Deborah McColl: Vocalist & Guitarist

The Kindred Spirit was a folk trio featuring Deborah McColl, Thom Tollerson and Phil Rolleston.  Deborah McColl today is a Psychotherapist.  She is also a singer-songwriter and guitarist.  Many people know McColl as the original “Reeferette.”  Deborah McColl was the first backup vocalist for Jimmy Buffett’s Coral Reefer Band from 1978-1981 and appeared on 5 of his albums and co-wrote two of his songs.

As a recording artist she released her solo album “Naked in the Garden.”  This interview with Deborah McColl was recorded the night before the 40th anniversary reunion concert of The Kindred Spirit folk trio.

John Oates: Guitarist, Singer, Songwriter, Concert Performer

JOHN OATES is known to many as one half of the rock and soul duo Hall & Oates.  Hall & Oates was called the most succesful duo in rock ‘n roll history by The Recording Industry Association of America.

Who is John Oates?  A man very passionate about music, and by music we mean all types of music.  In this interview, John Oates talks about his “other” project, The John Oates Band as well as the music that has moved him the most–all types including roots music, blues, bluegrass, folk, early rock and much more.

 

Thom Tollerson: Vocalist & Guitarist

The Kindred Spirit was a folk trio featuring Thom Tollerson, Phil Rolleston and Deborah McColl.  Thom Tollerson is a very musical man.  In addition to being a music teacher, guitarist, vocalist and songwriter, Thom Tollerson also operates the 106 West live music venue and music school which is where this interview was recorded.  This interview was recorded to document the 40th anniversary reunion concert of The Kindred Spirit folk trio.

John Tesh: Singer-Songwriter, Recording Artist, Radio Personaity, TV Host

We welcome a familiar face and a familiar voice.  John Tesh is known for not only his music recordings, but also his years as a host on TV’s Entertainment Tonight.  His radio program “Intelligence for Your Life” is heard by 14 million listeners on 400 stations in the U.S., Canada and the United Kingdom.  John Tesh has won six music Emmys, has 4 gold albums, 2 Grammy nominations and an AP Award for Investigative journalism.  As a recording artist, John Tesh has sold 8 million records.  He joins us to talk about his album “BIG BAND,” which features his interpretations of American songbook classics and also 3 original songs.

 

Shecky Greene: Comedian

SHECKY GREENE is the most famous night club act. Even the name “Shecky” is synonymous with comedian. As a headliner in Las Vegas, his shows have been seen by millions. Shecky Greene is a man with many stories, like how about the time Elvis Presley opened for him? Or his many times as a guest on Johnny Carson’s Tonight Show, or the Merv Griffin Show.

Shecky Greene is rightfully a legend… a comedian who not only tells jokes, but sings, improvises songs and has never been too shy of becoming physical on stage.

Shecky really opens up in this interview, including his opinions on some of the younger comedians.

Ladies and gentlemen, it’s a great pleasure that I introduce you to this man. The one, the only, the legendary Shecky Greene.

What a wonderful introduction! I wish I were all of those things. How do you become well-known, the only one and legendary? How do you become that in this business? Because all the people that I – at this age, I guess, become legendary.

Well …

… either legendary or dead!

(Laughs) That’s a good question. I guess there’s something to be said for hanging in there and continuing at your craft.

George Burns said (imitates George Burns’ voice) ‘Shecky do it as long as, as long as they – and make sure you work with people that are older so they don’t remember anything (laughter) and then, then, then keep on doing that.’

My first question. Who is the real Shecky Greene?

Who is the real Shecky Green? I mean, what made him legendary (laughs)? I don’t know who the real Shecky Greene is. All I know is I get up every morning. I have my breakfast. Sometimes I don’t have my breakfast. I do my things and when I went to work, I went to work. But I don’t think that’s a question – people say “Who is the real …?” How do you know what the real is because during the course of a life you do many things that you wish you didn’t do.

That’s very true. Take us back to the very beginning. I think most stories are best from the beginning. What was life like growing up in the Greenfield home?

Well, let me tell you, I was born and my – when I was first born I thought my name was “Oooh, oooh, oooh” ‘cause that’s what happened, as soon as I was born that’s what I heard my mother do “Oooh, oooh” (laughter) so I thought that was my first name. Then I was the third of two, of three boys and my brother did, uh, my middle brother did impressions and dialects and things, and I just emulated him. And that’s, basically, how I got into show business. But I, uh, I had a wonderful childhood in Chicago during the depression. I remember the people coming and picking up my father’s car – we couldn’t afford to pay for it anymore – and me standing the garage crying. Then I remember my mother going to work and we having to wait for her to see what she brought home from, from work. Kids don’t go through that today. I mean, the poverty is much different today.

Yeah. I guess it’s relative ‘cause people today, a lot of the things that they think is roughing it would have been living in luxury years ago.

What do you mean?

Well, it’s almost like we’re kind of getting spoiled.

Well, I mean we’ve got welfare, we’ve got different things. Today is an entirely different situation. It’s just like people say “Who’s your favorite comic?” There’s so many comedians today and with this “tube” and everything else, I don’t know who’s my favorite, who’s not my favorite. There’s just so many of them.

Yeah. Tell us what comedians influenced you the most.

Nobody influenced me. The only one I was influence by was my brother. I mean, we would, we would listen to radio and, uh, we would go to movies, and he would do things and I would do things. My, uh, forté was dialects and in all the years I that I’ve been in show business, everything that I did movie-wise, television-wise, nobody ever used me for a dialect. I mean, (imitates dialects) the Russian, I would do Russian, do the Jewish, Irish. And nobody ever wrote a script and said ‘Here. This is perfect for you as a character actor.’ So it was, it was all the success that I’ve had. Also, it’s been very frustrating, too, because I always wanted to be a character actor.

Hmm. How did you get the idea that comedy was something that – it could be more than just making somebody laugh, that it could be a profession?

Oh, I just, by luck. I mean, I did it in high school and everything else. And then when I, uh, when I got out of the service – oh, by the way, in the service when I was boarding an aircraft carrier, the Bon Homme Richard CV-31 Essex Class carrier, aboard that same ship was Jonathan Winters. He was a marine and I was in the Navy, and we did a few shows when we were in the Navy. But when I got out of the service, I was going to college and I went down to a resort and I got up on the stage, and from there I, I stayed in show business. It was easier because I knew I was not equipped to do anything else. I was not equipped to be a doctor, a lawyer, an engineer, an Indian chief. I couldn’t have – as a matter of fact, if it wasn’t for the Japanese attacking us, I never would have gotten a high school diploma. And on my diploma it says (speaks Japanese gibberish). (Laughter) And it was a series of things. I was always quitting show business, Paul. I, I had success and then the job was over and I was going to go back to college, and then another job came up … and then another job came up.

I wanted to ask you about The Preview Lounge. What were your memories of that? What did you think of New Orleans?

Well, you see, I was already almost out of show business when I went. Some guy offered me two weeks to go down to New Orleans. And the funny thing about it – the guy that was there before me, and was the [] when I came in, was SammyShore, who was my first partner. I went in, Al Hirt was the orchestra leader, and I went in. And I never had any material. I mean, I would get on the stage – it’s what, today, what the kids today would call improvising, you know? And I would just, I was working with what happen during the day, and working with Al and things, and talking about New Orleans, the oysters. But that probably was my major thing in my career, was going down to New Orleans. And the town, I – you want to know something? I never really got with New Orleans. I never, never, in depth, really studied New Orleans and it was a magnificent town, a historical town and everything. But I never got into those things. I was playing the horses. I had a guy down there, we’d go to the racetrack instead, so I didn’t get to see it and know that much about the town.

What do you like most about the horseracing?

(Laughs) Oh, what do I like? Well, you something? That’s a sickness. That’s like, that’s like talking about you got cancer and what do you like about cancer? (Laughter) I mean, horseracing – it’s any form of gambling. What they’re doing in this country today, with New York is going get gambling in their places, Chicago is going to get gambling. I mean, besides the Indians. It’s bad enough that the Indians got all over it. I worked for a boss in Connecticut, an Indian, who said to me (imitates American Indian gibberish). Besides telling me what to do, it started to rain after he finished. But I think it’s a disgrace. I think it’s disgusting. I think it’s destroying this country with this gambling and everything. I have a sickness and I, I went to, uh, Gamblers Anonymous and found out it was a loan company (laughter).

How do you tailor your acts to an audience?

After so many years and everything that I’ve been in this business, I sort of – I can sense when I walk out. To talk about it, I mean, I can’t say I specifically do this, I specifically do this. I don’t. I have a, a wonderful thing that I, that has been with me – I sing a little bit and I walk out and before I’m even talking to the audience, I sing, you know (sings) Around the world, I’ve searched for you … and I get a feeling about that, and a little applause, and an inspiration. But the audiences have been so good to me and I’ve been in it so long that, generally, the people who come to see me have seen me or know about me. It’s not like a new kid just starting out on the block.

You mentioned that you really weren’t influenced by anybody, that it was mainly your brother, but if you could, who do you think is the best comic?

No, I could never say that. I mean, I work with so many and I knew so many, I could never say who was the best. There are so many different types. I mean, there’s the physical comedian, there’s the monologist, there’s the clownist – I mean, there’s so many different types. I met the George Burnses, the Jack Bennys. Those are the people that I admired because I grew up listening to radio and listening to these people and seeing these people, so it’s – and the Fred Allens – it’s the people that I used to listen to on radio. I mean, you can’t say to a kid – they don’t even know what radio is anymore. But I – and then we had vaudeville and I used to go when I was a kid. I would go in to the theaters, and every comedian they had used to impress me and, and the dancers and – I just liked the whole idea of show business. I love the ballet, I love the opera.

What do you think of Don Rickles?

I love Don Rickles. Don Rickles got very lucky because there was a Shecky Greene in Vegas and because of Shecky Greene, he got lucky and they brought him to Vegas, and that was really the start of his career. But Don and I are very good friends.

I understand that, at one point, Elvis Presley was your opening act.

In 1956. Elvis was my opening act. They – it, it was sort of a mixed bag with that. We had a – the program was Freddy Martin, Elvis Presley, Shecky Greene. Well, when Elvis first – after the first show, they changed the whole line-up in the night. I closed the show. Elvis was just not ready to work that kind of room. He would come out with a baseball jacket on, the scrim would come down behind him and it could have been in a bar, the way he worked. The moods. The two records that had were Blue Suede Shoes and – what was the other one? Blue Suede Shoes and what was as the other big one that he had?

Hound Dog maybe?

Hound Dog. Yeah. But I’ll tell you, he was – he didn’t do that well so he, he sang both of them at the some time. Got off earlier (laughter).

What do you think of the new crop of comedians? Has there been any that have caught your eye?

Paul, I, I don’t know but you say “the new crop.” There’s so many of them that you – I don’t know what’s the new crop, the old crop. I enjoy when I see comedians on television and I see the, the things that they do, I enjoy them all. Anybody that’s got the….guts to get up on stage and do that, I enjoy them. I’m a little – there’s one girl that I really was liking, that Chelsea, but she’s got a little bit of an arrogance about her that I don’t like. She’s very great and very talented but there’s an arrogance that I don’t like.

Chelsea Handler.

Yeah, I guess that’s her name.

The blond.

Yeah.

Yeah. I also wanted to ask you about your worst gig of all time. Can you remember it?

Have you got an hour?

(Laughs) Come on.

Oh, I’ve had so many. Some guy booked me a long time ago, I mean at the beginning, in South Dakota and a Greek owned the club. And there was – the town was dry. They brought their own bottles. And I had to wait for them to build a stage before I could get on it to work. The guy came – the carpenter came and built the stage and then I had to bring in a piano player from Minnesota. And I got on the stage and none of the people in the audience were watching me. So I tapped a guy on the shoulder and I said to him ‘Sir, I’m a physical comedian. You have to turn around.’ He said ‘If you were good you wouldn’t be in this place.’ I said ‘You know, you’re right.’ And I got off the stage, I went to the boss, I gave him $300 and I started to leave but it was snowing. There was such a blizzard outside, I couldn’t get a plane or anything else and I had to stay there. It was one of the worst gigs of my life.

Hmm. Well, what about a best gig?

I – you know what? Truthfully, probably the best thing for me was the lounge in Las Vegas, at the Riviera and the Tropicana, because that was – it’s a true, whatever Shecky Greene is, that was a true Shecky Greene. I can create, I can make up, I may write songs. I did everything, you know, on that stage. Matter of fact, when I had to go back into the big rooms, it really didn’t bother me because I had to have an act and I didn’t have an act as per se, from A to Z, you know. It was, it was kind of nice working in that, that freedom that I had in the lounges.

Maybe you could give the listeners a heads-up. What’s the best place to eat in Las Vegas?

You know what? There’s so many. When I first came there, we had gourmet places and every hotel had a gourmet place, and they were all great. But now when you go to Vegas – we’re not talking about us, I’m talking in the hotels – you’ve got every top restaurant in the country there, and some in the world. So to say which is the best place to eat is ridiculous. There’s so many wonderful, magnificent places. And probably – I should say this. The place where I would probably say is the best place of all for dinner is Michael’s at the South Point. Michael’s is the best food. It used to be the Barbary Coast and when he built the South Point, he took the whole – piece by piece, he took the whole place and built it in the South Point from Barbary Coast.

What do you get there?

You get stone crabs, which you don’t get, rarely you get in other places, you get a Dover sole that’s, that’s about the size of a shark, you get a steak that is second to none, you get – the service is unbelievable the way they take care of you when you go to dinner. As a matter of fact, you don’t even care if you eat. You just, you want to make friends with the people that are serving you.

(Laughs) They should be giving you an endorsement check.

Well, except for one little guy that serves the wine. (Speaks with a Latin accent) ‘I want to tell you something. I am the wine steward and I want to get you some good wine. You want some Ripple? You want some Thunderbird?’ I said ‘A Chateau Lafite Rothschild, ’59.’ He said ‘I want that, too.’ (Laughter) (speaks Spanish gibberish) – that used to be the French sommelier. Now they’re all Mexican kids. (Speaks with a French accent) ‘Monsieur, would you like a bottle of wine? I want to give you something beautiful.’ I mean, you don’t get that anymore. Today it’s (speaks with a Latin accent) ‘I want to tell you something. I came over from Cuba by inner tube.’ (Laughter)

So, how did you meet your wife?

Which wife is that? I’ve had three.

Marie Musso.

(Corrects pronunciation) ‘Moo-so’ Marie Musso is the daughter of Vido Musso and when I was very friendly with Vido Musso, she was a very young girl and I met her then. And I’ve always had eyes for her and I wanted to marry her forty-some years ago but she saw me drinking one night and we broke up. Then she got married, then I got married, and I kept in touch with her. And finally we got, 30 years ago we got married. She is the best. She cooks. She does everything. She knows my act. It’s nice to have, when you walk out on the stage, to have your wife standing next to you, telling you what you forgot (laughter). ‘Here, sing this song. You forgot this song.’ (Laughter)

Is it true or is that – are you serious?

No. But I mean, you know, sometimes she’s offstage and she says ‘Do that! Do that! Do kaka on the moon!’ you know? I do a routine about kaka on the moon that when I was on the Johnny Carson show, they – NBC said they would never have me as long as I did think it was so dirty. Little kids use the word ‘kaka’ you know?

Yeah.

And now, every comic that you hear – I mean, the filth and everything that, that’s on television. I watched Chris Rock the other day who I think is, in between the words, is kind of clever. But I have never heard that much of the word that it just gets to me – that they use in movies, too, now. Every time I go to a movie, if they use it five times before the credits, I get up and leave.

Do you think that sometimes some comedians are using that as like a shortcut? Instead of being clever, they are just …

Well, it’s a shock value. It’s a punctuation of everything. You know, that’s the way Chris Rock uses it. He punctuates. He says – he’ll get on a subject and he punctuates with that word. Every time, he finishes with that word, and then the other word. And I watch this audience laughing and I’m, and I’m really sick. Not that the kid isn’t clever. I’m sick that they’re forcing themselves. I see them forcing themselves to laugh. They think they’re supposed to laugh, you know, when they hear that word. I, I saw this kid – the one that’s got his own talk show. The Scotch kid. What’s his name?

Scotch kid … what’s he look like?

Oh, the guy at night. Umm, Conan?

Let’s see … Conan, Jimmy Kimmel.

No …

Jimmy Fallon, Letterman, Leno.

No. The guy who used to be on the Drew Carey show. (Imitates a Scottish accent) He’s got a very good sense of humor.

Oh, yeah, yeah.

(Still using Scottish accent) And he’s very, very sharp and everything. And I saw him in person and he used the word also. He must have been doing a Chris Rock act, you know what I mean? I could notbelieve what I – (returns to normal voice) what is his name?

Oh yeah. I know who you’re talking about. Darn it!

Fargeson .. Ferguson …

Yes, yes – Ferguson. Craig Ferguson.

What is it?

Craig Ferguson?

Yeah, Craig Ferguson.

That’s it.

(Speaks with Scottish accent) Craig Ferguson is a very talented man but I want to tell you , he can do without the word, too. (Speaks in his normal voice) I just don’t know what it is, that they punctuate – I think they all think they’re doing Lenny Bruce. Lenny did – Lenny wasn’t half as dirty as these guys are today.

Yeah. Hey, have you ever listened to this guy, Louis C.K., by chance?

No.

He’s one that I think is awesome. I think he might be the next – well, he maybe already is (laughs). What do I know?

Louis C.K. …

Yeah. Just “Louis” and then his last name is capital “C” lower-case “k”. I love Louis C.K. Anyways …

What about this kid, Black, is great?

Black? What’s his name?

Oh, I don’t know what his first name is. There are so many of them and I – they’re all good but I get – it’s a terrible thing, at this age, to say, you know, to mention a name and not remember their first name. But he’s very good. Jewish guy that does – with glasses – and a lot of political things. Some of the political satirists – I love this Stewart. I love the other guy …

Oh, Jon Stewart.

Jon Stewart and the other guy that follows him …

Yeah.

… with the glasses. Look at this – I know his name backwards and forwards. Maybe I better look backwards. It begins with a “C”.

Colbert! Stephen Colbert.

Colbert. I love him.

Yeah, Stephen Colbert.

Very talented, talented. And see, Bill Maher, to me – I’d like to put Bill Maher on a hook.

Why is that?

Because he’s an arrogant, conceited little (speaks Italian gibberish). (Continues speaking with Italian accent) I make up-a the words for you because no dirty word but it sound dirty the way I say (repeats Italian gibberish). See? Now, somebody would think that that’s dirty. If I’m doing that onstage, see, a lot of people would say ‘Gee, did you hear what he just said in Italian?’ I said nothing!

Hmm. What do you think of Letterman?

I like Letterman very much. I like Letterman very much. Letterman – a lot of these guys should kiss my feet because I’m the one that got MitziShore and The Comedy Club. And that’s where they all started, in The Comedy Club. So, uh, they should have a night for Shecky Greene. There wouldn’t have been any of those kids if theydidn’t have The Comedy Club which she really, that thing really made those kids. The David Lettermans the Robin Williamses – different people like that.

Yeah. I wanted to ask you, what are your recollections of Johnny Carson?

(Laughs) What do you mean?

Oh, I don’t know …

Johnny Carson – it was a wonderful thing to do his show because it was the most popular show out, and we were friends. I can’t say “good” friends because I don’t think Johnny Carson ever had good friends. I don’t remember him being that close to anybody …

Yeah. It seems like there’s …

… including his last 12 wives.

Yeah (laughs). He certainly racked up the wives, that’s for sure. I know that Wayne Newton said that, uh, he, uh, he almost, he almost punched Johnny Carson in the face.

Well, Johnny was always doing jokes and I, I did jokes about Wayne, too. I was – when I was working in Vegas and everything. I mean, you know, that’s the type of humor that we do and sometimes it gets a little vicious. But I did jokes on, on Wayne, and Johnny did them. And, of course, I didn’t do them on television the way Carson – and he went backstage, he waited for Carson and he, he said to him (imitates Wayne Newton’s voice) ‘Danka shoen, and if you ever mention my name again I’m gonna knock you down. (laughter) Danka shoen. I’m gonna danka shoen.’ He finally took some steroids and he, it got heavy with the voice. I think it ruined him, the steroids, because after he hit 375 it was turned into the baseball people.

What is the best thing about being Shecky Greene?

You keep on saying that but I don’t know who Shecky Green is! You want to know what’s funny? I’ve spent 85 years of my life – well, I’m not quite that old – trying to find out why I do this? Why did I do that? Why did I not do this? Why did I marry this girl? Either they had no feeling for her. I mean, I’ve been looking, searching, hunting so if you find any human being – including a psychiatrist – that knows who I am or what I am, please let me know. I’ve gone to psychiatrists who – one guy from Vienna who said (speaks with a Viennese accent) ‘I would like to tell you something. You are brilliant onstage. Why are you not the same person offstage that you are onstage, alright?’ So I went around doing dialects and singing songs offstage, and people used to kick me out of places (laughs). I don’t know, you know? Who is …? The wonderful thing about certain personalities, they get established. The Rickles has a definite personality. You know who Rickles is. George Burns had a definite personality, what he did. You knew who he was. Jack Benny who with the cheap thing and everything, you knew who he was. I mean, generally, most stars in that one dimension that you can remember and everything. Cary Grant (imitates Cary Grant’s voice) ‘My goodness gracious. There she is now. I love her.’ Well, you know when you heard that you knew you were watching – Shecky Greene did, sometimes, too many things. And I found out that with the, like, television you gotta basically be like this kid with the cable man – whatever his name, who I think – every time I see him I, yeah, I run. That’s one guy I run from. I don’t know why. I want to give him a bath all the time, this guy.

But I mean, when I see this kid and everything and (speaks with a southern accent) ‘I want to tell you something.’ – that’s a definite character that you know. And television is one-dimensional. And if you get into that thing and they take with your personality, that’s fine. Then you, then you become a star. I – there was a, a – Sammy Davis. They tried to give him his own show? He couldn’t because “Sammy Davis” did too many things. Sammy Davis sang, Sammy Davis danced, Sammy Davis did impersonations. You didn’t know who Sammy Davis was. It’s the same with, in my case. I danced, I sang. Matter of fact, I did Sammy Davis.

Can you bring out Sammy now?

(Imitates Sammy Davis, Jr. singing) ‘Hey there’ – Sammy Davis sang out of one side of his nose – ‘Hey there, you on your high-flying cloud, love never made a fool of you. You used to be too wise.’ (Laughter) I worked with Sammy and, uh, he sang out of one side of his nose and I sang out of the other side of my nose (laughter). I worked with Buddy Hackett. Buddy Hackett (imitates Buddy Hackett) talked out of the side of his mouth. And people thought it was a telethon they were watching (laughter). See, Buddy Hackett, one dimension. Buddy Hackett had his character, and if he had that character, that’s it.

What about Cosby? What do you think of Cosby?

Well. I like, I like Cosby. I think Cosby is a very, very bright … I think he was the first African-American – you know, I don’t know, sometimes when I say “African-American” they get mad. I shouldn’t say “African-American”. If I say “black”, sometimes, you know, they get mad. I had Lena Horne get mad at me when I said black. She said ‘What color is that?’ I don’t know, but Bill Cosby uses his intellect. Bill Cosby was the first one that came on the scene that played who he was. You know, he didn’t have to play a character. And he’s very bright and he’s very good – and very, very rich. As a mater of fact, if he was around right now I’d borrow some money and go right to the track (laughter). (Sings) ‘Billy, you may think I’m silly but of course I need to bet on a horse.

This is probably another tough question. Could you pick a favorite memory of yours?

Yes. I will pick a memory. My mother was – I took my mother to Florida, my mother, Bessie Greenfield, and my father and my brother and sister-in-law. And they were sitting in the back of the Eden Rock Hotel and I was onstage. And my mother was just going into dementia. My mother walked with – her head was down and everything, and we were really beside ourselves. We didn’t know what to do. ‘Ma, did you want this?’ and we’d try to feed her. We’d try to do this, and it was breaking my heart. So onstage I said about – I told a joke that I’d just made up about being a hooker. I said I was in Dallas, Texas, at the Stony Plaza Hotel, and I called down to the bell desk and I said to the bell captain ‘Can you send me up a hooker?’ He said ‘Mr. Greene, we don’t have a hooker but I’ll send you up a crocheter.’ My mother started laughing in the back. I jumped off the stage – you hear what I’m telling you, Paul?

Yeah.

Jumped.I leapt, leaped, whatever – lupt, licked, lupt – and I ran to the back, grabbed my mother and said ‘Mama, you heard that?’ And I hugged her and was kissing her and everything. And she says to me ‘That was funny.’

(Laughter) That’s awesome.

That will be a memory that will last me the rest of my life.

My last question and it’s kind of two-part. First I was going to ask you, we have listeners all over the place – what would you like to say to them? And then part two, what song would you like us to play at the end?

What song? (Laughs) You know, that’s very, that’s very difficult. I mean, you know, I love music. I’d just like to thank the public for, for all the years I’ve had and the people that I’ve never met that have enjoyed me and some that haven’t. I mean, sometimes you get 50-50 and 50-50 is pretty good. But if I could just touch everyone and say what you’ve done for me because they’ve done, they gave me, they gave a life, that I really didn’t know what kind of life I wanted at the beginning. I certainly didn’t want to be a salesman and, as I said before, I wasn’t equipped to be a doctor or lawyer. But the public gave me a life that was wonderful. And the song that I sing, it goes like – there’s so many songs. (Laughs) There’s (sings) I believe for every drop of rain that falls, a flower grows. I believe that somewhere in the darkest night, a candle glows. I believe for someone – that kind of song, inspiring or the ones they sing at the end of a funeral (laughs) – well, this is not a funeral but (laughter) I love everything. I was just – you know something? Just before I came in the house here, I was listening to Sergio Franchi and I forgot how good he was. Do you remember Sergio Franchi?

I’ve heard him, yes.

Sergio Franchi used to sing opera and he was wonderful (sings bit of Italian opera). I was listening to that. So when you ask me what song, I really don’t know. I think the Star Spangled Banner if we do it right! We don’t have to have Roseanne to sing it, Robert Goulet sing it. Poor Robert Goulet almost ruined a career with that. You were too young to remember that.

What year was that?

That was at the Sonny Liston fight in Maine, at Lewistown, Maine, and he got up and he sang (sings ala Robert Goulet) ‘Oh, oh say … oh, oh, say … If ever I should leave you, it wouldn’t be by the dawn’s early light. No, not by the dawn’s early light are the candles’ red glare. On a clear day …’ and he career was almost over.

(Laughs) Oh. Well, we’ll pick something.

Pick something, yeah.

And Mr. Greene …

Well, after talking to me, what song do you think I would like?

Hmm. What song do I think perfectly encapsulates the Shecky Greene experience?

Yes.

Oooh, that’s a good question.

Well, I’ll tell you, with this conversation and I can hear an echo. Maybe we should do Little Sir Echo. (Sings) Little Sir Echo, how do you do? Hello. Maybe that’s the one we should do.

I was thinking maybe – Harold Arlen composed – Forget your troubles. Come on, get happy.

No.

No? Veto on that.

I like a down song (sings) Smile though your heart is breaking. That was written by Charlie Chaplin – people don’t know that – in Limelight.

Really?

Yeah.

So you’re more attracted to a down song.

Yeah. That’s how, I’m a down, that’s – my whole life is a down. I walk around and I tell you I don’t recognize people by their face, just by their shoes. I walk around like that. Hello Mr. Blue Shoes! I remember you (laughter). We met in New York one time.

I’m kind of am the same way. I like, I like the sad kind of dreary songs.

Songs that bring a tear to your eye.

Yeah. They resonate with me more than anything.

Well, it’s like all the Irish songs are that way – (sings with Irish accent) I was there in a pub and I drinking my booze. What did I did? I remember I lose. I lost at the track that day and my wife then came and took me away – those sad songs. (Speaks with Irish accent) I’m telling you the truth. That’s the way that life is, Paul! (Laughs) See, this is what I do. And that’s why I never did, in 60 years of doing the TV and movies and such, they never used me for that. They always had some little director ‘Listen, do you mind, Mr. Greene? Do not do the dialect. Just do it straight.’ (Laughs) But they let Robin Williams do the dialects. Very clever boy.

Mr. Greene, again, I appreciate this interview very much. It’s been a great pleasure. It’s been very entertaining.

Well, thank you Paul. If you ever get any money, send me a couple of bucks.

Okay.

Alright?

I’m always looking for a couple of bucks myself.

(Laughs) Then let’s get four bucks. I’ll tell you how bad I went – I bet on LSU. That’s how bad I went. I went to bet – for a month I was going to bet on Alabama. I bet on LSU, so you know how bad I go.

Aw, man.

LSU shouldn’t have been on the same field with that team.

They definitely got their clock cleaned.

It’s going to be the Saints and Green Bay. Remember that.

Oh yeah? Do you have a favorite?

No, but I’m going to tell you that the Super Bowl is the Saints and Green Bay.

Are you planning on putting any money on it?

(Speaks with an Irish accent) Oh, when it comes, lad, you’d be surprised! I’ll get a few bob up there. I cannot, can’t not hesitate making a bet on that. (In normal voice) That’s what you lived for in those days, you know, in our days when you gambled. You lived for the Super Bowl. You lived for, whatever – the BCS – whatever that was.

Yes. The BCS Championship.

Yeah. But I actually bet on LSU. Not much, but I bet on LSU.

Those are the breaks.

Unbelievable what’s happening.

Let me know if you’re ever in Atlanta.

Well, you’d be surprised, Paul. I’ve got some friends down there and I’ve been, a for a long time we’ve been trying to make a trip down there – but I may do it.

Okay!

Say hello to everybody in Atlanta and tell everybody I love them.

Alright. Have a good one, Shecky.

So long, Paul.

TRANSCRIBED BY GAYLE BRAZDA

Lee Lessack: Singer, Recording Artist

Our special guest is an MAC and Bistro award winning recording artist. Lee Lessack has released his seventh CD, “Chanteur” a celebration of the songs from the French Songbook. Lee Lessack sings the songs on “Chanteur” in both English and French, taking you the listeners from the streets of Paris to the Broadway stage. BILLBOARD magazine called “Chanteur” : “Cabaret Romanticism of a higher order.” Lee Lessack hails from Philadelphia and attended the American Academy of the Dramatic Arts. In 1996, he founded the record label “LML Music,” the home of many vocal recording artists and performers.

Pete Seeger: Folksinger, Recording Artist

Our special guest is a folksinger, songwriter, banjoist, recording artist and legend —PETE SEEGER. Born in 1919, Pete Seeger met and performed with folksinger Woody Guthrie in 1940. Soon, Pete Seeger was inspired to write his own songs. In 1948, Pete Seeger formed the folk group The Weavers and the group sold 4 million record copies. They helped popularize Woody Guthrie’s “This Land is Your Land,” into the beloved song we know today. They recorded a version of Leadbelly’s “Good Night Irene” that topped the chart for six months.

When the folk boom of the early sixties took place, groups like The Kingston Trio, the Byrds and Peter, Paul and Mary had hits with Pete Seeger songs like “If I Had a Hammer,” “Where Have All the Flowers Gone?” and “Turn, Turn, Turn.” Pete Seeger has definitely made his mark on the world. He has earned a Grammy Lifetime Achievement Award, a Harvard Arts Medal, the Kennedy Center Award, The Presidential Medal of the Arts, Two Grammys, and membership in both the Songwriters Hall of Fame and the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame. Many would say that Pete Seeger is arguably the most important living American folk musician. He continues to record and perform occasionally. Throughout his 70 year career he has recorded dozens of albums and influenced everyone from Don McLean to Bruce Springsteen. His songs have been recorded and performed by everyone from Harry Belafonte, Joan Baez, Roy Orbison, Bobby Darin, Dolly Parton, Judy Collins, Johnny Rivers, and hundreds of others.

Ladies and gentlemen, it is my pleasure to welcome our special guest, Pete Seeger. Thank you so much for joining us.

 

Well, Paul, what can I tell you that you don’t know already?

 

(Laughs) There’s plenty I don’t know but for starters, who is Pete Seeger?

 

Well, I was born 93 years ago to a family of musicians. My mother was a very good violinist. My father invented the term “ethnomusicology” and he studied the music of all the world. And he took me, at age 17, to hear the Kentucky Mountain Banjo Pickers and I fell in love with what they call the folk banjo. And, uh, never suspected at the time I’d making a living singing it. But, uh, I’ve been a song leader all my life. At eight years old I had a ukulele and at school I’d get the kids singing around me the pop songs of the day.

 

What is it about banjo music that you like?

 

Well, it’s a very rhythmic instrument. The guitar can be rhythmic and mandolins and other string instruments played with picks but banjo is especially well-adapted to playing all sorts of syncopations and unusual rhythms. For example in Africa, where the banjo came from, it’s very common to break up eight short beats into three, three and two short beats (imitates rhythm) and this is the rumba rhythm when it’s slowed down (imitates rhythm). And the banjo is well-adapted to doing that at lightening speed. This is what Earl Scruggs did. He invented a way of playing the banjo at lightening speed in syncopated rhythms.

 

You mentioned some of the music you heard growing up. Can you remember an artist that, in particular, was a favorite of yours?

 

No, except my father. He played the piano beautifully and I loved to hear him do occasional classical pieces that were not too complicated. I remember once, one of my favorites was a Chopin etude, which means a study, where the left hand played two beats per measure and the right hand played three beats per measure. This is very common in parts of South America where there’s one guitar – one guitar would be playing in a three-rhythm (imitates rhythm) and the other guitar is playing in two-rhythm (imitates rhythm). Of course, some people in India pride themselves on even more complicated rhythms. They’ll play four against five or six against seven (laughs).

 

Of the banjo players performing today, who do you most appreciate?

 

I think Earl Scruggs is still the king of them all, although he died recently. But, uh, he was beautiful – not just clever, he was truly beautiful. As was Doc Watson, who died even more recently. These were country people who liked to make music all their childhood, and when they grew up they made their music for people all over the country and in other countries, too.

 

Our special guest is Pete Seeger. What is it like to write with Lorre Wyatt, and how did you meet him?

 

Uh, Lorre Wyatt is a very good songwriter. He – I met him when the Clearwater first sailed into Long Island Sound. The Clearwater, the sloop Clearwater was built up in Maine and when we sailed into Long Island Sound we stopped at Port Jefferson. And there was a skinny young fella who made up wonderful new verses. And one of his songs he put to a kind of a blues stomp, a very fast blues stomp. ‘Sailing up!’ and the whole crowd repeats that – ‘Sailing up!’ And then you say ‘Sailing down!’ and they all repeat that. Then you reverse it and you say ‘Up!’ and the crowd says ‘Down!’ and you say ‘Down!’ and the crowd says ‘Up!’ (laughs). And, uh, this has been a Clearwater favorite ever since. Let’s see, since 1969. That means, uh, 53 years (laughs). And he’s still making up songs. He made up Somos El Barco. It’s a one, uh, one short song introducing people to the Spanish language. (Seeger sings)

 

Somos el barco, somos el mar,

Yo navego en ti, tu navegas en mi

We are the boat – that’s what ‘somos el barco’ means

We are the sea – ‘somos el mar’

I sail in you, you sail in me.

 

And then the verses, uh, are quite creative and beautiful. And, uh, he made this about 30 years ago and the Clearwater folks have sung it ever since.

 

On that note, who do you think is the great – the truly greatest songwriter out there?

 

Hard to say. I really would find it hard to say. Joanie Mitchell is one of the great ones. Buffy St. Marie is another one of the great ones. And Tom Paxton is another one of my favorites. But it’s hard to say. Oh! I know – Stan Rogers, the Canadian. I’ve been trying to memorize his great ballad about the sinking of the Mary Ellen Carter. It’s a, it’s a narrative ballad made up by a rank and file seaman – (laughs) at least in the song – about a ship that sank and he and his friends decide they will raise it. The second verse says:

 

The owners wrote her off; not a nickel would they spend.

She gave twenty years of service, then met her sorry end.

Insurance paid the cost to us, so let her rest below.

Then they laughed at us and said we’d have to go.

But we talked of her all winter, some days around the clock,

She’s worth a quarter million, afloat and at the dock.

With every jar that hit the bar, we swore we would remain

And make the Mary Ellen Carter rise again.

 

And the whole crowd sings ‘Rise again, rise again!’ It’s a truly great ballad. And was written by a truly great man. Stan Rogers was riding in an airplane that had a fire and the pilot landing this plane at the nearest airport where he could set her down. And Stan Rogers got out but he heard somebody hollering inside so he ran back inside the plane and dragged a person out. Then he heard another person holler and he went inside a second time and dragged a person out. And he went in a third time to drag another person out but this time he did not return.

 

Who do you think is going to do a good job of carrying on the folk tradition?

 

Oh (laughs), I don’t like to talk in terms of ‘best’. That’s like asking your mother ‘What’s your favorite child?’ That means ‘at any one time (laughs) – at any one time, this or that is my favorite.’

 

What are your memories of meeting Lead Belly?

 

I was surprised he was not a tall man. I’d say about – well, he was medium-tall, about 5’10”, 5’9” – yes, 5’9” – but, boy, was he muscular! He had spent his life working on prison farms, uh, chopping trees, digging holes, doing whatever they asked him to do on the chain gang. And when he took off his shirt he had muscles like a prize fighter and walked light on nice feet. Although he was in his 60’s, he had a spring in his step. Then he died of Lou Gehrig disease only 10 or 15 years later, after he was discovered and let out of prison. He met – oh, yes! A folklore collector recorded him and Lead Belly said ‘Do you know the governor?’ and, uh, Mr. Lomax, the folklore collector, said ‘Well, I don’t know him well but I meet him occasionally.’ He said ‘Well, play him this song: Governor Neff, if I had you where you have me, I’d wake up in the morning and set you free.’ (Laughs) And by gosh, the governor did.

 

What was your first impression when you met Bob Dylan?

 

Wow, what a fantastic talent! Absolutely fantastic! But then, he did not want to be owned by his fans any more than he wanted to be owned by anybody. He didn’t want to be controlled by anybody. And so, he purposely, uh, did something that he knew at least half of his fans would objectto and he went electric. Now, I didn’t mind him going electric. What I minded was that I couldn’t understand a single word of he was saying because they had the sound turned up so high you could not hear him. (Laughs) I ran over to the sound man – this was 1955 in Newport – and said ‘Fix the sound so we can understand the words!’ And he shouted back ‘No! This is the way they want it!’ – his managers – and, uh, I said ‘Damn it, if I had an axe I’d cut the cable!’ (laughs).

 

What do you think about Bob Dylan today?

 

I cannot understand one word. I went to hear him when he came and played for 4,000 people in our local baseball park. Willie Nelson was with him and I could hear every single word that Willie Nelson sang but Bob I could not understand a single – no … one word the whole evening I got.

 

You’ve had so many honors through the years, like being inducted into the Songwriters Hall of Fame.

 

Too many.

 

You’ve sold albums. People have recorded your songs like, for instance, everybody knows the song Where Have All the Flowers Gone?. what has been the greatest honor for you, Pete Seeger?

 

The fact that I can walk into my local school and get the kids singing with me in any one of the classes. One of the classes had so much fun singing, they were singing in the hallway and disturbing the whole school so they were told they couldn’t sing anymore. And they liked it – singing – so much that a friend of mine helped them and they got together every week after school and got a name for themselves. They called themselves The Rivertown Singers. And they were making up songs as well.

 

Amazing. Your song, Where Have All the Flowers Gone? – why do you think that that song has resonated in so many people’s heart?

 

Well, everybody gets blue at times and, uh, wonders what chances there are for the future. And this is actually an old song that I simply made an English translation of. I was reading a book and it told the Cossack soldiers – this book, a Russian book – and it described the Cossack soldiers were galloping off to join the czar’s army 150 years ago, and they were singing as they went:

Where are the flowers? The girls plucked them,
Where are the girls? They’re all married.
Where are the husbands? They’ve gone to war.

And from those three lines, I made up a new song. I’ve since found that there’s a Yiddish song, also 150 years old, with a completely different melody. Come to think of it, my melody is – I never knew what the Russian song was so I put my melody to it. Oh! (Laughs) I thought it was my melody until a friend pointed out it’s an old Irish lumberjack tune (sings):

 

Johnson says he’ll load more hay.

Says he load ten times a day.

 

(Laughs) I just slowed it down.

 

You’ve recently released two albums. What inspires you to keep recording?

 

Basically, Lorre Wyatt, who is still writing songs but was slowing down in his old age, and asked if he could visit me and maybe the two of us together could help finish some songs and that’s what we did. In a three-day period we finished about four or five songs, I believe. Some of them funny and some of them rather sad but we ended up recording them in a local recording studio. Oh – it’s an interesting recording studio. It’s nothing more than the garage of a tremendously talented West Indian drummer, Jeff Haynes by name. He’s traveled the world but now he’s got a family and wants to settle down a little bit so he turned his garage into a recording studio. If anybody needs an inexpensive but good recording studio, here it is in little Beacon, population 14,000.

 

One of the people that you’ve recorded songs with is Bruce Springsteen. What is he like to sing with?

 

He’s a very nice guy. Uh, good sense of humor and doesn’t fuss around. If he can do something, he’ll say yes. If he can’t do something, he’ll say no.

 

What inspired you to create the album Pete Remembers Woody?

 

I guess it was Woody’s daughter, Nora, who said ‘You were one of the first people in the East that got to know Woody and then you helped spread his song, This Land Is Your Land, until everybody in the whole country knew it.’ But people don’t know what an extraordinarily creative person he was. He inherited a disease which took him to a mental hospital when he was only 42 years old. His mother died of it, his grandfather died of it, and two of his daughters by his first wife died of it. It’s called Huntington’s. But he, uh, started creating when he was only a child. And a teacher in his primary school found this extraordinarily creative kid and put him on to books that most kids don’t start – he was a voracious reader. He also liked to draw pictures and play jokes. Then they went to a different town in a different state and the teacher in that high school, another teacher, found out what an extraordinarily creative person he was and, again, she fed him all sorts of things. So now, by the time he was a teenager he was starting to write songs and a big mistake was made. He got married to a 16-year old girl. Had three kids. One of them got killed in a train accident but the other two got Huntington’s. However, he married again and his four children – oh, the first child was killed in a terrible accident. Her mother went around the corner and left her four-year old daughter in the house alone for no more than five minutes. And she came back to find her four-year old daughter running around the house screaming, with her dress on fire. Of course, if she had been older she would have known you throw yourself in the rung and wrap yourself up with it, or put a blanket around yourself to put the fire out. But she was too badly burned and she died on the way to the hospital. But Woody had already written for her several dozen of the greatest children’s songs that have ever been written. And now they’re popular all around the world. (Laughs) One of them is (sings)

 

Why, oh why, oh why, oh why?

Why, oh why, oh why?

Because, because, because, because.

Goodbye, goodbye, goodbye.

Why can’t a dish break a hammer?

Why, oh why, oh why?

Because the hammer’s got a pretty hard head.

Goodbye, goodbye, goodbye.

 

(Laughs) By now, the whole crowd is singing it. The second verse is

 

Why does a cow drink water?

Why, oh why, oh why?

Because a cow gets thirsty like you or me or anything else.

Goodbye, goodbye, goodbye.

 

There’s a bout 20 silly verses like that. I think the last one is:

 

Why don’t you answer my questions? (Laughter)

Why, oh why, oh why?

Because I don’t know the answer.

Goodbye, goodbye, goodbye.

 

Now as your listeners can tell, at 93 I don’t have much of a voice left but what I can do is get a crowd singing. So these days (laughs) I get a crowd singing and they hardly listen to me. They’re singing to themselves.

 

(Laughs) That reminds me of a quote I heard one time: People go to a concert not to hear an artist but to hear themselves singing (laughs). Well, one of the interesting things about your album, Pete Remembers Woody, is that it has a number of spoken-word memories from you about your time with Woody. That’s something you’ve done on some of your past albums. What made you want to do an album like that?

 

I guess it was mainly Woody’s daughter, Nora, that persuaded me to do it. People have heard Woody’s songs but they don’t really know what he was like as a person. Now, Woody make a joke about me, ‘That young guy, Seeger, is the youngest man I ever knew. He don’t drink, he don’t smoke, he don’t chase girls.’ (Laughs). I was – he was seven years older than I was. He was 27, I was 20, and he let me tag along and look after him because I had a good ear and I could accompany him, give him a banjo accompaniment to his guitar. Or if he wanted to play the mandolin – he made up a great melody called, I called it Woody’s Rag (imitates rhythm). It’s a wonderfully syncopated little mandolin tune. And I could back him up in anything he played without having to hear it a second time.

 

One of the most touching recordings I’ve ever heard, personally, is from an album called Seeds. It’s a rendition of Over the Rainbow. What inspired you to sing that tune?

 

Well, I knew the guy who wrote the words. He was a bit of a lefty like I was. And he never wrote melodies. He wrote one famous song at the beginning of the depression (sings):

Once I built a railroad, made it run.
Made it race against time
Once I built a railroad. Now it’s done.
Buddy, can you spare a dime?

It’s a song of somebody who is dead broke but he led a very creative life, helped do great things. (Sings)

 

Once I built a tower to the sun.

Brick and rivet and lime.

Once I built a tower. Now it’s done.

Buddy, can you spare a dime?

 

It was a hit song way back in 1932, I think. He also wrote a – oh, I can’t, my brain is gone. I can’t remember the second very well-known song. But then, in 1938 a musician named Harold Arlen, a truly great melody writer, was coupled with Yip Harburg, to make all the songs in the movie, The Wizard of Oz. And when they first sat down to write the songs, Yips says ‘Harold, get me a melody for the phrase over the rainbow.’ I suppose you know the rainbow is a world-wide symbol for getting along, people getting along together. There’s an old spiritual that says (sings):

 

God gave Noah the rainbow sign.

No more water. Fire next time.

Pharaoh’s army got drowned.

Oh, Mary don’t you weep.

 

Great old spiritual. Well, Arlen said ‘Yip, there’s no rainbow in The Wizard of Oz. I’ve read the script!’ And Yip says ‘I’m putting it in.’ Well, then Harold came in with this beautiful melody but he played it grandly, all up and down the 88 keys. Yip says ‘Oh, Harold. That’s not for little Dorothy. That’s for Nelson Eddy or some grand opera singer.’ Poor Arlen. His collaborator turned down his great melody. He knew it was great. Well, they both knew another man who wrote lyrics for songs and that was the brother of George Gershwin, Ira Gershwin. And it was about midnight but they call him up and say ‘Ira, we need your help. Can you come over and advise us?’ and Harold listens to it and he says ‘Harold, play it a little faster. Give it a little more rhythm.’ And Yip says ‘Oh, now I see it. Yep. Yep.’ And he came back – I don’t know whether it took him four hours or four days but he got this fantastic set of words. And I have changed two of his words art the very end because if anybody told me, or if I had been there, rather, when little Dorothy was singing Why can’t I? Why can’t I? I’d tell her ‘You know why you can’t? Because you only say – you’re only singing for yourself. You gotta sing for everybody ‘cause either we’re all gonna make it over that rainbow or nobody’s gonna make it. So at the end say Why can’t you and I? (laughs). I can hear Yip up in heaven saying ‘Pete, don’t futz around with my old, my songs. You can futz around with your old folk songs but don’t you touch Over the Rainbow!’ (Laughs) And then I’d tell him the story if I had been there with little Dorothy who says Why can’t I?, I’d tell her. So now, I get the audience singing it and I do what a lot of preachers in gospel churches do. They call it lining out the hymn. You give the words, and if I had a microphone I don’t need to shout, I’d say the words very clearly into the microphone, and then the audience sings them at a much slower speed (alternately speaks then sings slowly):

 

Somewhere over the rainbow
Somewhere over the rainbow

Skies are blue

Skies are blue

And the dreams that you dare to dream really …

And the dreams that you dare to dream really do come …

 

Somewhere over the rainbow. And once I got 80,000 people singing it in New York City. They had a peace demonstration. And I couldn’t hear them well because they stretched over 30 blocks on 1st Avenue, a big avenue on the east side of Manhattan. But I was told people sang. They had the loudspeakers stretched over 30 blocks. That’s over a mile (laughs).

 

That is incredible.

 

Plus, I got singing, in Washington, DC, a half-million people with the verses as well as the chorus of This Land Is Your Land. There’s a great verse there that says (alternately speaks then sings slowly):

There’s a great high wall there
There’s a great high wall there
That tried to stop me
That tried to stop me
There’s a great big sign
There’s a great big sign
That said “private property”
That said private property
But on the other side
But on the other side
It didn’t say nothing
It didn’t say nothing

I hope you realize what I’m doing. I’m giving you what I do in the mic and then, right after that, it’s slower – that’s what the audience is doin…

 

Yeah.

 

… is singing the song (sings):

 

This land was made for you and me.

 

It has to be amazing to be witnessing something like that firsthand.

 

Well, I’m really rather proud of it because, as my own voice gets worse and worse, I can get audiences singing better and better, sometimes in harmony. A song I wrote 54 years ago – I didn’t think anybody but me would ever sing it – but now I get audiences singing the whole song with me. It’s a rather fast song in the beginning but it slows down at the very end. Audiences slow down with me and they’re harmonizing. It’s, it’s – I do it almost everywhere I go these days.

 

Well, we were just talking about rainbows and rainbows are something that we see on the horizon. What is on the horizon for you?

 

Well, I’m in fairly good physical condition for somebody who’s 93. I split wood and occasionally help my daughter dig in the garden. And I have to admit that it doesn’t do all that I should. I never did sitting up exercises. But I got a split disc, a very painful thing in your backbone, and the chiropractor that I went to said ‘You’ll get over it and you’ll stay over it if you lie on the floor – not on a nice soft mattress – but lie on the floor and straighten your backbone. And that’s not going to be easy. The first time you try it, it’ll take about 10 minutes before your back is really straight.’ Now it only takes about two minutes (laughs).

 

Wow. What is the best thing about being Pete Seeger?

 

Oh, I’d say having a nice family and a wife I’ve been married to for 69 years, and a wonderful daughter who knows how to use a computer. And so, she can handle the finances because my memory is really going. People look at me and think that I’m still the same person I was, but they don’t know (laughs) my brain is half gone.

 

I have to say you sound very, very sharp. I don’t think you’re giving yourself enough credit.

 

Oh! Before I go, I’ll give you my mantra – my reason for hope in the world. Ten thousand years ago we had a thing called the agricultural revolution. Up, before that, women dug for roots and picked berries and men tried to shoot an animal, probably with a bow and arrow. We were hunters and gatherers but over thousands of years, we had an agricultural revolution. And now we eat better but kings and queens and other powerful people rule the world. Then we had an industrial revolution. That took hundreds of years. I guess it is about 300 years ago that the steam engines were first invented. And then, now we have the information revolution and this is the hope of the world. In decades things are happening which no one believed would happen. And I think the women’s revolution will be part of the victory. I describe this is the kind of victory: imagine seesaw and one end of the seesaw is on the ground because it has a basket half-full of big rocks. The other side of the seesaw is half up in the air because it’s a basket not quite half-full of sand.And we’ve got teaspoons we’re trying to put more sand in that side. Most people are laughing at us, saying ‘Oh, people like you have been trying for thousands of years but that seesaw hasn’t moved. Those big rocks have been there, they’re going to stay there.’ But we say ‘No. We’re getting more people with teaspoons all the time. And we think that in a few years our side of the seesaw is going to become more than half-full of sand and you’ll see that whole seesaw go slowly, slowly in the opposite direction. And the big rocks will not be able to keep their side down anymore because they’ll be more and more sand. And we’re getting more and more people with teaspoons. And I get letters from people who sign themselves ‘Another member of the teaspoon brigade’.

 

Well, Mr. Seeger, I can tell you it’s been a real pleasure to do this interview with you – an honor.

 

Well, thank you very much! I’m sorry I won’t be down singing in Atlanta again. I used to get down there every few years and one of my best songs is about that young fella who is only 14 years old, going to school in Alabama. And he graduated from high school at the age of 15. but when he was 14 somebody published a newspaper and said ‘Why do negroes want to marry whites? Don’t they know that we’re supposed to be separate races?’ and this 14-year old writes ‘Dear Editor, Surely Mr. So-and-so, who wrote that letter yesterday, must know that if there are people in America of mixed ancestry it’s not because negroes want to marry whites. It’s because of aggressive white males taking advantage of defenseless black females.’

 

Wow. Well, Mr. Seeger, anything you’d like to say to our audience before we part?

 

Don’t give up! Oh, the Hope Tree! Do you know about the Hope Tree?

 

What’s that?

 

Down in the bottom end of Manhattan, in 1911 – that horrible fire? There was a little tree that was burnt by the fire but the roots were not killed. And the next spring they sent up green shoots. And somebody said ‘Let’s make sure that tree is watered.’ And they got a little committee together and they took turns watering it, and now the tree is – oh gosh, it must be 8 or 10 feet tall, and this committee has grown. It’s called the Hope Tree.

 

TRANSCRIBED BY GAYLE BRAZDA

 

ALO: Rock Band

ALO is a rock band from California.  In an age when bands come and go, ALO continues to make records and perform around the world.

There’s something to be said for the “backstage” interview.  This is one of them.  ALO was opening up for singer-songwriter Jack Johnson and this was the result!

What do you think about James Brown’s advice to the band?

This is kind of like déjà vu because it was five years ago, back on the Radio Margaritaville days, I had a little digital recorder and I was on a tour bus – this was at Chastain Park and, uh, it was one of – I’m not just saying this – it was one of my favorite interviews that I had ever done with a band because it was lighthearted and fun but it was alsoserious at the same time. But it’s kind of like déjà vu because I’m back here with ALO again.

Zach Gill
The same spot even?

No, it was at Chastain.

Zach Gill
Oh yeah, yeah, yeah.

… and, uh, we’re at Lakewood this time. So for those who maybe, uh, are being exposed to ALO for the first time, just like last time, I would like it if you guys could introduce yourselves. (Group does self-introductions)

Dan Lebowitz
My name’s “Lebo”. I play guitar and do a little singing.

Dave Brogan
My name’s Dave Brogan. I play drums and sing.

Zach Gill
My name’s Zach Gill; keyboardist, singer.

Steve Adams
My name’s Steve Adams. I play bass and do some singing as well.

Alright.

Dan Lebowitz
I like how you said ‘being exposed to ALO for the first time’ like there’s going to be a vaccine for it (laughter) …

Dave Brogan
You may get a rash (laughter).

Zach Gill
The urge to … (laughter)

Dan Lebowitz:This is your first exposure … (laughter)

Dave Brogan:           The burning … (laughter)

Dave Brogan
Usually a rash comes from repeated exposure.

(Band member) Yeah (laughs)!

(Band member) If a burning sensation happens when you urinate, you …

Dave Brogan
‘Do this.’ (laughs)

Dan Lebowitz
Put on the first album. Drag it around. (background comments)

OK. So the new album is called Man of the World and it’s an album dedicated to the spirit of Creativity …

Steve Adams
Yeah.

… which, I thought that was interesting.

Steve Adams
Not too many people probably read that line on the liner notes.

I read liner notes, obsessively.

Steve Adams
Yeah …

Whose idea was it, to put that?

Steve Adams
Might have been Zach’s I think …?

Dave Brogan
Yeah.

Steve Adams
Yeah, but we all agreed.

Zach Gill
Yeah, and it’s a good dedication.

Dan Lebowitz
The spirit of Creativity sort of relates to, like, the spirit of Christmas Past.

Dave Brogan
Yeah. It’s an idea.

Dan Lebowitz
And we dedicated the album to, like, as an offering.

Zach Gill
It was one of many dedications, right? I mean, there were other – aren’t there other dedications?

Steve Adams
Well, there’s ‘thank you’s’ but that’s the sole …

Zach Gill
Oh, that’s the only dedication.

Steve Adams
… that’s the sole dedication.

Dan Lebowitz
The Muse.

But ‘Creativity’ was capitalized.

Dave Brogan
I’d really say that that’s like an offering, you know? Something that you leave out for the …

Steve Adams
… the ghost or spirit.

Dan Lebowitz
 … the ghost of Creativity Past (laughs).

Dave Brogan
… you know, cookies and milk for Santa.

Dan Lebowitz
… Oh, yeah (laughs).

Dave Brogan
This is like our cookies and milk, our offering for Creativity spirits.

Zach Gill
Thank you! It’s yours now.

Steve Adams
We kind of – I think we approached this record – well, we wanted to approach this record, going into it, like a real sort of open and creative mindset. And, uh, I think we kept referring to that while we were making the record – that, um, creative … I think that’s where that, you know, dedication came from.

Zach Gill
You know, yeah, you know. I always try to, I always try to dedicate a – like my solo album I dedicated to the spirit of Creativity and the art of galumping, galumping.

Dan Lebowitz
Galumping? What’s that?

Steve Adams
Lowering yourself into a cave?

(Band member) No, that’s ‘spelunking’. (Laughter)

Zach Gill
Galumping is the, uh, is the, uh, is the quality of when a kid has excessive energy and you watch them do things like, uh, like maybe they’ll, they’ll – you know, you’ll watch them just, like, follow the line on a sidewalk, but real meticulously, like, for no real reason other than …

Dave Brogan
OCD?

Zach Gill
It’s kind of like – well, some people call it that but it’s like, you know, a free play thing…

Dave Brogan
Yeah. Oh, right,right, right.

Zach Gill
A lot of people believe that, like, the arts – you know, in general, come out of – you know, galumping is kind of something you do when you have extra energy …

Dave Brogan
Umhmm.

Zach Gill
 … and extra time and you’re willing to kind of just play with your time. Self-conscious time.

Dave Brogan
Yeah, Free play with time.

Zach Gill
Yeah, free play with time, which I …

Dave Brogan
Based on, where you can find yourselves.

Zach Gill
Yeah, which I always thought was a good thing.

So, for those that, uh, like I said earlier, this is the first exposure, their first contact with ALO …

Steve Adams
Oh, we’re in deep already (laughter)!

… through the powers of technology – how was ALO born?

Steve Adams
It was born …how was it born?

Dan Lebowitz
It was born from friends, kid friends, who wanted to but create music, right?

Dave Brogan
Yeah. Essentially, you know, it was galumping.

Zach Gill
Galumping. Yeah, it was born out of galumping. Yeah, I think Dan and Steve and I all wanted to be in a band – yeah, we wanted to be in a band when we were young. We all played instruments. And then at UC Santa Barbara we met Dave and he wanted to be in a band, too. And we all had kind of the same, uh, like – ahh, you know, you could, you could, uh, if you just practiced hard and you worked hard as a band, you could, uh, you could, uh, you know, you could become successful and do it for a living.

Dave Brogan
Well, you three guys, um, started in Junior High School, right? Which is a real prime time for galumping because really, it’s not quite as  – you don’t have as much homework, usually.

Zach Gill
No – and not as much expectations.

Dave Brogan
It’s not that serious.

Dan Lebowitz
Yeah. We galumped all the way through college, though (laughter).

Steve Adams
There was even galumping through high school (laughter).

Dave Brogan
That’s really true, like when you – the scene that we were in Santa Barbara, or in Isla Vista, which is the town, it was, like – it was so fertile because you had a built-in audience of, like, thousands of students so you could play at any time and have a big crowd. There was a great, like, multiplex of, of band rehearsal spaces so you had a big community of musicians there and – and it really did feel like if you just did it and practiced that you’d be successful, you know?

Dan Lebowitz
The resources were all there.

Dave Brogan
It was a real outlier’s type of experience where it was just the right place at the right time. If you had the drive, the environment was totally fertile for you to do your thing.

Dan Lebowitz
Yeah, ‘cause we went to – that’s where we met Jack Johnson, was at college there and it was much the same thing, that band. Same thing, same rehearsal space.

Zach Gill
Yeah. It was an easy situation – I mean, you could nod in parties. You could just have a will to play and you could get a gig.

Steve Adams
Yeah, really.

Dan Lebowitz
Oh yeah.

There’s a DVD out and it’s called Jack Johnson in Concert
and, uh, it features you guys on it a bit.

Zach Gill
No, The Weekend at The Greek is the one.

Weekend at The Greek – sorry. You guys have played in a lot of really just incredible places. You know, uh, there’s a lot of pictures I’ve seen of you guys playing some places that are incredible looking. Is there one place that you guys can say, in unison, that was the most awesome place that you got to play a gig?

Steve Adams
I know one place. Should we all say it together?

Zach Gill
At the same time – Ahhh …

Dave Brogan
Red Rocks?

Steve Adams
Highlander (laughter).

Dan Lebowitz
 The Highlander in Augusta, GA. I’ll never forget it.

Dave Brogan
… or maybe it was Augusta, SC

(Band member) Which I think was …

Zach Gill
… maybe the most memorable place ever …

Steve Adams
… a really incredible spot. And in a way, I think it almost inspired the birth of ALO, sort of indirectly.

Dave Brogan
Umhmm.

Steve Adams
Because we were out in Georgia living for the summer ’96 all together and, uh, we got to like, sort of take in some of the James Brown scene and the influx and all of that, and came back to college wanting to, like, really play funk music and stuff. And I think that was a big thing for the beginning of ALO, wanting to have a funk orchestra. But, uh, I think that was discovered out here in Georgia.

When you guys put out an ALO record, what is the process like for making the music? Because there’s so many of you.

Dave Brogan
Yeah, that’s changed over the years. So, like, lately it’s been pretty collaborative, where we try to go into a rehearsal space and just jam together. And then we kind of pick some of the best grooves and stuff and try to trim those into songs. There’s that process. There’s also the process where people bring in pretty much completed songs and we flesh them out as a band.

Dan Lebowitz
Yeah, those being the two, you know,extremes and then things in between, even; where it’s, like, half someone’s song and half jamming, you know?

Dave Brogan
Yeah.

Dan Lebowitz
Yeah, but everything in between.

Dave Brogan
Yeah, and someone will bring in a jam, a song idea and we’ll jam on it.

Steve Adams
The last two records, too, we kind of gave ourselves a short amount of time to do them. So that’s probably part of – that’s a process, too. Like here’s three weeks; we’re going to take three weeks in the studio and just do as much as we can. Get as far as we can. And that’s, um, that’s been part of our process, too. Sort of limiting our time.

Zach Gill
And that’s an interesting assumption that you can – you know, that we’ve kind of like put into our process – that you could make a good album in three weeks.

Steve Adams
You know, it’s not about

Zach Gill
– as opposed to, you know, some bands like, you know, like the Legend of Steely Dan, where it’s like – that wouldn’t be, like, their way of attacking it. They’re like, ‘No, we’re here, we’re going to fix – make everything meticulously.’ And I think our thing is ‘Let the mistakes happen if they’re cool.’ Just think on your toes.

So, when you put out a record, what would you say the end result – what do you think the goal is?

Steve Adams
I think it’s to capture, you know, capture like a moment in time – how people are feeling and within that time, and how people are playing. I think if you can capture it well, you know I think that’s, that’s sort of the goal, I think, is to sort of capture that moment because you’re never going to get it again. It’s sort of like, it passes.

Dan Lebowitz
Almost feels like a, like an album is like, like a step on a staircase or, or a rung on a ladder or whatever. You know, like without it it’s all just sort of floating around. Like, we used to have periods – we’d go long periods of times without making albums – and then these songs would get written and performed and we’d get tired of them and they’d just sort of disappear. But an album, like, organizes all of that. Like, OK, here’s like ten or twelve songs, you know, recorded and documented. It feels like it sort of completes it and then you can, like, step on that. And then the next album is another step and you can keep on moving. Whereas, without it, sometimes it feels like you’re just swimming.

Well, speaking of moving – ALO has been around a while. How would you say that the band has evolved over the years? Because, like, if you listen to – I forget the name of this album but it has the Valentine’s Day song on it.

Zach Gill
Oh, Time Expander.

Steve Adams

That was an indie release.

You really, really have changed.

Zach Gill
Yeah. I mean, each one of us affects it. You know, I mean you know, time affects it. I think this goes through the same changes, musically, that, like, anybody’s life would go through, you know?

Dan Lebowitz
Hey, that kind of relates to the last question a little bit, too. Like, what’s the album? The album is like where we’re collectively at, at that time.

Umhmm.

Dan Lebowitz
You know, like, right? So, like, Time Expander is collectively where we were, yeah, at the time.

Dave Brogan
I think we wear our influences on our sleeves quite a bit – or did. I think maybe between the Time Expander and, and um, Fly Between Falls there’s a certain – like what we’re into musically kind of shows up on the album. Not so much any more.

Zach Gill
I mean, you can see it all. Like, you know, you can definitely – you know, the really nice thing about having albums, as Dan said, you can really follow the evolution. I always really enjoyed that with other bands. You know, sometimes I wish some of our, some pretty great moments of our thing where we didn’t make albums …

Dan Lebowitz
Yeah, we had some really good times.

Zach Gill
 …were kind of like lost so it almost makes it like, ‘How did they get from there to there?’ you know? So like there’s definitely some lost recordings and tapes and albums that didn’t happen.

Dan Lebowitz
Yeah. There was definitely something happening in between Time Expander and Fly Between Falls.

Zach Gill
There was a lot!

Dan Lebowitz
There’s a sound that sort of didn’t get recorded.

Dave Brogan
Yeah. It’s sort of like there’s times in – there’s periods of your life when, like, you’re camera’s broken or whatever. You just don’t take a lot of pictures (laughs).

Zach Gill
Often, those are the times where you’re too busy to get a camera.

Dan Lebowitz
We’d started an album and, like, with Busy Killing Time and those tunes, it was sort of like one of those in-between …

Dave Brogan
That was…period.

Zach Gill
Yeah. Time Expander was a, you know, just a shadow of it’s original … thing.

I thought of this question last night and I think it’s an interesting question. How would you define a band that is successful?

Dave Brogan
Well, there’s lots of different levels of success. I mean, somebody was, I was like – I met an old, you know, kind of family friend not too long ago and he was like ‘So, what are you doing?’ and I told him what I was doing. And as he was like leaving his parting thing was like ‘Well, it’s good to see you. It’s good to see you’re doing your thing and you’re undoubtedly touching lives.’ You know, and that was sort of his thing. I was like ‘Oh, yeah (laughs). That’s right. Yeah, you’re right!’ I mean, he was right and so that’s a success all on its own, you know, right there. The other level of success is being successful enough to be able to keep doing that and have a, you know, an adult life at the same time you, know, there’s success there.

Steve Adams
Just like your personal goals – that like, what you personally want out of life and sort of what you dream of and whatnot. And it is, like, the band’s goals. You can kind of measure success next to those goals a little bit if you’re like meeting those goals, I guess.

But then there’s also just like – for me, I know the goal for me is just to maintain a level of happiness, you know, and satisfaction and… So, that’s like a general goal. It’s not like we want to be playing this club by this time or something, but goals are an easy way to sort of measure your success.

Dave Brogan
You just sort of rock as many people as you can and hopefully, you get enough back on that to just keep your thing going so you can just keep doing it and grow a little bit.

Zach Gill
You know, I totally saw a thing on TV the other day where the Red Hot Chili Peppers were really young and they like asked them if they felt successful and it was a very similar thing. You know, it was just like ‘what is success?’ We were successful when we were kids. Like, we put together a band, you know? Like lots of other kids, we put together a band.

Dave Brogan
Totally.

Zach Gill
You know, and like it’s all these different moments, you know? It’s very personal, you know? But, hopefully – it sure does help at night to sleep when you feel successful. You know, you’re feeling upbeat. Feeling unsuccessful is daunting.

Steve Adams
When we put on a good show and you can really tell. Everyone walks off stage and everyone agrees and that was a good set or a good show – that feels successful to me. And it’s such a micro-moment in the whole grand scheme of things but that’s a vali – yeah, those are validating moments.

Well, I have two more questions. What is the best part about being in ALO?

Dave Brogan
Camaraderie (laughs).

Dan Lebowitz
That’s what came to my mind, too, actually. It sounds kind of cheesy but I think it’s true. Like, a lot of other projects I’ve played in, like, don’t have that – the same, like uh, old-friends/family kind of feeling that ALO has. I think that’s the one thing that’s most special about it.

Yeah.

Dan Lebowitz
It’s not very business or it’s not very professional – I mean in a good way, you know? I mean, like, everyone’s real, just kind of comfortable. Sometimes that’s bad, too, you know? Like, you’re not afraid to think or something. But it’s personal, you know? It’s real, like, it’s alive.

Steve Adams
I think what I like about it, too, is we’re all like a sort of band process, a traditional band process. Like, very collaborative.  Well I don’t know how traditional that is, but it feels like very democratic and collaborative where everyone gets a say in something as opposed to a band, maybe, where there’s a leader, you know? So, I think that’s a real special thing for this band. We’ve been able to maintain that sort of over, you know, many hurdles and a long period of time, and still feel good about it. And I think the friendship, youknow, makes that possible for us.

Well, my last question – do you guys have any parting words of wisdom?

Steve Adams
‘Partying’?

‘Parting’

Dan Lebowitz
Get back in school (laughs), stay off drugs.

Zach Gill
That’s what James Brown …

Dave Brogan
‘Make music #2’

Zach Gill
That’s what he told us – ‘Make music #2. Get back in school’ (laughs).

Dan Lebowitz
We were in college still and we were thinking about quitting. Yeah, and like doing the band professionally (Laughs) and he said ‘Make music #2 and stay in school.’

Dave Brogan
You weren’t thinking about quitting were you?

Dan Lebowitz
Yeah, we did.

Dave Brogan
Wait – you guys were thinking about quitting college?

Steve Adams
Yeah, it crossed our mind.

Zach Gill
Yeah, we were in Georgia and that crossed our mind. We could just stay here.

Steve Adams
The Highlander was so magical.

Zach Gill
Yeah, the summer – I mean, we always talk about the summer of ’96 when we all moved to Georgia. It was like a real turning point, I think, in all our lives. It was, you know – it was an interesting moment. A lot of things changed forever after that.

Dave Brogan
What would it have been like if we all would have stayed there (laughs)?

Steve Adams
We probably would’ve had another three months in..(laughs).

Dan Lebowitz
I know (laughs) and we might have all got, like, strung out or something.

Steve Adams
I think someone told me this bit of advice about just relationships in general but I think it applies to the band, too. To be in a band but not be in it too seriously. Just to, like, yeah – not over-think it and not get too down or, you know, just do it and sort of appreciate it and, like, enjoy it and, you know, as long as that’s all flowing, it’s good.

Ladies and gentlemen, you can find out more about ALO at alomusic.com. What does ALO stand for? I’m not going to tell you (laughs). You can do that on your own (laughter). Alomusic.com – thank you gentlemen.

Band in Unison
Thank You.

Zach Gill
It’s a mystery… (laughs)

TRANSCRIBED BY GAYLE BRAZDA

Dave Koz: Saxophonist, Recording Artist

The great saxophonist Dave Koz joined us for an interview about his musical career and collaborators.  Dave Koz is one of the most respected saxophone players in popular recorded music. This interview took place prior to his Atlanta Christmas tour.

Among other topics, we discuss his radio show, his love of music, his friendship with Barry Manilow and more.