Archive | April 2012

Have You Ever Seen the Rain?

April 25, 1945 – Happy Birthday Stu Cook, rock bassist Creedence Clearwater Revival

Our family has the most beautiful vacation house in the Pocono Mountains! My grand piano overlooks the lake and every time Claudia and I are here, all we say is, “Why don’t we get here more often?”

It seems in the last year we have only been here three or four times and each time, when we arrive, it starts raining.  Not raining when we leave the city.  Raining when we get to Pennsylvania.  But no matter, whether rain or shine being here reminds me of family. Relaxing. Breathing fresh air.  Not having to look for a parking spot. Hammock time. Barbeque. Fire pit, kayaking, swimming, shooting hoops in my driveway. Feeding deer, practicing classical music with no outside street sounds, walks around the lake.

Damn, I sound old and corny but hey this place is my sunny day.

Georgia On My Mind

April 23, 1979  “Governor George Busbee of Georgia issues a proclamation declaring Hoagy Carmichael’s “Georgia On My Mind” the new official state song. Ray Charles sings his famous version at the ceremony.”  via about.com

water

After graduating high school in Brooklyn I moved right into the city.  I was accepted at Manhattan School of Music and started studying privately with Sanford Gold  – he was the pianist on the Ed Sullivan show, played with everybody, and was piano teacher for all the jazz guys in NY.  Lessons were $25 then and it was an astronomical amount of money to come up with every week.  Sanford was a stocky guy with a goatee and a hard demeanor, but he was really a pussycat.

My first lesson with him he yelled at me because I didn’t bring him a joint.  He said, “What, no apple for the teacher?”  This guy taught me how to play stride piano.  He made me listen to all the old stride guys like Fats Waller, Earl Hines and Tatum.  He took me aside one day and said “If you really want to play stride piano you need to drink a lot of booze.” What a great influence 😉

Well, I followed his advice for a while and can’t remember if I played stride any better drunk or sober – but here is sober me playing Georgia on My Mind.  I loved Ray Charles singing this!

Somewhere Over the Rainbow

April 23rd 1986 – Harold Arlen, great American songwriter, dies.

Leaky roof. I think the piano's safe.

My mom tells everyone that when the Wicked Witch showed up in the Wizard of Oz I shrieked and ran out of the living room.  I don’t remember that but it’s probably true.

I always close my eyes at the scary parts on television and when the boys made me take them to a horror movie I’d embarrass them cause I screamed louder and higher than any kid in the theater.  Hey, I’m a sensitive guy.

These days I prefer to just watch happy things. And play music.  Oh yeah, Somewhere Over the Rainbow is a great tune.

How Blue Can You Get / Rock Me Baby

well, hello there!

Today in music, April 22, 1978, John Belushi and Dan Ackroyd appeared for the first time as the Blues Brothers on Saturday Night Live.

The Blues Brothers always rang my bell.  They loved the same music I loved and played it with a passion that couldn’t be topped. I’ve watched the movie a hundred times and even now, when Aretha sings Think in the diner, I get up and dance.

In my tenure as musical director at Sweetwaters I played for many great singers such as Ruth Brown, Carrie Smith, Dakota Staton and my favorite gospel/blues singer of all time, Linda Hopkins!

I remember in a rehearsal  Linda called out a song that I didn’t know.  When I told her I never heard that song before she said, “Just listen, baby” and she came over and sang it in my ear. That’s when I learned how to follow a singer.

Later Linda and I toured France together.  My son Casey was about 9 months old, so Claudia and I packed him up and went to Paris.  We have pictures somewhere of Linda holding him at rehearsal.

It’s so interesting that although Casey was brought up in such a bluesy and R&B household he turned out to be this world class tenor/counter-tenor singing round the world with Chanticleer.

We are very proud, and while I’m bragging, let me mention that my younger son Dylan is this brilliant bassist with the sharpest ears and wit and an all round great musician.  Goddamn I have cool sons!

I learned these two blues, How Blue Can You Get and Rock Me Baby playing for Linda twenty five years ago …

Do You Wanna Dance?

On April 21, 1965 the Beach Boys performed Do You Wanna Dance? on Shindig!!

Love this song!

ready for day #15?

Many years ago I was the house bandleader at Sweetwaters, an R&B nightclub on the west side.  I was there for nine or ten years. There was a different headliner every week and extra late-night blues shows on the weekend so I guess I musical directed over 500 acts there.

It’s funny thinking back to that time. I was young and cocky, only now I realize I didn’t know much at all. I cut my teeth on that gig and learned from all the great blues artists. Each act would come in and they all had a big opening number and they all had a big ballad. And before their big ballad they would set up the song.

I’ll never forget the set up Laura Theodore did for Do You Wanna Dance. She told of being at her high school dance where the boys were on one side of the room and the girls on the other side and as the night went on all her friends were getting coupled up and she was left alone, and just as she was about to turn around and go home someone tapped her on the shoulder and said DO YOU DO YOU DO YOU WANNA DANCE….

And then she ripped into the song! A great singer. A great song!!!  Would love to play for her again some day…