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Walter Trout Talks About His Life, Wife, and Survivor Blues

Posted March 2019

 

001cropped ARG2117 Walter TroutcreditAustinHargave crop
Photo by Austin Hargave
Blues, and in rock, has been losing some of the foundational artists of the genre. Greats like B.B. King and Johnny Winter left us far too soon. However, we still have many blues greats touring and putting out great blues.

One such artist is someone we’ve had the privilege of chatting with a couple of times before (here and here): Walter Trout.

Trout has a new CD out entitled, Survivor Blues, and will be hitting the road in support of that album. It was about the disc that I called up Walter at his home. It had been four years since we last spoke, so I asked what has been happening since our last chat.

“I’m doing great, man! I’m feelin’ great! I’m very, very – almost shocked to be still alive and kickin’ ass. I had the transplant four years ago and this is the fourth record I’ll be putting out (since the transplant). I just feel lucky and blessed and grateful and it’s an all new thing to be alive after what I went through.”

After we last spoke, his wife, Marie, came out with a great book, The Blues: Why It Still Hurts So Good. I asked how the book was received.

“Well, the reception has been great. She had a lot of awesome reviews. All the profits from that book go to the Hart Fund at the Blues Foundation which is a charity that helps blues musicians get health care when they can’t afford insurance. It’s done some really wonderful work and she’s been able to contribute from sales of her book. I think she’s up to around six or seven thousand bucks that she’s been able to send to them. So, it’s been awesome. It goes to really good cause.”

Walter was in my neck of the woods last year, but I had to miss his gig. It was an intimate showSurvivorBluesCover in Maryville, TN, that was put on by a local blues organization, of sorts. I asked him why he doesn’t hit the region more often.

“I don’t know. I’m really busy playing all over the world. But I am getting back to Tennessee. I don’t know if it’s near you but I’m playing in Pelham at The Caverns – in the cave there . . . I think maybe in April. I’m going to double-bill with Eric Gales.

“Let me tell you a story. My high school girlfriend - who I was deeply in love with after she graduated from high school in South Jersey – and went to Maryville College and studied piano there. In 1970, I used to hitchhike down there from South Jersey, and I used to stay with her in the girl’s dorm and they used to sneak me in and I literally – literally – would climb the ivy and sneak in the window. So, I got a lot of history in Maryville. I know it well. I spent a lot of time there with my girlfriend.”

Turning to his new CD, I asked him for his “elevator speech” about it.

“The short version is: All my life I have thought there’s all these amazing blues songs that have fallen by the wayside. And when people decide they’re going to do albums of blues covers or they’re going to play covers when they’re playing love, they come out and do ‘I Got My Mojo 002 ARG1773 WalterTroutcreditAustinHargavePhoto by Austin HargaveWorking” or they do ‘Stormy Monday’ or they do ‘Caledonia’ or ‘Hey Hey The Blues Is Alright’ and ‘Missing With the Kid’ – all these songs that have been covered 853,000 times, you know? And I’m, like, ‘Wait a minute, here. There’s this vast catalog of these incredible songs that are just kind of forgotten.

“So, that was my goal with this record was to find songs that spoke to me and that I thought had something to say and that were classic blues tunes but have been kind of overlooked and to bring attention to these tunes. My hope is that people will go listen to the originals, you know?”

As a major player of the blues, I asked him what he thought the state of the genre is today.

“I think it’s doing great! I mean, there’s a lot of places to play. There’s a lot of festivals. The festivals are always well attended. There’s a huge group of young musicians who are into this music and who are carrying it on and who are just coming up through the ranks.

“One of the things that I think, though, is that the audiences – the majority of the audiences – and this is what my wife addressed in her book – the majority of the audiences are sort of the baby boomer generation – my generation; people who grew up in the sixties and seventies. I think it speaks to them, in a way, because it’s also they’re the people who grew up in era of sort of like classic rock and the blues boom of the sixties where you had bands like the Stones and the Animals and people like that.

“So, I’m hoping that a younger crowd is going to latch on to it. But I do see it happening slowly. I do see that there are younger people who kind of are looking for something else than a rapper or some music that’s corporately produced, you know what I mean? When they see 003 ARG1863 WalterTroutcreditAustinHargavePhoto by Austin Hargavesomebody, ‘Wow! There’s a human being and he’s playing an instrument and he’s singing something from his heart, and this is incredible!’ I don’t think that’s ever really go away even though the mainstream media has done their very best to destroy it by just pushing corporately mass-produced shit onto people.

“Radio in the late sixties and early seventies, you could turn it on and there were these incredibly creative musicians. The Beatles and Hendrix and Bob Dylan and The Stones and Procol Harum and Pink Floyd and all these incredible, creative titans. Now, they just want to push this crap on people.

“You can say, ‘Well, you’re not open-minded.’ But a lot of it doesn’t speak to me and, yeah, I reserve the right to be moved by what I’m moved by and I’m moved by art that has an intent to having some feeling and some emotion and some creativity and not something that is produced almost by a computer to appeal to a certain demographic.”

Trout completed his answer by adding, “Boy, you really got me going on that! Ha! Ha! I think the blues is in a good state and I know that there is a huge group of young musicians that want to carry it on. And as they come up through the ranks, they’re going to have fans that are their age.

“Joe Bonamassa did a lot to bring this music to younger people, too.

Walter recorded at the studio owned and operated by the Doors’ Robbie Krieger. He shared how and why that came about.

004 ARG1942 WalterTroutcreditAustinHargavePhoto by Austin Hargave“This is the first time I’ve worked with him. The way that this happened is my producer, Eric Corne – this is our 12th or 13th album together. We’re kind of a team. When we were going to do this, he knows the kind of studio that I want to be in. I want to have a big room. First of all, I want to have a big tracking room where we can set up in a circle and play the majority of the stuff live. I want to have that feeling.

“He came and he said, ‘You know, Robbie Krieger’s got this studio. It’s kind of a private studio across town but it’s awesome. Let’s go over and see it.’ We went over and the place is beautiful.

“So, we started recording there and Robbie – who loves blues; that’s his main love in life is the blues – he was coming in and hanging out. He’d be listening to playbacks. He’d be having meals with us. We’d be playing back – listening to a playback. He’d be sitting on a couch, with an acoustic guitar, playing along. One day I said, ‘Hey, man! Let’s do something together!’ He’s like, ‘Yeah! That’d be great!’

“We talked about his love for old country blues and his two favorite guys were Reverend Gary Davis and Mississippi Fred McDowell. He told me that. He said, ‘Those are the guys that really spoke to me when I was young and that’s still the stuff that I love to listen to.’ That is what he told me.

“We picked the Fred McDowell tune and we kind of arranged it together and we decided to take kind of a Muddy Waters style slide riff and base it on the slide riff that Robbie played. The track you hear on there we did live. We didn’t even really rehearse it. We kind of talked about it. We sat with acoustic guitars and then we went out in the studio with our electrics and counted to four and off we went. So, what you hear on there is one take live.”

I asked Walter if the recording was done digitally or via analog.

“Well, we can do both, but we did this on ProTools. They have tape if you want to use it, you know?”

When I asked Walter if there is a track that he would point to as a calling card for the whole 005 ARG2207 WalterTroutcreditAustinHargavePhoto by Austin Hargavealbum, he shared:

“The cut that I think is the ultimate statement on that album is the opener, ‘Me, My Guitar, and the Blues’ by Jimmy Dawkins. When I heard that, I was completely devastated. I thought to myself, ‘This song that this guy wrote – which has basically been forgotten and unheard – this is as good a blues song as anyone has ever written. This is classic. He, basically, took the entire genre of the blues and summed up the whole thing in two lines: ‘And now that you don’t love me, all I have left is me, my guitar, and the blues.’

“You know how the Gettysburg Address summed up the entire Civil War in two minutes? Well, this guy summed up the entire scene and history and feel and essence of what the blues is. He summed it up in two lines of lyric and I was devasted, man! I was weeping. Even talking about it – I mean, it’s deep shit. So that one, to me, sums up – they wanted to put it at the beginning of the record and I’m, like, really? Because how do you follow that song? But they convinced me and said, ‘No, let’s put it on at the beginning because that will kind of pull people in, you know?’ But, to me, I don’t know how you follow that tune. That tune – and singing it! I sing it every night and at the end, sometimes, I have to leave the stage for five minutes and go gather myself because of the intensity of those lyrics.

“Another one that got me lyrically was ‘Red Sun’ by Floyd Lee. Floyd Lee is a very unknown, unheralded, internationally, at least, blues man. I know he’s played around New York quite a bit. He was still playing around New York in, like, 2012. I’ve tried to reach him. It was one of his band members that wrote ‘Red Sun’ and I’ve tried to reach that guy and can’t reach him. I don’t know what’s happened to them.

006 ARG2228 Walter TroutcreditAustinHargavePhoto by Austin Hargave“But, the lyrics on there reminded me of things I went through. He goes, ‘Sittin’ on top of the mountain, looking out at the sea, sittin’ on top of the mountain, and an angel talkin’ to me. I got an angel feather in my pocket, it’s gonna take me far away. I got an angel feather in my pocket, it’s gonna carry me to my grave.’

“I heard that and I’m, like, ‘Is this by Leonard Cohen or Bob Dylan?’ I mean, that’s incredible and it’s an unheralded piece of work and I’m like, there’s so many of these great songs! You go all the way back to Charlie Patton; you can go back to Blind Willie Johnson and you can go back to Blind Lemon Jefferson or Big Bill Broonzy or any of these people and find these astounding songs that have just been forgotten. It’s kind of a shame, you know?”

As to whether there is going to be a follow-up to this with the same kind of deep-track tunes, Trout said:

“I don’t know. I can tell you that right now I’m in Robbie’s studio. I was just there yesterday and I’m doing an album of all original songs that will be out at the end of the year. That’s the latest project. We’ve got six songs recorded and we’re gonna do, probably, ten to twelve. I’ve got to go on tour for all of February. So, in March, we’ll be back in Robbie’s studio and we’ll finish this new album.

“After doing an album of all covers, I wanted to do some of my own tunes. Literally, the day that we sent this record off – we mastered it; we sent it off to the label; the same day, we went back in the studio and started the next record.”

Wrapping up our chat, I asked Walter a question I asked him during our previous two chats:007 ARG2697 WalterTroutcreditAustinHargavePhoto by Austin Hargave When he steps off the tour bus of life up at that great gig in the sky, how does he want to be remembered and what does he hope his legacy will be?

“I would probably say he was somebody who tried to be the best and most honest artist he could be and tried to create something of beauty; to bring some joy into peoples lives. He was kind of a deeply flawed individual, but he did his best and really gave it everything he had to create to the best of his ability.”

Walter Trout is certainly doing exactly that.

Keep up with the latest with Walter at WalterTrout.com.

Cindy Blackman Santana Talks Her New CD and Life With Carlos

Posted February 2019

Cindy Blackman Credit Rob Shanahan croppedPhoto by Rob ShanahanThey say that behind every great man is a great woman. This is literally the case with Carlos Santana in the person of his wife of eight years, Cindy Blackman-Santana. Cindy is one of the Rock and Roll Hall of Famer’s touring and studio drummers.

Astute music fans will know Cindy as a phenomenal musician who stands quite well on her own. Having cut her musical teeth on hard-core jazz, she has played with a long list of jazz artists including Sam Rivers, Angela Bofill, Sonny Simmons. 

She’s also quite the rock drummer, first hitting it big as Lenny Kravitz’s drummer and performing on his huge 1993 hit, “Are You Gonna Go My Way”. She’s pretty much played with him ever since.

Her work as a rock drummer invaded her personal life when, in December 2010, she married Carlos Santana. The marriage is rocking along beautifully both personally and musically. 

Hearing that she was going to have an album coming out later this year as well as a new CD with Carlos, I thought it would a great time to chat with her (something I’ve sought to do for three years). 

While preparing for our chat, I learned that she is friends Boomerocity photographic contributor (and personal photographer for Ringo Starr and the go-to shutter bug for DW Drums and Gretsch Drums), Rob Shanahan. 

He had this to say about Cindy: “Cindy is a total class act and incredible drummer. I enjoyed photographing her for the Gretsch Drums campaign, and incredibly grateful to have created such an iconic image of her.” Of which she said, “He’s awesome!”

At the beginning of my chat with Cindy, I congratulated her on her recent wedding anniversary and asked her if it has been anything at all like she envisioned it eight years ago.

“Um, no, it’s not. Ha! Ha! No, it’s not in some ways and in other ways it’s gloriously like I envisioned it. I really like monogamy because I love growing with a person. I’ve always been that way my whole life. I like that. I like seeing the growthEverythingKnoxvilleLogoEdited of a person; doing things together; growing with somebody. We certainly done a lot of that. It’s a beautiful thing because we still have our freshness. We still have playfulness and we still have fun. I see some people who are together for a lot less time and sometimes they don’t stay together. Sometimes, things wear out. We still have all of those things so I’m very happy with that.”

I shifted the conversation to the new CDs coming out and asked her to tell me about them.

“Absolutely! I’ll start, first, with Carlos’ and then end up with mine. 

“He’s got a great CD coming out called “Africa Speaks” and it’s with the Santana band plus this incredible singer who Carlos came across by the name of Buika (pronounced “BWEE-kah”) and she’s SO amazing! Her writing is incredible. I love the content of her writing. And, then, her voice is just really spectacular! It’s very sultry and she has beautiful tone and she’s very distinctive. She’s got a very distinctive voice. Once you hear her voice, you know that it’s her. 

“This music, as the title would suggest – Africa Speaks – is based off of a lot of music that Carlos heard which is from Africa – with some different kinds of African rhythms but, as well, with music that comes from Africa which was initially influenced by American music. American music – or, classical music – which is jazz – comes, in part, from African music. We took the rhythms of Africa and we took the harmonies of Europe and developed on both of those things and expounded on both of those things and created jazz music – which is what I call American Classical music or American CLASSIC music. Classical sometimes deems another connotation which is that it’s a staid music. A music that doesn’t grow. But jazz – in its surest form – is certainly quite the opposite of that. But classic American music – to me being jazz – builds off of those things.

“Well, in Africa, we’re influenced by them rhythmically and melodically, too, in a lot of ways, of course. Blues is certainly influenced by that because you get the call and response, which definitely comes from Africa, as well. They were then influenced by us in terms of hearing jazz, hearing funk, hearing people like James Brown. They did their own thing with it. 

“So, Carlos heard all those things and took them and did something else with them. It’s a nice back and forth influence, if you will, for what we come up with for this record. It’s really incredible. 

“That records coming out. Prior to that, my record will be released. I’m really, really proud of the music that we’re doing. I recorded a lot of music with some musicians. There’s SO MUCH music, at this point, I have, basically, two sides of the record. One is going to be, for the most part, instrumental. The second side is featuring my vocal debut. Those songs are more on a commercial/pop side where the instrumental part is very electric and kind of jazz/rock/funk vibe. Both sides feature a guitar-heavy roster. 

“John McLaughlin is on one track on each side – so he’s on one instrumental and one vocal track. Carlos is on both sides. Vernon Reid is on the instrumental side as is Kurt Hammet. So, it’s really got those heavy hitters on guitar. 

“Then, there’s some songs that’s got some really cool messages. There’s one called, ‘Social Justice,’ which features Andy Vargas, the singer for the Santana band but he’s also an amazing rapper. I really love the messages that he comes up with and his flow. He’s on a couple of tracks. It’s going to be really cool!

“On the second side, with the main vocal things, they were produced by Narada Michael Walden, who is, in his own right, a great drummer, but he’s also a very great producer, as well. Narada is very sweet! A very kind individual. Wonderful to work with. 

“I sang one song on Carlos’ record called, ‘Power of Peace,’ which is a Santana/Isley record. I didn’t intend to sing that song. It’s a song that I wrote called, ‘I Remember’. I brought it into the session where we were recording. It was the last day and I said, ‘There’s a song that I’d love Ronald Isley to hear because it’s great and I think his voice would be wonderful if he sang this song.’  I had demoed that song years ago. So, I brought in the demo that I did with myself singing it. He (Ronald Isley) heard the song and he said, ‘You know, this is a beautiful song, but I don’t see myself singing it. This sounds like a very feminine song. I think a woman should sing it.’

“He was naming some singers who he thought we should bring in and sing it. Carlos was, like, ‘No, no, no, no! If you’re not Cindy Blackman Credit Rob ShanahanReducedPhoto by Rob Shanahangoing to sing it, Cindy’s going to sing it!’ I’m, like, ‘Cindy’s going to sing it’? What are you talking about?’ Ha! Ha!

“Everybody had the same thought – that I should sing it. Even some years ago when I first demoed it, I sang it and then I had Corey Glover from Living Color – he sang it. He said, ‘Cindy, I’m happy to sing this song for you but YOU need to be singing this song, not me!’ Everything was pointing to me doing it. 

“I sang the song. Ronald did some beautiful ad libs on that song. Narada heard that song and said, ‘You know, you should do a record like that where you’re singing’, and Carlos had been saying, ‘You should do a record. I hear you sing around the house and I love your voice. You should sing.’ My mom’s been telling me I should sing. So, because of that urging, I spoke to Narada and I said, ‘Yeah, but I’m not a singer.’ He said, ‘Girl, don’t worry. I can produce you.’ I’m, like, ‘C’mon! I don’t think so,’ and he said, ‘Yep! I can produce you.’

“We started writing together and we came up with seven songs. All of those seven songs are going to be on the record. They’re really cool! Very cool songs! I really love those songs! 

“My record will be a double record with one instrumental side and, then, the vocal side will be the second half of the record. Like I said, I’m really proud of that record. I’m really happy. It’s very, very different record from anything that I’ve ever done. We’re hoping that it will be out in the Spring. That’s what we’re looking for – a Spring release. I wanted it to come out sooner. I wanted it to come out right now but there is, obviously, some logistics that you have to go through to release a record. We’re working through those now and looking for it to be released in the Spring. I’m hoping we get to talk again when it comes out because I really want to share this music and share the messages that are on this record with some people!”

When I asked if they (and she) were going to be touring in support of the discs, she replied:

“Yes! Yes! We’re going to be starting in Las Vegas, starting at the House of Blues, again. Then, we tour the U.S. in the Spring and, then, we have a big, hefty European tour for the summer, which will be great! I love touring Europe – especially in the summer because the weather is so amazing and there’s so many incredible places that you can see and enjoy in the nice weather. That will be fantastic. We have a really full year. We had a nice break here, but we’ve got a full year coming up. I’m looking forward to it. It’s going to be awesome!”

As I stated earlier, jazz is Cindy’s true musical love. She enjoys the benefit of being able to record and tour playing jazz, not all musicians of the genre do that. I asked her why many jazz artists seem to peel off to play other genres, almost pushing jazz farther into the background.

CarlosCindybyErikKabikPhoto by Erik Kabik“First, it depends on the person’s temperament, attitude, and tastes because, to me, jazz is my favorite and to me it’s the greatest music on the planet. But I also like other music. I like funk music. I like rock. I like African influenced music, rhythmically. I like those things. I love Brazilian music. For me to play other things is also fulfilling. Not fulfilling in the same way as playing jazz. No. But it’s still fulfilling. It doesn’t necessarily have to be a hardship to play other things. My best example of a person who plays other styles and plays them in a very innovative and great way would be Herbie Hancock. He’s one of my heroes for that kind of thing because he does that so well and he’s innovative in every genre that he takes up. 

“It’s unfortunate that – even though jazz is created, born and bred and developed in this country and it’s an American art form – and, to me, the greatest American art form – it does not get the respect or love that it deserves – especially from this country. If it was held in higher regard, then it would. For the jazz musicians who don’t want to branch out and play other things, they wouldn’t have to. If you listen to what gets pushed on the radio, it’s not jazz. It’s not acoustic music. You might get what some call “smooth jazz’. To me, that’s not jazz. I don’t like it, honestly. I’m being very honest and no offense to anybody who plays it and likes it. Everybody’s got their thing. But, for me, it’s not my taste. It’s a watered-down version of the music that I love. If I’m listening to Miles Davis, I don’t want to hear a watered-down version of Miles. If I’m hearing somebody who going for that, then that’s fine. But to hear a watered-down version of it, to make it radio playable, that’s really a turn off for me. 

“And, just because there’s a solo in music doesn’t mean that it’s jazz. People will say, ‘Somebody’s soloing.’ Well, that’s good but that doesn’t make it jazz. It makes it good. It makes them solo and it makes it better because somebody’s actually doing something different in a song. 

“But, back to the main point: I think – and I believe with my whole heart and soul – that if jazz was pushed let’s say on Clear Channel the way that rock is pushed or the way that funk is pushed, people would love it. I’ve played in concerts and people who were stone-cold Lenny Kravitz fans have come to my concerts because they saw me somewhere and they had seen me with Lenny and saw may name. They didn’t really know what I was doing but came. They’re, like, ‘Wow! This is my first jazz concert ever! I loved it!’ Well, you know what? Thank you for that! I appreciate that. I’m so happy. But I think that more people would understand and feel that they love it if the music were pushed more.

“You know, if you look at the fifties when jazz was pushed more, Miles Davis was as big of a star as Marlon Brando. It’s CindyBlackmanSantana01 PhotobyJimmyBruch2bPhoto by Jimmy Bruchmusic that is great and people would love it if given the chance. But when it’s not pushed – and I think there are reasons that it’s not pushed. It’s not pushed because it’s not music that leads to conditioning. It’s not music that leads to everybody thinking with conveyor-belt mentality; with the same in-the-box mentality. It leads you to think out of the box. It leads you to be more of an individual. It leads you to be a creative person. And when you do all those things, you’re less likely to be a person who’s going to be controlled and put into a box in terms of thinking, doing, acting, even eating. You’re not just going to be following the crowd just because it’s the religious act for you. An act done out of habit. You’re going to be thinking for your own self. You’re going to be creating weather you’re going to be making something or whether it’s just creative thought. You’re going to be doing that. 

“That’s what jazz does and why it’s probably my most favorite music ever because it leads and lends itself to creativity. This planet – the universe – is, based on creativity. If you look at the way – and I don’t want to offend anybody for any kind of spirituality or any belief that someone does or doesn’t have and so I don’t hold any kind of judgement either way so I’m hoping nobody holds me in judgement for what I’m about to say – but I believe that the Creator – God, Allah, the Universe, whatever you want to call that being that I feel is responsible for us being here – is a very creative entity. If you look at the way that this planet was put together – the way that the cosmos was put together – that’s some high-level creativity – to be able to make that! 

“So, we, as sparks of that, have the creative gene is us. We have the creative desire in us because we come from an entity that is completely creative – intelligent and creative and loving. That’s what we come from. So, we, at our core, I believe we want to be that. I believe that it serves the purpose of anybody who wants to control or program you to weed that element out of your psyche. Jazz does not weed that element out. It brings that element out. It magnifies that element. Where, if you’re put into a box all the time, then that element is – the element of non-creativity and programming – is enforced and re-enforced. 

“So, that’s what I think is up with creative music; with jazz music. Creative music doesn’t have to be jazz. I take that from Wayne Shorter. He doesn’t even call it jazz. He calls it ‘creative music’. You can be creative if you’re playing in the rock genre. You can be creative if you’re playing in the funk genre. Those are rhythms that you work off of. You can work off of any rhythm and be creative. So, I don’t say that because it’s not ‘jazz’ that it’s not creative. It can be creative if it’s another rhythm. It’s how you approach the chord. It’s how you approach the form. It’s how you approach the whole presentation of the music. It’s how you approach letting the music live; letting the music breathe. Because, if you don’t let it breathe and you don’t let it live, then it’s in that box format.”

As for what she would like to do, musically, that she hasn’t yet done, Cindy said (after some careful thought):

CindyBlackmanSantanaPhotobyJimmyBruch1bPhoto by Jimmy Bruch“More mixing of the genres. This record that I’m coming out with – which, by the way, is called “Give the Drummer Some” – is certainly mixing a bunch of things that I love into one record. More of the ‘chef hat’ is what I want to put on. More recipe making in terms of coming out with more mixes and more colors of the music; to come up with more different presentations for the music.”

Cindy then shared what is on her radar for the next couple of years.

“My agenda for this year is really to keep in line with the projects that we have coming out. I’m really looking forward to this ‘Africa Speaks’ because I love the music. At the same time, I’m very supportive of my new record because I love what we’ve done. So, I intend to keep pushing both of those and when my record comes out, to support that, as well. But, at the same time, my forward-thinking cap is still on because I have music that I’m ready to put out after this record and certainly ideas for stuff I want to do for my next project and my next record. So those are still forming. Some of them are formed because I do have music already that I want to record; some music that I’ve written that I’ve not had a chance to record, yet, that I’ve played live with my band. Those things I want to record so those are on the back-burner for after this record. 

“Maybe playing with some different people; adding some different people to the mix of what I’m doing, as well. Going to some different places in terms of the geography of the tour because I want to certainly reach more people - other people. Reaching out and helping through the music that we play, helping people; helping children; doing some things to bring a magnifying glass or a focus to some happening around the world that I think deserve attention and deserve help from people. 

“I’m really into health. The ‘health is wealth’ phrase and adage I think is important because I think it’s true. I think that’s why it’s such a popular phrase. Health is wealth. So, there are some things that I want to do with that. I’ve seen just through my personal – and I was talking about this to a friend of mine just this morning – I’ve seen just in my personal scope a lot of headway from people who have cancer – by taking what’s called Black Seed Oil – and I’m not a doctor; I’m not purporting to give medical advice or anything and I’ll make a disclaimer with that. These are not testimonials that I’ve read. These are people that I’ve actually seen take that particular substance and have some really dramatic results. There are some things that I want to help – in the proper way and in ways that don’t make me sound like I’m purporting to be some sort of medical doctor, which I’m not. There’s just some things I want to bring attention to in terms of health. I think that the way we eat needs to be addressed. I think the way people are treated; the way that children are treated; the way that the elderly are treated needs to be addressed. 

“My dad passed this year. He had dementia. I think that’s an area that needs to be addressed, as well. I watched his care. I CindyBlackmanSantana 002btook part in his care. I gave him care. I cared for him, as my family did. Apart from caring for him, we were certainly very involved in the facility that he ended up staying in. We were involved in monitoring the care that he was given there. We learned a lot from that. So, there are things in that area that I want to help bring attention to because I think that’s very important. 

“In terms of our awareness of the universe and our awareness of our position here – not as spectators because to live on this planet and think that we are spectators, to me, is not fully being engrossed in the energy of what’s here. I think that this planet is a living, breathing organism and I think that it is the same living, breathing organism that we are, basically. The way that we treat this planet, the way that we treat ourselves, is all intertwined. If we don’t take care of the planet, we’re not taking care of ourselves. 

“I think that they are all things that need to be addressed and I hope to bring attention to all of that. Bring more conscious awareness to those things so that we are taking care of ourselves. We are taking care of the planet. Then the planet will better take care of us! We have to understand that this planet is not called ‘Mother Earth’ just because that sounds like a cool title. This is called ‘Mother Earth’ because it is our mother. We basically suckle off of this earth as we would as newborns off of our mothers when we’re born. When we suckle off of this earth, we have to realize that’s a gift from the earth and, so, we need to take care of her, and we need to love her better.”

How does Cindy want to be remembered and what does she hope her legacy is?

“Absolutely and I’m sure that it will change as my awareness changes – my answers and my perspective on life changes. But you know? I’ll tell you: when I was thirteen, I started studying the Baha´’i faith and it was through some friends of mine that I had met and became their babysitter. The lady said to me, ‘You know, one of the nicest things that anybody ever said to me is that I’m a good person.’ That stuck in my head from then. One of the things that I’m hoping that people would remember me as or by being is that I’m a good person and that I only mean for the highest good of everyone and not just myself. I hope to be remembered as that. Not just in word but also in deed; the things that I do and in the way that I treat people. Certainly, in the way that I try to live my life. I’m not perfect. For the things that are not up to par and up to the level that I want them to be at, I’m certainly consciously aware of raising those things to the level that I want them to be at. I feel that I’ve done – and am doing – a pretty good job at that. Certainly, we can always improve, so there’s that. So, I hope to be remembered for that. 

Cindy 1 Cindy with Santana Band“My goal as a musician is to become a virtuoso, which I’m not at this point. I’m still working on that, but I would hope that I would be remembered as that. If I can be a positive influence on somebody on and off the bandstand; if I can touch somebody’s heart and make them feel love which would make be a better person – a more caring person – then I’m going to feel accomplished if I can do that. Those are some of the things that I hope to do and certainly hope to be remembered for. 

“I have a song on my new record called, ‘Change Is in Your Hands’. I believe that it’s a true title. I believe that we can all make change happen and we’re all responsible for it happening or not happening. I want to be an instrument for change for the good; change for the better; change for the higher level of awareness; change for the higher level of everyone’s life circumstances. And I don’t mean only mine. I think the universe intends for all people to live and breathe and be in the highest circumstance that we can be in. Not just some. But I believe that there’s enough to go around for everybody and I believe that the intention is for everyone to be that way. I don’t like division. Not that I’m ungrateful for anything that I have, do, or will get, and not that don’t strive, because I do. I’m also born in this capitalistic society so that’s part of my mentality but not in a bad way. It’s not the ‘crabs in a barrel’ and I know that that exists, especially in our society. But I don’t take on the energy of the crab in the barrel. I just take the energy of upgrading and uplifting. I’m not going to be the crab that’s going to crawl over someone to get. I’m going to be the crab that’s going to extend my hand and pull other people up.”

Keep up with Cindy at her website, CindyBlackmanSantana.com, and be sure to pre-order her new CD, Give the Drummer Some, as well as her husband, Carlos’ new CD, Africa Speaks. They’re worth the price!

Ken Mansfield & The Roof Top Concert

Posted December 2018

 

RoofTopBookCoverBeatles fans the world over – even if they’re just a nominal fan – is aware of the bands iconic performance which became known as the “rooftop concert”.

Only a handful of people were on that roof with the band and very few people have written directly about – and certainly not from an insider’s perspective.

Ken Mansfield – who is no stranger to Boomerocity or Everything Knoxville Magazine – is one of those handful of people on the roof that day. As the U.S. manager for the lad’s record label, Apple, he was on the inside, literally, of what led up to that iconic musical event. While he’s written about it in previous books, his new book, The Roof: The Beatles’ Final Concert, combines the stories and the details of that performance and shares it from a very personal (and not so academic) perspective.

For the second time this year, I called Ken at his California home to chat about “Rooftop”. To help set up the backdrop for what he was about to share, I started by asking which of the Fab Four he was closest to.

“I was probably more with Ringo because he and I had spent the longest time together. I think there was a closeness with George that I didn’t have with the others just because our natures were so similar, and we spent some really close, personal time together. But Ringo and I, we went through everything. We went through being crazy and having to go away and get well. Ha! Ha! Coming back together afterwards. I represented him, again, in the nineties. He moved to L.A. right away, so he was really an L.A. guy after a while. We were a small group that just hung out together; an isolated group of people from either Apple or just in the business and stuff like that.”

When I asked Mansfield if he sees either Ringo or Paul since the nineties, he said:

“The last time I saw him (Ringo), he was playing at an Indian casino at Indianland up in Northern California – in Santa Rosa, actually. It was in Santa Rosa. That’s the last time. It was funny because, as close as we were and as much time as we spent (together) and went through so much together . . . when we got together, we were backstage, ‘How’s Barbara?’ ‘Oh, she’s fine. How you doin’, Ken?’ ‘Well, I’m doing okay.’ Then, pretty soon we’re just looking at each other because we just didn’t have much to talk about because we weren’t involved in each other’s lives anymore. That was the last time I saw him. That was probably four years ago.”

Asking Ken to lay out the premise of “Rooftop”, he shared:

“First of all, the point I’m really making with this book is that I really wanted to separate myself from other people and the EverythingKnoxvilleLogoEditedother books. It’s a personal book. Since Kevin Harrington forty years ago when he wrote that really small book on the roof, I’m the only person right now that’s written a book about being on the roof. I was there. There’s only a few of us that were there. There’s not many of us alive anymore.

“So, it’s a very personal, in-person look at putting together Apple. A personal look at the guys. There’s not a lot of facts and not a lot of detail and research and all of that. I really wanted the people to have an understanding of what it was like. It really concentrates on putting Apple together and all the things surrounding that and everything leading up to the roof. Basically, me walking up to the roof with the band and this moment happening that none of us really realized what it was going to be.

“There was an emotion up there; a closeness of all of us that were up there. Nobody else can describe it. I was standing four feet away part of the time from George; sitting just a few feet from Yoko; six feet away from the guys. There’s very small space on top of the roof that day. Everybody that was up there, we’re just bound to each other like two guys in a foxhole. Its’ something that’s with us forever. Something we’ll never forget.

“I wanted people to get that inside look at it and to make sure that I was also taking care of business. I had some of the greatest authorities like Mark Lewisohn, Bruce Spizer, Robert Rodriquez, Stefan Granados. Even Ben Stoker and Marshall Terrill. I invited a lot of people to go through this to make sure that my facts were right as they went by, I had to deal with facts, also, and I wanted to make sure I wrote this book for two specific groups of people.

“I wrote it for the aficionados – the people that know everything about the Beatles; knows everything that’s ever been about the Beatles. I wanted to give them a little different look; a little insight, softer look. I felt they deserved it as I wrote in the forward on it. I felt they deserved it. They’ve never met a Beatle or been with them or anything like that; to give them a feel for what they’ve been writing about for all these years. They know everything about them. Just that kind of a thing.

“Then, I wrote it, also, for the everyday people that’s just been a fan their whole lives. ‘Yesterday’ is their song they heard when they met their girlfriend. I wanted the people who haven’t been reading all this stuff, I wanted them to get a clear picture. So, I wrote it for two audiences and being very respectful to both audiences; to make sure that I gave them what I wanted them to know.

“I did go back to the White Book and The Beatles, Bible, and Bodega Bay a little bit because I needed to pull things out of there, update them, and re-write them to tell the whole story. I couldn’t leave out what I’d written before. I couldn’t tie things together if I didn’t. The Beatles, Bible, and Bodega Bay was eighteen years ago.

“I’ve got some pictures in there. Some of the Beatles guys – you probably know some of these guys – like Steve Marinucci and Ken Michaels – one of them said they couldn’t believe it when they saw the pictures I have of inside the building. They’re not exciting pictures. George is leaning against the wall while Derek Taylor is typing a letter, or Peter Asher on the phone. It shows them in their offices. It shows what it looks like in the building. The building was just a bunch of ordinary, working people. I wanted the people to get a personal feel for the Beatles. I’ve never seen a book like this before.”

I commended Mansfield on the stellar list of people like Alan Parsons, Peter Asher, and Andrew Loog Oldham, who contributed comments at the beginning of the book and what that says about his work. He replied:

“You need to make sure that you got the cred because, otherwise, people won’t believe you. Peter was there. We became friends. And Jack Oliver who went on to being president of Apple. And Alan (Parsons). Alan and I were on the roof together. We didn’t know that. I don’t remember him and didn’t remember me. He was a nineteen-year-old kid making his bones pulling cable and doing the stuff on the roof. I was the guy in the suit. We met, maybe, ten years ago and we got to talking. ‘Wait! You were on the roof?’ No! We couldn’t believe it; that we were on the roof. I always wanted to meet him. At that moment, we’re, like, ‘Yeah. Okay. We’re pals. We were on the roof together.’ That’s all we needed to know.”

Ken then told me that he hoped the book didn’t come across too “fluffy”.

“It’s a very ‘soft’ approach. I’m wondering if it’s going to be too fluffy for some people. That’s how I remember things. The funny thing about the whole time with Apple and the Beatles was that I have nothing but good memories. Nothing but that. Nothing in my time with the guys – no bad memories there. People accuse me of sort of soft-pedaling everything about the Beatles. I know there were times and I know they weren’t perfect, and they weren’t angels. They weren’t always the nicest guys, maybe. I don’t know. I didn’t see that part.”

Concluding those remarks, Mansfield added:

“The thing I’ve never tried to say was, ‘Hey, I’m the big man that was the Beatles. I’m the big authority on the Beatles.’ I’m not. I had about – other than small things during the years – I had two years where I was very involved with them. I’m talking about what I know and what I’ve seen. But the time I’m talking about is – maybe you could separate the beginning when all this madness started and all that. That would be one area.

“This is another encapsulated time in their lives; when the whole Apple thing and the roof thing; the White Album, Let It Be and all these things. This was a pretty amazing time. I think it was a time – maybe the most remarkable time of their lives in a way for them; when people really followed them. It was an amazing time. And I was there. I was there on the roof. That’s why I feel I’m the person that can talk about that. Not because I’m smart. I just happened to be there. I could've been at Apple a week later or a week earlier. I just had to be working in Apple and that was happening in London. ‘Hey! We’re going up on the roof!’”

In recent times, I’ve watched the footage of the rooftop concert and in my mind, I see a lot of symbolism. I asked Ken if, a) he saw any symbolism during that event; and, b) if so, what does that whole event symbolize to him? I asked him that question having not yet read the book.

“Because you used those words, so I can tell you like those things. You’re going to read a lot of that when I come to talk about that. I think it was kind of ironic that it was their final moment and they were on top. They were still on top. They were on top of the building. They’d been on top of the world. I’ve said this before. In our meetings they said, ‘Well, we’ve got nothing else to accomplish. We’ve accomplished everything.’

“I think they did one more thing with going up there. It was a cold, dirty roof. Everything was in kind of a mess. They were having problems. But when they broke through that door and got up in front of the mics; when they started signing – the whole thing, for me, that touched me the most – to remember the most – is when either Paul looked over at John or John looked over at Paul and they just had this look like, ‘Yeah. Yeah. This is us. This is who we are. This is who we’ve been. We’re a great band. We’ve been great friends for a long time and this is who we are.’

“I think that this is symbolic way for them to walk back out of that building and leave it that way. That’s what they were: A great band and old friends. They gelled that day up on the roof.”

Yoko Ono was on the roof with Ken and the others on that historic day. Lots has been written about the alleged negative impact and influence she supposedly had on the band. Her and John’s good friend and photographer, Bob Gruen, valiantly defended her against those allegations in my last interview with him (here). I asked Mansfield if he sensed any negativity directed to or from Yoko that day.

“Not that day because I didn’t see Yoko that day other than when we were up on the roof. She came in with John and she left with John and I think they swapped coats before they got up there or afterwards.

“I said this before: She did more with being quiet than anyone I’d ever met. You knew she was observing. You knew everything you said, really, went through her to John and then back to you. You knew that she filtered everything and that she had a great influence on him. I mentioned that the Beatles never gave me the sense that, ‘Well, I’m a Beatle and you’re not.’ They were always just so open.

“Yoko always just felt a little elevated against the rest of us commoners. But, in the end, she was always great to me. She approved things for me after John died. Everything I ever needed or asked her for, she did. She treated me very, very good.”

Circling back to the symbolism of that day, Ken said:

“Here’s something for you to mull over in your mind. It just came to me recently. The Beatles, you never knew what to ontheroofexpect next from them. Every album was like a complete, ‘Oh my gosh! They didn’t do the same thing.’ They always did something fresh and something new and something different.

“Here’s a band who came through Sgt. Pepper and the White Album and all these things, but that thing on the roof – nobody expected that. I would expect that, at that point, they would’ve come up with something really exciting and really different. Now, I realize how different that was. You’d have to go a long way to think about, ‘Well, okay, our final thing will be on a roof.’ I realize that they did it again. They did another Sgt. Pepper, it’s just different music and a different set. They did something as unusual as Sgt. Pepper was.

“Then I realized when I looked, that’s where they were at at that time. There’s all the talk about going to Tunisia or going to the coliseum doing all these giant, extravagant things which were more of the Sgt. Pepper mindset. But with the music they were making at that time was Let It Be. You’ve heard the Let It Be Naked and stuff like that. That’s where they were at at that time. That was very representative of their mindset. That gave me a lot of insight when I started thinking about that day.”

And what does Ken Mansfield think is the biggest misconception about that event?

“I’ve never had anyone ask me that. I’m not sure what the conceptions were from a lot of people. Maybe that they knew it was their final concert; that they knew that they were doing this and that was it. They were pulling the plug. I don’t think anybody knew that. I think everybody felt it and I think everybody sensed something like that. But I don’t think it was written down. I don’t think it was a plan or anything. It just happened, and it wasn’t organized like that. It was organized in a couple days. Organizing: all that meant was putting some planks up there because that roof would have never held us. They put timbers up on the fifth floor where Peter Asher’s office was to make sure the roof didn’t cave in. It was just something that happened. That’s what it was. Something happened.

“As you probably know, that couldn’t also not have happened at the last minute because they weren’t sure before they came out through that door that they were all going to go up there. There were discussions and, finally, I think John said, ‘Screw it. Let’s do it.’ Maybe like, ‘Let’s quit trying to think it through. Let’s just go do it. Get the footage and get out of here.’”

Was there anybody else who hasn’t been identified as being there on that day that Ken feels has not been highlighted according to their presence and significance?

“Chris O’Dell. Nobody ever mentions her. She was sitting there. Yoko and I, Marie and Chris. Chris was from Arizona. Her story is fascinating how she ended up at Apple anyway. She was a dynamo in the building. She got things done. Chris was just a worker. When you talk to Chris, things got done. A lot of the girls maybe didn’t care a lot for Chris because Chris was in there to get stuff done. She was used to working like that. She came out of L.A. She was a fireball and she was really trusted by the Beatles. Very trusted by them. In their homes. With them. Just somebody who they could turn around and say, ‘Hey, Chris, go do this.’ Or, ‘Hey, Chris, I need this.’ “Chris, will you go with me to here.’ She is Miss O’Dell and she did the big booklet. I’ve never seen her much associated with the roof. That’s why I put a chapter on her and Jack Oliver, who became president. He was a worker-bee in the company. He’s a guy who got things done. He’s a guy who hung out and he’s a guy that was this little dynamo in there, too, so there’s a chapter on him.

“There’s a chapter on Kevin. He didn’t work for Apple. He worked for the Beatles. I didn’t know that until I talked to Kevin (Harrington) recently. I thought he was an Apple employee and just took care of instruments and stuff. No. He actually worked for the Beatles individually. He got a whole chapter in there. Alan got a chapter. Of course, Mal (Evans) got a chapter.”

Does Ken feel that it’s possible for an up-and-coming talent to structure things and do things today the way the Beatles were able to do so back then?

“No, because it’s not the same mindset. It’s not the same situation. It’s not the same culture. It’s not the same anything. Today, your bands are big business. They’re manufactured, a lot of them. They’re quick, one hit wonders. This is a band that worked together for a long time. Struggled together. Worked together. This had never been done before because people today could never do something for the first time. It’s already been done. The Beatles did it. That’s what separates them from everybody. All they can do is copy or work off of it. This was a soul thing with these guys.

“I wrote something in the book – one sentence that I’m most proud of. It refers back to that which you asked earlier about the emotion up there. I think I closed a chapter with it. I said, ‘They went up there without a sound check. They came back with a soul check.’

“When we all left, nobody talked with each other. I think we all – we knew something happened, but we didn’t quite understand it, so we didn’t talk about it. I don’t remember them huddling afterward. I don’t remember them talking to anybody afterward. I think, I like when I was telling you that Paul looked at John, I think, yeah, that they realized that, too. That they had something really special and knew that it was going to be going away. I think it made them look inside a little bit because there had been a lot of disagreements and I think they realized who they were and who they’d been and what they were together.”

When the 50th anniversary of the roof top concert taking place next year, does Ken have any idea if his book will factor into any of the acknowledgements?

“I have no idea. Apple hasn’t said what they’re going to do. They’ve not said a word. They wouldn’t approve my pictures of me in them; pictures that I had taken – my staff and stuff. They wouldn’t let me use them in this book. They said, ‘We’re going to do something. Or, maybe we’re going to do something.’ They didn’t want to give me rights to use those just in case they did something. I don’t know if they’ve got something up their sleeve or maybe they’ll do what they’ve done with the White Album and do a re-mastering of the rooftop thing or re-editing of the film. Right now, I ask everybody I talk to and nobody seems to know the answer to that. Nobody’s really heard. There’s rumors that they are re-editing the film to make it more friendly and not concentrate on the bad time during that film. The good times kinda soften it up a little bit is the only thing I’ve heard.”

I then asked a question that I should’ve known the answer to: Who controls Apple now?

“There’s a staff there. A guy named Jeff Jones is the head of it. They have a board that, of course, Ringo, Yoko, and Paul are a part of. The board approves everything and directs everything and the company day-to-day approving of things. It’s a business now. It’s a business of re-packaging, taking an asset and getting more out of it. It’s an asset now. Before, it was a passion.”

KenMansfield2018ReducedWith so there have been so many changes in the music business since those idyllic days on the rooftop, I asked Ken if he thinks the business will come back around full-circle.

“I don’t know if that’s possible. The only thing I do know is when the record companies were so powerful, that’s what created independent producers and independent production companies and small subsidiary labels, and that kind of stuff is the people at the ground level having a way to come up and get involved in something. Maybe it will come back around to that a little bit. When I was in the business, it was all about heart and the crazy people around the companies. When things started getting big, now it’s accountants and lawyers. It became a business instead of an entertainment thing.”

Whether or not the music business comes back around full-circle, one thing is for certain: There’ll never be another ground-breaking group like the Beatles and the people who helped make them the iconic group that they were are gradually departing this earth. Being able to hear about historic events like the rooftop concert from one of the few attendees like Ken Mansfield is truly a treasure to avail ourselves to.

Keep up with Ken at KMansfield.com.

Derek Trucks Talks About Greg Allman, Uncle Butch, and Touring In 2019

Posted January 2019

 

TedeschiTrucksBand DerekSOLO Credit Stuart LevinePhoto by Stuart LevineAs I’ve said before, it’s always a compliment and an honor when an artist agrees to sit with me for an interview more than one time. Such is the case with legendary guitarist, Derek Trucks, of the Tedeschi Trucks Band.

For those who may not be familiar with Derek, the short version of his story is: Considered a prodigy at a very young age, he managed to play alongside the great Buddy Guy before he was thirteen. He formed his self-named band when he was fifteen and by the time he was twenty, he had played with such icons as Stephen Stills, Bob Dylan, and Joe Walsh. His late uncle was the legendary Butch Trucks of the Allman Brothers Band which played a bit of a role in Derek becoming a permanent member of that band at the young age of twenty. At the age of 27, he worked with Eric Clapton and his LP, The Road To Escondido. He married the lovely and immensely talented Susan Tedeschi and formed the twelve-piece Tedeschi Trucks Band which will be playing at the Tennessee Theatre on January 22nd and at Chattanooga’s Soldiers and Sailors Auditorium on the 23rd.

It had been right at two years since I last spoke with Trucks so, when I called him at his Florida home, I asked what all has happened since we last spoke.

“Good to talk to you, again! It’s been a long, crazy two years, man! The live record was a great highwater mark for the EverythingKnoxvilleLogoEditedband. I think it’s been a long two years for the planet but personally and as a band there’s been a lot of losses. It’s been a tough go on some levels. I feel that everything’s in a good place as a group, you know? We just finished a new record and just charging down the road, trying to keep the flame lit.”

I asked Derek how have the losses of Gregg and Butch affected his music, performing, and view of life.

“Those guys and Colonel Bruce Hampton – who was, basically, a family member and a mentor in a lot of ways – those things happened all bunched up together. Then, not long after that, we almost lost Kofi (Burbridge), our keyboard player, who I’ve been with for eighteen years. He’s still with us and crushing it but it was touch and go there for a minute.

“That stuff – it certainly changes your outlook on things and, in some ways, it makes you double-down on what you’re doing – especially with Colonel and Butch and Gregg – it makes you want to keep that music going and keep it alive. There’s no time to waste. It makes you think of those things a little differently. There’s a lot of reflection when that stuff happens. It’s been a few years of that in a lot of ways. I think the record we just made is very much in that headspace. But, you gotta carry on. You gotta keep rolling and that’s what we do.”

When we last spoke, one of Susan and Derek’s kids was a teenager. Now, both are so I asked how that is messing with his mind.

“Yeah, two kids in high school – that’s something! They’re really good kids! We’re really fortunate that way. They’ll test you. Ha! Ha! Those and having a twelve piece band – that’ll test ya, too!”

And which is worse?

“It depends on the week, I will say. This week, our kids are much easier! Ha! Ha!”

What has been the reception to the live album, Live From The Fox Oakland, released shortly after our last chat?TedeschiTrucksBand DUO Credit Stuart LevinePhoto by Stuart Levine

“You know, it was really good, man! Those are great shows that we had on that tour and, then, the night that we captured was really strong. But, you know, this day and age, record releases – it’s a little different than it was 15-20 years ago. It doesn’t have as big of a splash in a lot of ways. But we’re a touring band. That’s what we do. You release records that kind of mark where you are in time. I love going into the studio and spending that time and energy mixing a record or making a record. I think it’s a huge part of the growth of the band. Hearing the band back makes you appreciate certain things. It makes you want to re-imagine certain things. I love those moments when you’re kind of checkin’ in. And, a live record like that does turn people on to what the band sounds like now when we’re hittin’ the road. So, you do get to connect with people that you’ve had a chance to see the group.”

Then, concluding his thoughts about the live record, Derek said:

“But it was a really strong night that we captured so the reception – it was positive.”

Just before this new tour launches, the TTB has been asked to perform at a very special gig in Nashville. I asked Trucks to tell me about it.

TedeschiTrucksBand BAND Credit Stuart Levine GeneralUse2Photo by Stuart Levine“Speakin’ of the Willie (Nelson) show? Yeah! Yeah! Sue’s known Willie for quite a while now and I’ve gotten to know him over the last decade or so. We just did some dates on Willie’s ‘Outlaw’ tour. Got to hang with him a bunch and play with him. Willie’s the man! He’s just an awesome human being. His family is amazing. He sounds so good right now. His voice is unbelievable. His phrasing.

“He played this instrumental - this Django Reinhardt tune called ‘Nuages’. It was one of the best guitar sounds and performances I’d heard in just ages. It was so refreshing! But that’s all to say that when they reached out to us and asked us to be a part of a Willie birthday show, we just said, ‘Of course!’. Ha! Ha! Even though our schedule is crazy and there’s not a lot of free time and when there is down time you want to preserve it. But when Willie calls, you just go!”

What can fans expect from the Tedeschi Trucks Band shows on this tour?

“It’s hard to know between now and then. Next year we’ll have the new record coming out. We’ll probably be digging into some of that stuff. There’s a 100+ tunes that we kinda pull from. So, on any given night you just never really know. The band’s been feeling really good that last few years. It’s a powerful sound that comes off the stage. Susan – she’s singing and playing as good as I’ve ever heard her. I think if you start there, you’re in pretty good shape.”

Any changes to the band’s line-up?

“Over the year there’s been two or three changes in the line-up. But it’s been pretty consistent the last handful of years. For a twelve piece band I think it’s miraculous that it’s as consistent as it is. I love it. That’s the way we want to do it. The core of the band will be consistent. I feel like there’s been people who have been with us for fifteen, twenty years. That’s the thing.”

Since Derek touched on it a couple of times, I asked him about their soon-to-be-released album.

“You know, today I got a test pressing in the mail of the vinyl. We’re on the home-stretch. Making sure the vinyl sounds as good as master that we sent them. Hopefully, better. Sometimes that happens! I think it’s a really honest record. There’s some really gorgeous tunes on the album. I think there’s a few songs and a few moments that are gonna, I think, stand up TedeschiTrucksBand DerekSOLO Credit Stuart LevinePhoto by Stuart Levinewith anything we’ve done to date. There’s a few ‘Sue vocals’ on the record that are just amazing. The band sounds great. We recorded this one all analog. Two-inch tape. We never done that before. That was a process. We did it at our own studio so when something breaks, you gotta figure out how to fix it! It was all hands on deck! Our engineer, Bobby Tis, and his dad are just bad-asses and they were instrumental in making it go. I’m really proud of it. It’s a really warm and really great sounding record.”

“It’s just a better sound. I mean, it really is. It’s a different process and if you only know how to make records by tapping on a laptop or chopping tunes up and taking a verse from here and whatever – you can’t necessarily do it the same way on analog. I mean, you can chop tape up and you can edit on tape but you better know what you’re doing! Ha! Ha! It’s a lost art, in some ways. I mean, there are still ‘keepers of the flame’ and I think it’s important. But if you’ve made records both ways, it just feels better on tape. I think going forward, every record we make with this band – that will be a heavy consideration. We always thought about it up ‘til now. We didn’t have a tape machine in the studio. We got an old Studer spent a few good Tedeschi Trucks Band credit TabWintersPhoto by Tab Wintersmonths getting’ her up to speed and a lot of blindfold tests, making sure the sound was what we wanted; that we weren’t romanticizing it. But when you get the master back after it hasn’t touched anything digital, it sure is a sound.”

And what’s on the band’s radar for the next year or so?

“It’s a busy year for us. We’re releasing a record early next year. We’re hittin’ the road behind it. I think we’re in Europe for a month or so. Then Japan for a bit. We have a summer tour lined up. We’ll be chopping a lot of wood. Ha! Ha! We’ll be working!”
You can catch all the latest happenings about the Tedeschi Trucks Band at their website, TedeschiTrucksBand.com.

 

Robert Berry - Version 3.2

Posted November 2018

robert berry piano 001 cropped“I’m the luckiest guy you’ve never heard of.”

 

That’s how master musician, Robert Berry, describes himself. That may be true when it comes to the bulk of music fans but not for those who get into the nuts and bolts of music and how it’s made.

 

Having established himself as a bit of a child prodigy, musically, Berry established the reputation of being a great musician as well as knowing his way around the recording studio. Today, he’s a well-respected performer, songwriter, and producer.

 

He’s arguably most known as the bassist/vocalist for 3, the Emerson, Lake and Palmer spinoff that consisted of Berry, Carl Palmer and Keith Emerson.

 

Additionally, he was vocalist and guitarist for Ambrosia (from 2000 – 2010) as well as working with Alliance, December People, and the Greg Kihn Band. If being a studio wiz and band member wasn’t enough, Robert has also released five solo projects and has pitched in on an impressive number of tribute albums.

 

It’s about his latest project under the title, “3.2 – The Rules Have Changed”. It’s an album that was

EverythingKnoxvilleLogoEdited to be the follow up to 3’s debut album and would’ve had featured Keith Emerson. However, as music fans know, Keith left us far too soon in March 2016. It’s about 3.2 that I caught up with Berry by phone at his Silicon Valley home recently. 

 

So, first, tell me the background on the album.

“I had a Top Ten hit in 1988. From there, I played with Sammy Hagar and Ambrosia. But nothing clicked. I wrote songs for all those people. I wanted to do new albums. Nobody was really going for it until I met Greg Kihn and did his last album.

 

“But it kept the ideas flowing. I’m sort of prolific and I always have ideas. So, it keeps me, I guess, fresh and the creative side of my brain is still moving at a 110%.

 

“A lot of guys put out albums that aren’t worthy of why us fans like them. That doesn’t mean they’re not good albums but they’re different. Like I say about Greg Kihn. He could’ve put out an album like the Foo Fighters, let’s say, or Linkin Park. His fans would’ve gone, ‘Wow. That’s not why I like Greg. I like his simple, almost garage band kind of rock and roll stuff. I like that!’ They like the song and the energy of it and they would’ve been disappointed. Whereas, we put out a little Greg Kihn album of what he does, and people loved it. Great reviews everywhere. 

The Rules Have Changed 3.2 cover11“I’ll use my friends in Boston (the band). Boston puts out an album that is not like those first two or three albums. It’s just not. You don’t even know they have albums out. You never hear of them. If the bands would just do what they do best and give us those little pieces that we like – as we did in the 3.2 album with Keith and I. We gave them some Emerson stuff. His playing. His sound. His style. I’ve been very fortunate. The reviews have been so good. I hate to even say that. I’m, like, ‘I’m going to jinx it!’ There hasn’t been one bad review. People are really getting it! They listen to it and they go, ‘This is what we were hoping for.’ Even more than the album that Keith, Carl, and I did back in 1988, they’re saying that this album is more of what they were hoping for. It thrills me to death – to be involved in that and helping, I hope, make Keith’s last work – the last thing he worked on with me – something that people really cherish. That they say, ‘This is good! This is done the right way.’

 

“A lot of bands aren’t doing that! I want to hear Foreigner with Lou Gramm singing and giving me some of that rock that they were so good at. One of my favorite singers, too! Foreigner is now basically a tribute band. There’s no one even in the band (who is original) unless the guitar player decides to show up. That’s forced the tribute band mentality for our fan base. They’ll go see a tribute to AC/DC, a tribute to Journey, and ask them for their autograph. Cover band guys, you know? The bands aren’t doing what Greg and I did or what Keith and I did. They’re not giving them what they like about us. We need to step up and we need to create that scene. 

 

Bringing the conversation back around to the new CD, Robert shared:

 

“People are buying the record. They’re liking it. Amazon sold out in every country buy noon on the first day. The record company didn’t anticipate that response. It’s just being delivered back to them next week! It came out August 10th. It’s been out a couple of months. It takes them that long to press quite a few CDs. I think they were surprised, and they think, ‘Well, even though it sold out, maybe it’s not going to sell any more’ and the orders kept coming in. 

 

“I got an e-mail a couple of weeks ago that said, ‘We have a very large order from the U.S. We’re 

robert berry piano 001sorry we can’t send you any more promo copies. We just don’t have them.’ Me! I can’t get one!"

 

The background to the album.

 

“As you know, Keith, Carl, and I had a band called 3. In 1987 we got together. In 1988, it came out. We toured. We had a Top Ten hit. We had a very successful tour. I don’t like to put it in terms of money, but we made a lot of money. I mean, it was really a good year, especially for me. Keith and Carl always treated me like an equal. They always said, ‘We don’t want you to be Greg Lake. We’ve been a band with him. We want you to be you. We’re trying to do something new.’ So, we did. 

 

“I was being groomed by Geffen Records back then as a solo artist. Kind of a Sting meets Bryan Adams kind of guy. Like a Bryan Adams/Straight Rock but a little more creative like Sting.

 

“Well, they had us put some of those songs on the 3 album and the fan backlash to Keith was really, really harsh. They (the songs) weren’t super right for the album. They were more straight rock songs that Keith put his arrangements into. I could see why the fans weren’t ready for Keith to switch over to playing songs. On the other hand, Carl had been in Asia. He didn’t get any criticism for 3, at all. His fans were fine with it and Asia did songs. 

 

“It was so hard on Keith, he didn’t want to continue doing it. He had one fan write him and tell him, ‘I can’t believe you have female background singers – scantily clad female background singers on the tour and playing these songs. You’re ruining your legacy.’ He left his phone number on it and Keith called him because Keith was always worried about what the fans thought. This guy read Keith the riot act and was one of the reasons that the band broke up. 

 

“Keith said, ‘Yeah, you know, I’m getting a lot of fan criticism.’ Without the internet in those days, you get three fan letters that are bad, and you don’t know how to judge it. He thought that everybody was down on it. So, we broke up. 

“I did a lot of work with Keith over the years. He played on a Tempest album with me which is a Celtic rock band. He did one of my songs. We did a few little commercials for a local music store here. We always did something. 

robert berry guitar 001“Twenty-seven years after that album came out, a record company decided that they wanted to put out a live album of 3 in Boston in a concert. So, we all said, ‘Yeah, let’s do it.’ Keith said, ‘If there’s an advance, a paycheck, money in the bank, yeah, put it out.’  Didn’t think twice about it. We all got a copy of it in the mail once it came out, of course. They wanted us to have one. Keith decided to sit down and listen to it. One of his favorite things to do was listen to all kinds of music. Have a glass of white wine, put on the music, sit and listen to it. He was all about music. It defined him. 

 

“Well, he heard this live 3 in Boston. He immediately called me. He was so excited. I still get excited thinking about it. He goes, ‘Robert! Robert!’ ‘Yeah, Keith, what’s up?’ ‘We were really a good band!’ I said, ‘What? We broke up the band, but I always thought so.’ ‘The fire in our playing – we were playing so good. And the energy! Your voice sounded great! We were really good and the crowd’s going nuts!’

 

“I couldn’t believe my ears because one thing we really hadn’t spoke about in twenty-seven years was doing a follow-up album even though I had been contacted by a couple of the record companies that really wanted one. Here was my open door. 

 

“I like to say – you know when you’re going to ask a girl out in high school on a date. You know she really doesn’t like you, but you like her. She cracks the door and you stick your foot in it, so she can’t slam it on you, you know? 

 

“I stuck my foot in that door and I said, ‘Keith, how would you feel about doing a follow-up?’ He very calmly said, ‘Maybe.’ I said, ‘Well, you know what? Let me call Frontiers Records. The president of that company has been bugging me for ten years to do a new 3 album.’ He goes, ‘Okay. Let me know what they say.’

 

“I called up. They jumped on it. ‘When can you start?’ I said, ‘Well, let me talk to Keith and get 

robert berry drums 001back to you.’ I talked to Keith. ‘They’re ready. What do we want?” He said, ‘Well, I’m doing a lot of orchestra stuff now. I want to orchestrate it. I want to take some time. I’d like a year to finish it and complete artistic freedom.’

 

“I said, ‘That sounds good for me’ and we talked about the money. He goes, ‘No, record companies don’t have a lot of money, now’ so he gave kind of a low figure, I thought.

 

“So, I called them back – the record company – and I said, ‘Okay. Complete artistic freedom. A year to do it. We want this much money.’ They said, ‘Fine.’ I had asked for quite a bit of money. They said, ‘We want this album.’ I called Keith back. I said, ‘Okay, here we go.’ He goes, ‘How did you get that kind of money?’ I said, ‘What are you talking about?’ It was kind of sad. He goes, ‘Nobody cares, anymore. No one offers that kind of money.’ I said, ‘Serafino (Perugino, Frontiers Records founder) over at Frontiers cares. He wants this out. He wants this new, hot Keith Emerson/3 album and he wants us to do our best work.’ 

 

“He goes, ‘Okay. Well, you should be my manager.’ I go, ‘You’re Keith Emerson! What are you talking about? You’re one of a kind.’ I felt like I was his cheerleader. His big fan besides just a bandmate. 

 

“So, I called Serafino back and said, ‘Keith’s up for it but, we need another ten thousand for Keith on top of this.’ He goes, ‘You got it.’

 

“Here I am, trying to sell Keith Emerson on the fact that he’s Keith Emerson and he is valuable, and he is sought after. When I got on that phone, I didn’t plan to do that with Serafino but when I got on that phone, it came out because, well, he was Keith Emerson. There’s a few one-of-a-kind musicians in this world and he’s one of them. No one’s ever going to be like him. No one’s going to blaze that trail, putting the classics into the rock and roll. Performing. Sticking the knives in the organ. What keyboard player does that? None.

 

“So, I got him really good money. They were going to pay me to produce it. Record at my studio like the Greg Kihn album that I was working on at the time we’re talking about doing it. 

 

“We started in, we worked about three months and he said, ‘Look, I have these shows in Japan.’ Booked five nights in a row. I think he was seventy-two, then, if I remember right. He goes, ‘It’s really hard on me. My arms are hurting. Really, I’m dreading these shows.’ And, again, I said, ‘You’re Keith Emerson! Cancel them.’ He goes, ‘I can’t do that. They’re my biggest fans. I’ll never play there again if I don’t do these shows. I can’t cancel.’ 

robert berry guitar 002“I said, ‘What’s the contract say?’ He said, ‘There’s not any contract.’ What?! I couldn’t believe this. He was dreading doing it. Then he called and said, ‘They added a second show because it sold out so fast. I have to do two shows a night.’ 

“I thought this is kind of weird. It doesn’t seem right at all. He said, ‘Let me get past this. I’m really not happy about it but all I want to do at the end of this is I want to go see my grandkids in the UK. After that, I’ll come in, we’ll ship the big Moog down to the studio and we’ll finish the album.’

 

“I said, ‘Okay.’ We had four songs written with ideas and another one in concept. I had all kinds of files from him – digital things of pieces where he had recorded the keyboard parts. I had a cassette tape from 1988 with a song we didn’t use that I thought now was really great. I was going to work on it. Then, over those three months, we’d talk on the phone and Keith had this hammer-action Casio digital piano that he was always raving about. He goes, ‘It’s the closest thing to a real piano. It’s fantastic!’ He had that in his house. In my studio, right in front of my ProTools system, I have a little Casio piano that I use to tell singers/songwriters, ‘You need to hit this note or what about this chord here?’

 

“We would jam back and forth on the phone. He would play something like an Emerson thing (Berry verbally simulates lots of intricate trills) all over the place. I’ve had lots of piano lessons. I’m no Keith Emerson but I go (Berry, again, verbally simulates Emerson’s riffs but a bit slower). He’d go, ‘No, no, no! There’s an F in there.’

 

“I kind of learned what he was coming up with in an outline kind of form and I’d put them on the ProTools. My deal was to write the song around them. So, I had these Emerson parts and the song grew around it and we’d glue it all together and when he was in, we’d dub his playing. 

 

“In three months, I get a call from his ex-wife, Eleanor, who I knew well when I lived in England when we were working on the first album. She says, ‘Keith’s gone.’ I’m, like, ‘What?’ ‘Yeah, he’s gone.’

 

“I hung up that phone. It really hit me hard. This is the only time I had a Top Ten record was with 

robert berry keys 001Keith Emerson and he was the sound of it. We’d stayed friends for twenty-seven years. Done all kinds of things. He was my highest profile friend. The guy who’s always going to be in the history books. He was a funny guy. Of course, I had always had that dream of a second 3 album because, for me, that was the best thing and greatest success that I had ever had as a musician. 

 

“Here it was, coming around again and, all of a sudden, boom! All of that was gone. One phone call: gone. It was really tough on me. It’s hard for me to explain because I’d last my dad and I’d lost some friends to cancer and it’s always very sad for me. But that loss hasn’t also impacted my career and how I kind of defined myself and my goals, you know? So, this one was a triple whammy – a quadruple whammy. I lost so much in so many ways. But, of course, mostly, a really sweet, funny friend that I just loved the phone calls and talking to him and he always made me feel like a viable part of the music community because Keith Emerson was my friend. It was really amazing!

 

“I wasn’t going to finish the album. I didn’t want to. The record company says, ‘Hey, you ought to come up with a way. Get Geoff Downs. Get another famous keyboard player.’ I thought, ‘You know what? I don’t feel there’s any honest way for me to do this. This was a follow-up 3 album. Keith was the sound of the 3 band. I was the voice and songwriter. There’s no honest way to do it. I can’t do it.

 

“Six months into it, I felt a little bit stronger on just a personal level about the music and the loss. ‘Wouldn’t it be great if Keith’s song, Aaron, would finish this with me?’ He’s a keyboard player. That would give me an honest reason to do it. 

 

“So, I call him up. Aaron said, ‘I’d love to do it!’ He’s having a really tough time with this because, the last time he talked to his dad, there was no indication, of course, that he’s going to be gone a few days later. It was just tough on him and he goes, ‘It would be really great. Send me a song.’

 

“I made the mistake of sending him a really hard song that Keith and I put together with Keith playing on it. He called me up and goes, ‘Oh my god! I don’t play like that! That’s my dad! That’s not my style. I’m not that good.’

 

“I thought, “Ah! I should have sent him one of the simpler ones and sort of eased him into it.’ But, even though he declined because it was so hard to play, he did get me to re-visit the music before I sent it to him. It re-kindled my excitement. I had twenty-percent of Keith’s keyboard parts already done and we had four songs written. One in a concept form and I had been working on a couple of my own that I was going to send Keith. One called, ‘The Letter,’ that I sent him – it would’ve been a couple of days after he died that he would’ve got that and would’ve started working on it.

 

“I thought, ‘Wow! There’s a body of work here. I don’t know that I could finish this to put it out but I sure’d like to finish these songs.’

 

“I always say this when I talk to people, ‘I’m capable. I play a lot of instruments and I’m capable.’ I’m not saying I’m Keith Emerson or Carl Palmer or Sammy Hagar or Gary Pihl from Boston. These are all guys I work with. I’m not them but I’m capable of playing instruments and doing it. So, I thought, ‘I’m just going to finish this by myself exactly the way Keith and I had laid out. Our outline form. Our conversations. The knowledge from 1988 that I still carried with me. What we had talked about. What we had learned over the twenty-seven years since then. I’m the only guy that knows all this. How can I put somebody else in here – at least to finish it.’ It took me a year to finish it.

 

“One of the funny things – one of the odd things – there’s a Keith – his idea was to call the album ‘1’. He would always say, ‘Not O-N-E but ‘1’.’ I never asked him why because I was trying to get away from that. Where would the record store file that? They don’t have numbers. They have headings. Band names. But I thought let’s not discuss that now. When we get closer to the end, we can talk about calling the album ‘Not 1’. 

 

“It haunted me that he wants 1. I’m thinking, ‘I’m just going to do it as 1 and we’ll see where it heads.’ A year later, it’s done. I sent Serafino a copy – the rough mixes. He said, ‘This is genius! We’ve got to put this out!’ I’m thinking, ‘Yeah, yeah, yeah.’

 

“Serafino has always wanted this and he wanted a Keith Emerson album to add to his record label. I’m not sure that’s the right judge of this thing. I’m feeling all I’m going to get is criticism for doing this. I don’t want to put it out. I did it for me. I did it for my memory of Keith and mine’s friendship. 

robert berry mixboard

“I decided to send it to Rolf Remlinger who is runs the 3 Facebook page. I’m thinking here’s a guy who knows what 3’s about. I sent him a couple of songs and he gets back to me. He goes, ‘This is really, really good. You’ve got to put this out.’ 

 

“Then, I know this girl in Scotland who worked with Keith at one time on a Christmas record and is a great keyboard player and knows everything Keith has done and would be nothing but negative about something not worthy of Keith. She’s a really good musician and has a good opinion. So, I track her down and said, ‘I need to check something with you.’ ‘Oh! I’d love to check it out!’

 

“I send her a song. I got an e-mail back from her. Her first line was something like, ‘How did you do this? I can’t believe that I can feel Keith in this album and I hear my favorite parts of what he does.’ She knew that I did the solos and that it wasn’t Keith on the solos because he wasn’t around to do the solos. She goes, ‘How did you do those solos?’

 

“This was a year of me sitting alone in my studio in the dark saying, ‘What would Keith do here? 

What would I do if he did that?’ Sort of taking on both sides of the conversation. 

 

“I thought that was a pretty good response (from her). I thought, so far, there’s three super good positives. I thought I’d get some negatives. I’m not getting negatives. So, I called Serafino and said, ‘Okay, I’m going to let you put this out.’ He was so excited.

 

“Of course, about a week before the release, I’m having a lot of self-doubt. I literally sat alone in the dark for a year finishing this exactly the way we had planned. No other consideration except for making that album that Keith and I were going to do. If you’ve seen the reviews, I guess I did the right thing. People feel the love that I put into it. They hear in the lyrics some of the struggles that I had after losing Keith. They honestly like the playing and the stuff that went on. 

 

“One person in Japan – the only bad negative thing he said was, ‘I can’t hear if that’s a Hammond B3 organ or if that’s a digital sample of it.’ I’m thinking, ‘Wow! That’s the one negative I’ve gotten. That’s pretty good!’ That’s how deep the Emerson fans was going to dissect this album. He was right. It was a digital sample because there’s a very clean organ sound that Keith has with his B3 that he actually did some special stuff – not through the Leslie speaker, if you know what that is. It’s really dry and it’s really piercing. I have all the keyboards like Keith would use. I have the Moog. I have everything. But my B3 doesn’t have that direct out. For me to get that sound I really wanted, I had to use a digital sample and he caught me! Ha! Ha!”

 

And what has the response been from Keith’s family and friends to the album?

 

“They put out a pre-release song – ‘Somebody’s Watching’ – two months before. I thought that was a lot of pre-release time to put ‘Somebody’s Watching’. I got the nicest post from Aaron Emerson, his son. I can’t remember exactly what he wrote but it was something like, ‘I know it was a labor of love. You did a great job. We’re proud of the album.’ Gave it his stamp of approval. 

 

“Keith’s girlfriend of fourteen or fifteen years, Mari (Kawaguchi), said that she’d help me get the rights from the Emerson estate, which was being very sticky about letting me release it. She said, ‘All our work was worth it. You did a great job. It’s a great album.’ Something like that. That’s the family! That meant more to me. Of course, Eleanor Emerson, Keith’s ex-wife, she was supportive of it. She liked it. Everybody involved on Keith’s side was very supportive. The tough thing for me, of course, at the first, the Emerson estate wasn’t going to let me put it out. After I told Serafino at Frontiers, ‘Okay, let’s do it’, I found out that I didn’t have the right to put this album out even though Keith had done this work on it and wanted to do it. Once the estate got hold of it, they tried to put a stop to everything. 

 

“Very strange. This is a nameless, faceless estate. I can’t even tell you the lady’s name that first responded. They said, ‘We want Keith Emerson remembered as a composer, not a rock keyboard player.’ I sent back an email and said, ‘You’re kidding me, right? This was the Jimi Hendrix of keyboards. The only guy who could perform like that AND was not only that kind of acting out on stage performance but playing the classics with a rock band on stage – his fingers were like little canons and you want him to be remembered as a composer?’ ‘That’s what we want.’

 

“It took four or five months. I finally told them, ‘You’re not giving me the right to do this. I can do one of two things. I’m capable of playing Keith’s parts. I had eight years of classical piano. A few years of jazz lessons. I actually played keyboards with Keith on stage in a band and spent a lot of time with him. I know his style. I’m not a Keith Emerson but I already have his stuff on there. I can recreate that to where you won’t be able to tell that it’s not him. It will be like a snapshot. If you don’t give me the rights to do this, I’m going to do that. When I do that, I’m not going to give you any idea of what Keith wrote with me and there’ll be no royalties for his estate. Or, you can let me release it and all the stuff we wrote together, it will be 50/50 as writers. There’ll be income, whatever that means these days. 

robert berry guitar 001

“They didn’t like being threatened. They said, ‘Okay. We’re going to let you put it out, but you can’t use any of Keith’s playing on it.’ I asked why not. It’s done. ‘Because we want him remembered as a composer, not a rock and roll keyboard player’, they reiterated.

 

“I did what I said though Keith has credit for all the things he wrote. But they at least gave me the right to put it out.”

 

Which song would he use as a calling card for the whole album?

 

“I have to say that there’s two phases to the album and I’d have to give you two songs. If you’re an ELP fan and you want to hear them, where Keith and I felt that we went wrong of the first album was there’s too many pop songs – rock songs – on it. We both didn’t care for the word, ‘progressive.’ We like to call it ‘musical’ or symphonic rock. We wanted to do more of that. So, the first song on the album is called, One by One. That encompasses everything progressive that we wanted to accomplish. 

 

“People will hear the great classical influences; the powerful influences; the cool solos. There’s jazz in there. They’ll hear all that. 

 

“But, if you’re into more of the song things, there are couple of songs that we did that were more how we felt a song should’ve been on the first album, which was ‘Talkin’ ‘Bout’, which went to #9 on the Billboard charts. So, there’s a song called ‘Powerful Man’. It’s not as progressive but it’s got that sound and, honestly, it’s a tribute to all the dads I played with like Sammy Hagar, Keith Emerson, and Greg Kihn, that their sons have followed in their footsteps. That’s what the song’s about. How these little kids – probably in the baby carrier under the stage during an ELP soundcheck. And Sammy Hagar and Van Halen: Aaron Hagar at side stage as his dads with Van Halen, controlling the whole arena. It’s a powerful man because they influence their kids. 

 

“My son, now, wants to be a musician. He has a little studio and doing things. The song is about 

that. If they can find a song with all of the Emerson stuff in it, Powerful Man is also a video that has a lot of little things you’ll find that is on YouTube.”

 

As for tour plans in support of the album, Berry said:

 

“Right now, I’m doing tons of interviews thanks to the PR geniuses I’m working with. That’s why I get to talk to guys like you and I like it because I talk to guys that care – that cares about music. It’s not about some reviewer and some magazine that’s trying to make a name for itself by being a jerk. I’m talking to a lot of really good people. 

 

“I hadn’t planned on touring. Then the album came out and the manager called me and said, ‘We need to put you on a world tour. South America to Russia and everything in between.’ I said, ‘You’re kidding me.’ He goes, ‘Well, yeah.’ I said, ‘Ten years ago that would’ve sounded great. ‘Yeah, okay, I’m in.’

 

“First of all, they wanted it to be my thirty years in progressive rock. So, the tour’s going to be ‘Robert Berry’s 30 Years of Prog Music’ because it starts with Keith and Carl and 3 but it goes to Magna Carta – which I did a bunch of tributes for Yes – their thing with Roundabout which Steve Howe had played on it. It’s critically acclaimed. I have a Jethro Tull thing on their album that Ian Anderson sent me a letter saying that it was his favorite on the album. 

 

“So, I have all these little marks in the history of progressive music that mean something. Their whole point is what I put out after 3 broke up that included my efforts for the second 3 album then and my time in GTR with Steve Howe. That’s more music. Then, I had two years with Ambrosia, touring with them. I had an album called ‘Dividing Line’ and, then, 3.2. 

 

“So, if I take just a couple of songs from everything, it’s an hour and a half show. The bad news is that it’s really going to be hard to play it all. It’s going to take a lot of work and I’m going to have to find a keyboard player that is not only insane because he’s going to say yes when I ask him if he wants to learn all this stuff, but he has to be technically proficient but also, he can’t just be some wild, genius keyboard player. He has to be down to earth; be able to play what’s already there.

 

“You take that snapshot and do Keith and his sounds. Pay tribute to that. And, another thing, on another album called ‘Pilgrimage to a Point’, there’s songs from the second 3 album that I had written that were never used. He’s going to need to absorb that and become that guy so that when this six albums worth of touring goes out, people hear what they heard before.

 

“Like I was saying about a band that puts out the kind of album that we want to hear from them, this kind of tour has people that have never this stuff live. It’s never been played live. They’re going to hear Roundabout done my way like it is on the album and the guys will have to absorb that and then put that out. The fans are hearing what they want to hear, basically, I guess is what I’m saying.”

 

Nearing the end of our chat, Robert shifted gears and shared his views of the current music scene.

 

“I gotta say that the music scene – by streaming – everything has been ruined so much for artists to make a living at the upper level. It’s hard for them to make a living at the club level. People aren’t supporting music as much as they used to. Honestly, the church has become a really good gig for serious musicians. They can play good music there and there’s some great musicians there. It’s kinda cool.

 

“Just like around here, between churches we have some great musicians as well as in the winery circuit because there’s so many wineries here in California that has entertainment. That has become a really good gig!”

 

Then, talking about how artists get to be known and make their work more profitably available, Berry added:

The Rules Have Changed 3.2 cover11“But it’s also guys like you. I find that if you just do social media, you can’t make your career happen. You have to have guys like you with a following of readers. Somebody has a blog, or they have a podcast. It has to entail everything. And, unfortunately – or, maybe fortunately – that’s where the playing field isn’t quite as level because the bad thing about the internet is that it’s made the playing field level IF you know how to use it and you have the ideas to get on the podcasts and get in print, still. 

 

“Everybody has their smaller following but there’s so many more people with a following that you can do it all. You can make it happen.”

 

As for plans for the next year?

 

“I hope that the 3.2 tour is set up. Greg already have dates for next year. Unfortunately, Greg’s music is easier to perform, and I’ve been doing it for a lot of years. It’s not like I couldn’t be on tour with the 3.2 stuff, doing something really, really difficult and very planned out and virtuosic – maybe is a name – with more complex playing in it. The next night, I could do a Greg Kihn gig if it happened in the same city or town, whatever, and it wouldn’t be hard for me to adjust. Greg’s stuff is just fun. It’s really rockin’ stuff. 

 

 

“So, Greg Kihn gigs are already planned. My plan is – starting maybe in March or April – to get on the road with 3.2.”

 

So, with that said, keep track of Robert Berry’s developing touring plans and other musical developments at his website, RobertBerry.com.