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Bebe Buell (2011)

September, 2011

bebebuellhardloveI have to start this piece off by emphatically saying that Bebe Buell has been a good, supporting friend of Boomerocity.  She was among the first ten interviews granted to this site and she has been so generous in voicing her support of our endeavor ever since.  For that, I’ll be forever grateful.

I’m not alone in feeling this way.  It’s that kind, loving heart that has drawn people into her vortex and her music has been a melodic hook that has kept them captivated.  All one has to do is read her interaction with fans on her Facebook page and the incredible, favorable press that she receives – even when she doesn’t have a new CD to promote.

And, speaking of new CD’s to promote, Bebe has a tremendous new project that lands on September 27th entitled Hard Love.  It’s here first album since her highly acclaimed Sugar album and promises to not only solidify her already strong fan base but will result in adding more people to it.

Bebe called me recently to discuss Hard Love and starts off by bringing me up to date on what has been filling her calendar in recent days.

“I’m just basking in the afterglow of a year of really, really hard work, making this record, meeting Wendy. I’m coming up on the anniversary of when I met Wendy Dio, which was October 26th, 2010.  It’ll be a year and in that year I’ve lost 35 pounds, recorded a new album and getting ready to play live shows again.  It’s just amazing. I think it’s a message to anyone who thinks there’s an expiration date on our art.”

Did she say “35 pounds”?  I had to ask how she lost that much weight.

“Jenny Craig!” And she then breaks out into a song about Jenny that she improvised on the spot. After extolling the virtues of the Ms. Craig’s dietary program coupled with exercise, Bebe concludes the subject by saying, “I think that it was Michele Rundgren (wife of her former beau, Todd) that did that fabulous video of how you incorporate exercise into your everyday, domestic goddess duties. Very funny!  I laughed so hard. She really is a funny woman.”

Ever the rocking artist, Ms. Buell then segues into the realm of music.

“But, for me, too, being blocked into this creative space and actually having a manager and somebody giving me advice and guidance, it puts a whole different spin on the work.  You can actually concentrate on the work. You don’t have {mprestriction ids="*"}to worry about all of the other stuff as much, which is a luxury for me. I’ve been a one-woman army for 35 years.”

I asked Bebe about how Wendy is doing since the passing of her iconic husband, Ronnie James Dio, on May 16th of last year.  Buell is very protective of Wendy’s privacy but was very quick to genuinely and sincerely brag on her new friend and manager.

“Everybody knows what a brilliant, skillful manager she is. It’s not a secret in the industry. She’s very, very well liked and respected. She knows when to play a heavy hand and she knows when to be sweet. Like any of the great managers, you don’t want to be in the room when she’s ticked off.  It’s really wonderful to have somebody like that looking out for me that I can talk to.  Niji Entertainment is her and Ronnie’s label and I’m just so honored to be on it. I’ve acquired a new family but it’s a life changing, life affirming family and it’s really wonderful.

“It’s all come full circle: seeing my dad again for the first time in 2010, finding Wendy in 2010 and then the growth period in 2011 and getting ready to move into 2012 with a brand new, shiny product. I don’t mind being the poster child for ageism and sexism and all that stuff. I really want to represent somebody that has absolutely squished that and kicked it’s butt!”

With Bebe living on the east coast and Wendy on the west, I had to ask how the two maidens of rock wound up in each other’s orbit.

“She saw me live and that’s the beauty of this. We didn’t know each other. We weren’t ‘rock chicks’ together. We weren’t rock wives together. We didn’t know each other. I knew of her as a brilliant manager and I think I met her once briefly in the 70’s when Ronnie was in Rainbow – a sort of backstage exchange of two fairy princesses. I think we immediately liked each other, I was thinking she was so beautiful.  She looked like an ethereal Maid Marion with the long, gorgeous white hair – that’s really her hair that fairy color – like the girl in Game of Thrones on HBO – that fairy white color!

“Somebody from the label, Dean Schachtel, had had his eye on me for a couple of years wanting to sign me. He was at Warner Brothers for 18 years and then he moved over to Steve Vai’s label and he wanted to sign me to that label. I respect Steve Vai but I didn’t think that I would fit in on Steve Vai’s label. Where would I fit in here? I don’t think they would know what to do with me, quite frankly.

“Dean - he and I had been talking on the phone. I had never met him in person. He’s a person that I met through Facebook that had been following my career for awhile and had some leverage and power in the industry - somebody that was respected. 

“He was at some T. J. Martel event here in New York – uptown.  They noticed that some people were gathering their belongings and getting ready to get out of there.  Dean asked somebody, ‘Where are you guys going?” ‘Oh, god, we’ve got to get downtown.  Bebe Buell’s going onstage at R Bar for Bob Gruen’s birthday party in 15 minutes.’ He’s never seen me live. His interest in me and the band was strictly from out music and from what he’d seen and heard on video and that kind of stuff.

“To make a long story short, he grabs Wendy, throws her in a car, literally, and they zoom down there. I guess that I was already into my first or second song when they arrived and they sat down at the bar. 

“If you’ve never been to the R Bar, you don’t realize that the room where the music is, you have to go through another door to get to the show but they have my show blasting through speakers throughout the whole place.

“Wendy said to Dean, ‘Well, I like whatever I’m hearing here. Whatever music they’re playing, I like that!’ Dean goes, ‘That’s Bebe, Wendy!’  She just thought that I had an unusual, distinct sound is what she told me after meeting me. 

“She went in and watched me.   I remember seeing Dean from the stage and thinking, ‘That can’t be Dean’ because I only knew him from photographs. ‘He lives in California. What would he be doing here?’ It did turn out to be Dean. He’s 6’7” so he was standing in the middle of the room like a giraffe and I keep seeing that beautiful head of fairy dust hair shining and I kept wondering who it was.  The way the lights were hitting me I couldn’t see that it was Wendy and I don’t know if I would have even known at that point. I never met her since we were kids.  I had seen pictures of her but I wouldn’t have put that together on stage.

“I came off stage and Dean came over to me and I said, ‘I thought that was you but I couldn’t be sure’.  He turned around and said, ‘I want you to meet Wendy Dio’.  The next thing I knew, we were all out to dinner then the next thing I knew, she flew back to New York.”

With the infectious passion that I’ve come to love about Bebe, she then tells me what sealed the deal with her regarding wanting to work with Ms. Dio.

“I’ll tell you what sold me – oh, my god!  She was in upstate New York and was meant to fly down for a show that I was doing. It was a very important show – a showcase that I was throwing at S.I.R. 

“There happened to be huge snow storm – one of those storms that scared everybody to death. Of course, her flight was cancelled.  Well, Wendy rented a car and drove five hours to be at my showcase!  That’s when I knew that she was it. I knew that we had a connection and I knew that we had something. 

It didn’t take long at all for the two female rock powerhouses to kick it into high gear and get Bebe and Jim working on a new album and honing her image.  Buell says that it was, “ . . . pretty immediate. She brought me out to L.A. in February to be a presenter at the Pollstar awards. She also felt that I needed to get some new pictures and a little styling. I mean, she thinks like a real manager. Alan Mercer took these amazing photos. We did the wonderful angel/devil photo (Bebe and Wendy together) and we announced our partnership. 

“I began Jenny Craig in March. It was not just a joint decision but it was a decision for me. I think that I owe it to my fans when I go on stage to look like a rock star because of the way that I move and the kind of music I play. It’s been an incredible challenge and she (Dio) has made me want to be the best ‘me’.  She’s given me a lot of confidence in my talent because I always wondered, ‘Am I too unique or is what I do too ‘underground’’ to ever be something that everybody would get’?  She seems to think that the statement I’m making is powerful and it’s time.  We’ll see.”

As we begin to segue to talk about Hard Love, I remarked how it has a different vibe and sound that her previous project, Sugar, has.  Buell shared why that was, which lead her to include Black Angel, Timeline and Sugar in the Hard Love playlist.

“Well, Sugar was Pro Tools – it was a ‘machine’ record.  It was made because we didn’t have any money. We didn’t have a label and we didn’t have a band. It was just me, Bobbie and Jim in Bobbie’s ex-wife’s home studio.  We really had to pool ourselves to get that record made. We jumped around a little. We did the vocals at someone else’s little home studio and then I went up to Boston and mixed at Wooly Mammoth Studios – David Minehan’s studio. We had to call in a lot of favors to get that record made. Jim and Bobbie wrote almost all of the music and we, together, wrote almost all of the lyrics. 

“Bobbie’s vision about how things sound, he had a very different vision than Jim and I.  Jim and I really wanted to play rock.   Bobbie’s the one that hears all of that noise and all that busy stuff in there. That’s why we parted ways because we just don’t see eye to eye musically.

“I still stand by that record (Sugar). I love it. It was my ‘Enya moment’. I stepped out of the box a little and I made an experimental kind of record and I don’t think there’s anything wrong with that in an artist’s career.  Sugar did a lot for me in that it let a lot of people know that I was back and that I’m not some punk rock chick.  I make a lot of music that’s filled with depth. I had to make the record or I was going to lose my mind. At that point in time, I would have made it with spoons and pots! I mean, I was desperate!  I was ready to start singing in the subway.  I wanted to do my music so bad that I was about to have a heart attack over it.  The stress was enormous.  My shrink said to me, ‘You know? God bless you, child! You crossed over.  You truly are an artist!’

“Not only have I gone through this huge transformation but I’ve done it without the aid of any anti-depressants or any of that kind of stuff that women think they need when they get older.  You don’t need that crap!  You don’t need to put that stuff in your body.  You really don’t. I don’t want to sound like a Scientologist right now because I’m not. I know there’s bipolar people and people who really do need medication. I’m not talking about that. I’m talking about women that start thinking, ‘Oh, man!  I feel a little freaky. Maybe I need to take some Zoloft or maybe I need to take this one or that one’?  Lexapro.  That’s the one that really seems to be luring women in now. I’m not going there. I’ve been blessed.  I don’t even know what a hot flash feels like!

On Hard Love, Bebe comes blasting out of the chute with Mother of Rock and Roll. I almost expected it to be a look at her reputation as the muse behind some very big, iconic rock tunes but it’s more about her current place in life.

“I just decided to own it. People are always calling me the mother of Liv Tyler; the girlfriend of this one, the this or that one, the blah blah of this and that. I was thinking of that Keith Richards song where he sings, ‘She’s my little rock and roll . . .’ (from the song T&A) and I was thinking of Liv.  I was walking down the street when the lyrics came to me. I started singing, ‘I am the mother of rock and roll’ and then I stopped myself and thought, ‘Is this too narcissistic?’ Then I thought, ‘I can do this!’

“Then I started thinking that everybody calls me the mother or the lover or the this or the that of everything all the time – and because rock and roll is who I am and my heart and my passion, I decided to take that ‘I am THE mother OF rock and roll’ and what they don’t realize is that I’m saying Liv, too, in that because of Little T&A – my inspiration. There’s a lot of people who inspired me in that song and there’s a little Dirty Deeds Done Dirt Cheap, too.

“I’ve also added a background singer – Louisa Bradshaw. I call her Mysteria. It think having another woman to sing with that completely understands my voice and completely knows how to sing with me has really, really, really given me a whole different kind of freedom to just really express myself and go with the mood.

“So, yeah, Mother of Rock and Roll is meant to be playful but it’s also meant to be in your face. I’ve decided to own it. Okay, I am a mother and I do mother my friends and I mother the bands that I love. I’m the first one to want to get out the iron and iron the pants and make dinner for everybody.

“So, there’s that mother in me but there’s also that savage, ravenous rock and roller that could probably out run every single one of them.  That’s the part of me that decided, ‘Don’t get even. Don’t get angry. Don’t compete.  Just give yourself your own title and go out there and own it. It’s an expression of self invention. I tell people, ‘Forget everything that you think you know about me. Forget it all because the person that you’re going to meet onstage has nothing to do with it. Come with an open mind.’  It’s my statement and it’s very freeing. 

“Did you watch the Grammy’s? Well, it wasn’t the Grammy’s, it was the Mick Jagger Show because Mick Jagger came out and blew away every single performance of the night. You go, ‘Yes! This is what it’s all about!’ Somebody who gets out there, he’s in great shape. He hasn’t gotten paunchy. He cares. He cares about his fans – looking like Mick Jagger, you know?  He just came out there and, oh god, he was devastating how good he was! He ate the show alive!

Buell and the band offer up three cover songs but the most intriguing to me was their interpretation of the Gang of Four’s I Love A Man In A Uniform? Last year, Bebe reconnected with her father after over thirty years.  She wrote briefly about when she had last seen her father, handsomely dressed in his navy uniform.  I naturally thought that her choice of the song had something to do with her father.

“You know, it’s funny, it is by coincidence but it’s just a song that I always wanted to cover. I wanted to cover it in the Gargoyles but the Gargoyles wouldn’t do it. A couple of other times I thought about it and I wanted to cover it. It’s just one of those songs that I felt that I had my own way of delivering it and I thought that I had my own spin on it.

“That’s one of the things about me: people look to me to see what choice of covers I’m going to have because I pick obscure, fabulous covers – maybe not completely obscure but I take them and make them my own. I felt that this song was appropriate in the climate that we’re living in right now – so many young, beautiful boys going off and getting killed. 

“When I see the firemen and the cops or even the guy that has to dress up for his job at a restaurant, there’s just something majestic and wonderful about people who aren’t afraid to put on their uniform and go out there and do it, no matter what it is.  I just have a connection to that right now.

“I covered two British bands on this record. The Vibrators Baby Baby and the Gang of Four, A Man in a Uniform. I cut my teeth on the British invasion and I’m still pretty much wrapped up in the whole British thing. I love the English. Right now I’m so madly in love with the Jim Jones Revue. It’s amazing. They are just the real deal. It’s so exciting when a band comes along that’s old enough that you can take them seriously for having their chops but young enough that sound fresh and vibrant. It’s exciting!  They use real piano and stuff.

“A couple of people have said that the sound of this record is the best sound I’ve ever had on a record. It was produced by Stephen DeAcutis (“Stevie D”) and my husband, Jim. A couple of my favorite sounding albums like Damn the Torpedoes by Tom Petty and the Heartbreakers and Electric – The Cult, that album that Rick Rubin produced.  I thought about the production of those records and I thought about, when you listen to those records, you start with song one and you go all the way to the end of the record because every song is listenable; every song has a story and you want to listen to the whole album. I was determined to do that on this record.”

My personal favorite on this disc is Got It All Wrong and Bebe was kind enough to share the story behind that song.

“Oh! Well, that’s an interesting one. That’s a song that my husband, Jim, wrote. He wrote that back in the nineties with Frank Ferrer who played drums on 8 of the tracks on the record, who’s now Guns N’ Roses’ drummer. He and Jim used to be in a band called New United Monsters Show and he and Jim wrote that song. And there was this guy named John Robinson who did some lyrics for it. Then I heard the song and I said, ‘Wait a minute! This is an incredible song!’ and I felt that it needed all new lyrics.

“So, it’s a song that my husband wrote with Frank Ferrer, John Robinson wrote the hook and I wrote the lyrics and the lyrics just poured out of me. The ‘got it all wrong’ hook is John Robinson’s and I just took that – it just spoke to me. 

“What’s it about? It’s about someone that has lied, done horrible things and has tried to destroy your life but they’re just not winning. It’s almost like a wake-up call. One of the lines in it is, ‘Tell all the people in your head here’s their note of eviction’.  People who do the most damage usually create all the drama in their head. It’s not real.

“But now we have the internet and all these places where people that have issues with celebrities can go in there and they can slaughter you and there’s nobody that can protect you. Because you’re a public person, people can write whatever they want about you. They can write complete bull. Lies. They can fabricate. They can do parodies. This is America! It’s part of it! But those who are a victim of it have the right to say, ‘Nope! That’s not the way it is, babe! Here’s the real story: That a******’s a fruitcake!” Buell says with a laugh of knowing satisfaction.”

Bebe concludes by saying, “Unfortunately, for me, the fruitcakes – the people that hurt me the worst – it’s usually people that know you who try to seek revenge or are on some sort of vendetta. They’re cowards. They don’t want to come from behind their mask. There’s an actual word that’s been accepted by Webster: frenemy. We’ve got ‘em!  I believe that social networking has created that word. We wouldn’t have words like that if it wasn’t for social networking.”

As for tour plans, the Mother of Rock and Roll says, “I’m opening for the Smithereens on October 8th at The Stone Pony and they’re one of my favorite bands. I’m really excited about that. Then, I’m doing a big unveiling of the new line-up and all the new songs on October 12th at the Hiro Ballroom. The following month I’m going to be opening for a band in the UK – I wish that I could tell you who it is but at this point I’m not allowed to talk about it because it’s going to be a big show and it’s going to be sort of like my unveiling in the UK because I’ve never played London.  The fact that I’m going to get to open for this band – it’s a really big coup.  I’ll keep you posted.”

Oh, I just love surprises but I do hate waiting for them!  But do know that she’ll be hitting the road and just may be appearing in or near your town and Boomerocity will let you know.

Bebe Buell (2009)

October, 2009

bebeguitarBebe Buell.  To those of you who know who she is, the name conjures up several images.  Highly successful model.  The girlfriend and wife of rock stars.  For those of you who were only reading the articles, you wouldn’t have noticed that she was Playboy’s November, 1974, Playmate.  Best selling author. She’s also the mother of world-renown actress, Liv Tyler. 

Bebe is also a very successful recording artist and, while she has promised Boomerocity a follow-up interview to discuss her life and views on things of interest to Baby Boomers, it is about her latest project, “Sugar”, that we recently chatted about by phone.

Bebe is a very warm and engaging person to talk to.  You instantly get the feeling that you’re sitting across the table from her, enjoying a great cup of coffee along with the intriguing conversation.  I’m not a master linguist but, if I were to play one on TV, I would say that you could easily pick up her Northeastern accent layered on the foundation of her Portsmouth, Virginia, roots. 

I first asked Ms. Buell why it took so darn long for her to come out with “Sugar” since her last album, 2000’s four song disc, “Free To Rock”.

“Well, you know, life is just something that happens while you’re busy making other plans.  The last record I made was 10 years ago and I wrote my autobiography with Victor Bockris and then 9/11 happened.  And it sort of changed the face of everything, even artistically. 

“For those of us who lived in NY, it was horrifying.  So, I returned to Portland, Maine, bought a house up there and thought that’s what I really wanted.  But it just started to dawn on me that I was miserable when I wasn’t creating music because, what people don’t seem to realize is that I’ve been making music and fronting bands and involved in this (rock) world for much longer than anything else that some people like to remember me for. 

“Playboy takes very little time of your life and it’s really only one appearance.  Once it’s done, it’s done.  My modeling career only lasted a few years and I think that these are natural progressions when you’re a young girl and you’re in NYC -  to try a few different things but I think that I was very committed to get into a band and starting to write songs.

“So, at the age of 26, that was what I finally did.  So, I guess you could say that was a late start to some people.  I’m not sure.  But it’s just who I am, basically.  I’ve been doing this a long time.  Thirty years.  More.  More, when you think about all the touring I’ve {mprestriction ids="*"}done in both of my bands, the “B-Sides” and “The Gargoyles”.  I wanted to also make autobiographical record.  I wanted to make a personal record.  I wanted to make a record about people I loved and things that have happened that maybe the right explanations weren’t ever out there.  It’s a very personal record.  I don’t know if you noticed.

Not one to ask prying questions, I couldn’t resist the urge to ask Bebe if there was going to be anyone out there who would be worried about what she’s saying in “Sugar”.

“I hope not.  It’s a loving record.  ‘Black Angel’ was written about my friend, Joey Ramone.  And, in the first song, ‘When We Were Godhead’, I’m sort of am touting all the people that had an impact on my life from that time, like Cameron Crowe, Rodney Bingenheimer, the whole LA scene.  You know, going out there from NY.  It was the Continental Hyatt House.  That was a celebration of 1973.  And ‘Grey Girl’ was about my beloved Chihuahua.

When she mentioned “When We Were Godhead”, I interjected that I honestly thought I was going to hear David Bowie slide in on harmony because the song is very Bowie-esque.

“That’s an enormous compliment and I appreciate that.  I was thrilled because two days ago, somebody handed the record to Cameron Crowe for me.  I’m dying for him to hear that song.  I mean, his spirit is such a big part of it!”  Laughing, she adds, “I wish it had been around when he was looking for songs for ‘Almost Famous’ sound track.  Let’s hope that people do appreciate the cinematic aspect of the record.  It’s VERY cinematic.  I wanted to make something very deep and thoughtful. And I wanted people really to sink their teeth in to it. 

“I remember when I use to buy albums.  I loved albums. People have forgotten about ALBUMS.  Everything is about singles now.  Even I put out a single.  You gotta play the game a little.  But there’s this thing about journeys and voyages that you take when you listen to a real album - where you want to listen to the whole record from the first song to the last.  That’s what we tried to do with this record.  That’s what my producers and I really took into account, was that we wanted it to have a cinematic voyage feeling.

I was curious if there is any indication as to what her fan base is responding to from the album, to which she observes, “Yeah, the two songs that peoplebebebuellhardlove are really responding to are ‘Sugar’ and ‘Untouchable’.  Not to mention many other ones.  I mean, some are really loving the second track, ‘Love Is’.  The last track, ‘Fall and Rise’ – it’s very, very interesting.  I swear, it’s very inspiring to me because I took big risks, a big chance in doing this.  I thought, ‘Okay, maybe nobody will notice this.”  I didn’t do it for any other reason but to just do it – for myself and for the people I work with.  We all want to do this.  And to be getting this kind of response, I’m telling you!  I didn’t expect it!”

Still talking about “Untouchable”, I state, “Well, it obviously has a very personal message to it.  I don’t know who it’s about but I thought the hooks on it were great.”

“Well, it’s not just about one person.  You know, there’s a lot of stuff on there.  You know, there’s songs directed at several people and at nothing.  Some of it is just feelings.

I comment on the butt-kicking sound of ‘Fall and Rise’ and that it must sound great in concert. 

Buell responds by expanding on that thought:  “Yeah, well, the album live is a whole different experience.  Rock is loud.  I have three guitar players.  And they’re all brilliant.  So, there’s a lot going on in a good way.  It’s not tepid, light rock show.  It’s not supper-club stuff, you know?  When I do ‘Untouchable’, which I think is one of the more quieter songs on the album, it still kicks ***.  One of the reasons why it kicks live is so many people singing along with me.  I get a lot of the “sing-alongers”!  I love it!  I get a lot of that.”

So, folks, you heard it here first.  If you plan on seeing Bebe Buell in concert, you should not expect The Captain and Tenille as the opening act.

Buell came back around to the crowd response to “Sugar” and what appears to be their favorite cut off the disc.

“Well, the one that everyone thinks should be a single is ‘Sugar’.  We put out a single in May called, ‘Air Kisses for the Masses’, which is the 10th song on the record.  And that was sort of to let everybody know, “Hey, here I am.  I’m back.  I’m making an album.  What do you guys think?”  I threw a party.  I was like, ‘Hi, guys!  I haven’t seen you in a while.  I’m having a party at the Hiro Ballroom to celebrate that I’m doing music again.’” 

“I just sort of thought to myself, ‘Okay, if anybody comes, I’ll keep going and this means that I’m on the right path. If it’s sparsely attended and nobody comes, I’ll just a great time and realize that I’m just doing this for myself and nobody’s ever going to hear it.’  So, it turned out to be neither of those things.  It turned out to be beyond the best thing it could’ve been.  I mean, seriously.  Everybody and they’re grandmother that I’ve known through my whole life was there.  I saw people that I haven’t seen in 30 years in that room!  And then I saw . . . the young kids – the under-thirty set.  It was just really pretty wonderful.  Now I’m all hopped up!”

I asked Bebe the one question that most artists hate to answer when it comes to their new projects:  What’s their favorite track on the album? 

“I have to tell you that I’m in love with all my songs.  I’m especially in love with these songs.  It’s really hard for me to – I mean, I can listen to all of them.  It’s interesting, when you’re so close to a song, so many times you would think you would lose that personal connection that you might have.  I will still sometimes cry when I hear ‘Black Angel’ or ‘Grey Girl’.  So far several who have heard the new record have commented that they actually cried when they listened to a couple of the songs.  So, I thought that’s very interesting that we created something that actually tugged at somebody’s emotions.  I feel very proud of that.  I’m not saying that I’m proud that I can make people cry.  I’m saying that I’m very happy that I’ve been able to touch somebody emotionally. 

“For people that don’t know that ‘Grey Girl’ is about my dog, like, somebody asked me, ‘Is that about Nico?’ (The late German model, singer/songwriter and actress).  I thought, ‘How can anybody get Nico out of this?’  My drummer was going, “You know, you shouldn’t tell anybody what that song’s about.  Remember when we all found out that ‘Martha, My Dear’  was about Paul McCartney’s dog?’ I just said, ‘You know?  I don’t care.  I’m telling people that I wrote it about my dog.’  She was my best friend, this creature – 14 years old when she passed.  God!  I still miss her every single day of my life and cry over her every day.  So, the fact that, when people listen to that song it makes them cry and they don’t even know the dog or me, makes me feel that that’s a song that I’m very proud of.  ‘Black Angel’ makes me well up.  But the one I think I like doing live, believe it or not, is ‘Love Is’.  The real dramatic one. 

“I guess the thing I’m finding is the kids are telling me, ‘Oh, that sounds like Portishead or like Massive Attack.’  I wasn’t even thinking about either of those people when we wrote that, which is interesting because I love both of those bands – Portishead AND Massive Attack. “

To hear Bebe describe the disc, she says that it is , “Genre-less, darling!  It’s everything.  It’s every musical influence me, Jim (Wallerstein, Bebe’s multi-talented musician/husband who happens to be the guitarist for the two man band, Twin Engines) and Bobbie (Rae, the drummer for “Twin Engines”) had ever had that we’ve loved, with a little bit of our own flavor; our own taste that we don’t think anybody else has ever touched on.  I mean, I don’t mean to sound narcissistic but I was hoping that I have done something different.  I’m hoping that I have identified myself in my own individual form, as a singer and as a writer.”  With her infectious laugh, she adds, “I don’t think anyone even sounds like me, god forbid!”

Having read great reviews about Buell’s performances in the New York area, I asked if she was going to promote “Sugar” with a tour or were the Yankee’s going to hog her all to themselves.

“I’ve been playing on stage a long time.  I actually get physically ill if I don’t, you know, play gigs.  It’s the opposite with me.  Most people get sick if they play to many gigs. I get physically ill if I don’t play.  I start moping around.  I get like an old angry dog.

“We want to do an entire world tour but there’s a whole process.  I’m doing something that not many people would tackle at this time of their life. Most people are going, ‘Bebe, just enjoy all the success that you’ve had in your life. Go live on the beach.  Why are you working so hard?’  You know, it’s just because I want to make my own personal statement because I set goals for myself which are very unreasonable and. I guess that comes from being a competitive basketball player in high school.  I don’t know what it is but I’ve always got to keep going.  Plus, I get it from my mother.  She calls herself a burr monkey.  She’s very active and vibrant and she’s going to be 80 and she looks beautiful.  People really enjoy her company – of all ages. I’ve seen from that - that music should be ageless, inspiration, and achievements should be ageless.

“People shouldn’t just stop doing what they do.  And the thing that’s beautiful about this project, to me, is nobody seems to care that I’m not 18 like Britney Spears or – not that Britney’s 18 anymore - but nobody seems to care that I’m not a Jonas Brother.  It’s okay. 

“I’m finding that my audiences are very, very diverse.  A lot of young people; a lot of my peers; a lot of  Baby Boomers; a lot of kids that come with their parents because they’re curious.  They want to see Liv’s mom.  So, I get so many different kinds of people. I get the Mohawk next to the grandmother.  I get all of these interesting audiences.  My gigs have become more like events.  The gigs are very colorful and very exciting. 

“I have to say that the Hiro Ballroom – the show I did in June – which has really, really put fuel on this whole project – it’s the most exciting show that I’ve ever played in my life.  It just goes to show you that you never know when the public is going to decide or discover that what you do is something that they like.   It’s a surprise.”

It doesn’t take long to learn that, though Bebe’s background and foundation is deeply rooted in the Classic Rock genre, she is very in touch with the new music generating excitement with today’s youth.

“Yeah, I mean, I love the ‘Kings of Leon’.  I like ‘Living Things’.  I like a lot of new music right now.  I don’t shut myself off.  I’m not one of those people who sits around and goes, ‘Ah, Woodstock!’.  I was too young to go to Woodstock!  I just don’t believe in that.  I believe you have to sort of flow with the universe.  And, if things are the way they are, people are going to walk around with the faces buried in their Blackberry’s and all of that, I mean, you can rebel or you can sort of jump in there, too, and put your own spin on it,  you know?  I can’t even text!  I swear to god!  You know, my husband is the texter.  I’ll say, ‘Jim!  Will you text Liv and tell her this?’”  She admits that, “I don’t know what it is about text messaging.  I mean, the computer is stressful enough for me. Just going on there and having to check the e-mails, you know, say hello to everybody and then.  My PR guy goes, ‘Bebe.  You have to go on your Facebook page every day.’  And I go, ‘OKAY!’  Now he’s trying to get me to Twitter.  I’m like, ‘Dude, I cannot Twitter.  Please!’”

As we were deeply engaged in our phone fueled coffee klatch, we drifted into the subject of one of mutually favorite bands and their late vocalist.  I’m talking about Big Brother and the Holding Company and Janis Joplin.  Reflecting back on “the day”, she said,“I was a HUGE fan of Big Brother.  I remember thinking as a young girl that it was really stupid for Janis Joplin to get rid of her band, listening to those corporate ***holes and, you know, start playing with studio musicians.  Oh well, what can I tell ya?  There was a magic to the Big Brother and the Holding Company and the Janis Joplin thing.  There was a real magic there.”

While still in the vein of talking about the music business, then and now, she offers this view from the vantage point of seeing the business from various vantage points over the years.

“I tell you, a lot of people complain about the state of the industry right now but I want to say one thing in its defense. At no other time in the history of the music business has an artist been able to put their records out legitimately and manage their affairs and own their songs and create their own universe than ever before.  You get to really know how many fans your really have.  You find out really quickly.  You know, I just go and check my little MySpace page once a day, just to see what’s going on – to look on there just to see that 700 people, 800 people yesterday, several hundred people today have gone to listen to those snippets.  I’m like, “god, this is exciting!  If all of those people go and download it, that’s the whole point. 

“People complain, ‘Oh, it’s not like it use to be in the good ol’ days.’  Well, honey, the good ol’ days haven’t been here for a long time.  I remember when people didn’t even have answering machines.  I remember when you walked down the street, you didn’t have an iPod.  You didn’t have a cell phone.  You didn’t have a Blackberry.  You smelled the air and you thought and you looked up or down or whatever.   You know, it’s funny, Chris Rock said, “If a UFO came over us now, no one would see it anyway!” Nobody looks up anymore!

Buell continues on, focusing on the lost art of album covers.  “You could prop the cover up and stare at it.  Now, things are so tiny.  You prop up your little CD and you can’t really sit there and go, ‘Oh, I really love this band.  I love this artist.’  Remember when you could prop up your Beatles – I don’t know.  That part of it is just different.”

Ms. Buell and I closed out our chat by talking about our beloved dogs (comparing notes and mutually agreeing that they are darn-near human and part of our families) and the promise that we’ll chat again soon. 

What about?  

The lady has a lot to say.

All the songs on “Sugar” (with the exception of “Untouchable” by Johnny Thunder on his “So Alone” album and “Fall and Rise” (originally recorded by The Velvet Mafia on their “Cheap But Not Free” disc) were written by Bebe, her husband, Jim Wallerstein, and Bobbie Rae.  You can download Bebe Buell’s “Sugar” at her website, www.bebebuell.org.

Enjoy!

J.B. Brightman

Posted March, 2010

BlackRobot1When I launched Boomerocity.com almost a year ago, it was my original intent to have the occasional interview with an icon or two from the 50’s, 60’s, 70’s and early 80’s.  So far, we’ve had a pretty good run of it and have a lot more planned for the future.

However, in the course of my networking for interviews, reviews and stories, I quickly learned that I was doing a great disservice to you, our very loyal readers.  See, here’s the deal: There are some great bands and artists out there that have a sound that we Boomer’s would love if we were just exposed to them.  If you were to  listen to all this new talent, you’d swear that they are from our day. Black Robot is just such a band.

Black Robot is a band you’re really going to love.  Why? Well, they’re like a tasty desert with all sorts of your favorite ingredients mixed in.  When you devour the tasty treat, your taste buds will recognize each ingredient without one flavor dominating the others.  Black Robot is much like the decadent desert I just described.

Do you like AC/DC and Black Sabbath?  You’ll love Black Robot.  Do you like Lynard Skynard?  You’ll love Black Robot.  Do you love Cream, Clapton and Harrison?  You’re gonna love Black Robot.  Do you love the Partridge Family?  Then you WON’T love Black Robot.

I was just seeing if you were paying attention.

Black Robot is the brainchild and creation of JB Brightman and lead singer, Huck Johns.  Does Brightman’s name sound familiar?  If it does, it’s because JB was a founding member and former bassist for the band, Buckcherry.

I recently had the distinct privilege to chat with Brightman about his new band. At the outset of our conversation, I noted the various classic rock influences that I mentioned a couple of paragraphs ago.

“I think that we were heavily influenced by the generations that {mprestriction ids="*"}were before us.  I would say to myself, ‘Man!  I wish that I was born just a little earlier and could’ve seen all the cool stuff that you saw, you know?  A lot of people I know that are my age, or younger, are wishing that we were there for all that cool stuff.”

JB’s answer was pretty much matter-of-fact when I asked him for the “Reader’s Digest” version of the story behind the creation of Black Robot?

“I played in a band called Buckcherry.  I was the founder of that band.  We had a really good run for a point in time.  We made two records together but then we just couldn’t stay together as a band. So, we broke up in 2001.  We had been through a lot and saw a lot.  It was, basically, a bad experience for some of us.  That’s why we had to get rid of the band.

“I kept in touch with some of my old band mates and we talked about getting together and making some music.  I was introduced to our singer, Huck Johns, through some of the guys in Kid Rock’s band.  They said, ‘You’ve got to hear this guy.  He’s out of Detroit and he’s a great singer.’

“We became friends and we spent a couple of years putting songs together, getting together whenever we could.  The guitar player on this record, Yogi (Lonich), who was in Buckcherry with me, was touring with an artist, Chris Cornell, from Soundgarden (and former lead singer for Audioslave), so it was REALLY hard to get everybody together to do this.

“We finally got together, booked a couple of weeks in a studio, and we said, ‘Hey, let’s make this record the way The Rolling Stones use to make records – the way we heard people use to do – and just go in there with no ideas and just start jamming and rockin’. We’ll just do it the old fashion way.’

“So, we put together the record.  We got vintage equipment and vintage amplifiers and vintage microphones and we just started rockin’ out.  We recorded everything during 12 to 14 hour days and nights. We just kicked it down.  It was an exhausting process but our whole goal was to make a record in the way that older records in the 60’s, 70’s and 80’s were made because we thought a lot of the music was degenerating.  We wanted to restore some of the feeling of traditional, classic rock and roll.  We thought that we could make something that would stand up if you played it 10, 20 or 30 years ago or 10, 20 or 30 years from now.  That was our objective and we feel that we hit the mark.”

I used that comment to jump into a discussion about one of the more poignant songs, Mamma Don’t Cry, which sounds like a throwback to the late 60’s or early 70’s with a Hendrix meets Lynard Skynard feel to it.  I told JB that I could’ve sworn that the song this was a cover of an older song but my search couldn’t find it, thus, telling me that it was a new, original song by Black Robot.

“You definitely get it.  You got us on that one.  When people say that they pick up where we’re coming from, then we like that.  We think that’s great.

With the exception of the J.J. Cale classic, Cocaine, all of the tunes on this disc are original Black Robot creations. I wondered if the band has had a chance to preview the songs in a live setting and, if so, is there a particular song that resonates with the audience?

“We’ve done these songs live before.  We live in the Hollywood area and we’ve been playing shows just in this area for now. We just love it because people out here are a little bit more discriminating and there are a lot of people in the audience that are musicians. So, once they’ve got themselves open to the idea of having a good time, then they seem to like it (the songs from the disc).

“It’s kind of weird.  We’ve had this music available for preview and sold a couple of copies from when we had an independent version.  Now we have a major release of this project.  We booked some shows and we were surprised because people were singing along with the lyrics.  The one that everyone likes to sing along with is ‘Cocaine’.  It’s high energy and they, at that point in the game, they just start rockin’ out with us.”

I ventured a guess that one of many of my favorite songs, Dissatisfaction, was a real crowd pleaser.

“Yeah, that one definitely rocks.  We have a couple of slower songs and people catch that.  But, if we have a shorter set then we go right to our rockers.  I think it’s really easy music to rock out with.

“A lot of bands want to get more complicated or have a competition of who can do something more elaborate. But we’re just here to be straight up and straight forward and make it really easy to rock with.  As you said, you can hear the influences so that makes it even easier for everyone to have a good time because it’s just good time rock and roll.”

Yep, well, it’s definitely ‘there’ – the hooks are there to – it has legs and will be around for a very long time.  I gave Brightman my prediction that, in ten years, would be featured music on a future version of Guitar Hero or Rock Band.

“I hope so.  I really do.  It’s funny that you mention that.  For a while, I wasn’t hearing a lot of rock and roll that was new that was in this way.  I saw these kids that must’ve been 10 years old, singing these songs from bands like ‘Mountain’ whenever I was in Best Buy.  If they’re exposed to rock and roll, they’re going to embrace it.”

I brought the conversation back around to ‘Mamma Don’t Cry’.  With the wars going on today and the Vietnam feel of the song, I wanted to know what influenced the creation of that song.

“We all grew up with the impact of Vietnam in our lives - me, particularly, my mother, after her divorce, wound up with a Vietnam veteran who was a Green Beret.  He was shell shocked.  I had been exposed to that and a lot of us who had grown up in the 70’s, including our singer, did, too.  We have a feeling that war is tragic so we’re very aware. Though we’ve never served, we have friends who are in the military.

This song, in particular, is based on a story about a letter to Huck’s mother that he had read.  He decided that he wanted to put something on the record that had meaning – that we can kind of give back. We’ve had some people in the military – some military wives – who have discovered our music.  It’s really cool to have music that people appreciate that you’re writing about what’s going on in their lives.”

The very well written, I’m In Love, intrigued me so I asked what inspired it.

“With that song, we just really wanted to connect with that feeling of love, what it feels like for anyone to have those feelings.  When you try to translate them into songs, it’s really difficult.  But, we’ve been through enough relationships that we were able to come together on that. “

When I mused that this song must really have the girls in the audience eating out of their hands, JB responds with a laugh.

“That’s interesting because our girls were all saying, ‘You wrote that about me, right?’ We were all, like, ‘Yes! We did! We wrote it about YOU!  EXACTLY about you!’

“Of course, we did, in all seriousness. It’s good because the way we made the record, we wanted to have all different feelings.  When you play the record from start to finish – if you can imagine playing a vinyl record the way you use to, you would go through these different feelings – different tempos.  We wanted to take it there.”

Thinking that another song on the disc, Stop The World, was another love song, Brightman’s comments about it caught me by surprise.

“Well, that’s actually a song about our singer, Huck.  He’s got a child in Michigan and, unfortunately, he can’t be with him because he’s got to work and play music which requires him to live out here (in California).  It eats away at him that he can’t be with his son when he wants to be.  He wrote that song to talk about him being a dad to let his son knows that he misses him every single day.

“It’s one of those songs, when you miss someone or are thinking of someone, it could be interpreted as something romantic or the feeling you get when you miss someone in  your life in general.”

Black Sabbath and Ozzy fans are going to love, 23 Days of Night.  When I mentioned to JB that the song put me in mind of Sabbath’s, Killing Yourself To Live, he chuckled and said, “That is SO on the money!  I think when we get in there and we have something that sounds like something from other artists, our goal is to write the song they didn’t have the chance to write.   We’re, like, ‘This is a song that Black Sabbath never got a chance to write!’”

Well, the boys definitely met and exceeded that objective.

The final cut on the CD, Nervous Breakdown, is one of the most intense songs that I have heard in quite awile.  I asked Brightman to fill me in on some of the background of it.

“With that one, we all connected because we’ve all had REALLY bad relationships, as everyone does.  It’s part of the learning process. We sat down and talked about things before we started writing lyrics together.  It’s just a song that we were all able to throw in our mutual experiences, talk about it, and then approached it in the song. It’s about when things are really, really good with someone and really, really bad with someone.  It’s a difficult thing.”

When asked about touring plans and other supporting projects, JB indicates that, “We’re going to try to hit everywhere in the U.S.  We’re making that a priority.  Since we live on the West Coast, we’re going to start with some dates nearby and maybe on up near Seattle.  We’ll get out to Las Vegas and other cities in the West.  We do plan on making a couple of trips to the Midwest and to the South, as well.  We’ve just got to work it all out.

“Texas is a great place to play.  It just takes awhile to get through there.  I was thinking about getting a one week mini tour going.  Now that you mention it, it’s something that I should focus on.

“We’re also working on a concept video right now.  I don’t want to blow the surprise but it’s going to really bring some interest to the band. It’s a pretty good concept.  Anyone can keep up with us at our website, blackrobotmusic.com, and we’ve got Twitter and Facebook.  We’ll have our video posted on YouTube, as well.”

You’ll definitely want to keep your eye on Black Robot.  They’ll are already a band that commands attention wherever they perform.  As long as they maintain their high level of songwriting excellence, we’ll be hearing from JB and the boys for years to come.

They’re self-titled debut album will be available April 13, 2010, on Rocket Science Ventures.

Tyler Bryant

September, 2011

 

tylerbryantshakedownTyler Bryant (second from left) and the ShakedownThere’s nothing like being on the ground level of something big that’s starting.  Whether it’s investing in a stock of a young start-up company or the early stages of an underdog political candidate who goes on to win the office they’re seeking against incredible odds.

That’s how I feel about a young guitar prodigy by the name of Tyler Bryant.  Several months ago Desiree, a loyal Boomerocity reader from Pennsylvania, turned me to Tyler, encouraging me to check out some of the video of him on YouTube.  What I saw held me spellbound and I was immediately hooked as a fan.  I also felt like I was getting in at near the ground floor level of something phenomenal that was going to be big.  Really big.

Tyler is already commanding attention and creating an incredible amount of buzz wherever he goes and plays.  The crazy thing is:  There are people – very talented people – who have been at it a lot longer than he has and haven’t achieved ten percent of what he has.

Since learning of Bryant, I’ve been researching his history and work and what an incredible story it is.  He first picked up the guitar at 6 years old. A few years later, he reportedly sold a dirt bike that his parents had just given him so that he could buy an electric guitar.  He was turned on to the blues at the age of 11 when he walked in to a Paris, Texas, music store and heard Roosevelt Twitty playing a Lightning Hopkins tune back in the corner of the store. From that point he was hooked on the blues.

By the age of 15, Bryant had his own touring band, gaining notoriety in Texas, Arkansas, Louisiana and Oklahoma – even winning the Robert Johnson Blues Foundation’s New Generation award. The following year, he was tapped by Mr. Slow Hand himself, Eric Clapton, to play at the 2007 Crossroads Guitar Festival in Chicago.  Having finished with high school early, he packed up and moved to Nashville at the age of 17. 

Once he hit music city, he formed a band consisting of fellow guitar player Graham Whitford (son of Aerosmith co-guitarist, Brad Whitford), Caleb Crosby on drums, and Calvin Webster on bass. Together, they form Tyler Bryant and the Shakedown and are enjoying a gradual, high-climbing trajectory that is sure to place them in ever larger venues and played on a growing population of fans. 

So far, that ascent has had them share stages with Jeff Beck, Heart, REO Speedwagon, B.B. King, Paul Simon, Vince Gill and quite a few others.  In fact, a couple of years ago Vince Gill said about Bryant, “To be 18 and play like this dis is the rarest of the rare. Hands down a future guitar god.”

Tyler and I recently spoke by phone to, among other things, discuss his upcoming album, From The Sandcastle, that will be released on Tuesday (read the Boomerocity review here).

Before we started chatting about Sandcastle, I asked Bryant if he misses Honey Grove, Texas.

“Yeah, I do. I just got back to Nashville last night. We went to L.A. and played a {mprestriction ids="*"}show and then flew to Texas. We played a thing called ‘Red Dirt Revolution” out towards Deport, Texas, which is actually a really cool festival. So I got to go home and see my family and spend the night in Texas. I miss the people more than anything.”

However, when it comes to his new, adopted home, he adds, “Oh, I love it, man!  I moved here over L.A. just because it kinda had a small town feel to it and it’s still in the south. The people are really nice and it’s got a lot of the same qualities that I love about Texas.”

We quickly shifted gears to discuss Sandcastle.  I asked him to give you guys a heads up as to what to expect from the album.

“Oh, it’s just dirty rock and roll! There’s ups and downs on it but, for the most part, it’s simple rock and roll - very guitar driven. It’s the first band album we’ve done as Tyler Bryant and the Shakedown just because my band is such an instrumental part in creating our sound. They were very instrumental in making this record. So, yeah, I’m very excited about it!  It’s pretty high energy for the most part. It sounds like a couple of kids got hold of a couple of microphones.”  He says, chuckling.

Comparing it to his last release, My Radio, Tylers says, “We’ve just grown since that project. I mean, that project was pretty much straight ahead rock and roll, too. This one has a few more songs than My Radio. We tried to bring out a lot of our roots and where we come from on this record. 

Listening and watching Bryant perform his craft it’s clear that his influences are many and varied in their genres.  I asked him who his musical influences were and are.

“Oh, there’s so many. Lightnin’ Hopkins was one of my first blues influences. I got turned on to him by a guy that was probably one of the most influential people in my life, Roosevelt Twitty, a Texas blues man who lives in Paris (Texas). I was really big into the acoustic blues guys like Robert Johnson, Son House and that kind of thing until I got into high school. Then I heard the Black Crowes and the Rolling Stones.  I started listening to Tom Petty and the Heartbreakers and started to want to write songs.  Not long after that, I moved to Nashville – when I was seventeen. I moved out and found a couple of guys who were in the same spot I was in and we put together a band.

“It definitely all happen to come together really fast. Everybody in the band knew exactly what they wanted. I knew exactly what I wanted. I knew that no one was going to stop me. That’s why I got out of high school early and why I moved to Nashville. I just started calling everyone I knew, including people I didn’t know. ‘Hey, do you know any musicians?’  One thing led to another and, yeah, it’s still one thing leading to another.”

On impulse, I asked Tyler what he’s been listening to on his iPod recently.  He just happened to have it on him .

“Let me look. Right now, it’s on Iggy Pop and the Stooges.  I just bought something from an Austin guy. His name is Gary Clark, Jr. just released a couple of songs that I thought were amazing. Have you checked out Grace Potter and the Nocturnals yet? Love them!”

The fact that Tyler has, in less than three years, hit Nashville, formed a top shelf band, and getting the traction that he has is the stuff that many, many aspiring artists have dreamed about and never attained. Aside from such early career traction, there’s also the realization of his dreams to share the stage with some the legendary artists I mentioned a few paragraphs ago.  Most recently, he was asked to tour with the iconic Jeff Beck with several performances having found their way onto YouTube. I encourage you to check them out.

On the subject of Jeff Beck, I asked Tyler about his experience with the rock icon, who else he’s played with and who he would like to work with.

“He (Beck) doesn’t talk all that much. He’s always been really supportive of me. He had me up there jamming with him every night. He’d kind of push me on stage, ‘Come on! Come on!’ – that kind of a thing.

“We’ve played with a ton of people so far. We toured with Heart and Pat Benatar, Jeff Beck, REO Speedwagon. We played with Aerosmith. We still haven’t played with the Crows. I’d still like to play with the Crows. I think that would be fun!  The Heartbreakers would be awesome. The Stones would be cool. We’re also trying to get on with some younger tours with this new record – taking the music to the kids and give ‘em what they ain’t gettin’!” 

I typically ask the “more mature” artists what they haven’t done, project-wise, that they still hope to accomplish.  Since Tyler is still clearing the launch pad of his career, relatively speaking, I chose, instead, to ask him what his dream project would be. His answer was immediate if not also short and sweet.

“Oh, man!  I’d love to have Tom Petty to produce a record for me. It would just be American rock and roll!”

And, as far as touring to promote Sandcastle, Bryant says, “We’re going to be doing our own shows. We coming to Texas on the 15th – I think in Lewisville.  Then we’re playing the Austin City Limits Festival on the 17th.  We’ve got a lot of our own shows coming up. I honestly don’t know where they’re all at.   Then, in October, I’m going out with 25 more shows with Jeff (Beck).  Well be doing the west coast and Canada.”

As for his long term plans and goals for, say, the next one to five years, they’re crystal clear in his mind.

“We’re planning on going into the studio again in November and working on a full length record. We going to be touring and I’m pretty sure that we’ll start the process all over again – record/tour, record/tour, until I die.”

I was curious what was Bryant’s guitar weapon of choice on stage and how many guitars he actually had in his arsenal. 

“I pretty much only play my Fender.” And as for the number of guitars in his arsenal, “Oh, around 45 or 50” he says matter-of-factly.  I suppose a man can’t have too many guitars. He continued by saying, “I’ve got all kinds. I collect vintage guitars.” He says that his pride and joy is a 1960 Fender Stratocaster. “I’ve got a 1960 Fender Strat, a 1965 Gibson SG, a 1956 Gibson 125.”

At this time, Tyler feels that he is fortunate to already own the guitar that he considers his “holy grail”.

“Fender built my dream guitar which is a 1960 Cadillac Pink Strat. It was a guitar I always dreamed of and they built it for me. It’s pretty much the only guitar that I play now.”

Even though, at the time of this writing, Tyler Bryant isn’t even quite 21 years old, I was curious if he had any idea as to how he wished to be remembered after he’s no longer on the sunny side of the earth’s crust.  Surprisingly, though he indicated that it was a tough question, he quickly and succinctly had an answer. 

“Hmmm, that’s a tough one. I’ve definitely thought about it before because I had a producer say to me one time after playing a guitar solo, ‘Hey, if you died right now, would anybody remember that guitar solo?’  It was kind of an intense thing to say but it’s so true. If you want to be an artist that’s remembered, you have to be an artist that someone can remember.  You can’t be forgettable and you have to do your own thing.

“I speak for myself and the band when I say that we want to bring it to the kids because, when I was growing up, fortunately I had people in my life to play good rock music for me. But it seems like it’s a little harder to find these days. I want to keep blues alive. There’s this massive form of American music that’s been pushed under the bus a little bit by mainstream radio. It’s just the way things are now.  It’s cool because there’s a lot of really interesting, great music out there now. But there’s some soul that’s missing in a lot of it and that’s what I want to bring back.

“So, I think we’d like to be remembered as a good rock band that was really honest.  Nothing more than a really honest band that did what they believed in and gave it to the people, you know?”

If you want to fill  your mind with incredible memories of phenomenal, guitar-driven rock and roll, then you will definitely want to, a) purchase your own copies of Tyler Bryant and the Shakedown’s work – especially From The Sandcastle and, b) sign up for e-mail blasts from Tyler and the gang by visiting his website, www.tylerbryantmusic.com.  You will be kept up to date on the band’s touring, recording plans and whatever else of importance might crop up.

Be prepared to become an ardent, life-long fan.

Michele Bramlett

Posted June, 2010

MicheleBramlettI’m fascinated with people.  I like to know what makes people tick and why they do what they do.  More importantly, I like to know peoples background and their upbringing because this gives tremendous insight into what makes those people what they are today. This is especially the case with famous people.  Even more recently, I became interested in the lives and background of children of celebrities.

One such person that I recently had the privilege of interviewing was Michele Bramlett.  She is oldest daughter of late rock legend, Delaney Bramlett and wood carver/folk artist, Patty Stanley.  You’ll know him as the male half of the 60’s rock duo, Delaney, Bonnie and Friends.  You will know Michele as a successful and renowned painter in her own right and fascinating to chat with.

Early in our conversation, I told Michele that I read that, as she was growing up, she heard some pretty big names jamming in her dad’s home. I asked her what are her earliest thoughts of Delaney. Michele’s response is very reflective and seems almost therapeutic to her as she shares her thoughts.

“Earliest thoughts? Wow, that’s a hard one. You know, moms and dads seem to have always been in the child’s mind.  One of my first memories is being on the set of “Shindig”. Joey Copper looked after me when dad was working. I remember dad taking me to ‘Small World’ at Disneyland. I remember we loved that ride so much we just kept getting’ on, over and over, and didn’t ride on any other ride in the park!

“I remember lots of dad’s ‘friends’ sittin around our kitchen table, backyard, front porch playing and singing as us kids played and danced. ‘Uncle Eddy’ (actor Edward James Olmos) and ‘Stuff’ (Little Feat bassist, Kenny Gradney) lived next door. I remember sitting at the piano with Leon (Russell) and watching him play and being intrigued by his long white hair and beard.  Bobby “Yityock” ( we couldnt pronounce Whitlock) and George, Eric, on and on.  I know all of this now but understand that to us girls, these amazing artists were just friends who played music with dad . . . and Dad and Baba (the name Michele called the legendary Bonnie Bramlett, who Michele lovingly refers to as her “other mom”) were just our dad and mom.”

Michele’s childhood memories continue to flow out of her like quickly flowing streams of consciousness.

“Sweet Duane Allman, my dad loved him so. Dad was devastated by his death and I remember the ‘feeling’ at the house was dark for a long time. I remember the moment my other mom, Bonnie, graced my life. She would brush my hair and talk to me about deep and beautiful things. She and Dad took me on a trip right after ‘we met again’ . . . we were staying in a motel and Baba (that’s what I call her) and I were jumpin’ on the bed. BIG FUN! We laughed and laughed.

“I remember going to Mississippi to see our kin...my papa had horses, and my dad was a great horseman (Native American way). I was beggin’ dad and papa to ride one of the horses. He kept sayin’, ‘no ‘Shel, now honey they just got fed’. They finally, after much pouting, gave in but made me SWEAR not to ‘run that horse’.

“So what did I do? YEEHAW and took off runnin’! Darn horse took me right under{mprestriction ids="*"} a clothesline, caught me under the neck. The horse kept goin’ and I did a flip and landed slap on my back. Bonnie came runnin’ out and scooped me up and took me in the kitchen. My dad walks in and says, ‘Now honey, you know you got to get back on that horse’. To this day I am grateful for that life lesson.”

 As if to put a beautiful mental bow on a treasured box of memories, Michele summarizes her childhood thoughts by sharing what she learned from her dad, her mom and Bonnie Bramlett.

“My mom, Patty, taught me how to love. My dad taught me how to live. My Baba taught me how to look for and find me.”

Bramlett is a phenomenal painter, I told her as much while asking her if ever pursued music before finding her sweet spot in painting?

“WOW! Thank you so much . . . but I credit Mom, dad, Baba, my sissies (Suzanne and Bekka), and the Great Spirit...I am just the “paintbrush”, you know? No, I never pursued music. However, from an early age until we lost him, Dad had us girls in the studio doing ‘backups’ (first recording was on “California Rain”). My sister, Bekka, embraced the music and her singing and songwriting will blow your mind. My sister, Suzanne, is an incredible makeup artist. I have always drawn and painted. I was always visual. I used to ‘play’ in my drawings.”

While on the subject of Michele’s art, I asked her to tell me more about her work, how her business is going, who some of her customers have been.

“I have been very lucky, and so very grateful, that I have been able to make a living at my art, my expression. I love the response from people. I love connecting another soul with mine in a way that perhaps that soul can say ‘Oh I’ve been there’, or, ‘OOOhh, I know what that feels like’.

“I have painted for Kenny Loggins. He owns two originals, ‘Conviction of the Heart’ (inspired by his song of the same name) and ‘Little Red Wolf’, and a master print. Billy Joel owns ‘Woman At His Piano’ . . . (and there have been) many others. I have been, as I said before, very lucky.

I asked Michele if she minded sharing what she was currently working on.

“Right now, I am working on a collaboration piece with the digital artist, Jaesen Kanter. The art and the embracing of collaboration is another one of the ‘lessons of life’ I learned from my dad. This is a special piece in that it conveys the infusion of art and music that was gifted to my daughter and I from dad.

“I have just finished a piece called “Poor Elijah” for the foundation we are in the process of setting up to honor our dad and I will be “unveiling” that soon. I have just finished illustrating a book for Victor Forbes of Fine Art Magazine titled ‘Long way ‘round’ . . . CD art for Coco Carmel Whitlock’s CD, ‘First Fruit’.

“I commission portraits. I have been exploring painting me, my art on the bodies of my subjects - combining my subjects (clients) energy with mine and painting “body art” on the subject. I am getting a great response! My world of art is growing and I am loving every minute of it!”

Bramlett mentioned the Poor Elijah Fund, which I am somewhat familiar with.  I asked her about it.

“The Poor Elijah Foundation is starting to take shape. My sisters and I, with the help of some very dear and special friends Maria Angel Schaefer, Jaesen Kanter, and Lisa Marvin started the foundation to honor dad and his contribution to the music world.

“The Poor Elijah Foundation is dedicated to assisting musicians in need develop strong business ethics within the music industry and providing financial relief to the working musician aspiring to learn and who does not qualify for assistance from charities that require long term and/or professional establishment in the music industry. Through mentors, workshops, and camps, PEF will take the working musician and educate them in various aspects of the music industry e.g. engineering, management, publishing, money management, contract negotiations, and musical education to elevate the art of the artist fostering skills to become more proficient in their craft.

“Since we are at the beginning stages (waiting for 501c3 status) contributions cannot be ‘written off’ yet. I, and others, will be holding fundraisers and will be offering art, CD’s, and other items through my website and my personal Facebook page with proceeds going to help the foundation get on her feet. Once we are federal, people will be able to contribute thru our website (which is now under construction).  Right now, www.poorelijahfoundation.org will take you directly to the “Delaney Bramlett deserves induction into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame Facebook page”(the induction of Delaney & Bonnie and Friends).  The induction is what started this huge and beautiful wave - the movement to induct our parents. We will be putting on fabulous tribute concerts so stay tuned!

Michele’s father passed away unexpectedly while recovering from what should have been routine surgery in December, 2008.  The way the human mind works, events – even major ones – from that far back can seem like they happened both a hundred years ago and yesterday.  I asked Michele how she has been dealing with her grief since the loss of her father. Her answers are insightful to those of us who haven’t yet lost a parent and familiar to those who have.

“I have good days and bad. The hurt and the missing does not get any better, I don’t care what they say. I guess I’m just better at “feeling it”.  I miss being able to call my dad . . . ask him about things. I miss his late night phone calls from the studio – ‘Wanna hear a new purdy song, ‘Shel?’. I would sit and listen for hours to all his ‘new stuff’ and he would tell me stories and I would laugh and laugh. He was really funny and had great ‘delivery’.

“I miss watching Gunsmoke and The Andy Griffith Show and old westerns with him. This whole amazing process of the induction movement, the foundation, the tribute concerts, the outpouring of love and support from his fans, the huge amount of love from within my family - my mom, my other mom, my sisters - has been my saving grace. My heart is healing.”

Placing myself in her shoes, I suspect that, when grief hits in waves, I would draw from my treasure chest of memories to dwell on and derive some comfort from.  I was curious how, specifically, she coped with the grief and if there was a particular memory that she draws on to get through the pain.

“I talk to him. I cry to him. I holler for him. To get thru the pain I play his music and listen to him sing.  The ‘kitchen table’ memories are most soothing. That kitchen table was the center of the Bramlett family. And Mamo, Oh-h-h-h, Mamo (pronounced “mammaw”)! I miss her so much! I close my eyes and see his sweet smile smiling back at me.”

I asked Bramlett about her Mamo.

"Mamo is dad's mom. She lived with dad ever since I can remember. She was the hearth stone of the Bramlett home. She took care of us when the road called. She took care of everybody . . . cooking for all the musicians who were at the house all day long. She made the most delicious sweet tea you ever tasted – ever! She, like daddy, had her place at that famous kitchen table. Mamo Bramlett is famous among all of the ''friends" and then some. Southern and sweet, Mamo always had an open door policy. Everybody was welcome.
She was ALWAYS there.  We lost Mamo 9 months before we lost dad. Oh, I could go on and on about Mamo. She was something very, very special. One of the Great Spirits favorites. I just know it.”

Michele continues with memories of her dad: “I think of riding horses with him at the ranch. My favorite was “night rides” out on the trail. He had a great way of sittin’ a horse and he would sing so pretty out on those rides. I think of him rockin’ my daughter, Dakota, when she was a baby, on the front porch swing and him singing to her. He loved his 2 grandkids so much: Dakota, my daughter, and, Jack, my sister, Suzanne’s, son.”

In responding to my question if she and her sisters help each other out through the tough times, Michele’s answer is quick and enthusiastic.

“Absolutely! We are all we have. We ARE the Bramlett family. They are my life and I am theirs, always - in ALL WAYS.  We talk to each other and cry together and play Delaney and Bonnie music and dance and sing our heads off.”

In an earlier comment, Michele mentioned the drive to get Delaney and Bonnie inducted into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame.  It’s a very long and tough process for talent to get inducted to the Hall.  With 35 members on the nominating committee and 600 members who vote, Hall induction is incredibly challenging.  With that in mind, I asked Michele how the induction process going.

“The induction is going great!  We have over 6000 ‘members’ who have joined our cause on Facebook. We have a website that you can print, sign and mail your nomination directly to the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame.

“We are in the process of interviewing ‘Friends’ for a documentary and what a  journey THIS has been. To name a few, Miss Bonnie (of course), Billy Burnett, Kenny Loggins and Jimmy Messina, Dave Mason, Kenny Gradney, Greg Glen Martin, Spooner Oldham, Michael Allman, Paul Williams, Mentor Williams, Paull E. Rubin - on and on and still filming!”

Ms. Bramlett is clearly a driven woman on a serious mission, always promoting her cause.  Who wouldn’t?  That’s her daddy!  She’s a convincing salesperson as she promotes the related websites.

“Here is the link again to the Facebook induction page (hyperlinked here for formatting purposes).  People can support our cause by going to the page and joining.  GREAT PEOPLE, GREAT MUSIC, GREAT PICTURES AND VIDEOS!  The website where people can get the Induction Letter to submit to the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame in support of D&B is www.inductdelaneyandbonnie.com. The inductees will make the final nomination. We need their support as well!”

After our interview, I reflected (as I often do after interviewing someone) on our chat.  Michele clearly, dearly loved, and still loves, her dad.  To us, he is a rock icon who brought us all countless hours of entertainment. To Michele, Delaney was her dad who just happened to sing for a living.

While we have him on one kind of pedestal, she and her siblings clearly have him on a completely different kind of pedestal; one that all fathers should be aspire to be placed on.  We get there, in our children’s “Dad Hall of Fame”, by being fathers that take time for their kids, whether they’re young or adults.  We get there by creating fertile environments for incredible memories that fill the treasure chests of their minds.

Michele Bramlett is obviously and rightfully proud of her dad’s work and accomplishments. However, notice that it’s having the “kitchen table” moments, the horse rides and the times on the front porch or watching TV together that she reflects on and draws from.  Those are the lessons we can all learn from.

Michele Bramlett’s art can be seen at her website, www.bramlettart.com.  If you would like to support her and her family’s efforts to get Delaney and Bonnie inducted into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame, you can download the Induction Letter from the family’s website, www.inductdelaneyandbonnie.com.