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The Famous Grace Slick Salute

The famous Grace Slick Salute was giving the middle finger. In 1965 Grace Slick, a 26 year old San Francisco department store model, and her cinematographer husband Jerry had become bored with their conventional marriage. They decided to liven things up a bit. First, they would embrace free love and polyamory (in the common vernacular they became swingers). Second, they would begin experimenting with LSD. Third, after seeing The Jefferson Airplane perform Grace and Jerry decided that the embryonic San Francisco rock scene looked like a whole lot of fun and formed a band.

Grace had been playing piano and organ since childhood. Jerry was a drummer, his brother Darby played guitar and their friend David Miner was a bass player. They formed The Great Society, a band with an eastern modal approach to psychedelic rock. The Great Society was soon sharing the bill with bands like The Grateful Dead, Big Brother and The Holding Company and Jefferson Airplane.

In 1966 Jefferson Airplane’s female vocalist Signe Toly Anderson left the band when her pregnancy made it uncomfortable to tour. Grace Slick was asked to join. She hit the ground running, contributing two songs she had recorded with The Great Society: “Somebody To Love” and “White Rabbit”. Both songs were hits and Surrealistic Pillow was one of the albums that provided the soundtrack for The Summer of Love (1967).

Grace Slick was now a rockstar. She embraced all of the excesses of a life centered in Sex, Drugs and Rock and Roll. When it came to sex Grace’s trophies include everyone in Jefferson Airplane except Marty Balin and a roster of 60’s rockstars that includes Jim Morrison. When it came to drugs Grace Slick was not only the acid queen but very few of men could keep up with her drinking. Grace Slick used every 60’s and 70’s drug with the exception of heroin. (The decision to abstain from that drug is what kept her off the drug casualty list.) As a rocker Grace Slick played Monterey, Woodstock and Altamont, the three most important rock festivals of the 1960’s.

Grace Slick’s rap sheet is longer than Keith Richards. Here are a few of the highlights.

Drunk Mouth Arrests “Up against the wall, motherfucker!” More than one cop has been given the finger by Grace Slick.

Most of Grace Slick’s arrests have been misdemeanor drunk and disorderlies. Basically, when Grace gets drunk and sees cops she will start baiting them. It can be at a party, a concert or hotel lobby. She did it several times from the stage. If no microphone is available she will deliver one of her iconic one finger salutes. To say that Grace Slick has a problem with authority would be an understatement She had more balls than most sixties radicals..

Attempted to Dose President Richard Nixon with LSD

In 1970 outside The White House with hippie radical Abbie Hoffman.

In 1970, unbeknownst to the Nixon Administration, The Acid Queen received an invitation to a tea party at The White House. One of the colleges Grace Slick attended was Finch College in New York. Another Finch graduate was Tricia Nixon whose father had recently taken office. Invitations went out to all Finch alumni to a reunion at The White House. Grace decided she could end the Vietnam War by dosing Richard Nixon with acid. She brought 60’s radical hippie Abbie Hoffman as her plus one and enough LSD to spike the tea. The Secret Service recognized Hoffman and denied the couple entry.

Racing In The Streets

Jorma Kaukonen racing a mini-bike. In 1971 he pulled Grace Slick from her burning Aston Martin after she challenged him to a street race.

Jefferson Airplane lead guitarist Jorma Kaukonen had a passion for speed. He would race anything from go carts to sports cars. He even spent a winter in Finland learning how to speed skate.

In 1971, after a recording session that went into the wee wee hours, Grace Slick decided to challenge Jorma to a street race on the streets of San Francisco. On Doyle Drive Grace Slick spun out and hit a bridge abutment. The Aston Martin was totaled. Grace walked away with a few scratches and made the recording session the next evening.

 

The Acid Queen Declares War On Germany

Between 1974 and 1978 Grace Slick, Paul Kantner and Marty Balin had a string of four hit albums as Jefferson Starship. In 1978 they were headlining a festival in Hamburg. Grace Slick was too drunk to perform. The fans rioted and set the band’s equipment on fire. Grace Slick, the erstwhile 60’s radical anti-war activist, declared war on Germany.

The band (including singer Grace Slick) was on tour in Europe to promote the recently released Earth album when a stop in Germany deteriorated into a confusing mess. “She’d always had a thing about Germany,” Jeff Tamarkin wrote in the band bio Got a Revolution! “All things Deutsche brought out the worst in her.”

During the tour of Europe, Slick fell ill. At first, everyone thought her stomach virus was a result of food poisoning. But a doctor diagnosed appendicitis and told Slick she was well enough to perform. A show in Wiesbaden was canceled, but the next night’s concert in Hamburg was still on.

As showtime neared, Slick tore into an alcohol-fueled tantrum, throwing bottles, refusing to get ready for the concert and demanding more booze from room service. By the time the band got onstage, she was in no condition to perform. The show was filmed for the German music program Rockpalast, but never aired – maybe because Slick began taunting the audience, repeatedly asking, “Who won the war?” She also called them Nazis and gave the “Heil Hitler!” salute onstage.

“I’m in Germany and I’m gonna get back at them for Dachau, or some dumb drunken decision,” Slick recalled in Tamarkin’s book. “That’s what that night was about: dumb, drunken decisions. So, they started walking out, but they kept coming back, like: ‘Maybe she’ll do something really hideous and we will have missed it.’ A freak show.”

She stepped in front of the camera and gave the viewers at home a close up of the famous Grace Slick one finger salute. Then she lept from the stage and stuck her middle finger up the nose of some poor concert goer who scored tickets for the front row. The fallout? Marty Balin quit the band and Grace was fired. Grace went to rehab and returned to the band three years later.

Armed Standoff With Police

After a late 1980’s reunion tour with Jefferson Airplane Grace Slick retired from music. She didn’t believe that people over the age of fifty should be performing as rock musicians. She took up painting and lived off her royalties. Retirement, however, did not slow down Grace Slick.

On March 4,1994 Grace Slick started chasing her boyfriend around her house and property with a shotgun, firing it several times. When the Tiburon California Police showed up she stood on her porch and pointed the shotgun at the cops demanding that they leave her property. During a moment’s distraction the cops wrestled the shotgun from her. Grace Slick was arrested and changed with several felonies. A plea bargain allowed her to get away with a fine, probation and a stint in rehab.

Rock’s Ultimate Survivors?

Grace Slick is now in her eighties. She survived several health scares. She lives in Malibu, California and sells paintings. Grace Slick is one of rock’s ultimate survivors and deserves to be included in the same group of badasses as Keith Richards, Ozzy Osborne, Iggy Pop and Lemmy.

Grace Slick with the other two surviving members of Jefferson Airplane, Jack Casady (l) and Jorma Kaukonen(r).

“Hello you fools You got Rembrandts on the mantle and a Rolls in the garage but your old man wouldn’t know a clitoris from a junk bond even if you had the guts to show him your twat in the first place.”Grace Slick speaking to an audience of wealthy patrons at The Whitney Museum of Art.

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Not So Random Selection of Top Acts of the first British Music Invasion

Two years short of 60 years ago, the invasion of British Pop and Rock music was spearheaded by the Beatles appearance on the Ed Sullivan show. In a short period of time the thermometer in the American music scene, the Billboard Top 100, changed dramatically Here are the major top British acts considered as game changers.

The Beatles: Beatlemania didn’t happen for nothing. They weren’t an average boyband. Lennon and McCartney were divinely touched, possessing the ability to write pop songs that were pretty and not sappy. Harrison was truly an innovator on the guitar, finding the strange notes to use rather than the obvious ones. He also never overstayed his welcome, with solos short and concise, making every second count. How four men could transform several times between 1962 and 1965 is amazing. Moving from pop classics like “Please Please Me”  and “I Wanna Hold Your Hand” to mature songs like “In My Life” and “Nowhere Man” in such little time is evidence enough as to why they resonate so many decades later. The Beatles as a band called it quits in 1969, after which time all four members started solo careers, with Paul McCarthy gaining most success. He is still doing 3 hour sold out shows at age 80 in 2022. Sadly John Lennon was murdered in New York City in December 1980 and George Harrison died of cancer in 2001, while Ringo still tours strong at the age of 82.

The Rolling Stones: Always showing off a hard edge, the Stones kept the blues alive and well in their early days. Pushed by their manager Andrew Loog Oldham, Jagger and Richards started writing their own compositions and quickly learned how to make a tune that was rough around the edges without succumbing to cheap shock-value. The Beatles were masters of gorgeous love songs, but the Stones were the masters of fury and blue collar disgust. “Satisfaction,” “The Last Time,” “19th Nervous Breakdown,” and “Play With Fire” all show these boys, some of the top musicians of their day, in gleeful rage. Today the Stones are considered the world’s best rock and roll band, as they still fill up stadium venues in 2022, even though drummer Charly Watts is no longer with us. He passed away at age 80 in 2022.

The Kinks: Before singer/songwriter Ray Davies started reflecting on the beauty and futility of English culture, The Kinks were pioneers of hard rock. “You Really Got Me”  and “All Day and All of the Night” was the testament of four wild men.However, it wasn’t long before they began letting Indian influences into their songs, as in “See My Friends.” Their best Invasion period tracks, “A Well-Respected Man,” and “Lola” showed off Ray’s wit, an attack on the upper classes and a preview of the satirical nature of their future songs.

 

The Who: Pete Townshend, Roger Daltrey, Keith Moon, and John Entwistle were only in the British Invasion era for its last year (1965), but they stuck out immediately. One didn’t need to see them live to feel their energy. “My Generation” and “I Can’t Explain”, “Substitute”, created the dawn of a new direction in rock (even if The Kinks probably deserve more credit for the sound than they received). “The Kids Are Alright” was clearly influenced by The Beatles, but included that energy that was purely that of The Who. Few bands, to this day, put such vigor into their work. Everyone was pulling their weight. The band’s talent was clear progressive as they managed to change their musical directions when they introduced the rock operas Quadrophenia and Tommy in the late 1960s.

The Zombies: Led by Rod Argent’s glorious keyboard and Colin Blunstone’s pristine vocals, the Zombies still seem an oddity in the British Invasion canon. There weren’t really any other bands that based their songs off of keyboard riffs. “Tell Her No” and “Is This The Dream?” showed off a Motown vibe by a band that was all about capturing a cool atmosphere. Sadly, they were quickly forgotten after the height of the Invasion even though they recorded two lasting evergreens with “She’s Not There” and the incredible “Time of the Season”. When they parted ways Blunstone and Argent found successful careers.

The Yardbirds: Jeff Beck, Jimmy Page and Eric Clapton were leading this group, one that gave garage rock a perfect start, before they became household names. Working off of the Chicago blues, as the Stones loved, the Yardbirds combined it with a raucous, experimental feel, much because of the prowess and talent of the lead guitar players and the harmonica talent of singer Keith Relf. “Heart Full of Soul,”Shapes of Things,” and particularly “For Your Love” stood out because they had a raw intensity that no one else was really trying at the time. Relf later founded the prog rock band Renaissance with his sister Jane.

The Animals: Eric Burdon has one of the most soulful voices of all-time and it was the glue that kept the Animals together. They were also one of the most socially conscious acts across the pond. Whether it was their take on “House of the Rising Sun,” “Don’t Let Me Be Misunderstood,” or “We Gotta Get Out of This Place,” The Animals spoke for the working class with no apologies. “House of the Rising Sun” became the starter song for every kid wanting to learn to play the guitar, simply because of Hilton Valentine’s repetitive chord progression. Alan Price on keyboards founded the Alan Price Set after the Animals broke up.

Herman’s Hermits: Another band that prided themselves in light pop songs, Peter Noone led Herman’s Hermits. “I’m Henry The Eighth,” “There’s A Kind of Hush,” and “I’m Into Something Good” have staying power because they don’t take themselves too seriously. The hit song “No Milk Today” is a prime example of this. The arrangements are lovely, but their best track is the stripped down “Listen People,” based on a descending chord progression, that is utterly beautiful.

The Hollies: Before Graham Nash teamed with David Crosby and Stephen Stills to form the supergroup Crosby, Stills, Nash, he took part in a group that became big on covers and light pop songs. The result was one of the most accessible bands of their time. Being able to churn out hits like “Bus Stop”, “I’m Alive” and “Look Out Any Window,” the Hollies would hit their peak just at the end of what is referred to as the British Invasion, but still earned their names among the greats. Other great songs that came from Graham Nash’s pen were: “Carrie Ann”, “He Ain’t Heavy, He’s my Brother”, and his parting gift to the Hollies “On a Carousel”.

 

Dave Clark 5: “Glad All Over,” “Bits and Pieces”,“Because,” and “Put A Little Love In Your Heart” are among the best songs of their time because they showed off an ease. Some of the best songs are based on sadness and anger, but there is something appealing about the Dave Clark 5’s ability to create breezy tunes that didn’t carry much weight. They were the second group of the British Invasion to appear on The Ed Sullivan Show in the United States (for two weeks in March 1964 following the Beatles’ three weeks the previous month). They would ultimately have 18 appearances on the show. The DC5 were one of the most commercially successful acts of the British Invasion, releasing seventeen top 40 hits in the US between 1964 and 1967.

Manfred Mann: Supported by the sound of double keyboards, Manfred Mann was primarily a blues/jazz based often changing line up of great London musicians that turned into a pop-r&b monster for a few years. They also became the first southern-England-based group to top the US Billboard Hot 100 during the British Invasion with a cover of the Exciter’s “Doo Wah Diddy Diddy”. The track reached the top of the UK, Canadian, and US charts. With the success of “Do Wah Diddy Diddy” the sound of the group’s singles moved away from the jazzy, blues-based music of their early years to a pop hybrid that continued to make hit singles from cover material. They hit No. 3 in the UK with another girl-group cover, “Sha La La” (originally by the Shirelles), which also reached No. 12 in the US and Canada, and followed it with the sentimental “Come Tomorrow” (originally by Marie Knight). Another hit during the British Invasion period was “Pretty Flamingo”. After singer Paul Jones left in 1966 to go back to the blues, he was replaced by Mike d’Abo who managed to take the band to another height in 1968 with the Dylan-penned “Mighty Quin”. The band called it quits in 1969.

The British Invasion years into the US Music scene started the essence of what happened to Rock and Roll in the decades that followed. The essence of the invasion was that British bands took most American blues and R&B sounds and songs and gave them their own innovations, rhythm changes and instrument adjustments. 

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Pink Floyd: A 50 Year Timeline

Pink FloydPink Floyd: Psychedelic Evergreens

Formed: 1965 in Cambridge & London, England
Years Active: 1965 through 1983 & 1987 to 1995; 2005-

Group’s Main Members: Syd Barrett (passed 2006), Roger Waters, David Gilmour, Nick Mason, Rick Wright (passed 2008)

Most bands do not survive if their lead singer, chief song writer and leader leaves. But for Pink Floyd, this not only happened once, but twice and still they roll on.

Continue reading Pink Floyd: A 50 Year Timeline

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Cream: The First Power Trio in Rock

Cream

Formed: late 1966 in London, England
Years Active: 1966 through 1968
Group’s Main Members: Eric Clapton, Jack Bruce (passed in 2015), Ginger Baker

Over a cup of tea at his mother-in-law’s flat, Jack Bruce agreed to let ‘bygones be bygones’ with Ginger Baker and the three of them got together for the first rehearsal in Ginger’s ground floor maisonette at 154 Braemar Avenue, Neasden in North West London, just a stone’s throw from Wembley Stadium where English football history was very soon to be made. It was an auspicious summer.

Continue reading Cream: The First Power Trio in Rock

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Skynyrd: The Reason The Band Survived

lynyrd skynyrdFormed: 1965 in Jacksonville, Florida
Years Active: 1965 through 1977 and 1987 to present
Group’s Main Members: Ronnie Van Zant, Gary Rossington, Allen Collins, Bob Burns, Billy Powell, Leon Wilkeson, Ed King, Artimus Pyle, Steve Gaines

Members that passed away: Ronnie Van Zant (1977), Steve Gaines (1977),  Allen Collins (1990), Leon Wilkeson (2001), Billy Powell (2009), Bob Burns (2015)

Continue reading Skynyrd: The Reason The Band Survived

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Bob Marley Legend

Bob Marley Legend – RIP May 11, 1981

Born on February 6, 1945, in St. Ann Parish, Jamaica, Bob Marley helped introduce reggae music to the world and remains one of the genre’s most beloved artists to this day. The son of a black teenage mother and much older, later absent white father, he spent his early years in St. Ann Parish, in the rural village known as Nine Miles.

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Lou Reed Inspired This Website

Lou Reed Pioneer – RIP Oct 27, 2013

Lou Reed died late in 2013, a year that made me realize that the line in the Who’s epic ‘My Generation” (Hope I die before I get old) was no longer an option in my aging process. Even though we, the Baby Boomers, kept telling ourselves that 60 was the new 30, the mortality factor became real as an ever-increasing number of music legends that had paved the soundtrack of our lives, were picking up their roots to move to that big stage in the sky. Continue reading Lou Reed Inspired This Website

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Janis Joplin’s Life in a Nutshell

Janis Joplin Janis Joplin Inimitable – RIP Oct 4, 1970

Considered by many the best white female rock/blues singer of all time, Janis Joplin’s career was a short wild ride. Born and raised in the conservative town of Port Arthur, Texas, Janis was an outcast. Too wild and totally different then her peers in high school, she was mainly shunned by them. But she had a special, very powerful voice even at an early age and therefore decided to become a singer.  Continue reading Janis Joplin’s Life in a Nutshell

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Freddie Mercury’s Love Story with Mary Austin

Freddie Mercury and Mary Austin

Freddie Mercury: Showmaster – RIP Nov 24, 1991 

“I lost somebody who I thought was my eternal love. When he died I felt we’d had a marriage. We’d lived our vows. We’d done it for better for worse, for richer for poorer, in sickness and in health. You could never have let go of Freddie unless he died – and even then it was difficult.”  – Mary Austin

Mary Austin was the love and inspiration of one of Great Britain’s biggest rock performers. Continue reading Freddie Mercury’s Love Story with Mary Austin

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Jimi Hendrix – The Shooting Star

Jimi Hendrix Shooting Star – RIP Sep 18, 1970
If there ever was a shooting star, it was Jimi Hendrix. In the four short years that he ruled the world of guitar virtuosity, he did more with the electric guitar than any other guitarist before or after him ever would. He could get feedback to come out of his Fender Strat in ways nobody else could, and there truly hasn’t been a greater creative player as he built his solos around chord progressions, either. Continue reading Jimi Hendrix – The Shooting Star

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Jan and Dean: An Early Rock and Roll Story

Jan and Dean Little old lady

Rock and Roll is laced with legal horror stories and bad, greedy management, especially in the early days. Even well versed, supposedly smart artists like the Rolling Stones got taken by one of their managers -Allan Klein- for much of their early songwriting credits. The story of Jan and Dean is one of legal abuse. Divide and control is the favorite manipulation tested on creative forces, as they are being side-tracked by contracts and one-sided agreements. Creative people are always in the hands of shady movers and shakers if they want to make it; unfortunately few of these movers and shakers have decency, while most are greedy and criminally dishonest. Continue reading Jan and Dean: An Early Rock and Roll Story

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2016 Tough Year for Rock Legends

2016 Was a Tough Year for Rock and Roll Superstars. We lost at least a handful of Superstars, such as David Bowie, Glenn Frey and Prince early in the year and Leonard Cohen, Leon Russell and George Michael in the last two months of the year. Throughout the rest of the year we had to say goodbye to a list of high profiled musicians and singers such as Jefferson Airplane’s founder/guitarist Paul Kantner who died on the same day and at the same age as the band’s original female singer Signe Toly !

Others were Earth, Wind and Fire’s leading man Maurice “Moe” White, Prince’s arm candy backup singer Vanity, Keith Emerson and Greg Lake both of Emerson, Lake and Palmer fame, Scotty Moore – the guitar man who built Elvis into a Superstar-, Three Doors Down’s guitarist Matt Roberts, Louisiana’s Accordion virtuoso Buckwheat Zydeco, British musician and TV personality Pete Burns, Henry McCullough who played lead guitar with such superstars as Paul McCartney in Wings and Joe Cocker’s Grease Band, Rick Parfitt, singer/songwriter, guitarist for the British band Status Quo and Nick Menzas who played drums with metal band “Megadeath”.

Together these legends must have sold well over a billion records in their lifetime and we are immensely grateful for them having shared their talent with us.

Rest in Peace, until we meet again on the big stage in the sky.

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Bonamassa’s Unsung Guitar Heroes

joe bonamassaGuitar great Joe Bonamassa pays tribute to the some of the guitar heroes who were never given their due in their own time, but whose influence is still being felt by the in-the-know six-stringers that have followed. There are more, some of whom I’ve added at the end of Joe’s TEN. Of course there are many more in a big wide world, where Billboard and Rolling Stone Magazine are not daily menu items, and the only outlet of talent search is youTube, Vimeo or Daily Motion. Send us you selection and we will update and expose wherever we can. Enjoy

Mike Bloomfield
The opening track of the Super Session album is a great showcase for Mike Bloomfield, who played a Les Paul and was a traditional Chicago-style blues player. He’s never referred to in the same breath as Beck, Page or Clapton but his playing was fantastic. People laud the Super Session album, but the stuff he did with Buddy Miles in The Electric Flag is also incredible. The problem was that, like a lot of guys from that era, Mike was too self- destructive. By the end of his career he seemed set on snatching defeat from the jaws of victory.
https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=UHFPVOEKEfA

Stephen Stills
He’s a great songwriter, but tends to be undervalued for his talent as a guitar player. He’s the flip-side of the guy we’ve just been talking about, Mike Bloomfield. Stills is known mainly as an acoustic guitar player, which does him a disservice. Stills and Bloomfield are both on Al Kooper’s Super Session album [1968], but unfortunately Side A [featuring Bloomfield] tends to get more attention than Side B [which Stills played on]. Last summer, when I did an all-acoustic tour, I wanted my guitar to sound like Stephen Stills’s. But he also likes to play that old Gretsch [electric] guitar.
https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=5f8z1NAzMlI

Robbie Robertson
To some, The Band’s Robbie Robertson is better-known as a songwriter, an activist and an inductee to the Rock And Roll Hall Of Fame – when he really should be praised as a guitar player. Robbie has an absolutely beautiful style. He’s almost like a soul player. Life Is A Carnival was on The Band’s fourth album, Cahoots, and it’s in the movie The Last Waltz. What he does is deceptive – it looks simple but involves some tricky chords. Once, just for fun, I tried to figure them out. It took hours to really get them right.
https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Io9tYdvrFgk

Tommy Bolin
My introduction to Tommy Bolin was not via his spell with Deep Purple, I knew him first through his playing with [fusion drummer] Billy Cobham. I bought Cobham’s Spectrum album, and when I heard its title song it absolutely floored me. In many ways, Bolin was in a no-win situation when he replaced Ritchie Blackmore in Deep Purple. A challenge like that would overshadow just about anyone. But if that’s all you know him for, then there’s an embarrassment of other riches out there just waiting to be discovered. I’m picking Stratus from that same Cobham album.
https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=b1rX9E8NuRw

Bill Nelson
Bill Nelson is definitely under the radar as far as guitar players go. This song, which appeared on the Be-Bop Deluxe album Futurama, is one of my all-time favourites. I’ve just spent hours looking for some good YouTube footage of it – that’s when my ADD really kicks in – and there’s some great film of his [solo] band The Gentlemen Rocketeers playing Sister Seagull, but very little of Be-Bop Deluxe. But if I’ve learned anything during my time, it’s that the artist’s favourite songs and those of the fans are always different. However, I love this song.
https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=ZEsqJ-7iCsc

Ry Cooder
You could never describe Ry Cooder as a complete unknown, but he’s not one of those guys whose name comes up at the pub during those discussions about the greatest musicians. He’s just not hip enough. But, along with Rory Gallagher, Ry is my all-time favorite slide guitar player. To really understand his appeal you should see him playing Feelin’ Bad Blues in a scene at the end of the movie Crossroads, starring Ralph Macchio. That’s how I was turned on to him as a kid. What Ry did there is the deepest, most soulful slide playing that I’ve ever heard.
https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=TDceJ2m07r0

Danny Gatton (1994)
Danny Gatton is now dead, unfortunately, but he was always the guy with the coolest Telecaster – a real player’s player. He came from Washington DC and could play blues, jazz, rock, country and rockabilly. Nitpickin’ is from a record called Unfinished Business, and it really sums up his style as a player. I was lucky enough to have been mentored by Danny when I was a much younger musician. He’d always let me sit in with him. There’s some real neat YouTube of our first encounter when I was only 12 years old. He was a special guy.
https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=-7R4mwOOyEQ

Chris Cain
This San Franciscan guy has the voice of BB King and the chops of Albert King. He’s an absolute blinder of a guitar player and singer, but here’s the unbelievable thing: he plays to about 50 fucking people a night. I don’t go to gigs as a rule, but he recently played this small club in the Valley [in Los Angeles]. We walked in and I thought: “Where is everyone?” But he played great. His vibrato is superb and his records are consistently good – it’s not like he made one great album and then couldn’t follow it up. I just don’t understand it.
https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=hOGptJyMsvI

Sonny Landreth
Sonny may call if he reads this, going: “Hey, I do well.” But any press is good press, right? Native Stepson comes from an album of his called South Of I-10, which features Mark Knopfler. Now, I’ve played guitar for the last 32 years. I’m not an original player, but one of my talents is watching and listening to others and figuring out what they do. With Sonny Landreth I have no concept of where he comes from. He’s a beautiful player and a great singer, and South Of I-10 is a lovely fusion of American and Creole. I can’t recommend it highly enough.
https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=mqSuhsbePdM

Chris Whitley (2005)
Back in 2000, I opened for Chris at a shithole venue in Indianapolis. Until then I’d never heard of him. He was playing as a solo act – just him alone. We did fairly okay with our power-trio show to maybe 80 people, but then he went on and absolutely flattened the place. He sounded like four guys playing… and that’s before getting into the lyrics, which were like Dylan. He played for 75 minutes without saying a word and then walked off stage. No encore was needed. Indian Summer is from his album Dirt Floor. But you really needed to see him live.
https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=tiKKyCsiR6Y

Some of my personal additions:

Paul Kossof – Free
Peter Green – Fleetwood Mac
Jan Akkerman – Focus
Jimmy Thackery -The Nighthawks
Robin Trower – Procol Harum

 

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We Need a Three Kings Day in Rock

Three_Kings_of_the_Blues_by_geertvanleeuwenRock and Roll or better yet its predecessor Mr. Blues, needs a Three King Day for Albert, Freddie and B.B to commemorate the fact that without these three there would not have been Rock and Roll.

There is no denying that all of the great blues and rock guitarists have been heavily influenced by one, two or all three of these gentlemen, in their climb to become rock-n-roll superstars.

B.B. King (9/16/1925 – 5/14/2015)
Albert King (4/23/1923 – 12/21/1992)
Freddie King (9/3/1934 – 12/28/1976)

Many blues players like Eric Clapton, Jeff Beck and Jimi Hendrix have been influenced by B.B. King.
Otis Rush, Mike Bloomfield, Jimi Hendrix and Gary Moore were influenced by Albert King. Younger blues players like Joe Bonamassa, Johnny Lang,  Kenny Wayne Sheppard and John Mayer have been influenced by Stevie Ray Vaughan, Jimi Hendrix and a slew of British guitar wizards who were in turn strongly influenced by one or all of the Kings.
Guitar players like Peter Green, Mick Taylor, Lonnie Mack, Stevie Ray Vaughan and Eric Clapton were influenced by Freddie King.

You wanna see why I say that, than watch this 1973 video of Freddie King in Sweden. You’ll know why!

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2015 Hall of Fame Inductees

stevie rayThe phrase “he is a legend in his own time” implies strongly that the origin of the word legend lies in the past. Whether it’s unverifiable history, a story passed on for ages, a myth or a much revered person inspiring what over time becomes a legend, no-one can really become a legend in his own time, unless they completely remove themselves from society like Howard Hughes. Yet you can leave it to us to take a word out of its original context and start watering it down to un-inspiring proportions, where everyone gets the predicate “legendary”.

The 2015 Rock and Roll Hall of Fame inducted three true legends this year, 3 men that made a huge impact on Rock and Roll:

Stevie Ray Vaughan, Paul Butterfield and Lou Reed. Stevie Ray took the blues and especially the Texas version of blues to a new level, Paul Butterfield made the blues “white” and introduced the world in the process to some of the best musicians around such as Elvin Bishop, Mike Bloomfield, Amos Garrett and David Sanborn. He introduced Muddy Waters, Howlin’ Wolf, Little Walter and Otis Rush to the mid sixties Chicago rock/blues scene and took the fear away of white musicians in America and England not to sound authentic when playing the blues.

And Lou Reed, after already having been inducted with the Velvet Underground in 1996, added a rare personal induction for his “uncompromising stance in the service of his artistic vision” — often following commercial breakthroughs with daring, experimental projects that initially confounded both fans and critics only to gain recognition decades later.

The Smiths, Nine Inch Nails, Kraftwerk, N.W.A, Sting, and Chic were among acts on the ballot that did not make cut this year.

The ones that did are:

Green Day, Joan Jett and the Black Hearts, Bill Withers and Ringo Starr for a lifetime achievement Award.

A voting body of more than 700 artists, historians and members of the music industry chose the 2015 Rock and Roll Hall of Fame performer inductees. To be eligible for nomination, an individual artist or band must have released its first single or album at least 25 years prior to the year of nomination. The 2015 nominees had to release their first recording no later than 1989.

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Successful Four Piece Bands

4 piece bandsThe four piece band was the early rock and roll success formula. Lead Singer, guitar, bass and drums was the standard outfit, often with a lead singer playing rhythm guitar and/or harmonica. Shortly after rock and roll started to make an impact a fifth person on keyboards was added, sometimes replacing the need for a rhythm guitar.

In the beginning the formats were depending on 2 factors:

The financial split and the stage space available in clubs and venues. In order to perfect their chops most starting bands went “on the circuit”. In the southern US that was called the Chitlin’ Circuit. In Europe it was called the rock and roll circuit. Geographically calibrated, the venues offered weekly entertainment and the bands made sure to build an audience for the next go-around usually 8 to 10 weeks later.

Many of the early rock and blues venues had no entertainment budget and loosely allocated a percentage of the tap for the band. Obviously smaller outfits had a better share. The better and more all around the guitarist was, the less members the band needed. Also the space allotted for equipment was a major factor. Bands needing huge equipment space were in lesser demand. A typical back line was amps and speaker box for each of the guitars (sometimes lead and rhythm guitar doubled up on one amplifier), standard drum kit, and a voice amplifier with echo abilities for the voices. No PA systems or Mixers. No FX pedal boards for guitars. One distortion pedal and after 1967 a Wah-Wah and that was basically it. Keyboards were of the 61 key type version and much later were taken up to 88 keys. Space was limited.

 

The Beatles
Black Sabbath
The Doors
The Who
The Kinks
Queen
Van Halen
Pink Floyd
Led Zeppelin

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Rock-n-Roll Divas

fansRock-n-Roll Divas are bad-ass. Some were destined to be legend material no matter how long or short their career; others grew as rock and roll took them into directions far beyond their dreams and capacity to cope with the fame and fortune. Rock and Roll in its true roots, does not accommodate the normal female psyche, as it has no place for drama.

The women in rock and roll are usually tough as nails on stage and soft as whipped cream in the confinements of their own minds.

Archived in years of passing:

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The Cemetery of Southern Rock

abb 500Probably more than any qualifying grouping of musical genres, it can be said Southern Rock has a devastating propensity to find Rock and Roll Paradise much earlier in life. Absolute greats like Duane Allman and Ronnie vanZant bit the dust in their twenties, while many others like Hughie Thomasson, Billy Powell, Duane Roland, Billy Jones, Frankie and Dan Toler and many more were also plucked long before their legitimate expiration dates. Motorcycles, airplanes, or plane old drugs and alcohol, it seems that hard living is a mandatory exercise in Southern Rock culture.

Here is a not even complete listing of those southern rockers who checked out early.

Continue reading The Cemetery of Southern Rock

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John was not the Only Dreamer

TempelhofYou may think that I’m a dreamer, but I’m not the only one.
I believe that there is a plan in place for the innocence of music. I believe that music does overcome all obstacle. I believe that people like Roger Ridley, the original inspiration behind the fabulous organization that is Playing for Change did not live in vain. He shared his wonderful talent and voice for the mere reward of change, but his legacy lies in the words he said when asked why he was not on the big stages of the world: I’m in the Joy Business.

I think joy transcends life and I believe there is a concert stage in the hereafter that features music in eternity. Because really good music never bores. It inspires. That’s why the Main Stage of Rock and Roll Paradise has a new show every time One of the Gifted Ones transpires, and from time to time there is a headliner addition that blows the show out of the park.

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Where Music Legends Live Forever

poster collageWHERE LEGENDS LIVE FOREVER

Every time one of my music heroes passes, I’m slightly torn between sadness and envy. Sadness for all the obvious reasons that come with living and dying and envy because there is another Superstar Jam Concert in Rock and Roll Paradise, that I will not (yet) be able to attend. You may think that’s a strange desire, to go to a concert of dead musicians, but music has been my life since I picked up my first guitar in 1963. I grew up with the tunes of all the GREAT that are now moving on to a new performance platform.

I don’t want to call that place heaven, because I’m not religiously indoctrinated enough to believe that life-after-death has any resemblance with what organized religions want me to believe. Music is and has always been my language and message and all these magnificent performers have contributed more to peace on earth than any religion ever has done.

Many of them started in a time when agents and record companies meant little more than a necessary evil; in a time when contracts were handshakes, without batteries of lawyers to pick words apart and re-formulate them into a language musicians could not understand and consequently got screwed; some so badly that they took their own lives, others died in poverty,

Whether suicide, overdose, medical mishap, accident, natural cause, life’s diseases, these giants left me inspired and indelibly stamped with their music and creativity.

Welcome to the Main Stagemain stage