Article Search...
  • timmonspeppercoverAndy Timmons Band Plays Sgt. Pepper
    Artist: Andy Timmons Band
    Label: Favored Nations
    Reviewed: November, 2011

    Let me start off by saying that there are very few artists who I will pick up their music without ever hearing samples of it first. Andy Timmons is one of those artists. As the proud owner of all of his solo work, I can make that statement in all sincerity and without exaggeration. He’s that good – strike that – he’s that great.

    When compared song-for-song to the original album by the Beatles, Timmons’ treatment of the historic album clocks in at roughly 5 ½ minutes longer. Add the 5:15 for Andy’s cover of Strawberry Fields Forever and you’ll have an extra reason to be jonesing over this album.

    Timmons offers Pepper up as a purely instrumental treatment with the emphasis on the “treat” portion of the word. Recorded without the benefit of overdubbing or any other gimmicks, Andy and the band (Mitch Marine on drums and Mike Daane on bass) lay it all down as they remember the tunes. If you listen to the disc with that in mind, it’ll amp up the wow factor by several orders of magnitude.

    Person favorites from this album are:

    She’s Leaving Home: From the opening riff to the closing note, the tune is played to flawless perfection. I’ve had this one on “repeat” many, many times and each time I hear it, I glean something else from the performance.

    Being For The Benefit Of Mr. Kite: One would think that, without vocals, this song would be rather empty. If you thought that, you would be dead wrong. Timmons’ execution of this song brings out an incredible range of moods and emotions; from cheerfulness to exhilaration. This, too, has elicited countless hits on the repeat button.

    Within You Without You: Andy’s interpretation and delivery of this song would have no doubt brought a smile to George Harrison’s face. Both completely different and yet very much the same as the original, the song reveals many audio treats and treasures each time it’s played.

    Strawberry Fields Forever: Not only is this a great recording of the Beatles classic, to hear Andy and the boys perform this live in concert is an extra special treat. With his signature tight, crisp, note-perfect playing, Timmons puts his on print on this iconic tune – almost to the point of making dare say that he makes it his own.

    Yes, you must buy this album. Yes, you’ll love and, yes, you’ll impulsively tell others about it as I have. It’s that great.

  • Posted December, 2011

     

    Photo by Simone Cecchetti

    Once in a great while, one comes across an artist who is not only good but scary good.  One such person is former Danger Danger guitarist, Andy Timmons.  As I shared in my interview with Timmons last year, when I heard the strains of Cry For Youwafting across the Dallas International Guitar Festival, I became an immediate fan . . . for life.

    Since that interview, I’ve become increasingly aware of the level of high respect given to Timmons among his peers.  Some might even go as far as to say that they would just be happy to be able to play his mistakes.  Yeah, he’s that good.

    During that interview, Andy mentioned that he was working on a new CD wherein he covers the entire Sgt. Pepper album instrumentally.  A year later, Andy shot me a note to ask me to meet up with him for coffee and to pick up a copy of his Pepper.  Boy! Is this album ever worth the wait!  You can catch the Boomerocity review of Andy Timmons Band Plays Sgt. Pepperhere but, suffice it to say, I think you should add this album to your listening library.

    After practically wearing out the CD, I, of course, wanted to chat with Andy about the album.  Between touring in support of the album and his continued work with Mesa Boogie as well as Olivia Newton-John, it was tough to get our schedules in sync.  We were able to carve out some time while he was on tour with Olivia.  In fact, it was during some down time during the tour, while Andy was paying homage to John Lennon at Strawberry Fieldsin New York City’s Central Park.

    Before we got down to talking all things Pepper, I briefly continued discussion on a topic that Andy and I bantered back and forth on via e-mail a few days prior.  The subject matter was the theme song from a kid’s TV show that ruled the airwaves in the Phoenix area for over 30 years: The Wallace and Ladmo Show. The theme song was written and played by the late Mike Condello who was the musical force behind anything musical taking place on that show.  Andy had mentioned in a previous chat that the Wallacetheme song was the second record he ever bought so I started our conversation on that subject.

    Before you roll your eyes and fast-forward to Pepper chat, just hold on to your Walrus.  This has everything to do with the Beatles and segues quite nicely into our discussion about Pepper.

    “That 45rpm record – I still have the original copy of it. It’s just one of those haunting instrumental tunes.  It’s a very sad, pensive kind of melody. I don’t know if it strikes you that way but for me the tune is very melancholy for a kid’s show. It must’ve been recorded in ’67 or ’68, obviously. It sounded very Abbey Road to me before Abbey Roadcame out – the way the harmony sounds – like Paul and George singing together. Mike always did a great job of copying Beatle-type stuff. He had quite a history of that. But, yeah, it was one of my first records. It’s an instrumental tune and I love it so much.”

    And, just in case you folks think that this is purely a Phoenix thing, realize that greats like Alice Cooper and Steven Spielberg were heavily influenced by The Wallace and Ladmo Show and that the show’s reach spanned the globe.  Andy attests to this fact.

    “I was actually in Sydney, Australia, back in about 2000 with Olivia. I was in a really cool collector’s CD shop and I found Wallace and Ladmo’s Greatest Hitsin Australia of all places!  They had the theme song so it was nice to have a clean version of the theme song! It had all of the Mike Condello hits like Ladmo In The Sky With Diamonds!” Andy laughs at the memory of the fun of it all and concludes by saying of the theme, “It will always be one of my favorite recorded pieces of music”.

    It goes to show you that kids are indelibly impacted by music at a very early age and underscores the importance of music education in the lives of our kids.  It’s a sad thing to see funding of music education fall victim to budget cuts in our schools.

    We shifted our chat to Andy’s current tour with Ms. Newton-John and how his Pepperwork factors into it.

    “We’re actually right in the middle of it. We’ve done three shows and have four more. It’s a brief run.  She’s been very gracious and she’s asked me to open her show with some of my Peppertunes.  So I’m out there doing that. That’s pretty cool.  She loves the CD and is very into it and very happy to help promote it.  She’s a sweetheart like that.”

    As I mentioned earlier, Andy told me last year that he had already started working on the album.  I asked him how long it took to put the project together and out the door.

    “The main time spent was just me coming up with the arrangements. I called it kind of a hobby for a couple of years because I wasn’t specifically setting out to make a record initially. We were doing Strawberry Fieldslive and it was going over great. A suggestion from my Italian promoter was, ‘Why don’t you do a whole set of Beatles?’  I really didn’t think that I could pull that off but it kind of got my wheels turning and I started experimenting with other Beatles songs but not necessarily Sgt. Peppersongs.  I think Lucy In The Sky was the next one that started to develop nicely.

    “I thought, ‘How would it be to play the whole record just by myself in my studio just for fun?’ So, I just started working on other arrangements. I thought, ‘What if I did When I’m Sixty-Four or Lovely Rita?’ – like how I had approached the Resolutionrecord in that I wasn’t doing any overdubs. I was using chords and melody together a lot. So that’s how I approached this whole project. I didn’t want to approach it as far as ‘I’m going to do a bunch of overdubs and try to exactly replicate the record’. I wanted to see how much I could incorporate into one performance while really getting across all of the nuances and memorable things about each song.

    “As I went about it, I also decided that I was just going to do it completely from memory. That should tell you how much I’ve heard this

    Photo by Simone Cecchetti

    music. Obviously, so many people have. It’s very ingrained. But I think it actually helped make it easier for me in that, going back and transcribing the record, per se, would have been a daunting task. Whereas this allowed me to replicate the music as I hear it in my head meaning that, depending how you experience music as you think about it, the important things tend to stick out to me - like whether it’s the vocal or guitar chord or an orchestration from George Martin, or whatever it might be. It’s what helped me thin it out and do what I could in performing it.  It made it fun and extra challenging. I think it’s also a cool story. People like to know as they listen to the record – it makes it more interesting than just somebody who sat at home with 24 tracks or whatever and tried to replicate it exactly. It makes it much more of a personal statement for me as opposed to the other direction.”

    As Andy mentioned earlier, Olivia Newton-John loves Andy’s Pepperproject.  I also knew that other of his guitar playing peers had received copies of the disc – folks like Steve Lukather and Andy’s label prez, the incomparable Steve Vai. I asked Andy what their feedback was.

    “I think one of the most gratifying is Steve Lukather one of my early heroes for many years and we’ve gotten to know each other over time.  He couldn’t be a sweeter, more supportive kind of guy. There’s a handful of guys that I consider when I make a record and I think, ‘Man! I hope they dig this!’ because I respect their ears and I certainly respect their taste in music. My guitar player friends that are definitely Beatles fans , I’m really hoping they’ll connect with what I’ve done because there’s a lot of nuance there that the casual listener may not pick up on but some of the musicians will definitely understand and realize, ‘Alright, this wasn’t an easy feat’ and they can hear the labor of love.

    “Steve – he was so sweet!  I sent him a link to the record before it was released.  He sent me a couple of e-mails over the course of a month, saying, ‘Hey, man, I haven’t had a chance to listen to it yet. I’m traveling but I’ll get to it.’  Then, apparently, he listened to it while he had a day off in Osaka (Japan). I probably got six e-mails. He was going off on how much he loved it. He called it maybe his favorite instrumental record of all time.  Heavy praise from my hero!  That was very sweet!”

     

    And what has Steve Vai had to say about it?

    “He was the first guy to hear it – the first guy I sent it to. One of the most gratifying things he said was, ‘How did you get all those chords in tune?’  The guitar, in general, is a very imperfect instrument. You cannot possibly be perfectly in tune – especially when you have distortion. It magnifies all the impurities of the tuning – especially the more complex chords you’re trying to voice with distortion - it exaggerates the tuning imperfections. I spent a lot of time on that. Some songs happened very quickly on the CD and some I had to figure out how I could achieve the tuning, per se, to really make it listenable for me. It’s a blessing and a curse having great ears in that you know exactly what it sounds like in your head and to get it can be extremely frustrating. We went through a lot to get the tuning just right.”

    Bringing his comments back around to what Vai had to say, Timmons said, “He also said that he thought it was a beautiful record and, ‘This is the kind of project everyone talks about doing but never does.’  As I would tell people what I was up to, everybody would have that look like, ‘Really? Is this going to work?’ 

    “I have to admit, over the course of a couple of years – after I had the idea, ‘Wow! Wouldn’t it be cool to actually record this?’ I came in a confident mode where, for a while there I thought, ‘Man, this is really gonna work!’ and then when we did the recording, I thought, ‘Man, I don’t think this is going to work.” It took me quite awhile to get the confidence to really be sure, ‘Okay, I love this. I really think it’s going to work.’  Once I got to that place, it was really exciting!  I thought, ‘Regardless what happens, if a couple of my friends dig the way I’m digging it and the way the band’s digging it, then I’m successful.’ 

    “For Steve Vai and Lukather and other people who have been hearing it along the way – no matter what happens commercially, I’m already way successful with what the goal was – to try to present the music in a loving tribute, so to speak. But obviously, it’s nice that it’s getting out there and it’s selling pretty well. I think there’s potential to broaden my fan base that tends to be other guitarists – which is awesome and I’m so thankful for that – but, you know, largely, I want to appeal to a wider group of people and not just people who play the same instrument. I’m hoping this will translate to connecting with Beatles fans in general.

     

    Photo by Simone Cecchetti

    “Oddly enough, I get e-mails from people now that will start off by saying, ‘You know, I’m not really a Beatles fan but I really like your record!’  I’m like, ‘How could you not be a Beatles fan?’  I was fortunate that I was born in ’63 and I had older brothers that were all big fans so I grew up with every record that came out then. So it’s just ingrained in me. If you don’t grow up in that environment and aren’t exposed to it, you’re not as likely to be as connected.  The youth are obviously connecting when they’re exposed to it. It continues to appeal on such a large scale. 

    “For me, it’s an honor to add anything to the realm of the Beatle world and to have it be so positively accepted by a lot of Beatles websites already.  Beatles Examiner and Steve Marinucci, I’ve subscribed to his Beatles newsletter which has come out every day for 15 years. I sent him a copy. I’ve never met him before but he immediately picked up on it and loved it. I was blown away because I’m sure he gets hammered with Beatle related releases every day. But he really took a liking to it and is helping spread the word.  It’s a very cool time for me.”

    As he finished that particular thought, Andy interrupts himself by saying, “I’m sitting here staring at the Imagine mosaic, by the way, as we’re talking. I don’t know if you ever saw the back of my CD, ear X-tacy, there’s a picture of me sitting in this mosaic which had to be taken in 1993. Here I am, how many years later.”

    With Andy’s extensive network of incredible musician friends, I asked if he’s heard whether or not Paul or Ringo have heard his CD yet.

    “No, I haven’t. But that would be a dream of mine!  I know that (Beatle engineer) Geoff Emerick has it. I haven’t heard back from him. My publicist, Carol Kaye, actually manages Geoff so she gave him a copy a few weeks ago.”

    I caught one of Andy’s performances recently in which he performed several cuts from Pepper, much to the crowd’s delight. I asked Andy what his favorite tune to perform from the disc.

    “Ooh!  Interesting!  I do love all of it. We haven’t performed the whole record yet so it’s hard to say. We’ve done about half of it. Strawberry Fields is still a really strong song to perform live. I really enjoy playing She’s Leaving Home, as well. It’s one of the high points of the record just because it was always the most emotional Beatles song for me. It’s kind of like Paul had really gotten to the same emotional place that Brian Wilson was coming from on Pet Sounds. You hear Brian’s influence on Paul’s bass playing all over the record. But, vocally, that’s one of the influences you hear on that song where Paul gets into that high falsetto stuff. That’s total ‘Brian Wilson’. But he’s mentioned it many times how Pet Soundswas his inspiration, basically, for the Pepper record.

    “But Brian Wilson’s music, for whatever reason, is highly emotional to a lot of people, obviously.  When you think of his ballads - not the surfing tunes - In My Roomand Surfer Girl come from such a delicate, sweet place and, when you know more about his history and his painful childhood, you kind of understand where that stuff is coming from.  That one Beatles song kind of gets to that level.  It’s a very sentimental lyric, obviously. But what Paul did melodically is really strong.

    “Anyway, I took a lot of time trying to get to that same place on the guitar – trying to get it through the guitar in that same way. People seem to really like that, as well.”

    As for what he thinks the crowd favorite is, Timmons said, “Strawberry Fields, I think, for sure. It’s fun when we do things like Little Help From My Friendsand Lucy In The Sky. No matter what country we’re in – anywhere in the world – the crowd is signing as loud as the band is playing. It’s so cool! Everybody knows the music so well! It turns into these wonderful sing-alongs. It’s awesome!”

    For you musicians, guitar techies and gear heads, I asked Timmons about the equipment he used to play on Andy Timmons Band Plays Sgt. Pepper.  You can thank me with tens and twenties.

    “Essentially, its four amps running at once. Again, being just one guitar performance we wanted the tone to be as stellar as possible. It’s essentially four Mesa Boogies. There was one Marshall amp involved on a couple of songs but my Mesa’s were basically beating out my vintage amps. When it comes to recording, it’s not about what logo is on the amp, it’s the best tone wins. It’s gonna last forever, hopefully. It’s gotta be right no matter what. I had two Mesa Boogie Lone Star’s and two Mesa Boogie Stilleto Deuce Stage Two heads all running through four separate Mesa Boogie rectifier 2x12 cabinets with vintage Celestion 30 watt speakers.

    “So one guitar is basically feeding four amps in a variety of ways, split with an A/B box – one side going to the Lone Stars and those being split by a TC Electronic chorus delay. The other side is split by an A/B box and tube driver feeding into two tape echoes feeding into the Stilettos.  That’s the overall sound of the record, essentially.

    “The guitar was my original AT100 Ibanez signature guitar – the prototype from 1994.  On Within You Without You I used a brand new production model AT100 that I set up with the tremolo floating slightly to get those Eastern inflections. I also used a 1968 Telecaster on When I’m Sixty-Four.  I was trying to replicate George Harrison’s Gretsch Tennessean tone like he used on Everybody’s Trying To Be My Baby and Honey Don’t, those kinds of songs – his Carl Perkins tone. I have a ’62 Tennessean which is very similar to his guitar but the Tele actually sounded ‘Gretschier’ than the Gretsch. I use that old Tele for that ol’ rockabilly/country tone that I got as a tribute to George. But that’s it –those three guitars but it’s mainly my old AT100 – my old faithful – that’s just the home base for me.”

    One thing about Andy Timmons Band Plays Sgt. Pepper that intrigued me was why he included Strawberry Fieldsat the tail end of the album.  Don’t get me wrong: I’m thrilled that he did. I was just curious as to why he did.

    “Well, two reasons. Obviously, that was the arrangement that got us started in the first place. But, actually – and a lot of people do know this – but Strawberry Fields was the first song recorded for Sgt. Pepper. When the Beatles came off of vacation after they stopped touring in August of ’66, John went to Spain to film a movie called How I Won The War – another Richard Lester film. While he was there, he wrote Strawberry Fields. When they reconvened in the studio for what became Sgt. Pepper, that was his offering so they worked on that first in late ’66. Then Paul had Penny Lane as an answer. When I’m Sixty-Fourwas the next one. EMI came to Brian Epstein and said, ‘Hey, we need another single.’ So the label pulls Strawberry Fields and Penny Lane as a single. The Beatles didn’t want to put singles in front of the album. But that really was the first track recorded for Sgt. Pepper.

    Timmons added, “We’re about to release an official video of us playing it in the studio.  We shot about six videos a couple of months ago and they’re just now being edited. Simple – just us in the studio playing the tunes but it’s kind of cool to see.”

    I followed that bit of revelation by asking if he was planning to do like he did when he released Resolution and that was to film a full-blown concert video of the album.

    “Yes! Absolutely!  We’re working on logistics as far as how and when and where we’re going to do it.”

    When I interviewed Andy last year, he mentioned that he was also working on another CD in parallel with Pepper.  I asked him what the latest scoop was on that CD. 

    “The only scoop at this point is that there’s 14 new songs that were recorded essentially at the same time as Pepper. So that’s going to be one of those situations like Resolutionwhere I’m going to scrap everything I recorded guitar-wise and redo it. It will be awhile because I’m so focused now on promoting the Sgt. Pepper record and getting that out there. That’s why the Pepperrecord happened before that did because I cut about half of the tracks live with the band and I thought, ‘Okay, this is closer to being done. Let me finish this and then I’ll work on the other thing and get that to the place to where I’m happy with it. That was quite handy by the time we did the Pepper record. I knew exactly what I wanted arrangement wise because I’d been playing it by myself for a couple of years. The band hadn’t heard the arrangements. They had them thrust upon them over a 2 ½ day marathon of Beatles songs. Fortunately, the performances were good so I ended up keeping about half of what I did live with the band. I’m happy to have gone down that path the way we did.”

    As we were wrapping up our chat, I mentioned that I had heard that he was going to be interviewed by David Lowry on Live From Music City and had heard that he (Andy) was going to phone in from a very interesting location for that interview.

    “My dear friend, Uliana Salerno, has a hair salon in the village in New York City. It just happens to be Jimi Hendrix’s old apartment. That’s where I’m going to do the radio interview from. I decided that I would call in from her place. What a cool place to be able to do it from.”

    Indeed, it is.  You can catch that interview here.  If you weren’t already an Andy Timmons fan, I’m sure that you are now.  You can keep up with all things Andy by visiting his website, www.andytimmons.com.  While you’re there, why don’t you load up on all of his CD’s and DVD’s in addition to ordering Andy Timmons Band Plays Sgt. Pepper? You’re going to love everything he’s recorded.

    If you’re interested in catching his work with Olivia Newton-John, you can find her latest tour dates that he will be working with her on at www.olivianewton-john.com/tour.html. Who knows? You just might be treated to an Andy Timmons performance before her appearance.

     

  • Posted April, 2012

    During my first interview with guitar great, Andy Timmons, back in the fall of 2010, he mentioned a husband/wife team that had a band. Her name was Maylee Thomas and, to hear him tell it, she had an awesome sound that he thought I’d really like.  He mentioned that her husband, George Fuller, was the guitarist in the band and had just opened up a great, high-end guitar boutique called The Guitar Sanctuary.  This venture is on top of George’s very successful  construction company and other ventures.

    How does he do it?!

    In the proceeding months, I managed to check out the store and also hear the band a few times.  Andy was right (not that I would ever doubt him).  When I first heard Maylee and the band perform, I was blown away by her incredible voice, range and stage presence.  Think Janis Joplin, Bonnie Bramlett, Whitney Houston, Bette Midler (and I’m sure that, if I had the time, I could name a few others) all wrapped up into one tiny but explosive individual.  The band was tight and intuitive – not just very well rehearsed but intuitive.

    As I researched Maylee and George since that fall day a year and a half ago, I learned that, not only were they good friends with Andy and had worked with him countless times, they were also tight with the great, iconic sax player for Bruce Springsteen, the late Clarence “Big Man” Clemons.

    I have six of Maylee’s CD’s and each and every one of them brings on musical, audio phonic bliss.  Being the methodical geek that I am, when I first got them, I listened to them in chronological order – which is a problem.  Why? Well, as you’ll read later in this piece, the very first album, Rhythm of the Blues, has not only the guitar prowess of Andy Timmons but the signature sax sound of Clemons on the sax throughout the CD and even the Edwin Hawkins Choir on a couple of tracks.

    That’s not to say that the rest of the musicians are slouches.  Space doesn’t permit me to drill down into all of the musicians just on the first album but check out just a small handful of ‘em:  Jamie Oldaker (Bob Seger, Eric Clapton, Ace Frehley) and Dan Wojciechowski (Peter Frampton) on drums, Chuck Rainey (Steely Dan, Aretha Franklin, Quincy Jones) on bass, and Dave Grissom (John Mellencamp, Allman Brothers, Dixie Chicks) on guitar.

    How am I supposed to get through a single CD – let alone my stack of six Maylee Thomas CDs – if I’m continually slappin’ the repeat button?  Hmmmm?

    A line up like these greats show the high level of excellence that Maylee and George strive for in their CDs.  Their stage band is also very, very good local musicians in their own right.  Every time I’ve seen them perform, they seem to raise the bar of excellence higher and higher.  To catch the Maylee Thomas Band live at any venue, any size will insure that you are in for a very real treat.

    After too long of time, I finally approached Maylee and George about interviewing them.  We met up at one of their businesses and I was immediately taken by their warmth and graciousness. Both exude a love of life and a humble confidence (no, that’s not a contradiction in terms) in all that they do.

    After some introductory small talk, I started off by asking the two of them how they met and got together.  Their response to my question led to stories that show their true heart for people.  George led off.

     “Maylee and I met in the fall of 1990. I was playing in a band in the West End – I was playing at Bahama Bob’s and she was playing at another club down the street. My band mates came to me on a break and said, ‘Man, you’ve got to check out this girl down the road. She’s a tremendous singer and performer!’ I went down there and saw her and I set a goal that night that I was going to get in that band because I was disgusted with my present band.

    “As fate would have it, literally that next Monday, she called the studio that I co-owned at the time with Jimmy Wallace – Sound Southwest – asking Jimmy – who she knew – if he could refer any guitar players because they were looking for a new guitar player. So that’s how we met.”

    Maylee injected, “Isn’t that bizarre? I mean, that’s kind of a “God thing”. It would have to be.”

    George continued by explaining, “I’m trying to give you the Reader’s Digest version because the reality was I was so fed up with the band.  I’m a business guy – left and right brained and a lot of the musicians that I was dealing with at the time didn’t have that. If the gig was at 9 o’clock, they would show up at 9:15 – maybe sober, maybe not.”

    George eventually wound up in Maylee’s band and, to hear him tell it, “For the last 20 years we’ve been playing music together, writing music together. We ended up developing a relationship during the early years of the band and at some point got married.

    “It’s been a great journey ever since. Our journey has been in a secular band. It’s been in the recording studio. It’s been in worship bands and leading worship. It’s just been all over the place.  In ’92 we decided to begin the Love Life Foundation. I forget what the occasion was but there was a fundraiser that needed to happen and people were racing around trying to figure out how we organize that fundraiser. We decided, ‘Let’s use our music and talent and put together a benefit concert. We did that and that worked out well. Over a period of time we decided that we would formalize that endeavor and formed Love Life Foundation and started that whole journey as well.

    “Here we are today with four kids, a guitar store, a construction business, Love Life Foundation, and two bands.  We have a ‘secular’ band and a ‘worship’ band. We have a trio kind of thing and periodically we do a duet. But one thing that comes out in everything that we do – and it’s evidenced in every CD we’ve ever put out and is evidenced in every show that we play whether it’s the secular band or, obviously, the worship band – the common thread that we have in everything – in all of our music – is our beliefs and our faith.

    “If you watch Maylee and the band on a Friday night in a bar filled with many inebriated people, Maylee will start ‘preaching’. I think she sometimes gets confused and thinks we’re in church” and then, more seriously, adds, “She never hides her faith and it’s always a real strong component in everything we do – or, what she does specifically”.

    If you listen to Maylee’s music, you will immediately sense her deep faith in God.  Talking with her in person is not different.

    “I was blessed very early on to sit under the ministry of Kenneth Hagin, Sr. so I saw the real thing and I saw a lot of ‘carbon copies’.  When we first got together, George had never been to a ‘spirit-filled’ church. He had grown up quasi-Catholic. I had been around that, as well, but my dad was Jewish so you can imagine the dynamic in my family. They thought I had totally gone off the deep end. The ‘Jesus’ thing was bad enough but, then, the ‘spirit-filled’ stuff was like, ‘She’s gotten into some bad drugs!’

    “When George and I first started dating (and going to church together), he’s like, ‘they’re putting their hands up and this is for real, huh?’”

    George interjects some humor at this point.

    “I thought everyone was raising their hands because they had a question and I didn’t have a question so I kept my hands down. Then I realized that no one ever got asked a question so I figured out that it was something else. I finally got ticked off because Maylee would always raise her hand and I’d be like, ‘’Scuse me! She’s got a question! Would you let her ask it?!’ Then that embarrassed her and I learned that that was not what she was doing.”

    Still in the vein of sharing her religious background, Maylee shared a very personal story about the pain of going through a divorce while being a relatively high profile person within certain religious environments.  Keep in mind as you read her story that, in those church circles, divorce was verboten – especially divorce among those in the ministry. The story revealed her unique perspective on faith, life, love and living as well as her ability to relate on a personal level with the pain that people go through in their relationships and daily lives.

    “I went to Southwestern Assemblies of God University (Waxahachie, Texas), and traveled with a group called Maranatha all over the country and abroad. I met a guy and fell in love. He was an evangelist from Rhema (Bible Training Center in Oklahoma) and, unfortunately, the downfall for him was that he was married before. His wife was killed in a car accident that they were in and she was pregnant at the time. It was a real hard thing for him.

    “We were together for seven years and travelled all over. We were evangelists for years and also pastored a church in Florida and were associate pastors at a big church out in California. I kind of knew that this couldn’t be the ultimate in a marriage because it was almost like we were living two separate lives. He was up at 5 a.m. every single morning, down in his office studying. I felt so lonely and disconnected but I had made this vow – where I grew up, if you get married it’s for good! I knew that going in. I made this vow to God and I just didn’t have it in me to ask for a divorce. I just couldn’t. I was just going to keep this thing going.

    “In God’s wonderful way, I didn’t have to because he asked me for it. Basically, what he said was, ‘I don’t love you in the way I should. I’ve never gotten over my first wife and I need to let you go and let you have a life where you can be loved in the way you deserve to be loved.’

    “That’s the nicest thing you can say to someone in that situation. Of course, I was still devastated and I still thought that he would miss me and come around and all of that but he never did. He never remarried. He’s still teaching, travelling and doing all of that but he never got remarried so it wasn’t ‘another woman’ kind of thing . . . although it was. I believe that the love of his life was his first wife.”

    Without being asked, Maylee went on to share her opinion as to why her first husband married her to begin with.

    “He felt pressured because he would go to churches and all the single women would be hitting on him and he felt that he couldn’t accomplish what he wanted to do being in that arena single. He struggled with it. He told me that. Of course, I didn’t think anything of it because I believed what he was saying when said, ‘I want you go be my wife’.

    “Ultimately, the greatest thing that happened was that he let me go. Had that not happened, obviously, I wouldn’t have found my soul mate.”

    Injecting what I by then learned as George’s tremendous sense of humor, he asks Maylee, “You are referring to me, right?” and then turns to me while remarkably dead-pan and said, “We had a dog that she loved. I just wanted to be clear.”

    Maylee concluded the subject of her first husband by saying, “The other thing was we knew each other three months and got married. Part of it, for me, was that I was ready to get on with my life – ready to get out of school.  Of course, when everybody found out that I was dating this guy, to them it was like the ultimate for a woman – a girl – at a Bible college to hook up with a minister, go on the road and be an evangelist. I had everybody’s blessing.”

    Maylee segues from sharing about the pain of a failed marriage to her gospel music background: “The Assemblies of God in California – there were a lot of black churches so I spent a lot of time in a lot of black churches where I was literally the only white girl there. So that’s where I really cut my teeth in that kind of music. You can definitely hear it in the music we’ve incorporated.

    “I came here in the 80’s and decided that I was just going to be real. I felt like, at that point – when I got out of that relationship – I had to be real to myself. I felt that I was doing a disservice to God. For a while, I kind of ran from the church, thinking, ‘Oh, I can’t be in church because they’re going to try to make me something that I’m not.’ The reality is, God created us the way we are and to be 100% who we are for Him and that’s what we’ve done.

    “I still get people who say, ‘Why are you wasting your talent in a bar? Why aren’t you doing it in the church?’ I’ll say, ‘People are people whether they’re in the bar or in the church. I’m not wasting it if I’m singing to people who are hungry.’

    Obviously, Maylee and George come in contact with lots of hungry people at their gigs.

    “George will tell you that people have come up countless times afterwards – a lot of times they’re pretty emotional – and they’ll say, ‘I just want you to know that I was really moved tonight when you started singing. I really appreciated it’. And then some people come up and say, ‘I don’t know what it was but you made me cry.’  That’s the spirit of God. So, it’s really been a great ministry and I feel very blessed that we’re able to do it the way that we are.  Of course, there are some clubs that we play in and once we give the message, they don’t ask us to come back. But, for the most part, they do.”

    This crowd reaction dovetails with the band’s “mission statement”, if you will, that George shared.

    “Every song we write and virtually every song that Maylee sings – and there’s many songs that she won’t sing – if there’s a mission statement it would be that all music we play has a good message – a pure message.  At the same time, we don’t say that we’re going to go out and play bars and spread the Word of God in our playing otherwise we’re not doing it.  We don’t have that restriction either. That just happens to be something that comes natural and is part of our thread that we’re woven with. It’s not a contrived or forced thing. It happens as it happens.”

    Before Maylee’s total immersion into the soulful sounds of black gospel music, she was exposed to other great music. She shared those influences in response to my question of past and current influences.

    “My very first record I ever bought was Tapestry by Carole King. Of course, at that time there was James Taylor, Linda Ronstadt and those kinds of people and then Janis Joplin, Tina Turner and that genre.   Even, in the 80’s, Pat Benatar and some of these big, gigantic voices of the secular field.  On the Christian side, I was more into the black gospel kind of stuff – Shirley Caesar, the Winans.  The Edwin Hawkins Choir is on our first record. They sang background on two of the songs that we wrote.

    “Right now?  The cool thing about right now is, for me, is that there’s definitely two completely different styles of music that are hitting the radio waves hard. To me, one of them is all created in the studio and is all technology and I’m just not a big fan of that. I guess that’s because I grew up when you where, if you were a musician, you really play. I’m okay with some tone mistakes and some hissing.  I like that!  I’m a very passionate, emotional kind of singer and I love that. I don’t like it when they clean everything up to the point that it’s just sterile. I think that our group of people is coming back to that from some of the musicians out there.”

    George’s response to the same question was also interesting.

    “My musical influences have always been guitar players – a lot of guitar heroes – Clapton, Stevie Ray Vaughn and Gary Moore.  On the other side, I’ve always been a huge songwriter fan. People that influenced me were Billy Falcon, who a lot of people don’t know by name but had some hits in the mid-nineties – written a lot for Bon Jovi and many, many other people.  I’m a huge Bruce Springsteen fan just from the whole songwriting aspect and as live performers.  And, then when I came to Texas, I was actually influenced mostly by local talent.  Jimmy Wallace, Andy Timmons – Andy continues to be my greatest influence – I don’t know about ‘influence’ but he inspires me the most.

    “Then, on a current level, I would still have to say Andy. Anything that has melody and strong in songwriting – I’m not a guitar gymnastic guy. I’m not a fan of the Yngwie Malmsteen’s or anything like that. I’m more of about melody, soul and passion.”

    Maylee added, “You were talking about Bruce – that was the other thing that we were so blessed with having a relationship with Clarence Clemons for so many years. That opened me up. See, the only ‘Bruce’ I was familiar with was all the hits they used to play on the radio and they weren’t even my favorite songs of his. George would go, ‘Aren’t you a Bruce Springsteen fan?” and I’m like, ‘Ah, well, he’s okay’.  But once I heard him in concert, I was blown away.”

    I asked Maylee and George how their relationship with Clarence Clemons started. George shared the surprisingly funny story.

    “We were playing at a club – we were at Take 5 in Dallas and in walks an entourage of people.  It Clarence Clemons, Kelsey Grammer, Alan Thicke, Dave Anderson (“McGyver”), Leonardo DiCaprio – they all walked in. They were travelling at the time with the 1980 gold medal hockey team doing this charity thing. There was a celebrity team playing on ice against the gold medal hockey team and it was all for charity. So they came walking in. Of course, I’m a fan of a lot of them. I love Kelsey Grammer and Frasier – big fan.  But my attention was immediately to the large black man. That’s the Big Man – Clarence Clemons.

    “So, we took a break and I immediately went over to Clarence and said, ‘You don’t happen to have your sax with you, do you?’  He said, ‘Ah, man, I wish I did!  You guys rock!’  I said, ‘Where is it?’ and he said, ‘It’s at the hotel.’  I said, ‘I got a car right out back. We could go get it.’  He said, ‘Let’s go!’

    “He got in my car and we drove one-way streets the wrong way and down sidewalks to get him to the hotel.  We go up, get his sax.  I don’t know this guy from Adam. I’m just a fan. We’re coming down the elevator in the hotel that happened to be hosting the national cheerleading competition. Clarence loved life and loved as many in life as he could. I almost didn’t get him out of the hotel. Girls started paying attention to him and he was like, ‘Maybe I should stay?’ and I’m like, ‘NO!’

    “I got him back in the car. We go back. We made it there and back within the 30 minute break. Kelsey Grammer got up and played piano, Alan played guitar and sang, and Clarence blew sax. That was a fantastic night playing the last set together.

    “Maylee knows me and knows that I’m not going to let that opportunity go.  At the time I had the studio with Jimmy Wallace and we were working on our first record.  It’s two in the morning and I don’t want to push my luck but I said to Clarence, ‘ Man, it’s a long shot but is there any way I can talk you into coming into the studio with us? We’re doing this record and it would be so awesome if you could play on it” He asked, ‘Where’s the studio?’ and I said, ‘Oh, it’s ten minutes from here’ – it was really 40.  He’s like, ‘Yeah, let’s go!’

    “So, we get in the car and I’m freakin’ out, thinkin’ ‘How do I make 40 minutes seem like 10 minutes?’ It’s 2:30 in the morning by the time we leave.  We get him into the studio and we played until dawn. He played the solos on I’ve Got You and Beyond My Wildest Dreams – they were all just first takes. Incredible. Just incredible.

    “So, then, I take him back to the hotel and he’s going to be on a plane in hours. He’s been up the whole night. I’m thinking, ‘I don’t want to let this go!’ and so I’m talking to him and he’s telling me about his birthday. He was turning 50 in two weeks. He made the comment – I’m sure that he was just being polite – ‘Too bad you don’t live out there. If you can make it, you ought to come to my birthday.’

    “Well, I latched on to that and two weeks later I fly out there. I go to his house. I didn’t have his phone number or anything. I can’t confirm that I’m really invited but I do my research and find where he lives and I show up!  He had said, ‘When you come you can stay with me!’  I had my bag and I show up at his door, ringing the doorbell. Someone answers and they said, ‘Who are you?’ Clarence jumped up and hugged me. He was very gracious.  He told everybody about the recording session. He remembered every detail. He welcomed me in and insisted that I stay there. We laughed about that story for many years afterwards.”

    Maylee added, “From that point on, George, Clarence and I became very, very close friends. We saw him through a lot – a lot.  He (Clemons) told me later, ‘I never had anybody make me laugh as much as Geo has! I would cry I would be laughing so hard.’

    I asked George and Maylee how they met Andy Timmons.

    “Maylee met Andy playing in some clubs when she was with Robert Lee Kobb. The real strong friendship between the three of us came later when I met him and befriended him. At the time he was living in Denton and had an unreliable car – Druzilla was its name – and Druzilla ran part of the time and didn’t run most of the time. I would drive up to Denton, picking up Andy and bringing him into town and we’d go cruising around. We had a lot of time to become friends.

    “Andy played in the band for 2 – 2 ½ years maybe. Here’s been involved with virtually every record we’ve ever recorded from all the way back from Rhythm of the Blues to now. He’s obviously a tremendous talent. He’s a tremendous individual and a tremendous person. Very genuine. He is exactly what he projects himself to be. That’s just him. He’s wonderful, passionate, caring and giving. To me, he’s truly the most talented guitar player I’ve ever seen, heard or listen to. He has all of that technical proficiency but he also has that unequalled sense of melody and passion that comes through in his playing.”

    Then, with the humor that I quickly grew to love and appreciate during our visit, George adds, “I think he’s stolen some of his licks from me over the years. He and I talk about it often. I’ll single out one note from one of his records and say, ‘That note sounds pret-ty familiar!’ and he’s like, ‘Man! You caught that? The thirteenth bar on the seventh song?’

    As we finished our mutual, verbal love fest for Andy, Maylee shared how George and Andy connect on a comedic level. However, in telling me this, she let it slip that Andy and George are both actually super-hero crime-fighters with well ventilated, official super-hero costumes and real super-hero motorcycle and side-car.  I saw photographic evidence so I know this to be true.

    I’m sure I’m going to hear about this later.

    Blown away by the current Maylee Thomas Band catalog, I asked what the plans were as far as a new CD in the near future.  George indicated that “We’ve written new songs and we’re getting ready to record. We’re going to start recording them as soon as possible.”

    As for what’s on the radar for the next year and the next five years, George shared that it was to  “Finish this record and get it recorded will be the immediate goal. Over the next five years? Wherever God takes us. I mean, really. I don’t mean to sound hokey but that’s it. We’re going to continue to write, play, lead worship and see where that takes us. We recently did a song for the Rick Santorum campaign. You can hear it on YouTube. It’s called A Better Day. We were contacted by someone at the Republican National Committee about using the song for him. So, maybe we’ll go down that road. Just wherever God takes us.”

    Then, again, with a smirk and a twinkle in his eye that warns me that I’m about to laugh yet again, he shares what their lofty goal as a band is.

    “We’re going to hire Bruce Springsteen to play with us in our band. The G Street Band with special guest, Bruce Springsteen! That’s our lofty goal!”

  • Protocol II
    Simon Phillips
    Label: Phantom Recordings
    Review Date: March 30, 2014

    It has been 14 years Simon Phillips released his last album, “Vantage Point”.  For a much sought after drummer who has played for everyone from Toto to Tears For Fears; from Mick Jagger to Judas Priest; from Whitesnake to The Who, it goes without saying that Phillips must have a ton of new music building up in his head.

    Boy, was there!

    Having once again gotten the itch to record some new material, Simon decided to solicit the help of other amazing musicians. He recruited guitarist extraordinaire (and good Boomerocity friend and supporter), Andy Timmons, renowned keyboardist, Steve Weingart, and bass phenom, Earnest Tibbs, to join him in the studio.

    The result is nothing short of spectacular and comes in the form of Protocol II.

    Phillips says this about what happened in the studio: “I was curious and eager to get playing to see how the chemistry of the four of us would work. The first tune we recorded was Moments of Fortune and I knew immediately this was a great band – great chemistry – a deep pocket and a relentless supply of musicality!”

    The chemistry produces some of the best jazz/rock fusion I’ve heard in a while.  The eight tunes that came out of this effort gives the listener a solid hour sheer, musical pleasure. Any one of the eight would make a great audio calling card for the album.

    Right out of the chute, Wildfire hooks the listener, causing them to be engaged until the absolute beautiful end of the album.  Intricate, tight, and amazing tone, this tune sets the stage for the entire album.

    Boomerocity won’t comment on all of the jewels on this album but did want to highlight:

    Soothsayer has a very cool, jazzy swagger vibe to it. This tune made me slap the repeat button an infinite number of times and is one of the Boomerocity favorites off this project.

    Gemini is silky smooth jazz fusion at its best.  “Otherwordly”, this song will take you light years into a whole new musical galaxy.  In the musical universe next door, is the amazing First Orbit.  Weingart’s tickling of the keys is smooth and to the point.  

    The strutting Moments of Fortune is nothing short of amazing. Timmons’s searing and sassy guitar work is healthily supported by Tibbs’ bass walkin’.  Like Soothsayer, I slapped the repeat button a ton o’ times for this one.

    One suggestion when listening to this album:  Do so at least one through a very good set of headphones.  The experience is amazing!

    The whole album is pure, blissful joy to listen to. I’ve listened to it while working, reading and resting and it has tastefully enhanced the atmosphere in each case.  Definitely download or pick up a copy for yourself. While you’re at it, get a copy for the music nut in your life. They will definitely LOVE this CD!

  • Posted December, 2010

    quintenhope00001One of the more rewarding and exciting things about what I get to do on Boomerocity is the discovery of talent that is new . . . or, at least, new to me. I’m flattered when people tell me that I’m an “expert” due to what I supposedly know. The fact of the matter is, I’m always “discovering” artists who have actually been around quite awhile and have developed a very respectable following.

    Case in point: Quinten Hope

    I learned of Quinten while interviewing guitarist,Andy Timmons. In addition to bragging about Hope’s incredible talent on the guitar, he also mentioned that he was a principal in a new, high end guitar store, The Guitar Sanctuary. I made note of to conduct research on Hope to see if he would be someone I would want to interview.

    My research (and acquisition of two of Quinten’s three CD’s, Start of A New Day and Reunion) opened my eyes to one of the best kept secrets of the Dallas/Ft. Worth music scene. To say that Quinten Hope is a talented guitarist would be like saying Tiger Woods is an okay golfer. Hope is a highly disciplined artist who knows his craft inside and out and it shows in his recordings and in his performances.

    The music I heard from those two discs treated my ears to some of the most intricate, work I’ve ever had the pleasure of listening to. The music is incredibly well written and performed with precision, transcending a wide range of styles. I became instantly hooked and am now a fan for life.

    After a couple of preliminary visits at The Guitar Sanctuary and the exchange of e-mails, Quinten and I met for lunch at a local la Madeline’s to enjoy a tasty salad (we are both watching our girlish figures). Tucked away in a relatively quiet corner of the restaurant, we chatted about mutual friends and acquaintances and various business news. Hope is a great conversationalist and we could have talked all day about a wide range of subjects. It’s clear, though, that, besides his lovely wife, Caron, music is his passion and second love.

    Every guitar player I’ve had the privilege to meet (friend or celebrity) eventually winds up telling me how they wound up playing the guitar and, if they’re a professional, what led them to pursue the life of a musician. I asked Quinten to tell me what led him down his path.

    “Well, I’ve always been around musicians – from the time I was growing up – my dad, he played. He had a band back in the fifties. It was him on guitar and bass – they would switch off. It was a four piece band that they had. They played the old Jimmy Reed stuff and Elmore James – just old rhythm and blues stuff.

    “We got into the sixties and a couple of guys went into the army. They all lost touch for awhile and then got back together. But he would always have guys coming over to the house and do some jamming in the back. He was really getting me turned on to country like Waylon Jennings and all of those guys.

    “One night I saw KISS. They had this really cheesy movie on. It was in 1977 and it was called KISS Meets The Phantom of the Park – ‘Movie of the Week’, you know? I just remember watching and going, ‘Wow! That’s out there? That exists?’ So, for years after that, I jumped around in my room with a tennis racket. I put a flashlight in the window to shine on me like a spotlight and jump around with this tennis racket. And I did this for years!”, he says with an embarrassed chuckle.

    Uh, you and millions of others, Quinten. Or, so I’ve heard. I’m just sayin’ . . .

    “I remember specifically, one day, I was in there, jumping around and I actually stopped and turned the record off and go, ‘You know? If this is what I want to do – if I really want to do this – I might want to really learn how to play. If I’m going to stick with this tennis racket, I better start watching John McEnroe, you know?

    “So, I got a real guitar. Actually, what was supposed to be a real guitar – it was better than the tennis racket. I think I was around 12 years old. I got this white flying ‘V’ – because that’s what KISS played at the time - had to have it. Dad actually wanted to buy me a Les Paul and I go, ‘No! I hafta have the white flying ‘V’!’ It was by a company called ‘Hondo’. It was a $250 guitar. Dad goes, ‘You sure you don’t want this Les Paul?’ It was, like, a thousand bucks back then. ‘No, man!’ Looking back, I wish that I had taken the Les Paul.

    “So, they got me the guitar and I would sit around and pick everything out by ear. I was taking the needle off the record and putting it back, just figuring everything out.” When Hope shares this, I had to smile because great guitarist like Keith Richards came to mind for doing the exact same thing.

    There comes a moment of truth in a musicians life – one of many, actually – when they make that first decision to play in a band. I asked Quinten at what point did he feel that he was good enough to play in public?

    “Well, I was practicing a lot. I would go to school, come home and the first thing I would do was drop my books and play guitar all night long. I guess I was in eighth grade and just about to go into high school. I went to South Garland High School. There was a pop band called The Show Boaters – eleven vocalists, guitar, bass, drums and two keyboard players. It was school band and it was an actual class. You had to audition to be in it. What they did was they took pop tunes and country songs and work up a set and perform now and then – like at business luncheons and events like that.

    “I tried out and I made it. At this point, I was the only freshman that played in the band. I remember standing there for the audition. It was my first realization, ‘Holy crap! I’ve got to play in front of somebody!’ I worked up this whole Randy Rhodes solo. I’m going to go in there and do some finger tappin’ and some Crazy Train!

    “I go in there and start playing and I drop my pick! I’m fumbling around – what do I do? I dropped my pick! I couldn’t pick up the pick because my Jordache jeans were too tight to get the other one in my pocket! So, I just started making stuff up on the fly and, somehow, I made it into the band. I was in the there my whole high school ‘career’.

    “I learned a lot. Every day, it was an actual class. You would go and set up in this room and rehearse a song. And, if you were in there, you automatically had to be in the choir. So, two hours of the day in school, I was doing music. And, then, I would go home and do music the rest of the night. That really helped a lot.”

    This rigorous regimen obviously groomed Hope to be accustomed to the discipline necessary to practice and rehearse in order to become a world class musician. He pretty much says so as he continues.

    “It was really good because they would say, ‘Here are the songs we’re going to do this semester.’ There would be 30 songs and I had to go and learn these 30 songs. They didn’t always have the music for them but, luckily, I had already been playing things by ear and training my ear. I had to learn all of those 30 in about a week because I didn’t know what we were going to rehearse. The instructor was tough and if I didn’t know the songs, I didn’t want to hear it from this guy at all!

    “So, from the standpoint of making sure I had my stuff together and meet deadlines, it was really good training. It still transfers over today. If I have a gig somewhere – somebody calls me to do something for them, I’ve got to make sure that I’ve really done my homework and not just show up to the gig and go, ‘Let’s jam!’ That gave me a really good foundation.”

    While researching Quinten’s background and work, I learned that he was a music graduate from University of North Texas. I asked him if he went straight to UNT after graduating from high school.

    “No, I was going to go be a rock star” he says with a laugh. “The good thing about the time where I was developing a lot of skills and how to play, there was a lot of diverse music. Dad was into old blues, and new blues like Stevie Ray Vaughan and country – blue grass, even. In the school band, we covered everything from pop tunes to classic rock to country to whatever. So I got my feet wet with a lot of different styles but, still, the whole rock thing was what was calling.

    “So, I got out of high school and actually worked in a local music store. The reason why I wanted to get a job there was to meet other musicians. I figured, ‘Man, this is the place where everybody’s going to be.’ A friend of mine worked there – we became friends and he had a friend who was rolling through town and he used to be in a band as a bass player. He came in and I met him. We got together and started writing songs. So we did this little rock band thing. We gathered three other guys and formed a five piece band. We did really well. We dealt with Warner Bros. and Geffen Records. We never signed anything and thank God we didn’t. We were right at the turn when everything went Alternative – the whole Seattle/Grunge scene. So, I’m really thankful that it didn’t happen. Of course, at the time, you don’t understand why it happened but, looking back it’s like, ‘Ah! Perfect!’

    “The whole thing happened: The band breaks up as usual – after three years into it. It’s another one of those realizations where I’m sitting there thinking, ‘Alright, I’ve spent three years of my life working on this and it went away just like that. What am I going to do to make sure that it doesn’t happen if I want to keep doing music?’ So, that’s when I went to UNT and got involved there and got into reading music – the whole music theory thing.

    “When I went up there I did Jazz Studies and Music Theory. I did a double major and, man, that opened up a lot of doors as far as developing my musicianship and musicality. And that was a big part of it, too. When I tell these stories and look back, it’s pretty funny. Even now, I’m sitting here thinking, ‘Wow, that was kind of cool!’

    “At UNT, you either had to be classical music or you do jazz, which is funny because, if you try to go out and do jazz to make a living, it doesn’t happen. So, again, you have to be fluent in multiple styles. Plus, trying to break into studio work, it’s the same thing. You want to get calls where you can handle any situation – country gigs, pop gigs, whatever. But, probably at North Texas, it was probably the worst playing I have ever done in my life.”

    I asked Hope why that was.

    “I think they really wanted me to try and sound like somebody who wasn’t me. ‘Oh, this is good but it’s too blues based or too rock based. You need to sound more like this . . .’. So, I had this whole struggle going, trying to create my own identity but, at the same time, sounding like someone they wanted me to sound like. It just didn’t work but I got through the whole thing. I think one of the best pieces of advice I ever got was from Fred Hamilton. He runs the whole guitar department up there. I worked my way up to study with Fred. You study usually with grad students and TA’s (teacher’s assistants). So, I worked my way up. The first semester I’m with Fred, I’m all excited and am, like, ‘Yeah!’. I’m sitting in his office – the very first lesson – he looked like Gandalf from The Lord of the Rings. He’s got the slicked back, long white hair with a beard. I kept on thinking, ‘Cast a spell or something.”

    “But he sat back and he was stroking his beard and he just goes, ‘I can’t make you play any better.’ What he was talking about was, ‘Taking a lesson with me is not going to make you any better. You’ve got the facilities, you’ve got the skills and the knowledge. You’ve got to go back to the music that you like – that you dig and you’ve got to get your head between the headphones and figure out what you like. We can talk about concepts and techniques and other approaches. You’ve just got to go back and dig into what it is you like.’”

    After following his heart to pursue his musical passion in school, Quinten graduated from University of North Texas in 2001. In addition to working on his own music, he also enjoys a reputation as a much sought after session musician. I asked him to tell me about that aspect of his career.

    “Well, I try not to get it on the hundredth take.” He says with a laugh. “I try to get it done quick. The key is to try not to suck. It’s real funny because I was always in the studio with a rock band – we did a couple of CD’s. I’ve been in the studio doing my own thing. But it’s real funny, when you get a call from somebody to come do something because, most of the time, you DON’T know what to expect. I just did one – I guess it was last month – for about a week. I recorded four days for this guy’s record. But it was really cool and laid back. The band was great. So, we did eleven tunes for this guy’s record. But it’s pretty cool and it’s one of those things that keeps you on your toes because it’s not like you’ve got a lot of time. You’ve got to get it done quick to make sure that you don’t run up their studio bill.

    “It’s like the whole recording scene changed a lot in the last few years. Everyone has a home bedroom recording studio. I do a lot of stuff where people will send me a rough mix of a tune and I’ll drop it in my Pro Tools rig, record the guitars and send them a WAV file back and they just drop it in and it’s done. I’ve done a lot of stuff for guys in San Diego and New York. It’s pretty consistent work.”

    When Quinten isn’t hard at work in the business called rock and roll, he spends quite a bit of time applying his craft in the non-profit sector, most at Prestonwood Baptist Church in Plano, Texas. I asked him how that all came about.

    “Prestonwood had their Saturday night service and their Sunday morning service going on. So, I got a call one day from somebody at Prestonwood and they said, ‘Hey, would you come over and play on Saturday night for us?’ And, at this point, they still didn’t have a lot of guitar music at all. It was mostly the orchestra and piano kind of thing. But, they had a song that had a guitar solo in it and they needed a guitar player. So, I went over and played that Saturday night. A couple of weeks later, they called and asked, ‘Hey, would you come back and do it again?’ So, I went over on Saturday night. After a few times of that, they really started to like the vibe of what was going on. And, then, they added me to Saturday nights (as a regular) but nothing on Sunday.

    “Then, one night, Todd Bell, the music director over there, said, ‘Man, we really like what you do and we want to add this in on Sunday morning, too.’ So, I have been there ever since. Now, there is lots of guitar music. We changed that pretty quick! We rock and roll over there now.”

    Later in the conversation Quinten shares the story about a very interesting development that sprouted from his work at Prestonwood: “One thing that we got started there was the music school. I’d been on them for a long time that they needed to get a music school going. We talked about it and mentioned it here and there. We had lunch one day and they said, ‘Hey, we’re going to start a music school and we want you to be part of it.’ I grew the guitar department really big. I was teaching something like 40 people a week myself. Then, I had to bring on two other guitar teachers to help me with the load. It was pretty crazy and it’s still going pretty strong.”

    Since Hope has an extensive – and impressive – resume of musical work that can be proudly pointed to, I asked him who all he has worked with that has commanded his respect.

    “You know, you’ve heard of his drummer, Dan Wojciechowski . Well, he’s played drums on my CD’s, too. He’s been on the road with Frampton – on the Frampton gig – for a couple of years now. The first time I got to play with Dan was actually at Prestonwood. The drummer that we were going to have was going to be out. So, Dan came in and played. From the first measure of music, this guy’s groove was so deep, I said, ‘This is a cat that I’m going to play with!’

    “I had already done my first CD and I was writing and getting ready for my second CD, Start of a New Day, and I said, ‘Alright, this guy is going to be on my CD.’ We had already gotten to be friends before that. I was sitting on the couch one day and I started putting everything together. I go, ‘Alright, who is the perfect rhythm partner I would want to play with Dan?’ The first guy that popped into my head was Will Lee, off of (The Late Show With David) Letterman. I go, ‘There’s no way that’s going to happen. He’s already so busy playing on everyone else’s records, there’s no way!’ I was in the mood that day that I felt that I could get anything done so I go, ‘Why wouldn’t he do it? Let’s make this happen!’

    “So, I made a few phone calls and talked to a few friends and sent a couple of e-mails here and there and by that same night we were on the phone with each other. We spent over an hour on the phone just talking about everything. He said, ‘Yeah, man, I’d love to do it!’ I’m sitting there thinking, ‘I got hold of the wrong guy. He’s an imposter.’ To me he’s the most grooving bass player ever.

    “He came down to Dallas and we did the record. That was pretty freakin’ amazing! The way that he and Dan would communicate musically on a groove – they wouldn’t have to say anything. They had never worked before – never met. Will was real impressed with Dan and Dan was just beside himself to play with Will – we all were. That was six years ago and, to this day, that is THE best band I get to play with.

    “We did that record and we all stayed in touch – e-mails, phone calls. We talk all the time. I still do some shows with Dan around town. And, then, when I got ready to do Reunion – the last CD – of course, those were going to be the same guys that I wanted on it. So, we worked it out, schedule-wise. It’s kind of hard to do because Dan had just started playing with Frampton so trying to work that out, schedule-wise, was kind of hectic. Also, trying to find time when Will could take off from Letterman. Dan was off from Frampton so we could work a week out where we could get together. It all worked out.

    “We did that record and, to release that, Dan and I went to New York and played some shows with Will – at The Bitter End. That was a fun gig. We had Rob Arthur on keyboard. Rob Arthur is also Peter Frampton’s keyboard player. Rob is such a great dude. He’s got a CD out (Anywhere But Home) and it sounds awesome. It’s one of my favorite CD’s. That gig was, I think, on September 22nd, 2008, and then we came back to Dallas. The following week, Will flew down and my buddy, Bradley (Knight), who played with me at Prestonwood and is a great arranger and keyboard player, we all did the show at the Granada. That was really, really, really cool.”

    After exchanging our thoughts and feelings about the current state of the music business, Quinten uses the opportunity to brag on the music scene being fostered in McKinney, Texas.

    “I really like the scene in McKinney as far as the square goes because they’re really doing a lot to support live music. And the people that go there are going there to hear live music. It’s not like in Dallas where you go somewhere and you’ve got people there going, ‘Gosh, I wish that band would shut up!’ At least in McKinney we’ve got that vibe going now to where it can be happening.”

    “One of the things that blew me away – any time I go to New York, I’m blown away just because of the culture and the things that happen musically – the art, the vibe, the energy of everything. When we got done with our Bitter End gig, which was cool because I looked out and I saw Felicia Collins – the chick on Letterman – and some other people that I know there and I’m thinking, ‘Wow, these people are watching me play!’ 

    “After the gig, Will (Lee), goes, ‘Hey, man, Mike Stern’s playing over at the 55 Bar.’ Mike Stern is one of my favorites. So we snuck in there. We walk in and it’s so crowded and we scoot in to the back against the wall. Mike Stern was playing. Cindy Black was playing drums – she plays with Beyonce and Lenny Kravitz. Will Kennedy was playing bass and there was a trumpet player with them. Man! They were playing at an intensity that was just incredible. But it was a volume that was just above talking volume. That was amazing! I got to talk and hang out with Mike a little after the gig. He’s such a cool dude. How cool was that?

    “I come back to Dallas thinking, ‘That needs to happen here all the time. Somewhere in the metroplex that needs to happen.”

    Hope comes back to the list of artists who he highly respects.

    “If I count my favorites on my hands, there’s Mike Stern, Eric Johnson, Andy Timmons. I’ve always got to throw in some old Clapton with Cream, Hendrix, of course. I missed all that stuff because, when I was learning to play, it was Steve Vai, Joe Satriani, Richard Thompson, and those guys. I was learning about finger tapping and shred and do all of that. I got into the whole KISS thing and the whole 80’s rock thing.

    “And, then, when I really started to get into playing, it was Steve Vai, Satriani and whoever else was shredding - John Sykes from Whitesnake, Paul Gilbert, all those guys. That taught me a lot about technique and really getting in there and studying my picking, my left hand and learning all the scales and modes and getting as technical as I could be. And, then, someone turned me on to Stevie Ray (Vaughan) and it’s like, ‘Wow, man! That’s a whole other world!’ It floored me.

    “Yeah, so those are my favorites: Andy, Eric Johnson, Mike Stern and Oz Noy is another favorite of mine, too. He’s a cat up in New York. He’s actually from Israel. He’s kind of like fusion/jazz kind of stuff. The stuff that he’s doing is really, really cool. Check him out. He’s starting to get some good exposure on the scene. Then, there are guys like Tommy Emmanuel. He’s one of the hardest working dudes in the business. He stays booked. He loves to travel and tour. I saw him live, twice, over at Bass Hall (a world class venue in downtown Fort Worth). Oh, man! I walked away thinking, ‘Oh, wow! One guy, one guitar and entertaining? Wow. I never met him but he comes across so genuine – the real deal.’”

    Apparently, top shelf amp manufacturer,Mesa/Boogie feels that Hope is the real deal, as well. So much so that they proudly include him as part of their impressive line-up world renown roster of artists. Artists such as Keith Richards, Ron Wood, Bruce Springsteen, Bob Weir, Carlos Santana and Lindsay Buckingham, to name just a very, very few. 

    Quinten’s talent, along with his solid relationship with Mesa/Boogie, have presented more than just performance opportunities. Business opportunities also presented themselves to Hope. One very intriguing venture isThe Guitar Sanctuary – a high end guitar and gear boutique in McKinney, Texas. Quinten shared how he got involved with the store.

    “George (Fuller – a very successful luxury home builder in the Dallas area) had been wanting to do that (open the store) for a long time. We talked about it for the last couple of years. I had been playing, recording and teaching and all of that.  He got it all up and almost ready. I was playing at Rick’s Chop House one night up in McKinney and they were up there – George and Maylee (George’s wife and lead singer of theMaylee Thomas Band) – because they were playing outside for a festival that was going on. And then Andy popped in and played with us, too. So George and I were sitting there talking and he says, “Yeah, man, I’m getting really close to getting this thing done.” And I go, “Well, let me know if I can help you. I’ll be there to help you out.” I was thinking, ‘If you need me to carry in some guitars or something.’ We just left it at that.

    “Maybe two or three weeks after that, I get a call from Steve Mueller at Mesa Boogie. Mesa Boogie is partnered in as far as making us one of their flagship stores. We’re one of two stores that they’ve partnered with. One is Rudy’s music in Manhattan. They call that ‘Mesa Manhattan’. This store is now called ‘Mesa North Dallas’. So, they’ve made this their specialty shop.

    “So, I get a call from Steve Mueller and goes, ‘Hey, man, George has got this shop and it’s really close to being finished but we’re trying to think of someone who can partner with us on this and help run it.’ I go, ‘Well, I know this guy, this guy and this guy. They might be good guys.’ He says, ‘We thought about those guys but what about you?’ I go, ‘Uh, I don’t know.’

    “Steve and I talked about it for awhile and it started like something I might want to do. Later that day or the next morning, George called me and said, ‘Hey, let’s get together. We’ve got some things to talk about.’ So, we got together and talked and it sounded like a perfect deal – a perfect match. So, I go, ‘Yeah, man, I’m in! I’ve got a couple of extra hours in the day where I’m not sleeping. Let’s do something!” He says with a laugh.

    “We just jumped into it and it has been going really, really well. We just had our full color ad come out in Vintage Guitar Magazine. That looks sharp. It’s starting to grow and getting national attention with orders for product. It’s getting out there. We’re about quality and a good selection of quality. There are other stores around town that are good stores and they have their market. But George has his flair for design, style and resources – his taste for tone and equipment. It’s more towards what the Dallas Metroplex really needs - a place that you can feel real comfortable and just hang and check stuff out.”

    Surely, working in neck deep in such a great store would present lots of curvaceous, six string temptations. Well, maybe not. Not if he already owns a lot of guitars. How many guitars does Quinten own and what is the most that he’s owned at one time?

    “I think, right now – let me count real quick. Hang on.” He then starts using his fingers to go through his mental inventory. “Right now, I think I only have 16.”

    Only 16. Is that all?

    “But, at one time, I had over thirty. My goal was to have 52 so I could play one every week of the year so that it would be a year before I saw the same guitar again. But then I thought that would be a little obsessive about guitars. So, I went to my closet and I got rid of everything that I wasn’t playing. Some of them I should have held on to because they’re going to increase in value one day. But, they need to be played. They need to be loved. They can’t be lonely – locked up in a closet.”

    So, what’s the “holy grail” Hope would like to own, guitar-wise?

    “Man, I think I’ve already got it. I think I do. I’m more of a Fender Strat guy. I’ve got a 1959 Strat that is just amazing. I bought it ten years ago. Then, about five years ago, John English was one of Fender’s Master Builders. They had a handful of Master Builders and he was one of them. The guitar that I have is one of the last ones that he made. It’s special. Besides the fact that he made it and that he was their best builder and passed away. They made one for me about 14 years ago that I really loved, too, a Fender Strat. But I picked up this ’59 Strat ten years ago and, like I said, it’s amazing. It’s a player’s guitar. It’s not just an investment to hang on a wall, even though it does. But this John English – it was everything I wanted in a Strat: the wood, the neck shape. I was really happy that John made it. When I took it out of the case and hit one note, that was it. I knew that he nailed it. It has been a really great, special guitar. Yeah, definitely, my ’59 and my John English are definitely my holy grails.”

    Later in our conversation, Quinten mentions a couple of acoustic holy grails.

    “I love Collings. Collings are awesome! Those guys are great. The first Collings I bought was an OM2H model. Great guitar – sounds awesome. But I think the holy grail of the acoustics that I own is my dad’s Martin – a 1977 D-28. This thing does have a tone to it. I’ve played a lot of old Martins that have a lot of years to age and mature. But, this one sounds pretty special.”

    Since Quinten is more than adequately equipped to hit just about any stage to perform on, I asked about what his dream gig would be.

    “Oh, man! Probably play on stage with Paul McCartney. That would be THE biggest thing to do. The second biggest gig would be with Will (Lee) and his Beatles band,the Fab Faux. They do the whole record. Anything that’s on the record, they do it live. No recording or tracks. There are fourteen or seventeen people on stage making it happen. A string section and a horn section, rhythm section, vocals. It’s all going on. So, I think to play in something like that would be really cool.”

    Who’s commanding your attention, guitarist-wise, these days?

    “I don’t know. I think it still goes back to the same guys because there’s something about guys like Tommy Emmanuel, Eric Johnson and all my favorite players – there’s always something about those guys that I can listen to the same record for five years and when I go back and listen to it, it’s like, ‘I never heard that!’ I think that I’m still trying to absorb everything that I started trying to absorb when I just started playing. I keep going back to that – just trying to absorb more of that. It’s like going back and listening to Beatles records. There’s always something. It’s like, ‘Wait a minute! I never heard that before! Where did that come from?’ So, I think I still have my favorites but I still listen to it in a different way. I just approach it from a different perspective with my ears.

    “I still listen to Clapton, Hendrix, Beatles, Mike Stern, Oz Noy, all those guys.”

    With two of Hope’s three CD’s, I’m anxious to see this great artist come out with more work. I wanted to know what he has coming out next and when.

    “I’m working on the new record – the writing part of it. Hopefully, we’ll be in the studio maybe next spring, depending on schedules. And, then, planning another show – a big release like the Granada or the Kessler, something like that and some more shows in New York. It’s going to be fun, man. It’s going to be fun.”

    What going on five years from now?

    “Five years from now? Man, I don’t know. Hopefully, more of the same but on steroids. Maybe I’ll learn how to tune my guitar.” He says with a laugh.

    I don’t mind saying that I’m a new, HUGE fan of Quinten Hope. I love his work. I love his attitude. I love the calm and confident vibe that seems to be ever-present with this incredibly talented man. Kind. Approachable. Honest. Humble. You get the whole package with this guy. 

    You can get the latest news on Quinten, including where he’ll be performing and when his latest CD will come out by visiting his website,www.quintenhope.com. While you’re there, I would encourage you to order all three of his CD’s. I promise you that you will love what you hear.

  • themefromaperfectworldcoverTheme From A Perfect World
    Andy Timmons Band
    Label: Timstone Records
    Release Date: September 30, 2016
    Review Date: October 8, 2016

    It’s always a treat to see what guitar phenom, Andy Timmons, is up to in the studio. Since his days as the axe man for the 80’s band, Danger Danger, Timmons journeyed on to carve out a phenomenal body of work as a solo artist as well as working with and for some great and diverse talent such as Simon Phillips, Kip Winger, and Olivia Newton-John.

    This is the first CD since ATB’s wave-making treatment of the Beatles’ Sgt. Pepper album, “Theme” is bubbling over with Andy’s signature sound. Andy’s attention to intricate melody and amazing tonal detail can’t be missed. What also is evident in each of the album’s songs is the depth and warmth of Andy the man . Any of us who have been privileged to not only meet Andy Timmons but get to know him knows that you will never meet a kinder, warmer, gentler person in the music business.

    The album blasts out of its jewel case with “Ascension” which definitely draws from Timmons’ earlier songwriting influences. Uplifting. Positive. Intricate (that word just seems to fit Andy’s talent). Forward-moving. Yeah, all the things that people need in order to survive – and, yes, ascend – in this world today.

    I won’t review all of the songs on “Theme” but I do want to cover a couple of more, notably the title track from the album. I’ll go out on a critical limb and say that this song (and segueing into “Sanctuary”) just may very well be Timmons’ next “Cry For You.”

    Yeah, they’re not only that great but that mind-blowing. Seriously.

    “On Your Way Sweet Soul” oozes with introspection and bittersweet warmth that one feels when thinking of losing someone to death or distance. I haven’t had a chance to chat with Andy, yet, about the album but, when I do, rest assured that I plan on getting the story behind this song.

    If you don’t buy another album this month, buy “Theme From A Perfect World.” After you do, then I encourage you to order the rest of Andy’s work. I own all of his work and listen to it often.

    Yeah, it’s that great.