First, I want to extend my heartfelt thanks to Todd Alexander and Katy Waugh for reaching out to me and requesting that I write this article for the July 2021 edition of 'Phlockers Magazine.' Ironically, I have wanted to write an article on the friendship I shared with Greg 'Fingers' Taylor for quite some time now, so their kind invitation could not have come at a better time. Greg's Birthday is in June and mine in July. We are both celebrating significant birthdays this year, and I have been doing a tremendous amount of reflecting lately. My article ran a little bit too long, and they had to edit it a wee bit for their publication, so I am posting the unedited version here at JeffPike.com.
If you are a fan of Trop Rock music, Jimmy Buffett, and the tropical lifestyle, I want to encourage you to check out Phlockers Magazine. It is free and published monthly online at - http://phlockersmagazine.com/ - It is full of great information and is your one-stop shop for all things Trop Rock.
GREG 'FINGERS' TAYLOR - AN OLD ROCK N' ROLLER WHO HAD TO BE THERE
I have vivid memories which are dear to my heart of the first time I heard the music of Jimmy Buffett. It was during the summer of 1974, and I was in the 7th grade. Every summer for a few years in Junior High and High School, I worked for my Grandfather in South Carolina as a carpenter's assistant. I spent my days in the heat, caulking, puttying, painting, and sanding. I remember doing so much sanding that I could not even see my fingerprints by the end of the summer. Memories that stand out to me of the summer of '74 revolve around one house in particular that we worked at for several weeks. I worked mainly upstairs with a view that looked out over the next-door neighbor's pool. I would listen to the radio all day while I worked in anticipation of two teenage girls who would come out every day to enjoy a swim. But, being the shy boy I was and being on the clock, I never even considered working up the nerve to walk on over during my lunch break and introducing myself. 'Come Monday' was on the radio a lot that summer, and I fell in love with the song. In fact, every time I hear the original version, my mind goes back to the summer of 1974. Looking back now, it seems ironic that decades before Jimmy Buffett's music would become an enormous part of my life, I was dreaming of swimming pools, girls in bikinis, and getting away to the beach and forgetting about my teenage woes. I feel that, without a doubt, the Parrot Head mindset was hardwired entirely into my brain that summer.
After that summer, Jimmy Buffett's music was absent from my life until 1978, when I was offered two free tickets to see him at The Fox Theater. As fate would have it, it turned out to be a concert that would be recorded and make up half of his next album, 'You Had To Be There,' an album that would make a tremendous impact on me the following year. However, the timing was not perfect, for I had been invited to spend the week with my new girlfriend and her family in Mobile, Alabama, where she lived, at their beach house on Dauphine, Island. How is that for ironic coincidences? I did not even know that Jimmy Buffett was from Mobile at the time. So what does a young boy of 16, who is head over heels in love with music and rock and roll, do under these circumstances? Why he goes with the girl, of course.
Several months later, during my senior year in high school, I was gifted 'You Had To Be There' from my best friend and acoustic duo partner, Ken Mercer. I remember first hearing the album at his house in College Park, Georgia. When he put the needle down on side 1, the wild and most likely alcohol-soaked voice of Greg "Fingers" Taylor roared through the speakers introducing Mr. Jimmy Buffett. No offense to my then-girlfriend, for I had the time of my life in Mobile, but after just one song, I knew I had missed something extraordinary by not going to that show. That album was rarely off my turntable that year, and when it was, it was replaced by Dan Fogelberg. I did love Jimmy Buffett, but the voice and harmonica playing of Greg "Fingers" Taylor intrigued me greatly. I sensed he had soul and could most likely swing hard with the best of them. It was never even a dream, or much less occurred to me that we would one day become good friends and that he would be in my band for a while. You never know where the roads of life will take you.
The fall of 1979 saw me as a college freshman in Rome, Georgia. I spent a lot of time in the student lounge that year, and I remember 'Fins' playing over the music system frequently. I loved the song, but the coolest part of the song to me was the harmonica solo. So I immediately went out and bought 'Volcano.' Many nights of laying on my dorm room floor with my headphones on listening to that album were to follow. After that year, the music of Jimmy Buffett once again drifted out of my life. It wasn't until the release of 'Hot Water' in the summer of 1988 that love for his music would reenter my life, and like the memories of 'Come Monday' forever embedded in my mind, it was there to stay.
The history and story of how I started A1A-The Official and Original Jimmy Buffett Tribute Show with Scott Nickerson are well documented, so I will not go into that long history lesson here. So instead, let's jump into the way back time machine and go back to New Orleans sometime in the early 1990s. A1A performed at every Meeting Of The Minds Convention for, I believe, the first 12 or 13 years of its existence. During one of the very early shows in New Orleans, there was a rumor that Greg 'Fingers' Taylor was in town and that he may want to play. Naturally, I was instantly excited and nervous. After almost 30 years of Parrot Head madness, music, and mayhem, I have forgotten some of the details on how it came to be, but it was finally arranged that Greg would join us for one song.
The song chosen was 'Some White People Can Dance.' Like the rebel and wandering soul that he was during those years, he came at it like Chuck Berry. There would be no rehearsal. He would enter the building when it was time, jump onstage, make his mark, and quickly exit - and that is just what happened. I was very nervous and could not wait to have him join us. Luckily, the song was a staple in the A1A set at the time, and I had spent a lot of time perfecting the backing track we would be performing with. So I was confident. I still remember him making his way through the crowd and bouncing up onstage in his blue jeans and black tank tops. There was a quick introduction, and then we were off to the races. The sound was excellent, and the monitors were rocking, so everyone felt at ease. I remember my mind quickly time-traveled back to the fall of 1978 when I first heard 'You Had To Be There', and I could not believe where I was. I suppose you could say I was lost in a daydream while I was soaking in the moment. All was dreamy until it came time for his solo - holy cow - I had never heard anyone play harmonica like that in my life. Hearing Greg play on record and then standing beside him while he wails are two completely different experiences. I highly recommend the latter. I played a little harmonica in my youth, mostly Bob Dylan and Neil Young kind of stuff, but I never pursued it any further than that. Fingers totally floored me. His sound was huge. His tone was fat, warm, soothing, brutal, exciting, and comforting, all at the same time. He had complete control over his instrument, the crowd, and the stage. I was mesmerized and starstruck. Then as quickly as it began, it was over. Greg said thank you, bounced off the stage, and disappeared into the crowd in search of what a true bluesman loves the most, a drink and a pretty girl. I am quite confident he found them.
Over the next few years, A1A's star continued to rise as The Parrot Head Club movement grew rapidly. However, I did not see Greg again until I performed with Jimmy Buffett and The Coral Reefer band onstage at Lakewood Amphitheater in Atlanta, Georgia, in the summer of 1995. Unfortunately, we did not have a lot of time to reconnect, but he did compliment the success of A1A and my performance with Jimmy and the band. I was beaming. We had a short chat together, and he seemed to be in good spirits.
In 1997, Scott and I decided it was time to make our first CD, and naturally, we wanted it to be a live CD. We talked about having a special guest on the CD, and Greg 'Fingers' Taylor quickly came to mind. As luck would have it, he would be performing on the bill with A1A at the New England Parrot Head Convention in the fall of 1997. We took immediate advantage of this and asked him to join us for a few songs. He quickly and excitedly agreed. I was over the moon.
I have to mention here for those who may not know or did not have the opportunity to see A1A back when we were just a duo, but we played with very elaborate and energetic backing tracks, which were all programmed, recorded, and mixed by me—all those years as a keyboard player and tech nerd in the 80's finally paid off. Very few people were doing that back then, and it became a substantial part of our success for quite a while. Greg, however, was an authentic and down-to-earth blues musician. He was the real deal. Greg walked the walk, talked the talk, and could seriously back it up. He hated technology, and he hated drum machines and backing tracks. But he liked and respected me and A1A, so he agreed to play with us. Just like before, there would be no rehearsal, we would learn the songs, and I would program them and put the backing tracks together, sticking strictly to the arrangements on his albums. The songs he recorded with us were two of his songs, 'Drop Down Mama' and 'The Hammer,' and 'Steamer' by Jimmy Buffett. He sang lead and played harp on his two songs and just played harmonica on 'Steamer.' I remember vividly the time we spent alone in the dressing room before the show.
This was the first time I had ever had one-on-one time with Greg, and I intended to take advantage of it. We had some time to kill, so we got to know each other better. After some time (and a few shots) went by, I finally worked up the nerve to ask him if he would share some old stories with me about all of his time with 'Buffett.' I say that because he never called him Jimmy. He always referred to him as Buffett. Lucky for me, he was in a great mood and very willing to talk. I think back now and would have given anything to have had any kind of pocket recorder with me so that I could have recorded all of the insane stories he told me for posterity. This was long before iPhones, kiddies. Unfortunately, the stories I do remember him telling me I am unable to include for you here. I will say, however, that if even only half of the stories he told me are true, and I believe that they are, then all of the wild stories about booze, drugs, women, and insanity about The Coral Reefer Band's behavior in the 1970s, and the 1980s that you may have heard were highly understated. As the years moved on and Greg and I spent more time together, he would share other stories with me. Over time, I would begin to see, experience, feel, and understand firsthand the realities, temptations, and effects of the demons that lurk in the shadows, backstage, hotels, buses, bars, and the deep dark areas of some musician's souls.
Storytime comes to an end, and it is time for A1A to take the stage. The convention is in full swing, the place is packed, and there is massive excitement about A1A and Greg 'Fingers' Taylor performing together. The A1A set is flawless, and when we introduced Greg, the place erupted. This was going to be good. We went directly into 'Drop Down Mama' and then proceeded into 'The Hammer' and 'Some White People Can Dance.' Greg looked great, sounded amazing, and was running on all cylinders. After he closed his part of the show, we did 'Steamer,' and much to our delight, he stayed on stage and did a few more numbers with us. After the show, Greg told me how much fun he had and how great we sounded. Then he gave me a compliment he had never given anyone before. He said that all my programmed backing tracks sounded great and that they did indeed have a swing. I was floored and very flattered. After that evening, our friendship and mutual respect for each other deepened. It was certainly a pleasure and a hell of an evening, but there was much more to come. You can hear these recordings on the album, 'A1A Live', which is still available. Click on the link below to order your copy.
Over the next several years and through much of the 2000s, Greg would join A1A on many public and private gigs. He was even an official band member for a while, and he and I became tighter as friends. Over the years, I came to know what it must have felt like to be Jimmy Buffett way back in the day when it was just him and Fingers playing side by side together. I feel deeply blessed that I had the opportunity to hear him play all of the classic solos he recorded for Jimmy Buffett with me as his accompaniment on many occasions. No matter how he was feeling, physically, psychologically, or emotionally, at any given time, his playing never faltered. Once he was on stage, he was always magic, and I can honestly say that every time he played, I gave him my full attention and reveled in the moment. I have still yet to hear anyone play blues harmonica as he does, and he will always remain the best for my money.
Life as a career musician is a dangerous and slippery slope on which to travel. Chasing fame, fortune, and happiness by hitting the long open road and singing your songs is an age-old story. If you choose to take this journey, then be sure and take a close look off the side of the road occasionally for perspective. As you cruise alone through the night, you may find the ghosts of countless bodies, broken hearts, destroyed dreams, tragedies, addictions, and endless sad stories. That is not to say that you should not follow your dreams and believe that all stories end this way, for that is far from the truth. There are many success stories. But keep in mind that fame, fortune, and happiness rarely exist together.
The friendship Greg and I shared was held together by mutual respect for our individual musicianship, lifelong dedication to music, tendencies to buck authority, live on the edge, and the fact that we both partied hard. Greg had some severe demons that haunted his soul, and he was his own worst enemy in many ways. I can say the same thing about myself for much of my early career. But even at my worst, I was still not in Greg's league - and that frightened me. After a few drinks at the bar, he would often strongly suggest that he and I "chunk all this parrot head shit," put together a blues-rock band, and hit the road. Twice I almost gave in. But something told me that if I did, I might never come home. The last time I saw Greg was when we played in Chattanooga, Tennessee, together some years ago. He did not look well, and I was saddened and worried about him. Unfortunately, our paths kind of drifted apart after that. He would call me from time to time, and we would catch up, but eventually, we lost touch. I regret that, but then again, I have, like many people in my line of work, a road of regret that runs far into the distance.
Greg was a helluva guy, a tremendous musician, and a good friend while he was passing through my life. He is definitely someone I will never forget. I miss him. Trust me when I say, "you had to be there." Greg, I wish you a very Happy Birthday and safe travels to wherever your next road takes you.
With the spirit of the blues,
Mullen's Miracle Spotlight
Our team is the heart and soul of MM. We're excited to spotlight Jeff Pike today!
Hi there! I'm Jeff Pike. I am a lifelong career musician and co-founder of Mullen's Miracles. I have had the privilege of working with Kathy Mullen since 2012 in a music management capacity, and it was an honor to be asked to cofound such an essential and needed nonprofit. Being a full-time musician at any level of success is never a smooth road. I have dealt with depression and addiction and have lost many friends and loved ones to suicide throughout my life and career. I found personal help through Celebrate Recovery in 2010 and have been on a steadier and healthier road ever since.
I am grateful for all who have helped me, including Kathy. She is an amazing, passionate, and caring woman who has helped me, my music, and my family tirelessly for years. Being a large part of Kathy's and her family's life is a blessing. When we lost Eric at 26 years old in 2018, our world was shaken to the core. Eric was a bright, sensitive, caring, passionate, and intelligent young man who deserved life. He, too, was a great help to me, my family, and my band. He was wonderful, and I miss him very much. Eric's constant presence and Kathy's dedication to his memory are a driving factor at the core of Mullen's Miracles.
The team that we work with are an amazing group of people who are all professional and committed to the cause of Mullen's Miracles. Their belief in our cause, hard work, and all they give make it easy for me to believe that we are on the right road. I think that Mullen's Miracles has the capability of making a significant impact on a vast number of people as we grow, and I look forward to seeing where it will lead.
We're so grateful for Jeff and all of the team members that are helping us grow Mullen's Miracles.
Last year, an old friend of mine, Annette Pearson, contacted me to tell me how much she enjoyed my latest single, "Hug Inside an Envelope." She went on to say how deeply it touched her and how it resonated with her life. Annette then informed me that she was writing a book to document her incredible life journey and that she wanted to use the lyrics in her book. I was very flattered, but then I had to tell her that my good friend, Rosalind Winton, actually wrote the lyrics.
It all worked out very well, though, and Annette placed the lyrics in the book, gave Rosalind and me credit, and placed a QR Code in the back of the book for the reader to scan and download our song. Annette is a lovely woman with quite an inspiring story to tell.
ABOUT THE BOOK
Annette Pearson's dreams were high in the sky as a young child of divorced parents, filled with mansions, corvettes, and diamonds. She lived in the land of sunshine and trendy plastic dolls. With all her heart, she believed that whatever her dolls' reality was would be hers, too, one day. She eventually came to learn that reality isn't found in dream houses or plastic men. Reality is found in your own choices. Throughout her 40 something odd years, she has become a survivor of broken hearts, grief, eating disorders, abuse, infertility, miscarriage, anxiety, personal tragedy, and trauma. Through it all, she has found that laughter and strength come from someplace deep inside. Annette tells her story with raw and relatable honesty, sharing some of the most sensitive and challenging times of her life. "Women, we are so much stronger than we give ourselves credit for," she says. "We are warriors. We each have our own stories to tell of hope, love, and faith, and this is mine, just mixed in with a hot pair of shoes."
I hope you will take the time to check out Annette Pearson and pick up her book, "Finding Strength In The Dark." In these profoundly challenging times, we can all use an uplifting story of triumph and recovery. I can't make any promises, but a hot pair of shoes, a hug, and Annette's book may be just what you need.
Pick up your copy by visiting the following website:
On September 19, 2020, I was honored to be a large part of a Benefit Concert for Loving Arms Cancer Outreach. The concert was a great success, and I wanted to share it with you again as we start this new year. Below is an e-mail from President and Co-Founder Shay Traylor with an update. I hope you will take the time to enjoy my concert, share it with your friends and consider making a donation.
Thank you for your support and Happy New Year!
We’ve been so blessed to be able to help our clients with over $174,000 in direct financial assistance this year. I am so proud and Blessed to inform you that Loving Arms Cancer Outreach Inc., nonprofit 501c3, is approaching ten years of service to cancer patients and survivors.
Loving Arms Cancer Outreach provides assistance to cancer patients, including grocery cards, gas cards, medication assistance, utility assistance, wigs, hats, scarves, and support groups. This assistance is entirely free to cancer patients and often helps bridge the family financial gap created by cancer-related costs.
As we start this new year, we ask you to consider donating to Loving Arms Cancer Outreach. Due to COVID, We have not been able to have our regular fundraisers that account for a big part of our overall budget. Therefore we had a shortfall in 2020. We need the community to rally so we can continue helping cancer patients, not only financially but emotionally as well.
There is nothing like being in the fight of your life and having no resources available for a lifeline. We do not want our patients to lack their basic needs as they battle cancer and the effects of COVID. Please consider a tax-deductible donation at this time.
Thank you, and may God Bless You!
Shamichael (Shay) Traylor President/ Co-Founder
To donate go to: www.lovingarms.support/donate
For more information about Loving Arms Cancer Outreach call 770-590-5153.
So long Hammerin’ Hank
HANK AARON - 1934-2021
A large part of my childhood and youth left today with the passing of Hank Aaron. I am very sad. I have so many memories and stories I would like to share about Hammerin' Hank Aaron, but it is best left for a blog that I now need to find time to write. In the meantime, my dear friend Randy Cassimus shared his sentiments, which heartfelt and accurately reflect mine.
"Perpetually humble, he accomplished greatness in craft and humanity, all while dealing with the ever-present stench of racism, subtle or vicious. I feel blessed to have watched him play and to later stand around in his generous shadow when his playing days were done. Rest in peace, Mr. Aaron. You remain the best of all time to this kid." - Randy Cassimus
All your life, you are accurately told how short life is and that you should not let a day pass you by. You should fill each and every day with all that you can. Dream big, take chances, lean into your fears, don’t look back, be consistent, positive, and grateful. Live in the present and not the past. Have a plan. Act immediately on what has to be done, and do NOT procrastinate. I see that in too many people around me, including myself. Someday is now, and ‘too late’ will be here before you know it. Take care of your mind and your body...and live. Now.
"And all that is now. And all that is gone. And all that's to come. And everything under the sun is in tune......and the sun is eclipsed by the moon." - Pink Floyd
Can you imagine waking up one morning, looking out your window and seeing this? The moon, the universe and the possibility of mankind traveling through space to other planets has deeply fascinated me since I was a young boy. If I could wave a magic wand and be anything in the world I would want to be an astronaut.
I knew I was destined to be a musician from a very young age. Also, the status of my grades in higher mathematics and my lack of desire to join the military did not go unnoticed by my inner Captain Kirk. But a boy can dream can't he? Being extremely proud of NASA and Space X, I am consistently fascinated by the fact that walking somewhere on earth today is the first person who will set foot on Mars. I hope that I am alive to see it and I am sad that Neil Armstrong will not, for that will indeed be one giant leap for mankind.
“I could always see the path.. even though I sometimes strayed....”
Looking back on my life today, I see how one may use these words to define a large part of my journey. I would assume many of you feel the same, and some like myself have strayed more than others. But I always saw the path. I ever had a compass and knew that eventually, I would be happy, all would be right with the world, and I would find my way home - journey successfully completed. As I become older, and with so much increasing upheaval in the country and the world today, I am finding that I look ahead for the first time, and a thickening fog is covering the road. Once where I saw a beacon to guide me home, I now see a weak flickering light growing dimmer in the mist, expanding in the distance.
I am weary, I am angry, yet I also know I am blessed and have much to be grateful for. Despite anxious mood swings and unsettling emotions, I am constantly reminded that I still have much to do and miles to go before I sleep. I cannot give in to the fog, neither can you, nor can our country.
I want to thank everyone who took the time to respond on Facebook to my last post about our veterans who gave their lives and fought for our country. I also want to thank those who took the time to email me. All are welcome. Even though things are looking grim for our country at this moment, most of the posts and discussions were positive. I pray we can all find our beacon of light, as separate souls, as a country, and as a world. I believe we can, but nothing is written in stone. Go forth with energy, confidence, power, and light. Be part of the healing force so that we may find our way once again.
Just a week or so ago, I was in Marietta, Georgia, a place I know very well, and for the first time in many years, I found myself taking a long walk there and found myself in The Marietta National Cemetary. Established in 1866, it is the resting place of 18,742 United States Soldiers who gave their lives for our country. It is odd, in the 30 plus years that I have been visiting Marietta, I have driven past and marveled at this beautiful cemetery countless times. But it wasn't up until recently that I entered and paid my respects.
While I was looking at the graves' names and dates, I wondered what these brave soldiers would think of the country they died to protect if they were alive today. I believe that most would be shocked into disbelief. I can only imagine the sadness and anger they might feel to see how corrupt and barbaric our once great nation has become, to see how morally low and spiritually bankrupt we have fallen.
This is not the America I was brought up in, nor is it the America I was brought up to be proud of. I wish I had an answer or something to shed just a glimmer of hope to anyone reading this, but in all honesty, I don't. I realize I am not the first, nor is this emotion unprecedented or unshared. But for the first time in my life, I feel entirely broken-hearted and lost as an American.
A FAREWELL TO A KING
Today, January 7, 2021, marks one year to the day when the world lost one of the most gifted drummers in rock music history with the passing of Neil Peart, drummer and lyricist for RUSH.
Rock and Roll comes in many forms, and it is unfair and impossible to label any musician as the “best” at what instrument they play. However, I feel everyone would agree that there are a handful of musicians whose prowess and skill on their instrument places them high above many others, regardless if you like their music or not. Neil Peart was unquestionably one of those musicians.
He performed with a style, energy and sound that was completely his own. Neil’s playing had a melodic sense and intricacy about it which gave it a unique voice which sang in it’s own way. A voice that complimented and joined Geddy Lee and Alex Lifeson in a perfect musical union. Neil was also a highly educated, gifted lyricist and author, writing all the bands lyrics.
I first heard RUSH in 1976 and was knocked out cold. I immediately became a fan for life. I first saw them perform in 1977 at The Fox Theater in Atlanta, Georgia on “The Farewell To Kings” tour. Cheap Trick was the support act touring on their second album “In Color.” The performances by both bands that night impacted me for life.
Today I am listening to my favorite RUSH album, “A Farewell To Kings” - in honor of a fallen king.
"Ramblings From Jeff" - is a dedicated personal blog page within JeffPike.com written and posted by Jeff Pike.