Byrd Blog #2
Every once in a blue moon I get to experience the Music without the Bizness! That certainly is a rare and random occurrence in my chosen profession and it quickly reminds me why I picked up a six string razor in da first place. Now mind you the experience usually doesn’t last very long so you gotta grab the bull by the horns, which is what I did this weekend in Cleveland, Ohio home to the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame. Yeah I know the Rock Hall is all about business and politics but I choose to look through the eyes of a fan and fellow Rock ‘n Roller.
Backstory: For the past 6 or so years I have been a proud (well maybe proud is a little strong) member of the Official Hall of Fame Rock ‘N Roll band. The core of this band ( which I like to think of as “trouble walkin”) is myself, Jeff Carlisi (38 Special), Liberty DeVitto (Billy Joel, Hit Squad), Rob Arthur (Peter Frampton), and Jeff Adams (Starship). Will Lee had played bass with us the first few years but then scheduling got in the way. One year even the Maestro himself Paul Shaffer joined the band. This year we also had my partner in The NYC Hit Squad…Christine Ohlman (SNL Band) and Jimmy Hall from Wet Wille. Now those two are real sangers!!
Since 2006 we have had the good fortune to play a big ass benefit the Rock Hall puts on in Cleveland each spring(unless the Induction takes place in Cleveland as opposed to NYC, which is every 3 yrs…but more on that later). Each time we’ll wind up backing 6 or 7 different artists. Everyone from Mavis Staples to Billy Squier, to Sheila E, to Mitch Ryder, to Don Felder, to Sam The Sham ,to Russell Thompkins (The Sylistics), to Tone Loc to Ronnie Spector to Darlene Love…all the way to Roy Head (Treat Her Right) and so on. Now since the band is all scattered across the country we pretty much learn the material on our own starting about a month before the gig. Then we get to Cleveland have a really looooong rehearsal with each artist (and with each other)…run back to the hotel for a quick meal and a shower (sometimes I have to combine the meal and the shower..picture Kramer and the salad) and run back and play the show. Lotta work but it’s always a blast!!
This year we were supposed to be off since the Induction ceremony was going to take place in Cleveland (which means no benefit), but we got a call asking us to play the fancy ass party night before the big event (guess they like us)! At first we were asked to play a 1½ hr. set of fun Rock and Roll/ Soul stuff (much like the Hit Squad) but then Terry Stewart (who runs the joint) started adding artists for us to back up. Felix Cavaliere, Darlene Love, Local hero Michael Stanley and Dave Wakeling from the English Beat. So now we have our work cut out for us!…Learn that poem…Learn that poem. End result is it turned out to be a blazing 2 ½ hr. set that rocked in all different directions and no one got hurt. My kind of gig.
Here’s where it get’s interesting…I get a call one morning a few months back from Steve Dobo the director of promotions and sponsorship at the RH…he says “are ya sitting down?” I say “actually Steve I’m still horizontal since it’s 7 am…what can I do for you?” He says “Joan Jett and The Blackhearts” were nominated this year!!! Applause…applause.
Now I know the chances of getting in the first time are slim to none so I just roll with the nomination , and believe me I am humbled and happy as shite to be in that category.
As we all know by now we didn’t make the cut this year but as the Brooklyn Dodgers used to say…wait until next year!!!
Anywho …the Induction was this past weekend and it was filled with emotional moments for me plus many a thrill and chill for this kid from da Bronx. Since this is supposed to be a blog and not a life’s work, here’s a list of some of my highlights
First off Thurs. we land in Cleveland, drop the bags at the hotel and go straight to a 7 hr. rehearsal at the Rock hall for the Friday night show.
-Playing Groovin, Good Lovin’ and People got to be free with Felix
-Rockin’ hard with Michael Stanley who is a gentleman and can write an anthem like nobody’s business.
-Playing He’s a Rebel, Da Doo Ron Ron and The Boy I’m gonna marry with Darlene
-Skankin’ with Dave Wakeling…turns out NY Jews can play Ska!
- An unbelievable version of Take me to the River with Beehive Queen on the testify and me and Carlisi playin’ da blues!
- Hanging with Felicia from the Letterman band
-Will Lee’s sick version of “Mama told me not to come”
- Jimmy hall and Beehive singing “If you don’t know me by now”
- Me getting a chance to do “Whatcha gonna do about it” (with a little Humble Pie tossed in) as a tribute to Steve.
-Basically we tore it up and everyone in the band was in top form!
P.S Rob did a great job as MD and without a good MD 2 words come to mind…Train Wreck!!
Party…Party…Party…on to the next night
Sat Night. The Inductions
-Shaffer asks me and Christine if we would like to be part of the background singers for the Don Kirshner tribute… Darlene Love singing “Will you still love me tomorrow”…uh yeah
-Friday before our gig Byrd and Beehive rehearse vocals with Shaffer and the other singers. First in a small room than on the main stage for TV Blocking (gonna be on HBO may 5th)
I have never really sung without holding a guitar, so I immediately realize I have no idea what to do with my hands!!
-Sat vocal rehearsal with Paul..Byrd and Beehive enter the room to find Carole King sitting behind the piano
- Finish with Paul and go stage left with Beehive to watch the Faces (sans Rod) do sound check….last time I saw them was early 70’s at the Pocono raceway…which I told Mac. Now the Faces are one of the reasons I am who I am, so as you can imagine watching them do “Ooh La La” and “Stay with me” was shall we say a tad over whelming. A few tears might have been shed.
Then they did “All or nothing” and showed a big picture of my old pal Marriott on the screen and…have mercy!!
-Back to the Hotel…quick Byrd nap and back to the Induction Hall.
Everyone is backstage..Kid Rock (who admitted he came to more than one Blackheart show when he was a young lad), Billy Gibbons who gave me his card..it says Friend of Eric Clapton, Billie Joe from Green day, Tree Cool from Green Day (Is my name the only one that’s real), Slash, Glyn Johns who came over to me and asked if I nicked my bonnet from Ian McLagan…and on and on
-Christine and I sang with Darlene and I think my hands knew what to do but I’ll find out for sure when I see the show.
-Great yet sometimes strange Induction Speeches. Little Steven was perfect in his induction of Faces/Small Faces. On the other hand John Mellencamp was interesting (I’m being kind) with his induction of Donovan.Robbie Robertson sending prayers to Levon Helm made the whole place go…uh oh!
-Great and touching acceptance speeches…Ian talking about Ronnie Lane and Steve Marriott not being there was very moving. The award for groups including the surviving members of The Crickets, The Blue Caps, The Miracles, The Fabulous Flames and the Comets was overdue and wonderful! Donovan’s speech was..poetic (you’ll see) and Freddie King’s daughter accepting for her dad was Blues cool!!
-Oh yeah..Green Day opened the show with some loud and proud Rock and Roll and had everyone on their feet from the first chord…bravo lads!
-No Axl turned out to be much ado about nuttin’ cause Guns killed.
-I left before the Chilli Peppers and grand finale because the show ran about 2 hrs over and I was spent, but I did manage to hang at the after show party(Grandmaster Flash doin’ the DJ thang) a bit (with Club soda in hand…no thanks I don’t drink…no thanks I don’t drink…no tha….)
Great night all around…Went to bed early in the AM with a big smile on my face.
Point is…when I first picked up that crummy acoustic guitar (which I still have) at age nine….who knew!!