock and roll is dying because of exactly what I said, the sustainability, the places to play, the crowd’s interest is moving away from rock because there’s Lady Gaga and Katy Perry and all this other junk. Kids are listening to rap, grunge. The alternatives are dark. Rock has gotten a black eye for being depressing, gothic and dark. Heavy metal fans have taken over the rock and roll venue and that’s fine. There’s other music out there that’s not getting heard and not getting signed and that’s unfortunate.”

Obviously aware of the numbers side of the business, Cain adds, “Rap takes its place. It’s far more lucrative. They sell far more units than rock does. Rock is kind of out right now. It’s passé. It’s not the flavor of the month any more. These rappers have really honed in and taken MTV away from rock. I don’t think it’s going to change because they’re real avid buyers and they know what works. It’s all money driven in the end.

“But, again, I go back to where can you play? If there’s no place to play, I don’t know where you play rock and roll unless you’re a big time band. You’ll have to play in some little dive club. So, yeah, I feel bad for the young musicians trying to make it. Kings of Leon did it. They managed to slug it out. I don’t know their story but you certainly see enough of them, I know that.

“Now they’re talking about closing down the Hard Rock’s. They’re in trouble. The casino’s are keeping the old fogies alive and that’s good but it’s a tricky time. I think the whole business is up for grabs. I think whoever’s smart and can survive can do it. There’s sort of an upheaval going on.”

Who IS commanding Cain’s attention these days as far as the newer talent is concerned?

“You know, I’ve looked at a few different people. I thought that Carrie Underwood has done a nice job with her career. I’ve seen her show and it’s pretty darn good. I’ve never seen a bad show from her. As far as rock is concerned, there isn’t a whole lot out there that I even like.  I was kind of into Coldplay for awhile. I thought they were cool but they’re not really rock.

“Probably the neatest thing that’s come down the pike is Kings of Leon, I think. They’re pure cool rock and roll – that sounds like something.  It’s got that vintage thing to it which maybe appeals to me. I like Switchfoot. I like a lot of that stuff. I like some of the Nickelback stuff. They’re a successful group that has done well with their brand. They’ve done a really good job with branding their thing. I just think they play too loud.” He concludes with a chuckle. “They’re still a good brand. They’ve done a good job staying alive in this market which says a lot about them. They’ve written some cool songs. They’re good. Young guys, but smart. I got to meet them a couple of months ago – the two brothers, Chad and Mike. They’ve done a really good job. So, that’s about it, really.”

Wrapping up my chat with this legendary artist, I asked Cain what his plans were after Journey wrapped up its tour.

“Chilling. If all goes right and I don’t get cold feet, I’ll go ahead and finish up my studio. I’ve got grand plans for it. I’d like to get it to the point that it’s a facility and I can go in there and try some things. Maybe do some producing and help my daughter down the road. That’s what I’m hoping to do – make a little noise here in Nashville.”

Keep up with Journey at www.journeymusic.com.