Article Search...

Alice Cooper Talks New Tour, His Faith, Solid Rock, & Being A Grandpa

Posted July 2019

 

Alice Cooper Paranormal press pictures online print copyright earMUSIC credit Rob Fenn croppedPhoto by Rob FennTo the uninitiated, one may still think of Alice Cooper as some psycho with a girl’s name, wears eye make-up, and gets his head chopped off via guillotine every show.

Everything but the psycho part is true.

Actually, Alice is your typical husband/father/grandfather/Bible believer. Okay, all but the “typical” part is true. Seriously.

I called up the man formerly known as Vincent Furnier at his home in Paradise Valley, Arizona, to chat about his upcoming brand spanking new tour that starts this year and a few other things. Boomerocity readers will recall that we spoke with the Rock and Roll Hall of Famer early last year. So, when Alice called up, I asked him what has been happening with him since we last spoke.

“Things have been going great. I was just speaking with my assistant. He lives in Nashville and he says the NFL draft thing is insane over there. Ha! Ha! Pretty crazy. He says it’s pretty insane over there. They were going to pull down the cherry trees just before the Cherry Tree Festival. What does that have to do with the NFL?! Oh, the NFL guys don’t like cherry blossoms. I get it.

“Since I talked to you last, I think I’ve done 191 cities. The last tour was 191 cities, 17 countries, 4 continents, and that’s not counting the Hollywood Vampires in Europe. We did about 20 shows – 20-something shows in Europe with the Vampires. I’ve been off the road for three months now and we’re getting ready to go back.”

When I said that the tour would start just in time to miss the heat in Paradise Valley, Arizona, he said:

“Yeah, well, it’s gonna be 100 here on Friday.”

Continuing on with describing the upcoming tour, Coop said:

“Actually, it’s going to be more like the end of the last tour – the last time we’re ever gonna do this show that we’ve done for the last year and a half is in Mexico City with Kiss. It’s big – eighty thousand or ninety thousand people – then we’re putting that show to bed. Then, I start rehearsing with the Vampires. Then I go out with the Vampires for about two weeks or three weeks. Then that’s done for a while. There’s a new Vampires studio album coming out and a live album, so that’s going to be another thing. And, then, we start rehearsing for a brand-new tour which I’d say will be another one hundred and fifty shows.

“There’s twelve to fifteen songs we have to do on stage. You have to do School’s Out. You have to do Eighteen and No More Mr. Nice Guy, Poison. Those are the songs the audience have to hear. Then how do you produce that on stage visually different from the last time you did it? That’s really where the fun puzzle comes in. You start putting pieces together. You know you can’t use the Frankenstein again because we did it two shows in a row. So, now, that’s put to bed. Something else has to take its place.

“It is, actually, part of the fun – is knitting the show together from beginning to end in rehearsal.”

Cooper has an incredibly strong fan base that he calls his minions. I belong to several of the fan pages/groups on Facebook and they are as loyal and fervent as any star could ever hope for. Alice had this to say about them:

“Oh, I know! They let us know all kinds of things. Of course, they want us to do songs from Zipper Catches Skin and Special Forces. I’m going, ‘Guys. We only have two hours.’ We’re gonna put as many things in there that you haven’t heard as we can.

“One nice thing is you play to the band’s strengths. In other words, I wouldn’t be able to do songs like Roses On White Lace or songs like The World Needs Guts or things like that if I didn’t have Nita Strauss because she is a shredder. She can play the Kane Roberts stuff. If she was the only guitar player, then it would be very hard to do things like blues rock oriented – Under My Wheels and stuff. She plays all that stuff great. But her strength is really – when it comes to those solos – in a little bit more modern rock. So, we can throw those songs her way and the audience goes, ‘Oh, man, I never thought you would play that song!’ I wouldn’t have if it wasn’t for her being in the band.”

Speaking of songs, I had always been curious about a song from his Welcome 2 My Nightmare album entitled, “I Am Made Of You”. To me, it sounds like a song you would hear in many of the “big box” churches across the fruited plain. Knowing that he is, in fact, a Christian (for those of you who didn’t know that little factoid, you can close you gaping mouth now), I wondered if it was a song about his faith and if it was written for use in church.

“It has been. It actually has been done by a church choir. Here was the deal: Desmond (Child), Bob Ezrin, and I sat down and wrote it at Desmond’s house. Desmond wrote it as a love song between a guy and a girl, right? Or a guy and a guy, whatever. I Am Made Of You. In other words, I am connected to you. Totally connected to you. I am nothing without you.

“Bob wanted it to be Alice singing to the audience; that he’s connected to them. I am made of you. Without you guys, I’m nothing. I wrote it as a hymn. I wrote it as from me to God. I am made of You. In the beginning, I was just a shadow. In other words, I was empty until You filled me.

“It really works as a three-pronged song; however, you want to take it. But I have heard it, now, by a choir and it is BEAUTIFUL by a choir! The guitar on that, by the way – Steve Hunter’s guitar solo on that is one of the best solos I’ve ever heard. But there’s another song on Along Came A Spider called Salvation which was also done by a choir. I listened to it lyrically and it totally makes sense.

“In all honesty, when I look back at a lot of my songs – even when I hadn’t yet come back to the church – Second Coming – there are certain songs that are talking against Satanic (things) and pro Christ. They may be disguised, but when you listen to them, you go, ‘Yeah! I get that! I totally understand what he’s saying there!’

“Last Temptation. I mean, people were really surprised when they heard Last Temptation because it was being sold in Christian bookstores. Christians were going, ‘Oh, I get it – what he’s saying here.’ Same with Brutal Planet and Dragontown. It was saying, ‘What is the worst thing that can happen to you? The worst thing that can happen to anybody is the fact that you had your chance on earth and you didn’t accept. And, now, you’re here in Dragontown and there is no. getting. out. It is the worst horror you could ever imagine. More scary than any vampire. More scary than anything is you’re here. That’s it. I wanted whoever was Christian to hear that and go, ‘Wow! You’re right!’ And other people that did hear it go, ‘What do you meant there’s no way out?’ I want those questions, yeah!”

When I told Alice that I Am Made Of You is one of the most beautiful songs he’s written, he added:

“I had five ballads in a row. I had Only Women Bleed. I had You And Me. I had I Never Cry and How You Gonna See Me Now. They were all Top Twenty hits. It was because disco was going on and it (radio) would not play any rock and roll. Kiss had Beth. Aerosmith, all their hits were ballads. And all Alice Cooper songs that were being played were ballads. It was a weird time.

“Ezrin and I and Wagner, I said, ‘I want at least one song that people go, ‘What?!’ It’s more shocking. It’s easy to write a shock rock song. It’s even better when you write a song that is so pretty that it’s shocking. Wagner and I wrote a song – it was on my Welcome 2 My Nightmare album: ‘Something To Remember Me By,’ which is one of the prettiest songs ever, after Dick passed it away. It was really a tribute to him. There’s another called, ‘Might As Well Be On Mars,” that I think might be the best song I ever wrote. That was never a single. It was just an album track. When you work with Ezrin, he said, ‘If you’re gonna make a ballad, make it a heartbreaker.’”

Alice’s new tour is being joined on a many of its dates with Halestorm. I asked Cooper why he made that choice.

“Lzzy has been a friend of ours for a long time. We met Lzzy the very first time the Vampires hit Rock In Rio. Lzzy was down there and we were gonna do ‘Whole Lotta Love’ in honor of Bonham. Lzzy was there and I think Johnny (Depp) or somebody said, ‘Let Lzzy sing this.’ And I went, ‘Yeah! Absolutely!’ She came out and sang it with us and killed it, of course, and we’ve been friends ever since. So, when it came time to pick an opening act for this tour, and when her name came up, everybody went, ‘Hell, yeah! Halestorm would be great on this show!’

“So, it’s a little variety, Halestorm, and I think there are other shows that are gonna come up. The Strut’s maybe playing with us in Australia. We have different people at different segments of the tour. Lzzy’s a great hit for us.”

If you haven’t been keeping up with Alice when he’s not on stage, you might be surprised to hear that he has established a ministry for youth in the Phoenix area. It is called Alice Cooper’s Solid Rock. He and his wife, Sheryl, established Solid Rock in 1995 with their close friend, Chuck Sevale. According to its website, “Like all great ideas, Solid Rock began on a simple premise. That inside every teen, there is a purpose. It all begins with hope.
A faith-based organization, Solid Rock’s primary mission is to make an everlasting difference in the lives of teens by helping them meet the spiritual, economical, physical, and social needs of teens in the community by offering a safe, engaging environment during non-school hours. Maintaining ‘a teen’s worst enemy is too much time on their hands,’ Solid Rock provides the music, arts, vocational programs and fellowship that challenge teens to discover their passion through music, dance, video and sound production, self-expression, and creativity.”

I asked Cooper to tell me more about Solid Rock.

“The idea behind was I was watching two sixteen-year-olds do a drug deal on the corner. It came to me, ‘How does that kid not know he might be the best guitar player in Arizona? Or how does the other kid know that he might not be the best singer or might be the best drummer?’ Because neither one has ever had the opportunity because they were born into drug dealing. They were born into gangs. They were born into – their mom and dad. Everything.

“I said, ‘Why not provide them with a place where they could actually have an option?’ I got a bunch of Christian business men together and we sat down as a board and for twenty years we made money and gave it away to teenage organizations. Then, we built our own place. It’s thirty thousand square feet. We get a hundred kids a day in there – from ALL walks.

“The whole idea is come on in, find your talent. If it’s art, if it’s photography, if it’s dance, if it’s guitar or bass, drums, whatever, come in and find your talent and it’s all free. All of it’s free. We’ll foot the bill for it. We get gang kids and we get rich kids. We get Muslims. We get Christians. We get gay. We get straight and they’re all teenagers and we say, ‘You’re all welcome. We’re not going to beat you over the head (with a Bible).’ That’s the whole idea. They’re not stupid. They go, ‘Why are you doing this? What’s the catch?’ And I say, ‘The catch is you show up. You do it. Why we’re doing it is because we’re taught to do it.’ I say, ‘That’s the only catch there is, is that we see what your problems are, and we can help. We don’t need anything else from you.’

“And the thing about it is – I had one girl. Sixteen years old. She comes up to me and she goes, ‘I want you to see the list I made last year.’ I said, ‘What list?’ She said, ‘I do everything by lists. Every morning, I get up and I write down what I have to do that day on a list.’ I go, ‘Oh, okay, let me see,’ and it said, ‘Get up in the morning. Have breakfast with the family. Go to school. Due my morning classes. Have lunch with my friends. Do my afternoon classes. Go to the park. Kill myself.’ And I went, ‘What?!’ And she said, ‘I had a pocket full of pills and a razor blade.’

“We don’t go in and ask them why. That’s not our job. We’re not psychologists. We’re just there to provide some sort of relief from whatever their life is. And on her way to the park, a friend of hers said, ‘Have you heard about Solid Rock?’ and she said, ‘No’ and she said, ‘It’s a bunch of kids over there. You can learn guitar, bass, drums’ and she said, ‘Well, I got nothing to lose.’

Alice Cooper Paranormal press pictures online print copyright earMUSIC credit Rob Fenn 5Photo by Rob Fenn“So, she comes over, and she’s there every day at 3 o’clock. Every day. Some of these kids say, ‘We feel safer here than we do at home.’ Other kids go, ‘This is exactly what I was looking for. I didn’t know where I was headed. Now I can sort of explore my talent.’ You’ll get a kid from the worst barrio; from the most expensive house; get them in the same room playing music together and neither one of them care where they came from. All they care about is the song or the music or what they’re doing. It’s been working. We get a hundred kids a day in there.

“We’ve only got one open. We’ve had people trying to open these places all over and I’m always afraid to farm them out because the original idea – there are certain things that we want to be at the bottom of it. It’s usually Christian business men – not that you have to be Christian, either. There’s no Bible study – unless you want there to be. There’s no requirement. You don’t have to learn Bible verses or anything. There’s no beating you over the head with a Bible. BUT it is available.”

At the end of our chat, Solid Rock came up again. Alice said:

“If you ever get a chance – if you’re ever in Phoenix and get a chance, come in and see it because we love for people to come in and just watch the kids working and watch the kids having fun in there. It’s a lot of lives changing in there! A lot of kids got dealt really bad hands in the beginning and this changes everything. Yeah. Yeah. All we have to do is be faithful to it. That’s all.

Another thing that the uninitiated might not know about Alice Cooper is that he and his wife are grandparents. I asked him if bedtime stories with the grandkids were frightening coming from Grandpa Alice.

“No, no, no! In fact, I had the twins over yesterday. Sheryl and I had Falcon and Riot over. They live up to their names. Riot, especially, was living up to his name. And they have a new little brother named Rexington who we call T-Rex. They got the power trio already going. They’re just absolutely so much fun! They’re a lot of work but they’re fun!

“They know that I’m not the same guy on stage. They know that’s Alice Cooper. I’m Pop Pop. I play Alice Cooper. They all get that. And their dad is in a band. Co-op (the band’s name) is really good. They sorta sound like Linkin Park – a heavier Linkin Park, and they’re Christian! I’m tellin’ ya, they have an album out that’s really, really good – Co-op does. It’s really, really a good record! The band is really good. I’m a little jealous of them, they’re that good.

“Calico (Alice’s daughter) is out with Beasto Blanco. She’s lead singer for Beasto Blanco and she’s still doing improv comedy. Sonora (Alice’s other daughter) is a make-up artist and her husband had Stage 5 kidney failure and got a new kidney. It’s not rejecting. It’s right there. So, we’ve been very, very blessed with that one.”

When can fans expect a new album from Alice?

“To be honest with you, I’m going to be writing the album with Tommy (Henriksen) on the road with Bob Ezrin. We don’t really have a target date for that album but a lot of it’s written right now. I think when there’s time off of the road, we’ll be going into the studio on that time off. We do albums fairly quick because Bob and I and Tommy work really well together, really quickly and we surround ourselves with great players. And we know – absolutely know if a song is right or if it isn’t right. We always over record everything. If we want twelve songs, we do eighteen. We do eighteen songs and pick the best ones.

“The legacy? You know, I would love to think that nobody wanted to go on after us. Do the show that nobody’s ever gonna forget and do it consistently for fifty years. I want to be the one that people compare to. That’s not out of ego, that’s out of the fact that a lot of work goes into writing and producing these shows. I like the fact that people still come to me and say, ‘I saw you in 1978. Best show I ever saw. I saw you in 1986. Best show I ever saw. I saw you in 1992. I saw you in 2005. Best show I ever saw.’

“To me, the consistency of how good the show was has a lot to do with the fact that Sheryl and I have been in show business since we were fifteen. Both of us kind of like really know if it’s right and really know if it’s wrong. Then, we have Shep (Gordon) and Bob Ezrin that are kind of the overlords that get it all done.

“I think the fact that Sheryl’s a perfectionist; I’m a perfectionist, and when it comes to getting it perfect – I don’t want it to be so perfect that it’s not fun. I want it to have a looseness to it. But I know you can be loose and still be perfect up there. I can tell now if one little thing is not quite in tune – and I’m never gonna yell at anybody. But I come over and I go, ‘I should tighten that bit up a little bit.’ And, a lot of times, mistakes stay in the show because, sometimes, mistakes are so good.’ They say, ‘Hey, I’m so sorry that happened.’ And I go, ‘No, no! They reacted great to it. We’re gonna do it again tomorrow!’

As our time to visit drew to a close, I asked Alice if he is staying with the same band as he has been touring with, he said:

“Yeah, yeah, same band. I’d never get rid of a winning combination like that. My job as a rock star is probably is fourth or fifth on my list of importance in life. But, it’s something that Shep and I and Sheryl have been doing for as long as I can remember, and I don’t see any way of stopping it. So, we’re just going to keep going until we can’t anymore.”

You can keep up with Alice and his band by visiting and signing up for his newsletter at AliceCooper.com. Also, please do visit his charity’s website, AliceCoopersSolidRock.com.

Gordon Lightfoot On His Career, New LP, & Documentary

Posted July 2019

 

Gordon Lightfoot 01croppedImagine being an artist whose career is about to span seven decades (yes, seven). Imagine, writing songs that are immediately recognizable by every generation who listens to music today. Imagine writing songs that have been recorded by the likes of Elvis Presley, Bob Dylan, Barbara Streisand, Johnny Cash, Eric Clapton, Olivia Newton-John, John Mellencamp, Harry Belafonte, and countless others.

The artist who personifies that and so much more is none other than Gordon Lightfoot. My earliest remembrances of the Canadian artist (and national treasure, in the opinion of The Band’s Robbie Robertson) are of hearing “If You Could Read My Mind” on the Phoenix radio stations when I was a radio listening eleven-year old. I became an instant fan. That following was further solidified when I watched Elvis Presley cover “Early Morning Rain” on his historic “Aloha From Hawaii” televised concert.

When I heard that the Canadian legend was going to be performing in my neck of the woods (East Tennessee), I had to reach out for an interview and was thrilled that it was granted. I reached Gordon at his home in Toronto. After making small talk, I asked him how he felt about still performing and having performed over six decades.

“Well, I think I better be prepared! I think I had better be prepared and I stay prepared. I have a group of people working with me and they’re all prepared. We’re ready to go. We go out seven times a year. We go on tour seven times a year. Each time we do about ten or eleven shows. So, if you add up the year, we’ve done about eighty shows and we play all over North America!”

When I mentioned that he’d be stopping at the Tivoli Theatre in Chattanooga (my neck of the woods), he said:

“Yes! That’s indoors! We try to keep things indoors in the summer. We do festivals. But I’ve played Chattanooga before. I’ve played there a couple of times already, so we’ll get back and pick up the ol’ vibes!”

I noted that Lightfoot had seen countless changes in the music business. I asked him what the best and worst changes in the music business are that he had seen over the years.

“Ah! That’s a question I cannot answer. It’s evolved. Things change into different modes. Country music becomes more rockGordon Lightfoot 02 Reduced and roll. That’s the best example I can think of. The rest of it just keeps rolling along; keeps changing. Hip-Hop music is out there big time right now. People like to tap their toes and dance to that stuff. So, do I!”

And his opinion of the music business today?

“It’s ongoing. If your stuff is good enough, it’s going to make it on the radio somewhere. The cream’s gonna come to the top. Take Drake, for instance. Drake is building a house right across the street from me. It’s a big thing around Toronto here. He’s been building it for two and a half years. I’ve never met him. But I wanted to what made his record be number one on the record chart for five weeks! Number one on the record charts for five weeks! I said, ‘I wonder what’s so special about him?’ I went and bought one (his CD) and it was like a great rap record. The great vocals. The great arrangements. Great rap, you know?”

Word has been circulating about a possible new album of new material by Gordon, so I asked him about it.

“The record is from some newly discovered material which I had forgotten I owned. Honestly. At that point, I really didn’t have enough for another album but when I found this stuff accidentally one day while cleaning my office. It became apparent Gordon Lightfoot 04that I had enough material available. It was interesting, too, because it was done just before I had a serious illness. I was at full strength. I was playing really strong on my guitar. My vocals were really at a peak at that point. It was about the year 2000. The stuff was written over a three-year period there. I dug it out and it was so good that I kept it all. I was able to work on it and do some orchestrating. That stuff sounds great! That’s going to be my 21st album. All original material.”

Canadian Television has been airing a documentary on Gordon Lightfoot. It’s not yet available in the States so I asked him about the documentary and how he felt about it.

“I’ll tell you, my wife and I have watched it together now four times – my wife, Kim, and I. She’s so philosophical about it that I really can’t believe that. I really got to give her great credit. It covers my personal life to a certain degree. But, mostly, it covers the titles. I have about twenty-five titles in there. A lot of photographs. Everyone from Elvis Presley right on down, performing my songs; like Gordon Downing. He just passed away last year. I had one called Black Day In July which got banned way back when. He did a great version of it. They showed me working with Johnny Cash and people like that. It was really fun. It showed some of my “Today” stuff with my band the way it is now. Now, it’s a five-piece band. Everybody’s all ready to roll. They’re a great bunch of guys. I have fourteen people in my entourage!”

When I asked Mr. Lightfoot what fans can expect from this tour, he shared:

“Well, okay, they’re gonna have a two-set show with a twenty-minute intermission. Each set is about sixty-minutes long. If theyGordon Lightfoot 07reduced can sit through that, they’re welcome! Some of these people, my goodness, they’ll go on for three hours up there! I like to be polite with my audience and time is one thing that I take very serious. I don’t like to work too long. We give them the best of everything we’ve got. And, believe you me, they play it well. We’ve got a good little orchestra here! By the time we get to The Wreck Of The Edmund Fitzgerald, they start to get really excited.”

With such a stellar career and a still successful touring regimen, I wondered what Gordon would like to do, career wise, that he hasn’t yet done.

“It always comes to mind that Springsteen did his Broadway show. It’s there on Netflix. That’s a great show. I might do something like that, but I don’t think I could. You gotta be Bruce Springsteen to get on Broadway like that. Ha! Ha! A whole year! He’s one of my biggest influences! I love that guy! I love his work! Him and Bob Dylan and quite a few other people, too. Leonard Cohen!”

Since Elvis had a song or two of his, what were Lightfoot’s thoughts of the King?

“He covered my song, Early Morning Rain, better than anybody and that takes in a whole bunch of people because, I tell ya, a LOT of people recorded that song. I like George Hamilton IV doing it best of all. But, Elvis? Yes, I almost jumped out of my car when I heard it on my car radio because that was the first time I knew that he even done the song, when I heard it one day on my car radio when I was driving down the highway. I didn’t even know about it. All of a sudden, there it was, and I said, ‘Oh, my goodness! He’s done it! I remember buying a guitar when I was fourteen when I first started hearing Elvis Presley and there he was. I almost jumped out of my car, but I was doing about 75 miles per hour at the time. Ha! Ha!”

Did he meet him?

“Came close. Could have. They made a way for me in Buffalo. I was supposed to meet him backstage at the hockey arena when he played there. I didn’t make it back in time. They left by the time I fought my way back there. We were going to meet, alright. I just couldn’t get back there in time. They had to go.”

I don’t what possessed me to do it, but I the legendary Gordon Lightfoot the ongoing question among baby boomers: Beatles or the Stones?

“I gotta take the Stones because they’re still going at it and they’re this weekend up hear in Toronto! They’re doing a great big show! They’re expecting about twenty-five thousand people up there. You gotta choose the Stones because they’re still doing it! What else can you say? They’re still a band! They’re still out there doing it; playing their music! It’s amazing! I’m amazed that I am still doing it!”

And why does he still do it?

Gordon Lightfoot 01“I’m over eighty. You’re not supposed to still be doing this when you’re over eighty, so they say; still out there playing music. They tell me some people still play until they’re ninety. A prime example is Willie Nelson. Tony Bennett. They’re still playing their music. They’re not getting any younger. I really love the work. I feel confident and I like my material. I stay ready to perform. I stay prepared. You always got to be in a state of readiness to go out seven times a year. Those little month-long stretches in between there, they go by pretty quick and you gotta go back out there again, doin’ it. Each one is like its own little trip. Of course, you gotta make arrangements, too, for the work permits, all the time doing that for fifty-six years. I could’ve moved down to the states if I wanted to. It was my songwriting that got me accepted by the industry down there, originally. My songwriting deal allowed them to petition on my behalf for the work permits.”

We all hope that Gordon Lightfoot is around and performing for many more years to come. That said, I asked him a question that I’ve asked many of his peers: How do you want to be remembered and what do you hope your legacy is? His answer was short, sweet, and to the point.

“My answer is always so simple, it’s so stupid: That I took care of business! That I took care of business. Yeah!”

Please check out GordonLightfoot.com to stay current on his touring schedule and other related news.

Nils Lofgren Talks Lou Reed, Dogs, and Family

Posted May 2019

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

NilsLofgrenforExclusivePHOTObyCarlSchultzReducedPhoto by Carl Schultz

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

June 2019

 

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

“Well, you’re welcome! I love it!”

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Jimmie Vaughan

Posted May 2019

 

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Regarding the story behind this album, Vaughan shared:

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Is the business broken?

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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