THE SECRET TO SUCCESS IN MUSIC

Jimmy Buffet said something 20 years ago that (in retrospect) I believe is BS. But for the sake of argument, I’ll repeat it.

  1. You need to have talent.
  2. You need to be persistent
  3. You need to be Lucky

#3 helps, but Mr. Parrot head said you had to have all three. 2/3 doesn’t work.

I call BS on #3. Yes, #3 can be what you owe your success to, but I wouldn’t make it a part of my business plan.  If you have a following, you’re doing something right and success will find you.  Even if it’s just one song or painting.

If I wanted to make this article really long; I would have written on things that kill a career in the arts.

So here’s the secret. (Something I learned too late in life).  So here it is.  This will probably be the most important post regarding a career in music and I think the principles apply in general.

  1. You need to have talent (*Buffet rule #1)
  2. You need to be Passionate about your music or art.
  3. ***MOST IMPORTANTLY ~ You need to focus on ONE AREA or GENRE.

I don’t care if you’re Barry White or Rammstein. #3 is the MOST IMPORTANT ELEMENT.

What sucks is if you are a really good singer, chances are you Love Frank Sinatra and Luther Vandross as much as you do Freddie Mercury and Luciano Pavorotti. If you’re a music lover; you Love Glenn Miller as much as you do The Ramones.  A true Music Lover has the worst chance of being a successful musician.  It’s fine if you want to be the next Lee Ritenour. (A studio Musician) But you’re not going to be the next Ramones if you want to play “Rage against the machine”.

One thing Dan Baird, the Lead singer of the Georgia Satellites said was when he decided to play roots rock, (Chuck Berry, Buddy Holly) He had to put away his “YES” albums.

A Brand name is probably more important than skill. Take Buddy Holly for example.  And Buddy is a roots rocker that I love, but his songs are mainly 3 chord songs in A.  But what he was doing was HIS.  (His other amazing contributions to music notwithstanding).  Buddy Holly is arguably the most important person to affect modern music.  Sure he did what Les Paul was doing, but Buddy changed the Industry. But I digress.

Very few bands can pull off the Chameleon reinvention genre that Queen did. I doubt anyone else ever will.

If you love Metal music AND you can appreciate Johnny Mathis, you’re going to struggle gaining a following. What’s worse is, even if you have the skill to be the next guitarist for Metallica, if you still love The Eagles, you’re never going to be happy.  Let me give you food for thought.

Look at Weird Al Yankovic. He’s creative.  But if he ever tried to go legit, he would lose his loyal audience.

Metallica cut their hair and their audience started calling them sellouts.

I’m not saying you need to be the musical equivalent of AC/DC or the Ramones or even James Taylor. But when you hear the name James Taylor, you know what you’re getting.  I doubt John Fogarty would be successful today if not for CCR.  If he had kept doing the Bayou music, he would have been “The Man” at Gumbo festivals.

As long as your musical style is consistent, you can be George Thorogood and play a Hank Williams song (Move it on over) and have a hit. You can be Little Richard and play a Hank Williams song (Love sick blues) and have a hit.  When both artists did their Hank Williams covers, the song sounded like them, not Hank Williams.

Can you imagine going to see Stevie Ray Vaughan and having him come out and play Barry Manilow?   Or go to a YES concert and sit through 2 hours of country music?  Anyone that’s ever made it, made it because they were associated with a genre.  Even if you were the Rolling Stones playing Robert Johnson blues songs, you were a British invasion group.

As for Jimmy Buffet’s rule #3, tell Kurt Cobain he was lucky.   He was brilliant.  Kurt and other coffee addicts in Seattle created a genre that hit the charts like a cruise missile.  Then Hollywood had to find their own clones (or clowns) to mimic the grunge sound.  And in 3 years you had Grunge in the music rack with Glenn Miller and Elvis.

Pick one genre and stick to it. Give the people what they came to hear.  The more you enjoy what you’re doing, the less like work it will be and you will become the definition or Icon of that genre.  When you start your career, approach it like you want to be the new “King of _____ music.  BB King was called the King of the Blues.  James Brown was the godfather of soul.  Elvis the King of Rock.  Michael Jackson was the King of Pop. Nirvana  is the King of Grunge. Sinatra was the king of the Standards. Hank Williams is the father of country music.

Pick a sound you love and go with it. Live it.  If you’re a punk; wear a leather biker jacket to weddings and Levi jeans with holes in the knees. (And always wear a spiked wrist band) BE THE FIRST GROUP OR SINGER THAT PEOPLE THINK OF WHEN THEY MENTION YOUR GENRE.  THAT’S THE SECRET TO SUCCESS.  Be Monet’s Lilly pads.  Be Michael Jackson’s “Moon Walk”.

When someone asks: “What kind of music do you play?” Be able to answer it in less than 3 words and 5 seconds. Preferably one word.

Nothing Fails like Success

 

Stephen R. Covey said it. I can sum it up in one word.  Pagers.  Or if you need another example; Video cassette recorders.

But this conversation is about MUSIC. Being a musician from the age of 6, I’ve followed every new trend that was introduced.  I’ve listened to everything from the blues sung in the cotton fields of Mississippi, to German Thrash Metal and Neo-Classical.

In 1956, the genres of blues, rock and country had a serendipitous collision with a guy named Elvis Presley at the wheel. More important than Elvis was a guy named Sam Phillips.  He’s the father of Rock and Roll.  Sam was a recording engineer that loved recording music.  All sorts of music.  He even went into the Oklahoma State Prison to record a quartet of black inmates that could sing.

You all know the story of Buddy Holly and the Beatles, if not, I’ve written a few articles on the History of Rock and Roll. Just use the search button.  I want to take a very close look at the British invasion as I believe it was the British I hold responsible for a mongrel genre called “Classic Rock”.  What Elvis and Buddy Holly, even Chuck Berry and Little Richard were singing is now called “Roots Rock”.  As in “The beginning or foundation of Rock and Roll”.  It was this blend of Blues and country that gave us the musical ideas for The Beatles and the Rolling Stones.

If you look at the first albums of The Beatles, the Rolling Stones and many of the legends, they were all covering Robert Johnson blues songs, in fact the first recording the Beatles did as a demo was “That’ll be the day”. (Buddy Holly)

But the longer a Genre is bastardized, the more abundant it becomes. It’s hard to write a Rock song that doesn’t fall into the washed out category of classic rock.  For those musicians that scored hits in the 70s and into the 80s, they saturated the Genre until it was a cup of worms.   Frankly Classic Rock was pushed to the point of decadence.  In the 90s, grunge came in like a cruise missile and bands that were in the top 10 on the charts were losing their contracts.  Labels were catching direct flights from LAX to SeaTac airport and were signing bands they hadn’t even seen. (Just heard about) “There’s gold in them there hills”.

So what happened to the stable artists that could be relied on for a Platinum album? They were told not to let the door hit them in the ass.  One hair band artist from L.A. that belonged to a Spandex/Aquanet band that still had an album on the charts (Falling like a meteorite) was reported as saying he couldn’t get a job at Tower Records.

This article is about a very legitimate Classic Rock artist that was shown the door because of a change in the music industry. He was the first “Victim” of the music channel MTV.  In 1980, MTV was basically the only game in town.  MTV made and MTV took away.  It had that much influence. Up until 1984 MTV videos supported music released by the artist.  (Until the “Rock Me Tonight” Video by Billy Squier).

Before MTV, most music videos where live recordings, or even studio recordings of bands or singers performing. Then they became little movies and the song became nothing more than a soundtrack.   Before MTV, you heard the song on the radio and you made your own movie in your head.

Before MTV, Billy Squier had two Albums that would have made any record company fight over. “Don’t Say No” and “Emotions in Motion” were both double platinum.  Squier had 28 hits songs that charted.  Then he was forced, perhaps coerced to release the “Rock me tonight” video.  Rock me tonight was a hit on the radio .  The video was a hit, but more of a left hook that took Squier down, career and all.

Fast forward 24 years. Billy Squier in a recent interview said He listened to his first Album that didn’t chart.  “Tell the Truth” (1993) was the 3rd album after the atrocious video that soiled the mind of concert goers and 12″ vinyl buyers.  1993 was the height of the “Grunge” movement in Seattle and Squier was told that Capitol records was not going to support the album.  No ads in rock magazines. No MTV interviews, don’t let the door……..

Squier said after decades he listened to “Tell the Truth” and he had such verve as to say that he put on The Beatles’ “Revolver”, Led Zeppelin’s “2nd album” then “Tell the Truth”. He then said: “I felt that “Tell the Truth” stood up well next to those Iconic Rock Albums.

“In short, “I agree”.

In Squier’s defense, I had been given a copy of the cassette back in 1993. I remember playing it a lot.  But “Revolver”? Zeppelin’s II”?  Is he crazy?  So I went on Amazon and bought a copy of “Tell the Truth”.  I had forgotten how good this album is.

There is not a thing wrong with this album. I won’t review it as I don’t do album reviews.  I will say this: “Had Kurt Cobain not been discovered in an obscure club in Seattle; I believe this album would have charted in the top 10.

If I can use an analogy? Billy, this is one of the best radio pagers ever made.

On a deeper note; be thankful for what you have or had. Life is too short for regrets.  I’ve been saying for the last 30 years, if the Beatles were an unknown band in Liverpool playing the music they wrote.  Songs we call classics such as “Strawberry Fields” or “Yesterday”; they would never see a record contract. However; if they made the most dreadful “dissonant” unheard of noise and talked trash about a politician, added 16 bars of hate, I’m sure it would go viral.

This is one of my favorite songs on the Album.

 

 

 

Guitar Slingers of Today

Guitar Slingers of Today are like Peak Oil

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Very few True “Guitar Slingers” exist today. At the same time, there has never been more Wal-Mart guitarists on the planet.  Most fall into the “not bad”  category.  Many fall into the proficient/extraordinary category.  But both the not bad and proficient to exceptional lack what it takes to be a guitar slinger.  Impressing yourself with a five minute solo is the easy part.

 

What makes a True “Guitar Slinger”?

 

 

Today’s Guitar Slinger’s include but are not limited to:

  1. Dave Edmunds
  2. Brian Setzer
  3. Todd Rundgren
  4. Ace Andres
  5. Trevor Rabin

There exist 3 types of guitarists:
1. The Guitar Slinger: He sings lead; However, plays guitar better than most.

2. The Singer who plays guitar.  His guitar skills are negligible.  (Think John Fogerty)

3. The Guitar Alien. (See Yngwie Malmsteen, Steve Vai and Joe Satriani) their guitar performance is spoiled by the mere presence of vocals.

Your guitar playing should set you apart from those who have done their homework and play “rehearsed” solos. When the Guitar Slinger plays, He takes the audience to the far side of the galaxy in which the Slinger never imagined he could go.  To quote Pete Townsend; “The guitar is at its’ best when it is slightly out of control.”   The term, “Astral Traveling” comes to mind.  If you’ve rehearsed your basic scales for hours, you can get to that point of the:

“Out of body experience”

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Once you get to that point; remember this, it’s not you. Perhaps the highest accolades I’ve ever received, and theses weren’t one off comments; but many owners of establishments commented that when I solo, I seem to be in another dimension. “He looks like he’s left his body”.   The question: “How does he just throw his head back and solo? “ Is not uncommon.  Personally, (and stick with me) I think the music has a soul of its own and if you’re good enough and you allow it to; you become (As Eric Clapton said about SRV) a conduit for the sound of the music.  It’s like giving birth to the music.  Playing “Eruption” or “Cliffs of Dover” is an accomplishment, yet so is working on an assembly line, that’s not what the Guitar Slinger does.  The truth is, the Slinger never knows what he’s going to do.  My solos have become random pieces of subconscious recall.

 

Don’t get me wrong. I’m not saying don’t practice or rehearse.  I’m saying practice to command your guitar until it becomes a living part of your body.  It gets mad when you refer to it as an instrument or even an extension of your body; rather an equal part of your body.  Your guitar wants to go out of its body with you on your out of body experience.  Respect your guitar like a Major league Pitcher holds a baseball.  He holds it like an egg. When you’re done with your guitar, put it back in its case or its womb.  How dare you let a drunk knock it over.

 

The Alpha Musician

 

It’s not an issue of control. It’s an issue of leadership.  In the big band days and even today orchestras need conductors.  That’s the Guitar Slinger.  A good Alpha Musician will give the other musicians the respect and acknowledgment they need.  You never want to hear: “Who the fuck does he think he is”?  Instead; if you come together like a synergistic organism, your bass and drummer are going to anticipate the unanticipated.  I have video where I can see myself looking back at the drummer and giving him a wink because we both knew the song would sound better with an accent at a certain spot.  A tight band with a strong leader will communicate telepathically after a while.

Lastly ~ Singing
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Let me quote Jimi Hendrix: “I liked the Idea that guys like Bob Dylan could be successful and not have to be the best singers”.  Jimi’s biggest hit, (believe it or not) was not Purple Haze, rather “All along the watchtower”.

Let me quote the musician that penned the song “Old Time Rock and Roll: “Yeah I took six years of my life trying to play guitar. No!  I wasted six years of my life trying to play guitar. ~ Bob Segar

Let me quote Joe Satriani when asked by Guitar Player Magazine why his album “Surfing with the Alien” was an instrumental album.  Joe replied: “Oh I can sing, but just listen to this”.  He then played a beautiful instrumental part of his new album. (Sans vocals).

 

There you have it. A response from one of the GREATEST Guitar Slingers ever ~ Jimi Hendrix.  A regret from the singer and writer of the Iconic song “Old Fashion Rock and Roll confessing he wasted time trying to be a “Guitar Slinger” ~ Bob Segar.   Finally, a response from a Guitar Virtuoso who thought his music would be ruined by adding vocals ~ Joe Satriani.  As you can see, the Guitar Slinger today, more than ever, has become an anomaly.

If you were a blues guitarist, you weren’t if you couldn’t sing and play (Throw down).  Just die, go to music heaven and ask BB King, Stevie Ray Vaughan, Jeff Healy, Gary Moore, Robert Johnson and Johnny Winter. If you really want to know if you’re worthy of the “Guitar Slinger” moniker; try and entertain an audience while playing “Scat”.

 

The Guitar Slinger part 1 History

The Guitar Slinger part 1 History

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(Definition, vernacular, Guitar Monster who sings lead vocals and astonishes audiences with guitarmanship)

headman

 

Examples include: “Chuck Berry”, Jimi Hendrix, Stevie Ray Vaughan and Ace Andres

We’re a dying breed.  (So I’ve been told)

The story starts with a trumpet player named Louis Armstrong.  Armstrong is in the Smithsonian Institute for creating the format which would be followed by the “Guitar Slinger” for decades to follow.  What was his invention?

He was the first to establish the songwriting style which began with two verses, a chorus, a solo, a third verse, a chorus then an end.

chuck-duck

Perhaps the first true “Guitar Slinger” was Chuck Berry.  His hit song Johnny B. Goode was one of his 27 hits in which the Father of Rock and Roll would open with a signature guitar solo then sing two verses, a chorus, then perform a guitar solo, then a final verse and end on a finishing solo (often called the outro).

The original Guitar Slinger who may or may not be the creator of the discipline was a young blues singer named Robert Johnson.  His 29 songs became material for Early Rock bands who had not yet become comfortable in recording original music.  Many of these songs still exist today.  Songs that have no known writer such as the Blues standard “Boot Hill”.  (Last made famous by Stevie Ray Vaughn)

In the early days of Rock and Roll, before Classic Rock, before the Beatles, before progressive rock, punk rock, new wave and pop rock, (etc.…) There existed only one sound in the genre of Rock and Roll.  It was “Roots Rock” which we often refer to today as “Rockabilly”.   Rock music at the time was personified by artists like Chuck Berry, Little Richard, Elvis Presley (AKA: The King of Rock and Roll) and more importantly Buddy Holley known as Buddy Holly.  The spelling of his last name was a clerical error that was never corrected. Although Buddy Holly’s importance is not derived from his guitar prowess; he is historically important as being the first musician to create a major paradigm shift in pop music.  Holly composed, recorded, produced and performed his own music.  Elvis sang songs that were written by songwriters, produced by men like Sam Phillips and the King was often accompanied by studio musicians with various backgrounds.  Although The King was always seen with a guitar around his neck, he does not meet the prerequisites as a “Guitar Slinger”.

The guitar slinger is known more for his prowess as a guitarist first then as a lead singer.  Even though one of the greatest singers of our time played a Fender Telecaster on “Crazy Little Thing Called Love”, Freddy Mercury also does not meet the prerequisites as a “Guitar slinger”.  Early guitar Slingers like Chuck Berry were known for their guitar solos as well as the songs they wrote and sang.

The Day the Music Died

buddy

1959 – 1960 was a bad year for the Guitar Slinger.  Rock music lost both Buddy Holly (That’ll be the day) and the young up and coming, Ritchie Valens (“La Bamba”, “Come on Let’s go”) in a plane that crashed shortly after takeoff in a cornfield in Clearwater IA.  Then in 1960 a young rocker from Minnesota named Eddie Cochrane (Summertime blues) would die in an automobile accident in England.
Between 1959 and 1963 the only Guitar Slinger still making music was Chuck Berry.  Sadly, “Race” Music had not been fully accepted as main stream entertainment by the world.  Players like Chuck Berry and Little Richard would be confined to the “Chitterling” circuit.  Their music was being covered by socially acceptable Caucasian entertainers like “Pat Boone”.

Various Elvis manifestations would be force fed to the youth of America when Elvis enlisted in the U.S. Army in 1958.  Hollywood saw this new genre of Rock and Roll as “musical sex”.  The default formula for Hollywood when a drought of Rock talent would arise would be to find a harmless pretty boy and put a guitar in his hands.  (Playing was optional).  Among these pretty boys that arose after the loss of Buddy and Ritchie was Ricky Nelson.  Ricky Nelson was the product of an early 60’s television show called Ozzie and Harriet.  The band Queen would go on to perform “Mary Lou” up until Freddie Mercury’s death in 1991.

It wasn’t until the British Invasion during the mid-sixties that we saw the Guitar Slinger make young kids want to do more than strum chords on their guitars.  As fate would have it; Elvis Presley’s manager Tom Parker had a fear of flying.  This phobia gave a huge advantage to Buddy Holly and his band the Crickets.  Holly, Cochrane and Gene Vincent did tour the U.K. transforming British pub bands that were playing a “blue grass” style of music called “Skiffle” to American rock music.

The British Invasion

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Eric Clapton

The “Crickets” spawned English bands with similar names such as the “Beatles”.   The absence of Elvis in England can explain why England produced the most “Bands” while the U.S. produced the most “Solo Artists”.  The Guitar Slingers that would blossom from an English band, would often relocate to the U.S. and enjoy a career as a “Solo Artist”. Guitarists that could sing, like Eric Clapton and Peter Frampton would eventually leave their bands and come to the States to enhance their careers as “Guitar Slingers”. However; the true Guitar Slinger has been mainly an American character due to the origin of Blues or Rhythm and Blues music.  Again, it all goes back to Robert Johnson.

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One U.K. band did back an amazing Guitar Slinger by the name of Alvin Lee.  Alvin Lee was the front man for the U.K. band “Ten Years After”.  Alvin Lee was Chuck Berry on steroids in a Ferrari.  Many will remember Ten Years After as the band that stole the show at Woodstock.  Lee would share the stage at Woodstock with one of the greatest Guitar Slingers to touch 6 strings.  A young up and coming guitarist who got his start with Little Richard named Jimi Hendrix closed out Woodstock but it was two years earlier in Monterey California that Jimi Hendrix would be re-introduced to America.

lhjimi

One of the first major outdoor festivals that made Rock Music main stream entertainment was at the Monterey fairgrounds in 1967. (The summer of Love).  Not only is the recording of Jimi Hendrix live at the Monterey Pop Festival still a classic, but many guitarists still have the poster of Jimi burning his guitar on stage.  Jimi was the 2nd great Guitar Slinger to be celebrated.  At the time, there was nobody playing like Jimi.

In the late 60s, many solo artists would make attempts at playing guitar solos during their songs, but most of these artists were known more for the song and their vocals.  Johnny Rivers (Secret Agent man) comes to mind. They had guitar skills but were not known as guitarists.  Speaking of Johnny’s; in the late 60s and early 70s a phenomenal Guitar Slinger from Waco Texas would surface as one of America’s best Guitarists.  Johnny Winter had a Rock and Roll voice and was a Guitarist’s Guitarist.

johnny-winter

Although Johnny wrote little original music, he made a living off of recycling Rolling Stone hits. (A band that made a living off of Robert Johnson songs.) Whenever there would be a “Night of the Guitars”.  Johnny Winter would always end up making others turn their volume knobs down.  Nobody played like Johnny Winter.  There is a session recording of Johnny and Jimi before Jimi died out there in bootleg land.

In the late 70s, bands like Led Zepplin , Pink Floyd, and Aerosmyth would feature lead singers and carry a phenomenal guitarist as a side attraction.  (Jimmy Page, David Gilmour, Joe Perry) Then, many great guitaraists that couldn’t sing, would tour under their name, but would hire a lead singer to sing for them. Examples include Robin Trower, Ronnie Montrose and Van Halen.

Blues Guitar Slingers

The concept of the Guitar Slinger was carved out of Blues Music.  Gary Moore who spent a great deal of his career playing “Hard Rock” became a blues solo Guitar Slinger. B.B. King spent his whole career singing and playing blues.  His prowess appears to be divided along racial lines. I’ve found that his black audience loves his guitar playing while his white audience enjoys that deep blues voice.  I like them both.  Jeff Healy, a Canadian made a name for himself as one of the best “Shredding” Guitar Slingers.  He played better blind than most guitarist with the help of YouTube videos.

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Finally the last great Guitar Slinger of worldwide fame was Stevie Ray Vaughan.  Stevie was just a kid from Texas playing along with Jimi Hendrix records.  Like so many talented Texas Guitar Slingers, the Stars aligned just right for Stevie, who decided to do the singing himself, and he was noticed by an English Artist named David Bowie who asked him to perform on his hit Album “Let’s Dance”.  Stevie died tragically in a helicopter accident after playing a blues concert in Wisconsin that featured several other Blues artists that included Buddy Guy, Eric Clapton, Jimmy Vaughan and BB King.

SIN CITY & 2 Legends

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Rick Wakeman, Ace Andres, Trevor Rabin and Jon Anderson

 

I don’t know how to keep this epic Odyssey short because it really consists of various people and getting to meet 2 Heroes and 2 cents worth of advice on American Airlines.

I’ve flown 200,000 + miles on United Airlines.(In one year) I’m no stranger to air travel.  I’ve flown from LAX to Atlanta and back on American Airlines and wanted to kiss the ground each time I got off the plane.  For some reason, on my recent trip to Las Vegas (Sin City), I couldn’t just fly from Reno NV to Las Vegas NV.  (Like SF to LA or Seattle to Portland) NO!  I had to fly from Reno to Phoenix (2 hour layover) then to Sin City.  The return trip was in reverse. I have a new least favorite airport. (Atlanta being the first) But avoid McCarran International if at all possible.

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Viva Las Vegas

There are 3 things I’m annoyed by in airports. (not counting TSA)

Trains/shuttles.  If you need a tram or subway to get you to ground transportation or your gate, the airport is too damn big.
People movers aka flat escalators. If you need a moving track to stand on the airport is too damn big. (Only exception is O’Hare because of the PRETTY LIGHTS)

Last are gates that are a mile apart. In Phoenix, they have two long people Movers to get you from Terminal A to Terminal B.  (Note* don’t touch the handrail unless you’ve brought hand sanitizer with you (3.5 oz. of less)

This works for all destinations. If you have to use a Taxi (Über not withstanding) call the concierge at the hotel and ask what the meter reads from the airport to your hotel.  This way you don’t get “literally” taken for a ride. If the round trip Taxi fee is more than the price of a car rental for the whole time you’re there, rent the car. (Check to see if Hotel parking is free first)

 

Viva ARW

When you get older, you realize time is more valuable than money. (If you have enough money) yes, I know the word “enough” is ambiguous. Some say you can never have enough money. If you can pay your bills and not have to borrow money to do something, then I recommend reading King Solomon’s book, Ecclesiastes.  For you pagan hippies, it’s the book in the Bible the Byrds’ song Turn, Turn, Turn came from . *Hint; It’s in the old testament.

I Posted This on Facebook’s Todd Rundgren Radio on September 10th 2016. There are only three living Musicians that I would pay to see perform. Trevor Rabin, Rick Wakeman and Todd Rundgren. In a recent interview shortly after David Bowie’s death, Rick Wakeman talks about recording “Life on Mars”. He said he was really impressed by David’s key modulations.

I had just performed “A dream goes on forever” written by Todd Rundgren (18 chords?) live for the first time. So I asked Rick what his thoughts on “Todd’s” songwriting were.

Expecting to hear tremendous accolades, Rick replied: “Sorry, I do not have any Todd CDs”. Oh well. Most of my songwriting mentors put Todd at the top of their list of best song writers and producers.

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As you can see I not only met Rick Wakeman and Trevor Rabin but we posed like the Beatles from the “Meet the Beatles” album (back cover) All of us had fun pretending to be the Fab four.  John made the funniest comment of the night.  When I moved Jon Anderson from the middle of the group to the far right, I said: “OK, Jon you’re Ringo.  Trevor I need you to put your left outstretched hand on Jon’s right shoulder”.  As I moved Rick Wakeman (Who appears to be 10 feet tall and bullet proof) he gave me that look of “How dare you touch me”.  I must confess, I think a few drops of urine came out when he gave me the look.  Rick, however; was cordial when I said: “Rick, you’re Maca and I need you to hold your chin with your hand”.  Jon Anderson then said: “Well who do you get to be”? (Like little kids playing make believe)
I responded: “I’m going to be John Lennon. Wouldn’t you want to be John?”  Jon said: “Well of course”.  I think we all had fun and “Played” like little kids for just a few moments.

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Todd Rundgren

Now it’s time to meet Todd. Then who knows?

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Michio Kaku

Michio Kaku? The Theoretical Physicist?  He’s a modern day Einstein that believes in the possibility that we are not alone and the “Truth is Out There”.

Meeting Rick was like kissing the King’s Ring. Meeting Trevor was like meeting a long lost Twin. We had so much in common.  It was wonderful to see him on stage using the Slide I gave him that “I” used on my recording of “Sleepwalk”.  To me, they were just performers like myself only much more experienced and polished.

coveyDr. Stephen R. Covey

Meeting Trevor and Rick wasn’t the spiritual moment I talked about when I wrote the article “Meeting Stephen Covey”. Perhaps it’s because Stephen changed my life and I owe my adult core values and character to the late Dr.Covey. Rick Wakeman and Trevor Rabin are fellow musicians that I greatly admire. They didn’t change me. It was an honor to meet them. Dr. Covey was a blessing.

If I ever have to go to Sin City again, it will be too soon and I will have to think about it twice.

 

 

 

PLAY FROM THE HEART

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NOT FROM THE STAGE

Let me quote a musician that plays music I enjoy. His name is DAN BAIRD! Most of you have heard Dan on the song “Keep your hands to yourself”.  His music is entertaining and very desirable for the simple minded.  But although he acts like a redneck, Dan is smarter than his music makes him appear.  Dan once said in an Interview: “Once I put away my “YES” albums and other progressive rock albums and stuck with (as he calls it) Runka Runka songs. (Chuck Berry style). I was on my way.”  He had direction.  A few years later, “Keep your hands to yourself” became a hit.  Remember hits?

 

….Todd is the Irving Berlin of our time.

When I recorded my first album in 2002, it was called “Cowboy Hat Blues” it was a power blues album that was comparable to Pat Travers, Gary Moore and yes, Stevie Ray Vaughan. But the songs on that album that I like the most are the songs that sounded like an obscure artist (obscure to the public) named Todd Rundgren.  To me, Todd is the Irving Berlin of our time.  He made a name for himself in 1972 with AM hits like “Hello it’s me” and “I saw the light”. The first song I ever recorded was a blatant rip off of “I saw the light”.  (BTW the song is harder to play than it sounds) All of Todd’s songs are really hard to play especially if you’ve been playing Chuck Berry songs all of your life.

In 2005 I released my 2nd Album called American Infidel.  It was a Rockabilly Album with a few original metal protest songs on it and the Wave Magazine reviewed the Album and gave me the moniker: “The Guitar god of Los Altos”. It’s a label that’s impossible to live up to.  But American Infidel is my favorite Album that I’ve recorded.  Especially with songs like “Sleepwalk” and “Viva Las Vegas” on it.

…..I kept my monster locked in the cellar

 In 2008 I released an album that was a little of this and a little of that. There’s not a cover song on it, but it’s sort of a religious album with a heavy personal growth back beat.  There’s funk on it.  There’s even a little rap on it. (Only one short song). There’s a two part song that has a Prog Rock (YES/Close to the edge) intro then a song that sounds like Dave Edmunds wrote that it transitions to.  I have a song with a Hawaiian title called “Ho’Oponopono”. The album was recorded as an attempt to be used in the Sequel to the underground movie “The Secret”.  The music is directly from my heart.  I went into the studio and wrote and recorded as I went. It’s a fine album but as for my musical prowess, the Guitar god only makes a few appearances.  I kept my monster locked in the cellar for the third album.  I was more dedicated to the message and beautiful chords.  The lyrics are hard to understand unless you’ve read Napoleon Hill, Wallace Wattles, the Bible or other motivational speakers like Matthew Kelly and Stephen R. Covey.

 ….what the hell had I done to myself

Where am I now? All I can ask is what the hell had I done to myself. I wasn’t the guitar shredder I was on American Infidel or during the 2002 tours.  I said to myself as I’m getting up there in the years: “I’ve got to cover my favorite Todd Rundgren song “A Dream Goes on Forever”.   Todd is not an easy musician to cover, believe me when I say that is a gross understatement.  In this video Todd has problems playing his own brilliant creation.  If you only listen to one lyric; Listen to the last line.

 

….I WAS PLAYING FROM THE RIGHT SIDE OF MY BRAIN

I learned how to play that damn song and it made me feel like the guitar Fod. (Fodder). It was like learning to play Mozart’s Belleview concerto. (That’s Belleview as in the mental institution in New York)  I was so proud of myself. Big deal. I can play a song with 17 different chords in it. (Blues songs usually only have 3 chords) I played it in front of an audience and I think I was the only one that could really appreciate it. It was more work than fun.  I was playing it with the right side of my brain. (Not good)  To me music should be subjective.  Even when I covered Viva Las Vegas, you can’t tell what the song is until the chorus.

So what’s the message? Play what makes you feel good.  Club owners who have seen me play say that when I play, it looks as if I’m having an out of body experience.  When you watch my videos, I just throw my head back and let the music come out through my fingers. To quote Bleeding gums Murphy:

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Bleeding Gums Murphy

“Music is like a flame that comes out of your heart and when it does, you better put a guitar in front of it.  But I’ve seen the other side.  I’ve seen beyond the curtains.  On one side of music is your soul. Dr. Covey would call it your inner voice. On the other side is your creative genius. I’ve learned to write lyrics like Todd Rundgren (also known as one of the greatest songwriters ever) and I’ve found that his influence has been reflected in my songs. On my first album I wrote a song called “Coming home” which has 11 chords and I was so proud of this song. Since I’ve been down the rabbit hole; I could never bore an audience with some cheap 3 chord version of “Mustang Sally”. (Or was that 2 chords?) So after incorporating all of my favorite material from Queen to Steve Vai, I’ve become myself.  Some say I sound like Brian Adams, some say Warren Zevon.  I was once told in Florida that Jimi Hendrix was dead. I responded: “Not until I say he is”.

…..PLAY WHAT MAKES YOU FEEL GOOD.

 In the end, if it’s 2 chords or 17 chords, play what makes you feel good. It’s like being on a roller coaster ride. (If you love roller coasters like I do) Why do you put your hands up in the air on the descent?  Because others doing it appear to be having more fun.  If you’re having fun on stage the audience will sense it and start playing air guitar with you.  But that’s just my experience.  Playing music without emotion is like riding a flat rollercoaster and trust me, your audience with not be throwing their hands in the air.

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10 THINGS I MISS FROM the 20th CENTURY

Mels

10

Fresh Milk – Milk used to be a liquid that came in a sterile bottle from the dairy.   It would mysteriously appear on your porch.

9

 Mail boxes at my doorstep.  You never had to walk 2 blocks to get your mail.

8

When athletes didn’t use Performance Enhancing Drugs. (Steroids) Record books didn’t have asterisks next to the player due to congressional allegations.

7

Cars that looked like the company brand. (When a Buick looked like a Buick) Now every car looks like the bastard child of a Prius.

6

Safe Neighborhoods that weren’t gated. You could leave your doors unlocked and your kids knew that the street lights were their curfew. 

5

Drive in Diners (Not junk fast food holes)  A&W Root beer Drive ins were fine.  At least the meat was cooked in the same zip code.  They had Jukeboxes and pinball machines.

4

Movies like Casablanca that didn’t require special effects and gratuitous sex.  Actors actually had to study acting. 

3

 Schools that educated the student; not public hangouts that passed even the dumbest of Obamas for the federal dollars.

Ronald Reagan and the Pledge of Allegiance.

1

A healthy respect for the Holy Trinity. (GD was not allowed on TV, let alone cartoons) Politicians didn’t drop F bombs.  

 

3 Magical Moments

 PurpleSS

In My Life ~ so far

PREFACE

Saying when my kids were born, or being baptized and born again are too easy. I might add that I have baptized others which was wonderful, but it wasn’t a “Magical” moment.  Perhaps it was the most important thing I did but for this blog entry, let me share three things that I will never forget.

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Sometimes, the cosmos aligns just right

1  In 1975 I was driving my 1968 MGC-GT from the San Francisco Bay area to my new home in San Diego. I had just put brand new speakers and a stereo system in this British Sports car the size of a Volkswagen. Driving with the speakers past 5 was like wearing headphones. Sometimes, the cosmos aligns just right and you receive an experience that gets tattooed into your memory. I had started my climb up Grapevine hill north of L.A. County around 4:00 PM in early spring. (The sun set closer to 5:30). I had hit the summit of the Grapevine just as the sun was going down. What was once a blue sky, was now turning pink.

Nature_Purple

I had bought 4 new audio tapes for the ride. I went into the climb listening to the first Montrose album. It was loud and rocked my dendrites and neurons with incredible perfection. Finally, it was time to unwrap the last tape. I had not heard anything from the album, nor did I own any albums from this artist as they were known for one of the best-selling albums in history: “The Dark Side of the Moon”. I had made it to the top of the mountain and slipped into the tape player: “Wish you were here”. By this time the sun had set even further and the horizon was pink and the sky was purple. After the intro lead guitar was over, sunset had occurred. The driver side window had stars while the passenger side (Pacific Ocean side) was deep purple. The stereo was at about 7 and I felt like I was having an out of body experience. I felt like I was having a wonderful hallucination. I was not expecting this perfect alignment of sky, stars, sun and sound. You had to be there. Sometimes God gives us a wink and a smile.

18 Years Later

KimBasinger

2  In 1993 I was living in the city of Angles. Yes I had a condo in Marina Del Rey. There’s a saying in L.A.: “You’ll never know who you’re going to run into so always dress attractive and keep head shots with you”.   I always dressed like myself. Black James Dean Motorcycle Jacket, faded Levis 501s and a black mock turtleneck shirt with Hi-top Basketball shoes. Typical Ramones attire. My favorite restaurant in L.A. was Edie’s diner on Admiralty Drive. I was walking east on the marina side of the street and who do I see waiting to cross the street? I was stunned and I’m sure it showed. I stopped to process what I was witnessing. She stopped in between parked cars and noticed me staring at her. She flipped her hair back from in front of her face, waved, smiled and gave me an unexpected wink. I just stood and watched as Kim Basinger crossed the street and headed towards what was then the Double Tree Hotel.  As I continued to walk away, I looked back only to catch her looking back at me.

Years later, I would learn that she had just done a recording (singing) on an Ozzie Osbourne track. And yes; She was just as beautiful in person as on the silver screen.

Stars

3  In 1995 I was camping near Lake Tahoe at a location known as Emerald Bay. We had a tent and a nice campfire. Sitting next to the warm campfire in a lawn chair, I let my head recline to stare at the stars. The moon was not out and we were miles from south shore Lake Tahoe making the whole universe visible. While gazing at the constellations, I noticed several shooting stars and one bright star that seemed as bright as Venus. Only I knew where Venus was. Then in less than 2 seconds this star made 2 moves that defied astrophysics. It made a figure 4 maneuver and disappeared. No, I don’t do drugs. It was there, then it went one way, hung a sharp right then another sharp right turn and it was gone. It was my only UFO sighting.  Bill Byrnes would go on to say that Lake Tahoe is right smack in the middle of the UFO triangle on the west coast which goes from area 51 to Edward’s Air Force Base to Mt. Shasta.

Remember, tomorrow is not promised

I’ve had many “Wow” moments in my life. Too many to recall. Things like meeting the late Dr. Stephen Covey or Neil Young. I’ve even seen a flock of flying fish.  I saw a Poseidon missile come out of the ocean less than 50 yards from me. I’ve heard a bullet whistle by my ear and lived to tell about it and I saw Troy Tulowitski do an unassisted triple play. WOW. I could go on. I’ve been blessed.

Warren Zevon recorded his final album while letting Mesothelioma take his life. But he said two extremely profound lines amongst many, but the two I will always remember is a dying man saying that when he wakes up in the morning he says to himself: “I guess I made it another day.” Then as fans were sending him mail telling him how they were moved by his decision NOT to do the Chemo and Radiation therapy. Warren said: “I think it’s a sin to not want to live”.

Remember, tomorrow is not promised and comes with problems of its’ own. Yesterday is history and you cannot change it. Today is the day you can make changes that determine your future.

Don’t fear judgment day. Fear today! ~ Ace Andres   

CONCENTRATING ON SURVIVAL

Keller Ave

 

Some near death experiences you can never shake. I spent a day riding Helicopters.  Rushing from one to another.  One had a warning light which forced us to make a hard landing. There wasn’t much I could do but hold on.

I heard what I mistook for firecrackers. Then I heard a whistle next to my right ear and my knees knew just what to do.  On my way down I told my senior officer to get down. (He hadn’t heard the bullet and thought nothing of the fire crackers) I would go through a minor stage of PTSD about a half an hour later.

I’ve been in two major car accidents and one near miss. That thing about your life flashing before your eyes didn’t happen to me.

BUT !!!

When I was 18 I was living on Greenridge ave. in Oakland California.  It’s just next to Keller ave which takes you up to “Skyline” blvd.  My first skateboard was run over by my brother in law when I was 11.  With one of my first paychecks, I stopped at Sears and bought a “Makaha” skateboard.  It was pretty cool for the time. (1974?)  It cost about $15.00 as opposed to the $200.00 boards you can buy today.  It was cheap, making my near death experience all that much nearer.

Makaha

So in an effort to prove my skating abilities (and to see if I still could ride a board) I went about 1/3 of the way up Keller. It didn’t exactly look like Powell Street in San Francisco but looks are deceiving.  I had two great things going for me.  I had brand new trucks and wheels on this little 18” board and NO CARS turned onto the road I was on.  But I had one very formidable foe ~ “Gravity“.

At first it was amusing and quite fun. Then as I picked up speed, the fun turned to horror.  My wheels started vibrating and making a dull roar. Before I knew it, I was flying down this mountain road.  As with the first near fatal accident I was in, there was a moment when time slowed down.  My mind realized that I was going so fast that if I tried to abort this act of stupidity, I was E.R. bound or worse, morgue bound.  I was in too much danger to be scared.

Have you ever been there?

So as I was nearing the bottom, I could see flat ground. What was amazing was that the angle of descent, didn’t stop until I got to a flat surface.  It went from about a 30 degree incline to nothing in about 10 feet.

I thought I was out of the woods once I hit flat land. Then I realized that a busy cross street awaited me at the bottom.  So almost without thinking, I made a left turn and slowed to a stop on a back street that paralleled the busy street.

Exact words to self: “THAT WAS STUPID”. To this day I have never had to endure such constant fear combined with self-control.  I refused to panic and I did not.  I knew if I didn’t make it, there was not going to be a happy ending to this story.  To this day I have visions of the Wild World of Sports downhill skier biting it as he approached the jump.  That’s what would have happened to me only I would have hit a parked car or lost my skull to road rash.

God was with me. 

 

DAVID BOWIE

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He changed our culture.  He changed music, for good or bad you be the judge and history will decide.

 

When I was a kid practicing guitar every day, I saw the manifestation of Ziggy Stardust. I was speechless.  I felt he was somewhat enigmatic.  But up to that time, Rock music had guys who wouldn’t even face the audience.  You can still go to a bar and see a blues band where the musicians are statues.

 

David put color in Rock music. His music, although often described as “Glam” was far more profound.  If you go on you tube and watch the great Rick Wakeman, (who played keys on “Life on Mars”) he said Bowie’s chord structure was like nothing he had ever seen.

To say David played Glam conjures up visions of the New York Dolls. The only thing Glam about David for the beginning of his career were the theatrics in his performance.  America had its’ version in Alice Cooper.  But David’s music was, at heart, Rhythm and Blues.  On his album “Let’s Dance” he hired a young Texas kid named Stevie Ray Vaughn to play the solos.

 

In his albums like “Young Americans” he showed the “soul” side of his persona. In fact he appeared on “Soul Train”.  (A 70s American TV version of Bandstand designed for African Americans)

 

Of all of the headliners, I always wanted to do Bowie’s farewell tour. When I stopped touring and focused on recording, fans would ask when I would be on the road again.  For 10 years, my standard response was: “David Bowie hasn’t called me yet”.   (Spoken half in jest) I made every effort to get an audience with Mr. Bowie.  But after his heart attack in 2005, my connections and plans turned more to a dream.  Not a pipe dream but I knew the people around David but It never happened.

 

Back in 2002 I was supposed to tour Europe with “The man in black”, before the tour, Johnny Cash died.

 

So goes the story of Major Tom. With David gone its’ made me step back and take a look at the future.  To quote Tom Berenger’s character in the movie “Major League” when he was being berated by his ex-girlfriend’s new fiancé, he asked the has-been catcher: “What do you have planned for life after baseball”?  Taylor, (Berenger’s character) replies: “Something will come up”.

 

I guess that’s where I’m at. Thank you David for your music and the hope it generated.