Saturday, December 29, 2007

Roadie Report 32 - 2007 - It was an adventure!

As I reflect back on the year 2007, my breath slowly emanates as my head shakes in wonderment. It indeed was the best of times and the worst of times. Roger played at Carnegie Hall, Schermerhorn Symphony Center in Nashville and The Auditorium Theater in Chicago. We flew around the world with stops in Japan, Dubai and Germany. Then caught a train home from Washington, DC. All of that on top of a full schedule of concerts throughout the year.

Our final tour was going to culminate with the Christmas Celebration at the “special lady’s” house in Tucson, Arizona.

October 10, 2007

Roger was invited to sing a song in tribute to Elton John at Carnegie Hall. The song he sang wasn’t as well known as most of Sir Elton’s tunes, but Roger chose a song with a unique melody line and a favorite of mine, “Friends.”

We arrived in NYC a day early to rehearse with the band, “Fools for April.” Phoebe Snow was scheduled just before us and as we listened to her heart-felt rendition of “Empty Garden,” we knew she would bring the house down and she did!

Thai for Dinner (Photo by Camilla)

During sound check, we sat in the beautiful auditorium of Carnegie Hall and watched all the acts perform those magical songs written by Elton and Bernie Taupin. We felt like we were viewing our own personal concert. The Hall is a union hall, so when it went dark for dinner, we headed to a nearby Thai restaurant recommended by the sound engineer. You can be sure the crew knows all the good places to eat!

October 29, 2007

Martin Guitar had a request from their distributor in Japan for Roger to perform for their clients during their annual trade show.
We were delighted to be going back to Japan and as I researched the airfares, I found a very interesting alliance between United Airlines and Emirates. Two people could fly around the world for less than the price of one person flying in the same class of service round trip. There were just a few stipulations: 1. You have to fly in only one direction – no back tracking! 2. All trips across the Pacific and Atlantic oceans have to be on United Airlines. 3. You have to stay out of the country for 10 days and make 3 overnight stops. The Martin distributors were very happy I found this fare and didn’t object to our staying in Yokohama for an entire week.
Yokohama, Japan (photo by Camilla)

At the Martin Promotion (Both Photos by Camilla)

After a wonderful concert and a lot of interviews, we continued our westbound trip with a connection in Seoul for our flight to Dubai, our second stop. We were staying at the Ritz Carlton and I had requested that they send a car to pick us up when we landed at 5am. That was one of my wiser decisions. The Dubai airport is huge and the gentleman who met us as we disembarked took the stress out of the trek through immigration and to the car.
Dubai Hotel (Photo by Camilla)
Our eyes were eagerly peeled for the sights of Dubai during our 30 minute drive to the hotel. The Dubai highway has 10 lanes and construction cranes are everywhere. The city is flourishing into a commerce and tourist destination, very similar to Las Vegas.
Dubai Oasis (Photo by Camilla)

Our hotel was one of the originals in that city and these days its architectural charm is dwarfed by a sprawling sea of high rise buildings. Fortunately, the Ritz is right on the beach and if you don’t look back, you will feel like you’re in an oasis. The wonderful staff at the hotel will do everything to make sure your stay is refreshing.

From Dubai, Emirates Airlines took us to Germany. We spent the evening in the Hamburg Courtyard by Marriott. Yes it was a contrast from the palatial hotel in Dubai, but an ever so sweet one. I surmised it was once an independent inn because it also had a wonderful restaurant, an uncommon feature in the same chain in the states.

We left Germany from Frankfurt, flew to Washington, DC, then hopped on board Amtrak for the overnight train trip home to Orlando and back to more business.

For months, I had been working with Denny Tedesco to arrange an interview with Roger for a documentary on the famous Los Angeles a-list of musicians, “The Wrecking Crew.” During the course of one line emails, The Musicians Hall Of Fame’s ceremony for the induction of the “The Wrecking Crew” entered into the conversation and Roger was invited to once again play with this royal court of musicians.

January 20, 1965

The “Wrecking Crew” were the top studio musicians in Los Angeles who played on all the hits. The Byrds were signed with Columbia records for just one single. If the single made it, they could record an album. Jim (Roger) McGuinn was the only musician in the Byrds who’d had professional studio experience, so Terry Melcher, the producer assigned by Columbia, decided to call in “The Wrecking Crew” to get the job done.

Jim had already developed a unique sound on the Rickenbacker because of his banjo training at the Old Town School of Folk Music in Chicago but even with session work under his belt, he was a little nervous. He quietly entered the studio, unpacked his guitar and was introduced to the “crew.” His hands were cold and his confidence low. Hal Blaine, the drummer, took one look at him and said, “Relax kid. It’s gonna be all right.”

It wasn’t only all right, it was a number one hit. Jim joined the “wrecking crew” for one 3 hour session and under the guiding hand of Terry Melcher, they recorded two instrumental tracks: “Mr Tambourine Man” and “I Knew I’d Want You.” Gene Clark and David Crosby later joined Jim to sing the vocal tracks.

November 22, 2007 –Thanksgiving Day

We began driving to Nashville on Thanksgiving Day. For years I have planned big gatherings of friends or romantic trips to celebrate this feast day, but this year, I had made no plans. Now I understood why. We decided to leave on Thanksgiving Day to avoid the heavy weekend traffic. I booked us a room in Macon, Georgia and was sure that there would be a restaurant close by to provide dinner. There were several restaurants close by, but not one of them was open. Even all the pizza delivery places were closed. Our Thanksgiving 2007 is one we will never forget. It was a vending machine feast!
Schermehorn Symphony Hall (Photo by Camilla)

The Musicians Hall of Fame Awards show was held at the beautiful Schermerhorn Symphony Center on November 26.
The inductees included the Nashville A-Team, The Blue Moon Boys, The Funk Brothers, The Memphis Boys, The Tennessee Two and The Wrecking Crew. Some of the guest artist performing with the talented gathering were Brenda Lee, Creed Bratton, Peter Frampton, George Jones, Vince Gill, Amy Grant, B.J Thomas, Dobie Gray, Garth Brooks, Rodney Crowell and John Carter Cash.
Roger was honored to be on the same stage with this vast pool of talent and even more honored to play “Mr. Tambourine Man” again with The Wrecking Crew.
Roger playing with The Wrecking Crew, Hal Blaine and Larry Knechtel (photo by Camilla)
December 1, 2007

Nashville was a wonderful stop on the way to Roger’s hometown, Chicago. He was invited to join in the 50th Anniversary celebration of the Old Town School of Folk Music at the Auditorium Theatre. It was at the Old Town School that Jim McGuinn was taught his intricate banjo and guitar picking by Frank Hamilton. Frank was going to be performing that evening as well.
Auditorium Theatre in Chicago (Photo by Camilla

Frank Hamilton backstage playing Roger's 7-string (Photo by Camilla)

I emailed Colleen and asked her if she could work in a duet for Roger and Frank. Just the thought of the teacher and student reunion brought tears to my eyes. The schedule was tight, but it worked out and I think there were more tears in the audience that night after they sang together.
Video of Frank and Roger rehearsing Finnegan's Wake.

A blanket of snow was covering our van as I eased it out of the parking lot for our drive to Utah. We watched the weather report and were confident that the storm had passed in the night and the roads on Interstate 80 would be clear. The storm the night before must have been horrific. We passed at least 12 large semi-trucks lying on their sides on both sides of the highway before we reached our stopping place for the night, Kearney Nebraska.

As I type this story…….. this is where I begin breathing slowly.

Roger parked the van after we unloaded the equipment. Even though it was only around 6pm, the sky was dark. He had noticed the snow and was cautiously walking under the awning to the entrance of the hotel, when his feet slipped out from under him on a huge patch of ice. He naturally reached out with his right arm to break the fall. It was a hard landing. His wrist broke.

I was still in the lobby, when he rushed in and told me he had fallen and broken the wrist he was holding. After a quick look, I shouted for ice. There was a man in the lobby who immediately came to our assistance and when I asked for directions to a hospital he volunteered to take us there.

Roger’s arm was set in a cast and we were given orders to return home to Florida for further care. Two months of concerts had to be canceled, so was the Christmas reunion with Roger's very special 97 year old mother. Once home, surgery was performed on the wrist and a metal plate inserted. The cast will come off on January 3 and we will be back on the road January 25th for a concert on February 1st at the Mondavi Center in Davis, CA. Hope to see you there!

A rose in Yokohama (Photo by Camilla)
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Monday, December 03, 2007

A Winter Fall But Roger Will Spring Back!

"The winter ice took another victim on December 3rd. Roger caught himself with his right arm to break the fall. It is now in a cast until mid-January.
His concerts will be re-scheduled and he thanks everyone for their prayers and good wishes.

Saturday, December 01, 2007

Roadie Report 31 - "The Rolling Thunder Revue"

Roger, Joni and Joan

A few days after we hugged Barry McGuire goodbye, we loaded our van and hit the road. October has always been our favorite time of year to tour. The minute the landscape colors change from Florida’s green and blue to the scarlet kissed trees of the Virginia mountains, we both excitedly reminisce about our favorite autumn stories. Roger’s is about the Fall of 1975, when he joined Bob Dylan’s "Rolling Thunder Revue."
Video From RTR - Knockin' On Heaven's Door
Spring 1975

Roger and Bob Dylan were casually tossing basketballs at Roger’s Carbon Canyon home in Malibu when Bob paused. Holding the ball, he looked out over the ocean view and commented, “I want to do something different.”

“What do you mean?” Roger knew the word “different” from Bob could be a door into the outer limits.

“I don’t know ... something like a circus." Then he tossed the ball toward the basket.

Fall 1975

Roger McGuinn and Band's touring schedule had a two week break, so Roger and Al Hersh, his road manager, headed for the infamous Rock 'n' Roll hotel, The Gramercy Park in New York City. After checking in, they went to Gerde’s Folk City in Greenwich Village. A few drinks and several request later, Roger decided to perform a few songs - the “techie” McGuinn way. He had Al put one of their walkie-talkies on a stool on the stage in front of the microphone. Then he sang one of his favorite sea chanties, “Heave Away Me Johnnies” from his seat at the table into the walkie-talkie he was holding. Once the audience became aware of where the voice in the small box was coming from, they shouted for more. Roger borrowed a guitar and joined his walkie-talkie on stage.

Larry Sloman, a writer from Rolling Stone, was in the audience. After Roger returned to his table, Mr. Sloman boldly introduced himself. Roger was intrigued with the manner of this young reporter but he was also hungry. He invited Larry to join him for dinner in China Town. Over a plate of Moo Goo Gai Pan, Larry mentioned that Dylan was over at the Other End. Roger paid the bill and said, "Let's go find Bob."

The “Other End” was a folk club that had once been called “The Bitter End.” Roger had recorded there years earlier with The Chad Mitchell Trio. The minute they walked in the door, the owner of the club, Paul Colby, recognized Roger and directed him to the back room. Dylan was sitting at a table with Roger’s friend and writing partner, Jacques Levy. Bob and Jacques had their heads close together, talking earnestly over two full brandy sniffers. They both looked up simultaneously, noticed the disheveled long haired shadow in the doorway and shouted, “Roger - we were just talking about you!” They jumped up quickly ... the table and drinks went flying, just like in a old time western movie. Roger ordered another round of drinks for everyone and Bob told him about the show he was planning with a group of folkies from the old days in the Village. He and Jacques wanted Roger to join the revue.

It had been a long day for Roger and he was groggy enough to give a quick answer. “Sorry man ... I’ve got a tour booked.”

The next day, Larry called Roger and asked him, “Do you remember last night? Bob invited you on his tour and you told him that you couldn’t go.” In the light of the morning sun, Roger realized that this was something that he wanted to do and called his agent. He told him to put his band on retainer and to cancel the rest of the tour. He was going to join Bob Dylan’s “Rolling Thunder Revue.”

“Rolling Thunder’s” rehearsals were at Studio Instrument Rentals in mid-town Manhattan and lasted for a few days. The band wanted to have an unusual name. They decided on someplace no one had ever been. They called it Guam. In October, a rag-tag caravan of buses and motor homes hit the road to electrify the Eastern Seaboard.

Dylan led the way in a red Cadillac convertible. He was a modern day Peter Pan taking a band of “flower children” to “Neverland.” His plan was to arrive unannounced in any town that had a stage available, have people give out fliers for a show that night and entertain a bemused but excited audience for hours.

Jacques Levy was the director, Alan Ginsburg and Peter Orlovsky were the poets. Sam Shepard was the screen writer/actor for the film of the tour being produced. Harry Dean Stanton, Sarah Dylan and Joan Baez were actors. Ramblin’ Jack Elliot, Joni Mitchell, Bobby Newwirth, T-Bone Burnette, Steven Soles, Ronee Blakely, Rob Stoner, Mick Ronson, David Mansfield and Larry ‘Ratso’ Sloman were all part of the original cast of this traveling band of gypsies and “when no one was looking, McGuinn was there too!”

Mr. Dylan housed the band in resort hotels with hospitality suites for the comfort of everyone. The suite was stocked with a complimentary bar from five in the evening until two in the morning. That will explain a line in this song that Roger and Jacques wrote about the tour. But this song also captures the wonderful mystery and fantasy that can come from knowing a modern day Shakespeare aka Peter Pan.

"Take Me Away" by Roger McGuinn and Jacques Levy

You should have been there when
The time was right for the music to begin
You shoulda been there when
That band of gypsies started rollin' in
You should seen it
You'da swore for sure the circus came to town
There were ladies ridin' bareback
And the mystery man
All painted like a clown
You should seen October feelin'
Like I never felt before
Flashin' up New England skies
Like the fires of the revolutionary war
You shoulda heard the music comin' down
Like the hardest rain that ever fell
Wakin' up in the afternoons
With a hundred lovers feedin' in the same motel

Take me away take me away take me away
Take me away take me away take me away
Take me away take me away take me away
Take me away take me away take me away

To the place where the greatest
Show on earth is playin' high on your highway
You shoulda seen me
I've been told I had a smile upon my face
Slippin' from state to state
Endin' up in a drunken state of grace
It wasn't very long ago
I used to say this kind of life is rough
You shoulda been there
But I can tell you even that was not enough

Take me away take me away take me away
Take me away take me away take me away
Take me away take me away take me away
Take me away take me away take me away

After the concerts, the band often piled into the buses to head out into the dark of the moonlit sky. They went from the “flower children in Neverland” to “pirates in the night.” Black was the color of the clothes and the swashbucklers were riding the waves of the highways. One dark night, the bus diver caught a glimpse of Joan Baez in his rear view mirror, dancing down the aisle of the bus, waving her hand over her head in the style of all the pirates on board. Roger and Jacques crafted the song “Jolly Roger” to recall the spirit of those moments.

Roger needed a few more songs for his next album. He wanted to capture the exhilarating, inspiring, excitement of the tour in the studio, so he tapped Mick Ronson to be his producer. They decided to title the record “Cardiff Rose” after the ship in the song “Jolly Roger.” Ronson brought the band “Guam” into the studio.

Joni Mitchell was habitually writing lyrics in her black and white composition book while the tour bus “Phydeaux” rolled down the highway. One of the songs in that notebook was “Dreamland.” When Roger asked her for a song to record on his album, she gave it to him, but wasn't quiet sure if one line would work for Roger. She smiled when Roger suggested the "folk tradition" of changing lyrics to match the gender of the singer. He would change "Dorothy Lamour sarong” to "an Errol Flynn sarong.” There were so many words in the song, he wondered if anyone would notice the difference or even laugh at the image of Errol Flynn in a sarong.

Roger still needed one more song for his album, so he asked Bob. Generously, Bob gave him the unrecorded opus “Up To Me.” As a personal tribute to both artists, Roger decided to sing the songs in the inimitable styles of the authors because he'd always admired and appreciated the way they both sang.

It was on the “Rolling Thunder Revue” that Ramblin’ Jack Elliot entertained Roger with stories of his adventures touring with his lady Polly. He told him about the times the two of them would put their bags and guitars in the back of a Land Rover and barn storm across America, singing in old vaudeville theaters. Roger was thoroughly enjoying the lack of responsibility of the Revue, but he knew that when it was all over, he would be back at the helm of a band and entourage of people who counted on him for their livelihood. He filed Jack’s stories in the recesses of his mind with the hope that someday, he too could tell stories of love and freedom on the open road.


“The Rolling Thunder Revue” was a moment in the history of a group of troubadours who went to “Neverland.” I wonder if anything like that could ever happen again. Well ... “Tinkerbell” revived because we all sat glued in front of our black and white television sets and said, “I believe, I believe.”

The times - they have changed.