Archive | April 2012

Got My Mojo Working

April 30, 1983 American blues legend Muddy Waters dies.

an apple a day

It’s funny how sometimes I can be playing a gig for four hours straight singing every damn song I know.

My wife will ask me, why didn’t you take a break.  I’ll tell her, don’t know!  Somebody will come up  and say that was a great piano solo, but I won’t remember taking a solo. The bartender will say, love that song – you sang the hell out of it. I’ll say thanks, don’t remember singing it.


Other times on gigs I think, hey I’m gonna really play my ass off on this song, but then proceed to step all over myself and suck.  Or some gigs I’m looking at the clock every five minutes thinking, when is this set over?


moral of the story:


Muddy Waters and most of these legendary blues guys kept it simple.  They just sang and played the blues.  God love em.



April 29, 1967 Aretha Franklin releases her interpretation of the Otis Redding song “Respect.” via

#23 done!

I have a love / hate relationship with the song Respect.  On the one hand it’s one of my favorite songs of all time.  But on the other, it’s the song I was listening to as I was skiing down the slopes in the Poconos thinking, this is great, just as I fly ten feet in the air.  The next thing I know the ski patrol is jetskiing snowmobiling (thanks, Dylan for the correction) down the hill with me in tow on a stretcher (torn acl and miniscus)  — surgery, two weeks in bed–needless to say, that was my last time skiing.  In retrospect, maybe blasting RESPECT in my headphones wasn’t the best idea @ 50 mph on skis.  Live and learn.  So, when I hear this song i always think of my last time skiing.

All right! Here’s  a partial list of great singers I’ve played RESPECT for –

Peggi Blu, Alyson Williams, Roz Brown, Perrita Kitson, Gina Taylor, Roz Morehead, Valarie Pettiford, Branice McKenzie, Linda Hopkins, Carol Woods, Lillias White, Dachone Rucker, Ramona Keller, Alison Williams Foster, Carla Scott, a couple casts of Showdown, and all the girls in a million casts of  Beehive!

Lord I’m Discouraged

April 28, 1934 Delta Bluesman Charley Patton dies.

Caroline Hirsch (owner of Caroline’s) used to own a club called Delta 88 on Eighth Avenue where I played.  Whenever I see Caroline we reminisce about the good old days.

It was a great bar with BBQ and Blues. What else does a real man need? Yeah, well now I eat vegetables and fish (no BBQ for me) but I still play the blues. Does this make me less of a man?

Charley Patton was a legend in delta blues.  Delta blues is where bluegrass, gospel, and blues all hang out.  This is sort of the model for a new band I’m putting together called Willie & the Swagga.

My buddy Chris Fischer, great keyboardist and musician, created the caricature below for my new band.

Willie & the Swagga

I’m in the studio these days recording original songs written by Claudia and myself for Willie & the Swagga and should be done by the fall.  It’s always good to go back and play old Charley tunes cause as my friend Ann Ruckert says, “We’re just standing on the shoulders of the great ones who came before us.”

Lord I’m Discouraged is one of my favorite Charley Patton tunes…

Feelin’ Alright

April 27, 1969, Joe Cocker makes his television debut, singing Feelin’ Alright on the Ed Sullivan Show.

can i add a little guitar?

There are a few funky piano licks that defined my groove when I was young.  Joe Cocker’s version of Feelin’ Alright was definitely one of them — although I never really play anybody else’s lick exactly “as is” probably because once I start playing I can’t remember how they go (what with the ADD and all:) .)

Stevie Wonder on Superstition was the master class in funk.  Last year I got to play Superstition with Stevie and Michael McDonald.  Stevie played clav, Michael played the motif, and I played a 7 foot  Steinway grand (pretty freakin cool)!

Another big influence on me in the funk was my old buddy Kenny Kirkland who passed away in 1998.  This brother was the Michael Jordan of piano. He had perfect pitch, a photographic memory, triple jointed hands, and a passion for music that was unsurpassed.

Today, one of favorite funky keyboard players is my buddy Chris Fischer.  My son Dylan and I are his biggest fans.

Feelin’ Alright


All of Me

April 26, 1984, William “Count” Basie dies at the age of 79.

tv time

I’ve studied with some brilliant teachers in my life.  One of my biggest mentors was Norman Gold — he played for Phil Woods & Erroll Garner and was piano teacher to the stars.

When Norman talked about Count Basie he talked about the spaces between the notes. That there is the groove, and you just need to show up, sparingly, to enforce the groove.  When you watch Basie play, he is so relaxed and calm yet the piano is boogieing!

Norman would make me do exercises that he used on gigs with Davey Schildkraut.  Ten minutes before they went onstage they’d start the song together without instruments.  For example, he’d call All of of Me in C, 1 2 3 4 (the song and the tempo) and then for ten minutes they’d keep the song going in their heads. When they got on stage they’d start wherever they were in the tune!  Talk about having your groove together. I used to sit at my lesson for the first ten minutes keeping some song in my head and then start playing.  My groove improved. Thanks, Norm.

Funny story about Davey.  He would never go on the road with Miles or Dizzy.  He wouldn’t leave his mailman gig.  He was happy just walkin his route, taking jazz solos in his head.

I tried to get my best friend, swing singer John Malino, to come over and sing this with me today, but he was watching the kids .

Well, here is All of Me – my attempt to honor the Count in his style.