Bobby Rush Talks About Life, The Blues and His Grammy

Posted April 2017

 

BobbyRush001Almost anyone who is into music has at least a little appreciation for the blues. Personally, I love it. Some appreciate it. Still others don’t care for it at all. It’s history is long and, well, bluesy. The founding artists of the genre typically died poor, destitute, and (sometimes) under – shall we say – under circumstances that is the stuff of folk lore.

Ever since Robert Johnson allegedly sold his soul to the devil at the infamous crossroads so that he could play the blues, the genre has lured many musicians and fans alike into its soul-gripping web.

Boomerocity has interviewed some great blues men and women like John Mayall, Johnny Winter, Walter Trout, Joe Bonamassa, Beth Hart, Derek Trucks, Kim Simmonds, and others.

Recently, long-time blues vocalist, Bobby Rush, was finally honored with his first Grammy. At eighty-three years old, it’s a long overdue honor for the blues legend.

I called up Mr. Rush while he was resting up before a performance at the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame. We chatted about the Grammy and the album that he won it for; his upbringing as well as his experiences in all of his years in the business. While you may be tempted to just read this, I encourage you to listen to the audio embedded to the right of this article. To hear him tell his story is a cherished treat in itself.

When I started off by congratulating Bobby Rush for his Grammy, he expressed genuine gratitude and humility.

“It was long overdue but it’s better to come late than never, you know? That’s my attitude about it. I’m happy ‘bout it and

just so grateful. Why it hadn’t come before now we won’t even think about that. It’s just come now. Let’s grab the pieces now and run with it.

“Let me say this to you: My mind was made that even if I didn’t bring it home, I was a winner because I was in the race! That’s my attitude about it because to be in the race – I accept this because of a lot of guys I beat out was more qualified than me. That don’t mean I would’ve been happy if I didn’t bring it home but, nevertheless, there’s millions of guys who hadn’t gotten it and do as much as I do – it could be more. But I just appreciate it and I appreciate the guys I’d been running with – who I was in the race with - although I won and they loss. That’s the way it goes. Some win. Some lose. We all are friends in spite of that business stuff.”

Because he has been in the blues business for sixty years, I asked what has been the biggest changes that he has seen in the music business from the beginning until now. 

“The biggest thing I saw, I guess, is opportunity that I didn’t have when I first started. As a biblical study, the more things change, the more they remain the same. But there are a lot of opportunity I have now that I didn’t have then.

“Let me tell you one thing that I’m so proud of. I’m so proud that I have crossed over now to a white audience. But I crossed over and never crossed out the black audience. They still relate to me as the King of the Chitlin circuit. That means I’m a blues singer – and proud of it – but I’m proud of it because I’m not only a blues singer, I’m a black blues singer and I never let anybody live that down. It’s been a hard road to me.

“I remember 1951 when I was working in clubs behind a curtain where people wanted to hear my music but they didn’t want to see my face. But, then, I had fun doin’ that. I didn’t have fun with the reason why, but I had fun doing it because it was all about getting to the place where I am now. I was payin’ dues and I don’t have no chips on my shoulder with nothin’ and nobody about anything. I just know when it’s my time, it’s my time.

BobbyRush002“God has blessed me to be in the business sixty-six years. I’ve been recording since 1951. There’s 274 records. At my age – over eighty years old and gettin’ an award – I believe that I may be the oldest man that ever received an award at this age that never seen one before. Somebody told me but I didn’t think about it or know about it. But of many people who have been in my position, never win awards, we’re talkin’ ‘bout a lot of guys. ZZ Hill, Tyrone Davie, Johnny Taylor and many other guys I can call never been up for a nomination.

“So I accept this for these guys that never had the chance to receive this and they did just as good or better as I. But I’m just thankful. Just thankful. And I do thank the people for accepting me for who I am, what I am, and what I do. People like you calling me, god! You know how to make me feel to give me a call to do an interview with me! You don’t have to do this. You got a million other guys you can call to do an interview so I’m thanking you in advance for what you’re doing.”

And what hasn’t changed in the business?

“Well, what has not changed is the music and the people themselves because you got people still love good music and good entertainment. But you do have people recording things that’s not as good and radio stations playing it politically.

“It’s just like writin’ a book. You can only write about what you know about. But people still come for good music and good entertainment value. You gotta lot of garbage stuff that’s bein’ recorded now. I’ll not get into name callin’ of who’s doin’ it. But I call some of it garbage because some of it’s not really music. But I’m about the real music, man. The real, live musicians. Real music. That don’t mean the guys that do the samplin’ aren’t important, either. But what I’m sayin’ is I’m a creator and I create good music. Good songs; good stories; good lyrics and try to have a good point with where I’m goin’ with it and not just somethin’ I’m throwin’ up against the wall. I think that’s what’s changed with the music. People wanna do samples, now, and cut corners and do the set drum and set this and set that. There’s nothin’ wrong with none of that. That’s all modification. But we got to get back to the real music and the real music has changed.”

My research on Bobby Rush revealed that he grew up as a preacher’s kid. I asked him about that.

“My daddy was a pastor at two churches. One was for fifty years and one was for fifty-five years. Freewill Baptist Church. A Baptist preacher. My daddy was my best friend. He influenced me because being a preacher, I so much respect for my father as a preacher and as my friend, my mentor. He never told me to sing the blues but he never told me not to sing the blues and that was a green light. Because in the era I come up in, if he had told me not to sing the blues, I doubt that I would be singin’ the blues today. That’s how much respect I had for my father and for what he stood for.

“My real name is Emmett Ellis, Jr., after my father. I changed my name only because of my father – because of the respect I had for him and that he had for me. I was looking for names with one syllable. I tried to name myself President Eisenhower, Truman, and all of that, but as a young country boy, all I know was big names like the president. So, I came up with Bobby Rush because nobody called me Bobby and nobody called me Rush. Everybody called me Bobby Rush. There’s plenty of Bobby’s and plenty of Rush’s but ain’t but one Bobby Rush.”

Many artists in various genres got their musical start in church. When I asked Bobby Rush if that was the case with him, his response startled me.

“NO! I didn’t do performing in church. All I did in church was teach Sunday School, Superintendent of Sunday School, and did a lot of things in the church. I am a biblical study. I’m not a religion nut but I’m a biblical study because I take the Bible as a road map to life. It teaches what I should and should not do. That’s my guideline. I don’t beat people across the head about the resurrection or the devil, whatever. I just know that you must do all you can while you can. There will come a time that I cannot do then you won’t regret what you did not do. That’s what it teaches me.”

We then shifted the gears of our conversation to the subject of his Grammy-winning album, Porcupine Meat, and how putting this record together was different for him than all of the other records he recorded.

“Well, it wasn’t that much different than two or three others. But I’ll tell you, it’s different than a lot of them. First of all, in BobbyRush0031966, I had a record. It was ‘Chicken Head” and I didn’t know how to tell a guy the title of the song – Calvin Carter, who had Vee Jay Records. Later on, in ’81, I had a song called ‘Sue’. In ’83 or 4, I had “Ain’t Studdin’ Ya”. I had many records but every time I had titles like this, I always looked for titles like this that was a gimmick thing for titles. Everything I did that was titled like that seemed to be successful. So, when I had this song, “Porcupine Meat”, and I wanted to propose it to the producer, which was Scott Billington, who we’ve become very good friends, I was comfortable enough to tell him, I said, ‘Well, listen, I gotta song that I think is gonna be a hit record.’ He said, ‘What’s the name of it?’ I said, ‘Porcupine Meat”. He just fell out laughing. I guess he thought it was some kind of joke.

“So, I was afraid to tell him about the record because I thought he was gonna laugh at me just like he did but he was laughing in a good fashion. He wasn’t laughing because he was making fun of me. He was laughing because he thought it was so clever. Once I found out he thought it was clever, then I really put it on ‘cause what I’m talking ‘bout in ‘Porcupine Meat’, I wasn’t talking ‘bout the animal itself, I was referring to him like a parable.

“I’m in love with this woman, and I know she don’t mean me no good. I want to leave but I can’t because I’m afraid if I leave, I’ll find someone else just as bad or worse. So, I’m damned if I do and I’m damned if I don’t. That’s what they call ‘Porcupine Meat’; too fat to eat and too lean to throw away. That’s what I was talkin’ ‘bout. That kinda thing. I was talkin’ ‘bout my mama told me when I was young, ‘If you play with fire, son, you’re bound to get burned.’ I didn’t believe my mama way back then but look at me, the shape I’m in. I’m in love with a woman and I know she don’t mean me no good.’ She may not be good for me but, partner, damn, she good to me!’ Ha! Ha! Ha! You know what I’m talkin’ ‘bout! Man to man talk, here, you know? That’s ‘Porcupine Meat’. Too fat to eat, too lean to throw away. I’m afraid if I just go leave her, she’d go find B.B. King or somebody. They’d be braggin’ ‘bout it, you know?

“Anyway, it’s funny but true. We go through life that way.”

What has been crowd and fan response to the record?

“Oh, god! It’s been overwhelmingly good! And since I won, more people want to hear it than ever and they get the sense of what I’m talkin’ ‘bout now other than a piece of meat you get from an animal. They kinda laugh and joke ‘bout it. Some of ‘em say, ‘Hey! I missed it but now I have it!’ The ones who has it loves it more. I think this record is the kind of record that’s going to be around for a long time because the meaning of it is something that everybody can relate to once they find out what I’m talkin’ ‘bout. They can relate to it.

“I’m gettin’ good response and I think it’s gonna raise my bar up where I can make a decent livin’ for my family. It’s what it’s all about – puttin’ your time in to get something out. Put that music in and get somethin’ out. With time, at eighty-three years old, it’s time for me! I’m not trying to be cocky or a big shot about it. I’m just tryin’ to make a livin’ for my grandchildren, children, and my family. I put my dues and I paid my dues and I’ve been here.

“I started to workin’ in 1951. I was workin’ for a guy named E.F. Borger. I was making twelve dollars a month. Not twelve dollars a night. Twelve dollars a month! I was playin’ three days a week for a dollar a night, somethin’ to eat and a place to stay. Twelve dollars a month I was makin’! The last of that year, the first of ’52, I started working with Muddy Waters. I was makin’ seven dollars and fifty cents a night as band leader and payin’ Muddy Waters $5.50. That’s what we was makin’ and the band members was makin’ three dollars and fifty cents. That’s what we was makin’. Some of the other guys were makin’ a little bit more but the black guys, that’s all we was makin’.

BobbyRush004“Once I got to the place where I was making twenty-one dollars a night, I thought I was in heaven, man! In ’53 and ’54, I was makin’ twenty-one dollars a night as a band leader. Man, I was in Heaven! Payin’ my band members eleven dollars. I was makin’ twenty-one as a band leader. After you pay your taxes and everything, usually, then, I was bringin’ home twenty-one dollars a week. Twenty-one dollars and forty-five cents. That was my take home.”

For those who haven’t heard it yet and are considering buying it, I asked the blues legend what song would he point them to as a calling card to entice them to purchase Porcupine Meat.

“Well, let me tell you what: this is the first time that I recorded a CD where I was confused about which one – eleven songs and you can point to nine of them songs equally. It’s hard for me to tell you because when I sent this to five DJ’s, five DJ’s took to five different things.

“Now, you may not know where I’m goin’ to but when you got a record, you send it to five DJ’s and they say five different things, that’s good! It’s good but it’s not good. It’s good because you got stuff that’s good they want but it’s not good because programming – that means you got five guys playin’ five different things. If I didn’t have but one record with five guys playin’, that’s one thing: concentrated play. When you get concentrated play, you get a hit record. But if we got ten people playin’ one thing on each channel and each one playin’ a different thing, that don’t give you no concentrated play. If the CD is so good but anything you play – when they pick it up, ‘Oh, I like this!’ That’s the first thing they’ll play. But I try to encourage people to play the first two cuts on there which is, ‘I Don’t Want Nobody Hangin’ Around” and ‘Porcupine Meat’. The third thing would be ‘Funk O’ De Funk’. But they play all over it. They play everything on it!

“One guy called me last week and said, ‘Bobby Rush, I been playin’ a different song every week!’ I didn’t cut him down ‘cause I appreciated that. But that don’t help me like they’re playin’ one song seven times a week or a song a day, you follow me? But, anyway, I’m grateful for that. I can’t call him up and say, ‘Let’s don’t play this but play this tomorrow.’ If he plays what he wants to play, at least he’s playin’ somethin’ off of that CD and it gives me name recognition. At least, now, I’ve lived long enough to have a legend name so let’s see where it takes me from here. Hopefully, I can keep enthused and keep doin’ what I’m doin’ and learnin’ what I’m learnin’ and stay in the business long enough to make a dent with some more records and come out with a Grammy.”

We’ve been losing some great blues men over the past couple of years and those still alive are beginning to face health issues. I asked Mr. Rush if he saw anybody whom he felt is picking up the blues mantel and carrying on the genre or does he feel that the genre is dying.

“Yeah, I feel both ways. You gotta guy like Dexter Allen and Joe Bonamassa. Quite naturally, he’s tough to beat. Then you have Stevie J and you got Jessie Robinson – you gotta few guys who that I know love the blues but I just don’t know how dedicated they are to themselves to do this in the form that I did it when you makin’ no money and still do what you do and keep tryin’. I don’t know if they got that kinda guts to do it. But there’s a few guys I hear that can play the blues, they love the blues, but I just don’t know what they have.

“I hope that with a sheer win out of Bobby Rush like this encourages them to stay in the business because of how long it takes. I’m not sayin’ that I hope it takes up to this long but I hope they don’t give up! I’m hopin’ I be the one at eighty-somethin’ years of age – ‘If Bobby Rush didn’t give up and he made it, so can I!’ I’m hopin’ I’ll be the guy who they look up to and say, ‘Hey! He finally made it so I can do it, too!’ I’m just hopin’!

“See, what happened – you don’t know this – twenty-five or thirty years ago, black guys entered the blues more they do now. Now, you got black guys who don’t want to play blues and to me, as a black man, they don’t want to be black. They don’t want nobody to know they’re black or play the blues. I’m the kind of guy, I love what I do and embrace what I do and I hope that you like what I’m doin’. I’ve heard guys say, ‘Well, I’m gonna play this because I think it’s what white people like. I wanna play like this because black people like it.” But I play good music and hope everyone likes it! It’s not a black or white issue with me. It’s about the music and the love of it! That’s what I feel about it.

“You know, I know there’s some discouragement with some guys, especially the black entertainers because they can’t get airplay. I just encourage them to take it from me at eighty-three years old with three hundred and seventy-four records, that I just got a Grammy. I think I got fifteen or eighteen blues awards. But let me tell you how encouraging it can be: Two years ago, B.B. King come to me and asked me, ‘Bobby Rush, I want you to do Indianola, Mississippi, ‘cause I’m not goin’ to play in it anymore.’

“Oh, he said that a couple of years before that and I’d say, ‘Aw, B.B., come on. I’m already booked, anyway.’ He said, ‘Where are you booked?’ and I said, ‘I’m booked up at Memphis, Tennessee.”

“The guy had me headlining at 11 o’clock at night and I’m a hundred and fifty miles from Indianola.  So I went to the promoter and I said, “Listen, I need to do B.B. King a favor ‘cause he asked me to do somethin’ and I’ll tell ya what he asked me.”

“He said, ‘I tell you what. If you’re gonna do it for B.B. King, you can go on at 4 o’clock. I know nobody will be here but come on at 4 o’clock and you can go on and be with B.B.’

“I said, ‘Here’s my deposit you gave me.’ He said, ‘No! Keep the deposit! In fact, here’s the rest of your money! I’m gonna pay you now!’  Two weeks before he paid me to do the show and I got up and did the show with B.B. King.

“So, when I got there a couple of hours later, I said, ‘B.B. King, tell me, why did you want me to come?’ And he said, ‘Because I knew if you come, Bobby Rush, I’d get black people to see me ‘cause this gonna be the last time I play this here set.’ And I noticed every time B.B. played Mississippi, he never drawed but just a few black people. They didn’t come to see B.B. He wanted me there to draw blacks. In this particular time,  it was about 50/50. It coulda been 75/25 were black. That is to see B.B., you follow me? And two or three weeks later, I got the B.B. King Award not knowing that I was gonna get it. And a month or two after that he passed. He passed the torch to me.

“Man! That was the saddest thing to me when I look back on it. Then, when I look back on what somebody wrote – that Bobby Rush is the oldest blues man living – I didn’t think about that but I think I am, ya follow me?

“I’m on my way up to Cleveland, Ohio, now, to do a guest spot on a movie that’s out called  Take Me To The River. We did this three or four years ago. They got me up tomorrow. I’m goin’ to speak in front of the students about this movie that we did. It’s hard for me to talk about this because at the time we did it, myself, Snoop Dog, and some young rappers played. A bunch of musicians out of Stax was part of that. But now, since that time we did it, Otis Clay passed, the guitar player that was playing with us passed. Hardges had passed. And Ben – a horn player with the Stax horn section had passed. Since we did this, six guys had passed out of ten of us. Six of those guys had passed in two and a half years. And, now, they got me goin’ up and talkin’ about this. I never thought about it and I was willing to do it but when I rolled in last night, thinking about it, it’s almost like B.B. King, when he passed. The torch, he passed it to me. Then the family said, ‘Well, Bobby Rush, are you going to the funeral?’ I said, ‘Yes, I’m goin’.’ ‘Since you’re goin’, we’d like for you to say a word or two.’ I said, ‘Okay, put me on the program.’ ‘We’d like to let you have the last word.’

“Oh, god, man! What can I say? Oh, man. It brings tears to my eyes to talk about it. I just don’t know. I thank God every day that I lived long enough to see some of the glory and how people have had a change of heart and a change of mind about people themselves – especially about the black and white issue in the music. ‘Cause music sows up everything. There’s no black and white issues in music with the people who do it and respect it. And I’m so happy that you people embrace me for who I am and what I am. It’s such a good feelin’. If they didn’t vote for me, they didn’t show it and if they did, I thank ‘em for what they done. Even if they didn’t vote for me – if they voted for somebody else in the same category – I’m okay ‘bout that ‘cause that don’t make it that they don’t love me. They had someone in there that was a family member or someone they have a relationship with. It’s okay because if you and I was votin’ today and our wife was up, we’d give her our vote because it’s our wife regardless of music. So I understand all o’ that. I understand the relationship makes the difference. But they thought enough of me to vote for me and I’m kind enough to say thank you! I’m grateful about it. I was so outgunned when I won, I didn’t have anything written. I hadn’t thought about what I was gonna say because that was far from my mind – winnin’. I was a winner when I was in the race! That was my attitude! I said, ‘I’m already a winner! I’m in the race! I’m eighty-three years old in the race!’

“I don’t know but someone told me that they thought I was the oldest man that had ever won it in this category at eighty-three years old. I think I’m the oldest man that ever won one. I know that I’m probably the oldest man who ever won one who never won one before.

BobbyRush005“Anyway, it ain’t ‘bout what I did. It’s about what’s done now. I won it and I’m thankin’ God for it. I thank the people who voted for me. I thank the Academy so much for what they’ve done because they’re good people inside the Academy. They’re fair-minded people about the music and who do it.”

There is a small group of aspiring blues artists who are attempting to claw their way into the business. I asked Bobby Rush what he would tell an aspiring blues artist today.

“I would tell aspiring blues artists: get yo’ crap together! Do watcha need to do. Learn all that you can about what you’re doin’ and don’t give the dream up because one thing’s for sure, if you stay with it long enough, it’ll come to pass. But you gotta know and look in the mirror and face the fact, ‘Am I good? Am I hot or am I warm?’ Because 99 ½ won’t do. You GOT to be 100% in it and you gotta be good at what you do.

“One thing’s for sure – and I’m not braggin’ but I’m thankin’ God for it – I’m an entertainer and I’m one of the best. That’s not a brag. I inspire myself to be one of the best. I’m one of the best. That’s what I sign myself as. I think I write good. I perform well. I have a good show and I just do what I do and I do the best I can do. I don’t care who’s in the house. It could be Stevie Wonder in the house. It could be B.B. King in the house. Whoever in the house. I may not sing very strong but I compete in a level event. That’s what I tell musicians and young people. Be good at what you do and compete. Be good at what you do and compete. You must be present. Do what you do. Be on time. Be precise and be good at what you do. If you not gonna be good at what you do and don’t love what you do, you won’t be good at what you do because you gotta love it.”

With the Grammy still clutched in his arms, I was certain that there was a lot more stuff on his career radar than before he was handed the coveted trophy.

“Well, I got somethin’ in mind. I probably got four hundred songs back in the can. My approach may be different but my story’s gonna be pretty much the same. I’m gonna talk about the kind of things I been talkin’ about. I wanna talk about – the next CD – I wanna talk about how you miss out on opportunity if you don’t take a hold of yourself today. You miss out on tomorrow if you don’t do it today. I want to talk about that. How you capitalize on tomorrow by doin’ it today. You know, you gotta do it now. Like I said, my motto was I must do all I can, while I can. I know there will come a time I cannot do, then I won’t regret what I did not do.

“I been writtin’ since 1954 and 55. I got songs I been writing and I just been puttin’ them down on paper. When there come a time I cannot write or think of them, they already been thought up. I’ll go back in and analyze them. That’s what I plan to do on the next album or two. If God give me the strength, I’m gonna dig into my soul and my head to when I was twenty-five years old and correct some of the things I should’ve been sayin’ and wasn’t sayin’ and now I’m old enough to know what I was sayin’ where I can analyze it and straighten it out, whether right or wrong. I think I’m to that point now where I can kinda teach myself what I shoulda known then and I’m gonna go through my own head and go through my own paper and say, ‘Hey! Here’s where I talked about then but here’s where it shoulda been.’ It could be almost right and I’m just getting there and diggin’ it out.

“You go to your teacher and say, ‘Watcha think about this?’ and your teacher says, ‘Well, that ain’t quite right. You should cross a t here, dot an I here.’ That’s all you needs is somebody to straighten it out. So I’m goin’ back and straightenin’ my own stuff out against what I have learnt from people and from writin’ and from people like you and from people who been in the business awhile. I learnt from Quincy Jones. I learned from all the masters. I listened to what they wrote. All the hits songs from Elton John down to whoever. I listen to all musicians. All walks of life. Jazz, blues, country, whatever it is. I listen to the stories. I listen to the music. Now, I’m gonna put some of those sayin’s – Bobby Rush sayin’s – and I’m gonna try to come up with somethin’ that makes sense to the whole world. I can’t say it’s gonna be a hit record but I tell you what: it’s gonna be good!”

We all hope to see and hear more of Bobby Rush in the years to come. That said, I still asked the blues legend what I alwaysBobbyRush006 ask someone who has been in the business a long time: When you’ve stepped off life’s tour bus up at that great gig in the sky, how do you want to be remembered and what do you hope your legacy will be?

“I want people to know that out of all the ups and downs and the struggles and hardship, though not seems conceivable but a dream, although it seems like a dream come true, but if you do what you want to do in life and feel good about it and do it well, it’s not a dream. It’s reality but it take time to do it. I want people to know that whatever you set your mind to do – if it’s impossible and God’s will of it – it’ll come to pass. But I do want people to know that it was written that a cow jumped over the moon but you gotta be smart enough to know if, in the book, he really didn’t jump over the moon. The cow didn’t really jump over the moon. It’s gotta be a realistic to yourself. I want people to know from me that I did what I did and I did it my way. I’ve gotten a Grammy and I’ve got this far doin’ it my way.”

In closing, Bobby Rush added:

“Let me say one thing: When you write, talkin’ ‘bout me, what you say about me or what people perceive me to be because whether it’s good or bad because they trusted you and what you say about me. So thank you in advance for sayin’ the good things – whatever you say about me – the true things about me, I’m hopin’ that they’ll be something that is readable and what they want to read about. Thank you for being that kind of a person.”

Bobby Rush is a class act all the way. Humble yet confident. Serious yet hysterically funny. Bobby Rush, we thank YOU for being that kind of person.

You can keep up with all things Bobby Rush at WWW.BobbyRushBluesMan.com.

Beth Hart Talks About Fire On The Floor

Posted April 2017

beth hart mona nordoy 0093a croppedIn my first interview with Beth Hart back in 2013, I said that she wasn’t yet a household name but she would be eventually.

I still hold to that statement.

In my second interview with her in 2015, I said that to say that she “is one of the most amazing new female singer/songwriters of the new millennia would be an understatement.” 

I still hold to that statement, as well.

I recently spoke with Beth Hart for a third time. She is one of those people who, when you first chat with her, you feel as if you’ve known her all your life. Warm. Embracing. Open. I’ve since learned that she is all of that and much more.

This recent chat was to discuss her new CD, Fire On The Floor. But, of course, as was the case in our previous two chats, we talked about a bunch of other stuff, too.

When she answered the phone and I asked how she had been, she was efferve

Everything Knoxville

scent in answering.

“I’m doing so awesome! I’m just loving life these days! I’m really having fun. I don’t think I’ve ever felt as good as I do right now.”

And what does she attribute that too?

“I couldn’t agree with you more! I wouldn’t even be surprised if, through gratitude, it actually re-

wires your brain and it makes you see more and more goodness. When you speak about light and you speak about joy, it’s almost like it does something to where you’re able to receive even more of it, you know what I mean? Kinda like that old saying, ‘Them that got shall get and them that not shall lose.’ Kinda like that!”When I commented about the truly positive impact gratitude has on our lives, Beth chimed back in.“I think, you know, being older and surviving some of the funk. God. My marriage. Music. I feel really, really blessed and really lucky, you know? I think it’s just gratitude. I’ve got a lot to be grateful for.”

In our last chat – which was about her last album, Better Than Home - we talked about it being very introspective and even “ministering”.  I asked her how she would describe “Fire On The Floor”?

“I couldn’t tell you this the last time I talked to you because Michael Stevens – who was one of the producers – didn’t want me to go on and make another record because I wanted to make another record right away. So, this album, Fire On The Floor, has been done way before my last talk with you. So, when I did New York for that week for Better Than Home, as soon as I got home – before Better Than Home was even mixed – I called Ed at the label and I said, ‘You gotta let me make another record right now or I’m probably never going to go back into the studio.’

“And he’s like, ‘Why? What’s wrong? Is Better Than Home shit?’ and I said, “I don’t know. I think I did a good job with the writing and I know that the producers put everything they could into it. It seemed to go pretty nicely in New York. Who knows? You never know until a record’s mixed. But that’s not why I’m calling you. The reason that I’m calling you is that it was such a painful experience watching Michael be so sick for all that time.’ You know, he ended up dying? And he was only forty-seven when he died. All that time seeing him go through that – that poor man! You know me, I’m overly sensitive anyway. My brain is wired a little funny and I just couldn’t take it. I ended up going to the hospital a couple of times during making that record just to get my shit balanced and it was just rough.

“So, Ed let me immediately call Oliver (Leiber, the CD’s producer). I called Oliver and Oliver is, like, ‘Come on over to my house.’ I came over to his house and I said, ‘I have a shit load of songs. I don’t want it over produced. I want it to be a live band. That’s all I have to say. I’m going to send you the songs.’ He’s like, ‘****, yeah! I love you! Let’s make this record!’

“I sent him a ton of songs just like I did Rob and Michael for Better Than Home and he immediately got back to me and said, ‘Boom! I’ve got the players. Come to my house!’ Whenever it was – two more weeks or something.

“So, we go the whole thing done in, like, three weeks! I went over there and made Fire On The Floorbeth hart mona nordoy 133 in three days and we didn’t have to do any mixing because we hadn’t even finished mixing Better Than Home! So we had all this time to let it sit there and relax and let me focus on what I had to do for Better Than Home. I’m so happy that I got to get this record out of me because I was tripping – tripping out! This was so healing for me. It really helped me get through that.”

I commented that I could tell that she had reached deep within to write and record Better Than Home to cover negative things for a positive outcome.

“Thank you for saying that! I agree with you, by the way. You can really hear that difference. Better Than Home was such a vulnerable, confessional album. I gotta give props to Michael Stevens and Ron Mathis because, you know I everything in so that passed over a lot of songs that they didn’t feel was going in that direction. So, Better Than Home wasn’t like I wrote that record. I did write the record but I also wrote a shit load of other songs that I turned in but they passed on. It’s funny. It ended up in the right producer’s hands because that’s the kind of record they wanted to make and this was the kind of record that I wanted to make. It ends up working out perfect!”

Were the songs on Fire On The Floor some of the songs passed on or did she write these songs specifically for the album?

“Yeah! Just like on Better Than Home a couple of songs on there were passed over by Kevin Shirley when I did Bang Bang Boom Boom with him. For instance, Kevin passed on St. Teresa. He passed on Mama This One’s For You. There was a collection of songs there because I’m always working on stuff. I always turn them into whatever to whatever ‘priest’ I’m with and I don’t care which songs they choose and which ones they don’t. Because if I didn’t love the songs, I’d never turn them in. I really have this belief that when a producer likes a song or doesn’t like a song, it always boils down to basically the same thing. They either think they can get it or they think they can’t. So I know not to ever take it personal if they don’t like the song – even though they may say, ‘I don’t like the song,’ it’s not really what it is. It’s that they think they can get this one phenomenal and maybe that one they can’t.”

As for which song she would point to as a drawing card to entice people to purchase the album, Beth said, “Yeah, that’s a great question! It’s hard for me because it is so broad-based, genre-wise. I love Jazzman very much but I also love Fat Man. Then, I adore No Place Like Home and A Good Day To Cry. But then I turn around and love Woman You’ve Been Dreaming Of. So it would be really hard for me to have one song. But, if someone put a gun to my head and said, ‘Okay, you have to pick one song,’ I would pick Fire On The Floor. That would be the one that I would pick.”

When asked which song seems to resonate with fans the most, Ms. Hart shared:

beth hart mona nordoy 4128finalreduced“Good Day To Cry and Fire On The Floor, so far. But, also, all the promoters and the radio people really love Jazzman. But it seems that with the audience, they’re really responding to Jazzman but the most to Fire On The Floor. Definitely number one – and Good Day To Cry.”

The last time we talked Beth had indicated that she wanted to be on the road a lot less and focus on living healthier. When I asked how that worked out for her, she laughed and said, “It’s so funny. As soon as I put my foot down and said, ‘Okay. Seven months on the road, max, so that I can have more time at home, be a wife to my husband’ – like I told you about the last time we talked – so I can write more and all that. As soon as I laid that boundary, now I want to be on the road more. I can’t keep up with my own ****ing head. I can’t! As soon as I make a decision that I want to do something, my head says, ‘Oh! I want to do something else! I just can’t even keep up with myself! So, it’s so funny. It’s so weird. I’m so weird.”

With all the people in the music world who died last year, I asked Beth to share her thoughts about those who passed. Her response wasn’t at all what I expected.

“You know, of course, I’m sad for anyone that’s sad who lost them. But they have moved on to another form. I don’t look at death as a bad thing at all. I look at death as a graduation to another life form. Who knows? Maybe they’re on some other planet living a whole other life? Maybe they’ve come back here in the form of an awesome butterfly or a bee? Who the **** knows? But I do believe that death is just like graduating. You get to graduate to another plain. So, for them, they’re probably having a ball but it’s the people that loses them – those are who are sad.

“So, of course, I mourn for those that are here who had to lose people that they loved. But, for them, they’re off somewhere else. I think it just continues to get better. I really do. I think that time we get to live, our consciousness grows deeper. Our hearts grow bigger. It has to! We go on to a new plane. That’s what I believe. So, I think of the people who passed away, they’re just happy as shit right now because they’re doing something else.”

And what is on Beth Hart’s radar for the rest of the year?

“You know, what I’m really into right now is speaking. I’m having so much fun and so passionate about it. I’m having a lot of ideas with that. I’m putting a lot of effort into that. I’ve really, really been studying a lot with my vocal coach, Bob. I’m with him off and on since I was sixteen. So, I really feel like this past year I’ve grown a lot as a singer. I’m looking forward to doing that live and use some of the techniques that he’s taught me. Things just to be stronger and healthier and trying new ways of approaching songs. I’m also really looking forward to us doing more work here in the States, which is really exciting for me. And, then, we’re also going to India for the first time. We’re going to do a couple of shows there so I’m looking forward to that.

“Then, you know what’s so funny, I’m here at the house. We had a major flood. We have a three story house. On the bottom floor is my studio and that all got flooded out. I’m such an anal person. The most anal person you’ve ever met in your life. It flooded out and I’m like, ‘Oh my god! I can’t take it!’ But, now – because of homeowners insurance – we’re going to get to re-paint it and do new carpet and stuff. That’s just a fun project for me. I’m a woman who really nests in her home.

“Also, a wall on the side of our house in the backyard – the other person’s studio who’s next door is going to slide into our property so they’re rebuilding the whole wall. We get to plant roses and a tangerine tree! What it represents to me and why I’m bringing it up with you is it just represents to me that every time life – you think; you’re perceiving is, ‘It’s killing me again! A horrible thing has just happened!’ Something amazing is going to come from it. Something better is going to happen because of that horror or that catastrophe or whatever you want to view it as. It’s just another reminder.

“I know that it seems like a stupid thing to compare a wall in the yard or a flood in the basement but it’s just like another one of those signs. It’s like no matter what goes in your mind quote/unquote wrong, it’s not wrong. It’s a new beginning that’s about to happen. I love that about life! It’s so neat!”

After wrapping up my conversation with Beth, I was once again reminded of how we all should embrace life; remind ourselves to tell our loved ones that we love them; to stop and smell the roses and to not let the trials of life hold us back from living and love life to the fullest.

Thank you, Beth.

Verdine White Of Earth, Wind & Fire

Published March 2017 

verdinewhiteAs a teenager in high school during the seventies, one of the most endearing and danceable bands to grace our school dances and car/home stereos was none other than Earth, Wind & Fire. 

Their first huge hit was “Shining Star” took our school – and the whole world – by a dancing storm. Even today, the opening notes of that song immediately take me back to the sun-drenched campus of Moon Valley High School in Phoenix. Bell-bottom jeans, platform shoes, and some of the funkiest shirts ever made draped our youthful bodies. 

Fast-forward to today: The band has repeatedly toured the everything knoxville logo editedworld and has reportedly sold 100 million records. With a couple of their songs hitting the 2016 movies, Dr. Strange and Trolls, EWF is reaching all new audiences and creating another generation of life-long fans.

Sadly, the founder and genius behind EWF, Maurice White, passed away a year ago last month. His musical legacy is still being felt today and the band honors his memory by carrying on its mission of blessing the masses with their iconic hits.

Leading that mission is Maurice’s kid brother, Verdine White, who has been with the band as bass player since its inception. To say that Verdine is not only exceptionally talented but also high energy would be a severe understatement. The man doesn’t stop from the moment the hits the stage until the final bow. He makes the Energizer Bunny appear catatonic.

With Earth, Wind & Fire preparing to hit the road for another tour, I called Verdine at his California home to chat about his late brother, Trolls, and what fans might expect during this tour.

  With the band having been in existence for almost fifty years, I started by asking Verdine if he thought that the band would last that long or that the songs would still stand so well.

Clip Above To Listen To The Actual Raw Interview

“No, not at all. When you first start, you hope to get a couple of hits and things like that. You just hope for the best and then I thought I’d go back to teach and go back to school. But every year obviously got better and better and better. We have to thank my late brother, Maurice, for that. You know he passed away last year in February. He was the one with the vision. We’re just basically following the blueprint that he laid out.”

I mentioned to White that I had seen EWF with Chicago and that it was one of the best shows I’d ever seen.

“We just got done with Chicago in the fall. It was really fantastic and a great thing. They’re a great, great, great band! They were inducted in the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame in 2016. We’re really happy for them!”

Speaking of the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame, EWF was inducted in 2000 so Chicago is in excellent company.

During our chat, I laughingly commented Mr. White’s hyper energy on stage and joked by asking what kind of cereal he eats. 

earthwindandfirecropped“I try to eat as good as I can and it’s the music, man. The music really does it! It’s what keeps it together and that’s always so inspiring.”

Discussing the current tour, Verdine shared what fans can expect at the shows.

“Well, it’s going to be a great show. A lot of great energy. A lot of great songs. We’re on our fifth generation. Our music’s everywhere.

“One of the things we did is we have three songs in two of the biggest movies that came out before Christmas. Dr. Strange with Shining Star and we also did the Trolls soundtrack with Justin Timberlake and Anna Kendrick. We have three songs in the number one and number two movie in the whole world – back-to-back; same weekend.

“What happened the other day, my wife and I were at dinner and a woman brought her three-year-old daughter to take pictures because she had just seen the Trolls movie and she was doing backflips in the theater. A three-and-a-half-year-old! And the parents brought them! They had just left the Trolls movie and said, ‘Can we take a picture? Can we take a picture?’ That’s amazing, isn’t it? That’s really a blessing and shows you the power of songs.”

As Mr. White mentioned, his brother, Maurice, passed away a year ago. I asked what thoughts he would share about his late brother.

“That he was a great person, first of all. He was a wonderful brother. He was just a great person. All those things first. And, of course, he was just a marvelously talented person! He was the best big brother that anybody could ever have. If it hadn’t been for him I wouldn’t be doing what I’m doing.”

With almost fifty years in the music business, I asked Verdine what has been the biggest and smallest changes in the music business that he’s witnessed.

  “Well, of course, in my career I’ve seen a lot of changes in the music business. It’s evolved, you know what I mean, to the point that now everybody can get your music in one second. All your work can be over the whole world. I’m encouraged by the new developments because now we’re having some really wonderful, new artists and they all sound different. It has the ability to get to the audience. I’m really encouraged. Those are the biggest changes I’ve seen.

“The change that I haven’t seen is that you still have to put the work in. That doesn’t change! You still got to put the work in! You still got to put the effort in. That part hasn’t changed!”

I hypothetically asked White what he would do to fix the music business if he were appointed “Music Czar” by the president.

“I think all the businesses – we’ve all had to adjust to the new world – the digital world. That’s not just only our businesses. Magazines, newspapers, a lot of our print media has suffered, you know what I mean? I’m sure you know because you’re in that world, as well.

“But what I would do to fix it is put think tanks together to adjust at every change. The changes are happening faster and faster and faster. That’s what I would do. Put a think tank together for how to reach the audiences, listening to the audiences. Remember, we used to have suggestion boxes when we were at work, right? I think you could do those kinds of things and find out what the audience wants; how to price it for them, and serve the public. I think that’s all our job. That’s what I would do. 

As for what’s on the band’s radar for the next year or two, White said, “We haven’t really thought about it yet. It’s a long way. The most things that we’re doing right now is getting for the tour and then we’ll take it from there.” 

And what would he like to do musically that he hasn’t done yet? 

“God, there’s so many things! I would still love to play with the London Symphony Orchestra! That’s what I would love to do!”

As we wrapped up our chat, I asked the renowned bass player what I often ask artists at the end of an interview: When you step off the tour bus of life at the Great Gig in The Sky (to paraphrase Pink Floyd), how do you want to be remembered and what do you hope your legacy will be? 

“When you’re at this point in our career, that’s the question you get. If you were a young act you wouldn’t give them that question. I think it’s still in process, you know? It’s still in process, you know what I’m sayin’? That’s my answer. It’s an obvious question to people like us, when you’ve been around for quite some time. I think it still begs to be written. People ask me about Maurice’s legacy I say that it’s still being written.”

Then, almost as if he didn’t want to pass up the opportunity to give meaningful advice to the current generation of artist, Verdine adds:

verdinewhiteinthestudioVerdine White Mentoring Students“One of the things that I tell young artists who come up to me is that I tell them to take care of themselves. Take care of themselves! Start now! That’s the one thing that I do say. I always say, ‘Stay strong! Stay healthy!’ That’s what I tell the younger artists when they come up to me.”

After our chat, I talked to Verdine about his charity, The Verdine White Performing Arts Center. It’s an organization he put together to help kids who have musical talent by way of providing instruments, lessons, or scholarships. Boomerocity is proud to help this worthy cause by making our readers aware of it. Please consider making a contribution.

Also, be sure to enjoy the music of the movie, Trolls, as well as catch Earth, Wind and Fire at one of their tour stops near you.

You can keep up with Verdine and the rest of Earth, Wind and Fire at WWW.EarthWindandFire.com.

 

Shep Gordon Talks Alice Cooper, Chefs, and the Dali Lama

Posted March 2017

jesse dittmar shep gordon croppedPhoto by Jesse DittmarOdds are pretty good that unless you’re a real music business geek (or a celebrity chef business geek), you have never heard of Shep Gordon.

I became aware of Shep many moons ago because I’ve been an Alice Cooper fan for over forty-five years and Shep just happens to be Alice’s one and only manager.

In 2015, Mike Meyers (Yeah, Mike “We’re Not Worthy” Meyers) produced a documentary about Shep entitled, Supermensch. The phenomenal response to the film is one of the reasons that prompted Shep to write his autobiography, They Call Me Supermensch.

The book and movie certainly delivered what I had hoped and expected with regards to stories about Alice Cooper. However, it was a real eye-opener because of the mountain of other accomplishments Gordon has achieved in his momentous career.

Chief of those accomplishments (at least, from my view) is the role of adoptive parent and grandparent. I don’t want to spoil the story in the book but let’s just say that Shep stepped up to the role and challenge in a huge way. The book is worth the purchase just for that story alone.

Suffice it to say, because of the movie and book, I requested an interview with the legendary 

manager to the chefs and stars (now mostly retired), and Gordon was gracious enough to accept.

I called Shep at his beachfront home in Maui. If you watch the movie, you will see that it was a home that he bought for privacy, serenity, and entertaining. The views are spectacular and definitely seem to be key to Gordon’s Zen-like approach to life these days.

At the outset of our chat, Gordon shared the motivations behind writing his book.

“It was a combination of things. It was really sparked by being at an event and Anthony Bourdain coming up to me and introducing himself, telling me he had become a book publisher and not just for his own books with Harper Collins and he wanted to do a book with me. I loved his work. I didn’t know him but I’m a bit of a groupie. It sounded like an interesting path.

“That - combined with the movie - brought a lot of attention to me and it brought a lot of people sort of looking for answers. ‘How come you’re happy?’ How to be successful. How to be happy. Big questions that I certainly didn’t feel qualified to give an answer to but thought that maybe if I spent some time doing my own kind of exploration of my life, I would find common themes that I could pass on to someone that might help them.

“So that had sort of been in the back of my mind. Then Anthony Bourdain showed up and I said, ‘Okay, let’s take a crack.’ Sort of like seventy years of psychotherapy put into two years.”

And how long did it take to get it done?

“Yeah, it took about two years to vomit it up!” he said, laughing.

jesse dittmar shep gordon 06When I interviewed Joey Kramer about his book, Hit Hard, he said that it was quite cathartic for him. I asked if that was the same for Gordon.

“Yeah, very much so. That’s what I meant by ‘psychotherapy.’ It really made me be introspective and find a lot of stuff about myself. Hopefully, some people can use it to help them.”

And the feedback from readers about the book has been enormous.

“Yeah, quite a bit. Sort of like you. They read it and ‘it really touched me and I’d like to talk about it.’ It’s had an impact.”

Many authors, when setting out to write about themselves, are surprised by the raw emotions and memories that are unearthed during the process. Shep Gordon was no exception.

“I got a much deeper appreciation of my father and how much of my life was sort of following in his footsteps. Things that I didn’t really realize beforehand but by writing the book I came to realize that he really sacrificed a lot to raise me and I sacrifice a lot to do what I do and never knowing why I was doing it.

“My dad died while I was fairly young and my mom passed away about twenty-five years ago. I think my dad was about thirty years ago, thirty five years ago. TheyEverythingKnoxvilleLogoEdited each got to about seventy. I’m seventy-one. I think I was thirty-five when he passed away. Something like that.”

One of the many surprises in They Call Me Supermensch is learning that none other than Jimi Hendrix is the reason why Shep got into the artist management business.

“Yeah, in sort of a left-handed way but he introduced me to Alice Cooper. I was sitting around with him and the Chamber Brothers. They asked me what I was doing for a living and nothing I was doing was legal. Anthony Bourdain said that I was a ‘pharmaceutical salesman’. They were great customers but they wanted to know what did I do that was legitimate. I didn’t really do anything and Jimi said, ‘Are you Jewish?’ And I am and I answered him honestly and he said, ‘You should be a manager.’

“The Chamber Brothers were sitting there – a couple of them – Willie and Lester – and they said that they had a band from Phoenix living in their basement that needed a manager – Alice Cooper. And that’s how it started some forty-odd years ago.”

When I asked if he hung out with Hendrix anymore after that, Gordon replied:

“Not a lot. He was on the road a lot. Doing a lot of recording. Going over to London. So not a whole lot. Chamber Brothers were there a lot so we hung a lot more. And Janis Joplin was there. She ended up dying there. So, she was around.

“But everybody came in and out. I had Pink Floyd, Creedence Clearwater Revival, and Bob Dylan. Everybody. It was sort of the rock and roll hangout.”

The place Shep is referring to is the legendary Landmark Motor Hotel. Notorious for being Mecca for artists in the early days of classic rock, it is also where Janis Joplin passed away.

Typical of any major writing project, there are things that are planned to be included in the work that, for whatever reason, just doesn’t make the final cut due to having second thoughts about their importance or reader interest. Supermensch was no exception for Shep.

“Yeah, I think a lot of the things that didn’t make the cut were – and another part of the effect of writing the book had on me – was maybe some of the things I was holding as anger I had let go. When I saw them in front of me, I realized it was a petty anger and let it go.

“And, then, there were a few things that Legal cut out of the book that I can’t actually talk about; people who are still living I felt needed to be exposed but I just couldn’t do it legally. It’s part of the reality of living in our world.”

I’m a huge Alice Cooper fan and have been since I was around eleven or twelve years old. I say that I was a fan then. I think that it was actually a scared and morbid fascination with all the Cooper did in those early days to push the envelope rock performance. All that said, I asked Gordon what the least known or understood thing was about Alice.

“What a good lyricist he is. I would say that he gets the least amount of credit for that. He’s really a great lyricist. It comes to him really fast. It’s amazing. I’ve never seen anybody write as fast as him.”

Readers will be fascinated in reading about all the huge names Shep knew on a personal level and/or managed.  It reads like a Hollywood “Who’s Who” - people like Groucho Marx, Salvador Dali, and the Dali Lama. As a kid growing up in New York, knowing and working with the rich and/or famous was never in his plans.

“It was never on my radar screen at all which I think helped me in the beginning stages of my career because it was never on my radar screen at all. As I became immersed in my business, I found myself becoming more and more of a groupie. I’m really attracted to power and wealth. I think part of it is the fool’s gold aspect of it. But part of it is most of the people who get above the crowd got there for some reason. So, they become real interesting personalities and a lot of them I always felt that I could learn a lot from.

“But I definitely, in my younger years, could not care less about celebrity. I’m definitely a victim of the times because now I see myself always attracted to fame and power.”

When I shared that my experience in interviewing celebrities has pretty much been a positive one, Shep added:

“We’re all just people. In the end, we’re all just people. It doesn’t matter who you are. The same thing happens in a super market. Seventy percent of the people checking you out are nice and thirty percent are, ‘What did I ever do to bother you?’ It’s a human condition more than an entertainer’s condition.

“I think entertainers have a different set of things where they’re different. The way they touch and feel the world is different than a lot of people because, usually, if they’re successful, they have people who touch the world for them. So that part, maybe, becomes a little different. A little different sense of reality.

“But, as far as the basic core of humans, they all wipe their ass . . . if they’re still fortunate enough to be able to do it,” Gordon said with his trademark laugh.

I often ask people in interviews how they would fix the music business if they were made Music Czar – assuming that it needs fixing. Gordon’s response surprised me.

“Nah, I don’t think it needs fixing. It is what it is. The Grammy show will probably be the most watched show in the history of the Grammy’s, like it is every year.

“Part of music is if the old people like it, the young people don’t and if the young people like it, the old people won’t. What needs fixing in an art form is a very qualitative question. It’s in the eyes of the beholder . . . in my opinion. I know there’s a wide held belief that music is not as good, it’s not as successful. I don’t feel qualified to say that.

“I went to see the play, Hamilton. It was just as valid as a Broadway play. It had songs that I wouldn’t call a song. But to my kids, those are songs. One of the main raps that I hear from fellow people in the business my age is that there’s no more songs. It depends on how you define a song. There’s no more songs as we know them. That’s sort of my feeling. It’s sort of a young people’s game to vent and an old people’s game to enjoy.”

Shep Gordon is primarily known for being an artist manager representing not only Alice Cooper but also Anne Murray, Blondie, Teddy Pendergrass, Luther Vandross, and others. However, many readers will be surprised to learn that he is also credited for making the celebrity chef world what it is today. When I asked what the differences or similarities are between the music and culinary worlds, Gordon said:

“I think they’re almost exactly the same. In the end, they all do the same. The culinary art form is so developed. It’s great artists the same way that I think Alice is a great artist. I think Emeril Lagasse is a great artist on many levels.

“For Alice it’s lyric writing. For Emeril, it’s recipe writing. For Alice, it’s on the stage. For Emeril, it’s in front of the camera. They both have to play their hits all the time. If Alice does a concert and doesn’t do “School’s Out,” his audience would be really disappointed. If Emeril didn’t do some Cajun dishes, his audience would be really disappointed.

“They also have to invent new stuff. If Alice didn’t write new material, he’d become a thing of the past. Same thing with Emeril. Gotta write new recipes. They both spend the afternoon in their street clothes. Show time comes, Alice puts on his uniform and Emeril puts on his whites. Alice gets the band together and says, ‘You know, last night, I’d like to hear the guitar part here a little longer; maybe you could hold the bass down there and I’m going to do one lyric.’ Emeril gets the chefs together and goes, ‘You know, guys, last night there was little salt in that fish and I really want that potato cooked another thirty seconds.’ And, then, the show begins. Alice hits the stage. Emeril hits the kitchen and they, hopefully, make their customers happy and go home. You know, it’s really the same kind of thing.

“What the chefs didn’t have when I got started was any way to touch their fans outside their kitchens. So, think about if there weren’t record players, radio stations, or arenas, Michael Jackson would be a wandering minstrel. Just like Emeril had one restaurant. It was the invention of the record player and radio and TV and all these outlets that allowed them to touch their audiences. T-shirts with their names on it. That’s what I did for the chefs. All they had was one restaurant.

“I got the TV Food Network on the air and I got them selling pots and pans and doing videos of their cooking and selling cookbooks – ways that an Emeril Lagasse fan didn’t have to be in a hundred seat restaurant to be a fan and to live part of the experience. He sells spices. He can make his recipes.

“And now they’re starting to get remuneration at the level of rock stars. Emeril gets three or four hundred thousand dollars some nights to do big parties just like U2 gets paid fortunes to do their thing. Emeril is making a fortune on QVC just like the artists are making their money.

“So, to me, it was very obvious. They were great artists just like musical artists. They just happen to be culinary artists. They did exactly the same thing. They just didn’t have a way to touch their audience.”

And what does Shep hope people take away from the movie and book?

“My first reaction to the question is that I don’t really care. The movie wasn’t my thing. It was Mike Meyers. I never really did it for a reaction. The book, I think more personally, I hope that people take away the fact: live your life. You’re gonna die. Everybody’s gonna die. Live your life and be proud of what you do. You can do it the right way and be successful and be happy. I hope that comes through.”

As for what is on Gordon’s work radar for the next year or so, he says:

“I don’t really know. I’ve never really been a planner. I know I’m going to continue with Alice. It’s like a body part. He’s at a point in his life where he really is enjoying being on stage. He loves his band. I think he’s doing a hundred and ten dates this year.

“Next year I think that we’re doing some things with the Hollywood Vampires, which has been a lot of fun to put together and work on. I just see a lot of charity stuff and projects. I’m starting to do some talks. I’ll be speaking in Orlando and speaking up in Carmel. It’s nice. It gives me a chance to interact with the audience and let them ask questions about the book. I feel very comfortable in giving answers.”

As we wrapped up our chat, I asked Shep Gordon what I often ask people who have been in the business for a long time like he has. How does he want to be remembered and what does he hope his legacy is?

“No idea. That he was a good cook and a great grandpa. I loved people. I sorta do what I do for me so I don’t really think about things in those terms. I just hope that it’s not a big funeral that people have to travel to.”

If you haven’t done so already, you will definitely want to order Shep’s book, They Call Me Supermensch. Heck, while you’re at it, order Mike Meyers’ Supermensch. Both are well worth the investment and are fascinating to devour.

After you’ve read the book, try to start living life with “coupons” (you’ll know what that means when you read the book).

Glenn Hughes Resonates

Posted February 2017 

glennbackcoversingle copyI don’t know what songs kids play air guitar in their rooms these days but “back when I was their age” (did I just say that?!), one of the bands on my air guitar short list was most definitely Deep Purple. Their Made In Japan album was, by far, THE album (if a kid couldn’t play anything else on guitar, they could play the intro to Smoke On The Water) and when their studio album, Burn, came out, Purple fans emptied store shelves of it. 

The band has had four different line-ups (referred to as Mark I, II, III, or IV) and have reportedly collectively sold over 100 million LPs globally. The bassist in Marks III and IV was Glenn Hughes who, along with other members of Deep Purple, were inducted into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame last year. 

While on the subject of the RRHOF, I contacted its CEO, Greg Harris, for some comments about the legendary bassist.

“An overall thought is what an incredible rock and roll life and what an incredibly warm and open person. It says a lot to be such a great stage presence in rock and roll, through and through and having been so well traveled. He relates to people. I’m very impressed with his friendship and generosity to everybody. If you think about his lineage in the bands he was in before Deep Purple itself and then afterwards, it’s just amazing. So, whether or not you knew the name of the guy playing bass in some of these bands – that unmistakable sound is Glenn Hughes.”

When I asked Greg if Glenn had been involved with the Hall with regards to contributing any memorabilia, he said, “He has. He’s been, first and foremost, involved with the induction. Then, subsequent to that, he’s actually served as our Hall of Fame ambassador at a few events. He’s such a great spokesperson for the museum. He was generous in providing items for the exhibit. With such a long career and so much movement, he doesn’t have a lot of things left from those early days. But he shared with us a real period piece: a pair of platform shoes that he wore during the Deep Purple era.”

Mr. Harris closed his comments about Glenn by adding, “Not only is Glenn an inductee into the Hall of Fame but he has also become a member of the Hall of Fame family. He truly has been a great ambassador and he and his wife, Gabby, are just terrific individuals.”

glennbw copyGlenn not only played in the Deep Purple, but he was also part of Trapeze, California Breed, Black Sabbath, and super group, Black Country Communion (with Joe Bonamassa, Jason Bonham, and Derek Sherinian), along with scores of others over the span of his lengthy career.

In addition to working with so many great bands and artists, Glenn has also recorded solo projects of his own. It was for his latest CD, Resonate, that I called him up at his home to chat about it.

We started out by chatting about his induction into the RRHOF and his thoughts about it and the Hall.

“I’ve been watching the Hall of Fame since it first started out thirty-three years ago. It’s been something I’ve been doing living in America every year. It’s a grand and glorious event, you know. And to finally be inducted with my friends in Deep Purple was a momentous occasion for rock fans, in general, not just people on stage but in general. When you think of the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame, it really is about rock and roll – or it’s supposed to be for the bands you would think of from the seventies: The Who and the Stones and the Beatles and Zeppelin and Sabbath and, now, Purple. Then, of course, a grand splattering of newer artists. I wouldn’t be surprised if Pearl Jam gets in this year (he was correct in that prediction). The door opens for other artists from Seattle and New York and London.  It’s a case of longevity and records sold, fan base and whatever grand scale of things happen.”

Turning to the subject of his new CD, I asked Hughes why the title, “Resonate”. glennfinalpurple copy

“Because I wanted to call the album something that meant something to me. It’s not very often that I will call an album after a song. I’ve only done it a couple of times. The album title, for me, is about what it means; about how I’m feeling and the recording and the songs. That word, ‘resonate,’ kept popping up in my head and it spoke to me. So, I was happy to call the album, ‘Resonate’.

With recording methodology and technology changing radically over the years, I asked Glenn how this album was different for him to make than all of the other albums he has worked on.

“It’s the first album where I went into my home studio and wrote each song in its entirety – both musically, arrangement wise, and lyrically – and then I’d sing it so that the demo would be completely done before I would turn to the next song. And, then, in the studio recording the album a couple of months later, what I did with my band is I played them one song at a time and we would do the song in its entirety and finish the song and then move to the next song. I had never had it in my head to do that before but it worked really well – to actually complete a song. Therefore, you can move freely to the next one.”

When asked what led him to work with the group of guys that he did on Resonate, Glenn said:

“Because they’re guys in my live band and they’re great musicians that I love working with. It’s so important for me to play live with the people I have on the record. Chad (Smith from the Red Hot Chili Peppers) has actually been on five of my solo albums and he’s my best friend. It’s always a pleasure to have him around not only – in my opinion – that he’s the greatest rock drummer but he’s funny, kind, considerate young man. Really amazing.

To ask an artist what song of theirs is their favorite is much like asking them who their favorite child is. However, I did ask Hughes which song would he point to as a calling card for “Resonate” for people to listen to in order to entice them to purchase it.

“Oh my god. It’s so difficult because they’re all little movies in their own right. But I think when you hear ‘Heavy,’ I mean, it’s got it all in there, you know? But then, again, people are saying that about ‘Long Time Gone.’ They’re saying that about ‘God of Money.’ They’re saying that about “Let It Shine’ and they’re saying it about ‘Flow.’ There are so many song titles that comes to mind that I’m so engrossed in what the songs are. They’re so meaningful to me and, hopefully, they will translate to everyone.”

Is there one that is any more personal than the rest?

“They’re all autobiographical. Every single one is something that happened to me. I say ‘autobiographical.’ These things are about the human condition. Every song I write is about what happened between birth and death and what happens in between and the seven deadly sins that involve faith, fear, hate. It’s all hear. There’s some angst on this album. There’s a moment there where I’m really upset. I left it on tape. I don’t want to erase something that people need to hear. The way that I feel is important so I don’t want to cover up my feelings. I want people to know or feel the real emotional side of who I am.”

As for tour plans this year and other career items on his radar, Glenn shared:

“We’re touring next Spring. We will play throughout America in August, coming back in the Spring and we’ll come back again next September. Oh, another album from me that will be recorded late next year. Black Country Communion are making another album in January. Joe Bonamassa is at my home tomorrow. We’re almost done writing that album. Then we go into the studio in January to record that. It’s going to be a very busy year next year for me. I’m very, very busy touring. I like to tour as much as possible. A lot of my friends that are my age have stopped touring or they’re slowing down. But, for some reason, my career seems to be picking up some speed so I’m just going to go with it.”

Wrapping out up our chat, I asked the legendary bassist how he hoped to be remembered what he hoped his legacy would be.

“I am a messenger. That’s what my message is. I continue to be a messenger throughout the last few decades about giving love to people and giving music back and making people feel free. I like to think that my music can heal people and help give people comfort. So, at the end of it, then, I was a messenger – I AM a messenger – and I’m a healer. That’s the most important thing to me, is to carry that message.” 

You can keep up with Glenn at www.glennhughes.com