It's the final episode of Season 1 and I'm signing off in style with my guest this week, the spectacular Bettye LaVette. Bettye has a memory like a steel trap and an engaging and self-deprecating way about hr that makes for great storytelling. Since her first single "My Man - He's a Lovin' Man" in 1962 at age sixteen, Bettye has had a career full of ups and downs, and as she tells it, more downs than ups in the first forty! But in those years she managed to drift on and off Atlantic Records 5 times, and at one point, due to some questionable advice, actually asked legendary producer Jerry Wexler to be let off the label. He handed her $500 and told her she'd need it! Growing up in Detroit, and learning to sing in her parents' living room while they were selling booze to the locals, as well as the touring gospel groups of the day (Sam Cooke used to drop in for refreshments), Bettye developed an incredible voice and a desire to get out and perform. Some early success put her on the road with Ben E King, Clyde McPhatter, James Brown, and Otis Redding, but every success seemed to be followed by disappointment with some bad timing, poor promotion, and sketchy advice. It really wasn't until the mid-2000's that Bettye found a new audience and since then has made a string of incredible records with producers like Joe Henry and Patterson Hood with the Drive By Truckers. Her recent book "A Woman Like Me" tells her story, but as always, it's more fun hearing them straight from her! Bettye's latest album is called "Worthy" and is well worth seeking out. Thank you for listening to the show and being a fantastic audience. I'll return soon for Season 2 - stay tuned!
Music Makers and Soul Shakers
In March of 2016, I'll be releasing a weekly podcast that delves into the lives, careers and studio experiences of musicians, music producers, and even a few music biz-types who have been involved in excellent music. Some will be artists you recognize, others will be the musicians behind the scenes you may not be aware of, but each one has a great story to tell and brings a perspective to great music that will be of interest to music fans of all kinds. Stay tuned here and subscribe if you'd like to hear each episode as it gets released starting in March!
Drummer Jay Bellerose is my guest on the show this week. If your musical taste crosses over with mine at all, Jay is probably the drummer on some of your favorite records of the last 15 years. If you've been following this show, Jay's name has come up many times in other interviews, so it was high-time to drag him in for an episode of his own! Jay's unique approach to drumming, with unorthodox setups and an awesome palette of vintage drums has made him the go-to drummer for producers like T-Bone Burnett and Joe Henry. We talk about his approach to drumming and musicality in the studio, and how he tries to be very selective about the projects he takes on. In fact, he once turned down a gig with David Byrne, only to take his first gig with Joe Henry, opening for David Byrne! Jay has played on albums for BB King, Gregg Allman, Ray LaMontagne, Allen Toussaint, Bettye LaVette, Solomon Burke, Bonnie Raitt and the list goes on and on. Jay and I talked about his early days at Berklee, his long stint with Paula Cole, how to survive in a multi-drummer session with Jim Keltner, and how he had to work to fit into the Robert Plant/Allison Krauss touring band after making the acclaimed "Raising Sand" record. It's an illuminating conversation for any music fan - please share and enjoy, and don't forget to subscribe to the podcast for free on iTunes!
My guest this week is the very creative and grooving drummer, John Convertino. Along with Joey Burns, John started Calexico in the mid-90's after a long stint playing and touring with the seminal group, Giant Sand. His work with Howe Gelb in Giant Sand brought him from LA to Tucson, where he's been living for many years, and has helped to develop a creative and nurturing music scene. Calexico has released a series of amazing albums, and John's unique approach to the drums is always a highlight. The group successfully mixes folk, rock, twang, mariachi, and avant-garde music into their sound, and it was great to discuss all of those elements with John, as well as his history playing in his family band, how he met Howe Gelb and started playing in LA, his move to the desert of Tucson, and his experiences recording and working in the studio. Enjoy my conversation with John Convertino!
Known as The American Songster, Dom Flemons brings a deep knowledge of old-time, stringband, blues, and ragtime combined with the sensibilities of a modern songwriter to audiences all over the world with his band and as a solo artist. A founding member of Grammy-winning group, The Carolina Chocolate Drops, Dom has gone on to release a string of solo and collaborative albums that explore these musical forms, and preserve the music of the past while keeping it fresh and modern at the same time. Dom is a great guitar player, but also plays the bones, jug, fife, banjo, and probably lots more. He's used all those instruments to make some great records, and Dom and I talked about his recording history in his early days in Phoenix, meeting the members of the Chocolate Drops at the Black Banjo Gathering in Boone, North Carolina, and how he wants to keep the spirit of that event alive in his music. We also discussed making records with Joe Henry and Buddy Miller and his current projects that include a collaboration with British guitarist Martin Simpson, and an upcoming release of Black Cowboy songs that will come out this fall. Enjoy the episode!
Studio drumming legend Hal Blaine is my guest on the show this week! Hal's career has been beyond remarkable - he is one of the most recorded drummers in history and was an integral part of the most prolific and adaptable recording teams in the history of music. From the Beach Boys to Sinatra, Elvis Presley to John Lennon, Hal Blaine played on everything coming out of LA in the 60's and 70's. Coming from a jazz background, and a traumatic event in his early life, Hal grew up playing in bands and orchestras before finding work in the studios of Los Angeles. Before long, Hal's personality and incredible skill made him the top call session player for almost any style of music. He had close ties to Phil Spector and Brian Wilson, and is even a character in the recent Brain Wilson biopic "Love and Mercy". Be sure to check out the great documentary "The Wrecking Crew" on Netflix, which documents the session players of that time. Hal was happy to talk about his history and some of the memorable sessions that he took part in. Please excuse the audio quality of Hal's voice - his phone was a little distorted, but you'll get used to it, and it'll be worth it... Enjoy my interview with Hal Blaine!
David Hood, the legendary bassist and member of the Swampers, the Muscle Shoals-based band that backed up countless classic soul records, is my guest this week. Guys like David are the reason I was inspired to do this show in the first place. I first heard him through the Duane Allman anthology, an album I picked up as a kid that contained all this amazing soul music that Duane had been a part of in the late 60's. Upon further investigation, I was led to the world of Muscle Shoals, and FAME Studios, the home of classic soul music for artists like Aretha Franklin, Wilson Pickett, Boz Scaggs, John Hammond, Clarence Carter, and so many more. David also went on to play on albums for Paul Simon, Traffic, and the list goes on and on. The Muscle Shoals documentary from a few years back is a must-see, and David was kind enough to spend some time with me talking about the studios, life during that time in Muscle Shoals, and to detail some of the sessions that so many of us know and love. Enjoy my conversation with David Hood!
Bernie Finkelstein is my guest on the show this week. It's a natural companion piece to last weeks' interview with Bruce Cockburn. If you haven't heard that one (Episode 19), please check it out as well! Bernie has been in the biz for decades, originally starting out as a helper and manager for folk artists and rock bands around Toronto's buzzing scene in the mid/late 60's. His early success in the US with The Paupers and working with the legendary Albert Grossman (Bob Dylan's manager) led him back to Toronto to start his own label, True North Records. He made his mark early signing Bruce Cockburn, a relationship that continues to this day. His other successes have included clients like Murray McLauchlan, Dan Hill, Blackie and the Rodeo Kings, Stephen Fearing, and he even signed a little weirdo instrumental band from Vancouver called Zubot and Dawson. Bernie has great stories from all of those eras and tells them in his recent book "True North", but it's more fun to hear him tell them in person, so Bernie was nice enough to spend some time with me for the show. Enjoy my conversation with Bernie Finkelstein!
My guest on the show this week is legendary performer and songwriter Bruce Cockburn. Bruce has been recording and touring for over 40 years, and has over 30 spectacular albums to his credit. One of the most beloved of Canadian artists, Bruce has made a huge mark in the US and Europe as well. With humble beginnings in the folk scene of Toronto in the 60's, to releasing his first few classic albums on True North Records, before achieving massive commercial success in the late 70's and 80's with hit songs like "Wondering Where The Lions Are", "Lovers In A Dangerous Time" and "If I Had a Rocket Launcher". I've always been drawn to Bruce's creative guitar playing, which incorporates blues, jazz, folk and ragtime elements into a unique sound that instantly recognizable. Bruce and I had a chance to discuss his life and career in music and all the stages of his amazing career. Enjoy my conversation with Bruce Cockburn!
Producer and multi-instrumentalist Gurf Morlix is my guest this week. Gurf has been an integral part of the Austin, Texas music scene for decades now and has worked on stage and in the studio with an incredible list of artists such as Ray Wylie Hubbard, Robert Earl Keen, Slaid Cleaves, Warren Zevon, Mary Gauthier and Ian McLagan. Gurf was also a key member of Lucinda WIlliams' original band and produced her first albums. Gurf is a great producer, and plays a mean guitar, steel, bass and whatever else he can get his hands on. We talked about his career that took him to LA to work with Lucinda Williams, why he split and went back to Austin where he's been since the 90's, his production style, and the way he approaches recording, mostly out of his home studio. Enjoy the conversation, and please subscribe to the podcast on iTunes for free!
Broadcasting legend and iconic label-head, Holger Petersen is my guest this week. For anyone living in Canada over the last 40+ years, Holger has been the voice coming at you on Saturday nights on CBC Radio, bringing you great blues music on Saturday Night Blues, or even longer in Alberta on CKUA Radio. His label, Stony Plain Records, is also one of the oldest and most established roots music labels in North America. Holger has a long history with music, playing drums in bands growing up in Edmonton, promoting shows for the likes of Reverend Gary Davis and Mississippi John Hurt, and releasing a steady stream of music to the world by artists such as Jeff Healey, Long John Baldry, Duke Robillard, Ian Tyson, Corb Lund, and so many more. Holger and I had a chance to talk about that history, hanging with Jimmy Witherspoon and Jay McShann, being a fly on the wall for a Herbie Hancock record, traveling with Long John Baldry, and the path his life has taken to be one of Canada's great purveyors of amazing music. Thanks for listening!