GENTLE FAITH 1975 to 1978. We had no idea of the
impact that was made on worship music. Thank the Lord! Enough said!
Pat Boone USA went like
this: one run through and right to video!
Bhumibol Adulyadej, H.M. Jazz King jamming with some
Jazz Kings! In December of 1980
the Boone band was invited to Thailand to perform for the King, a well accomplished
musician. He sent us a stack of
charts to rehearse and play at a command performance. The music was wonderful and captured that Sammy Nestico feel
and sound! The King loved our
performance and sent us a fleet of limos so we could tour Bangkok. Two days I’ll
I believe Mindy Abair’s first night with the band was at the Biltmore downtown L.A. I don’t
think any of us had met her and the general consensus was that the agency just wanted to dress up the band. She had a wonderful down-home attitude and the whole deal seemed too cute until we played… Mindy totally blew
our socks off! She had the articulation, wisdom and repertoire of an old jazz codger. And that
was back then… the rest is music history!
On the set of Angie the orchestra
applauded Susan Jaffe's magical run-through on her toes. A trombone player amazed at her sur les pointes technique, looked up and asked, "Whatcha got in them shoes?" Susan walked to the edge of
the stage, looked down into the orchestra pit and replied, "BLISTERS, CALLOUSES, CORNS, INGROWN TOENAILS, SWEAT AND BLOOD!
THAT'S WHAT'S IN THESE SHOES!"
Let them say what they want… the Pat Boone I know is just a
great guy! I don’t know how many
gigs I did with Pat but I averaged the flights (according to flight numbers and
as many as 7 in one day) at over one hundred per year throughout the 80's. The hang
best! I loved playing the ballads
and that’s that!
The band Private Life was holding auditions and since I knew
their tunes I went down. I knew
the band was produced by Ed Van Halen but on this hot summer’s day, I wore
walking shorts, a long sleeve Oxford shirt and very short hair. I walked in the studio
Johnson was on guitar and to my surprise, Ed was playing bass. There was a lot of
big hair and a few
laughs when I began tuning the bottoms of the drums. I looked at Ed over the top of my glasses and he said,
“Sorry, we’ve never seen anybody tune the bottoms before.” I smiled
and continued tuning. I sat down and said, I’m ready.” Ed counted the first tune and I slammed
that kit so hard that Ed and Danny stood there looking at each other with their
mouths open. For the rest of the
day Ed called me Clark Kent. We
played tune after tune and much to their surprise I filled the room with what I
do best. However, the fix was in
for Vinne Appice the well known Dio drummer, but what a great day I had with Ed
1968 (16 years old). Playing a Saint George kit at the
NCO Club at Los Alamitos, CA.
Check out the corner of Alan’s Silvertone bass amp. Born on the Bayou never sounded so good!
They give us, like, no information. Load equipment in through
a small stage
door, set up center, and look through music we will have to play later. This
night there were only cues (play
ons and offs). The cues were
numbered, no song titles.
We started playing standard songs promptly at 7:30 as
hundreds of formally dressed guests entered the room for dinner. We played easy
listening jazz standards and dinner was served. An hour later, after a short break, the conductor looked up
and simply said, “I’ll need a drum roll and it will be right into cue
one.” He put a headset on and a
moment later pointed right to me.
Without a hesitation I slammed my biggest tom-tom and played a dramatic
roll. A voice announced, “Ladies
and gentlemen Ms. Oprah Winfrey!”
We went right into the cue and I looked up with a pleasant surprise as
she acknowledged the band.
Oprah addressed the audience telling of her experience
filming The Color Purple and working with the great Steven Spielberg. Immediately
at the end of her brief
speech a multi-media presentation of samples of Spielberg’s greatest work
appeared on two big screens in the room.
As the presentation was rolling the conductor stood and held up two
fingers meaning we were going to play the second cue. At the presentation’s end Oprah simply said, “Lady and
gentlemen, Steven Spielberg.” The
band started playing and again I couldn’t believe my eyes.
Steven emerged from the middle of the room as the crowd went
nuts with a standing ovation. He
came to the stage, embraced Oprah and stood center for what seemed to be
minutes and waited as the applause subsided. In silence he looked up at the big screens, which still held
his image, and said, “This is one of my life’s biggest fears… That
I would have to follow… [he paused
and looked up at a screen] well… ME!”
The crowd laughed and Kate Capshaw yelled from the middle of
the room, “I can’t believe you used that line!” The crowd roared.
After a short acceptance speech for whatever the award was, the band
played cue three and within minutes everybody the room was empty and the gig
Not too long ago, in a CBS sound stage, I was playing for a
fundraiser when a gentleman walked on stage to make a few announcements. I said to
the bass player, Jeff Steele,
“He looks like Andy Garcia.”
Jeff looked at me and said, “That’s because it is Andy
I said, “ Great, let’s get him to play a couple of numbers
with the band.”
Jeff said, “He’s an actor.”
I replied, “He’s not an actor, he’s a musician! I saw him on
a Cachao video.” We argued about
what Andy really does and dropped it.
Andy did not play with the band that night.
A few weeks later I was playing at Hollywood’s Roosevelt
Hotel and saw a star on the sidewalk that read ANDY GARCIA! I thought, “Holy
smoke he is an
actor!” The next day I went out
and rented an Andy Garcia DVD (about Garcia Lorca) and reviewed the Cachao
video. My level of respect for
both Garcia and Cachao skyrocketed!
"Cachao is our musical father. He is revered by all who
have come in contact with him and his music," Garcia said in a statement
about the late Israel Lopez. "Maestro ... you have been my teacher, and
you took me in like a son. So I will continue to rejoice with your music and
carry our traditions wherever I go, in your honor."
As a follower of those musical traditions I can’t help but
feel related to these gentlemen in small way... and see the Cachao video!
Usually what you see on stage is not a performer blowing out
everything he or she has but just a fraction of their talent. In the case of John
Fogerty… a mere
fraction. Working with John was
one of the greatest privileges of my career. I only did a few gigs in town and a couple sessions with
him, but in that time I learned a lot about what kind of musician he really is.
John’s time is flawless. At rehearsals I studied his strumming intensely and found
amazing consistency in his rhythmical articulation as his pick made its way
across all six strings. During run-throughs, performances and recordings I did
my best to lock in with John’s playing and soul. As we listened to playbacks what I heard was almost like a
cosmic machine, perhaps too much like a machine; nevertheless, the most
cohesive drum and guitar experience I have ever had.
As for the gigs I did with him, I approached the music from
the folk angle even though we were rockin’. It seems natural for me to take that approach so that I
wouldn’t miss a single hammer-on or pull-off. During the shows John played a variety of guitars, including
dobro, and my desire was to blend with whatever instrument he was playing. He could
bring the house down just by
being John, but I’m telling you in regard to the sum of his talent… he is a
world-class player and a pleasure to work with.
I believe the main task of the spirit is to free man from his ego.
Heaven knows how many show I’ve done with Ellis Hall (a hundred
plus) and there are no outlandish stories I can tell. From his work with Tower of Power to the Boston Pops, he is truly
the patron saint of soul… all groove, all the time and one of the kindest
gentlemen I know.
Al Perkins---what can I say? He’s worked with many of my favorite artists. We hooked up
in ‘75 when he produced the group I was in, Gentle Faith. I had come up through
the ranks of drum
corps, and had to be sure to play precisely and articulately. Al, who had zeroed in
country and the Flying Burrito Brothers, played with the same precision and
articulation. He’s a gem of a
human being. One day, I walked
into a session where Al was sitting, warming up in his “ever so quiet manner.”
I commented, “Wow, have you seen it outside? What a beautiful day!” Al
just looked up and quipped, “Why
thank you very much.” Everybody in
the studio roared with laughter.
Much of who I am as a musician today, I learned from Al---Thanks
in 1977 I did my first European tour with the group
Gentle Faith and our first gig was at the Royal Albert Hall. On the way to our first
the British team I told the driver that, “I was excited about playing at
He got very perturbed and replied angrily, “You can’t call
it that! IT”S THE ROYAL ALBERT
Victoria build for her husband Albert?” I asked, “Well, then it really is
Albert’s hall.” The driver mumbled
something. I continued, “I suppose
you don’t refer to the Queen as Liz either.”
The driver looked at our manager and said, “You see, this is
what ‘taxation without representation’ leads to!”
I have no idea how many wedding receptions I’ve played,
perhaps over a thousand. Two
memorable happy events went as follows…
Playing wedding receptions includes announcing the events of
the day, like the grand entrance, the first dance, the garter and bouquet toss,
the cutting of the cake and whatever else the honored couple would like. During these
events the band is
required to play appropriate music. Well, many times these events are wonderful
and are conducted in a loving way; but now and again… it’s a nightmare!
On one occasion, during the cutting of the cake, the bride
playfully smeared a bit of cake around the groom’s lips. It was cute so I gave
a little drum
roll and soft cymbal splash. The
groom did not respond… he reacted by dipping his hand in the cake and pulling
out a very large handful of cake and frosting. As he turned toward his new bride she began to run. He pursued and chased
her around every
table in the room. The crowd
seemed delighted so I embellished the event with drum-rolls, rim shots and
The groom finally caught up with his bride when she tripped
and fell face first onto the dance floor.
Her new husband jumped on her, pinned her down and began rubbing cake in
her face, hair and took whatever he had left and smeared it all over her
dress. She, and rightly, began to
cry hysterically. Everyone in the
room was in shock. The lead singer
went to the microphone and announced, “Well, that’s a little hard to follow so
we’ll be taking a break now.”
Guests began leaving at once and the gig was over.
Over the years I’ve seen many things go askew and in most
situations couples handle the glitches with grace. But I have seen plenty of yelling and a fistfight or two
along the way. One night a drunken
Maid of Honor began yelling at the band because we didn’t play her favorite
song long enough. As she was
screaming up at the stage she took a step forward, but her date was standing on
her dress. Her dress tore
completely off but she didn’t notice as she continued her tirade. Finally, with
a few hundred people
looking on, she looked at her condition, turned to her date and snipped, “So
what!” and went storming off without her dress. “Well,” I said, “couldn’t happen to a nicer person.”
I was getting ready to leave the house to go golfing when
the phone rang. “Paul,” the voice
said, “its Swifty. How are your
symphony chops? I need someone
tonight!” I told Tim that most
musicians don’t sight-read symphonic music and that it needs to be rehearsed
unless its part of the musician’s repertoire. I told him I had experience with many classics and asked him
what the pieces were. He replied,
“It’s for Judy Collins.”
The folk singer?”
“Yeah. We just
finished rehearsing and she let the drummer go.”
“Judy Collins the folk singer?” I asked again totally puzzled.
“Yes,” Tim said, “She’s with the Orange County Symphony
“If its Judy Collins the folk singer no problem, count me
in; where shall I go?”
“Come down and set-up at UCI and we’ll go to the hotel to
meet with her music director.”
I went down, and was set up within the hour. We then went to
Judy’s hotel and had a twenty-minute meeting with Judy’s music director. We
talked over each piece of music,
went to dinner and then performed a flawless show. The first song was Both Sides Now and in the middle of the
tune Judy gave me a nod of approval.
I had an incredible experience sitting in the middle of a symphony
orchestra playing Judy’s music and I never even got to say “Hi and Goodbye.”
|Minnie and Roy
The first time I played the Grand Ole Opry it was with Pat
and Debbie Boone. Right before our
sound-check the band got a tour of the venue. I was really taken in by all of the memorabilia and loved
looking at the photos of all the old-time country stars. On our walk through the new
noticed a star fixed to a dressing room door; it read Roy Acuff. I looked at our manager,
who was from
Kentucky, and asked, “Who’s Roy Acuff?”
I was immediately shuffled off like I was being arrested for
some federal offence and given a quick lesson on the “King of Country
Music.” The name didn’t mean
much to me but I was very familiar with his song The Wabash Cannonball, and
didn’t know that Roy recorded the first version of The House of the Rising Sun
My dad always tuned the radio into the Sunday rebroadcast of
The Grand Ole Opry. The sound of
Minnie Pearl’s “Howdeey!” was etched in my mind but somehow the name Roy
Acuff eluded me… but I know it
|Thanks For the Memories
Being a sideman is not the easiest way to earn a living
though I was blessed working up to 40 dates a month. One night after setting up for a show with Ellis Hall I went
to the bar, ordered a gin and tonic and began telling myself, as I had for
several months before, that I needed to retire from the sideman gigs. As I sat at
the bar I looked up and saw
a Bob Hope video on the screen and noticed that I knew every musician in the
band that was backing him. My
first thought was, “Wow, how did those guys land that gig?”
As the camera panned Bob and the band, I noticed that it was
me on drums! I felt horrible that
I could not remember how blessed I really was. I thought, “Man, if I couldn’t remember this, how much of my
family have I missed chasing 40 dates a month.” I just bowed my head and thanked GOD for the amazing musical
career that I lived and decided at that moment that I would take the necessary
steps to retire.
I still gig… I still work like a fool… but the nature of
what I do has changed.
There is and African proverb: there is no drum without a dance! In 2009 my niece Devin posted on Facebook
that the California Contemporary Ballet was looking for a male to play a small part in The Snow Queen. I
told her to give me a call if they couldn’t find anybody. She did! It
involved two months of rehearsal and as the weeks went on, my part became more complicated. In the
end I played a priest who gets wounded, a coachman who gets murdered and a villager who dances a jig!