John Goodwin: Songwriter, Recording Artist

John Goodwin is an incredible singer-songwriter who has recorded his most recent album “Goodwin.” John Goodwin has recorded six albums, the newest record features a new direction with solo acoustic performances and duets with Jessica Andrews, Michael McDonald and Jeff Bridges. John Goodwin is also a visual artist–a painter and photographer. His songs have been featured in several major motion pictures including Crazy Heart, Surf’s Up, The Amateurs, and Tideland.

Ladies and gentlemen, it is with great pleasure we welcome our third time guest, Mr. John Goodwin, thanks so much for agreeing to do another interview with us.

Happy to be here with you, Paul.

My pleasure. You’re joining us here to talk about your new album entitled ‘Goodwin,’ anyone that listened to the last time you were on, you were playing some of your acoustic songs and you had this album out called ‘Nashville,’ and it seems to me, for my ears anyways that it’s a further evolution as an artist.  What prompted you to kind of make this change in your music to a more acoustic?

A lot of my CDs have involved other musicians andthe songs sounded like they were played with a band and I just really challenged myself and wanted to see if I could do anything I liked, sitting and playing, singing without a band, so I just went ahead and did it and started to like what I heard.   That’s what I do when I write a song and I’m always enjoying that so I figured like, why not just go in the studio and do it.

What aspect of making music excites you the most?

The emotional rush I think, you know, I think anybody that picks up a guitar and starts singing and playing something they are inspired by or want to play gets off on the whole experience, it’s your hands, like, playing a guitar, it’s your voice and the coordination between, you know, your voice and your hands, and you know, the end result and, you know, your mind’s working and, you know, you’re expressing yourself and it’s a real, a real emotional rush, just to sing and play.

Do you find that as you are creating music, do you find that you get more, or less interested in seeking out new music made by other artists?

I’m always listening to other artists and new albums, constantly checking out what’s coming out, you know, I’m looking for that ‘thing’ that really excites me, you know, my interest in other artists has not diminished at all, probably increased a lot as I continue, you know, writing and recording.

The interesting thing about the different albums that you’ve released over the years is the different styles of music that you’ve played, ‘Part Of Me Will Never Grow Up,’ is kind of like, a Reggae song, you have a couple of songs like, ‘A Place In My Heart’ that is definitely Country, and lots of Rock n Roll, I want to ask you, what musical period or styles do you find yourself the most drawn to? I know you like everything, but is there something that resonates most with you?

I think it’s more like, what I consider to be a great song in a particular time in my history as a person, you know, I’ve been deeply, deeply into Rock ‘n Roll, deeply into R & B, deeply into Country a long time ago, when country was a little more genuine and sincere, you know, I started a couple of years like, really being into Metal when it was like Black Sabbath and you know, real, like seminal kind of Metal sounds and Reggae I got way into.  So every music that’s really touched my life, all done so equally has brought out those things in me.

I wanted to talk about a couple of the songs on your latest album, ‘Goodwin’, I think my favorite song on the album is ‘Butter MintSweet.’

Something like twenty years ago, I just started writing on my guitar this little classical piece and like, that’s the end of the first section, you know, you want to play another section, there’s no lyric to it, it’s just, it was just you know, all guitar and I just developed this little song which had no lyrics and I really liked it and I forgot about it for years and then I found it again and just started writing lyrics to it, so this has been a work in progress.

You actually recorded it as a duet, as far as your discography, this was the first album that you have with duets.

Absolutely, it is and I wish I’d done more of it, because I really like singing with friends of mine and I’m going to do a lot more of it too.

Two other songs on the album that are duets, in one of them, you remarked earlier that you were especially proud of it, it was a duet with Michael McDonald ‘When The World Was A Child.’

I was in a coffee house or something like that and kind of, crowded place and I saw this Mother walked in with her little child, little infant, you know, but walking and the child was holding the Mother’s hand and it just seemed to me, like you know, once upon a time the world was an innocent child, you know and just look at it, everything, you know, like new eyes and stuff like that, so that was the inspiration to start writing the song and once I got started I don’t think I could stop until it was finished.


Is there a song on the new album ‘Goodwin’ that you are especially proud of, a favorite song?

Well, I have many favorite songs, I think most artists, when you record an entire album and spend a lot of time on it, eventually you find songs you’re not as in love with as you were when you wrote them and recorded them, but actually there are a lot of songs on this album that I really like, just because of the purity of the performance and the purity of the song. I’d like to say there’s one song that I safely think is my favourite, but there are quite a number, quite a few songs that I really, really like here.

You couldn’t pick a favorite though?

Well, I wish I could, I mean, it would make it simpler for anybody to listen to the record, but I have to say that I really am proud of a lot of them.

There’s a song on there ‘The Blessed One’, I noticed this on the last album. Both this album and the last one, it seems like there’s an exploration of spirituality almost?
Yes.

What inspired you to write ‘The Blessed One’?

Kind of a deep, deep subject here, because, a lot of times I feel like people are not appreciated until they’re gone and we obviously have historical examples of that, we also have examples of that in our everyday lives, and we know of singers and songwriters who aren’t universally known, but really believe that they deserve to be as much as if not more than people who are extremely well known, so you know the whole inspiration was like, you know, ‘don’t abuse the blessing, don’t overlook the blessing,’, you know that was kind of about it.

What are the other songs on the album that are light-hearted and fun songs, well, depending on how you look at it, I really got a kick out of ‘Lime Green Speedos,’ and, again, kind of like, as far as you exploring new avenues, the last album also had a comedy song, ‘Monday I’m Starting My Diet,’ but tell us about ‘Lime Green Speedos.’

Well, ‘Lime Green Speedos,’ I forgot exactly where that song started it might have started with a rhythm on my guitar that I started playing and you know, and the subject suddenly came to me that, you know, I’m going to lose all this weight and surprise everybody, and you know, in summertime, when I show up at the swimming pool in my lime green speedos, it amused me, interested me and moved me enough, you know, to just throw as much as I could at the song as I was writing it, you know, the song you referred to on the last album, ‘Monday I’m Starting My Diet,’ that song and ‘Lime Green Speedos’ both have to do with, like, being overweight and trying to do something about it, which, a lot of people have that problem, more like I have to go on a diet and put back what they lose, stuff like that, so, you know, these were just dealing with that whole issue you know in the most light hearted, emotional way that I could, you know.

I also wanted to talk to you about a song that you wrote, that was featured in the movie ‘Crazy Heart.’  tell us about that song ‘Hold On You’.

I’d love to, I also want to say that on the new album the duet I did with Jeff Bridges, which I’m extremely proud of, you know, really, it’s just two old friends singing about life and what a beautiful day it is.I love that song.  The song ‘Crazy Heart’ goes… I was lucky enough before the movie was made to be invited out to LA to spend some time with Jeff and the Director, writer of the movie Scott Cooper and  T. Bone Burnett, during the course of the week that I spent with those guys, like, I started writing ‘Hold On You’ and T. Bone started writing it with me, and eventually, I left town and he brought a couple of friends in and they all finished the song together and I’m amazingly proud of that, it was just a highlight of my life.

I wanted you to tell us about the experience you had out there, you said that you’ve recently been feeling the winds of inspiration kind of to start performing again?

Yeah, haven’t quite gotten out there and done that.  The last time I performed was at this huge birthday party in LA, back in, in December, my whole path as a writer is a little bit wierd cause I spent most of my time just writing and recording but continuously writing and continuously recording, you know, and I sort of didn’t do a lot of playing out even though I enjoy it, what I do is, I’m trying to motivate myself to go out there and do it, it’s usually, you know, a lot of fun for me and the people in the audience when I do, but it’s just one of those humps that I’m kind of stuck behind right now.

Is there any artistic or musical avenues that you haven’t explored that you have an interest in pursuing?

Aaaah man, there’s so many, you know, writing on other instruments, instruments that I don’t particularly play, you know, bongos or whatever, every time I pick up something new and start playing with it, most of the time some new kind of music comes out, for me, the most interesting thing that I really want to do a lot more of is just improvisational songs, in other words songs that aren’t written, so you turn on a tape recorder and you sit there and you just play and sing, and I can do that pretty well. I haven’t done that a lot but I have a fantasy of like recording like, a thousand songs that way and be sure to share the results with you when I do that.

You mentioned the last time I was talking to you that you’re already thinking about the next recording project. What do you see in the future?

Ohhhh it’s looking good, at least, you know, by my standards looking really good Paul, I’ll tell you why, because, I’m sure I don’t have time to tell you about the whole recording process that I went through with this new record I made, very briefly with this amazing engineer in Nashville, gave me just an unlimited free use of his studio,  just because he likes what I did, so I went there many, many, many, manytimes and had all the time in the world to lay it all out and from everything I recorded I chose the songs that would be on the album called “Goodwin.” But this thing, I think the record’s been done for about three months now, I’ve written seven or eight songs that I think there as good as anything I’ve ever written in my life and I’m really excited, think I’ll go and probably sometime in late May or early June and just try and cut an entire record in three hours with songs that I’ve written that I like since I finished the last album.

Is there any particular reason that you say to do it in three hours like that?

Yeah, once again it’s challenge, you know, to do something in real time like, you know, when you turn on the radio and you hear a three minute song, you’re actually living in the illusion that a bunch of people went into the studio and played and sang for three minutes and there the song was, but you know how it works these days, like, you know, there’s dozens if not a hundred hours recording parts and pieces and bits of it and adding stuff and people coming into the studio over weeks and months and eventually you have what seems like a real three minute song, that’s really not, it’s like, you know, thirty seven hours condensed into a three minute experience, so it seems like, to go in there and play it straight, you know, from top to bottom, it’s a challenge.  I think Bob Dylan recorded ‘Another Side Of Bob Dylan’ in one day, I believe that’s true, and of course I think the Beatles cut their second record in one day too, so, there’s no reason, if you can present something that’s a performance, it’s why it shouldn’t literally be a performance, and not this massive collage you know, which is, you know sometimes over thought and, I want to be something not an illusion, I want to be something that is like literally a performance.

That will be very interesting to hear. I hope that everyone out there has kind of gotten a little picture in their mind of what it is that  you mean.  On that note you just mentioned Bob Dylan, last night I was talking with friends and I wanted to know your opinion on, in your mind anyways, who are the greatest songwriters?

Well that’s a tough one, you know, because some people like Bob Dylan that have written many, many, many extremely brilliant, wonderful songs, and there are other people who have written one or two in their entire career, but they’re, they’re wonderful songs too, so, you know, I can’t say someone who would be prolific and amazing, for me has been any better than somebody, you know, loving one or two great ones and being amazing, because when you’re listening to the songs, just in the middle of, for you, it’s an amazing experience and you don’t think about the other two songs they wrote that were great or the other ninety five songs that were great, I mean, you can only listen to one song at a time, so that’s the way I’m feeling music as a listening experience.  Oh I could name a hundred people, whose music I absolutely love, man, like, you know obviously Bob Dylan, the Beatles, Jackson Browne, Joni Mitchell, the great songs that Smokey Robinson wrote, the Stones, man “Beast of Burden,” you know, there are French pop artists like Jaques Brel, phenomenal songs, I have to say that, you know, if I had to list my favorite songwriters or acts, there would be at least, at least a hundred names on it, because they all touched me extremely deeply.

Not just of the songs that you wrote, but just in general, is there a song, or a couple of songs that have just tremendous meaning to you?

Oh yeah, but Paul, like, there are like, so many, so many songs that just have deep, deep meaning for me, it would be really tough for me to say you know that there’s only one or two, but the song Michael McDonald wrote and recorded called ‘Matters Of The Heart,’ which I just think is burningly brilliant or you know, “Papa was a Rolling Stone” by the Temptations, or you know, I cannot really say here’s my top five, any one of those top five, any one of the 95 behind that you all all have great meaning for me…

I wanted to ask you when somebody listens to the new album, ‘Goodwin,’ what is it that you hope they get out of the experience of listening.

Well, I hope they like what they’re hearing, from the beginning of a song to the end of the song, I was trying for a certain kind of purity from the performance, you know, but for people who don’t know me who are hearing this, I’d just like them to know that this record, like every record, is a transition period and I just happen to document by writing and recording the song.

It’s been a great pleasure to speak to you as always, always great talking to you, but before we go is there anything you’d like to say to all the people listening out there?

Well, like I said the last time you interviewed me, I think you asked me this question and I’d just like to say that I hope you’re all having a good day and doing things that you really love to do, what more can you say to people or want for people?

I do remember you telling me that, you said you hope everybody has a good day because good days are the building blocks of a good life. When I heard the album I was listening to the duet with Jeff Bridges, ‘The Good Day Song,’ and it made me think of that conversation.

Yeah, (John laughs) I know what you mean, you know, totally what that song was about, it was such a joy doing that with Jeff. He’s such a generous soul and so deeply appreciate him, he’s making a lot of my days really good and has for many years.

He definitely captured I think, your friendship together. Hearing you do the duet with him, I remember years ago when I was listening to your music, and it was right after I had been exposed to his music.  Has it ever been a passing thought about performing with him, or maybe collaborating with him on an album?


Yeah, I think that’s very  likely to happen, in fact the last few times we performed, we were both at parties, Jeff was there and we both played songs, I think he inspires me to go out and perform, I love collaborating with him, we’ve written many songs together which I totally love and totally look forward to anything we do together, it’s just such fun and we’ve been doing it for years so I think you can probably look forward to that.

Everyone out there can check you out online at babyrecords.com and again, thanks so much for the interview, always a pleasure to listen to your music and always a pleasure to talk to you.


Paul, I’m really glad that my music has found you and that you like it so much.  It means so much to me.

It means a lot to me too and have a good one, a good day.


You too man.  Good days, you know.

TRANSCRIBED BY ROSALIND WINTON

Jeff Daniels: Actor, Songwriter

JEFF DANIELS is another one of those singer-songwriters who is also an actor.  This interview was recorded on Halloween, on the stage at Smith’s Olde Bar in Atlanta, Georgia.  Jeff Daniels was kind enough to perform a song for us.

Daniels does a great job of talking about the creative life.  He is a great songwriter.  His serious songs represent his best work.

Ladies and gentlemen, it’s a great pleasure to welcome our special guest, fellow Michigander, Jeff Daniels. Thanks so much for making the time to do this.

Thanks, Paul.

Who is the real Jeff Daniels?

I have no idea. That would take, um, probably a team of psychiatrists to figure out. I mean, if you look at the acting career it’s certifiably schizophrenic. It really is (laughs) because you can go from Dumb and Dumber to, uh, to Gettysburg or Squid and the Whale – there’s a lot of people in between those two, those two or three people. So, uh, probably the music, uh, is probably the closest but even in the music I go wildly comic to very serious so I’m probably still in search of whoever that is.

Can you remember and tell us some of your earliest musical influences?

I remember getting Tumbleweed Connection, the Elton John album and I didn’t even know who Elton was. And the album jacket, the cover, intrigued me at a young age and I bought it and I just loved it. And I didn’t know why I loved it. I’d never heard anything like it. And I think a lot of it was Bernie – Elton’s playing but Bernie Taupin, the writing. As I look back, I started to look at the writers. I started to look at the story-tellers and then that led to guys like Arlo Guthrie who could tell a story and then weave a song into that story. Stevie Goodman – I saw Stevie Goodman at The Bottom Line in New York – amazed at what that guy did with just himself and a guitar. Christine Lavin. You know, lately, guys like Todd Snider. Todd’s got such a point of view. Only Todd can write those songs and they’re almost like you can’t cover them. So, and that’s what you look for in writing – guys that have a singular point of view.

Yeah. When I was listening to the album that I got of yours, I thought ‘this guy sounds like Steve Goodman and Arlo Guthrie.’ That is what I thought (laughs).

Yeah. My heroes. My early heroes. They really, they openedthe door for you can just have a guitar, and you can write funny and you can write serious back-to-back and that – and Christine Lavin was another one. I chased all those three people. They were, they kind of led the way for me.

Could you pick a favorite artist that influenced you?

No, probably not because I’m still probably trying to, uh, define what it is I do and it’s influenced by a lot of people. Then you get guys like Stefan Grossman who I’ve been privileged to have lesson from and have also studied him since the ‘80s – his tab books on finger picking and the whole deal. Then you get into the blues. You get guys like, you know, Lonnie Johnson, Skip James, Robert Johnson – all those guys and what were they singing about? What were they doing? Sonny Terry, Brownie McGhee. I remember listening to them in the ‘80s. A friend turned me on to them. They’re all probably in there somewhere. There’s a – Lyle Lovett is a guy that, again, as a writer only Lyle could write that song that way. If I had to pick somebody present-day it would probably be Lyle.

Can you remember the first song that you wrote?

Yeah. It’s in my notebook. My big, huge notebook of everything I’ve ever written. Yeah. I think it was about my dog, my first dog and it’s god-awful. It’ll never see the light of day.


You do this tour. You have four albums to your credit thus far. So you’ve recorded, you’ve written songs, you’ve performed. Could you pick a favorite part of music?

I think the moment – and it happens in some of the older songs now that I’ve played a few hundred times – but it’s, uh, certainly that moment when you find you get on top of that new song. And it takes a bunch of performances in front of people to kind of give birth to it. But you get on top if it, you get the phrasing right, you get the guitar right and then it connects. And you see and hear from an audience that this thing that really was just an idea in your head weeks or months ago is now something that you will be playing on a regular basis because it connects with people you don’t even know. It’s that moment where that first connection happens, that new thing. That’s pretty cool.

In the liner notes to one of your albums you talk about how these songs are like a snapshot and you’ve been keeping, like in this notebook, like a journal. Take it a step further and you record these songs and perform for people. What would you say makes you want to do that?
I’m living a very creative life but it’s creative on my terms. And this country, you know, uh, it – I wouldn’t say it’s exemplary in the way it treats its artists or supports its artists. I could argue that Europe does a better job of that or takes it more seriously. I think America has always been like that. There is certainly room, there is room for artists and art but you kind of have to make your own space, you know, if it’s what you’re supposed to do, which is what I was told at the age of 21. I had a director from New York see me in a college production and he took me aside and he literally asked me ‘You know what you should do with your life, don’t you?’ and he said ‘Come to New York and join my theater company and chase an acting career. No promised but you’re good enough to give it a shot.’ And that acting chase led to a lot of sitting around, waiting for the phone to ring, for someone else to tell me it was time to be creative. The guitar, which I picked up in 1976, became that go-to creative outlet so I could keep that side of my life and that part of my brain, and that – just that part of me, which is probably the essential part, going 24/7. And I didn’t have to wait for the phone to ring. I didn’t have to wait for somebody in Hollywood to tell me that I’m hot and I can now be in a movie. I just was able to do it on my own. The music has probably, you know, fulfilled me the most of all.

Ladies and gentlemen, you’re listening to an interview with singer-songwriter and actor, Jeff Daniels. Grandfather’s Hat – tell us about that tune.
That’s a song that – I wear a fedora. I really like those fedoras. They’re kind of timeless and, um, I was – my kids played hockey and, uh, high school hockey in Michigan, and I was wearing it to one of the games and a friend of mine came up to me. And he knew my family and he knew my grandfather, and he came up to me and he goes ‘Is that your grandfather’s hat?’ and I said ‘No, no. It’s just one that was very similar to …’ Before I got to the end of the sentence, I knew it was a song. Not just a song about my particular grandfather but your mother’s necklace or your aunt’s ring or your father’s knife. You know, Guy Clark has a great, great song, uh, about his dad’s, um, jackknife. And so it’s that, that kind of ‘missing someone who is no longer here’.
Well, would you like to play it for all the listeners out there
Sure. [Performs Grandfather’s Hat]

Ladies and gentlemen, Jeff Daniels. Thanks so much. One of the things about music is you get to meet a lot of people. One of the tracks that you do, you did a cover of the George Harrison song, Here Comes the Sun. tell us about some of the exciting people you’ve met through your music.

Umhmm.

I mean, first of all, George Harrison – say no more (laughs).
Yeah, that was pretty cool. Uh, the short version of that story is I was doing a movie called Checking Out in 1988 and it was produced by George Harrison’s independent film company called Handmade Films. And we were hoping he would show up on the set in L.A. and, sure enough, one day he did. And I had a guitar in the dressing room and I said ‘Would you mind signing my guitar?’ and he said ‘I’d be happy to.’ Took him into a back room so it wouldn’t be, like, 100,000 signatures. And he signed the guitar and then, before he gave it back to me, he flipped it over and, on that guitar, played Here Comes the Sun. I mean, just me – and two other guys – just the three of us sitting there. It was like our own little private concert. It was such a gift that he gave and he couldn’t have been nicer. He couldn’t have been more interested in anyone other than himself. It was just a great lesson on how to handle that level of fame or any kind of fame.

You have a theater up in Michigan and everyone can check out JeffDaniels.com. The proceeds from the sale of the CDs goes towards this theater, the Purple Rose of Cairo. We just reviewed that film. It was from 1985 but we did like a flashback kind of thing. So tell us bout the theater a bit.

The Purple Rose Theater Company is 20 years old this season. Uh, it’s mission is mainly to do new American plays, particularly plays about that part of the country. That’s how I was brought up in New York, at the Circle Repertoire Company. Every play was a new play. Every play, the months before, the playwright was walking around rewriting the second act, getting ready for rehearsal. There was a thrill to that versus doing what New York had done last year and being popular, or doing, you know, Shakespeare or the old classics and all, which are fine. And many, many theaters do those. I want new stuff. I want living, breathing playwrights writing about the people sitting in our seats. Write about them. Connect with them and then I’m interested. After 20 years, that’s what we’re able to do now, more often than not. I’m real proud of that place and the fact that that part of the country supports it. It means the world to me.

What made you call the theater The Purple Rose of Cairo? That movie is great. I got to interview Woody.

I was a young actor. I was 30 at the time. I’d been in New York about nine years. Terms of Endearment had come out and I got that movie ten days after Terms of Endearment had been released. So Terms was now the #1 movie in the country which, at the time, for a character-driven film like Terms – it bypassed Raiders of the Lost Ark and all those kind of at the time special-effect movies. You hadn’t seen a character driven comedy-drama in a long time like that yet there we were, #1 – due, in no part, to Jack, Shirley and Debra. Jim Brooks had a hit and, uh, I was, I happened to be in it. Ten days later, they were looking to, uh, recast Purple Rose of Cairo and they called me in and, you know, a screen test later and, you know, a meeting with the studio, I got it. So now I’m working with Woody Allen. And I get handed the script and it’s not a supporting role or it’s not one starring role. It’s two starring roles in a Woody Allen movie. And I’m going ‘OK. Everything I have ever learned, please God, let me remember now.’ (Paul laughs) and that’s how I went into work everyday. And about halfway through the movie, Woody said I was good. For a young actor who had been battling, you know, rejection and, uh, are you going to make it? What’s it – you know, is this really worth it? It’s nine years. Terms of Endearment, yeah, but is it two or three movies and done? You know, you just don’t – the business is so, uh, here-today-gone-tomorrow. And Woody said I was good. And so, I remember going home and saying to my wife, um, ‘I think I’m going to be able to make a living in this business.’ And it wasn’t ‘I’m going to be a star.’ It wasn’t ‘I’m a genius.’ It was ‘If Woody Allen thinks I’m good, I think I’m going to be able to make a living in this business because if I’m good enough for Woody, I’m good enough for anybody.’ And that was a turning point. So years later, when it was time to name the theater, we named it the Purple Rose Theater Company.

My two final questions. What is the best part about being Jeff Daniels?

So many people go through life having to do things they don’t want to do, or they have a job that they wish they’d never taken but there’s security in it. And I think the satisfaction that I’ve had – I’m going way back to that director, Marshall W. Mason from Circle Rep, when he said ‘You know what you should do with your life, don’t you?’ What he didn’t say? It’s going to be hard. You’re only one who believes in you and you’re going to have to find people along the way. The fact that, decades later, I pulled that off and that now I’m still living a creative life and doing what I want to do, and that people in the business, whether it’s Broadway or film, TV or music want whatever it is I do – that’s the best part. It’s that I’m still relevant.

My last question. What would like to say in closing to all the people who are listening?

What I told my kids. I tell my kids, ‘Fall in love with tomorrow.’ Don’t worry about today. Don’t worry about the past. Fall in love with tomorrow. What are you doing tomorrow? That’s the creative process. That’s the creative life right there, is working on that next thing. Yeah. Fall in love with tomorrow.


Well, Mr. Daniels, it’s a pleasure. Thank you.
Thanks, Paul.

TRANSCRIBED BY GAYLE BRAZDA

Rick Coleman: Author, Biographer

RICK COLEMAN is recognized as a leading authority on Fats Domino.  He wrote the definitive biography of rock ‘n roll legend Fats Domino, Blue Monday: Fats Domino and the Lost Dawn of Rock ‘n Roll.  In this interview, Rick Coleman talks all about the fascinating Fats Domino.

What is your favorite Fats Domino song?

Part One

Part Two

Part Three

Now we’re going to take you to our interview with Mr. Rick Coleman, where he’s going to be talking about the one and only Fats Domino and his book, ‘Blue Monday: Fats Domino and the Lost Dawn of Rock ‘n’ Roll.’

Ladies and gentlemen, our guest is Rick Coleman and he is the author of the book, ‘Blue Monday: Fats Domino and the Lost Dawn of Rock ‘n’ Roll.’  Thanks for taking a moment to talk to us.

Thank you

Who is Rick Coleman?

Well, I’ve been writing about New Orleans rhythm and blues for about thirty years now.  I’m best known for writing a book on Fats Domino which came out a few years ago called ‘Blue Monday: Fats Domino and the Lost Dawn of Rock ‘n’ Roll.’ 

And where were you born?

I was actually born in Port Au Prince, Haiti because my parents were missionaries in 1957 when I was born.  They had been living in Louisiana and my mother is more or less from here originally.  I consider myself a Louisiana man. 

Well Rick, tell us:  what kind of music did you listen to early on?

I grew up in the 60’s and 70’s and was a big fan of rock ‘n’ roll and popular groups like the Beatles and Beach Boys and all the rock ‘n’ roll groups and I still love it and a lot of my favorite music and, eventually, as I graduated from college actually, that’s when I really realized the contributions that New Orleans had made to rock ‘n’ roll and I’d always been heavy into rock ‘n’ roll history so I decided I need to contribute to writing that New Orleans rhythm blues and rock ‘n’ roll roots of New Orleans so that’s how I started writing in the early 80’s about New Orleans rhythm blues and I actually started doing, uh, radio documentaries at WWOZ radio and that graduated into writing for local magazines and then national magazines, a lot of album notes, a lot of liner notes and then the book. 

So why write a book about Fats Domino?

Why not?

(Laughs)
He was actually the most popular rock ‘n’ roll…rock ‘n’ roller of the 50’s after Elvis Presley and people have forgotten that but it’s absolutely true.  Unfortunately him, like a lot of rhythm blues artists from the 50’s and 40’s especially have been largely forgotten.  It…part of it was because a lot of the rock ‘n’ roll histories were written in the, first written in the late 60’s and early 70’s and at that time there was obviously a big hard rock and psychedelic rock type thing that was popular and people were just not into old rhythm blues artists that weren’t hard core blues so a lot of people were forgotten largely from that era.  Fats did have some come back during that era but he just seemed too happy and too innocent perhaps for that era to really take him seriously.  Add that to thefact that he had never done a lot of interviews and there hadn’t really been much research on him so that’s why it took me twenty years actually to write the book over, off and on, over the course of twenty years I wrote the book. 

Can you take us back to the first time you met Fats Domino?

Yes.   It was in August, 1985.  I actually live above New Orleans and there was a seafood festival going on and I had written an article about the 30th anniversary of rock ‘n’ roll, which at that time, rock ‘n’ roll was primarily dated from ‘Rock Around the Clock’ by Bill Haley and ‘Rock Around the Clock’ was certainly a landmark and New Orleans had been contributing to the birth of rock ‘n’ roll since the late 40’s and even back as far as 1947 when Roy Brown first did ‘Rocking Good Rocking Tonight.’ In New Orleans the song had popularized the word “rock” and, of course, Fats Domino was a major part of that because he had recorded ‘The Fat Man’ in 1949 and several other major hits, a string up to ‘Ain’t That A Shame’ which was a landmark…in some ways equal to ‘Rock Around the Clock’ because he was the first black artist to make the top ten with a rockin’ song and he actually paved the way for Chuck Berry who followed shortly afterwards with ‘Maybellene’ and Little Richard who followed shortly after that with ‘Tutti Fruity’ into the pop charts.  All of those actually pre-dated Elvis’s debut in the pop charts with ‘Heartbreak Hotel’ in early 1956.  That led up to me meeting Fats at the seafood festival because he’d liked the article I had written.

I wanted to touch on what you just mentioned, the song, ‘Fat Man,’ which, as you said, was recorded back in 1949.  Explain to the listeners why you and so many other R&B scholars think that’s a significant recording.

The thing was, rhythm and blues in the late 40’s, even in New Orleans, was kind of a mixed bag.  There was…uh…there was very different types of blues.  One strain of blues was risqué.  Another strain was very “pop-ish,” kind of like “white cocktail” blues and both those styles were popular in New Orleans but what the ‘Fat Man’ really contributed to rhythm and blues was it had a driving rhythm to it…almost a train-like, locomotive sound that people had really rarely ever heard anything like that before and it combined with Fats Domino’s utter exuberance and his vocal and his words that he sang, telling them, “They call me the fat man cause I weigh two hundred pounds.  All those women love me cause I know my way around.”  And then after that, he actually did a scat part where he went, “Whoa, whoa, whoa, whoa, whoa, whoa.”  People were just excited by that sound and it was a thrilling kind of thing.  Truthfully, what it was was that the two styles I mentioned earlier of rhythm and blues were older audiences who had been sitting around in bars and drinking alcohol and Fats Domino was like a new, young generation coming in.  He was 21 years old and he just had this utter enthusiasm for the music, and it was dance music perfect for a younger audience and that kind of set the trend for what came with rock ‘n’ roll a few years later. 

You’ve known Fats Domino for a long time.  What is he really like?

Oh, Fats is a wonderful guy.  He’s a really sweet man but he’s also a very private man.  He doesn’t go out too much.  He doesn’t, like I said, do interviews.  He just, uh…he’s kind of a simple man in a lot of ways but once you get to know him, he’s a delightful person.  He, um, he has certain things that he likes to do, like cooking and playing his music and being with his family and friends and, uh, he just doesn’t like to do a whole lot of other things (Laughs).  It’s really almost amazing that he really became a popular figure because he was never into going out and he was never a, had any great ego to satisfy since he liked to perform so much and liked to please people and, uh, you know, that was a great thing because he’s pleased millions and millions of people over…over sixty years now.

One of the things that your book, ‘Blue Monday,’ points out so well is Fats Domino’s influence on so many of the other popular recording artists.  I was amazed by the quote from Bob Marley, for instance, but there’s so many artists that have been influenced by Fats Domino.  So with that, I have to ask you: do you believe that Fats Domino is the true king of rock ‘n’ roll?


Well, that was something that, uh, that Elvis said when they were at Elvis’s comeback concert in Las Vegas in, uh, July, 1969, that all the reporters were paying attention to him but Elvis had become good friends with Fats, who happened to be at the press conference and he said, “Well look at Fats over there.  He’s the…he’s the real king of rock ‘n’ roll.”  And, uh, I don’t know if he was slightly joking or not but the truth isElvis was paying tribute to Fats because he knew that Fats had been around a long time before Elvis had.  He’d recorded the ‘Fat Man’ nearly five years before Elvis’s first record and, uh, he had definitely been the dominant figure of the early 50’s and, as I said before, he paved the way with ‘Ain’t That A Shame’ and many other hits.  There’s certainly a case to be made that Fats put the big beat into rock ‘n’ roll…him and Dave Bartholomew, his co-writer and band leader and producer…that they put the big beat into rhythm and blues which put it into rock ‘n’ roll and that’s pretty much the most significant element about the creation of rock ‘n’ roll was the big beat because that’s what makes the kids dance, okay, and if you ever watched American Bandstand, you’d always hear them say, rating a record, “it’s got a good beat and you can dance to it.”  And that was very significant because, uh, white popular music, for the most part, up until that time had not had a major, big beat.  It really came out of black culture and specifically out of New Orleans, which had a history of, uh, heavy rhythms dating back to Congo Square even, which was the first place that slaves were allowed to keep their drums in the New World…the only place, really, and, uh, so it’s a very long and significant history in New Orleans of that rhythm.

Our special guest is Rick Coleman, the author of ‘Blue Monday: Fats Domino and the Lost Dawn of Rock ‘n’ Roll.’  Do you have a favorite memory of Fats Domino?

I was writing the book…I was really just hanging out with Fats and we were fairly close at the time…and, you know, we’re…I still talk to him.  He’s still a sweet man.  But, then I was actually able to go with him to his concerts in his limousine occasionally.  One, this particular time, was at a Mardi Gras concert…I think it was 1992…he had, was taking two cars and I don’t remember…I think I was in the second car…and Fats was in the front car.  Then he was playing a concert at the Super Dome in New Orleans for Mardi Gras and it was called…one of these big parade krewes that was called Adenium(???) celebration, actually warming up for the Beach Boys that night and so, that was an incredible concert and, uh, he actually got stopped first of all at the security check point because he didn’t have the proper security and amazingly, Fats didn’t get mad at all.  Actually, he…we all got out of the cars and waited for a half hour (Laughs) to get the proper security clearances and that was kind of amazing in itself because when you think of superstars…but anyway, he went inside and we, uh, we actually were there an hour or so before the concert and he didn’t really know too much about the Beach Boys.  As a matter of fact, (Laughs), he asked me if they were black or white (Laughs) which is going to be pretty funny to anybody that hears that.  But the Beach Boys had, really amazingly, had never seen Fats perform over the years and they were actually outside his dressing room shalamming(???)…bowing down to his dressing room door, sort of like, “I am not worthy” and so it was an amazing night and I got to talk to a couple of them; Alan Jardine, specifically, he said, “You know, you don’t know what he meant to us man,” so it was quite an amazing concert.  I thought the Beach, you know, I love the Beach Boys but I think Fats actually stole the show from them. 

Well, I wanted to touch a little bit on a gentleman who passed away recently, Bobby Charles.  Did you know Bobby?

I knew him a little bit.  I interviewed him.  I got a good interview with him.  I certainly, uh, he and Fats were great friends.  There’s a little story behind him and Fats and it goes back to when Bobby wrote ‘See Ya Later Alligator’ and he was a teenager out in Cajun country out in Louisiana.  He’d written a song based on this old Cajun saying which had also been used in jazz and various things, “See ya later alligator.”  A girl had told him, “After while crocodile,” and that’s how he said, “Wow.  I’m going to write a song.”  So anyway he took that to a concert where Fats…Fats was pretty much his idol at the time as with a lot of Louisiana youngsters…teenagers, you know, especially out in Cajun country.  They just ate him up.  He was actually said…but he said that he was like only one or two or three black guys… white guys at a black concert in this one town…Abbeville, that’s what it is, and he walked up to Fats afterwards and asked him, “How’d you like to do this song,” and Fats just kind of laughed at him and said, “I never thought of doing a song about an alligator.”  That’s not what he said but that’s what he was thinking and so, but he said he’d already recorded so he politely turned him down but then Bobby, of course, recorded it and then Bill Haley had a huge, huge hit with it but that was the beginning of him and Fats kind of getting to know each other and years later, he recorded for Dave Bartholomew and Imperial and, uh, he wrote some more songs for Fats and specifically, when he was in Lafayette he met Fats backstage.  Fats told him that he had recorded a song, ‘Before I Grow too Old’ and he said, “Man, I wish I could hear it, but I can’t get to New Orleans.  If I hd to go to New Orleans, I had to walk!”  So he thought of that and said, “Wow!  That’s gonna be a song too.”  So he wrote that song just later that night and so, of course, that was…became a classic song for New…for Fats, ‘Walking to New Orleans’ and really, it kind of became the theme song after Katrina.  It was used a lot, talking about New Orleans and so, but Fats and Bobby remained close friends for many years.  As a matter of fact, Bobby passed away just, uh, in January, I think and he had just finished recording a song which he was so happy to record for Fats, his long-time friend, and it was called…it’s on his new album… his final album called ‘Happy Birthday Fats Domino.’

Just from your own personal tastes and your memories of over the years with Fats Domino, do you have a favorite song or could you pick a favorite Fats Domino song?

I think so.  I guess I’d go with ‘I’m Ready’ because it just had such a great rhythmic drive and Fats is, you know, I love a hard rocking sound and that just goes so fast and so heavy and Fats is just rocking almost as hard as Little Richard in that one to me.  He just pounds the song and if you listen to it, there’s actually no horns in that.  It’s quite an amazing thing cause they’re just…they actually performed that song on a Dick Clark show one time and at that time, in 59, horn players are just clapping their hands.  I mean, it’s just a driving song.  I love that, and it’s a rock ‘n’ roll anthem too, if you think about it, but, uh, but as far as…wow…but he’s had so many…so many great hits and the significance of them is just so great.  I mean, ‘Fat Man,’ ‘Ain’t That a Shame,’ ‘Blueberry Hill,’ ‘Walking to New Orleans,’ and ‘Blue Monday,’ which, of course, is the song I titled the book over and that, uh, is…all of them have very great significance in their own ways.

Just from your own personal tastes and your memories of over the years with Fats Domino, do you have a favorite song or could you pick a favorite Fats Domino song?

I think so.  I guess I’d go with ‘I’m Ready’ because it just had such a great rhythmic drive and Fats is, you know, I love a hard rocking sound and that just goes so fast and so heavy and Fats is just rocking almost as hard as Little Richard in that one to me.  He just pounds the song and if you listen to it, there’s actually no horns in that.  It’s quite an amazing thing cause they’re just…they actually performed that song on a Dick Clark show one time and at that time, in 59, horn players are just clapping their hands.  I mean, it’s just a driving song.  I love that, and it’s a rock ‘n’ roll anthem too, if you think about it, but, uh, but as far as…wow…but he’s had so many…so many great hits and the significance of them is just so great.  I mean, ‘Fat Man,’ ‘Ain’t That a Shame,’ ‘Blueberry Hill,’ ‘Walking to New Orleans,’ and ‘Blue Monday,’ which, of course, is the song I titled the book over and that, uh, is…all of them have very great significancein their own ways.

What is it you like about Fats Domino?

Well, I love that he is, uh, Fats is such a down to earth person.  As I said, he doesn’t really have any great ego.  He just loves music and he loves performing for people and making them happy.  That in itself, you gotta love that.  That is such a beautiful thing. That he was able to put his enthusiasm, his almost child-like enthusiasm, in his music for nearly sixty years is an amazing thing.  People just don’t have that kind of drive and enthusiasm for music for the most part.  He almost powered his way in, you know, through rhythm and blues and people thought, you know, that’s not something that most people wanted to do.  They…he didn’t care about if he was being too enthusiastic or that, you know, people didn’t…weren’t use to that kind of the hard driving sound.  He just wanted to play it and he wanted to entertain people and people caught on and they loved it…it was just kind of a youthful enthusiasm just driving through his music and that’s just the way Fats is.  He’s just a sweet, enthusiastic guy who just loves living, you know…loves living and enjoying life. 

I think the song that a lot of people most associate with Fats Domino, one of them is probably ‘Blueberry Hill.’  Tell us about that song.

‘Blueberry Hill’ was an old pop song and, uh, well actually it was first recorded by Gene Autry for one of his singing cowboy movies in, I think, 1940.  Shortly after that Glenn Miller had a big number one pop hit version of it, with girls singing the song, if you can imagine that and then probably the most significant version after that was Louie Armstrong’s version in 1949 and Fats Domino heard Louis Armstrong’s version of and he loved it but he really never knew the whole song so luckily, his brother-in-law, Harrison Verrett who played in a lot of New Orleans jazz bands as a guitarist and banjo player knew the whole song.  They were actually in Los Angeles at the time, in the spring of 1956 when they tried to record the song.  The fact that they, Fats didn’t really know the whole thing contributed to the fact that they really were not able to get a whole take of the song.  In other words, they would record the song but they couldn’t record it all the way through.  They had to stop at various times.  Dave Bartholomew was not too happy actually with the session because he knew that they had never completed a full take.  He told Lew Chudd, who was the owner of Imperial records,” Lou, I don’t have nothing,” when they went to dinner that night but Lew Chudd heard it and he said, “Well, it sounds pretty good.  I think we can put it on as a B side.”  Okay…so he has his engineer, who was Bunny Robine at Master Recorders Studio in Los Angeles edited together from the different takes and it came out alright he thought so he put it on the B side of a song called ‘Honey Child’ and they actually released ‘Honey Child’ and were promoting that when this disc jockey says ‘Wow, this song, ‘Blueberry Hill’ on the other side…that’s a great song,” and they actually had to flip it over and play ‘Blueberry Hill’ and, of course, it became the biggest record of Fats career.  I mean, it was just huge.  Amazingly, Fats never had a number one pop hit but ‘Blueberry Hill’ did reach number two.  It sold millions…you know, tens of millions of copies on its own and is the Grammy Hall of Fame and other legendary song classes but it was certainly the song that people know best of all for Fats.  The one thing kind of funny about it…actually the song was considered kind of risqué…’I found my thrill on Blueberry Hill,” and if you’ve ever watched the series, ‘Happy Days,’ you know that was one thing that Ritchie Cunningham, Ron Howard, use to say: “I found my thrill” whenever he was talking about girls, making out with girls.

You know, I was reading this interview that Dave Bartholomew did a few years back where said that…you know, we just talked about ‘Walking to New Orleans,’ but it’s kind of interesting:  there’ve been a number of Fats Domino’s with “walk” in the title: ‘I’m Walking,’ ‘Have You Ever Seen a Dream Walking,’ and Dave said that Fats thought that song titles with ‘walk’ in the title were lucky.  Had you ever heard that before?

Well, I think that he was saying that Fats thought they were lucky and obviously, you know, they were lucky for him ‘cause it was like you said, ‘I’m Walking’ and then he did ‘I Want to Walk You Home’ and then ‘Walking to New Orleans’ and that actually…those were three…I believe all three of those were number one R&B hits for him so, yeah, he definitely was lucky with that title…using the word “walk” in the title and part of the thing I think, you know, again goes back to Fats had a ,uh, had a rhythm in his songs and a walking rhythm certainly fits ‘Walking to New Orleans’ and it definitely does fit ‘I Want to Walk You Home’ but ironically, ‘I’m Walking’ is almost at a galloping beat if you listen to it but it sounds like he’s running almost, you know (Laughs).  That’s kind of ironic but specifically, ‘I’m Walking’ certainly was one of Fats’ biggest hits, right after ‘Blueberry Hill’ and ‘Blue Monday’.  That has a huge rhythm which was contributed to by the great drummer, Earl Palmer, who is in the Rock ‘n’ Roll Hall of Fame as an instrumentalist and it’s, uh, really almost a jazz brass band marching rhythm in there that they would play on snare drums and if you listen to it, it starts off at the, uh, a bass prelude.  In the brass band parades there was a, they would have a bass drummer and then they, uh, go into the snare drum and, uh, so if you listen to it, he’s playing both the bass part, which goes bump, bump, shbump bump bump…and then he goes into the two beat which is “I’m walking,” bump n bump n bump bump.  You know, so, uh, so it’s really a driving, driving rhythm and it’s not walking at all but it sure was a huge, huge hit and, uh, of course, Rickey Nelson made it into his first hit just shortly thereafter and, uh, ironically, it’s been recorded by a bunch of people.  I think Hank Williams JR did it in the 70’s and then even Ella Fitzgerald, of all people, recorded it in the 70’s and they’ve actually become both a country and a jazz standard.  It’s amazing how far some many of Fats’ songs have carried him.

Well you know, I was also thinking it’s interesting because, like we said, he had the, uh, “walking” in a few titles…in a few of his song titles but also “blue.” You know, ‘My Blue Heaven,’ ‘Blueberry Hill,’ ‘Blue Monday.’  It’s just kind of interesting I think.

Yeah…that’s another point.  Of course, that relates back to, uh, you know, the blues I would think, uh, that he would…that you would do a song with the word “blue” in it but, the thing is, you know, Fats did some blues but he always did kind of a…almost always had kind of a…some kind of a happy turn to most of his blues.  He never did the extremely broken down blues and ironically the other two songs you’re talking about, they are actually tin-pan alley songs.  ‘My Blue Heaven’ was a huge hit in 1927 and ‘Blueberry Hill’ from 1940 and so that…that really expanded Fats’ audience at that time because, uh, that was actually intentional that he was recording some of those tin-pan alley songs or, in other words, the pop songs from the 1920’s, 30’s and 40’s that really expanded his audience because, uh, adults really had no respect for rhythm & blues and the fact that he did such a beautiful, exuberant version of these old songs which the parents, the kids’ parents knew, actually got the parents to buying these records.  So it was a huge breakout for Fats.  ‘My Blue Heaven’ was the first, and then he did ‘When My Dreamboat Comes Home’ which was also a big hit, another tin-pan alley song and then he capped off that little trilogy with ‘Blueberry Hill’ which, of course, was his biggest song of all time.

One of the other songs that he’s most known for is ‘Ain’t That a Shame.’  Tell us a little bit about that one.

‘Ain’t That a Shame’ was a very, very simple song as anyone who’s ever listened to it and knows and I gotta say that’s kind of the difference between Fats’ songwriting and Dave’s songwriting.  Dave’s certainly written a lot of simple songs but that was kind of Fats trademark; to write very, very simple songs, very simple lyrics and if you listen, Dave’s songs are clearly his, like ‘Blue Monday’ and ‘I Hear You Knocking’ and even ‘One Night of Sin’…uh, it has a more elaborate story line in there, where he talks about what happened to him in the course of the song.  But Fats would just write simple nursery rhyme, nursery rhyme type things.  Actually, that’s what Dave called them to this day.  It’s like ‘I’m Walking’ and ‘Ain’t That a Shame,’ very, very simple one line songs….or ‘A Whole Lot of Lovin’ for that matter, which I think only has about twenty-something words in it and, you know, “You made me cry when you said goodbye.  Ain’t That a Shame.”  (Laughs)So, you know, that’s how Fats came up with that because he said he saw a lady beat the baby in the street or something and he said, “Ain’t That a Shame.”  He said, “Well, that could be a song,” and, uh, they were actually out in Los Angeles in 1955 and they put that together in almost the same time they recorded ‘Blue Monday’ and another big hit of Fats, it’s called the ‘All By Myself.’  The same, within two weeks of each other they recorded a whole spree of these number one R&B hits.  They, uh…Dave didn’t know exactly what to do with it but he, I guess he emphasized the beat.  Him…Dave and Fats were together on that mindset…to always have a heavy, heavy rhythm and so that was really, you know, like I said, the big beat that was driving his songs along so after Dave, Fats, said “You made me cry,” he had the drums and all the instruments come in and say ‘Bomp…bomp bomp!” You know, and people had never heard a heavy, heavy beat like that before on pop radio in the 1950’s so you gotta imagine the people were just astounded by that.  I mean, we don’t…people don’t really think about ‘Ain’t That a Shame’ these days but it was almost a revolutionary type sound, almost like we think of as ‘Tootie Fruity’ by Little Richard…but Fats never screamed like Little Richard but he had a heavier beat in some ways than Little Richard or, at least just as heavy.  Of course, Little Richard recorded all of his hits in New Orleans and used a lot of the same musicians for that same heavy beat and that’s he followed Fats into popularity.  ‘Ain’t That a Shame’ was very significant ‘cause it crossed over in July, 1955, the same month ‘Rock Around the Clock’ by Bill Hailey and the Comets became number one for over a month and so they timed a simultaneous shots of the revolution of rock ‘n’ roll.  Bill Hailey had the biggest record of the year there and Fats had the first record by a black man with the heavy beat in the top ten and that was…that was really the opening shots for the rock ‘n’ roll revolution.

Just amazing stories.  It really is amazing when you sit there and you look at all the different things that Fats Domino contributed to music.  One of the things that I thought was really interesting about the book and then, also I was reading that article that you did, ‘Seven Decades of Fats Domino,’ I knew about John Lennon, the fact that ‘Ain’t That a Shame’ was the first song that he had ever learned.  But, I didn’t know that George Harrison…that the first song that he learned was a Fats Domino song as well.


Yeah…let me talk about that.  Actually, kind of a forgotten Fats Domingo song, but was really one of his biggest hits, is a song called ‘I’m in Love Again’…”Yes, it’s me and I’m in love again,” and that was a huge, huge hit.  It was really bigger chart-wise than ‘Ain’t That A Shame’ ‘cause it made number three where ‘Ain’t That a Shame’ had been number ten and the significant thing was that in the late 1955 after ‘Ain’t That a Shame,’ Fats was not able to cross over and again, that was what Lew Chudd of Imperial Records was so obsessed with was crossing over from rhythm and blues charts to the pop chart and you gotta realize this is simultaneous as the integration of schools at the time ‘cause when the integration ruling, the Supreme Court ruling was in July of ’54…okay…so this is one year later that Fats crossed over with ‘Ain’t That a Shame’ which, as I said, is a very, very  significant thing which people have forgotten about and, uh, but he was not… he had two number one R&B hits after that which were, um, ‘All By Myself’ and ‘Poor Me.’  Both of those topped the R&B charts but neither one of them even scratched the pop charts.  And so in early 1956,Fatts had finally scratched the pop charts again with ‘Boweavel’ which was a song like ‘Ain’t That a Shame’ which was covered by a pop artist which I didn’t mention about ‘Ain’t That a Shame’ which is very significant and that’s the reason why it really made the top ten was because Pat Boone had covered it, ‘Ain’t That a Shame,’ and made it a number one pop hit which, if you’ve ever heard Pat Boone’s version…

Yeah, it’s not too good.

It’s awful!  But anyway, Teresa, Teresa Brewer who had likewise covered ‘Bo Weevil’ took that to the top five but Fats version didn’t do nearly as well. It only made, I believe, number thirty six but still that was his foot back into the door of, you know, the pop charts.  Ironically, the subject matter, ‘Bo Weevil’ is about an insect that gets into the white man’s cotton crop and ruins it, okay?  So that’s a little bit of irony there, that he got his foot back in the door with ‘Bo Weevil’ ‘cause blacks in the late 1800’s had actually kind of snickered about the boll weevil. It became kind of a folk hero for blacks because that was what was hurting the white man.  So, anyway, he got his foot back in the door with ‘Bo Weevil’ but when he really crashed the pop charts again was in the spring of 1956 with ‘I’m in Love Again’ which it just has a simple little loping beat, uh, “Yes it’s me and I’m in love again,” and, uh, had a nice little saxophone solo by the great Lee Allen who played a few of Fats solos but most of Fats solos on all of his hits were played by the great Herbert Hardesty.  He was still around and had played for Fats for sixty years, which was an amazing feat and, uh, anyway…but ‘I’m in Love Again’ became a huge hit…number three and it was heard by George Harrison in Liverpool.  First…he said it was the first rock ‘n’ roll song he’d ever heard.  It just amazed him and also, subsequently recorded by Paul McCartney and a whole bunch of other rock ‘n’ roll greats. 

I got to do a little interview with Fats Domino and he said that if he got songs that he liked he would come out with another record.  Do you see him coming out with another record at any time?

Sadly, I don’t think…I don’t think Fats is going to be coming out with any more records unless it’s something that’s already been recorded.  He really is not performing anymore.  He is 82 years old.  He probably won’t perform anymore because he, you know, he’s an old man.  You know, you’re lucky if you can perform into your seventies let alone your eighties but from what I understand from talking to him, he still plays piano and he’s at home and we can just be thankful for all the great music that he’s provided with us for sixty years and it’s a spectacular legacy and I gotta say that…I hope we hope we can do a documentary on him and also, you gotta look at the great tribute that all these rock ‘n’ roll stars did to him a couple years ago with the two CD tribute to him.  I mean, and it’s amazing the artists that are on there:  Robert Plant and Tom Petty and Nora Jones and Dr. John and John Lennon is even on there…and they’re all doing Fats Domino songs so just look at that and you’ll know how significant this man was.  You know, Elvis, like I said, called him the King of Rock ‘n’ Roll.  Bob Marley said he started playing music with Fats Domino and so, I mean, just when you look at the scope of his influence, I mean, it’s just astounding.  But as far as him performing again, I don’t think it’s going to happen but I think that we should, uh, realize his legacy and pay tribute to him forever really.

My curiosity, I guess.  On that album, the ‘Going Home,’ the two CD tribute to him, did you have a favorite cutfrom that album ‘cause I agree.  I think that was just an incredible collection.

I can’t really pick out a favorite song.  I gotta admit, I haven’t really worn it out.  I think it’s pretty amazing that, for instance, that Robert Plant came down to New Orleans and actually recorded with a local band and he actually did two songs on there.  So, I mean, Elton John contributed a song.  It’s just amazing that so many of these artists just instantaneously said that they would love to be a part of it and, now, I don’t think they were getting paid the big bucks for this.  I think they really, really did it out of their heart.  That’s what I’m saying, that these artists…these rock ‘n’ roll artists from the past thirty to forty years really…they appreciated Fats in some ways, more than the public at large does.  I think, you know, Fats in some ways, you know, bigger in Europe where he toured consistently every year from the seventies to the early, to 1995 and, uh, so, you know…we in Louisiana and certainly around the country need to appreciate our great musical legends more and certainly Fats is one of the ones that has not been given the credit…all of the credit that he deserves because he is one of the central cornerstones to rock ‘n’ roll, you know.  You could argue that he may be the main cornerstone in some ways.  That’s what, as a matter of fact, that what Dave Bartholomew called him…”He’s the cornerstone.”

One final question before you go:  what would you like to say to all the listeners out there?

Well, I would like to say that, you know, Fats Domino is an icon and people should honor him as much as any of the rock ‘n’ rollers.  As I was trying to say before, he was second only to Elvis in rock ‘n’ roll in the early years and so he’s almost like an unsung hero because, you know, there’s only been one book on him and it took me twenty years to write.  It just tells you so much about the whole story of America and the rise of popular music and rhythm and blues and rock ‘n’ roll specifically and New Orleans immense contribution to that.  You know, that is…that is…that is something that people have really not realized a lot.  You know, they’ve realized it a little bit more after Katrina maybe and, uh, New Orleans, the consciousness of New Orleans has increased but Fats is still…has never received his due and I’m gonna throw in a plug for another icon who I think has never received his due…Louis Jordan from the 1940’s.  He was the most popular black artist of the 1940’s and has never had a book ever.  Well, I’m taking that back.  He has one book but it’s not that good.  But he never had a documentary, is what I meant to say and likewise with Fats.  I’m hopefully working on a documentary on Fats in the near future and we hope to have that out sometime in the next year.  You know, hopefully that will help his legacy because people need to recognize not only the legacy of New Orleans but also of Fats Domino who was, you know, definitely one of the great legends of rock ‘n’ roll.  I appreciate you talking to me and giving me a chance to spread the word about Fats and New Orleans.

TRANSCRIBED BY LORI DOMINGO

Adam Carolla: Broadcast Personality, Comedian, Actor

ADAM CAROLLA had just written his book In 50 Years We’ll All Be Chicks when we did this interview.  We were invited to see him perform his comedy at the Tabernacle in Atlanta and unfortunately somebody forgot to put us on the list.
The door guy told us to take a hike.

We hope we get to see him soon, but in the meantime we hope you enjoy his unique perspective in this interview.

What was the most surprising thing in Adam Carolla’s interview?

Ladies and Gentlemen, it’s our pleasure to welcome our special guest, Adam Carolla.  He’s going to be appearing at the Tabernacle here in Atlanta on September 30th.  First of all, thanks so much for joining us.
Thanks for having me, Paul. 

You left radio for the podcast format.  What do you like about podcasting and where do you think it’s going?
The thing that’s really nice about podcasting is everyone always says, “Wow, you get to say whatever you want.”  You don’t get to say whatever you want because if you do say whatever you want, and people are still listening and they’re still plenty of groups out there that will protest and try to getyour sponsors to leave you and that kind of stuff.  You can use whatever language want but you can’t say whatever you want.  So there’s a little misnomer there.  I never found radio confining.  The thing I do like about the podcast is the flexibility in the schedule.  For instance, I do my podcast every night at 8pm, and that’s just the way we do it but tonight, my dad is celebrating his eightieth birthday and so we’re going to do it earlier so I can go to my dad’s eightieth birthday tonight, which is something, you know, in radio, you don’t get to do.  The show’s when it is and it’s that time every day and, you know, if your dad’s eightieth birthday happens to fall on the night when you’ve got to do a show, “Too bad Pops,” you know. 

Where do you think this is all going?  Do you think it’s the new frontier?
Oh yeah…I didn’t answer the second part of your question.  I don’t know.  I think it’s going about the same place music did eight years ago, which is…I don’t think there’s ever going to be such a thing as a multi-platinum record that sells anymore or disc.  It’ll be downloaded and people will find it on their computer and some people will find it on Amazon but they’ll find it.  It’s the same way…it’s the same thing that’s sort of happening with books.  It’s the same thing that’s happening with TV.  You know, back in the day, TV shows would get forty million people watching.  Now, if you can get five million people watching, you’re doing pretty damn good and books would sell a million copies and now if you can sell a hundred thousand copies, you’re doing pretty good.  The pie is getting sliced up into thinner and thinner pieces.  So there’s so many people out there and there’s so much product that there’s so much to go around that it’s being consumed in smaller little bit-sized pieces.  So those days of selling millions of copies of this or having a fifteen share of television, for the most part, are gone.  You’re going to take your little core audience of a couple hundred thousand people and just go off and make money with them. 

Well, a second ago you mentioned your father.  The name of your podcast network is the ACE Podcasting Network…Ace Broadcasting Network…a lot of really great shows and one of them is ‘Life Lessons with Jim Carolla.’  I really enjoy listening to that one.  This might be a tough question, but what is the greatest life lesson your father has taught you?
You know it’s funny that that’s the name of the show, or ironic.  My dad never…he wasn’t the type to like ever sit me down and go, “Listen, there’s two kinds of ladies out there son.”  You know, it was never like a good Johnny Cash song.  We never talked that much.  He never told me anything.  He rarely had any advice for me like not in a bad way…just like, “Eh, go out and live your life,” like.  But he always kind of said, and it wasn’t a great feeling, but he always sort of said, “Try to figure out what your part in this scenario is and see if you can fix it.”  In other words, every time I’d get into an argument with somebody or every time something goes wrong or you get fired from a job or you get cut from a team or you get divorced or your girlfriend dumps you or your boyfriend dumps you…whatever the situation is, instead of doing all the externalizing, which everyone just does like, “Screw that guy!  He’s an idiot!”   You know, go, “Why’d you get fired from your boss?”  “Why’d you get fired from your job?”  “My boss is an a-hole!”  Like, alright…that doesn’t really help you fix whatever reason you got fired for, unless in fact, your boss is, in fact, an a-hole and just fired you just because he’s an a-hole. But usually your boss fires you for something you did, even if he is an a-hole.  And I love those people who do the thing where they go, “Hey man, I did the work of three people.  He was just jealous so he fired me.”  Like, don’t externalize it.  Look in, meaning if you go to a restaurant and you go to the restaurant on a Friday night at seven o’clock and the restaurant is closed, you could be outraged and go, “This is nonsense!  What kind of restaurants close on a Friday night at seven o’clock.”  But you know what my dad would say?  “You should’ve called first.”  And I’d go, “What are you talking about?  It’s Friday night at seven o’clock.” He’d go, “Still, if you’d called, you would’ve found out they were closed.”  All I’m saying is, take a look inside and figure out what you could’ve done and don’t beat yourself up about it but if you want to avoid a trip to a restaurant that’s closed, call first. 

Very sound advice.  I was reading your new book, and to all the listeners out there, it’s entitled ‘In Fifty Years We’ll All Be Chicks.’  There’s a tremendous emphasis on embracing what it is to be a woman.  You see that every day.  But you don’t really hear anything about embracing manhood.
It’s so funny when you hear women up on the podium, whether it’s Nancy Pelosi or Cher…whoever…and they’re going like, “We are strong.  We are independent.  We make the world go round.  We need to set aside a month to celebrate us.”  I mean, just imagine a dude doing that.  By the way, when you make the proclamations and announce why you’re so strong and have days set aside for you and your strength and your independence and all that, it usually means things aren’t going that well so you should probably knock it off (laughs).  Rich white guys rarely have that meeting…”Hey!  We need a day for us!”  Trump, take the podium…talk about how, uh, how smart we are how strong we are and how proud we are and what great fathers we are.  Let’s do that.  Let’s take a day to celebrate us.  Nah…we’re kind of busy making money and ruling everything.  So I would say, no matter what group you’re in, don’t have those press conferences or those marches or whatever it is where you make the proclamation of how much the world needs you.  It’s usually not a good sign. 

You record your podcast show out there in the seat of the entertainment world, California.  Who have you met in Los Angeles that has the most integrity?
Oooh…wow…let’s see…I would say, if you’re going to use the word ‘integrity, it might be my buddy, Jimmy Kimmel.  I mean, Jimmy is one of these guys, in a town where everyone gets paid for doing nothing, like you know when you watch these shows and there’s nine producers?  Eight of them do nothing.  They literally just get paid.  They don’t show up on the set.  They’re called “non-writing producers.”  They do not much…we live in a town where people frequently get paid for nothing. An old manager would get paid for doing nothing and they have no problem with it.  They’re entitled to it.  Jimmy is one of the only dudes I know in this town who says, “I don’t want to get paid if I’m not doing something.  So if I’m not actively creating on this show, then save your paycheck.”  Other than Jimmy, there’s a hand…you know the thing about this town is there’s a bunch of really good, solid dudes and then a bunch of colossal douche bags and everyone’s focus is on the colossal, do nothing producers or chicks running the studios….there’s tons of just hacks and phonies and imposters and just idiots that I’ve worked with….most…every producer that I’ve worked with has been a colossal douche bag.  But they get the reputation and they sort of ruin it for the rest of the town.  And the reality is, there’s whole bunch of really cool people and it’s sort of like rich guys…rich guys have this reputation for being evil rich guys.  Well, most of the rich guys I know are like…they’re really nice and they’re super hard-working and their and they’re generous.

Well on that note, you mentioned producers.  Are there any other people you’ve met in the industry, or maybe a specific person, who you just do not like?
Yeah…(laughs)…almost everyone.  The industry attracts narcissists with personality disorders.  So, I mean, you have to be…there’s usually something wrong with you and like I said, look, if you’re a writer or you’re a comedian or you’re a storyteller or actor or greater, you probably have a personality disorder but at least you do something.  I mean, at least you go, “Hey!  I’m funny.  I’m going to write some jokes.”  It’s the producers who don’t contribute anything…I mean, like when we did ‘The Man’ show all those years, this producer didn’t do anything.  Here’s all you people need to know about producers:  for the first four seasons of ‘The Man Show,’ we produced the show.  Stone Stanley, who claimed to produce the show, they weren’t allowed on the set.  They were off somewhere else.  They were literally not allowed there.  Jimmy didn’t like them and they just weren’t there.  So, for the first four seasons, that was ‘The Man Show’ that was done the way we would’ve done it.  The fifth season, when we left, then the producers got to produce and that’s what you got.  You got the fifth season on ‘The Man Show’ with Doug Stanhope  and Joe Rogan  and that’s what the show would’ve looked like if the folks who, in quotes, “producing it” were producing it the first four seasons.  Oh, they got paid.  They got paid the first four seasons and they got paid the last one too but that’s what producers do. 

One of the other people on your network is Larry Miller.  What do you think about Larry Miller?
I should have brought him up when you were asking me about, uh, integrity.  I love Larry Miller.  He is the nicest guy in the world.  He’s just like old school, just solid dude, you know…a good husband, a good dad, and funny, sincere, always in a good mood…one of these guys that calls you “pal,” like every time you see him, “How are you, pal?  How you doing?  Good to see ya.  Good…” always seems happy to see you there.  He’s always happy to be where he is.  Like, just the nicest guy you’re ever going to want to meet.

Who have you had on the ‘Adam Carolla Show’ that you were proudest to welcome?
I was excited to get to sit down with Albert Brooks for a good eighty minutes the other week and interview him because I’ve always been a fan of Albert Brooks and I’ve never seen any just long-form, sit-down interview with him.  I was excited to have Francis Ford Coppola.  I was excited to have Ken Burns, the documentarian on.  I found that guy really compelling.  One of the guys I was most excited about was the actor, Christoph Waltz because I’d just seen ‘Inglorious Basterds’ and I was literally, I felt like a sneak preview of ‘In Glorious Bastards’ like a week before it came out and I saw Christoph Waltz and I was blown away and I was like, “This guy’s going to win the Oscar for sure.  He’s gotta win the Oscar.”  I mean, doing it…he’s acting in three different languages.  He came in and sat down with me, you know, like a few days after I saw the preview for the movie and I was like, “Buddy, you’re getting an Oscar this year,” and no one knew the guy’s name at the time and, I don’t know, four months later he was up there, claiming his Oscar. 

Anyone that has a talk show, there’s always a guest that deludes you…that drives you crazy.  So, who is that guest been for you?
Who I wanted to get on and haven’t gotten on?
Yeah
There’s always that, “Oh, sure it’d be great to get Justin Timberlake on the show,” but I’ve never tried to get Justin Timberlake on the show so I wouldn’t say he’s been “eluding” me.  And, you know, it’s like I’d love to get Tom Hanks on the show but I never tried to get Tom Hanks on the show so I don’t feel like that.  I don’t really…I…I never really think of it that way.  There’s people that I’m fans of and people I go, “Man, that guy’s good,” and it would be great to sit down with Dwayne Johnson but on the other hand, I never went after Dwayne Johnson.  I don’t know if a chick can ignore you until you send over a drink and I never sent over a drink for anybody so I sort of go in every night and go, “Whose on tonight,” and someone goes, “It’s this guy,” and sometimes I go, “Whose that,” and they go, “It’s an author,” and I go, “I never heard of that guy,” and half the time, “that guy” turns out to be way more interesting than the guy you’ve heard of and then other nights, it’s guys you’ve heard of.  But, I never really plan it out.

You’re appearing at the Tabernacle in Atlanta and that’s going to be on September 30th, as a comedian on the road and have you had any strange encounters with fans that you can tell us about?
(Laughs)  You know what?  For the most part, they just show up and they’re nice and sometimes they’ll make me a t shirt or get me some toys for my kids or something…or I’ll be complaining about Southwest taking nuts off the airplane ‘cause somebody had a peanut allergy and called in, and they’ll give me a bunch of Southwest peanuts or something but for the most part, every once in a while you get that sort of drunken fan and they do this one, which is funny…like you’re leaving the show and you’re walking out in the parking lot and you’re getting into the car and the guy’s like, “Hey!  Hey Adam!  Hey Man Show!  We just saw the show.  Can we get a picture?”

And you’re like, “Yeah, yeah sure…we’ll get a picture,” and you get a picture.

 And then his buddy will go, “Oh no…get the camera and let me get in here too,” and then they switch cameras.

And the third buddy goes, “Hey, let me get a picture too.” 

And you go, “Alright.” 

Then they go, “Let’s get a picture of all three of us.”

“Alright…let’s get a picture of all three of us.”

“Hey man, can you sign my ‘Hammer’ jacket?”  (Independent movie I did)

“Sign my book…sign my book…”  “Alright, I’ll sign my book…” and I’ll sign the thing.

“Let’s one more picture.”

“Alright.”  So you get the one more picture and then you go, “Alright pal, thanks.  I’m going to head back to the hotel.”

“Oh…so that’s it?  That’s all?”  (laughs)  “You just going to leave us hanging?  Is that how you roll?”

You’re like, “Wait, wait, wait….what’d I do?”

“So you’re just heading out?  Just checking out now?  That’s how you roll?”

I’m like, “What do you want?  Some sex behind the dumpster?  What are you looking for here?”

(Laughs)
You know…
(Laughs)
It’s weird…you sign the guy’s book, you take nine pictures with him and you go, “Alright.  Thanks for coming to the show pals.  I’m going to get in the Towncar,” and they say

“Whoa…so that’s it, huh?”

Yeah, you
Yeah

Well, my last question:  the great thing about podcasting and internet radio, there’s no geographic limitations anymore.
Right

So for anyone who hears this interview in Atlanta and beyond, what do you want to say in closing?  Open-ended…

Oh geez…now, in what language?  If you enjoy good conversation and you enjoy some compelling talk and some free talk and some open talk, then, uh, you can check out the podcast, pick it up.  People are a little intimidated like, “Wow, I don’t know how to work a computer.”  You just go to iTunes and hit podcasts and you’ll see a picture of me and if you’ll click on it, it’s free and nothing to it.  Believe me I don’t know what the hell I’m doing around a computer and even I can figure it out.  So, check it out.  And you might want to grab my book, too.  I’m pretty proud of that.  In Fifty Years We’ll All Be Chicks.  I wouldn’t say it if it wasn’t true.  So, uh, and other than that…enjoy your life.  And dance with your kids, that’s what I wanted to say.  Once a week at least, have a little dance party with your kids.  Because when daddy’s depressed it always bums the kids out.  So have a little dance party with your kids.

Our special guest has been Adam Carolla.  Thanks so much for doing this interview.  I really appreciate it.
My pleasure.

TRANSCRIBED BY LORI DOMINGO.

 

Shari Belafonte: Actress, Photographer, Singer

SHARI BELAFONTE has been described as a Renaissance woman. In the entertainment world she has been credited asan actress, model, writer, singer and spokesperson. She is well known for her role as Julie Gillette on the prime time television series “Hotel” which was broadcast from 1983 to 1988. She has starred in several motion pictures and television programs. She co-hosted the syndicated series “Lifestyles with Robin Leach and Shari Belafonte” and a travel show called “Travels in Mexico and the Caribbean with Shari Belafonte” She is the international spokesperson for the Starlight Children’s Foundation and was also named one of the top ten celebrity endorsers by the Wall Street Journal. There’s more…Shari Belafonte is also an avid photographer. Her collections include “Postcards from Cuba” and most recently an acclaimed collection entitled “Italia” of photographs she took in Italy. She is also a recording artist with two albums to her credit: Eyes of Night in 1987 and her sophomore release “Shari” in 1989. . It’s no wonder why she has been called a Renaissance woman.

What do you think Shari Belafonte’s greatest talent is?

Ladies and gentlemen, our next guest has been described as a renaissance woman. It’s with great pleasure we welcome Shari Belafonte.

How are you doing?

I’m doing just great. It’s an honor to have you on the line.  My first question. Who is Shari Belafonte?

(Laughs) I’ve been trying to ask myself that question for the last 56 years (laughs). Right now, she is the keeper of all dogs. I have six pups. They’re my life. My husband and my six dogs pretty much are what I do. I don’t call myself the second ‘dog whisperer’. I’m a dog wrangler (laughs). But, um, I also, uh work with the Lili Claire foundation which is for children with neurogenetic birth conditions like autism and Williams syndrome and Down syndrome. We just had a huge event in Las Vegas. Let’s see – I have the photo show. I also want to be a director. I’ve written a script. I dance. I read. I watch television. I cry at The Proposal and I’ve seen it 15 times (laughs). So I’m, I think I’m your average, ordinary insane person.

Well, I don’t know about ‘average’. That’s a lot of accomplishments. I think most stories are best from the beginning. What was life like growing up?

Let me see if I can remember that far back. I grew up in New York City, or I should say I was born in New York City – Manhattan. I went to private day school and then when I was 12, I went to boarding school, which was actually my choice. I skipped a couple of grades and went to, went to Mountain School, which no longer exists, but then transferred to the Buxton School in Williamstown, Massachusetts. Then went to Hampshire College. Then I went to Carnegie-Mellon University and got a BFA in Production, in Drama. And really not in front of the camera – I was never supposed to be in front of the camera. I was always supposed to be behind the camera. Uh, when I was four years old my grandmother gave me my first box Brownie camera (laughs) so I’m going way back. You know the ones – it has the little flash bulbs that would blow up and look like a big wad of snot (laughs). Then I got my first Instamatic camera when I was I think 11 and I always wanted to be behind the camera. I spent my entire sophomore, junior and senior year in the darkroom pretty much. Then, as I said, went in to production at Carnegie and when I graduated from Carnegie, about four days later, I married my college sweetheart. We moved to Washington, DC. Then I worked for a bank part-time and then I worked for Public Television, again behind the camera. I was an Assistant Director and Production Assistant and go-fer. Then after two years of being in DC, my husband and I moved out to California to pursue our production dreams and I got discovered. A friend of mine was doing a movie called, uh, I think it was called Hollywood Nights. It was Tony Danza’s first movie. And while I was on the set visiting her, the makeup artist on the set said to me that she thought I was pretty enough that I should be doing commercials and modeling. And I sort of went ‘Phwww’ you know? ‘What are you kidding? I’m a go-fer. I’m a production techie hound.’ And she said ‘You can make a lot of money.’ (Laughs) That was the key word for me. That’s pretty much it. And then I did send out pictures to about 10 different agents. Nina Blanchard was the one that called me right away. I sent them out as my married name – at that time was ‘Harper’ – so she didn’t know that I was Harry Belafonte’s daughter and she signed me up, saying ‘Good Lord, you’re short. You’re old. You’re not black. You’re not white.’ I was 24 at the time so that was pretty old in modeling terms. Uh, she said ‘But I’d like to see if we can get something going.’ The rest is kind of history. I did some go-see’s and got a couple of commercials and Richard Avedon met with me and I, we uh, did a couple of Vogue covers – actually, I think I did four or five Vogue covers with Richard – but he also put me on camera. Way back when, Brooke Shields had the Calvin Klein ads and after she had done them for a couple of years they needed a few of us to take her place, so it was me and Martha Plimpton and Andie MacDowell and a couple of other actresses who – uh, a couple of other models – who did the next wave of Calvin Klein commercials. And from there I was discovered for television. Uh, the producers of Hotel, Aaron Spelling’s producers, saw me in the commercial and had me come in and read for Hotel and then, I guess the rest is history.

I’m going to go out on a limb here. Do you consider yourself an extrovert?

(Laughs) Because I had a non-stop answer to that first question (laughs)?
No, no, that’s not what I meant. I just meant so many things that you’ve done throughout your life have been in the public eye. And sometimes when you people that you would think would be really, really extroverted, they end up not being so much.
I don’t consider myself an extrovert. I would think I’m more introverted but – more of anintrovert – but you know, there’s moments. I think it depends on where the moon is in the sky at that time and how the planets are lining up ‘cause there are moments when I’m off the wall insane and quite vocal about it, and there’s other days where I just want to sort of hide in the cave with the puppies and my husband and not come out for a few days (laughs). I’d have to say I’m right in the middle.

Now, you studied Drama. Do you think that that experience –

I studied Production.
Production.
Yeah. Because I don’t want to say I studied Drama because that indicates that I was always focused on being an actress, which I never was. I studied behind the scenes – design and lighting design and set design and construction and writing and producing. That was what I was studying. I took acting classes only because I felt, as a producer, it made sense to understand how all the elements fit together to get the perfect play or the perfect movie. I took a couple of acting classes primarily to understand what actors do, not to become another actor.

When you were becoming a bit more of a public person, out of curiosity, how did your father – and for everyone out there that’s listening, your father the famous singer – how did he feel about you pursuing print work, commercials all those different things?

I think Harry and Marguerite, my mom Marguerite, were both a bit concerned. Harry knew all the pitfalls and the downside of not being chosen, and how rough and how harsh it can be, so I think there was more of an angst on both of their behalves of my probably not making it. Mom was a little more supportive of it and Dad really tried to steer me away from it but, ultimately, I let them know that I understood the entertainment industry, especially having grown up and around it. You know, my parents divorced when I was two. Uh, Harry actually separated from my mom when she was pregnant with me but they divorced when I was two. But every summer, you know, I was on vacation with him and usually he was on tour so I was backstage and, you know, I certainly was – almost the same thing as you saw with little John-John under the desk of John Kennedy in that famous picture – I was sort of lurking in the background, listening, and overhearing all the harsh realities of what the entertainment business certainly had to offer, especially for minorities back then, and I think I was a little bit better prepared for it than they may have wanted to give me credit for. But Mom accepted it right away. As soon as she saw that first magazine cover she was (laughs) you know, taking it all around Washington, DC showing everybody that I was on it. I later came to find out from some friends of my dad that he did the same thing. He didn’t let me know that right away but other people said ‘Are you kidding? Your father carried that Self magazine cover around for weeks (laughs) showing it to everybody.’ And, you know, in a kind of quiet, subtle way he was very proud as well but was, youknow, a little more reluctant to show it because he didn’t want to give me the impression that everything was going to be OK for the rest of my life.

You had a music career as well. There is a 1987 release. You can still get it on vinyl. I got my copy from Germany.

(Laughs) That’s the only place you can get it from, I think.

It’s interesting because I did some digging around on the internet and, apparently, you have a fan base of that album in Germany (Shari laughs). But just tell us a little bit about you taking that leap into music.

It’s funny, I always liked music and I never thought of myself as a singer. I mean, Whitney Houston, now that’s a singer. You know, Natalie Cole – all those people. Those are singers. I’m kind of a stylist. I know that I’m, I am into pitch. I’m all about being pitch-perfect and I’ve always loved music. But I actually was offered this music career because of my popularity on Hotel. Hotel was a very popular show over in Germany. The producers from Metronome, which was the label that my two records are on, contacted me through my agent saying that, you know, if I could carry a note (laughs), carry a tune, they would very much like to do a couple of albums. And it’s funny. I, I was out the same time that David Hasselhoff was releasing his (laughs), launching his big music career. So, um, I loved the idea of doing an album, especially over in Germany because then, if it really was atrocious nobody would hear about it here (laughs). Plus, you had the opportunity of singing and having that little life without me being compared to Harry. Or even if I was compared at least I didn’t understand because I don’t speak German (laughs). So whether or not, uh, they were comparing me and saying ‘Oh my god. She’s certainly nothing like Harry.’ Or if they were like – I’m sure there’s probably a few people out there that liked it. It was fun. It was a lot of fun to go over and have that sort of separate career and not think in terms of having a recording career here in the United States. I actually never thought of that because I knew how difficult it was to have a recording career here. You know, you had to go on – back then, it’s obviously even more difficult nowadays – but back then you had, uh, to go on tour for months to promote an album so that you could increase record sales. I never had anticipated that I would do that kind of thing here, whereas over in Europe at the time, you didn’t have to go on tour. You could do a half-dozen of these shows, sing, you know, on the shows and then, uh, that would do well for record sales there. That’s the way they sold records then. I loved Germany. I went over quite a few times, to either promote the album or to record, and I’ve been in love with the country ever since. It’s a lot of fun. They weren’t my choices of songs – that was the only thing. It’s funny. I had the producers of the second album come along and they had written a song, they had just brought it out of the studio and – you know, just with the rough vocals on it of somebody else’s studio there– and they handed it me and they said ‘What do you think of this song? Do you think you would like to sing this?’ And I listened to the song and I went ‘Oh my god, yes! Absolutely. That’s our first single. I definitely want that on the album. It has to be on the album. That’ll be a great song. That’ll be really, really good.’ And when we submitted it to the producers in Germany they said ‘No, no, no. We don’t see that that’ll ever do any business so we’re not going to let you do that song.’ And I went ‘Wait a second! No, no, I – it’s going to be a big hit. I know it is.’ And they said ‘No. Nope. Sorry.’ So they took it off the album, uh, and it was (sings) Sometimes the sun comes down in June (laughs). So, needless to say, a couple of years later Vanessa Williams got it and made it a huge hit so I was (laughs), I was always a little bummed about that. Another song that I had picked that, uh, had just come out of a – Bernie Taupin had written it – and, uh, I heard it first and wanted it for my album and, of course, I didn’t get that one either. And that was We Built this City on Rock and Roll. I know I can pick songs. I just don’t get to always have them (laughs).

Do you enjoy the process of making a record, of going into the studio – all that stuff?

I really do. I really do enjoy it quite a lot. It’s funny because I, I guess I didn’t do it enough. I still have these moments of thinking ‘Yeah, I’d like to get back in the studio.’ I’m putting together a huge project which will take forever to get done. My sister and family and friends have been saying to me for years, you know ‘You gotta, you gotta finish this. This is like such a cool thing.’ It’s a science fiction story that I started writing and part of it is my voice. I did go into the studio with a, with a friend of mine from years ago and laid down all the tracks but it’s, it’s all voice-over and it’s all story-telling and it was weird, weird music. Nobody really had heard it. A couple of people have heard it and they’ve all gone ‘That’s all your voices?’ (Laughs) It actually scared my husband to hear that I had those many voices coming out of my head, ‘cause you know, I’ve done cartoons so every once in a while you have to come up with these wacky voices. I do love that process. I do remember one moment in the studio in Germany because, as I said before, I’m all about being pitch-perfect, and it was this one day that, uh, I was in the studio and I couldn’t hit a note to save me. I couldn’t understand. I was very frustrated, too, because here I was in Germany and it was, I think it was the third song I was working on and I just couldn’t hit a note to save me and I was starting to cry. And the producer got on my headset and he said (imitates German accent) ‘Shari’ and I went ‘Yes?’ and he said (imitates German accent) ‘I think maybe we should call it a day.’ And I went ‘Oh, no, no, no, no, no! No, no. I can get this. I promise, I can get this.’ And I was just getting very frustrated. And he said (imitates German accent) ‘I have to ask you a very personal question.’ And I said ‘OK.’ And he said (imitates German accent) ‘Are we having our period?’(Laughs) I was blown – I was, oh my god! That’s like – it was such an embarrassing question to have my producer ask me! And I went ‘Well, yes but when …’ and then I started getting a little – you know, you get that PMS thing. You get a little mad, like a little angry, like ‘How dare you think that may be the reason!’ And he went (imitates German accent) ‘Well, thendefinitely we call it a day.’ And I went ‘Now, wait a second. I know I can do this.’ And he said (imitates German accent) ‘No, no, no, no. It is just that there’s a hormonal thing that happens and every once in a while – just the first or second day.’ He said (imitates German accent) ‘I work with many, many, many musical stars.’ And he started listing a list of people, all very quite well-known singers. And he said (imitates German accent) ‘It’s just these two days that sometimes it happens to the best of you.’ He said ‘Trust me. On Wednesday’ – because this was a Monday – he said (imitates German accent) ‘On Wednesday you’ll be fine.’ And sure enough, two days later I was back in the studio and I was fine (laughs). And from that moment on, I’ve always, like, told other people, especially young singers that are starting out. We had a talent contest at this event that I was doing in Las Vegas and there were a couple of girls that just were really off key and at one point I had asked the mothers, you know, ‘Could ‘this’ be happening?’ And they went ‘Well, yes. How did you know?’ (Laughs) I said ‘Well, let me just tell you an important thing to remember.’ So, every once in a while when I’m watching, like, American Idol or you watch some of these things, and the girls are just slightly off key, I’m thinking to myself ‘OK, well I know what time of the month is it for them.’ (laughs)

You know, you have these various photography undertakings that you do. You did the Postcards from Cuba. You also have the one, Italia. Did you get kind of like the idea to do destination places based on the TV show you did, the Travels in Mexico and the Caribbean? How did that happen?

You know, it’s funny because I actually did the Italia show – those are all pictures that I shot on my honeymoon with Sam 20 years ago. Because I had been on camera for a while, I hadn’t picked up my camera in a couple of years. And when Sam and I got married, Sam gave me a brand new camera and he said – ‘cause he knew – he said ‘You know, I’ve seen these pictures all around the place that you’ve shot over the years. How come you don’t shoot anymore?’ And I said ‘You know, who’s had the time?’ So we were getting ready to go on our honeymoon and he said ‘Well here’s a, you know, a little, another little wedding present.’ I had actually – I was talking to Richard Avedon and said, you know ‘I’m getting ready to go off’ and, you know, ‘I haven’t shot in a long time and I’m not a big fan of color. I really like doing black-and-white.’ And Richard was the one that said to me ‘Well, because you’re shooting 35mm’ he said ‘you know there’s a film that Kodak puts out. It’s called recording film.’ He said ‘What’s cool about this film is that you can set the AFA to anything that you want, as opposed to, you know, if you get T-max and it’s 400 or 1600.’ You know, all the films usually have their own ISO or AFA rating on them. He said ‘This one is really kind of cool because, you know, you can set it whatever you want. Just remember to write on the canister when you take it out, you know, what you shot it at so you’ll know what to process it at.’ So I bought quite a few rolls of this film and, oddly enough, it wasn’t a particularly popular film and I’m sure it’s because it was quite pricey. It was about $12.00 a roll back then and you know, when film was $3.00 a roll or $4.00 a roll and this was three times the price. So I used to say either idiots or professionals use this film (laughs) and I think I just was a lucky idiot because I shot a lot of this and, of course, you don’t know what it will look like until you process it. You know, unlike today, everything’s digital so you can look at the back of the camera and see right way if you’ve got a picture or not. And you know, I shot quite a few rolls of these and then I had them all printed into contact sheets. And there were just a few that I had printed up because, again, I got busy with my life. And so now, 20 years later, while I was looking in my attic for some other things, I actually found these negatives. And I was surprised to see that they were still in decent shape because, you know, they weren’t refrigerated, they were up in the, in a plastic drawer in their plastic sleeves. I took them to the one last guy here in L.A. – it’s a photo shop that I use – that really does prints, you know, as opposed to just constantly digitizing everything. I asked him if he could just print up a few of these so I could see what they looked like. And I was really quite surprised and quite excited at how cool they looked ‘cause they looked like old Italian pictures. When I was talking to John and David, who own the Chair and the Maiden Gallery which is where I’ve had a couple of shows now, uh, and they were discussing what my next show was going to be because I had done one of the Mythostories, which is that science fiction thing that I was talking about before. And then, I had gone to Cuba with Dad. Dad actually asked me to come videotape him, to do some home-movie stuff for him that’s going into his movie – he’s doing a documentary about himself right now. So he wanted, because of the fact that it’s, you know, there was a time constraint and budget constraint, he called me on a Thursday and said, you know ‘Bring your video camera and shoot me in Cuba.’ So the pictures that I shot in Cuba were really just – I shot those in a day, the stills, because I was so busy with the video camera shooting Dad that I didn’t really have a lot of time to go around Cuba and shoot. Those two things were part and parcel not really because of the travel series. It was because of other extenuating circumstances. And while I was on the travel series, I did carry my 50-pound camera bag everywhere I went. You’ll see me half the time climbing up … with this backpack on the , schlepping up all of this camera gear because I just always loved taking pictures. But, uh, we used a lot of photos I did for the travel show for the packaging. But I’ve shot head shots for people. I’ve shot bugs and, like, microscopic things. And I’ve shot pictures of the moon and, uh, I’ve got pictures of sun spots. I just love taking pictures. I think I was – as a child, I just remember plopping myself in front of the television and being fascinated by that whole theory of a picture being worth a thousand words. ‘Til this day, I’ve always – I’ve been in love with that moment that’s frozen in time. So even though there’s a lot of stuff that’s around travelling, you know, because everybody shoots nowadays, you know what I mean? It’s kind of easy to shoot great pictures with the digital cameras that we have. You know, it used to be a real art form because you had to shoot a roll and you had to just hope for the best at the end of the processing that you had one or two pictures. But now, you know these digi-cards can take 500, you can get a thousand pictures on a card (laughs) so chances are you’re going to get at least one or two good ones out of the thousand pictures that you’ve taken. Even if they’re not any good you can always erase them and start again. But, you know, back then it was, it was truly anart form. I like to think that I managed to capture some good moments. John and David, like I said who own the gallery, have been real nice and real supportive of my work and, obviously, they’ve given me a couple of shows. I also had a show at the Carnegie Hall Museum. And, uh, my marketing manager is looking to put up a couple of shows here in California, which I have not done yet. I just feel very blessed and very lucky that my grandmother was the one that put that camera in my hands and said ‘OK, now’ you know ‘stop bouncing off the walls and drawing pictures all over the walls and go shoot some pictures.’ (Laughs)

Any chance that you’ll bring the exhibit to Atlanta, Georgia at some point?

I would like to, actually, maybe find out about that. That would be kind of a cool thing. If you want to talk to Raji – you know, who I think you spoke to earlier – tell her where we can take it. I would love to have a photo show there, too. Like I said, there’s so many good photographers out there now, you know. It’s tough to compete in this business. If you think there’s interest there, I would certainly love to find out how, when, where, what, and why – and why not (laughs)?

Let me work on it. Is there anything else on the horizons?

Um, there’s, you know it’s funny, there’s always stuff. My husband has been editing and doing special effects for this movie that we shot. It’s a short that he shot, that he directed. I was actually the camera – the second “B” camera. The first camera operator was Danny Motor, who is also our – he was the DP and camera operator and, uh, I was his B camera. And, uh, it’s a movie that Sam’s been working on for a little time, a little bit of time now so, hopefully, we’ll get that together and be able to take that out to the festivals. I wrote a script about Mary Fields, who was the first black stagecoach driver, that now is just being presented to a couple of people. So, hopefully, you know, somebody will jump on that and say ‘Oooh, yeah, that sounds like a good idea. Let’s, let’s shoot that. Let’s, let’s get that one up and running.’ And I’m about to start writing another screenplay, so – and screenplays can take anywhere from a couple of months to a couple of years (laughs). So that’s pretty much what’s on my plate for now but I’ll always be taking pictures and, hopefully, I’ll always have a door at the Chair and the Maiden Gallery on 19 Christopher Street in New York to display them that. Like I said, John and David have been really kind and I think the show is doing well. People are – seem to be taking to it. They love the images. Even if I never sell another piece, it’s the idea of being able to show them and have people like them. I think that’s, that’s the game plan for me. That and raising my puppies (laughs).

My last question. This broadcast goes out all over the world. What would you like to say to the people listening in?

I think they should all go to Jon Stewart’s Back to Sanity (laughs) march in Washington, DC on October 30th. Unfortunately, I can’t be there but we’re living in some interesting times right now. I think, politically, it’s such a mishegoss and that you want to, you know, reach out and slap some people around (laughs) and say ‘Come on. Get serious. Get it together.’ But I think everybody needs to have faith and just know that things are going to get a lot better. Things, I think, are already starting to get better although it’s hard to believe, sometimes, the way some people talk. My faith is in this president and I’m, I’m hoping that everybody else really sits back – stands back – and takes a good hard look at what we’ve accomplished in this country, and all the wonderful things that we can continue to accomplish. And be honest. Be truthful as opposed to telling some of the bare, bald-faced lies that are out there. I think it’s more important to be honest with ourselves than it is to just try to get ahead for power or for, you know – so I would like that wish for everyone, I think, more than anything else. I think that’s it. Oh – that and to be nice to animals! That’s a big thing for me, too (laughs).

Well spoken. I appreciate the optimism. Thank you so much for doing this interview.

Thank you. Now, your voice sounds a little bit better than it did the last time, right? (Laughs) Uh, Raji told me that you caught my cold, right?
Yeah! You know, I thought about that. You, uh, you had a cold and then I had a cold but I’m glad we had the chance to do this.
Yeah, you called and I sounded more like Harry than I did me (laughs).
You did. You really did.
And then I was – yeah, and then I was waiting for your call and then , uh, Raji called and she said ‘Oh my god! He sounded almost as bad as you did.’ (Laughs). I figured you can just blame everybody – you can blame me your cold, for catching that cold.

 It’s been a great pleasure talking to you. I hope you make it to Atlanta at some point. That’d be great.
That would be great for me, too.
Alright. Well, have a wonderful day.
Thanks. And everybody out there, have a wonderful life.

TRANSCRIBED BY GAYLE BRAZDA.

Curtis Armstrong: Actor, Harry Nilsson Expert

CURTIS ARMSTRONG is known for his many roles in motion pictures.  In additon to being an actor, Armstrong has a strong affinity for the musical stylings of the late great Harry Nilsson.  In this interview, Curtis Armstrong talks in great detail about why he likes Harry Nilsson’s music so much as well as his fondness for books.  The listener will gain a great appreciation for Armstrong’s candor and passion.

It’s our great pleasure to welcome our special guest. His name is Curtis Armstrong and he’s an actor who has appeared in many movies. He’s also the foremost expert on the late, great Harry Nilsson. It’s with great pleasure that we introduce Curtis Armstrong. Thanks so much for joining us.
Oh, well thank you. My pleasure.

My first question. Who is Curtis Armstrong?

Oh, boy. Um, well, that’s um, that’s, uh, not very hard. Um, he’s, uh, an actor of some 36 years standing and, um, a father and a husband and, um, boy – that’s about it.

Well tell us a little bit about where you were born. What was life like growing up?

I was born in Detroit, Michigan in the, uh, in 1953 and, um, at the time it was, um – I mean, you know, you look back on these things with, you know, I do anyway I suppose, with a bit of, uh, of affection and nostalgia. It was, I had a very good, very good childhood growing up and was, uh – my family was based in Detroit but then my father, who worked for Chrysler Corporation, was transferred to Europe in ’63, uh, and, and so we all went. And I wound up living, until 1967, I lived in Geneva Switzerland. And, uh, then came back in ’67 to Detroit and was there until, really until, uh, I left the academy where I studied acting in the early ‘70s. And, uh, and I had co-founded a theater company there, in Ann Arbor actually, um, towards the end of that time and then moved in ’76 to New York.

And one of your earliest loves was, uh, your, you had a very strong interest in books – Washington Irving and, uh …

Yes.
Uh, the Sherlock Holmes books.
Right.

Tell us a little bit about how you, uh, discovered the books and how you took it to the level of wanting to collect them.

Well, it was a – there were always books in the house, um, in my parents’ house and in, uh, my father’s parents’, my paternal grandparents’ house. There were always books and I think when you’re drawn to them, um – you are drawn to them when you’re surrounded by them all the time. And when we went to Switzerland – I mean, I always loved books and, um, my parents always bought me books. In fact, uh, I was reminded about the fact that when I was about five, uh, still living in suburban Detroit, I, uh – something happened and I decided I was running away from home. And, um, I packed a suitcase and there was nothing in the suitcase but books. No clothes. Nothing. Just books. And uh, because it was – you know, running away from home was fine but I couldn’t imagine myself without my books. And, you know, hauled this enormous suitcase filled with books, you know, all the way down the street, trying to run away from home. So that was sort of rooted in me at a very early age, a love of books. I didn’t, ultimately, run away from home obviously, but (laughs) – somebody driving by recognized me and picked me up and brought me home again. Um, but then being in Switzerland in the ‘60s, in the early ‘60s, there was very little, uh, as far as culture to do – pop culture certainly. Um, there was a lot of music and I got a very early dose of, uh, loving – particularly English – uh,rock and roll from that period because it was everywhere. Um, but again, you know, you couldn’t go to see movies. We were too young to see most movies except for Disney movies and things. They were very strict about that there. And so books became, along with music, became a refuge. And, um, as far as the collecting of them, I guess that was something that just is, was a part of my DNA. I, I don’t know where it came from exactly. Um, maybe it, maybe it had to do with moving around a lot, uh, which seems like counterintuitive because if you’re moving around you don’t acquire things. But I guess it was maybe a, uh, a desire – I see it in my own daughter, actually. She has a similar thing of when you become involved and interested in something, you tend to dive into it deeply. The, uh, collecting then, you know, once I became able to actually buy books and collect them, that became, uh, an interest.

You said a second ago about you had a DNA kind of to dive into something and you’re known as a, uh, somewhat of an expert on Harry Nilsson.

Yeah.
And I wanted to ask you, how did you first come to listen to, uh, Harry
Oh, gosh, uh, I knew, I knew his music from the early – I mean late ‘60s, actually – but, like a lot of people, had no idea he was the same person doing all of these different types of music. Uh, he was very much a chameleon. Uh, with Nilsson, you know, he was coming out with songs then, hit records then and I, I liked all of them but they all – it didn’t sound like it was the same person. It was amazing to me. And then, you know, gradually I figured out by about 1972 or so, um, who he was and it just started – you know, it’s just one of those connections that you have that are, that are really kind of impossible to explain logically. It’s just a connection. You feel like – not that you know the person but that you have sort of an intuitive grasp of who that is. And, uh, I became really interested in him and listened to all of his music. And he played on a lot of other albums. And a lot of other people like the Beatles, for example, who adored him, um, were fans of his and, you know, that was interesting to me. And you know, I just, uh, I became interested in him. And so, by the ‘70s I was sort of casually collecting a lot of material about his life and – you know, articles when I could find them, and that kind of thing – and, uh, and then by the time he died in the, uh, early ‘90s, uh, he was, uh, you know, I had this massive archive of information on Harry Nilsson. And then when – I was trying to get a documentary together and I was in touch with RCA in New York – and when they found out who I was, they asked me to co-produce the re-releases of Harry’s albums, which I did eventually, um, doing liner notes and picking out bonus tracks and that kind of thing. I never met him. Uh, apart from a letter that I – I wrote him a fan letter in ‘76 which he, which he, uh, answered – very generously. Uh, aside from that, there was no actual personal connection between me and Harry Nilsson. It was just a, it was just, uh, a real affinity for his music.

So tell us, how did Harry Nilsson begin in music?

Well, he started, uh, he started as a songwriter, you know, sort of a hack songwriter, in Hollywood. He was, he was doing demos for people. He worked with Phil Spector for a while. Um, he worked, you know, basically doing any sort of job but he was writing – he was actually working in a bank at the time – and, uh, he was writing songs which were getting put out there, and doing some recording, um, and, but totally under the radar. No one was really aware of him at the time. And then, um, he went to, uh, he was ultimately brought into RCA and given a recording deal. This is the very short version of it. Um, his album, Pandemonium Shadow Show, which was released in 1967, uh, post-Pepper, and, uh, and it – the Beatles were, um, instantly attracted to it and talked about it a lot in interviews. And then by 1968 the Beatles did their big, uh, press conference in New York about the formation of Apple, and they were asked about who their favorite American artist was and they said Nilsson. And then, what their favorite American group was and they said Nilsson because he was sort of famous for doing multiple – he had a fantastic multi-octave voice – and doing a lot of, um, of, uh, overdubbing so he sounded like a group. To a lot of people, he sounded like the Beatles. And, um, that was the beginning of it and he had, he had an active recording career up until 1978. And after that, he did some movie and TV work. And, and then, um, you know, was in retirement – a kind of retirement, until his death.

Do you have a favorite record of Harry’s or an album that you think is more important than the others?

I don’t think I have one that’s more important than the others. I’ve got, I’ve got several that I like a lot that are favorites of mine. Uh, Aerial Ballet for the early albums is marvelous. Um, I have a real affinity for Son of Schmilsson which was his second sort of rock and roll album. Uh, and uh, I also like Sandman which is one of the later ones. And I like, uh, Knnillssonn – it’s actually pronounced ‘Nilsson’ – but, uh, it was the last American album that he did in 1977. I love all of those.

And do you have a favorite song, or could you pick a favorite one out of all of the ones he’s recorded?

Oh, I, I can’t do a favorite song. I mean, there, there are so many that I really like. I, I couldn’t even – I can’t even pick a favorite album, you know. I had to pick four albums.

(Laughs) I tell you, the cover that he did of Over the Rainbow – that, I think that …
Oh, yeah.
… and that song’s been covered so many times but I believe that his was the finest.
Well, it’s a great one. It really is. And that whole session was a kind of amazing one-off, which he did periodically. You know, he did an album only of Randy Newman songs, which is also brilliant. And, of course, The Point! which a lot of people know, uh, was a one-off. And then Little Touch of Schmilsson in the Night, which is the one you’re thinking of, uh, which he did with, um, with, uh, Gordon Jenkins, the great arranger-conductor. And yeah, I love, I love those recordings. I really do. But I mean I’m, I’m, I’m an unabashed, um, un-apologetic, uh, fan of his music and, and always have been.

According to a past interview you did, you said that you’ve approached your love of Harry Nilsson from a faux scholarly perspective. What did you mean by that?

I think it’s because I, I – my interests are primarily literary so I tend to look at things from that kind of perspective and Harry’s lyrics sort of – not lyrics so much, exclusively, but Harry’s body of work plus his life really lends themselves to that kind of a study. Um, it’s almost as if – well, when I wrote in that letter in ’76 it was because I wanted to propose writing a biography of him. Um, the idea at that point of a documentary had never crossed my mind but I was interested in writing a biography because that’s how I tended to see things that interested me. You know, I might love the Sherlock Holmes stories or the Woodhouse books or, uh, Irving but, in addition to loving those books, I’m interested in what – how people analyze those people and their work. And that was sort of the way that I wanted to approach Harry because that was the way I felt and it’s the way I have always approached subjects that interest me. Um, so that was, that was why I was probably saying that. I don’t remember saying that but that’s probably what I meant – was, uh, a subject that interests me I wind up delving into very deeply. And that’s why I said earlier that I see the same thing in my daughter now because – and of course she has the internet which I did not have (laughs). Um, so now, there’s a ton of stuff about Nilsson on the internet which was, you know, wasn’t there ten years ago. Um, and so my daughter, when she gets interested in a band, you know she’s got hours worth of, you know, stuff that she can find and that’s what she ends up doing. She’s exactly the same as me in that regard. You know, she goes from one band to another because of connections. And I guess that’s the thing with Nilsson for me is I always found interesting connections between Nilsson, other types of music, other musicians, session players – that whole thing – and that interested me.

Yeah, that’s, that’s very similar to the way I approach subjects and it is very fascinating to see all the connections in music.

Oh, yeah. It goes on and on.

Absolutely. So, so tell me, how many concerts of Harry Nilsson did you attend?

None, because there were none.
No?
He never performed live.
Really? I did not know that.
Yup.
Interesting.
That was, you know, another thing about him that was sort of interesting for some people was the idea that he was somebody who produced all theses albums. But that’s why I say post- Pepper, when it comes to the first album, the idea that the Beatles had which was, you know, we don’t have to necessarily perform live anymore. We’ll use the studio as a instrument and explore the studio indefinitely, that kind of thing which is – it’s ideal and not really practical at all in the long run. That was sort of the way Harry was. His was more out of a, of a, I think, a pretty deep, unexpressed stage fright, um, that kept him from performing live, except for one time. The only time that I’m aware of that he performed live in front of an audience was in Las Vegas. In 1992 he made a guest appearance with Ringo Starr and the All-Starr Band at Caesar’s Palace. They were on tour – the All-Starrs were – and he came on unannounced and, uh, sang, uh, Without You, the big Badfinger hit that he had, his biggest selling, I guess, hit. They had worked it up as a surprise. And, to my knowledge, except for, you know, just, you know, parties and things like that. Those – that is the only time he performed live in front of an audience. He did a lot of TV performances but only in situations where he could control what was going on, which meant that it had to be taped ahead of time.

Very interesting. So tell us, is there anything on the horizons with, uh, with you, Curtis?

Well, yeah, I mean I’m, I’m working on various things all the time, yeah. I just finished a movie in, uh, Louisiana, uh, called Fly Paper, uh, with Patrick Dempsey and Tim Blake Nelson, Ashley Judd and Jeffrey Tambor. That’s, um, only just finished. Um, there are a couple of movies, uh, that are coming out. One is, uh, called High School which comes out next month, I think, and, um, that’s, uh, Michael Chiklis and Adrien Brody are in that. And, um, I’m, of course, I’m doing a regular gig on American Dad as a voice, as well as two other animated series which are not on yet. They won’t be on until next year but we’ve been recording them all summer. Uh, so you know, there are odds and ends, different things. Um, just, uh, the usual stuff.

This may be hard question to answer but of all the movies and all of the television shows that you’ve appeared in, is there one that is more meaningful to you?
No (pause), I can say, honestly, no. I mean, I – there is, I, uh, you know, ‘meaningful’? It’s a job, you know? I mean, I, there are jobs, there are movies that I like more than others. There are terrible movies that I don’t even want to think about (laughs). Um, you know, but it’s – as someone who has been doing it for decades it’s impossible to say there is one thing stands out more than any other. Uh, I did a movie that came out this year, actually. It went straight to DVD. Everyone missed it, um, but it was a movie that I really loved, called Route 30.

Route 30.

Yeah. And it’s written and directed by John Putch, and it’s got Dana Delany in it and Robert Romanus and, uh, David DeLuise and, uh, Kevin Rahm. It’s a wonderful, wonderful movie. I absolutely love the movie. And, um, uh, it’s a very small sort of rural, uh, comedy in three parts. And we’re actually starting in December, um – I mean the movie itself is done in three parts but, in addition to that, John Putch is doing three movies over a period, over the period of, of the next few years. So, this was actually made two years ago, came out in January, I think, of this year. Now, in December we go back to Pennsylvania – that’s where it takes place, in south-central Pennsylvania – we’ll go back in December and shoot the second movie. And then after that movie comes out, then we’ll do the third. And they’re probably all going to wind up just going to, to uh, straight to DVD. But, um, but Route 30 for me was the most pure enjoyment I’ve had in a long time. And it’s, it isn’t even that I’m that crazy about my performance in it but I love the movie deeply.


Wow. Well, I look forward to seeing that.

Yeah.
So, you know a second ago you were, when you were talking about Harry Nilsson, you were mentioning that you had written that letter to him about a biography. Would you ever still consider that?
No, no. I, I mean, I had a –I don’t even know what I was thinking, really. I mean, I had no business even suggesting such a thing. I, I mean I write but I’m not a, I’m not a, a biographer. And, you know, a biographer is – I mean, for, for someone to do it properly, um, it’s, you know, it’s something that really needs to be approached by people who know what they’re doing. I had this, this, um, this definite desire – really a passion – over the years, to expose as much of Harry’s music as possible, uh, to people. And, at the time, I guess it seemed like that would be a way of doing it. And even by that time, in ’76, he was beginning to – his star, such as it was, was beginning to fade. And so I thought that, you know, this would be a way of, you know, giving back and at the same time, uh, you know, exposing his music and, and who he is to people. So that was the way I approached it but, in retrospect, I think about it and I, you know, I’ve got this, I still have this massive – and I did all of these interviews with session people that he worked with for, you know, for years. You know, I’ve got all of these taped interviews that I did with Klaus Voormann and Van Dyke Parks and, uh, Gary Wright and Chris Spedding and Jane Goetz and all these people that – producers that did his albums and all this stuff. I’ve got this massive archive here and I don’t really have anything to do with it, you know, so I’m – I, I don’t know. Eventually I’m going to unload onto somebody but I don’t know who.

Well, that, that actually sounds amazing. Uh, yeah, that sounds, that sounds incredible. I don’t know what to say about that but I – yeah, that’s probably quite a gold mine there with Klaus – wow.

Well, you know it’s there for somebody who wants to use it but at this – and in fact I heard, somebody told me the other day that there’s somebody in, in England who’s been blogging about the fact that he’s writing a book about Harry Nilsson but I don’t know any of the details about that and I’ve never, I’ve never – no one that I know around here has ever heard from him. So I don’t know what his thing is, uh, there, but (sighs), you know, eventually I’ll have to get rid of this stuff.

Well, it’s been a great pleasure speaking with you but I have one final question before we go. Mr. Armstrong, what would you like to say to all the people listening in?

Well, uh, thank you for listening. Um, uh, I hope it wasn’t boring as hell (laughs). Uh, um, I, uh, you know it’s been a pleasure, as always, talking about things that interest me that, that, you know, don’t have that much to do with ‘me’. I, I love talking about books. I love talking about music and, uh, and so it was nice to be able to talk about something that interests me.

TRANSCRIBED BY GAYLE BRAZDA

John Sebastian: Singer-Songwriter

“The Paul Leslie Hour” proudly presents an exclusive interview with the legendary John B. Sebastian of Lovin’ Spoonful fame. His songs are loved all over the world – (“Do You Believe In Magic?” “You Didn’t Have To Be So Nice” “Daydream.”)

This exclusive interview recorded backstage at the Roswell Cultural Arts Center in Roswell, Georgia.

Pelvis Breastlies: Female Elvis Presley Tribute Band

Elvis Presley is known to all as the King of Rock ‘n Roll. From his humble beginnings in Tupelo, Mississippi; Elvis Presley was one of the most popular singers and icons of the 20th Century. His influence continue to grow and Elvis Presley music is still loved by all ages around the world.

In Atlanta, Georgia there was a girl with a Rock ‘n Roll Dream…Meet Shawn Williams, a girl who loves Elvis and knows that although the King is Gone, he still lives on…in the heart of the people. She decides to start an all female tribute band to perpetuate the King’s music and in 2010, the Pelvis Breastlies are born.

Recorded at Real 2 Reel Studios in Atlanta, Georgia we invite you to meet Shawn, Erin, Davi, Katy and Elizabeth and enjoy live musical performances from their band: The Pelvis Breastlies.

Chubby Checker: Singer & Recording Artist

 CHUBBY CHECKER is one of the greatest singers in all of music.  In 1960, he recorded and released the Hank Ballard R&B song “The Twist” which resulted in a dance craze also known as “The Twist.”

The Twist has not gone away.  Nor has Chubby Checker.  He’s still Twisting!  What a thrill to talk with one of the absolute greatest in rock ‘n roll.

Ladies and gentlemen, it is with great pleasure that we welcome our special guest, the legendary rock-n-roller, Chubby Checker.  Thanks so much for joining us.
Thank you so much.  Good to be talking with you.

It’s a great pleasure.  So tell everyone out there…people know your songs…but whose the real Chubby Checker?

You don’t want to know him.  He’s a very quiet guy.

Really?

He’s more like Clark Kent.  Nobody cares about him.  He’s very quiet, you know.  Someone whose the other guy…he’s always promoting Chubby Checker…the other guy, he’s always promoting Chubby and everything Chubby does.  It’s like I’m a person within a person.  I promote…I promote Chubby Checker and the quiet guy doesn’t really do very much.  He’s very laid back.  He’s a whole different kind of person and very quiet and…and…you know, just very normal.  In fact, I try to keep out of the way…keep out of the lights and, um, go to quiet places to be entertained.  Nothing exciting because the life of Chubby Checker is always in the spotlight so the other person tries not to be in the spotlight. 

Interesting.  Where do you come from originally?  What was life like growing up?

Spring  Gully, South Carolina and it’s Williamsburg County and Georgetown County.  Williamsburg from Spring Gully, South Carolina and Andrews, South Carolina, this is my home and when you come through Andrews, South Carolina on Highway 521, in every section of town they will say “Welcome to Andrews, birthplace of or the home of Chubby Checker.”

Wow!  Very cool.

I have to behave myself because I, I always tell the people in Andrews and Spring Gully that please forgive me because every time you come through town my name is always there so it’s a burden for them so please forgive me.  I’m going to behave myself and be a good by so that you won’t be ashamed of me (laughs). 

I was reading a really interesting story about you…and there’s lots of interesting stuff also I want to direct all the listeners to ChubbyChecker.com….there’s a real interesting story about you and how you got your name.

When I was a kid, I worked in a produce market for Tony Anastasi and Tony Anastasi gave me the name Chubby.  I later discovered that he gave me his son’s name, which I considered a great honor and a few years later I was working in the poultry market for Henry Colt and he took me to the record company.  I was doing a project for Dick Clark.  The lady there…this lady said…she said, “That’s Chubby.  Chubby like Fatts,” and then she added, “Checker, like Domino,” and Chubby became Chubby Checker and the lady’s name was Mrs. Dick Clark.

So tell me, how did you get interested in music?

My mom took me to concert when we were living in Georgetown County in Georgetown, South Carolina and I was looking at Ernest Tubb, the country singer, and then she later took me to a show in Andrews, South Carolina where I saw a singer named Sugar Charles Robinson  and after I saw those two people, I decided I’d have to be in show business.  I was about four or five years old. 

Wow.  Can you remember favorite artists and favorite records growing up?

I remember people from the 40’s like, um, Hank Williams and Grandpa Jones…those people were around when I was a kid because all I ever heard was country music because I was born before rock-n-roll and people like Hank Williams…people like that….and then when I gained consciousness, about 1951…I must have been about ten years old, then I started exploring rock-n-roll because people like Billy Ward and the Dominos and people like that and…Perry Como and Milton Berle and then came along people like Sammy Davis Jr. and Harry Belafonte and, um, Frank Sinatra and Dean Martin…people like that…but my favorite of all times was Fats Domino, Elvis Presley, Chuck Berry, Little Richard, and Jerry Lee Lewis.  These are the people that really mean something in the rock-n-roll business.  We…we are part of all these people.

I had to agree with you there on the Fatman there.  He was one of my favorite people to interview.  Just an amazing artist.

But these five people, to me, are…a statue should be carved of them in some mountain somewhere and call it the ‘Rock-n-Roll Mountain of Rushmore.’  Fats Domino, Elvis Presley, Chuck Berry, Little Richard and Jerry Lee Lewis… these are the guys who really made it…that made rock-n-roll come alive with great fire. 

Before ‘The Twist,’ you had a song called ‘The Class.’  Tell us about that song.

I did impressions of Fats Domino and Elvis Presley and Cozy Cole and the Chipmunks and things like that and I still do a good Elvis impression and Ricky Nelson and Fabian and people like that and it was a novelty record.  It wasn’t my favorite but it was my first hit but it wasn’t my favorite record because I thought that, at the time, I was much cooler than ‘The Class.’  (Laughs)

Well tell us about the first time you heard your own music on the radio.  What did that feel like?

I really never listened to my music and I very rarely look at any films of me on TV or videos.  I never really watch that and the reason why I don’t listen to myself is because I might hear something that I don’t like and I might change it…I might change it…and that might be the reason why people are listening to me and when I watch myself on TV and I see something and I change it, that might be the reason why they like me so I never really watch myself and I don’t listen to my records but I do know that when they’re not played…I have a thing called ‘Media Base.’  I find out where all my music is being played and how many times it’s being played and the great heartbreak about my career is that they don’t really play my music like they play the other great people in the music industry.  I would like to hear Chubby’s music even more.  My music is responsible for the way we dance on the dance floor because after we did ‘The Class,’ and I did ‘The Twist,’ the world changed forever.  It’s almost as if we’re talking on the telephone right now…when the telephone came to the public, it became a permanent fixture in the world.  When…when Edison gave us the light bulb, it became a permanent fixture in the world.  When Chubby Checker did ‘The Twist,’ the ‘Pony,’ the “Fly,’ the ‘Shake,’ the ‘Hucklebuck,’ dancing on the floor the way we dance became a permanent fixture on the dance floor for everybody’s music and all I want out of it all is for everyone to play my music like they play Elton John;  like they play Elvis;  like they play all the rest of the guys out there….Bob Seger…I want to hear my music the way they play their music and I deserve to have it because in September 11th, 2008, ‘The Twist’ was named the number one song on the planet.  I want to hear the number one song on the planet on the radio.  I want to hear every radio station play the number one song on the planet. 

Well tell us a little bit about that song.  It is amazing, you know.  I can’t believe that it wouldn’t be more wide-spread.  Everybody knows ‘The Twist’ and it’s…

Everybody knows ‘The Twist,’ but I want the radio stations to play what’s responsible for the way we dance on the dance floor  24/7 since Chubby Checker went on ‘American Bandstand’ around 1959 and the world changed forever.  I mean, the way we do the boogie… the way we dance to Lady Gaga… the way kids dance that are nine or ten years old…that’s Chubby Checker.  You turn on the light in your house, it’s Thomas Edison.  When you get on the phone, it’s Alexander Graham Bell.  When you get on the dance floor, that’s Chubby Checker.  The music has a beat and you can dance to it, like they use to say, that’s Chubby Checker. 

Well, tell us about that song, ‘The Twist.’

We’re celebrating fifty years of dancing by ourselves on the dance floor.  Billy Idol said it last…said it best.  He says, that song “dancing by myself… and I’ll be dancing by myself.”  That’s what we’ve been doing.  When Chubby Checker did ‘The Twist,’ we been dancing by ourself on the dance floor, in front of someone, exploiting their sexuality, which is the most exciting thing on the planet!  That’s why we’re still doing it. 

Yeah, I heard you say that on the, on the television.  Uh, you mentioned that…you said that we’re exploiting one another’s sexuality.  What exactly do you mean by that?

It means that I’m actually standing in front of that woman and she’s standing in front of me and we’re fully dressed and we’re doing it.  What are we doing?  We’re doing it.  I’m looking at that girl and I’m saying, “Watch me…check my moves,” and she’s saying, “Watch me…check my moves,” and I’m looking at her and she’s looking at me.  My goodness!  You can’t get any closer to a strip tease than that.


(Laughs)  Yeah…

And that’s why…that’s why the way we dance on the dance floor before Chubby Checker wasn’t here…in fact, aerobic exercise did not emerge until someone says, “Hey, ‘The Twist’ is great exercise.  Let’s get some music and exercise to music,” and before Chubby Checker, that wasn’t even here.

That’s amazing.  When you look back at all the songs you recorded, is there one to you personally…you mentioned that you didn’t listen to your own records…but is there one to you that is a favorite?

‘The Twist’ is a great song.  ‘The Twist’ is my favorite song and reason for that is is because, you know, it changed the world.  When Walt Disney brought Mickey Mouse to our attention animated cartoons was established and invented right there and everyone that does animated cartoons…now when you go to Disney World or Disneyland you see Mickey Mouse but what about Snow White and the rest of the characters that he has?  Well my Mickey Mouse is ‘The Twist,’ and then my Snow White is ‘The Colonnade,’ and my Goofy is ‘The Fly, and another one is ‘The Shake’ and another one’s ‘The Hucklebuck.’  Those are my characters but they all represent, like Walt Disney’s characters all represent animated cartoons because before he came along it wasn’t here, and all my dances represent the way we dance on the dance floor.  We call it the ‘Dancing Keyboards’ to the way we do the boogie and it’s been going on 24/7 since Chubby Checker, that in two minutes and forty-two seconds the world, the world changed…the dip, dip beat(?)…the length of ‘The Twist’ is two minutes, forty-two seconds and two minutes and forty-two seconds changed the dance floor forever and it’s still going on as we speak.  ‘The Twist’ and the way we dance to the beat is the biggest event in the music industry…the day that it happened…and it still is the biggest event in the music industry.  I just want to catch up with myself and I’m hoping that all the radio stations in the world will play Chubby Checker’s music.  When I’m dead, I’m not going to be able to hear it.  I want to hear it while I’m alive and well.

It was not too I was doing an interview with Clarence “Frogman” Henry in New Orleans and he was, he was talking about you and he said that you were one of the people that he opened for that he was the most proud and the most excited to sing along with.  So I wanted to ask you: Who have you sang along with or opened for or had open for you that you were especially excited about?

It was way back in the day.  There was show in Philadelphia.  I was still in high school and I was the MC.  I…the first tour I went on, I was the MC and I was…I opened for The Quest.  I opened for Paul Williams and the Big Band.  I opened for Clyde McPhatter  and I opened for Bo Diddley.  The show was called ‘Hot Five,’ and I was on that show.  After that, basically most of the time, I’m on the road by myself all the time.  I loved playing with Chuck Barry.  I loved Fatts Domingo, Little Richard and Jerry Lee Lewis.  I mean, I’ve played with all these people.  I was in the company of Elvis once in my career.  I’ve met Paul McCartney twice and that’s…that’s about it.  I mean, other than that, it’s the music and Chubby and the audience.  That’s what we’ve been doing, you know, since 1959.  I graduated in 1960.  I was touring before I even graduated high school.  Go to I-Tunes and Amazon.com and look for ‘Knock Down the Walls.’  Look for ‘All the Best.’  Look for that.  Look for ‘Limbo Remix.’  Look for ‘The Texas Twist.’  These are things that I’ve done over the last ten years and you need to listen to those cause it’s…the music is very exciting.  Uh, ‘Knock Down the Walls,’ very exciting song and ‘Texas Twist’ is a country album and it’s all country music on it and it’s something that you need to get in to.  It’s very exciting…

Yeah..

..and, and, and….and go to…go to The Last Twist.com and, you know…we have candy bars and hot dogs and steak and all kinds of junk on there and I’m sure it’d be very interesting.

I’ve got two final questions.

Uh-huh…

When somebody goes to hear you play, cause I wanted all the listeners out there again…check out ChubbyChecker.com…he’s got shows everywhere…uh, what do you hope that they get out of the experience of coming to a Chubby Checker show or listening to one of the records?

They are the centerpiece of the performance.  I am just a good excuse for the party.  It’s all about them.  It’s not about me.  I’m glad they’re coming to see me but I’m also coming to see them and I’m going to give them something.  I’m going to personally get involved with them.  That’s what I do.  You know, the show is about them and you have to see it in order to know it but the thing is, most shows you go to you sit, you clap and you’re an observer and you go home.  You sit down, you clap, you’re an observer and you go home.

Right.

And that’s all you get.  With Chubby Checker, you get more.  You get other things.  Come to town.  Come to see me so that you can see what the other thing is all about.  What’s the next question?

The last question for the legendary Chubby Checker:  This broadcast goes out all over the world.  What would you like to say to all the people out there that are listening?

Whenever you go on the dance floor, I’m there.  In fact, out of all the dances that you do, when you go on the dance floor more than anyone else, you might be dancing to the Beatles but the dance that you do to the Beatles is Chubby Checker.  You might be dancing to Lady Gaga, but Chubby’s there.  You might be at your office on the telephone but Graham Bell’s there.  You might be in your house with the lights on but Edison is there.  Everybody out there, have a good time and most of all is my last message to you:  “Behave!”

(Laughs)  Alright, ladies and gentlemen, the one and only Chubby Checker.

TRANSCRIBED BY LORI DOMINGO

Clarence “Frogman” Henry: Legendary Singer & Recording Artist

At 45 rpm’s Clarence Frogman Henry drove straight into the musical center of the listeners heart. That authentic New Orleans R&B sound revved its musical dynamo for the first time in the fifties and never ran out of fuel. Listen in as this legend talks about his youth, home, and of course music. The who’s who of music history you’re about to hear is only part of the journey. Fasten your seatbelts folks, this is quite a ride.

PART ONE:
 

PART TWO: