The Flying V

On this day in music history: January 6, 1958
The Gibson Guitar Company registers its design for the Flying V guitar with the US Patent Office. The unique instrument is designed by Gibson president Ted McCarty with the intention of adding a futuristic aspect to the companies image. During their original manufacturing run, the guitars’ body and neck are constructed from African Korina wood and mahogany with either ebony or rosewood fretboards. Guitarists such as Albert King and Lonnie Mack will adapt to them immediately and will become closely associated with both artists. However, initial sales will be slow and they will be discontinued in 1959. When guitarists like Jimi Hendrix and Dave Davies of The Kinks begin playing them, it will renew interest in the Flying V and Gibson will reintroduce the guitar in 1967. The instrument will become a favorite of hard rock and heavy metal musicians during the 1970’s and 80’s. Original Flying V’s made in 1958 and 1959 today are valued at between $200,000 and $250,000. To this day, the Flying V remains one of Gibson’s most popular guitars.


Mystic Rhythms: Rush’s Neil Peart On The First Rock Drummer

IMG_9242.JPG Rush’s Neil Peart performs at the Rock And Roll Hall Of Fame Induction Ceremony in 2013.
Kevin Winter/Getty Images

It might not sound like it when you hear me play, but Neil Peart is one of my biggest musical influences:

When Rush’s Neil Peart listens to “My Generation” by The Who, he doesn’t hear the lyric or the harmony. His mind is focused on a single thing: the drums.

“I was driving down the length of California the other day with classic rock on and they played ‘My Generation,'” Peart says. “I just kind of tuned into the Keith Moon snare sound and his figures and all that. Of course, I know every beat of it.”

At 62, Peart has lived through and listened to a substantial slice of the history of modern drumming. He says he first wanted to become a drummer when he saw The Gene Krupa Story.

“He was the first rock drummer, in very many ways,” Peart says. “Without Gene Krupa, there wouldn’t have been a Keith Moon. He was the first drummer to command the spotlight and the first drummer to be celebrated for his solos, because they were very flamboyant. He did fundamentally easy things, but always made them look spectacular.”

Peart says the drum set as an instrument is barely 100 years old.

“When Mr. Ludwig invented the bass-drum pedal, that’s what made the drum set possible,” Peart says. “Then, silent movies were a really important part of drum-set history. Typically, in a small movie theater, they might have a piano player and a drummer. Well, the drummer had to do all of the sound effects, and the drum sets they had were enormous.”

Peart started out like most of us do: slamming drumsticks into the pillows of his childhood bedroom. In the ’60s, his parents signed him up for lessons.

“Drumming completely eclipsed my life from age 13, when I started drum lessons,” Peart says. “Everything disappeared. I’d done well in school up until that time. I was fairly adjusted socially up until that time. And I became completely monomania, obsessed all through my teens. Nothing else existed anymore.”

Even back then, Peart was tuned into The Who’s Keith Moon and other stars in what’s considered a golden age of rock drumming.

“All of the sudden, the bar for what it took to be a rock drummer kept getting raised higher and higher,” Peart says. “It was challenging and inspiring, and I was fortunate to not be the kind to get discouraged. I’ve heard the stories, like Eric Clapton said he wanted to burn his guitar when he heard Jimi Hendrix play. I never understood that, because when I went and saw a great drummer or heard one, all I wanted to do was practice.”

Peart says that, for his first several decades on the drums, he could feel the difference if he took just a few days off. Only recently has he found that the drums are so much a part of him, he can sometimes take a break.

As Rush fans know, Peart is more than a drummer: He writes lyrics and he writes books. But when does pick up the sticks today, you can still see the intensity on his face. In the documentary Rush: Beyond The Lighted Stage, you can see the work of a craftsman in action. Peart says that his mom wonders why he doesn’t smile, but jokes, “Mom, it’s hard!”

“I tend to define it as grim determination, because it is very physical and painful,” Peart says. “The exertion level is very much of an athlete level, so when I see myself, I see a stone face. But it is that kind of immersion. I’ll be looking out in between the immersion; I might pop my head out of the water for a second like an alligator, and see people in the audience reacting or holding up a sign or whatever. And that does delight me because, in a larger sense, I’m very much an audience kind of person more than a performer.”

Often, Peart says he dreams of being in the audience of his own Rush show.

“I’d love to observe what we’re a part of,” he says. “Our band has been together for 40 years, so I sense sometimes when magic is happening. And also, if I was in the audience, I wouldn’t have to be working so hard.”

Hear the audio here:

The Original Funky Drummers On Life With James Brown

John “Jabo” Starks (left) and Clyde Stubblefield laid the grooves on many of James Brown’s biggest hits. Here, they clown around on the cover of their joint DVD, Soul of the Funky Drummers.
Rittor Music

John “Jabo” Starks (left) and Clyde Stubblefield laid the grooves on many of James Brown’s biggest hits. Here, they clown around on the cover of their joint DVD, Soul of the Funky Drummers.i
John “Jabo” Starks (left) and Clyde Stubblefield laid the grooves on many of James Brown’s biggest hits. Here, they clown around on the cover of their joint DVD, Soul of the Funky Drummers.

Rittor Music
All this week, Morning Edition is talking about drums and drummers. For the first installment in “Beat Week,” David Greene spoke with a duo who shared drumming duties for the hardest working man in show business.

From the mid-1960s through the early ’70s, Clyde Stubblefield and John “Jabo” Starks created the grooves on many of James Brown’s biggest hits, and laid the foundation for modern funk drumming in the process.

The two first met in 1965, at James Brown gig in Augusta, Ga. Stubblefield was there to audition, even though Starks had just been hired two weeks earlier – and was already one of a handful of drummers on the band’s roster.

“I went on stage and there was five drum sets up there,” Stubblefield recalls. “And I’m going, ‘Wow, what do you need me for?'”

Starks says the overstuffed lineup was a strategy Brown had adopted after an earlier conflict with his band had led to a standoff.

“The saying was, when Clayton Fillyau was the drummer with James, he had just one drummer, one guitar player, one bass player,” Starks says. “They was about to not play; they were rebelling against James for something … so he had to agree with them. And they said he made a statement after then: ‘I’ll never be caught without two of everything.’ So I guess that’s where it started. But when Clyde and I joined the group, we jelled together. And then he started letting the other drummers go.”

Essentially competitors for the same seat, Stubblefield and Starks could easily have ended up as rivals. Starks says one reason they didn’t was that their skills weren’t redundant: Each brought something unique to the group.

“You have to understand this: We’re two different drummers,” he says. “Clyde plays the way that Clyde plays, which, nobody’s gonna play like Clyde. I play like I play. We can play the same tune, but different ways. You never played together on James’ shows, but when he wanted to hear something different from Clyde, he’d point to me.”

Both drummers say working with Brown could be tough. Musicians were pretty much at his beck and call — and he would even fine them when he felt they’d made a mistake.

“Sometimes you don’t have to make a mistake,” says Stubblefield, who says he had to pay Brown more than once. “You just do a little something different and he’d call that a fine, he’d fine you.”

Remarkably, neither Stubblefield nor Starks ever took drum lessons. Stubblefield says he got his sense of rhythm by listening to the clatter of machinery emanating from the factories in his hometown of Chattanooga, Tenn. Starks grew up in the church in Mobile, Ala., and says he couldn’t help but move to the music he’d hear at services.

“You couldn’t even sit down. You couldn’t stop. You had to get up to do something with it,” he says.

The grooves the two drummers created have inspired generations of artists — not just in funk, but in hip-hop, where their steady but intricate patterns make natural material for sampling. Public Enemy’s “Fight the Power,” the bracing theme music from Spike Lee’s Do The Right Thing, is based around a snippet of Stubblefield’s playing on “Funky Drummer” (to which rapper Chuck D makes a sly reference in his opening lines).

But more often than not, the artists who have used Stubblefield and Starks’ beats in their own music have failed to give them credit. That, on top of the bad times with James Brown, would leave anyone a little bitter. But when they speak to each other, the love and respect are unmistakable.

“We’re brothers,” Starks says. “That’s the way that I look at it. It’s a brotherly love.”

Stubblefield concurs. “Actually,” he says, “we’ve never had an argument.”

Listen to the conversation HERE

The Collaborative and Creative Spirit of Musical Conductor Kenny Seymour – First Wives Club Musical


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A great article on a friend and colleague Kenny Seymour – an excerpt from this article:

First Wives Club the Musical is excited to have Kenny Seymour as our Musical Director and Conductor. Kenny is in great demand for his exceptional talent. He’s worked with veteran musicians and rising stars. Kenny’s ability to fuse the talent of the orchestra, the vision of the songwriters and the bookwriter and the voices of the actors is what makes each performance unique and resonant. He has brought his special touch to many Broadway musicals, films and other projects.

Kenny took time out of his busy schedule to share his thoughts about working with the creative team of First Wives Club.

How do you feel about being a part of the amazing First Wives Club family?

Kenny: The opportunity to work with Holland-Dozier-Holland, HB Barnum, Simon Phillips and the entire creative team is really thrilling. I think everyone is very excited about where the show is heading and what it is going to become and what it is already.

We always see conductors in Broadway pits, and they look very glamorous and in charge. There must be much more to the job than we realize. What does the music director and conductor really do, and what are they responsible for?

Kenny: They are similar and different in different areas of music. In theater, the main responsibility of a music director from the conceptual stage of production or from its beginning is to teach vocals, to be present at auditions and work with the director as they go through the show in rehearsal. In some cases, those duties may extend to possibly doing some slight arrangements.

Once the show is opened, it also entails keeping the musical integrity, keeping the quality of the show up and putting in rehearsals. My role is to basically be the captain of the music department once the show is up and running and to keep it at a peak level so that everyone who sees it for the first time is seeing the show the way it was when it opened. My goal is also to ensure that it maintains that beauty and excitement.

In the development of THE FIRST WIVES CLUB what are some of the things that you are working on now?

Kenny: Right now it’s marrying song to story, seeing how things work together and making sure everything fits and feels organic. I am so fortunate to be working with Holland Dozier Holland, HB Barnum and Simon Phillips. They are all masters at their craft as far as making sure all the parts fit well. Being in the room observing that is truly fascinating. That’s the stage I believe they are at now – just going through the show and making sure everything fits and moves together nicely.

In your words how would you describe the “magic” of Holland-Dozier-Holland’s music?

Kenny: It’s interesting because there is a marriage of melody, rhythm and lyric, and I think that is the magic. It’s the emotion that goes into the song, it’s the emotion that the melody evokes, the rhythm, the sound – it’s a very organic sound. In some cases, there are so many hits they have composed that it’s become sort of a soundtrack of people’s lives. There was hit after hit after hit of songs that resonated with so many people across so many different cultures. It’s incredible.

Do you like their new music as well as their legendary famous hits?

Kenny: Oh, yes, definitely. Listening to some of the songs from the show, you can hear the talent, you can hear the emotion, you can hear why they are who they are and how they have accumulated so many hits. It’s a sensibility and a musical knowledge along with a heartfelt knowledge that’s just timeless.

Oh, you’re not kidding! Even young people know all the music and love it.

Kenny: I mean, how many times you have heard “Stop in the Name of Love or “Reach Out I’ll Be There.” Their songs are just timeless and they appeal to everybody.

You’re a seasoned theater professional. What are the challenges for a composer and lyricist whose background is primarily pop?

Kenny: They are both creative processes, and I believe that in writing a song in a pop sense, you are telling a story and it has its own parameters and its own environment where it lives and reacts. With a musical, there is a story and each component of that musical helps to move that story forward and they become one. One of the challenges is finding that blend, that balance of “this is a great song,” but does it help move the story along? The beauty about Holland-Dozier-Holland’s music, is that it is so natural and so heartfelt is that it naturally does this.

That’s so true! If you think about it with any visual medium like TV, movies or theater, if you took out the music it just wouldn’t be the same, it would be seem dead somehow. Music adds so much to your experience and how it impacts your emotions.

Kenny: In the early days of film this was the case, I believe around 1895 live music was added to the showing of silent films. Musicians would play from a book containing sheet music that captured different feelings and emotions and they would choose different types of music, for different parts of the film. The music added such a different texture, and it brought things to life. In the essence of Holland-Dozier-Holland’s music, they bring things to life in the way they compose – their melodies, their rhythms, their lyrics.

Read the rest HERE:


Broadway comes to Frenchmen Street for HBO filming of ‘Lady Day at Emerson’s Bar and Grill’


As the Tony Awards have already recognized, Audra McDonald is stunning in “Lady Day at Emerson’s Bar and Grill,” which re-creates a late-1950s performance by Billie Holiday at a small Philadelphia club. Thursday (Dec. 18) afternoon in the former Café Brasil, an audience of about 50 – some privately invited, some paid actors – got to see McDonald and a three-piece band re-create the show’s Broadway magic for an upcoming HBO special.

Two other tapings this week will be combined for the TV special, to air in 2015.

Prop cocktails were already in place on the small tables in front of the stage when the audience entered. Artificial smoke further set the saloon mood. The Broadway production of the play, originally written for off-Broadway in 1987 by Lanie Roberston, was staged earlier this year at the Circle in the Square Theatre.

HBO and the special’s producers looked at several possibilities for recording the show — which also features Broadway-cast originals Shelton Becton on piano, George Farmer on bass and Clayton Craddock on drums – including a studio soundstage.

No doubt Louisiana tax credits also played a role, but “vibe” was why they chose a small, shuttered Frenchmen Street nightclub.

“We were pitched doing this in studios,” said Allen Newman, executive producer. “We were pitched doing this in New York. And Lonny Price the director and Audra and I and Lanie all agreed we needed to find the right vibe. We needed to find Emerson’s Bar & Grill. And we needed something funky, and we needed something that could be Philadelphia circa 1959. We decided that this was the place.

“This had the right vibe.”

Funky it is. The Café Brasil bar was incorporated into the otherwise built-from-scratch floor-to-ceiling set. Sound-deadening, light-blocking blankets were hung over the exterior walls. The afternoon shooting schedule was picked to bypass some of the entertainment district’s busy street life, but some interaction was unavoidable. (As were the show’s production trucks, parked along Chartres.)

“Circa 1959, there were people,” Newman said. “There were cars. That ambiance can still exist. The things we needed to avoid were trucks going by, Harleys with that huge sound. You don’t want that. The general sounds of the neighborhood were logical for what we’re doing.

“Audra summed it up best. She was on stage with us a few days ago when she had just come into the venue to work. She said that this venue is perfect because this is the kind of environment that Billie would’ve played at the end, a very small club, and this would’ve been the neighborhood that she would’ve enjoyed before and after the show.

“The room has a presence, and it impacts what Audra does, and it impacts how it looks, and it impacts the overall feel.”

Read the rest here:

The Interview: Joni Mitchell


After reading this interview, I’m a bigger fan of hers. I’ve liked her music and voice, but her outlook on producing, the 70’s, producing, performing, feminism, empowerment and life in general is great.

In a rare and wide-ranging interview spanning 90 minutes, singer-songwriter-artist Joni Mitchell spoke from her home in Los Angeles. Her latest project, a box set called Love Has Many Faces: A Quartet, a Ballet, Waiting To Be Danced, combines her experience as a Grammy-winning musician, a painter and a dance enthusiast by collecting 53 songs into four discs from 40 years of recording


Q: You’ve voiced concern over what you call the “push-button generation of today.” What is impairing us the most?

A: Everything is about channel changing. It has ruined attention spans. I spaced out in school but I didn’t develop attention-deficit issues because I placed attention on my imagination and ignored the curriculum. I didn’t have a million newsfeeds to contend with. It is just like when I have people over to my house to watch a film—it’s like living in a Robert Altman movie! They are always talking over each other. We are all losing the plot. It’s an addiction to phones and too much information.

Q: What repercussions do you think future generations will feel now that everyone is on their phone during concerts, etc.?

A: Here’s an example. My grandson and I were sailing on a boat and he said, “It’s boring.” I asked, “How can you say it’s boring? The sun is shining, we’re going across the water so fast . . . ” And he said, “Not fast enough.” Technology has given him this appetite.


Q: Your song Two Grey Rooms was another ahead-of-its-time song. Was there pushback from the record company recording a song about one man falling in love with another?A:

They always pushed me back but I take as much liberty as I can get away with. That’s why I’m not a feminist. When I heard, “You can’t do that, you’re a girl,” I went ahead and did it anyway.

Q: Yet feminism was monumental in the ’70s.Why weren’t you interested?

A: I’d rather go toe to toe with a guy than have a posse. I’m like Katharine Hepburn—I don’t know why but I just feel equal. I thought people should fight for their rights individually—not in a group. The feminists I met were so hostile. They would say, “You like men and they just want to f–k you.” They were browbeating me. They were also so undomestic. I have a lot of respect for domestic women. A lot of them were made graceful by supporting and serving a man. I tried to cook for two men but it was a thankless job

Read the entire piece HERE

Little Bit Funky/Little Bit Rock and Roll

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Tonight I’m playing a gig with a really good and fun band called Arena out in Wayne NJ at a spot called Grasshopper Too. I’ve played a few gigs with them in the past and have had lots of fun each time we’ve worked together. Each gig we’ve done has been me subbing for their regular drummer who can’t make it for some reason, and I have to play without a rehearsal. So far, no train wrecks. It really is just plain old fun at a NJ bar with down to earth people ready and willing to go out on a Saturday night and have a good time. Sometimes I feel it is better than playing certain gigs in NYC where people sit back and  judge every move you make, often while not even paying attention.

Most of these songs are ones that I grew up listening to as a kid. I’ve even played some of them in bands in high school. It is funny how the drum parts all seem to come back as soon as we get started playing the songs. Other ones, I have to do some homework before I get there.

It’s one thing to know a song from listening to it on the radio for 30 years and another to actually play the drum parts…the right way. I like trying to play the actual parts the drummer did on the record. It is a challenge. Plus, it makes things easier for the band and more fun for me.

In my opinion, to this day, Tom Sawyer is by far, the hardest song I have ever tried to play. Even harder than those songs in the Broadway show Evita. (Rush/Evita…yeah I infused broadway into this post – It is where I make my money folks!) I loved playing Rush songs back in 1981 and I love their songs to this day.

I must say this…..I love rock. LOVE it. I love playing even harder stuff like Tool, Black Sabbath. Led Zeppelin, Soundgarden, Bad Brains…that kind of stuff. I even played in my own metal band back in the late 80’s called EvilTwins. We had the chance to open up for Creed back in January of 1998. It was the first time I played in a band where we actually created a mosh pit. Yessir! After the third song, our lead singer asked, “So how are we doing?” The crowd replied with the biggest roar I’ve ever heard while on stage. It was one of the greatest feelings in the world.

Even though I love my rock and metal, I love me some soul and funk. If I had things my way, in my perfect utopian world, I would have an original band that was a combination of Earth Wind And Fire, Led Zeppelin and Bad Brains…with a little Cameo sprinkled in…oh, and with a black female singer. Yes!!!!

One day I’d like to do a show with a big ass band. 3 background singers, 3 guitarists (yeah, I need three), bass player, 2 keyboardists, 3 horns,  male and female lead vocalists and a percussionist. And just about everyone should be able to sing. We’d have a set that had songs like this:

Fencewalk – Mandrill

777-9311/Cool/ The Stick – The Time

Baby I’m Gonna Love You Just A Little Bit More – Barry White

Red Hot Mama/Knee Deep – Funkadelic

I just want to be/Shake Your Pants/Sparkle/Keep It Hot- Cameo

Evil/All About Love/Runnin’ and about 15 other non-hits – Earth Wind and Fire

Sexy Dancer/She’s Always In My Hair and 10 other B-sides Prince

More Bounce To The Ounce – Zapp

Fancy Dancer – Commodores

Skin Tight  – Ohio Players

Your Wish Is My Command/Fantastic Voyage/Something About That Woman – Lakeside

Just A Touch Of Love/Slide/Watching You – Slave

Footsteps in The Dark and their classic non-hit ballads- Isley Brothers

Dusic/Dazz/Push – Brick

If I’m in Luck, I just might get picked up – Betty Davis

Do you love what you feel/Stay./Clouds/What Cha’ gonna do for me/We Got Each Other – Rufus/Chaka

Chocolate Buttermilk/This Is You, This Is Me and the cool stuff before Ladies Night  – Kool And The Gang


You know, stuff like that. I would have a funk show for those who know how to funk-and-soul, but are a little tired of hearing wedding band funk.

Until then, I’m gonna rock out tonight!

Somebody help me put this band together will ya?