Saturday, March 10, 2012

Little Bit Of Sympathy

There have been a few times I've been severely toungue tied or had a brain fart while interviewing someone. In 1978, at the ripe old age of 22, I had the pleasure of interviewing Ann and Nancy Wilson, who just blew me away with their beauty.

I was interviewing them for 97X in the Quad Cities in a trailer back stage where we were set up. Their manager opened the door for them and I swear I could hear the dramatic music swell in the background. They walked in, fresh faced and smelling so nice. Me? I was trying to keep my tongue in my mouth and not drool. They were both stunningly beautiful and they played me like a banjo.
While I was interviewing them I really tried to keep my composure but all I wanted to do was say ..."either one, I'm in. I'll peel your grapes and soothe you with palm fronds. I'll bathe your feet in oil every night. Either one, really, I'm in." But, i didn't.
They, however,were as nice about it as could be. If you were to just pull out my part of the interview , it would probably sound like ..."uh, well, hey, I'm uh well, Ann, hey, um, Nancy..uh, what do you, er,"...

This was early in my career. I remember being so nervous, I called them the "Heart" sisters. They laughed and said, "that's cute, we like that, the Heart sisters it is." Gah. Whenever I introduced them on the radio, it was Ann and Nancy, "the Heart sisters". I will always have a soft spot in my "heart" for those ladies.

When I first got to KY 102 in 1979, the studio was way inside a building that also housed a TV station and a full service country station. By full service, I mean they had a news team full staffed 24/7. Along with the TV station, that building was a bevy of activity pretty much all the time. The studio was literally a closet down a winding hall and behind two huge, thick doors. After you opened the first thick door, the next thick door was right behind the first one. After you opened that door, the studio looked liked a closet that had carpeting all over the walls and floors.

While some may have been claustrophobic in that studio, I found the coziness quite refreshing. Locked away in that room behind the big doors lent itself to a bit of a comforting feeling. I have always liked cozy.

In 1980, my buddies in Shooting Star went on tour with Robin Trower. Robin Trower! I have been a fan of Robin's since I first heard "Bridge of Sighs" on 8 track while working at J.I. Case in Bettendorf Iowa in 1974. "Bridge of Sighs" quickly became one of the releases that held my 8 track hostage. It literally would not let anyone else play anything else. Meeting Robin Trower was a huge deal for me.

They were on a bill at Memorial Hall in Kansas City and Robin was doing the dog and pony show talking to radio stations that really never played his music much. The way it worked was you had to follow format unless you got a star in the studio and then you could only play their "hits". Well, with Robin, the hits were things the station didn't play anyway, so I felt pretty sure playing something from the new album (Victims of the Fury)and a couple from Bridge of Sighs would do it.

I don't remember the record guy's name but I know that Robin was with a man named Derek Sutton, who, in his own right, was a big name in the music business. They walked in and I was just flummoxed. I shouldn't have been but this was Robin Trower. Robin sat down and I asked if I could get him anything but he was fine. I started the interview and I was pretty impressed on how I was keeping my composure. We talkied about Procul Harum, the massive popularity of Bridge of Sighs and then I played "Victims of The Fury".

Talk about nervous. I wanted to make some small talk while the song was playing so, I asked him something about something. Being as nervous as I was, without thinking, I reached over and lifted the needle off the song that was playing on the air and proceded to take the album off the turntable, slip it into the sleeve, then into the album and file it away. Robin started to laugh. I couldnt figure out what he was laughing about. For a couple of uncomfortable seconds, I realized there was nothing going over the airwaves. I looked at the VU meters and they were not moving. I then looked over at the turntables and there was nothing on either one of them.

Dead air. He knew it. What an idiot.


I struggled to pull myself together, keyed the mic and said something about technical problems and we would be right back. It doesn't matter what happened after that, I was deflated and humiliated. Another lesson learned.

I saw him the next night at the Shooting Star/Robin Trower show, he was very nice and congenial. He greeted me with a nice handshake. The guys in Shooting Star said he was one of the nicest, most professional people they had pleasure to know.

Nice to know. He certainly was to me.

On Turning 50

A friend of mine informed me he's getting ready to turn 50. As someone who has now spent more than half a decade there, I thought I'd give him some advice...

Hey man,

damn straight
50 is the time when you start to figure the whole chess game out. The pieces of the puzzle slowly come together and the meaning of life becomes more in focus. I've (for the most part) enjoyed my 50s. I try to keep the body somewhat in shape and feel more comfortable in who I am. I think I'm in better shape and feel better than I did in my 30's. I tell my friends I'm fighting old age "kicking and screaming". I am certainly not as excitable as I used to be, it's hard to yank my chain because I've heard it all and experienced it all before. My skin is thicker.

My worries include what my drug use in my youth has left behind and the genes I carry. There are some burnt chromosomes that go back centuries.
And yes, there is something to be said for making it to the other side. A lot of our friends and contemporaries did NOT.

That's the bummer about my 50's. I've lost a lot of people I look up to. I've lost favorite musicians, teachers, mentors, friends, etc. One week last year, I lost three friends in the span of two weeks.
Another bummer is I don't get filled with a sense of awe anymore. THAT's the one thing I miss about being a kid. I used to be awed regularly. Not so much anyone. In fact the last time I remember being "awestruck" was about nine years ago.

The thing I've become more comfortable about is "acceptance". I know I can't control a lot of the stuff that happens in my life. I'm now trying to focus on accepting that.

I have begun a quest to right the wrongs I've done in life. I haven't always been the nicest person in the world. There are a few things I need to settle before I depart this Earth. Speaking of that, when the day comes I do, don't cry for me. Where would you put my quality of lifestyle on a measuring scale of one to ten? I think mine goes all the way to 11.

"It's louder, innit?"

I think we have more compassion as we hit the big 50 because our hearts have been scarred. I've become much more empathetic and sympathetic. I have more respect for the elderly because...they've made it too. Just making it to their age deserves my humility and respect. It's STILL a process and I am trying to be the best person I can be.

Embrace change, grasshopper.

Again, it's about acceptance. Run with it, your 50's will be the chance to rediscover your life and what makes YOU happy. Kids will be gone soon and after the empty nest syndrome passes (it takes about 6 weeks), you'll realize that this is the way it should be, the way it has been for generations and it's now dad and mom's turn to fly.

Fly high, dude.

not quite MY ratio, but funny nonetheless

Monday, March 05, 2012

Ronnie Montrose

I discovered Van Morrison through Tupelo Honey. I heard of him before, but really started paying attention with Wild Night. That was the very first song by him that made me stand up and go..."oh yeah."

The guitar player was Ronnie Montrose.

In fact, if you listen closely to that riff, it almost has an early "Free Ride" thing going on. Tupelo Honey made me go back and find Moondance and my love affair with Van was on.
The next year, this monster of a song comes on the radio with all this weird synthesizer stuff and man, it does NOT sound like any other song I've ever heard. Edgar Winter?
"Frankenstein" made me go out and buy that album, (you should have seen the look on my dad's face when he saw the cover.) Wow, the guitar player is Ronnie Montrose. Ronnie shined on the record, from "We Still Had A Real Good Time" To "Round and Round". Who can forget the wonderful riff of "Free Ride"? If there was ever a song made for spring, it's that one.

I was waiting for the next Edgar Winter album when a friend of mine come over to my house with an 8 track of Ronnie's new project  "Montrose". It seemed Ronnie was at it again, and this time he traded that lovely spring filled riff with an effing sledge hammer. "Montrose" remained in my 8 track player until, literally, the tape head wore through the tape and it disintegrated. I can remember having the "Montrose" tape in the 8 track and having a matchbook wedged in between the tape and the player just so it could play.

I have a Japanese import of "Open Fire" that I paid twenty bucks for "Magdelena" served as my show open for awhile in the early radio days and there are 9 Gamma songs on planetradio. To say I was a fan would be an under statement. I thought Gamma was a totally over looked band in the early 80s. Listen to "Voyager", "Dirty City" or "Fight To The Finish". You listen now and it doesn't sound dated. It still sound like fresh, hook laden, well played rock and roll.

I talked to Ronnie twice in my career. Once after a Gamma release in the studio. It is always nice to find out the person you've dug for so long is a decent guy and Ronnie was. He seemed appreciative.

The next (and last) time I chatted with him was right after a soundcheck at the Westport Playhouse in the late 80's when he opened for Robin Trower. It was odd, because at the time, I think Davey Pattison sang for both Montrose AND Trower that night.

The Westport Playhouse was a great place to play. It was wierd, however, because the stage rotated through the show. This creates a bit of a sticky wicket for the sound man who has to balance out the sound throughout the whole venue. He has to make some adjustments to the volume of the amps as not to have the whole thing sound like a freight train to the people on the opposite side of where the front of the stage is.
Right after a sound check, when Ronnie and I were finishing our interview, the sound man at the Playhouse said to Ronnie, "please, whatever you do, do NOT mess with the volume on your amp. I have it set perfectly, for a great sounding show. So, please don't turn it up or down."
"OK, no problem" Ronnie said.

Later, I got in front of a sold out show and after taking the cue from the band...I do my thing...
"Hey, I'm Randy from KSHE thanks for coming, how about a great, warm welcome for a St. Louis favorite...Ronnie Montrose!!!"

I look behind me as Ronnie walks over to his amps and turns them all the way up. I can hear the sound man over the screaming crowd...."NO! NO!".

Too late.

Freight train would be kind. You couldn't hear anything but the guitar. I could see the people putting their hands over their ears, it was painful.
I don't know about you, but I would have a real hard time telling Ronnie Montrose would to do or how to sound.
How blessed am I that this clown grew up to meet one of his guitar heroes. Twice. I am so glad I knew his story. I think guys like Ronnie appreciate it when they are interviewed by a fan. He seemed to anyway.

Here are a couple of faves...

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