Tuesday, March 8, 2016

Rediscovering the Talents and Gifts of Inspirational Musician Gigi Worth

For a long time now, too long in fact, vocalist and musician Gigi Worth has been content to reside on the other side of the spotlight, but no longer. It’s most fitting for her to be seen and known by more than just the vast community of Grammy-winning multiplatinum recording artists and concert headliners who call on her to tour with them or sing on their records.

Now, you already actually know Gigi, at least her voice, very well in fact. Even if you don’t get to many live concerts, you’ll instantly recognize the standout style of the charming brunette, who graces numerous videos on YouTube as a featured backing vocalist, master percussionist or guitarist.

You might have seen her on tour with Michael McDonald, Kenny Loggins, or years ago when she stepped forward on tour to sing a duet with Christopher Cross on “Open Up My Window.” Gigi is also featured singing with him on Cross’ 1995 CD, “Window.”

Or you’ve possibly watched Gigi playing killer percussion while singing. Yes, drummers can sing and drum at the same time, well many of them at least. Or, sometimes Gigi just brings her own (anonymous) guitar brilliance to support Christopher Cross’ angelic “Words of Wisdom” as in this video.

Ever watch Don Johnson in “Nash Bridges”? From 1996–2000, Gigi was the one singing the theme song at the show’s opening. Remember the Val Kilmer movie, “At First Sight”? The exceptional vocal on the movie theme, “Love is Where You Are” is indeed all Gigi. Others have covered the song, but the best version belongs to Gigi, unquestionably.

The soundtrack from “Mr. Holland’s Opus” also belongs to Gigi. She’s a prolific studio singer who’s been requested by so many heralded artists to sing on their records as she makes those vocals “hers.” That’s a producer’s dream to find a talent who can do that.

You know Worth’s voice even if you can’t see her, because it is “her” voice that undergirds many signature premier television and radio commercial jingles for national accounts like Toyota, IBM, and Ford, but it doesn’t even phase her. What’s more you’ll never hear her discuss it. She may speak of “working on a project” but that’s it, according to friends who know her well.

How many singers would just love being “the voice of a brand” and then be so excited to tell everyone they knew? Not Gigi. That’s part of her professionalism, though. As a working professional singer and musician, she’d almost be content to be on the sidelines just doing her job, but she really belongs out front in the spotlight, for a change, and from the looks of things, she’s on her way. Once you meet her and hear her sing, unplugged, she’s absolutely unforgettable—a gentle dichotomy of bold reticence. And just call her Gigi. That’s really all you need to identify her.

One of the most beautiful songs from Gigi Worth's solo CD, "Skylark" is "Embraceable You." Her exquisite vocals lift the song to a new level of beauty.

Gigi’s debut solo CD, “Skylark” is quite the masterpiece and revisits the most beautiful standards ever recorded by the generation that preceded her. Songs like ‘Tenderly,” “Come Rain or Come Shine,” “Almost Like Being in Love,” “Embraceable You,” and “Moonlight in Vermont” belong to the generation of her mother, the exquisite singer and musician Gisele MacKenzie. In fact, Gigi actually recorded the album as a tribute to her mother, who appeared on television, radio, and in commercials for products in Canada and the United States.

A standout, must-hear track of all the beautiful ones, is “Stranger in Paradise,” on which Sony BMG gave their permission to use her mother’s version so that Gigi could add her harmonies on the song. The result is simply phenomenal, almost bringing tears to your eyes except that it’s so uplifting to hear the familial voices resplendent in crossing over time and space.

Gigi’s unique vocal skills remind you that one minute she can be singing “Cry Me a River,” and the next minute she can strum her guitar exactly like Joni does and sing Mitchell’s “Just Like This Train” to perfection. Her go-to bassist Steven Lawrence is on this CD and did the musical arrangement on “Embraceable You” and “Let’s Make a Go of It” (coauthored by Gigi, Catherine Beck and Steven Lawrence).

The CD, “Skylark,” has a special and poignant story behind it, and how it came to be released some ten years ago. There’s a beautiful story from 2011 shared by Susan Frances in “Jazz Review,” wherein Gigi relates how the earliest works in recording the album with her Executive Producer, arranger and keyboardist, Bobby Zee, were literally destroyed in a fire that burned his home and recording studio.

Imagine the feelings of devastation that followed. And yet, both Zee and Gigi agreed they, like the phoenix, would rise from the proverbial ashes and start over. The end result is outstanding and an important must-have for your collection. It’s available from CD Baby, but suggest you get the CD rather than the download as you will want to read the liner notes for the stories behind the songs, plus have the chance to see Gigi’s beloved horse, Miss Easy Street.

The opportunity to meet Gigi Worth came, thanks to her good friend and fellow musician, Kiki Ebsen, who invited this journalist for a behind-the-scenes look at their collaborative band, Trouble Child. Rehearsals were in progress, and the set list was taking shape for the band’s debut at Kiki’s peace.harmony concert at the Healing Equine Ranch earlier this year.

Gigi Worth sings "Free Man in Paris" in debut of Trouble Child, Joni Mitchell tribute concert.

It was a cool but sunny afternoon when the longstanding friends arrived simultaneously at the California home of fellow singer-songwriter and music professional, Guy Thomas. As Gigi unlocked the passenger door, a beautiful whippet named Tippy exited gracefully. “Tippy Whippetsworth” was there as I was, to hear the trio rehearse.

Multitalented musician Gigi Worth and her beloved Tippy Whippetsworth, who has an all-access pass and a great view of the stage.

Worth opened up her case, took out her guitar and then placed her coat inside to line the case. Tippy waited patiently while Mom did that and then curled right up in the case and Gigi covered her up. Rehearsal could begin. Thomas’ dogs Woofie and Sadie (whom Gigi insists on calling ‘Cabbagehead’ for fun) took their places and work began. Guy and Gigi have been playing music as a duo in many venues across Los Angeles recently and they work so well together.

Gigi and Kiki are longtime friends who have also worked together as the beautiful, talented bookends framing the stage with Grammy-winner Christopher Cross for several international tours. Check out some of their tour work as they perform “Alibi.”

Now, in previous rehearsals Kiki and Gigi had already carefully reviewed and considered Joni’s abundant catalog to choose 22 songs from which they would create their musical mosaic. So, this work session would determine which songs to which Guy would be bringing his brilliant guitar solos or adding in a third voice on harmonies. He loves Joni Mitchell’s songs possibly even more than Gigi or Kiki, though that’s a pretty high bar to meet.

Let’s just say that each is equivalently versed in every nuance of Mitchell’s collective body of work. The masters working on the masterworks is basically what was observed by this writer (and Tippy, Sadie, and Woofie). The quality was exceptional and the search for perfection was inspirational that afternoon.

The three-octave range that Joni had as she originally composed so many of these songs was met effortlessly by Worth and Ebsen. Give them a song, any song; they have it down. Gigi can sing brilliantly and richly in the highest parts of Joni’s songs, or she can shift right into alto parts and blend wherever it is called for, and she makes it all look easy. Gigi also has a grand time playing all the songs she knows by virtually any artist.

Yet, despite a disarming, genuine smile, Gigi is one of the most highly demanding artists you’d ever hope to meet. Yet, it’s only of herself that she demands it, that perfection she seeks to deliver, and she’s hard on herself at times because she won’t settle when she’s called upon to sing Joni’s songs. It’s touching to see how one amazing iconic talent, Joni, has inspired such devotion and discipline for these amazing professionals to “bring it” to do her music such justice.

Kiki and Gigi cofounded this band to honor and perform the music of Joni Mitchell, whom they revere and respect as iconic, influential, trendsetting and unique, the exact same properties many agree they each have as individual artists. When you put the two singers together, musical magic and harmonies emerged that even Mitchell herself would undoubtedly approve.

The concert was already sold out, but online viewing was going to be provided courtesy of the exciting new collaborative, Alert the Globe, who was filming the event for later broadcast and for some exciting simulcasting. The actual concert day and events preceding the concert are described in related articles regarding Kiki Ebsen's peace.harmony concert series at The Healing Equine Ranch.

After the gift of being able to watch Gigi Worth rehearse and later perform in concert later in the week it must be said that she still does not see what all the fuss is about. To her, it’s just what she does. And she loves what she does. Yet, when the audiences and her music colleagues shared their praise and regard for her gifts, she seemed not to understand why they were making such a big fuss over her vocal talents.

It’s likely because, and they all had this in common, they view their voices as their gifts and instruments, they take care of them, and when they are called upon to use their talents to entertain, they are entirely focused on the work, the music, the perfection in delivering the right notes, and they forget to take the time to hear the accolades.

Fortunately, the Alert the Globe network was on hand, thanks to Gary Bergeson, Southern California radio personality at KSBR Radio (he is also affiliated with Alert the Globe), the premiere Trouble Child concert was filmed for a future broadcast and some video clips are sure to emerge. It will be then, and only then, when she hears herself sing that Gigi Worth will finally understand what all the fuss is about.

Speaking of making a fuss, it can be a challenge for Gigi, having a famous, superbly talented mother (who was a television star, host of her own shows, plus a gifted violinist and concert-caliber pianist to boot). Just ask her good friend Kiki Ebsen, who also is finally being seen as the individual talent she has long been, separate and apart from her father (who was a television star, motion picture actor, vaudeville dancer, music composer and artist) and mother (who was a gifted theatre producer and exquisite writer).

Bassist Steven Lawrence had that in common also, as his parents were well known California studio and television singers for several television programs in the 1960s. And Gisele used to favor Steve with the praise by introducing him as “the talented one.” Gigi jokes about it all the time as Lawrence is like her second brother and he does look out for his little sister, whom he fondly calls “My Geege.” Steven lost his sister, Jules, whom he called “the joy of my life,” to ovarian cancer far too soon, so it would appear that into that void in his heart, he was gifted with another soul to whom he could be brother (and allowed to pick on her just like any annoying brother is capable of doing). Life is full of grand gifts and surprises in times of the most tragic events. A special spirit is everywhere it is needed, it seems.

It’s not about whose daughter or son you are (anymore) that defines the second-generation progeny first and best. Forget their last names or the body of work of their parents. Instead, focus on the voices and faces in front of you and just know they all had great examples by which to develop a professional work ethic. That’s their big secret advantage: they show up prepared and work.

You can call her Gigi MacKenzie if you want to order the CD, “Skylark” or you can call her Gigi Worth, when she’s touring on stage with the Grammy winners like Michael McDonald or Kenny Loggins most recently. But really, this down-to-earth talent with the ethereal voice and tremendous sense of rhythm is best known by only one name.

She’s the unforgettable artist with a voice that heals by creating harmony in a time and place for audiences in search of reasons to forget their day, their past disappointments or failures, and in search of beautiful music by which their souls can simply be healed.

May her voice be heard, now and always, on records and in concerts, in the front of the stage this time, because she has such tremendous gifts to share, so much to offer music lovers. And, you can just call her Gigi.

Friday, January 8, 2016

‘Tuscany Unplugged’: Clifford Bell, Tiffany Bailey bring Cabarabia to San Diego

Clifford Bell is a man on a mission, and that mission is to show audiences how cabaret entertainment and jazz vocals go together so well. He has coined his own term for the blend, called “Cabarabia,” and to pronounce it correctly, think “Lawrence of Cabaret (Arabia),” and then it flows. In the world that is Cabaret, you find Bell. And on Sunday night, you will find Clifford Bell, Tiffany Bailey, Marsha Bartenetti, and Errolyn Healy in concert in “Tuscany Unplugged,” Sunday, Jan. 10, at 7 p.m., at Tuscany Italian Restaurant, in Carlsbad, California. Tim Moore is producing the evening with Justin Gray on piano, serving as music director. In a recent interview for examiner.com, Bell shared more about the evening ahead. As a veteran producer of entertainment and music shows for California, Bell began his music journey in San Diego, before concentrating primarily on Los Angeles and New York venues, and all parts in between. In a recent conversation, Bell said he’s really looking forward to returning to his old college town, and he’s very excited that he’s sharing a stage with Tiffany Bailey, one of his newest friends and music.

Here's an example of one of Clifford Bell's Cabarabia evenings with Kiki Ebesn as guest, singing "You Don't Know What Love Is". Written by Don Raye (lyrics) and Gene de Paul (music) As featured in Kiki Ebsen's show, "To Dad, With Love: A Tribute to Buddy Ebsen")

Clifford’s credits include a host of quality entertainers he has either “directed, produced, or booked,” and of course it’s impressive. Many may remember Bell as a regular producer/director of shows at the famed Cinegrill at the Hollywood Roosevelt, Catalina Jazz Club, Café Carlyle, and The Oak Room at the Algonquin. Yet, one of his highest and best gifts is spotting extraordinary music talent in performers and finding showcases to introduce them to larger audiences.

And so it is with the lovely chanteuse, Tiffany Bailey. How the serendipitous world of jazz works, at least for Bell, is that one person is a catalyst and brings together complete strangers and in an evening of entertainment showcases, creates a group of new friends who share and bring out the best in each other by virtue of their association. How this evening began, then, was months ago, as Clifford joined forces with the acclaimed and respected singer and vocal workshop leader, Cathy Segal-Garcia, based in Los Angeles.

Bell said, “Cathy is so well respected for spotting singers with original styles, and she encourages them to continue to develop those styles as performance signatures.” Meeting Tiffany Bailey a few months back and hearing her sing, Bell knew immediately that this young lady had both stage presence, vocal chops, and a flair for performing that would take her far. The accompanying video here, of Bailey singing “Damn Your Eyes” shows the magic Bell heard during rehearsals.

Within the hearts and minds of many Los Angeles vocalists, there are many talented and philanthropic collectives, just one of which is a group of people who donate their time, usually monthly, to share their talents in a fund-raising event where the evening’s proceeds are dedicated to a particular nonprofit organization. So, when Bell met Tiffany through Cathy, he learned of Bailey’s devotion to the nonprofit, Autism Speaks. Instantly he decided that would be the beneficiary of their next event.

Thus was the genesis of a Thanksgiving 2015 benefit, “Giving Thanks 2015” at the trendy E Spot Lounge in Studio City, California, which Bell co-hosted with Cathy Segal-Garcia. Entertainers that evening included Tiffany Bailey; Gary Brumburgh; Chambers, Herbert & Ellis; Karen Benjamin, Alan Chapman and Molly Chapman; Mon David; Kiki Ebsen; Martha Taylor LaCroix; Mark Christian Miller; Dolores Scozzesi; and Gabriela Vahanian.

Bell also hosts a weekly podcast on the Global Voice Broadcasting Network. (Search Goole for Cabarabia and Gloval Voice Broadcasting Network) to watch Bell, Bailey, Segal-Garcia talk about the “Giving Thanks” event. From the outside looking in, the worlds of jazz and cabaret entertainment are both beloved and more often than not, rather separate audiences. Bell thinks that’s entirely wrong and insists they combine to form the perfect intersection when you bring together performers with backgrounds in each for a night of entertainment that lends itself to show flow.

Normally you can find the engaging raconteur and vocalist at the producer’s helm of engaging shows in Los Angeles, but this time, he’s agreed to be part of the talent lineup at Tim Moore’s “Tuscany Unplugged.” Tim was a regular viewer of Bell’s GVB podcast every week and Bell said, “Tim always had very interesting feedback and questions, and when he became a producing force down south with his creation of the San Diego Cabaret Awards, I have happily participated wherever I could, which I will do again this year on Monday, February 1, for the Third Annual Event.”

Bell is equally comfortable onstage as offstage, but it’s a rare treat to get to hear him sing. Bell has hosted showcase runs for well known actors who sing, or singers who are popular actor, Peter Gallagher, Katey Sagal. He's also featured his friend, composing talent Artie Butler, who wrote the music to Phyllis Molinary’s lyrics in “Here’s to Life,” but when Bell sings it, a very poignant performance results. (Ed. Note: Having heard him sing it in person, I was brought to tears by his poignant performance.)

Another featured performer for Sunday's lineup, Errolyn Healy is a 2014 San Diego Cabaret Performer of the Year nominee, who is said to bring a gentle effervescence, somewhat akin to Kristin Chenoweth, to the program. Bell said, “I’m really looking forward to hearing her sing.”

Then, there's the "tremendous Marsha Bartenetti, who is well known for smooth jazz, the Great American Songbook." And as an adult contemporary artist, she really delivers classic tunes with a powerful, precise style that will find you swaying along to in your chairs as she sings.

As jazz and cabaret enthusiasts are often heard to say, the evening is going to be “Epic!” Although some tickets are reasonably prices at the door for Sunday’s “Tuscany Unplugged.” For more information, you might want to act sooner and visit the Facebook event page for Jan. 10. All things considered, if Clifford Bell is in the zip code, it’s going to be a grand glimpse into the world that is Cabarabia.

And now, here is Clifford Bell's latest discovery and ingenue, Tiffany Bailey, singing "lights out" on her signature tune, "Damn Your Eyes" with Mark Massey, piano, Al Garcia, bass, Tom Bowe, drums, Dori Amarilio, guitar. She's effervescent and delightful, isn't she? A real dynamo and one to watch for the future.

Performed Live on Dec. 20, 2015 at The E Spot Lounge at Vitello's in Studio City, California. Thanks to award-winning videographer/editor/director, Marc Saltarelli, for his usual magnificent job of filming all the Cabarabia productions.

Dawn Lee Wakefield

Houston Music Examiner Story First published January 8, 2016 on examiner.com

Memories of 2014: The love and legacy of Paul Revere

[Photo (left) from Paul Revere & the Raiders Facebook Page. Visit the page and like it while you're there!

Original story published on examiner.com and reprinted in full below:

You’ll see two photos in the latest issue of “People Magazine,” posted online Jan. 14, 2015: Paul Revere and Samuel Adams, two American patriots whose time capsule was buried in 1795, being unearthed. That’s one. The other is a two-page photo spread, commemorating the life of musician and band leader, Paul Revere. In life as in death, the work we do, the people we know, and those who truly love us, individually and collectively, shape the impression that our life, and work, leaves behind after we are gone.

As the final weeks of 2014 arrived, and as the holidays set in, the loss of one of classic rock’s music icons began to be ever more real. Paul Revere loved Christmas, and he loved the advent of a new year ahead. That new year appearing had always meant packing for an annual January adventure aboard Concerts at Sea, his very own “Where the Action Is” cruise, with a ship-full of his family, friends, fellow musicians, and fans aboard for the fun.

October 4, 2014, marked Paul’s actual departure from this world after a lengthy and courageous battle with cancer. A very special memorial service was arranged for Oct. 13, at the holy, beautiful Cathedral of the Rockies, Boise First United Methodist Church. Because of Sydney Revere and the family’s lasting appreciation to the fans of Paul Revere and his Raiders, the funeral service was livestreamed on the Internet for simultaneous viewing. Boise FUMC’s Pastor Duane Anders opened the occasion, noting “It’s hard to capture anyone’s life in just a few words. Today we gather in love to remember, to mourn, laugh and hear music as we witness and testify to one of God’s children, Paul Revere.

The funeral proceedings featured Master of Ceremonies Tom Scott, and seven guest speakers who offered such distinct and beautiful memories of Paul that shared one common theme: Paul’s love for his fellow men and women, with the most special spot in his heart for the men and women who served in the United States Armed Forces. Named for a patriot, Paul lived as a patriot, never passing by an opportunity to thank active duty service personnel for their gift of time and service to the country. Revere also made it his personal mission in life to provide for, care and share with the veterans who endured acts of war, times of strife, and weeks of recuperation to return home and try to pick up the pieces of their lives and move on.

Tom Scott shared personal thanks for the outpouring of affection expressed to the family by so many residents of Idaho, noting “There will never be another like Paul Revere.” Tom recalled a January 1971 visit where Paul rode his chopper to radio station KFXD to bring test pressings of two songs, “Birds of a Feather” and “Indian Reservation,” thinking “Birds” had the best chance of being a hit. Scott played both songs and the listeners voted 3 to 1 for “Indian Reservation.” The song shot to Number 1 very quickly. Mike Allen and Revere visited radio stations all across the state to promote the song, and six months later, it was a million-selling single that ultimately became their best-known hit.

When the governor of your home state makes your funeral service his priority, then many strangers could easily be impressed and assume that it’s one celebrity showing up for another. And yet, it was a real friendship that Revere and former Idaho Governor Dirk Kempthorne shared, that and mutual love and respect for their home state.

Brigadier General Allan Gayhart, Retired USAR, who was over the 116th Brigade combat team from the Idaho Army National Guard, spoke of Paul’s band as “America’s Band,” frequently embraced as America’s answer to the British invasion of the 1960s. Gen. Gayhart shared from the heart that Paul had a connection to veterans that could never be fully appreciated, as Paul always went the extra step of recognizing all those who served our nation.

This seasoned soldier shared “Paul was an early supporter of the Rolling Thunder event in Washington, DC. He started the Ride to the Wall Foundation, and donated proceeds from several CD sales to this cause. Veterans who attended a concert always received great respect. Paul would take the time to honor and recognize those who served, especially the Vietnam veterans, which meant so much to them.”

Gen. Gayhart recalled that one day he received a call from Gov. Kempthorne, asking him what Idaho could do for their reserve soldiers called up for deployment. Over 4,000 of Idaho’s soldiers were in Alexandria, Louisiana, awaiting deployment to Iraq that would come approximately a week later. The general’s suggestion was quick: Paul Revere. The story about how that happened would come from the speaker to follow.

Gen. Gayhart knew that most of these young service personnel would be men and women in their 20s, who didn’t grow up with the Baby Boomer devotion to and recognition of the music and hijinks of Paul Revere and his merry band of Raiders. He feared, for a millisecond, that the soldiers might be doing eye-rolls at the thought of the music of a lost generation. He recalled that he shouldn’t have worried.

Memories the general shared included his genuinely being moved as he saw the troops “amazed and truly entertained by the music and humor of the band.” They were dancing in the aisles and clapping hands, tapping feet, keeping rhythm flowing. “Our soldiers are now 4,000 of The Raiders’ greatest fans,” as they recall who was there for them as they were a “long way from home, surrounded by concern and apprehension of what was in store for their future. “They went into combat knowing there were those who loved and supported them,” as the general spoke through his own tears at the recollection. “Paul Revere was remembered as a truly great American and patriot.”

Next to speak was Brig. Gen. Bill Shawver, Retired USAF, who shared his personal memories of that same fall in 2004 when Paul, Sydney, and the Raiders came to focus their attention on the needs of the service personnel that day. Gen. Shawver was also aware of Paul’s devotion to the important Ride to the Wall Foundation for Vietnam vets. “The energy Paul displayed on stage would only be surpassed by what he did that week in Alexandria,” said Gen. Shawver.

Gen. Shawver was the logistician for the occasion of Operation Thanksgiving, as he shared personal recollections of the event. Joke by joke, song by song, there was complete immersion by the audience in what Paul and the band were doing. At the conclusion of the concert, Paul stayed to take photos with everyone who wanted to, and he even talked on the soldiers’ cell phones to their parents, the loved ones of those departing for combat, because they knew their parents would appreciate that so much. Paul was not fatigued; rather he was energized and matched these “youngsters” beat for beat.

Choking back the tears welling up, Gen. Shawver recounted how one young man had handed a set of dog tags to Paul, as he shared, “These belonged to my dad and I want to give them to you for being here with us.” Paul put those tags in his pocket and promised to take care of them, wishing the young man safety and a quick return. One man’s heart, one man’s soul, one man’s spirit reached across the divide of generations and made a permanent impression in the hearts of valiant warriors and new soldiers alike that occasion. That was who Paul Revere was, a man whose greatest deeds and works remained essentially buried in privacy until governors and generals paraded forth to share their memories with all who only thought they knew Paul well.

Paul and Sydney could have easily taken leave of the group at any point that day, but Gen. Shawver said, “They stayed with Gov. Kempthorne, standing for six hours, in conversation, serving meals in the true spirit of that Operation Thanksgiving weekend. The entire event came about as the result of a single phone call, placed by Kempthorne to Revere, who located him on his cell phone.

As the former Idaho governor, Dirk Kempthorne, took his turn at eulogizing Paul, he described with pride the initial phone call that started Operation Thanksgiving in the first place. The call went something like this:

Phone rings. Paul answers. “Hi, Gov. What’s up?” “I’m just taking a shot here, but is there any way you and the Raiders could come to Alexandria for the deployment of the 116th?” “Cool, absolutely, when is it? Wow. I’ll get right back to you.” Two hours later the governor related was walking across the parking lot at Boise State University as his phone rang. Paul was calling. “Gov, we’re all in. We’re all in.”

The deployment process took actually a full six days to accomplish, moving 4,300 troops is something the military trains regularly to do, but Paul Revere served his country as a civilian those same six days. Gov. Kempthorne said of Paul, “He would go through all the tents, sit on the bunks and talk to these soldiers, one on one. He went to chapel with us. This man invested every amount of the fiber of his spirit into the citizens who were wearing the uniform in a call to duty.” “When the last of the 116th brigade was deployed, there was a battalion still in Alexandria not attached to the 116th. They were there from the eastern United States, and there was no one there from their state to wish them Godspeed,” Kempthorne noted. “They were to deploy 24 hours later, and I’d already told the team to go home as we’d completed our mission. But Paul stayed that extra day, to be with those who had no one there, making sure at least he would be there.” From the podium, he spoke personally to Sydney, Paul’s daughter Jody, and his son Jamie: “That’s the man he was.”

As Gov. Kempthorne noted the presence of current Idaho governor Butch Otter at the funeral as well, you have to pause for a big moment and think about the dignity with which the state of Idaho viewed Paul, the regard in which he was held throughout his lifetime, and the way he could easily shape a state’s heritage by recognizing and respecting the soldiers from that state, in just that one show, but that was not the only time. There were several decades of work Paul did with the Ride to the Wall Foundation as well.

One by one, Paul’s life and times as a musician were noted by Keith Allison, Roger Hart, Larry Leasure and Phil Volk. Each shared musical stories of the touring band, of the height of the career. Each story was told with love; favorite Bible verses were shared, and memories filled the sanctuary.

Phil Volk said, “Next to my Mom and Elvis Presley, Paul Revere was my next biggest musical influence. He taught me how to write.” Fang was funny as he shared one special memory about how Paul was fearless. It was when the Raiders had flown down to the Dominican Republic on a C-130 cargo ship. There was a performance at one army base, where no one in the band felt like they were connecting with the audience. “A big, tall Green Beret came marching up to Paul, and sort of smiled as he stared at him. We were all sort of worried. We shouldn’t have. Paul grabbed a mike, walked the man up to the middle of the stage and said, ‘You know what your problem is? You have the wrong kind of hat.’ And with that, he took the Green Beret’s beret and put his own three-cornered hat on the soldier. Paul finished the show wearing the beret. We were so glad the soldier let Paul live that night.”

Then there was Paul, the everyman, comfortable around everyone. As the invited guest of Robert Redford, for the world premiere of the movie “Jeremiah Johnson,” Revere and Redford hung out together the whole night, two men who are iconic to those who don’t know them, and to those who do as well.

Volk brought the crowd to near tears of laughter as he described a St. Louis stopover during a 1960s concert tour sponsored by Columbia Records, promoting their latest album at the time. They’d arrived at the corporate promotion of Paul Revere riding a horse up the steps of the Plaza Hotel in St. Louis. Not only did Paul ride up the steps, he managed to stay in the saddle to get the horse through the front doors and right into the lobby and paused at the front desk to register. It all unfolded so fast, and then the fine steed decided to drain his bladder over the $50,000 Persian carpet. Fang remembered they sent Columbia the bill for the carpet cleaning. Those were the days of grandiose, outlandish “what’s next around the corner” minute-by-minute Raider-style fun.

Keith Allison brought the words of comfort from Keri Clark, widow of Dick Clark, on behalf of the family, and shared that with rare exception, Dick Clark did not really fraternize with the artists he hired and showcased on television programs. Paul Revere was the one exception, and they were good friends. Again, Paul was singled out as the one for whom people made extra time.”

Allison also shared memories sent to him from Freddy Weller to share that day. Weller described Paul as honest, a man of integrity and one who knew how to treat his fellow man, a true hero. Allison also brought the somber group to laughter as he shared stories of living in Boise, times with the band on the road and then another poignant moment about Sydney, the love of Paul’s life.

Keith related that one day out of the blue, Revere called him and said, “You have to come to Atlantic City! Syd’s starring in ‘Some Like it Hot!’ So Keith goes and Paul said, “I have to take some pictures of these great display boards because Syd’s on them!” So he did. And then they loaded into a rental car, and Keith drove as they went up and down the highway so Paul could take a photo of all of the Harrah’s billboards advertising the production. There were many! There was even one Harrah’s billboard high atop traffic in an isolated location on a deserted road. Paul said, “I have to get a shot of that!” So he climbed on top of the billboard (both men were in their 50s at the time, but remember, Paul was fearless!) and then Keith said, “I had to climb on top of the car to get that shot!” The mourners could not help but fall into laughter as they could imagine Paul’s love for Sydney as high as the highest billboard in New Jersey! Allison’s parting words were a perfect introduction for the photo montage: “Some people dream, some people live. We got to live our dreams. Sleep well my friend.”

Bill Medley followed and said, “Paul Revere was a soulmate, we worked together every chance we got.” That friendship and musical alliance took them from Las Vegas to Branson, and places in between. Medley also spoke of their last phone conversation together. Bill knew Paul had called to say goodbye. “He asked me to keep an eye on Syd and take care of her,” and I said, “Of course, we will all be there for Syd and care for her.”

Medley then moved to play piano while his daughter McKenna sang the words to a favorite hymn, “Precious Lord, take my hand, lead me home.” To close the service, Rev. Anders shared his reflection on the service that had just taken place in the Revere family church, and how he had introduced his own children to the music of the man whose memory was being honored that day. Those watching live stream, thanks to the consideration of Paul’s family, felt that they too had been a part of his tribute and memorial. But that’s not where the story ends.

When Paul was in his final days battling cancer, he rebranded the band as Paul Revere’s Raiders, because he wanted the music everyone loved to live on beyond his life. He asked each of his band members to keep it going, for his sake, and together they have. Their first concert of 2015 came in Las Vegas, in two nights at the South Point Casino.

On Saturday, Jan. 4, two friends came on stage, Las Vegas resident and The Buckinghams’ Nick Fortuna and Phil ‘Fang’ Volk. Together the band and Fang performed “Kicks,” complete with the trademark Raider dance moves. On Tuesday following the Vegas weekend, a Raiders fan sent Sirius-XM’s 60s on 6 morning man, Phlash Phelps, a picture of Nick, Darren Dowler, and Fang, and Phlash talked about the excitement of the weekend.

“For Fang, it was like riding the proverbial bike again—you just don’t forget.” Phlash shared communications he had with Raiders’ drummer Tom Scheckel: “Fang brought down the house, and both he and Nick were great to come up and join us for the encore as well, and in large part secured a standing ovation for us.” Phlash added his own thoughts how wonderful it was that the brilliant history of musicians who were part of the Raiders’ band at one time, and the colleagues who’d performed together in so many venues over the past 35 years together as The Buckinghams and The Raiders, have been doing the past months. On Sunday evening, on stage with the Raiders, singer Bill Medley told a couple of great “inside” stories, and sang “You’ve Lost That Lovin’ Feeling.”

Scheckel said that several band members had been contacted by so many celebrities who had lifetime friendships with Paul, each offering to do anything they could to share music and memories, should they ever be needed. Phlash also noted the magnanimous gesture of musician and band leader Paul Shaffer, who’d offered to come out to the first show the Raiders performed following Revere’s passing on Nov. 11, 2014. With Paul’s schedule on “The Late Show with David Letterman” and the concert date, the logistics didn’t work out to have that happen, but the offer was like gold, prized by each of Paul Revere’s Raiders.

If fans are thinking about Paul, particularly as the Where the Action Cruise is about to sail this coming weekend, visit the website for the Ride to the Wall Foundation; the board president is Larry Leasure, and Sydney Revere remains on the Foundation’s Board of Directors. Funds are dispersed to several approved veteran’s outreach programs.

Paul Revere would have been 77 years old on Jan. 7. His 76 years of life here were much like the Spirit of ’76, with patriotism, love of his fellow man, appreciation for great music and his ability to entertain and share his gifts–fairly, generously and consistently–the legacy he leaves behind. Paul Revere left all of his fans a special gift—his band, Paul Revere’s Raiders.

For every time they play, for every Raiders song, from all the early years and with some of the lesser known but beloved hits that they perform, they’re doing it for Paul with enthusiasm. The music lives on because the Raiders keep rocking. Darren Dowler, Ron Foos, Doug Heath, Danny Krause, Jamie Revere, and Tommy Scheckel are there to preserve the spirit Paul left here.

Together, they are band who continues to be, as one radio DJ aptly tagged them, “the keepers of the flame.”

[Editor's note: The band is still very active in performing, keeping Paul's spirit alive and the band's music going strong. You can catch their tour dates on their website: http://paulreveresraiders.com/tour/]

Friday, December 18, 2015

Clifford Bell Finds the Corner of Jazz and Cabaret is a Perfect Avenue for Philanthropy

Have you heard about “Season’s Greetings from the Corner of Jazz and Cabaret”? Set for Sunday, Dec. 20, at 7:00 p.m. in the popular E Spot Lounge in Studio City, California, all the buzz on Facebook promises an unforgettable evening of holiday music, jazz standards, and Broadway entertainment. Producers Tiffany Bailey and Clifford Bell are hosting a benefit in support of vocalist Kiki Ebsen’s nonprofit, The Healing Equine Ranch, in Agoura Hills. In an interview exclusively for examiner.com, Clifford Bell told us how plans for this incredible evening happened.

It was classic Hollywood kismet, where the universe reached out to a central LA jazz force, to begin a conversation with a cosmic Broadway and cabaret producer. Together they agreed that audiences love bringing jazz and cabaret together for an evening. Discussion ensued, and cosmic brilliance happened. Oh, and the elegant, talented actress and singer, Lee Meriwether, is the surprise angel, who floats down to top the beautiful musical Christmas tree they’re decorating for just one night. Only in Hollywood.

Cathy Segal-Garcia is known best as an acclaimed jazz performer, recording artist and international vocal leader and mentor, whose inspirational workshops have launched many career artists. There’s a reason she was nominated for the Jazz Del Corazon Award this year (“or Women Movers-and-Shakers of the L.A. Jazz scene”). Clifford Bell, replete with an impressive Broadway and cabaret producer, talent managing, and entertainment resume, brings all his talents to the discussion.

Then, Cathy immediately recommended Kiki Ebsen, whose recent concert evenings singing jazz in New York and Los Angeles have actually started to overarch her golden reputation as a first-call touring singer and musician. The conversation is then even more animated and exciting, exploring the possibilities.

Ultimately, the organizational plan for the event went safely into Bell’s hands, as his other credits include producing and directing beloved TV and film actors from Broadway stages and performing arts centers. If you’ve never heard Peter Gallagher (“The Good Wife,” “The O.C.,” “While You Were Sleeping”) sing, you’ve missed out. Actress, comedienne, and Golden Globe winner, Katey Sagal (“Sons of Anarchy,” “Married with Children”), a powerful vocalist, and her band, toured the country under Bell’s direction.

Conversation continues as Bell brought in his newest friend to co-produce; Tiffany Bailey is a talented singer whose career work includes the nonprofit “Autism Speaks.” Bell staged his Thanksgiving-themed “Giving Thanks” concert in November for Bailey’s favorite cause. Now picture what happens when the conversation ramps up. These “discussions” resulted in what promises to be an unforgettable night of music at The E Spot Lounge, a popular intimate venue above Vitello’s in Studio City.

(Photo by Greg Spurlock: Tiffany Bailey, Al Garcia, Dori Amarilio)

So, when Clifford heard Kiki Ebsen’s album, “Scarecrow Sessions,” produced by David Mann, a comprehensive jazz tribute to the music of Buddy Ebsen’s (her father) career, he invited Kiki to join him in discussing her music career as well as her equal passion, The Healing Equine Ranch, and its mission. His interview with Kiki on his “Cabarabia” podcast on Global Voices Broadcasting with Dec. 14 can be heard here.

And now a few words about the surprise. One of Buddy Ebsen’s premiere television roles was his show, “Barnaby Jones,” co-starring the lovely and talented Lee Meriwether. From the day she earned the title of Miss America, until present day, Meriwether has remained a consummate talent and beauty, still very active in films. A colleague of Bell’s had worked with Lee in an independent film that garnered close to 20 Film Festival awards. And, she’d been a recent guest on Clifford Cabarabia podcast. Said Bell, “She’s every bit as lovely as she always was, sweet as she can be.” So, with the upcoming event in the works, Clifford was determined to surprise Kiki. He invited Meriwether to the event in support Kiki’s The Healing Equine Ranch, she immediately accepted, saying, “Absolutely, I’d love to join you all.” The chance for Kiki to be reunited with Lee, such a dear friend and respected colleague of Buddy’s —in support of The Healing Equine Ranch—was destined to be the brightest package under Kiki’s Christmas tree this season. Thus, it’s appropriate for Clifford to be wearing that Santa hat you see in the profile photo!

(Photo: Kiki Ebsen and Lee Meriwether, Photo by Greg Spurlock)

Bell also shared about the talented singers assembled for the evening: “Francesca Amari is a very celebrated cabaret performer, who just had a very successful engagement in New York, with her tribute show about Gilda Radner, celebrating the 40th year since Gilda began her career on “Saturday Night Live.”

Valerie Swift Bird has had a career in musical theatre and dance, played Cassie in “A Chorus Line” and she’s transitioning into a career in jazz. “She’s very beautiful and she’s going to do a really fun set.” L. Aviva Diamond is “a newcomer to the jazz scene and she’s fascinating, because she has a background as an award-winning network TV journalist. She was an on-air reporter, tracking down amazing stories, and she’s had a lot of success as a fine artist. About a year ago, Aviva began classes with Cathy, and this show will be her very first jazz debut. She will be wonderful!”

(Photo Right: Greg Spurlock Photo, Tiffany Bailey and Valerie Swift Bird.)

Daniel Friedman is a friend of Tiffany Bailey’s, Bell explained. “He is a talented cantor who has this gorgeous voice. And, he spent 20 years on Broadway with a wonderful musical career, including “Cats” and “Les Miserables.” He is an amazing singer.”

“Cathy also invited the lovely and talent vocalist, Karen Celeste Kruz to join us; Karen and Al Garcia (our bass player for the evening) are a very popular musical duo here; they will both get raves!”

David Lucky is a “very celebrated singer/songwriter who is coming up the ranks. Virtually every review of his performances reflects his style as being a very young Randy Newman in many ways. He plays the piano and writes really brilliant, funny, moving songs; he’s a really hot property in the cabaret world,” Clifford allows.

Bell said, “What’s so exciting to me is the hybrid of the theatrical, lyric-driven cabaret people and the jazz people, where the emphasis is most on the musicianship , compared to the lyrical aspect, while focused on the tempos and the rhythms. That’s a very broad distinction, but I’m always a big proponent of mixing it up, because the two forms really do belong together, and many will appreciate the chemistry among the group of people we’ve gathered for the evening.”

Bryan Miller is one of the “kings of the piano bar world in Los Angeles and has been so for many years here. He and his partner, singer Gilmore Rizzo, are fantastic together and have a lot of fun, crowd-pleasing entertainment-oriented shows that are vastly popular here!”

Alexandra Theodora Spurlock, at age 18, has just completed her first semester at the Boston Conservatory of Music. “She’s a young woman who I’ve had the privilege of working with since she was 14 years old. An exceptional talent, the best way to describe her is as a powerhouse belter. That says it all.” “This ingénue will raise the roof,” Bell assures.

Of Kiki Ebsen, Bell shared on his Facebook page, “Her CD, ‘Scarecrow Sessions’ is so exquisite and heartwarming that I spent the evening wrapped in its spell…beautifully conceived and executed; first class vocals, arrangements, and production.”

Photo by Greg Spurlock: Clifford Bell, Kiki Ebsen, Lee Meriwether

Now, making all the great music happen behind this vocal collective, the band for the evening includes musical directors Mark Massey and Steve Rawlins on piano. Bell said, “Both are extraordinary guys with big jazz chops. Rawlins tours a lot with Steve March-Tormé, Mel’s son, and he’s written several books on jazz arranging; he’s very accomplished.” Mark Massey, I met through Karen about six months ago, and he is unbelievable, jaw-dropping great.” Dori Amarilio on guitar is truly outstanding; and we’re delighted to welcome Al Garcia on bass for the first time this evening.” “Tom Bowe has been on drums on virtually every show I produce; he’s just the best,” allowed Bell, who will direct the entire evening.

Set for Sunday, Dec. 20, from 7:00 – 9:00 p.m., at The E Spot Lounge in Studio City, upstairs in Vitello’s Restaurant. Click here for VIP and general admission ticket info. If you don’t have tickets yet, you’re going to want to move quickly. The mission of The Healing Equine Ranch, “to educate, empower, and enlighten people through the natural interaction with horses,” is definitely in good hands, and can be located in Studio City, California on Sunday night, at the corner of jazz and cabaret.

Tuesday, November 17, 2015

Search No More for P.F. Sloan, for He is No Longer Among Us: Music Innovator Dead at 70

Jimmy Webb brings out a special guest star, British singer Rumer, to duet on "P.F. Sloan" during his concert at MacArthur Park, Los Angeles, June 15, 2013.

Philip Sloan deserved status as a music icon for most of his life; yet, for so long, he was denied that status until one good friend, Stephen Feinberg, convinced him it was time to tell his story and finally set the record straight, for perpetuity. Philip Gary Schlein, known early as Phil, best known as P.F. Sloan, died on the evening of Nov. 15, after a brief battle with pancreatic cancer. As a press release from publicist Sangeeta Haindl noted today, “The world has lost one of its great talents.”

In June 2014, Sloan and Feinberg published “What’s Exactly the Matter With Me: Memoirs of a Life in Music” (Jawbone Press). As soon as it was released, people who thought they knew P.F. Sloan very well by his music found instead that they had known nothing at all about the man or the indignities he’d suffered for years, how he paid the genuine price for his success when those who were jealous and more powerful wreaked their havoc onto his career. The memoirs, resplendent with perfect recall and genuine grace as they’re related, include his affiliations and influences on surfer music, such as Bruce & Terry (Johnston and Melcher, respectively), Terry Black, The Fantastic Baggys, and Jan & Dean, and across two generations of classic rock.

Music textbooks are filled with Phil’s songwriting and producing success for artists like Barry McGuire, The Grass Roots, The Turtles, Herman’s Hermits, Johnny Rivers, The Fifth Dimension, but the true stories of how the events actually occurred are mind-bending.

It’s beyond poignant that P.F. Sloan’s best-known composition, “Eve of Destruction,” which defined Barry McGuire as a musical artist, came back to life in the titles of newspaper and magazine articles published in the earliest hours after the tragic attack on Paris last weekend, by the radical attackers who seek to inspire fear with their actions.

Yet, the song’s words first resonated with a generation that was transforming its impression of war as a brave act to preserve freedom into a gathering of protest groups springing up across America as young minds were led to question authority as well as military service with the war in Vietnam.

A breakout song for those who would not follow the paths of their fathers, “Eve of Destruction” became the anthem of what society called “radicals” back then. Bob Dylan said of the song,” “There are no more escapes. If you want to find out anything that’s happening now, you have to listen to the music; I don’t mean the words. Though, 'Eve Of Destruction' will tell you something about it.”

All too poignantly, today the title of the song and its lyrics are the centerpiece of commentary from the opposite end of the political spectrum, as the lyrics and message of the song hit home for an entirely different mindset. Music is the message the sender emits into the universe and the receiver absorbs the message and embraces it at such point where it resonates and hits home with the one hearing it. p> For many years, Sloan’s frequent coauthor was Steve Barri and the Sloan-Barri hit factory was subsumed by Dunhill Records. Both yesterday and today, it seems that Lou Adler gets all of the credit for The Mamas and The Papas, when in fact the heavy lifting was essentially Phil Sloan’s— from songs to early guitar playing on the records, and creating their trademark sound in the Dunhill studios.

Mostly these days, Adler gets credit for the resurgence of the music of Carole King, and the multi-Grammys of “Tapestry,” and for his easy-to-spot beret atop his head while sitting next to Jack Nicholson at Los Angeles Laker games. Back in his earliest years, it is now clear that Lou was a suit with a primary penchant for spotting talent, hooking it to his line, reeling it in, and getting the very best part of the unsuspecting fish out, before casting the remains into the ocean deep, never (he thought) to be heard from again. Egos, power, and poor judgment perhaps explain Adler’s treatment of Sloan. But, worse yet was John Phillips’ (The Mamas and Papas) treatment of Phil, the classic dog biting the hand that fed him relationship. Of course John Phillips’ errors in judgment throughout his life as are long as the Apple iPhone Terms and Conditions agreement.

One story from the book: Phil was invited, together with Jimmy Webb, to the earliest planning meetings of the Monterey Pop Festival, and walking into a room he found cluster of egos and ended up being booted from playing guitar (with The Mamas and The Papas) and, further, threatened with a knife to his face by John Phillips from showing up at ‘his’ Monterey Pop Festival. From his memoirs, John Phillips said, “Do you think I called you here to my home to get your opinion on our festival?...I called you here to give you fair warning that I’ll have you killed if you show up in Monterey. Are we clear?”

Soon after telling John Phillips off, Phil checked around for Jimmy Webb, couldn’t find him, and gave up and drove down to Santa Monica. “It turns out that Jimmy Webb was looking for me, while I was looking for him. When he couldn’t find me, he etched the scene in his mind, and a couple of years later came the key lyrics to Phil’s namesake song, “I have been seeking P.F. Sloan but no one knows where he has gone…” Incidentally, it wasn’t like good people didn’t try to warn him about the Dunhill gang. After a meeting Bob Dylan said to Sloan privately, “I’ve been wanting to tell you something, Phil. Those guys at Dunhill are going to tear you up. You’re not safe there.’ Sloan replied, “I’ll watch myself.” “You better,” said Bob. Robert Zimmerman was right.

How Jay Lasker, Bobby Roberts and Lou Adler treated P.F. Sloan, as you read his words, is a story filled with greed, hatred, and rejection that is sickening to realize, particularly as the hit records of the Grass Roots on the radio were essentially created by Sloan, with the obligatory “together with Steve Barri” whistling in the wind. Despite being ripped off in more ways than one, royalties the biggest asset purloined, without care or regard for the genius to whom they belonged, Phil still created hits. He had that much talent.

Even before that, life at the peak of success was unsettling for Sloan, as he felt truly the outsider in the world of musicians he was helping to make famous. P.F. Sloan began life as simply as any unknown, but nevertheless was an inspired young man from Brooklyn who many considered a prodigy. In a scene at the St. James Club, “McGuire and I were seated at a booth with Paul McCartney and Mick Jagger. I thought to myself that I must be here by some Divine plan, but was this really what success looked and felt like?”

"(Barry) McGuire was having the time of his life. Everyone seemed dizzy with happiness. But what was the matter with me? I wasn’t getting it. I was trying to have a good time. I really was. I knew I was alive. I just didn’t feel like I knew how to survive in this reckless life style. All these people were older than me, and they were, after all, my role models. If this was what they did to celebrate life then I would need to learn to get with the program.”

Chaos, self-destructive behavior, and valiant efforts to fit in led to despair, poor health, and a propensity for bad luck in Sloan’s life for many years. The lowest point of all was when Dunhill’s Jay Lasker made him sign away all of his royalties, plus threatened his life. As Phil describes his final interaction with Lasker, the conversation was (from his memoir):

"I just had a nice chat with Steve” (Barri), he said. ‘Here’s what’s going to happen. You’re going to leave Los Angeles and never come back. You’re going to do this within twenty-four hours, or your parents or your sister or anyone else you care about may come to regret knowing a boy named P.F. Sloan.’ ‘I want to talk to Lou,’ I said. ’This has nothing to do with Lou, Sloan. This is about you and me….mostly you. I’ve had the papers drawn up. Before you leave the office, you’re going to sign it’….’We own your contracts for the next ten years so you can’t record anywhere else. We’re not firing you. We’re just telling you that you can’t work here or anywhere’….’All of the money that will come into Dunhill Records from P.F. Sloan will be split between the three partners. Oh…one more point, I’m pretty sure that I own the name P.F. Sloan and that we can have any writer we want to be P.F. Sloan.”

That was not to be even the worst time in Sloan's life; there was even more still to come. That is, however, why Phil vanished from the music scene, to protect his own life and those of his loved ones, out of sheer fear and terror. Lasker retired in 1987 and died of cancer at age 65, in 1989. His obituary in the New York Times is, appropriately, one of the shortest ever published.

Despite this despicable treatment, things truly turned around for P.F. Sloan. His memoirs reflect the final years of Phil’s life as one of religious experiences of grace, of complete and total forgiveness for all who sought his forgiveness and even for those who didn’t appreciate the fact that he had only love and compassion in his heart, down to even John Phillips and John Sebastian, both of whom asked him for forgiveness and he gave it to them.

The song written about him, “P.F. Sloan” was first recorded by author Jimmy Webb and later covered by The Association, Jennifer Warnes, and British Band Unicorn, as Wikipedia notes, as well as the British singer, Rumer. Poignantly, it was Rumer with whom Phil performed in concert in London in his first public appearances upon the publication of his biography.

Last time I saw P.F. Sloan He was summer burned and winter blown He turned the corner all alone But he continued singing Yeah now, listen to him singing…” Lyrics from “P.F. Sloan,” by Jimmy Webb, Canopy Music"

Also in 2014, Sloan released an album “My Beethoven” (Foothill Records) that contained nine new original songs that Phil shared are “beautiful and will stir your heart and soul.” In May 2014 the team of Sloan and Feinberg completed a musical play, “Louis! Louis! The Real Life and Times of Beethoven)”. More information on the play is found on the same website.

In classic rock, many talented people have attained accolades, awards, and acknowledgment befitting their status as relevant, important, or groundbreaking for their work. The spotlight has shined on many but has missed hitting many more, who are equally as deserving. The Rock and Roll Hall of Fame is a perfect example of one man’s preference prevailing over those of millions of fans who actually embrace and live in the beauty of the music that defined the 1960s and 1970s. In 2015, P.F. Sloan and Steve Barri were 2015 nominees for induction to the Songwriter's Hall of Fame.

If you’re not “in with the in-crowd,” you essentially exist in obscurity. That is, unless you have a friend like Steve Feinberg, whom you trust to lead you out of the darkness and back into the light. P.F. Sloan had to wait 45 years to find all those who’d been looking to find him, if only to say “Thank you for your music.”

After the success of his memoir, Sloan enjoyed a limited but incredibly popular personal appearance tour in venues he chose to be. People had a chance to thank him, and he was as gracious and loving and appreciative as a man who survived trekking over a vast desert greets a glass of cool water.

Phil’s collaborator and co-author, Stephen Feinberg, anchored him as together they told the public whatever had happened to Sloan. When the book was published in 2014, among the very first to reach out was Mike Somavilla, a rock music historian and San Francisco Bay area music promoter, who immediately called his good friend, Harold Adler, with the concept of creating Sloan's first major U.S. public appearance with a concert and book signing at Adler's Art House Gallery & Cultural Center in Berkeley.

Mike contacted Phil and said, “Just read your book; you have to come to Berkeley and meet a few people. And please bring your guitar.” And, that was all it took for Mike Somavilla to get Phil Sloan and his co-author Steve Feinberg to come see Mike, and a sold-out crowd at Berkeley’s favorite in-spot for music you can enjoy, in a peaceful atmosphere free from distractions.”

Poignantly one man named Adler provided the perfect spot for Somavilla to make sure that the “wrongs were righted” and who passionately wanted Phil to tell his story, thus righting the wrongs done by another man named Adler. Feinberg’s first-call photographer and good friend, Joaquin Montalvan, took the historic photos shared here. It was sit-on-the-floor night at the Art House as all the chairs were taken in the blink of an eye in July, 2014, the month after the book was published.

From that point, Feinberg accompanied Phil to several memorable book signings, one of which was also groundbreaking. In October, 2014, in the Community Room of the South Pasadena Library, two previously unannounced musicians joined Phil for an evening of music and memories. Among the crowd were John York of the Byrds, Donna Loren, Steve Kalinich, and Jared Cargman, an original Fantastic Baggys band member.

They made more Grass Roots history that night, when Warren Entner and Creed Bratton joined Phil in singing songs that Phil had either co-written or produced for the Grass Roots. A band in name only at first, created after Sloan/Barri crafted, recorded and produced hits under this assumed name, with no real band, just incredibly gifted studio musicians on the songs.

Before the great Diesel bookstore closed in Malibu, one of their final public events was a book signing featuring Phil and Creed Bratton that drew another standing-room-only event. In that audience were more colleagues from the same music era, including Steve Kalinich, Danny Rutherford and his wife Marilyn Wilson Rutherford (The Honeys, and mother to Carnie and Wendy Wilson by father, Brian).

At these concert/book signings, Feinberg said, “During the show I noticed several people in the audience weeping, as was the clerk at the bookstore, both on Sunset Strip as well as at the Art House & Cultural Gallery. The trigger of nostalgia can be very, very strong, though the clerk was too young to remember the songs.” The list of songs that do not define, but do comprise the music of P.F. Sloan is lengthy, those being the hits he wrote and produced for others.

In 2009 journalist Mike Ryan interviewed Phil, asking him, "In the last 40 years, how has music changed, say, for yourself? Sloan replied, "I wish there was something positive to say in that regard. I am generally an upbeat, positive soul. I mean that what we're witnessing is basically the implosion and destruction of the music business as it was known, not that it was a positive entity, but it was an entity that we were used to. Just for people that aren’t that involved in the business aspect of it, there was distribution of how to get the music into your store and you’d buy it and you’d listen to it. That doesn’t exist anymore, at least in most places; there aren't any stores anymore."

I think the main point, which I’d like to give Bob Lefsetz credit for, is that there is no culture of music anymore. There was a time, and I’m paraphrasing what he said, and I really agree with it. There was a time when we were involved in a culture of music. It was important to hear this new album by Pink Floyd. It was important to hear certain bands. They became your North Star. That doesn’t exist anymore."

Sloan continued, "You can’t go on a major television show and try and create a culture…Going on television shows and promoting your music is not selling music. Basically, I’ve witnessed the loss of the culture, the excitement, of someone who speaks from their heart, and soul and consciousness and raises yours. People would understand Elvis Presley or The Beatles or The Stones or Procol Harum or the Beach Boys….not just the 60s…there were 70s and 80s groups, Foreigner, etc., but the culture is gone, that’s all. It doesn’t exist." It's true enough, and those who were fortunate enough to be there at the time, or even today to learn from those times are the benefactors and guardians of the memories of those times, and curator of the culture for generations to come.

Sloan created songs that forever are remembered as performed by literally some of the most talented musicians of our time. Whether he is properly remembered as having the role in crafting the message to all who hear the music is unknown. One thing is for sure. The true talents among his colleagues in music never forgot him. Today on Twitter, songwriter and friend Jimmy Webb posted “prayers for the family of PF Sloan and for those who loved his music. A great loss.”

Sloan’s memoirs collectively shaped by Steve Feinberg describe one night in music memory:

The first group onstage was The Grass Roots, who began their set with ‘Mr. Jones’ and followed it with ‘Where Were You When I Needed You?’ and ‘Live for Today.’ Next came Herman’s Hermits, who did, among others ‘A Must to Avoid,’ ‘Hold On,’ and ‘All The Things That I Do for You, Baby.’ The Kingsmen did ‘Louie, Louie’ followed by ‘That’s Cool, That’s Trash.’ Paul Revere & The Raiders did a set, as did The Buckinghams. And then The Turtles took the stage. They started with ‘It Ain’t Me Babe’ and went through ‘Let Me Be,’ ‘You Baby,’ ‘Can I Get To Know You Better,’ and all their other great hits. When they got to ‘Is It Any Wonder,’ Howard Kaylan paused. He spoke quietly, taking the audience into his confidence, as if speaking to old friends. ‘I wonder where Phil Sloan is tonight.’”

This night, we wonder no more where Phil is. We know. His final words in his book should be the final ones here.

I had climbed the mountain, by His grace, after falling off it more times than I can count, and I got to watch the show from that unique and marvelous vantage point. May God bless us all with an unselfish heart and mind so that we may make each day better than the one before for each and every one of us. Lokah Samastah Sukhino Bhavantu. May all beings in the world know peace and happiness. P.F. Sloan”

Amen, and amen, Philip. May love and light be yours on your journey forward. You and your work lives still on the minds and in the hearts of those you know, and even more you never met, but who love you all the same.

Article first published on examiner.com 11/17/15

Wednesday, November 11, 2015

Kiki Ebsen Guest of Central Texas Medical Orchestra in People’s Community Clinic Fundraiser

(Photo credit: TCV Media, used with permission.)

Since 1970 Austin, Texas, has been able to provide “high quality, affordable healthcare with dignity and respect” for the medically underserved and uninsured in central Texas, thanks to the nonprofit People’s Community Clinic. Volunteer doctors and nurses funded this important organization in a church basement, paving the way for other community healthcare organizations, which is “one of the oldest continually-running independent clinics for primary care in America.”

The hearts and minds of caring medical practitioners started this initiative, and some 45 years later, who better to partner with in a dynamic fundraiser than the Central Texas Medical Orchestra, a group of “medical professionals who enjoy music fellowship and performance outlets that raise funds in support of local health-related nonprofits.” The Saturday, Nov. 14, the CTMO is offering an exciting evening of music and memories, at St. Michael’s Episcopal Church, starring the acclaimed vocalist and songwriter, Kiki Ebsen. Popular violinist Bryan Hall is also be featured in this second musical partnership event between the PCC and CTMO. The Central Texas Medical Orchestra is led by Musical Director, Dr. Robert Radmer.

Speaking by phone from Los Angeles yesterday, Kiki Ebsen said in her travels as a vocalist and musician, Austin was one of her favorite venues to perform in and that she was “very excited to be coming back to Austin to perform with the scholar-artists of the Central Texas Medical Orchestra to support the People’s Community Clinic. She said, “My father, Buddy Ebsen, began his college career as a pre-med major; he wanted to become a doctor, but economic challenges forced him to give up that dream.” Turns out that his second career choice, as a dancer, led to New York’s Broadway stage, then film, television and various recording projects, as he would discover a hidden talent for songwriting and singing among his myriad gifts and talents.

From father to daughter, a love of entertainment was passed on, as Kiki grew up watching her dad perform. Although he suggested she use her vocal gifts for jazz as a natural outlet, she was more interested in listening to Heart, Alice Cooper, and plenty of hard rock. For the past 20 years, Kiki’s voice and keyboards have been heard on international tours backing Austin-favorite Christopher Cross, Boz Scaggs, Tracy Chapman, Wilson Phillips, James Ingram, Al Jarreau and the band Chicago.

Two years ago, Kiki said she “discovered a box in the attic of her mother’s home, which contained a true treasure trove of some of the most important times in his career,” previously unbeknown to his children. Among those prized mementos was Buddy’s original movie script from “The Wizard of Oz,” where he was originally cast as the Scarecrow.

As happens often in Hollywood, someone intercedes in casting decisions, and Louis B. Mayer decided that dancer Ray Bolger should be the Scarecrow, so Buddy was recast as the Tin Man instead. Speaking of medicine, early Hollywood makeup artists were clueless that massive doses of pure powdered aluminum painted on Buddy’s skin would lead to a critical respiratory system failure.

Bedridden in the hospital, as Buddy recuperated from the life-threatening accidental poisoning, producers proclaimed “the show must go on” and recast Jack Haley, Jr. as the Tin Man. That time, the makeup people learned from experience not to use aluminum. Buddy, of course, was devastated at losing the prime role in this now-iconic movie, but he never publicly shared his sorrow about that, not even with his own family. It was not until Buddy was in his 90s that he even told his children about the incident. Fortunately a few filmed scenes showing Buddy were included in the final film, which just celebrated its 75th anniversary year of popularity.

As an ode “to the big role that got away,” Kiki developed an album concept, “Scarecrow Sessions,” and recorded songs that were important to the films of Buddy’s career, including “Moon River” (“Breakfast at Tiffany’s”), “Codfish Ball (“Captain January”), “If I Only Had a Brain’ (“The Wizard of Oz”), plus a song Buddy wrote with music partner Zeke Ebsen, “Missing You,” a sultry haunting melody that Kiki sings poignantly and perfectly.

The schedule for the CTMO Fundraiser Concert evening starts at 6:30 p.m.–7:15 p.m., with “Growing up with Buddy,” a ticketed preconcert presentation by Kiki Ebsen, who will share what it was like growing up with a father who had the number-one rated show on national television. The evening’s concert begins at 7:30 p.m., and is held at St. Michael’s Episcopal Church, 1500 N. Capital of Texas Highway. Organizers say some tickets are still available, ranging from a very affordable $10 for students, to $15 and $20 for the public.

The Chief Executive Officer of the People’s Community Clinic is Regina Rogoff, JD, and a recent story on Latino Magazine.com notes that “individual donors provide almost half of PCC’s funding (a $12M operating budget),” which is extremely impressive as a measure of the heart of philanthropy in central Texas. They are tremendous stewards of the funds provided to them and the upcoming fundraiser, deep in the heart of Central Texas, will go a long way towards helping the mission of People’s Community Clinic continue to be served.

This Saturday, Ebsen said, “Come and listen to a story ‘bout a man named Jed,” and stay for a concert that will bring the glamor of Hollywood to Texas on the wings of piano, violin, orchestra, and Kiki Ebsen, an unforgettable evening of great music and generous philanthropy, courtesy of all those whose hearts and minds remain fixed on helping others.

Monday, October 26, 2015

In Loving Memory of the Lifetime of Inspiration of Ruth Chandler Clearfield, Sept. 4, 1930-Oct. 26, 2015

Exactly one year ago today, I wrote these words:

“The first of many standing ovations at the first BVSO concert of the season, Oct. 26, 2014, was most appropriately offered in appreciation for the announcement that Ruth Chandler Clearfield had been bestowed with Honorary Lifetime Membership, the BVSO’s highest honor. As Executive Director Mary Koeninger read a brief passage of the lovely full-page biography, listing just some of Ruth’s accomplishments and gifts for the BVSO since 1978, the capacity crowd that filled Rudder Theatre listened intently. The applause was loud, and long, for a woman whose listed litany of accomplishments still didn’t fully describe who she is and precisely what she has meant to keeping the BVSO alive and thriving in the Brazos Valley.”

Awaking this morning to seeing a Facebook instant message from a dear friend, who I’d asked to let me know when the final transition came, naturally I shed a few tears of sorrow, because the curtain had fallen on an era of a life devoted to volunteering, to making Bryan-College Station, the Brazos Valley as it’s often called, a better place to live. The week was beginning on an ending.

We’d been in touch regularly by e-mail throughout the last year of her illness, her preferred means of communication, as her days of strength and optimum times were unpredictable, and I liked having lasting memories of our chats committed to e-mail anyway. Looking back, I smiled about the word “exactly.” “Exactly one year ago today...” then I saw her words of this past July:

“On a happy note, since our both sons and I received our degrees from Ohio University we have established the Abraham, Ruth, Norman and Howard Clearfield Endowed Scholarship. We are going to Athens the week of August 10th...and we are looking forward to this very much. It's exactly one year since Abe and I have done any traveling... so this, too, is something I am looking forward to...”

Exactly one year...again. Ruth lived to make that trip, and she had opportunities to be with more of the people who cherish her life. Good works live on far beyond our time here, as do our memories of special people and what they mean to us, still. Ruth’s work is all around us in the Brazos Valley. Not all that many people are truly aware of what she did because she went to extreme lengths to obscure accolades for herself, because she was all about shining spotlights on others. That gave her great joy. You can spot her smiling in this favorite photo from an OPAS fundraiser.

Photo: Dec. 5, 1992 - Pre-event fundraiser for MSC OPAS White Nights Gala

Ruth touched countless lives in the communities where she lived, before the Brazos Valley as well as ours--arts, politics, civic activities, gourmet cooking, Weight Watchers, Texas A&M, Congregation Beth Shalom, and her neighborhood.

Health for All was a special passion as she was determined to provide medical care for those whose jobs didn’t provide it for their employees. She was an ambassador for anything good going on here, and going through two decades plus of files, I see her name at the head or on the committee of innumerable fund raisers, many of which I was one among countless who served, because she personally invited us to participate. Our loss is so substantive, yet the gifts of lessons, love, and life she shared stay with us permanently, and thus we are so fortunate.

Recently I’d told her about the Chicago with Earth Wind & Fire concert I’d just enjoyed and asked her what her favorite concert was of the past 10 years. Her answer? “I would have to say, without a doubt, that it was a PBS presentation of Itzhak Perlman playing Klezmer music, alone, and with other musicians. This is the kind of music I grew up with as a child - very nostalgic!” Here’s a link to aYouTube video I’m sure she’d enjoy: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=RiBxUsYqWMM

Ruth was a great advocate for PBS, undoubtedly. She and Abe contributed to KAMU-FM and KAMU-TV and reminded us often that the only reason they can stay on air is because we are here, and it was our duty to support them.

I first met Abe over 35 years ago, first as Dr. Clearfield, in the Department of Chemistry. I was entering graduate studies in the department and it was at the home of Bruno and Marge Zwolinski, my graduate professor, who were grand about hosting parties for the PChem division at a moment’s notice. In the Zwolinski home, I had a chance to see a collective of some of the most brilliant minds in chemistry in the world They had forgotten more in their lifetimes than I might ever hope to know.

Yet, in his gentle and unassuming way, Abe was so easy to talk to. He could speak with minds matching his at the highest level all the way down to new grad student, and make everyone feel comfortable. He proudly said, “I want you to meet my wife, Ruth. She is wonderful and she’s very involved in the community; she’s always looking for new volunteers.” Ruth and I had a great chat, and she equally praised Abe in return for all of his work in science. It was absolutely natural for them to speak of the other’s attributes with love, and it was so precious.

Later, Dean Clearfield was one of my immediate bosses in the College of Science, where he served as Associate Dean for many years. He ultimately returned to groundbreaking work in the field of zeolite chemistry, and again, Ruth was by his side every time he received one of many of his international honorary doctorates for his incredible contributions to the field.

Conversely, wherever Ruth was in volunteering, Abe was nearby, smiling, eyes shining with pride, beaming with love for his bride. Among favorite memories was spotting them sitting together at OPAS and BVSO concerts. Without thinking, they’d reach out for the other’s hand to hold as they enjoyed the music. For the almost 30 years I’ve known them, it has always been such a joy to be around them.

As much as they cherished each other, they were equally devoted to their sons, Norman and Howard, and their families. Ruth adored her sons and she loved being a grandparent. She loved people, life, and everything she did, without complaining, one of her greatest attributes.

I imagine that collectively our community is reflecting on Ruth’s life, remembering our personal interactions with her, the happiest of days, her brightest of impacts that she made, and we are now beaming, because we remember her with joy and love. We are all so very lucky that she was here. Exactly. The photo above is from the standing ovation Ruth received from the Brazos Valley Symphony Orchestra...exactly one year ago today. The kind of welcome I imagine she received entering Heaven this morning, just as she deserved. Exactly.