Master Guitar News - 2010
December 28th, 2010: Well, 2010 was an interesting year. The documentary film, Kansas City Jazz & Blues: Past, Present & Future was released. I got a little bit of face time and one of my tunes, What the Blues are All About, (from the My Ship CD) was used in the soundtrack. In conjunction with the film I made it into the center spread of KC Studio Magazine.
I lost two musical compadres this year - Jim LaForte and Big Woody Davis. Jim's death was not unexpected (see entry for June 3rd below), Big Woody's was very unexpected and quite shocking (see entry for Dec 1st below).
Booked the usual every other Sunday at the Jazz Kitchen in Legends through February. Max Groove has been fairly consistent with booking me 1 or 2 nights a month into Chaz on the Plaza. Thanks Max. Those are both solo gigs. Mama Ray's jam at BB's on Saturdays is very consistent and she has also booked us into Danny's Big Easy in the 18th & Vine Jazz District. Valentine called a couple of days ago and booked both the Ticklers or the Knights on dates here and there through May.
One of the more interesting situations this year has been playing with Stan Sheldon. I met Stan a couple of years ago. He was Peter Frampton's bass player for years and years. He was the bass player on the Frampton Comes Alive album which is only the biggest-selling live album of all time! Before he moved here a couple of years ago, Stan toured for a year with Delbert McClinton. He's worked with Tommy Bolin, Phil Collins, Warren Zevon and Lou Gramm. I worked with him for several months in a couple of different outfits (Woodstock Flashback and the Knights) run by Mark Valentine. He was a very nice guy, quite humble given his pedigree, and I enjoyed working with him. He told me that it was inspiring for him to play with me. My understanding is that he is back with Frampton gearing up for a European tour in February. So, Stan, since I'm so inspiring, have Frampton give me a call if he feels the need for some guitar lessons! Ha! Or a second guitarist in his band - double ha ha!
Also, this last year I got to perform for Phil Keaggy (see Jan 26th) as well as Wilbert Longmire (see Feb 14th). Both those performances turned out ok based on the feedback from those two guys, both of whom I respect immensely. BTW - I have learned to take my own feelings about any given performance with a huge grain of salt because, by definition, it is impossible for me to be objective while I'm doing it. So how I happen to feel about it is irrelevant. I might think I suck - or - I might think I kick ass! I don't really know, do I? Nope, I don't. How I feel about it probably depends on what I had for lunch...or something. So I just do what I do and let the chips fall where they may.
My guitar method book, Vertical Truth - Chordal Mechanisms for the Guitar, was reviewed in Fingerstyle Guitar Magazine. Thanks to Bill Piburn, the editor of the Magazine, for the review.
The Faithfulness Montage, which has my song "Faithfulness" as the soundtrack, has had over 13,000 views on You Tube. Wowza! (Does You Tube pay BMI fees?) The subject of the picture and video montage is my grandson Jimmie, who was a micro-preemie (24 weeks, 6 days) born on Feb 11th, 2009. After a rough start, I'm very grateful and proud to say Jimmie is thriving. He recently had his g-tube (feeding port in his belly) removed, which is the last physical vestige (besides the scars) of his ordeal. His immune system is still immature but that should fix itself over the course of the next year. His BLOG has several thousand hits a month. People have followed his story from all over the world. Jimmie is a miracle!
After putting quite a bit of money into home improvements I am now teaching one day a week out of my home studio. It's a very professional environment. There's plenty of parking, access to a waiting area from the parking lot (my awesome 3-lane driveway!), and a bathroom available without going through the house and dealing with my security system - a 90-pound dog named Gus! If you want guitar lessons at the house in the Raytown area just let me know.
And lastly, I was recently solicited by my friend Michael Arellano for a 3-week gig in China. Michael is in San Antonio and is one of the partners of Ola Marketing and Entertainment. He is also one of the executive producers of Latin Fusion TV. A trip to China would have been interesting for sure. However, besides probably pricing myself out of the gig, I didn't have the appropriate promo materials required for the submission. Stupid, stupid, stupid! So, note to self: Get your promo package sh---t together - now! Sorry Michael. I will do better next time!
I'm happy to say that, as of now, I have no gig on New Year's Eve. I took one last year (an hour out of town) and regretted it because I was sick as a dog on New Year's. Played anyway - I'm old school. As Valentine says, "In this league you play hurt!" But this year, I plan to kick back and stay home. Life is good!
December 1st, 2010: Big Woody was killed Monday night. I think a case could be made that he killed himself. (News story here.) I worked with Woody Davis 6 or 8 times over the last couple of years. Nothing I saw would lead me to believe he was capable of this kind of violence and irrationality. It's shocking. I'm kind of numb about it. Just goes to show you just never know.
October 19th, 2010: Nice review of the film here.
September 30th, 2010: The movie was pretty good. It wasn't in its final form, there was some issues with the sound but assuming things get tweaked it should be worth something. I was in a couple of scenes but actually got as much face time in the trailer as anything.
September 24th, 2010: Pulled the plug on the radio ads, it just wasn't working and there's no sense in continuing to throw money down that hole. I am going to try some streaming ads on the internet version of a local AM talk station starting in October. We'll see what happens with that.
Got an email from Sue Vicory and her documentary film on Kansas City Jazz and Blues will be screening this next Wednesday at BB's. She said I'm in it so I'm going to rearrange my teaching schedule and go. Movie review coming soon!
September 1st, 2010: One of my former students, Josh Solomon, has reviewed my method book for Examiner.com. His article can be found here.
I've gotten a student referral from Guitar Syndicate. They're a little guitar store downtown. Ralph (one of the owners) used to manage the gigantic Musician's Friend outlet in the east bottoms before corporate HQ closed it. He's a good guy and has agreed to refer prospective students to me as they have no in-store teaching. They also have a recording studio as well as wall space for artwork. When I first went in there they had Mark Mothersbaugh paintings on the walls! ("Are we not men? We are Devo!") That's pretty cool! A guitar store/recording studio/art gallery. What a combination!
Did a session last Wednesday at Chapman's Recording Studio. I first recorded at Chapman's back in '78 when the studios had brick walls in an old building down in the River Quay area. They've come a long way. The session was just me on acoustic guitar and a girl singer - live, no tracking. That means if one person makes a mistake, everybody has to do the do-over. Chuck told me 2 tunes, the engineer thought we were doing 3 tunes, the singer sent me 4 tunes, and we actually wound up doing 5 tunes. We were booked for 4 hours, we finished in 3 and a half, I got paid for 4 - in cash. Sweet.
I've been running some ads for my teaching on 103.7 the DAM. It's an FM rock station. More or less Nirvana-derived angst-y white boy rock music. So far, it seems to be a waste of money but I'll give it a little more time before making a final judgment. We're only in the middle of the campaign right now.
The solo gigs at Jazz Legends are over until December. That was a good run. The manager there indicated to me last night that he would book me back on the every other Sunday routine next year. I talked to him about leaving some of my spare PA gear there to help alleviate the brutal load-in and that I would be willing to let other groups use it. He was amenable to that and it should score me some brownie points with the other players who won't have to haul gear up and down the stairs every time they play there. Win-win!
Max Groove also has indicated to me that he would book me into Chaz on the Plaza in the 8-10 slot on Tuesdays starting in October. Waiting on those contracts. Max?
July 12th, 2010: Giggage: booked a bunch of Tuesdays - tomorrow and next week is at the Jazz Kitchen in Legends. The first 2 Tuesdays in August is at Chaz on the Plaza. Then Tuesday Aug 17th and 31st back at Jazz. All this helps to compensate for the drop in my teaching schedule that has occurred over the last couple of years.
This Friday will mark the return of Woodstock Flashback! (See entry below for March 13th) We will be playing the main stage in the Power & Light district opening for Liverpool. Looking forward to that!
Blues singer Jim LaForte dies
Kansas City blues singer Jim LaForte passed away May 29. He was the original singer and bandleader along with Rich VanZant at the Saturday afternoon Harling's in 1984. The guitarist with that band, Jay EuDaly, has said, “In his prime, LaForte had a voice, an authentic voice, that was unmistakable and no one could touch him when he sang in that classic R&B style.” LaForte's most recent album, Catfish Pizza Breakfast , is available for purchase at several sites online. A memorial jam was held at BB's Lawnside Bar-B-Que on June 12.
July 5th, 2010: The Old School Knights will be the headliner at the 21st anniversary of The Sandbar in Lawrence on August 14th. Stan Sheldon will be playing with us on that one. We did the gig last year and it turned out to be quite a party. The cops rope off a block and there's a pretty big crowd. There's some footage taken last year by Valentine's phone up on YouTube.
June 25th, 2010: I've been a little disappointed at the lack of traction for Woodstock Flashback. I really enjoyed playing with those guys and both Stan Sheldon and Go-Go Ray have told me they would like to do more gigs. My disappointment has been mitigated at least a little bit by a recent development; The Old School Knights have booked several dates over the summer and Stan Sheldon has agreed to play on those gigs - so at least I will continue to play some gigs here and there with Stan. Performances open to the public for that band are: July 23rd at Sullivan's and August 13th at Intentions.
June 3rd, 2010: Jim LaForte passed away last Saturday. It has taken me 5 days to process the event and figure out what I want to say. Jim was a dear friend and a wonderful R&B singer. I started working with him on a steady basis back in '84. He was the original singer and bandleader along with Rich VanSant on the Saturday afternoon jam at Harling's. Working that gig with Jim and Rich, week after week, was a pressure cooker of a learning experience. Not only did backing Jim teach me a ton of tunes - we never rehearsed, we just flew by the seat of our pants - I realized real quick that "cool" didn't cut it, it had to be "hot". They consistently played with tons of feeling, that is, they emotionally committed themselves to the music on a very intense level. A level that I wasn't used to operating on at gig after gig after gig. Watching Jim and Rich on that gig, week after week, taught me how to do that. I was thrown into the deep end, so to speak. I consider Jim and also Rich - and playing that gig - to be one of the formative influences on the way I play today.
Below is the original band that started the Saturday afternoon jam at Harling's in 1984.Left to Right: Chico Battaglia, Jay EuDaly, Jim LaForte, Mike Bramel, Rich VanSant
This from the late '80's. Another band with Jim; Terry and the Pirates.
Jim LaForte: vocals Jay EuDaly: guitar Chico Battaglia: percussion Mo Paul: harmonica Terry Hancock: drums Gary Doombs: sax Blake Hughes: bass
May 21st, 2010: The Six on the Square gig is cancelled. It's questionable whether or not the place will even be open on the 29th so I'm not taking the chance of working and not getting paid or having to chase the money. I hate that kind of crap. I'd rather stay home. Maybe something else will come along for the 29th. The Avalon Ultralounge situation has some potential for being something steady thru the summer. Maybe that will take up some slack. I'll know more after tonight. Stay tuned.
May 20th 2010: Upsurge in giggage: new place north of the river: Avalon Ultralounge. Booking at places I've not played before: Six on the Square, Ugly Joe's Bar, Los Cabos @ Legends,Cheeseburger in Paradise. Most of this stuff is solo, except for Cheeseburger - that's a trio, once with Christian Franklin and Phil Brenner and the next time with Mark Valentine and Ray DiMarchi. The usual is also in play: BB's Lawnside BBQ with Mama Ray and band every Saturday afternoon as well as solo @ Jazz Louisiana Kitchen every other Sunday afternoon. Check thegig schedule and come on out!
May 10th, 2010: The event at the Gem Theater last Thursday was a bit of a let-down. Now I know - that a "sneak peek" is not a "premiere". There was some advertising calling the event a "premiere" but Sue Vicory called it a "sneak peek." I guess what that means is that it's a small piece of the movie, not the whole movie. So I went in expecting to see the whole movie and saw only a little piece of the movie. So I still don't know how much of me there is in the movie! The part that I saw had a few seconds of one of my tunes ("What the Blues are all About") from my latest CD. My wife said she saw me for a split second but I didn't see me! O well, now I have to wait for the whole thing to be released to find out if I'm actually in it. Pins and needles! What I saw looked real good. If the rest of it is as good as what I saw it should be a good one.
I thought our performance at the event was very weak. No need to go into the gruesome details, I'm trying to forget about it! Suffice to say it was a perfect storm of uncontrolled variables. Lesson learned: the jam format does not translate well to a big stage. Marilyn Maye, on the other hand, was incredible. She brought her own pianist and drummer with her and used a local upright bass player, Gerald Spaits. No matter what age she is, she is incredible - but she happens to be 82 and still going strong. Lesson learned #2: don't follow Marilyn Maye!
May 3rd, 2010: My method book has been reviewed in Fingerstyle Guitar Magazine.
April 28th, 2010: Apparently Marilyn Maye is bringing her own piano player from New York so I will not be accompanying her after all. O well, that's show biz! I'm a little vague on everything that's going on for the premiere of Sue Vicory's documentary film on Kansas City Jazz and Blues. I know that I will be in Mama Ray's band that's hosting the jam after the movie. I don't know if the host band gets paid (I doubt it), I don't know if I'll have to go in early to set up my gear, or if gear will be supplied, so consequently I don't know how many students I'll have to cancel. Yada yada yada. I bought my tickets for the movie today. My wife will go with me. After all, it's not everyday we get attend the premiere of a film that I'm in! My music has been in several films but I think this is the first real film I'm actually in.
The other side to that coin, unfortunately, is that anyone who knew him well, as I did, is not surprised. I can't say I didn't see this coming. Honestly, I've wondered what took so long. He was 62, which is way too young...and the the older I get the younger that seems...but the mileage was very high, if you know what I mean. All of us who knew him could spend hours and hours telling stories that run the gamut from outrageously ridiculous to extremely ironic to the beautifully sublime. The short story is that he was just a horrible alcoholic and, even though I haven't heard an autopsy finding, the ultimate cause of death will involve the liver. I think Jim just drank himself to death.
Be all that as it may, in his prime, LaForte had a voice, an authentic voice, that was unmistakable and no one could touch him when he sang in that classic R&B style. My favorite song that he did was a ballad, "Who Can I Turn To". As far as I know, he never recorded that song. I, however, have it on a gig tape - a cheap, ghetto-blaster cassette deck stuck on a table in front of the stage - and the feeling, the emotional commitment, comes through loud and clear. That's the way he performed, and I learned a lot from working with him. Rest in peace, Jim. The rest of us will be along ---- sooner or later.
March 27th, 2010: RIP Lucky Wesley. Longtime bass player/singer for the Scamps passed away this morning. For details go to the Scamps on MySpace. I was privileged to be on stage with Lucky (and the Scamps) a couple of times.
The Scamps: A Short History (as of June, 2005)
This historic vocal group came together during their days in the Civilian Conservation Camp (CCC) workforce of the late 1930s. Two of the group’s members, Earl Robinson and James Whitcomb, regularly passed the days singing and harmonizing with their colleagues and earned the nickname “The Scamps of CC Camp.” Later, siblings Wyatt and Torrence Griffin joined the group and gave the foursome a foothold in the jazz arena until World War II came along and put a halt to their prosperity.
By 1946, the Griffin brothers had returned to their hometown of Kansas City, rejoined Robinson and Whitcomb and added pianist Rudy Massingale to the ensemble. After making their professional debut at Kansas City's Sherman Bar, the Scamps traveled to California at the behest of manager Johnny Tumino, and there they signed with the Modern Music label to cut their debut single, January 1947's “Don't Cry Baby.” Two months later, they recorded “That's My Desire," followed in May by “Sweet Slumber." After two more Modern releases, “Solitude" and 1948's “I'll Never Smile Again," the Scamps' recording career came to an abrupt halt when the American Federation of Musicians went on strike. During the layoff, Torrance Griffin was killed in a hunting accident, forcing the addition of tenor Edward Stafford.
After the musicians' strike ended in late 1948, the group became the Five Scamps and signed on to Columbia Records, releasing “
Several more member changes occurred before Griffin rejoined Robinson and Whitcomb in the Red Hot Scamps. In 1955, the group cut its final sides for the Peacock label, with “Waterproof." Even more changes took place between mid 1950 through 1970. Today, however, the Scamps remain a Kansas City favorite and include Lucky Wesley on bass fiddle, Rudy Massingale on piano, Eddie Saunders and Dwight Foster, both on saxophone, and Rusty Tucker on drums. In May 2002, Kansas City leaders renamed the section of H Street spanning from Broadway to Central as “Scamps Alley" in their honor. Both Robinson and Massingale were present at the ceremony. That same year, British reissue label Ace released Red Hot, a 22-track collection of the group's vintage recordings.
Throughout the years, one thing has never changed: the Scamps’ appeal to jazz enthusiasts all over. They were considered one of the hippest groups around, singing in four-part harmony and performing skits alongside their energizing music selections. Amazingly, in the last 55 years, there's been very little time when there wasn't a Scamps group playing around.
March 13th, 2010: Woodstock Flashback was happening! Killer rhythm section. We pulled a bunch of stuff out of the hat with no preparation - Purple Haze, Fortunate Son, and a couple of others. Go-Go is a monstrous drummer and Stan's bass playing was solid as a rock. None of the 3 of us had ever played together before the sound check Sunday morning and it just kicked ass immediately! Go-Go told me later he really enjoyed it and wants to do more. Stan said he had a great time and the whole thing was "nostalgically awesome!" Well, for the record, I had a great time myself - it's one of the things I live for - and I want to do more as well. I think there's a good chance more will happen. Valentine's working on it. We had a 24-track recorder hooked into the board and my brother Kevin (White River Productions) was there shooting pictures and we got some video as well. Valentine is working on a promotional package using all that to help sell it. We'll refine the costuming, work out more of a show, choreographed entrances, bows at the end and so on. The immediate goal would be to do a few local gigs and then travel regionally - festivals, special events, corporate parties etc. I'll keep you posted.
If you go to the "pictures" link in the above paragraph and scroll down through the pictures from 2010, you'll see that I don't know what kind of guitarist I want to be when I grow up. I go from playing Woodstock music, complete with silk scarf headband and tie-dye to Jazz with Everett DeVan to Blues at Knuckleheads. And I love it all! Decisions, decisions! I just can't make up my mind. It's great as far as getting lots of local work, but nobody becomes rich and famous for being versatile - think about it. (I'm not so sure I want to be famous...but rich would be cool!)
March 2nd, 2010: Go-Go Ray will play drums for Woodstock Flashback. This is a freakin' awesome band! I hope we wind up doing more than the 3 shows at Bartle Hall. As I understand it, the personnel will be:
No rehearsal - Mark distributed a CD with 10 songs on it. Everyone does homework as needed, then we throw it together on the stage - just like Woodstock! We are to play 3 half-hour shows between noon and six. That's all I know. Maybe I should do some mescaline before the show, like Santana did, just to be authentic.
March 1st, 2010: Woodstock Flashback update: I learned today that Mark Lowrey will be playing keyboards. Mark was the keyboard player in the video of my song, Feel the Flame. This is stacking up to be an awesome band! The drummer is still up in the air, although the incomparable Ray Demarchi is on percussion. If we score a good drummer this is going to be a kick-ass band!
Mama Ray, Alan Monroe, Don Glaza, and myself will be the host band for the jam that will happen at the premiere of Sue Vicory's documentary film on Kansas City Jazz and Blues. This means that we will not only play with all the musicians who are in the movie (we're in the movie too) but we will be backing Marilyn Maye's performance. She will be receiving a Lifetime Achievement Award as part of the activities surrounding the release of the film. So....I will get to be onstage with Marilyn Maye!
February 20th, 2010: I found this picture on John Armato's website. John is a drummer formerly from Kansas City who now resides in northern California. The thing is, I have absolutely no memory of this...none whatsoever. But that's me, playing with John. The bass player is Bob Blount. From the look of things, I'm guessing late '80's to early '90's. Apparently I've played so many thousands of gigs that most of them don't even register on the radar anymore. John is a wonderful drummer and Bob is one of the best bass players I've ever worked with. This had to be kicking ass! I wonder what else I've forgotten? Scary.
February 18th, 2010: Here's the concept: We dress like hippies and play only songs from Woodstock...the first Woodstock - 1969 - not the other pale imitations. The name of the band is Woodstock Flashback. I'm on board! Up until now, the band has been in Mark Valentine's mind. But now...we're booked at the Kansas City International Auto Show at Bartle Hall on March the 7th. So we've got to put a band together. Today I got an affirmative for the bass spot from Stan Sheldon. I've known Stan for a little over a year now and have been waiting for a situation to offer him. He's got a couple of my CDs (Channeling Harold and My Ship) and has said several times that he'd like to play with me. I'm looking forward to this! For those who don't know, Stan wasPeter Frampton's bass player for years and years. Stan was the bass player on the Frampton Comes Alive album which is only the biggest-selling live album of all time! Before he moved here a couple of years ago, Stan toured for a year with Delbert McClinton. He's worked with Tommy Bolin, Phil Collins, Warren Zevon and Lou Gramm. I've never played with him but he's got a big-time pedigree and a reputation that precedes him. More TBA.
February 16th, 2010: Sue Vicory's documentary film on Kansas City Jazz and Blues is starting to get some press. And I just happen to be in the picture on the promotional poster that's being spread around...and I was named in the press release in the Kansas City Star!
February 14th, 2010: I had another interesting encounter yesterday. I was playing the gig at BB's BBQ as usual. Mama Ray announced that there was a guitar player from Cincinnati that was going to sit in. I didn't think anything of it. He was a late-50's maybe 60-ish looking black guy. He was there from the beginning of the gig. Listened all afternoon. I wasn't having all that good of a day, I wasn't feeling particularly inspired and my face hurt all day (2-year-old injury). Anyway, Mama calls this guy up, and it happens to be Wilbert Longmire. He was on Tappan Zee, a record label started by Bob James back in the late '70s. He's played with Bob James, Grover Washington, George Benson, and many others. He's a jazz guitar player/singer very much in the George Benson mold. He's really good. Much better than he comes across in the Bob James produced recordings, in my opinion. He was very complimentary, said he wanted to shake my hand and was hoping some of my spirit would rub off. He said several times that he really liked the way I played. He said he was planning to spend some time in Kansas City and we would play together. I wanted to hang out with him after the gig, but I had a gig an hour out of town later that night and had to leave. It's always affirming when someone who's been/is in the big leagues has nice things to say about you. I gave him a CD and here's hoping I hear from him again. If he's going to be hanging out in KC I probably will. (He wanted me to be his friend on Facebook) It would be major fun to gig with him. I'd like some of his spirit to rub off on me!
January 26th, 2010: Phil Keaggy was eating at the Jazz Kitchen when I arrived there for my gig on Sunday. For those who don't know, Phil is one heck of an awesome guitarist. True story: Jimi Hendrix was on the Tonight Show and Johnny Carson asked him if there was a guitar player in the world who was better than him. Jimi said yeah, there was. Phil Keaggy. Phil was on his way to the airport to catch a flight. He's lived in Nashville for the last 20 years but travels internationally playing his music. He had gigged over the weekend in St Jo and Topeka. He and his wife were with Paul Clark, who is a friend of mine from way back. I've met Phil a couple of times over the years but never got to really sit and talk with him. We have several mutual friends. I was familiar to him - so he said - but he couldn't place me. I think he was being nice - there's no reason he would remember me. Be that as it may, he was very friendly and engaged. It probably didn't hurt that Paul talked me up to him! He asked me if I could teach him to read music! (What's he thinkin' - fly me to Nashville once a week for his lesson?) Anyway, when I found out that they had to leave before I started playing, I set up my gear, looped some changes and soloed for a minute. My wife said, "Big deal, he didn't even hear you play a song!" Don't matter...I can tell if someone can really play in 30 seconds - trust me - he could tell. He asked me for my website address and I gave him two CDs. He said he looked forward to listening to them. Fun. I want established artists - like him - on major labels to record my songs. Yeah...that's the ticket. Less money, but it comes in the mail and I don't have to tour all the time. The money comes in the mail and I stay home and play with my grandkids - yeah, that's what I want. (Don't get too excited, people. This kind of thing has happened to me quite a few times over the years and nothing's ever come of it. My wife is downright caustic about it after years - decades - of disappointments. I'm not caustic - just realistic. I never forget it only takes once. You must be prepared and seize the moment. And in the meantime, I still get to play my guitar all day - every day.)
January 3rd, 2010: New Year's Eve was brutal. The gig was great. I played at a nice hotel called The Lodge in Baldwin City Ks. The money was ok and the management and the audience were very nice and the deal included free rooms. The rooms were very nice. The problem was I spent that morning sitting on the pot puking in the bathtub for about 5 hours. Then I had to drive to Baldwin City and front a trio. I was the only singer on a four and a half hour gig. Finding a sub that can do what I do on short notice on New Year's Eve - that's an exercise in futility. As I was leaving my wife said, "Is there anything I can say that will make you not do this?" I said, "Nope." Then I went and played the gig sick as a dog. I'm from the Old School. Thank God for the room.