Jessie really opens up in this interview and even sings and plays some acoustic and unplugged songs.
Alan Kalter is the announcer for The Late Show with David Letterman, a role he has held for almost 20 years now. He joined Paul for this fun talk where we meet the man behind the voice!
Ladies and gentlemen it is with great honor we present our special guest Mr. Alan Kalter, the announcer for The Late Show with David Letterman. With no further ado, I present to you Big Red, TV’s Uncle Jerry, the one and only Alan Kalter.
Hi Paul. A pleasure to be with you today.
Thank you so much. My first question: Who is Alan Kalter?
Well, um, he’s a guy who’s having a lot of fun with Dave and the people on the show for the last 15 years – going back to childhood, doing things my mother didn’t permit me to do when I was 9 or 10 years old that, uh, Dave permits me to do now – some things that I wouldn’t have even done if my mother had said OK back when I was 9 or 10.
So tell us, where are you from originally?
I’m a Brooklyn boy, um, raised in the New York City area, Connecticut, tri-state area, Long Island. And, um, my folks are from the same place. I grew up there, live in Connecticut right now, divide my time between New York and Connecticut. Two great, different worlds.
So how did you first get into the world of show business?
I was 17 years old, Paul, and a freshman at Hobart College, when I was pledging a fraternity and my fraternity brothers said ‘Now that we’ve had a few beers, how about going up to the real station’ – not at the school but in the city nearby – and auditioning?’ And I was the only one who, once we got up those steps, said ‘Yeah, I’d like to do that.’ And they said ‘Come back tomorrow.’ And I came back tomorrow and I put myself down on tape – or they put me on tape – and little did I know, they didn’t record anything on the tape because they weren’t interested in having any college students on the station. But the General Manager – this is a weird story – the General Manager happened to be going into his office that day, it was a Saturday, to pick up his wallet that he had left there the night before a fishing trip was about to start. And he heard me over the loudspeaker. And although they didn’t have anything on tape, my name and number were in security. So two days later, one of the disc jockeys – or as it turns out, the newsman – quit without giving them any notice. He called me on that number and said “Would you like to come down and work for Strauss Broadcasting?’ I was 17 years old and I did, 40 hours a week for the remainder of my three and a half years at Hobart.
I’ve been telling a couple of people over the past day, when you called you didn’t even have to say your name. I just – you have one of the most distinct voices I think I’ve ever heard. So, when did you first realize you had a vocal talent?
My dad had a phenomenal singing voice. Just great. He used to sing at all the parties. He used to sing in the car and, as kids who try to shut your ears when your folks possibly sing in the front seat loud, we loved it. It was just great. And I think I have his voice. Um, I like to sing, I like to talk. I didn’t think I’d be going into this profession but it’s done a lot of good things for me and I’m very appreciative.
Now you just mentioned, you said ‘I didn’t think I would go into this profession.’ Could you imagine doing anything other than this?
Well, I was a teacher for a short time. When I left college I went to law school for two years, a year and a half, and then went into teaching and, uh, did not go back to law school, although I expected to because I envisioned myself, um, fighting for the rights of the unfortunate in criminal court. Uh, I never went back. I absolutely loved teaching. I taught high school, 12th grade out in Long Island in New York area and, um, at the same time I was, I had been through college, through those three and a half years of college and through the law school and into teaching, I was still doing radio. I was doing, um, a show on WTFM in the afternoons, which was just outside New York City, and I was doing morning news for WHN radio. But after three and a half years of teaching – thinking I would be a teacher for the rest of my life – when that HN job opened up, and that was a big 50,000 watt station, I took the job, left teaching and I, uh, have never regretted it. Loved radio too.
Our special guest is Alan Kalter, the announcer for The Late Show with David Letterman. I have to ask you, how did you become associated with David Letterman?
David was, is, he’s a very smart guy and he used to do the game show circuit. His producer, Robert Morton – this was in ’94, ’95 – um, actually wanted me to come up and see if I could do the show, see if David liked me, and see if it wouldn’t be a good gel. This was almost a year after he moved over to CBS from NBC. And um, Morty liked what he heard and David liked what he heard. And, uh, I had known David – I had met him when he was a guest on Pyramid. I was doing the last year and a half of Pyramid when it was on the air from New York City, and that was the beginning. That was ’95. At the time I was doing a lot of commercials and, uh, and going around the country doing commercials, doing ‘real people’ commercials for television. And when I came home and I said I was offered the job as the announcer on The Late Show, I told my wife I wasn’t sure if I really I wanted it because it would really rock the boat on those commercials I was doing around the country. I wouldn’t be able to go away for three or four days at a time whenever I wanted to, to do that work. And my kids, who were in high school at the time, sort of immediately in chorus said ‘Dad this is the first cool thing you’ve ever done in your life. Take it!’ (Laughs) So I took it. And it’s been a pleasure, really. It’s been a ball. It’s been just great!
When you first met David Letterman, what was your first impression of him?
My first impression? Um, I thought he was very smart because the first time I met him he was on Pyramid and he was very, very quick. Uh, he was also someone who was a thinker ‘cause you could tell any time he was talking to you that he was thinking. And he was a listener. And he still is to this day. Uh, he’s a great listener when he interviews the guests on the show, as you can tell. He’s also a good listener if you meet him in the hall or if he sits down with you and says ‘What’s new?’ He listens to everything you say and then asks the appropriate questions.
Wow, very insightful. He definitely is. He seems like, uh, when you know, when people list famous interviewers I feel like he’s left out a lot in the list of the greats. Now, you’ve been with The Late Show with David Letterman for quite some time. Do you have a favorite memory from the show?
All of them are favorite memories. And I don’t say that because I want to avoid any answers or because it would take a long time to think of good people. But I’m often asked ‘What’s your favorite memory?’ or ‘Who’s your favorite guest?’ or ‘Who have you laughed at the most?’ and ‘Who is the nicest?’ and ‘Who have you been surprised about?’. The people that come to the show that are the biggest stars – and we get the biggest stars – are so down to earth and so nice. It’s almost, it’s almost, um, that’s the big surprise. You expect the ego to be that big – and there has to be a lot of ego there because there has to be a lot of confidence. They know what they do, they’ve been paid for it, they’ve been lauded for it. But those egos are, to me, the smallest ones. They’re the nicest people. They’re willing to talk to anybody that comes up to them and says ‘We like what you do and we admire it.’
What kind of music did you grow up listening to?
Uh, in high school I had a friend who was a jazz aficionado so I like jazz. And, of course, I like rock and I loved the Beatles and, um, Van Morrison, and Crosby Stills and Nash and Young, U2, Police, a lot of those groups. Developed a good taste for country when I was working for WHN radio because we turned country in the ‘70s, in the mid- late ‘70s. Uh, and we were a 50,000 watt station and I was doing all the interviews at the time. So they sent me down to Nashville to talk to the people that were, um, the top people in country. A 50,000 watt New York station – finally, New York coming on the line for country music. And I didn’t know music at all. I was saying ‘Loretta who? Who? Who am I going to talk to next?’ (Laughs) And it was kind of silly. But when I left Nashville after four or five days, and was really engrossed in what Nashville was all about – the music and I went to all of the shows, I listened to as much music as I could that week – I developed a love for it and, um, for the groups as well as the single entertainers. And today I listen to Alabama. I still listen to Tim McGraw, Delbert McClinton if you consider him country. And, um, we had a guy on the show a number of months ago that I thought was magnificent, just terrific – Jamey Johnson. And I listened to, um, his CD and became a Jamey Johnson fan. That’s country. And I listen to rock. I love alternative music. Um, some, we had on – I don’t know if you know her, Paul, but Melody Gardot?
Don’t know that one, no.
She’s fantastic! As a writer, as a producer, and as a singer. Patty Larkin has been a big favorite of mine through the years. Um, Susan Werner, one of my all-time favorites doing alternate music – Julliard trained and a great voice and a great writer of music. And in the popular vein, you know, the Lyle Lovetts and Damien Rice and Diana Krall, Phoebe Snow, Jimmy Buffett. Still listen to jazz – Coldplay, Nickleback. Like rock. Not as much into rap as some people I know but when it’s good and the entertainer is really good, it’s fine with me. Like, I love the lyrics of – I know you talk to a lot of composers – and I am a, uh, a big fan of Paul Williams who has been writing music now for what, for 35, 40 years? And still writes. And every beautiful, beautiful love song you can think of could be a Paul Williams song or is a Paul Williams song. And he’s still writing today. I still look for his music and his lyrics.
Our special guest is Alan Kalter, the announcer for The Late Show with David Letterman. You certainly are an eclectic gentleman with that long list of musicians. And, like you said, there have been some very iconic musicians who have appeared on the show. I want to ask you about a recent concert that was done on top of the, uh, marquee of the Ed Sullivan Theater with Paul McCartney. Did you see that concert?
(Laughs) Yes. Are you talking about Paul McCartney?
Oh, wow. That’s all I can say – wow. We had two concerts up there. I believe, I believe Phish was the other group that sang from the marquee and McCartney was next. It was a happening in New York. You couldn’t move through those streets of Broadway and every place I went for the next three or four hours after the show – downtown New York, uptown on the west side – there were people there at different tables that were talking about Paul McCartney and did you hear about this event in New York City. It was great and he was great.
Absolutely amazing. Now, you mentioned rap a second ago and you said you’re not the biggest fan of rap, and I’m not really that keen on rap either, but one of the funniest skits I’ve seen is when you do the songs. Like when you did, uh, Don’t You Think Your Girlfriend Is Hot Like Me? with Alan Chez on trumpet.
(Laughs) Maybe that’s the reason I’m not that crazy about rap because that’s what they have me do. Uh, yeah, I love doing those songs. And if you go back a little ways to the popular music when I was singing it on the show, my brother and I were the twins that used to sing songs. We haven’t done that for three or four years but there were about a dozen times when ‘Rick and Alan’ would get together and sing the songs of yesteryear, and usually with Paul’s band. That was a lot of fun, too.
Well, if you could answer, what skit that you’ve been in have you found the funniest?
My favorite thing to do is talk to the ladies. And that’s when I turn from Dave and I say ‘Dave, can I take this minute to talk to …?’ and it’s usually to the lady that just, uh, the woman who just got divorced or who just left her husband or was just, just left –boyfriend just left her. And I would turn to her, I’d talk to the main camera and I’d say something about why I want to help you out of this difficult condition. And then I would turn to a side camera and the lights would go low, and Paul would play very romantic jazzy music, and I tell her what I would do – what Big Red would do – for her in a bedroom that her former could not. Those are, to me, very funny. Those are the ones that almost have me laughing. Not quite, but I almost break up when I’m doing them. And that’s usually due to the great writing on the show, ‘cause they’ve got some writers there who are just out of their gourd.
I’m glad that you mentioned that because that happens to be my favorite skit. I lost it when you were doing the, what you would do for Dina Lohan, Lindsay Lohan’s – when you said ‘What’s crackin’ Mommy?’ I just lost it the moment I heard you say that (laughs). But, uh, just to kind of, just to know – I mean, what do you see yourself doing when and if The Late Show ever came to an end?
Honestly, Paul? I think I’m going to be playing a lot of golf. A lot of golf, which is, for me, my therapy. And anyone who doesn’t go to a therapist has a therapist in one way or another. That sport is my therapy. I just love being on the golf course. I would continue doing voice-overs and commercials, shows if somebody wants me but, uh, this has been just wonderful. It’s lasted much longer than I thought it would last and, uh, I can see retirement on that golf course. I don’t think I’m going to get any better (laughs) as a golfer but I’m going to try.
Well, is there someone on the show that you feel closer to? In the band or …?
Well, speaking of golf Al Chez, the trumpeter, and I have had a running match for the last probably five, six or seven years against Bruce Kapler, who is the saxophonist, and Anton Fig, the drummer. And, uh, it’s pretty, it’s pretty intense. Right now Al and I hold the trophy. We move the trophies back and forth on a whim and we play three or four times a year during the summer and, um, those guys are good. A lot of fun to play with. And the band itself, uh, very close to all the members of the band. Uh, Fig’s – he’s just top-notch. And Bruce and Al are great. These guys that – Will Lee has been around probably playing records, background records, or featured in records or main soloist in records for longer than, or more than, most of the other people in the band and still a great guy. Tom “Bones” Malone – can’t find a nicer person. Same with Sid. Felicia Collins is adorable. She’s lovely, she’s talented, she’s great to be around. And Paul Shaffer holds it all together and Paul’s a very down-to-earth person. I like him very much. As well as a wizard at what he does and a genius in what he does.
Absolutely. If you could put it into words, what is it you like about show business?
My favorite thing in show business is, on The Late Show, is the fact that we do a different show every night and it’s always surprising. Because it’s not totally scripted, there’s very little script in it outside of a Top 10 or a monologue, we don’t know which way Dave’s going, we don’t know which way we’re going. We write things, the writers write things – sometimes as we’re performing. Two minutes before, uh, a set, two minutes before the commercial goes on or goes off, I’m told ‘You’re going to this, this is the camera you’re going to face, the cards will be in front of you.’ And Tony Mendez puts those cards in front of us. And I know I speak for not only myself but for Biff Henderson and for, uh, Pat Farmer and all of the cast and crew of The Late Show when I say that. It’s just a joy. It’s a great, it’s a great hour that keeps us laughing at the end of the day, no matter how the day has gone, Paul.
Very well said. I have two final questions before we go. New York City has some of the best restaurants in the world. So, where do you like to eat in New York City and what do you get when you go there?
My favorite restaurant to go to is Caffe Ciello. It’s right near the theater, about a block away between 52nd and 53rd on 8th Avenue. It’s Italian. It has the best, in my opinion, the best puttanesca sauce that I’ve ever eaten anywhere. And that tops everything. And when I go there I get a warm welcome, the band is there many times, Paul comes in and says hello. It’s friendly to everybody and it’s in the heart of the action where all the shows are.
Well, my final question for our special guest, Alan Kalter, the announcer for The Late Show with David Letterman. This broadcast goes out all over the world so my final question to you: What would you like to say to all the people that are listening in?
Well, first of all, thank you for continuing to laugh and for tuning in. Without the fans we wouldn’t be where we are today and I certainly wouldn’t be where I am today. The fans have been absolutely great. The ones who come to the show couldn’t be finer, couldn’t be nicer people, couldn’t be nicer to me. And the people who watch on TV, when they talk to me and I see them around the country and around the world, they always have great compliments. They compliment the members of the cast and myself, and especially Dave. I don’t think I ever walk away from any encounter with anybody who’s ever watched The Late Show where they haven’t said ‘Please say hello to Dave for me.’ Not ‘Please say hello to Mr. Letterman.’ or ‘David Letterman.’ ‘Please say hello to Dave for me and thank him for the great job that he does and for the entertainment for so many years on late at night.’ I’m just so pleased to be a part of it.
TRANSCRIBED BY GAYLE BRAZDA
Ladies and Gentlemen, it is our great pleasure to welcome our special guest, Don McLean. Thank you so much for joining us.
Thank you, good to be here.
I wanted to kind of go back a little bit, when you started listening to folk music, what was it that you liked about ‘The Weavers’ Album at Carnegie Hall?
Well, I love harmony; there was a lot to be learned by listening to ‘The Weavers’ and anybody who likes harmony can learn a great deal from listening to that particular group, because they did many different things and they did many different harmony things within one song. One of the things that I learned from listening to them was how to build a song that basically had a verse and a chorus, from verse to verse, the song got more powerful or reached a sort of a climax if you will, and it’s difficult with a song like that because they kind of drone on one verse after another one and chorus after another, so there were many things also about their instrumentation, the playing, the guitar playing of Fred Hellermanand the twelve string guitar and five string banjo playing of Pete Seeger were extremely accomplished, and it was a great deal to learn, especially if you were just, you know, starting out in music as I was.
You just mentioned Pete Seeger a second ago, I was hoping you could tell the listeners how you met Mr. Seeger, and what did he teach you?
I was around Pete Seeger from about 1966 until about 1975 and there were good and bad points to being around Pete Seeger, a lot of people are attracted to him and a lot of people also after they find out what’s going on, they kind of get turned off and walk away. I was very interested in him musically but I found him to be politically and personally somewhat of a disappointment. I learned a great deal from him musically, programming songs, how to read the mood of an audience, how to use what’s going on in the world and what’s going on locally as part of what it is you do, as part of your performance to make it a personal experience, not only for the audience, but for you as the artists, also just how to pick good songs, songs that have importance to them, whether they’re, you know, they may be an important song, they might be just a frivolous song, but they have to be really good and musical and also, just what not to say, you know, when to keep quiet, the biggest thing I learned was that he makes huge mistakes on stage, and it doesn’t matter, so that was very liberating
Well, we’re here in 2011, it’s the fortieth anniversary of the album ‘American Pie,’ when you began to record that album, did you feel you had a very special record on your hands?
I knew I had a very talented Producer in Ed Freeman, who was very meticulous and very sensitive toward everything that we were doing, I had just put out an album called ‘Tapestry,’ which had done very well, two songs ‘Castles In The Air’ and ‘I Love You So’, came from that record, but there were many other songs that were on it, so I was off to a pretty good start, but from the time we made the album, the record company was sold and we felt we were out of business, so, I thought I was going to be just a guy that made one album, instead I made, like, forty, but none like the ‘American Pie’ album of course, so, I don’t know what we thought, but, you know, we basically hit a home run.
Could you pick a favorite song from that album?
That would be of course ‘American Pie,’ I mean; it stands head and shoulders above everything.
With all the interpretations that people have written, have you read many of them, and if so what do you think of them?
Well, the song is fun, you know, (Don laughs), it’s funny because the nineteen sixties, people got so serious, the one thing I loved about the Beatles is that they were so artistic but they were also having a good time, most of the folk people, and I am not a folk singer but I love folk music, but I’m not really, I wouldn’t qualify as a folk singer, but I love folk music, but they got so self important and so pompous and here come the Beatles who were infinitely more talented than most of these artists who were ‘Newport Folk Festival’ and they were having a lot of fun, part of the song was that it was just fun, and it was fun to hear people (Don laughs) you know route around and try to find different meanings, because it was all meant to be fun, so, I don’t read the meanings, but what I do love are the parodies that people do, there was one when the NASDAQ stock market went down called ‘The Day The NASDAQ Died’, which is, (Paul laughs) a classic, I mean, it’s unbelievable and then of course, Weird Al’s parody ‘The Saga Begins,’ that was marvellous and there have been probably twenty other ones.
I had the opportunity to interview Lori Lieberman and she talked about the incredible emotional response she had from your song ‘Empty Chairs.’ So, I wanted to talk about that song, what is it like to receive such an emotional response from people from something that you wrote?
You know, I was never really cut out to be in show business, what I wanted to try to do was just the best thing that I could do and I don’t know if you’ve noticed but most of my songs are all very different from one another, really different.
And that was one of the things that I was shooting for was to try to create a new concept every time I wrote a song, to be quite frank I was oblivious to everything, except what I was doing, and the most important thing was to make records, because, and you know, I didn’t know whether I would go over well on records or not, I didn’t know whether my voice would record well or not, I didn’t know what would happen, so when something like the ‘Killing Me Softly’ thing happens, it’s just a sort of a total…. from left field type of a thing, which is very complimentary and it’s a wonderful thing to know that she was thinking of me and they were thinking of me when they wrote the song and when the song was recorded, but again it’s just totally from left field.
I read a quote from you where you were talking about your song ‘Vincent’ and you said “the essence of the artist’s life is his art,” what was it about the print of Van Gogh’s ‘Starry Night’ that struck you?
Well, first of all I had decided that I wanted to write a song about him. It was a really, kind of basic kind of a thing, I figured, you know, I would just write using the most famous painting, as I was looking at the painting I realised that, something occurred to me which was this ‘is’ him, it’s not his painting, it is ‘him’, just like my songs are ‘me’ and not just something I do. See, most people do something, you know, they go and get the car fixed or they walk the dog, or they, you know, read the paper, but an artist puts what he ‘is’ into his art, and even without the artist he lives on because it is ‘him’, so, when that very obvious realisation hit me, then I started to just tell the story and write the song looking at the imagery and it just wrote itself, it sometimes happens.
In your opinion, what makes a good song a good song?
Well, that’s just myopinion, and I think Cary Grant says in ‘A Monkey Business’, Marilyn Monroe says “that’s a silly song,“ and he says “well, in my opinion your opinion, if that’s a silly song it’s a silly opinion,” so, you know, my opinions are just my opinions and they’re probably silly, but you have to have a sense of what a beautiful melody is, and what a real lyric is, which at least for openers means that there should be some kind of rhyme, you know, either internal or somewhere, the song should be something that you want to hear again, I mean that I think is really what sums up a good movie or a good song, you know, you may watch many movies or documentaries, but you don’t want to see them again, you don’t want to see the movie again, but some movies you want to see a thousand times, and it’s the same thing with songs I think, some songs you just can’t get enough of, you finish it and you want to start again, and I think that’s also an indication of whether a song is a good song.
Well, just a second ago you said “documentary” and I’ve heard that there’s a Don McLean documentary forthcoming.
Yes, it’s going to be a PBS fund raiser and a full on documentary which will be in theatres called ‘American Troubadour’, and it’s being filmed by Jim Brown, who’s a famous and very successful documentary and filmmaker.
And when will that be out?
March of next year.
Okay. With all the songs of yours that have been covered, could you pick a favorite cover that another artist has recorded at one of your songs?
Yes, I like the Fred Astaire version of ‘Wonderful Baby.’
I wanted to also ask you about the song ‘Crossroads.’ Was that song autobiographical?
No, I don’t think so, I was in a very peculiar place in my life in the nineteen seventies and a lot adjusting was going on and there was a lot of pain, I guess, to making these kind of adjustments, so a lot of that came through in my songs, probably made them a whole lot better than they would have been otherwise, so there’s probably some of that in there, but I was thinking more about America really, the American Pie album. The idea of my albums, was, and again, I say ‘was’ because I’m not making albums anymore and I’m not really writing songs any more, for albums because the music business has basically disappeared as I knew it and I don’t really want to participate in what there is there now. But I’ve made many albums so if someone decides they like what I do, they can spend a long time finding different records that I’ve made. The idea of the album is that one sort of, overall concept but then there area lot of songs that you might not figure how they might fit in with that, but if… but they fit in sort of, on a tangent, rather than directly, you know, if somebody has a concept album, ‘Moonlight Sinatra,’ there’ll be every song that’ll say, ‘Moonllight,’ ‘Moonlight Serenade,’ ‘The Moon Was Yellow’ you know and on and on, well, that’s not my concept albums, and they all are concept records, from the point of view I just described.
Well, on that note the one song, ‘The Grave,’ what inspired that song?
That was a dream I had, I suppose when the Army was breathing down my neck to try and draft me, I guess that was written on later, I forget….after I’d been rejected by the draft. That was a dream, I dreamt it and woke up and wrote the song.
I wanted to ask you about ‘Sister Fatima,’ listening to the lyric of that song, it made me wonder, are you a man of faith?
I was brought up a Catholic, but I’m not a Catholic, my Father was Protestant and my Mother was Catholic, I think my Father probably had as much of an influence on me, in a negative way towards religion as my Mother tried to have on me in a positive way toward religion, so, in the end I feel I probably… I’m not religious, in that I do not believe in religion, but I do believe in God, I believe in… I guess I’m a pampthiest of some sort, I love… I believe it’s all around you in nature and everywhere and harmony, and.. you know, you’re either improving or you’re not, you know, you’re either getting better or you’re getting worse, you really don’t stay static and as we move a long in life, many tests reveal to us and to others where we are and how we might be better. ‘Sister Fatima’ was written because I found a circular on top of this set of steps going down to take the sub way in New York, and I put it in my pocket and wrote the song, just pretty much what was said on the circular, all the things she would do for you.
What is the best thing about being Don McLean?
Having a great wife, and two terrific children, I don’t think my life would amount to much if I didn’t have my family, and my wife, really is the person that keeps that together and has provided that, I’ve done my part, but you know, a woman’s very vital to the raising of children and staying together in a marriage, which is very hard to do, but hasn’t been hard for me and I hope it hasn’t been hard for her, it’s really important, so we have two kids in college now and they’re doing quite well, so that’s my greatest achievement really , because that’s the one that alludes a lot of people, you know, who may find success in business or in the arts, it’s the tough one, it’s the big one really.
I have one final question for you, for anyone who’s listening to this broadcast, wherever they are, we have listeners from all over the world, what would you like to say, in closing to all those people?
I would like to say that I think that we should be very sceptical of technology, and especially the kind of technology that we have today, and that, I would advise people of all ages to not stare at screens if possible, it’s very difficult not to, but to look around at the natural world and try to avoid the virtual world that seems to be closing in on us very quickly, because of this very rampant and all consuming technology that seems to be here now.
Well, Mr. McLean, thank you so much for this interview. It’s been a great pleasure to speak to you.
TRANSCRIBED BY ROSALIND WINTON.
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?
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
TROY ALLAN was a singer-songwriter from Texas who lived from June 27, 1967- November 11, 2010. In addition to being a bass player in the band Hannah’s Reef, Troy Allan released several albums including One Man, One Guitar; Just South of Corpus, and Party at the Bottom of the Pool, which was released after he passed away.
This interview and acoustic performances was recorded in the home of Monte Tolar, another Texan who is no longer with us. As you will hear in the interview, Troy Allan had a rare type of stomach cancer called Linitis Plastica. He became the longest living person to have the disease and in spite of this embarked on a 100 house concert tour called the “Troy Allan Cancer Free 100 House Concert Tour.”
We invite you to listen to the interview and hear the musical performances.
Now we’re going to take you to our mini concert and interview with our special guest, Troy Allan.
Ladies and gentlemen, this is being recorded in the home of Monte Tolar. I’m sitting down with the singer, songwriter from Texas, Mr. Troy Allan.
Troy, thanks for doing this
No problem. This is great.
You’re going to give the listeners out there a little bit of who you are and we’re going to hear first-hand, your songs. My first question: who is Troy Allan?
Uh…I think even I would like to know (laughs). I’m pretty, uh, chameleon, if that’s a word. I change a lot. I’m one show in a cowboy hat and the next time I’m in no hat and I’m in a baseball cap and no shows and flip flops or, you know, whatever. It just depends on where I’m at and what the venue calls for or whatever. It jumps around a lot. Uh, bottom line is I love music. I always have and there’s…if there’s anything that defines me, it’s just playing music period. Uh, wherever that takes me, great! Let’s go! (Laughs) Whether I’m in the Keys or the middle of Wyoming somewhere, I don’t care.
So you’re from Texas
Yes. I live there now. I moved actually down there…a lot of people don’t know this…I moved down in ’81. Uh, my parents got a divorce and that’s where we landed, uh, back in ’81. I was a little kid so, you know, wherever the parents go…or my mom went, actually, uh, that’s where we ended up is Beaumont, Texas. Actually, Vidor, Texas, right around the area, but nobody ever knows that so I’ll just throw that out there…been there a long time.
Do you think that growing up in Texas affected you as a musician?
Oh, absolutely. No doubt. Where I was from, there’s not a lot of bars to play. Music is not really a big scene. Uh, you know…eighty miles south of Chicago was kind of out in the corn fields. In fact, I was the only person that I knew that even played music out outside of orchestra, you know, the school band type thing. So I was always a, back then, freak (laughs). “He plays guitar. Stay away from him!” So it was my best friend ‘cause, you know, it was like eight to twelve miles to somebody else’s house, you know…didn’t do a lot of driving around, uh, place to place to go hang out at other friend’s so my guitar became my best friend and has been all the way through my life so if something goes wrong…oops! Go find the guitar! It’ll listen.
I was…I saw this on the internet. I think this was on Facebook…I saw some blurb about two things to do when it rains and I don’t remember if that was in Monte’s status update or where that was but then it got mentioned to me again today. It’s amazing what kind of a global world we live in with the internet and everything.
We’re filming this…it is the first time I’ve ever done it like this but, uh, Monte has a lot to say about communication so tell us about that two things to do when it rains.
Uh, way back when I was married and one stormy night, my wife looked at me and, uh…she kind of looked at me and said, “Ya know honey…I’ve never heard this before. There’s only two things to do when it rains…and I don’t read,” and I was laying there going, ‘That is the best song title in the world!” And I’m sitting here like, trying to formulate a song around that and she’s like punching me in the side going, “Hey you…I’m over here.” (Laughs) I was like, “Oh yeah…I see what you mean.” So, kind of forgot about the song title but, you know, things that are supposed to happen, happen for a reason and if they don’t happen when they’re supposed to, they come back around. So, we fast forward a couple years and the divorce happens and fast forward another year and finally end up with a girlfriend and, uh, ended up in an RV park…made a whole bunch of new friends and we were sitting over there and, uh, my girlfriend kind of snuggles up to me when we get back to the RV ‘cause it had been raining and we were out sitting around a camp fire and it’s like all of a sudden ‘Wham!” No thunder, no warning, no nothing…it just started pouring like crazy. We ended up in the RV. Well, now the RV’s got the metal roof, so I’m laying there and she snuggles up to me and she says the exact same thing that my ex wife had said, that “There’s only two things to do when it rains and I don’t read.” Well, the way I write, I have to have the idea and the beat, you know, all at the same time. If those two things come together I got a song like really fast. Uh, well the first time, it didn’t happen with my ex. Uh, this time it did so I jumped and goes “There it is! I got it!” I’m like running to the other end of the RV and we had a little breakfast table that pulls down into a little twin bed or whatever and I ran over that to the breakfast nook and I was sitting there and I was scribbling as fast as I could so I could get this idea down and, uh, next thing I know I look up and she’s in the little doorway there into the bedroom at the other end of the RV and she goes, “That’s not what I was meaning!” She’s standing there in her nightgown…her little nightie, and I was like, “Oh…okay…uh, yeah.” (Laughs) “Hold on two seconds,” and I’m like trying to finish up writing the song
And I went back to the other end of the table but, or the RV, but I did get the song out and stuff and that was a cool thing. Actually that was the last song that was written to go on to ‘Just South of Perfect’ CD. It just squeaked by. In fact, I dropped another song to be able to put that one on there.
Well, we’ve heard about this song. Let’s hear it.
‘Two Things to Do When it’s Rains.’ I can think of one but I’m curious (Laughs)
About the second one.
(Performs ‘Two Things to Do When it Rains’) Hey baby, where you goin’ with my four wheeler? It’s pouring down the rain…don’t take it out and get it muddy!
It’s one of those little tongue-in-cheek songs.
Troy Allan, ladies and gentlemen, on the Paul Leslie Hour. Thanks Troy. So, you mentioned that you were from Texas. There’s a lot of music that comes from Texas, a lot of great music that comes from Texas. So, who were you listening to? Who influenced you the most?
Well, Beaumont, back in the early ‘80’s and all the way through, I’d say, the early to mid 90’s, was a huge, huge music area. There was clubs everywhere, bands everywhere, and of course, you know, we’d go out on nights that we were off, the whole band would go to listen to other bands just to see: what are we doing wrong? What are we doing right? What do we do better? What do we do worse? Not so much as a challenge thing, but I’m so fortunate to be having that stuff go on in that area ‘cause what happened is it made us want to be better. So it was like, “Oh man! They’re doing this and they’re doing all these breaks and these neat little musical chops,” and stuff like that. Uh, so it really gave me a high bar to climb to, you know…Clay Walker, Tracy Byrd, I went to school with them and they had their bands and of course, we all know the story with them about them getting signed and, of course, going on to be superstars and everything and they played at a club, Cutters, where Mark Chesnutt was so we were all, you know, in kind of that same group. I use to play there on the weekends too, uh, with my band but we were always looking around to, you know…”What could we do better? What do we need to learn next? Or, that kind of stuff but so, I was real fortunate to have a lot of music going on in that area. Unfortunately it’s dropped off in that area a lot. I mean, it’s real hard to find a place now. That’s why I go out and tour the country now ‘cause there’s not a lot of stuff going on at home. So…I have a blast anywhere I’m going out here. It’s very different from that ‘cause that was like, say, with a band and everywhere you go you carry a five, six piece band, all the gear, all the lights. You gotta carry all this stuff with you but out here, it’s just me and the guitar, just show up or go anywhere I want to so it’s a lot of fun. I just love what I’m doing now.
If you could say that one artist was your biggest influence, could you point to one?
Or maybe a couple that are above the pack?
Yeah, for me, and it’s kind of funny ‘cause growing up in the corn fields of Illinois, I didn’t get a lot of music. I mean, if it wasn’t on the radio right then, you know, I got into all the Ozzie Osborne and all that kind of stuff going on throughout the early 80’s and all that (???) band stuff going on. Uh, finally somebody kept saying, “You have this voice that kind of sounds like this guy,” and they kept saying his name and everything and it never sank in and I never went and found his music or anything like that but when I finally did get introduced to his stuff, it totally changed the way that I was, uh, writing and the style that I would use playing and it changed my guitar style. I started picking up finger picking and I went and got a couple lessons to figure out how to do that, although I’m not very good for lessons…I didn’t stay very long but pretty much everything else that I learned was on my own so…but yeah, that would have to be James Taylor.
Tell all the listeners out there about a band called Hanna’s Reef.
Absolutely. I’d love to. Uh, you know I had my band for a long time and I actually hurt my throat, uh, it would be the New Year’s Eve coming into ’97 and, uh, I took some time off, uh, kind of played at some solo stuff, but the band, the drummer for the band, Chuck Willingham, uh, that’s all he did for a living so he went ahead and moved into another band called Hanna’s Reef. It was based out of the same area, Beaumont, Texas and, uh, what happened with him is somehow or another, the bass player ended up quitting and I had started playing bass in our band ‘cause the bass player of us kept not showing up. He’d call me from like all parts of America saying, “Hey, I can’t play tomorrow night ‘cause I’m doing a shutdown.” He’d take off all over America and so I finally just bought my own bass and learned all my songs one night and showed up and surprised the band the next day, that I was the new bass player and it worked out pretty good but in one night I learned to play bass and sing and, which is kind of tough but that was my goal so I ended up being able to hit it. And when the bass player quit from Hams Reef, uh, Chuck called me up and said, “Hey, this is what you were always wanting to do. You were always wanting to travel and go cool places and, you know, do all these neat things and do the hotel thing,” and so the next thing I know, Jerry Diaz is calling me up, the leader of the band and everything, and said, “Here’s what we do and we travel a bunch and , you know, I’m looking for somebody to be able to do some backup vocals and maybe sing a few songs, but really be the bass player.” And, uh, I decided that I could put my gig on hold for while and be able to go try this and at least see what it was all about. Stark was pretty excited about it and thank goodness I did ‘cause I didn’t know about the (???) or any of this stuff, you know…the Parrot Heads and all…just a huge music movement that’s happening right now with all the different singer/song writers and, uh, I stayed with Jerry and the guys for a long time…just loved playing with them, loved traveling everywhere, showing up in all these crazy places and carrying our gear onto planes and all that kind of stuff. That’s a lot of fun. Sometimes it’s a little hassle, believe it or not, but, uh, you know when you love what you do, the hassle seems to be just part of it. And, I just kind of got my feet wet working throughout the band and started learning about tropical music and decided, okay, this is really cool. This is even better than what I was playing, you know, by myself, you know, solo stuff. So, just loved the guys…some great music, a lot of time…some fun times just going everywhere. Uh, kind of felt some growing pains a little bit ‘cause I kept writing all these songs and , of course, it wasn’t my band and I never wanted to take anything away from Jerry or the guys or anything but still wanted to be able to do my stuff. So the next thing I know, I’m doing solo stuff again, outside of the band schedule, still with a fifty to sixty hour a week day job, and it just kind of got to where it was so busy doing the solo stuff that it was hard to keep doing stuff with the band too. I felt like I was getting in the way of their progress ‘cause I was turning around and calling Jerry all the time and going, “Hey are we booked for April 22nd? Okay, how about the 24th? I got a possibility on such-and-such.” It just turned into, I felt like I was being more of a pest than helping the band. So we kind of did a little parting of the ways for a lot of reasons and we’llgo into those if you want (laughs). It was never because I didn’t want to be there. They were always awesome to me.
Well, from your solo career, you have a song called ‘Two Nights in a Row.’ Tell us about that song.
Uh, that one’s actually coming up on the next CD which is, the CD is entitled (laughs)…kind of a crazy title…’Party at the Bottom of the Pool’ is a song title, uh, I mean the album title. But this song, I think, is one of the strongest songs on the whole CD. After Hurricane Ike came through, my parents lost everything, uh…the business that they had, a lot of the buildings, the house was torn up…they had to tear the house down and really start from scratch. I mean, there was nothing and I was staying at…with them…at their house…or, their land, I guess I should call it…and I was actually living in a horse trailer and the horse trailer that they had had one of those bunks that go over the bed of the truck…
And there’s not a lot of room up there between the top of the mattress and the bottom of the ceiling, you know, cause it’s already up above the truck (Laughter in background) so you got maybe two and half to three feet and I was staying there one night, and on the Tuesday after Hurricane Ike came through, a big old storm brewed and some lightening hit really close to the house and sounded like it was at the other end of the trailer and I sat up real quick, ‘cause we were all still kind of in shock from Hurricane Ike and the storms and all that stuff that went with that and when I sat up, I sat up so fast that I literally knocked the light that was screwed into the ceiling, I knocked it off of the ceiling with my forehead. So I’m laying there, screaming and saying all kinds of nice choice was words and I was like, “Man, I hope I don’t have to stay here more than two nights in a row.” And, as I’m laying there, I kind of let my goose egg do its thing, I got to thinking about “two nights in a row,” and I’d never heard that as a song title or subject for a song and it kind of started me thinking about my life…all the places that I go and was playing, I was never in any place more than two nights in a row. So, I’d play here and stay one or two nights and then, you know, I’d drive a little ways and I’d stay there for a couple nights and I was like, “Man, that’s almost like an autobiographical song,” so I thought about turning it into a song and the next thing I know, at four o’clock in the morning, I’m sitting down at the little breakfast nook that this horse trailer had and I put together ‘Two Nights in a Row.’ Took me about a month to finish. I had to put the words on it later on. And, that’s the trauma (laughs).
Alright. We’re going to hear it. This is Troy Allan on the Paul Leslie Hour performing ‘Two Nights in a Row.’
Troy performs ‘Two Nights in a Row.’ (Applause)
Alright! Thanks Troy. You mentioned in the beginning of that song that you were a wanderer. What have been some of your favorite places that you’ve played or just visited?
Wow! Uh…my favorite place for a long time was South Padre Island. (???) And, uh, going down there was like a high school type place so it was always like, “Oh! This is my favorite place.” And, uh, then I went up to North Padre Island and Port Arantis and just fell in love with that whole area. It was just such a neat, quaint little place and everybody kept telling me, “Oh, you need to go check out one more place.” So my favorite place kind of keeps changing a little bit. Uh, now it’s Key West. I have just a wonderful love affair with, not only Key West, but the drive down there. My favorite place in the world is the Seven Mile Bridge.
It’s just gorgeous going down there. I don’t know if you guys remember…that’s the bridge they used for ‘True Lies’…remember when Arnold Schwarzenegger is hanging from the helicopter, trying to get the…I can’t think of her name…but trying to get her out of the car before it crashes…but that bridge has turned into a very, very kind of sacred and special place for me and every time I go over that bridge, I either end up writing a song or getting told what to do by the Man upstairs…uh, that kind of stuff…and that’s actually where this tour came about was, a, my second trip down there, I was riding there with a buddy of mine and I kept getting this real nagging feeling of, you know, “Did you turn the coffee pot off or did you really lock the front door of the house,” or something like that and, uh, so I finally said, “Okay, I guess I need a couple minutes of silence so I can figure out what this little naggy feeling is and as I was going across the bridge I got a tap on my shoulder and a warm whisper in my ear that I needed to quit the band and go out and do a solo tour to promote cancer awareness and the cancer that I’d been informed that I had a couple months earlier ‘cause it’s really a rare cancer, very unknown. The treatments, you know, are general, like all the other cancer treatments but the test is not. There’s no test for this whatsoever…uh, no blood work, uh, nothing…so you have to get an upper GI to be able to find out if you have this and that’s how I found it…totally by luck, and, uh, so I fought with it for a couple months ‘cause I didn’t want to quit the band but, uh, next thing I know, I’m like, “Okay, I can’t fight this anymore,” cause I had mentioned that I wanted to do this tour and started just telling a few people about it and the next thing I know, I’m getting call after call after call after call about it and I almost had the whole year booked up but I’m still trying to play with the band so I finally had to tell them, “Okay, I guess I gotta back out of the band ‘cause I’ve been told to do something,” and I need to obey..so that’s what I’m doing….living on the edge (laughs).
Well tell us a little bit about this tour. It’s called the Troy Allan Cancer-Free One Hundred House Concert tour
A little bit of a long name, uh…
It was something you felt led to do…
Oh, no…I actually got told this is what I was supposed to do. Uh, when I got the tap on the shoulder, this…I didn’t come up with the title, I didn’t come up with anything other than that I was supposed to do this and go all the way across the country, wherever I could go, and retell my story…kind of be the poster boy, if you will, for…about self-awareness and being able to go get yourself checked out and how to be checked out for this particular kind of cancer. You know, the Hundred House Concert Cancer-free tour was the name that got told to me right there in the car. Maybe it was a little bit of optimism or maybe it was a little of He already knew where I was going to be going cause since that moment, I literally took myself out of the driver’s seat for my lifeand put myself in the passenger seat and He’s been leading me all over the place since. Uh, and so, the cancer-free part of it, uh, some people look at it as I’m trying to promote being cancer-free. In my mind, it was the determination that I was going to be cancer-free and now I am. Uh, so, it’s just a lot of blessings all in a row. It just all came together so I’m living proof that attitude it everything and doing what you’re told (laughs) helps.
So, when somebody goes to one of these performances, and they hear you sing and they hear you tell your story, what is it you hope they get out of this experience?
Um…number one, I want them to take charge of their own health. Don’t keep letting the doctors say, “Oh, we’ll see you back in two years,” or whatever, you know…”We’ll do this test…that test.” If you feel something going on, get checked. But more importantly, I didn’t have any symptoms at all for this. I mean, absolutely nothing. My stomach didn’t hurt. I didn’t have that…abnormalities eating…there’s the word…wasn’t losing weight, you know, nothing. And I just happened to lose my job, I had two weeks on insurance, and decided, “Oh, I got some free time ‘cause I’d been working fifty, sixty hours a week, plus traveling full time with the band, plus anytime the band wasn’t playing I was doing solo gigs at little restaurants and stuff anywhere up to a hundred miles away and still driving home and going to work, you know, at 6 o’clock, 7 o’clock the next morning. That was like twenty hours a day…most of the time, still am. But what I hope they get out of it is to take charge of their lives, take charge of their health and go get an upper GI, most importantly, no matter how they think their health is, because again, I had no symptoms whatsoever and come to find out, I got the fastest growing and fastest killing cancer there is. Had I not taken any initiative to do that, literally, December 22nd would have been the end of my six weeks to six months so every day past that is a bonus day for me.
And this is…it’s called…I’m sure I’m going to butcher this but, Linitis Plastica?
Pretty close….Linitis Plastica. It’s French for plastic lining and what the literally equate this to…it’s a hardening of the stomach lining. Because of the way this cancer grows, most cancer is kind of like you throw mud or spackle, you know, for dry wall? It’s kind of like they throw it at the wall and they go in and kind of clean it off, you know…get in there and make sure it’s not in the corners. Well, Linitis Plastica is very, very different in the fact that it grows kind of like a…it’s kind of like a vine and it grows…you know, there’s five layers to the stomach…I’ve learned all this anatomy and things…I never knew this before but…there’s five layers to the stomach and what happens is it literally grows in between all those layers, kind of like splitting all the layers of plywood, like growing in between those and then once it does that, there’s nothing else in the body that has that many layers so once it grows outside of the stomach wall, then it just rifles through everything and that’s why it’s the fastest growing ‘cause it takes a little while to get through the stomach and then it just kills everything else. But, Linitis Plastica, the word, is the hardening of the stomach walls and it turns basically your stomach lining into like a plastic water bottle so, Linitis Plastica, that’s where that comes from so…
You are the longest living person with Linitis Plastica. Is that true?
Yeah, well, that’s what my doctors are telling me. Uh, I don’t know…it’s kind of hard to believe that here I find this thing by accident and, uh, end up finding it earlier than anybody else, and that’s the key is finding it early. Early detection is absolutely the key and that’s why I say I don’t care if you have issues or not, or symptoms for anything, go get yourself checked out just because you never know what you’re going to find.
Uh, but yeah…because of finding it early they were able to get it before it went outside of the stomach and that was the key. I mean, that was the greatest day of my life when they went in and did the laparoscopic look-around and then they did, uh, what they call a washing, and, uh, and they take all that liquid that they put in…they take it out and then they look for cancer cells. If they would have found cancer cells outside, they weren’t going to operate and I would definitely be gone by now, uh, but because they didn’t find any, they were able to go ahead and do the surgery…take the stomach out…take the oblenum (??) out…twenty nine lymph nodes, uh, and a whole bunch of little bitty nothing parts I can’t remember the name to. But, uh, none of those had cancer cells in them except for just at the very end of the stomach where they finally did the incisions to cut all that out so they put me through chemotherapy one more time just kind of as a precaution…changed the medicine and put me through it again. (Someone in the background: it’s been a long road) (Laughs)
It’s an amazing, inspiring story…great that you’re doing all this to create the awareness
Yeah…well…like I say, I just got told to do it and it was my pleasure to do it ‘cause I wanted to do it anyway…just be out there, playing music. Now it’s happened, though, with what the theme is why I’m out there playing music, so…
Yeah, it’s great ‘cause you took a negative and you found some ray of hope in it and presenting a good message to everyone out there.
Well, there’s a song you mentioned earlier and when you mentioned it, right away, ‘Party at the Bottom of the Pool,’ I already had all these ideas in my mind about what an album cover would look like for that…
Uh, but tell us about that song and play it for us.
Alright. Uh, I went to…uh, you know, as Parrot Heads go, they have all these different fund raisers ‘cause they’re always raising money for, you know, either cancer or cancer awareness or children’s hospital or a burn unit, you know, whatever’s in their area. Sometimes it’s not even in their area. They just pick someplace that they want to help…Shriners…you know, and that kind of stuff…and they have a party and raise money to be able to donate to whatever their cause is. Well the one in Austin is named ‘The Pirates Ball’ and it’s a full-blown pirates costume party and they have music and entertainment, all that kind of stuff, for a weekend and, uh, we party pretty good and for some reason, the hotel decided that they wanted to try to keep us out of the pool. Uh, we’d been there last year, and as I understand it, some lawn chairs and some other things ended up at the bottom of the pool. We’re supposed to be there, so thisyear they decided that, “We’re going to drain it to keep all the stuff out of the pool.” And, uh, I was playing outside and it was kind of cold and so when we got to the part of the conga line, they were actually going around this empty pool at this hotel and whoever was leading decided that they were going to down in the pool ‘cause the wind had kicked up and it was pretty cool…uh, like I’m saying, cold. The wind was pretty chilly so what they found out is when we got down to the bottom of the pool, the wind was going across the top of pool and not coming down inside so they told me to grab my guitar and all my stuff and I ended up down in the bottom of the pool too, playing to them in the pool with no water in it and everybody kept telling me, “You gotta write about this. You have to write a song.” And, uh, it was a great idea. I definitely wanted to write one but I just couldn’t find a beat like right then so it took quite a while to get a song together for it, but it finally happened, thank goodness, and it was just such a fun song…man, when I put the music to it in the studio, oh my god! That song was just so much fun. It makes you want to jump out of your seat and conga like any Gilly…uh, so I was able to put that together and it’s truly about the people that were there and everything that happened…just kind of a chroniclization of what was going on. It was a lot of fun…so, uh, I’ll try to do it. It’s kind of a fast-moving song.
So let’s see if we can this thing on…it’s going to be recording everything…alright…here it is: ‘Party at the Bottom of the Pool.’
(Performs ‘Party at the Bottom of the Pool’) (Applause)
Alright! Thank you so much Troy.
I have one more question before we part. This broadcast goes out all over the world. What do you want to say to the people who are listening in?
Buy the new CD. No, I’m just kidding (laughs). Uh, no, truly, early detection for any kind of cancer is absolutely the key and after you find out if, heaven forbid, you have something, attitude is absolutely the thing that will pull you through, no matter what. It’s not anybody else’s support, although that helps. Family is wonderful. Great friends are wonderful. But, it all starts with you. It has to start with you. People ask me all the time…I mean, all the way through my chemotherapy treatment I was doing radiology at the same time. I was wearing the pump anytime I wasn’t in the doctor’s office, I was literally wearing the pump which makes you feel, you know, pretty crappy…just being honest. Uh, but I never missed a band gig with Hams Reef…not one. I never missed a solo gig. I mean, I hadn’t been doing it very good but it was the will to keep going and be there. I had some friends come bail me out, you know, to where I didn’t have to sing absolutely every single song but I still did my part. It was still my PA every single show and people ask me all the time how I did it and I tell every single one of them, “Attitude is everything.” You gotta have…it has to start with you. Bar none…that’s my advice (Laughs).
TRANSCRIBED BY LORI DOMINGO