I was speaking to a friend of mine the other day about how so many people tend to mourn musicians, artists, actors, actresses (and I am sure with any vocation the same connection can be made, Military, business, etc.) whom they have never met or had any interaction with. This topic has always intrigued me and today I want to share my thoughts with you on this often debated emotional mystery.
I believe that through music and the arts it is possible for humans to discover deep and inarticulate awareness about their personality, character, values, dreams, wishes, regrets, appreciation, love, addictions, fears, strengths, admiration, etc. The list goes on and on. Through music and art you grow and as you grow through life, music is right there beside you. Well, for most people. So over the course of time many songs and artists can become part of our personal history. They have the possibility of somewhat becoming a permanent part of our soul and DNA. A constant if you will.
Music takes us places only we have privy to. Music gently takes up permanent residence in parts of our soul, which no one else can gain access to, it makes our hearts feel deep feelings that only we know and can articulate to ourselves. Music can be a safe haven, a close family member, a friend, a lover, a fantasy, a drinking buddy or a lifetime full of memories. Music can be whatever you want it to be. It is the universe’s largest wormhole – a faithful and reliable time machine. The artist and/or songwriter in question has all of this power in your life so you feel a ‘natural’ connection to them- and when you lose one it can hurt, some more than others and sometimes very badly. Recently and over the past two years we continue to lose what seems like an unprecedented number of inspirational and legendary musicians and artists. I realize people die every day who are not in the media and it is just time moving on, yet somehow it feels different. I think we take for granted the strangers who have found their way into our soul and spirit. We feel they will always be here for us to lean on, a constant comfort in our life that will never change and when we lose one, regardless of their age, sometimes we may feel like we have lost a dear friend or even a soul mate.
I have found that as I get older, the veil of deeply felt emotion through music gets consistently thinner for me. I find it increasingly difficult to protect my heart from the emotional rapture, but more often than not the deep pain of where the time machine of music takes me when it all too often hijacks my heart.
It is a beautiful and crisp December morning here in Atlanta. It is the kind of morning that makes you feel good to be alive when you walk outside, look into the sky, breathe the chilly air and upon exhale watch your breath fade quickly out of sight. One second it is there and the next it is gone. I was outside this morning meditating on those thoughts, pondering my own problems and filling my heart with gratitude for the day when I heard that I had lost an old friend during the night. My heart sank and my eyes filled with tears when I heard of the passing of Stan ‘The Man’ Bowen. I have known Stan for well over 20 years or more, ever since the beginning and initial success of A1A. Looking back there was rarely a performance, convention, phlocking or get together we played where Stan wasn’t onstage with us sometime during the evening. From the very first time I met Stan and we got to know each other I realized what a kind, gentle, caring and authentic soul he was. We shared many good times, laughs, drinks and music over the years. I will miss him. Stan had a rare uniqueness about him that I don’t see much of these days. He was a friend to all with a big heart, big spirit and a contagious smile. As sad as it is to lose Stan during the Christmas season I feel in a way it is appropriate. It is a time to celebrate life, birth and new beginnings. Stan has been reborn and is celebrating the season much better than we are able to at the moment. May this thought bring his friends and family some sort of peace and comfort in the days to come.
I was saddened to hear of the sudden passing of Ric Ocasek. I handle these kinds of passings a lot better than I used to, but somehow this one got under my skin more than I thought it would.
I remember very well when the !rst album by The Cars came out. I was 16 years old. It was highly successful, and of course, I bought it immediately. The album had a fresh and clean sound that was unlike a lot of what you heard on the radio. Being a huge Queen fan, I was also excited that Roy Thomas Baker had produced it.
I liked The Cars a lot, but when their second album “Candy-O” came out in 1979 I was in love with them and totally hooked. I wore that 8-track out. I still have memories of my first summer out of high school, laying by the pool with my girlfriend and listening to it over and over. And it was a staple in my car stereo from 8-Track to cassette to CD. I remained a big fan and followed them until they disbanded. Last year I purchased all of the reissues on colored vinyl, and The Cars got a LOT of new spins on my turntable. It felt good to give their music a lot of attention again.
Ric reminded me of Joey Ramone. If you had met them both before their success, and basing them only on the physical appearance you would have thought they would have been the last people in the world to become rock stars. But they were both brilliant, quirky songwriters who gave us some of the timeless rock and roll and pop music of their generation. Damn, where does the time go? To quote the late great Eddie Money, “I wanna go back...and do it all over.”
Starting at a very early age like most young boys, I forever dreamed about being like and working with my heroes when I grew up. Never really thinking, of course, it could ever really happen. Through my life as a musician, I have been fortunate enough to meet many of my heroes. I have also had the chance to work with a handful of them.
I placed the musical artistry, versatility, and brilliance of Gino Vannelli on an extraordinarily high pedestal not long after first hearing his music in 1975. For the serious musicians, scholars and dedicated fans who have consistently followed his career from 1973 until now no further explanation is needed. If you are only acquainted with Gino’s top 10 radio hits, then you owe it to yourself to catch up on all you have missed. It will be a road well worth traveling.
Gino Vannelli tops the list of any musician living today who I ever had dreams, or fantasies if you will, of working with. When I had the chance to start studying with him several years back, it was like the sky had opened for me, and I was profoundly grateful and honored. So imagine my delight when he recently asked me to be a background vocalist in his new video.
Gino’s new video is a Spanish version of his beautiful song, “Road To Redemption” from his new CD, “Wilderness Road.” To help him accurately translate and articulate his vocal performance, Gino brought in the famous and widely respected South American songwriter, pianist and recording artist, Alejandro Learner. I was not familiar with Alejandro or his distinguished career at the start, but after the video shoot and dinner afterward, I found out how doubly blessed I was. He was a very genuine, friendly, and kind man. He even brought us all delicious South American chocolates!
To round out the rest of the ensemble, Gino brought in local Portland musicians, vocalist Lauren Steele and stand up bassist Cary Miga. I had met Cary previously when Gino was auditioning musicians to perform on the album which he will be producing and recording for me in 2020. Cary is a great guy, a lot of fun and a fantastic bass player. Lauren Steele is a beautiful, talented young vocalist, and it was a joy to sing with her.
We shot the entire video in one day on August 13, 2019. That is great for the budget, but it all seemed to go by too quickly and was over before we knew it. Gino and Alejandro were in a great mood, and there were a lot of laughs, which I think comes through warmly in the video. Afterward, we had dinner at Tad’s Chicken N’ Dumplins in Troutdale where we enjoyed more laughs, conversation, and great food.
When dinner was over, we all said our goodbyes and I got into my black rent a car which just happened to be parked next to Gino’s black car. If only they had been in the shade, it would have made for the perfect evening.
I encourage you to take the time to watch both versions of “Road To Redemption.” For your convenience, links are posted directly below. Last but not least please visit www.ginov.com and www.amazon.com and complete your Gino Vannelli record/CD/DVD collection.
Still walking the night...
Yep, it has been a long time since I let you know “what’s new” with me. I hate to apologize – so I won’t. Instead, I will tell you that like all of the rest of you I have been as busy as a three- legged beaver.
So, the last time you heard from me here was back in March when I had just finished playing the Music On The Bay music festival in Tampa, Florida with A1A. When that incredible gig was over, I caught the next flight out to Idaho and hopped back into the last leg of the 2019 Abba Mania tour. Which once again finished up with two shows in Hollywood on March 17.
Like every year the Abba Mania tour was a most enjoyable experience. I am very grateful to get the opportunity to tour across the country once a year in grand style with the most amazing musicians, entertainers and production people I know. To have the chance to perform in the most beautiful theaters and performing arts centers in the country and see a lot of my friends along the way who are spread out over the country is a blessing.
The only downside I regularly experience while on this annual tour is that it takes a significant toll on my body. While I enjoy traveling on a big tour bus, I do not sleep very well at all in the beds we have. I toss and turn with insomnia. Hips hurt, feet hurt — backaches, etc. etc. Of course, right along with all that is the fact that it is so challenging to eat right and stay fit on the road. Every year I have come home weighing more than I did when I left, and it always takes me a few weeks to remotely start feeling myself again. So at the end of last years tour in 2018, I finally decided that enough was enough. I decided that I could not let this continue and that it was damn time I got in shape and learned to eat healthy again once and for all.
I knew full well that I could not do this alone, so I set out to find a serious personal fitness and nutrition trainer so that I would be held accountable. I enlisted my very close long-time friend, business partner, and manager, Kathy Mullen to assist me in this serious life quest. We were lucky enough to be referred to Tiffany Bryson, who runs Faithfully Fit Fitness Center in Dawsonville, Georgia. She turned out to be just what we needed, and I started my new physical life trek in August of 2018.
I committed myself to change the way I ate and to exercise daily. My goal was to lose 40 pounds so that by the time I went back out to Oregon this summer to do some work with Gino Vannelli I would be in much better shape. Looking and feeling a lot healthier. I didn’t quite make 40 pounds, but I did lose 33 pounds, going from 222 to 189 in 11 months. To help me stay accountable and committed, I use a Fit Bit Icon Watch, a Weight Guru Scale, and a Spark Hydration Bottle. These indispensable tools all have great I-Phone apps that sync together with the My Fitness Pal App. This makes all the information I need to stay on track accessible in my hand at any time. I have to say that it has been a whole lot harder than I thought it was going to be, but I have done my best to stick to regular and consistent walking, cardio and strength training program on and off the road. A huge thanks to Tiffany and Kathy for consistently kicking my butt and helping me stay on track. Thanks to all of the hard work I was able to impress Gino, showing him I mean business, and, for the first time in my life, I lost weight while on the road.
I will admit that I was quite scared to go back out on the road with Abba Mania this year. I was so afraid that I would slip and all of the work I have done would be wiped away by bad eating habits and little to no exercise. But the show must go on. So Tiffany gave me some severe cardio exercises I could do in my dressing room, and we arranged Facetime workouts whenever there was an opportunity. Also, whenever we stayed in a hotel, I parked my butt in the gym as much as I could. Eating well was still a big challenge, but when it was all said and done, I came back from the tour in March eight pounds lighter than when I had begun. All of the exercises, lifting and walking I have been doing significantly helped this summer performing with A1A. It also helped my vocal performance, posture, overall health, and self-confidence. If you are up for the commitment, I recommend this for everyone.
The band has had a good summer with a lot of fun shows. Every performance this year has had its own set of challenges and great memories, especially my Birthday weekend, which was spent with The Atlanta Parrot Head Club at Margaritaville at Lake Lanier Islands celebrating the clubs 30th Anniversary. In spite of our show being rained out and losing about $2,500 worth of equipment in the storm, I still had a great time. Seeing so many old friends gathered together in one place for three days brought back floods of memories of so many good times over the years.
It was also very nice to return to The Marietta Square this year for their July 4 Independence Day Celebration. A1A and Marietta have an extensive history together that goes back 25 years. Our fan base there has always been significant, and I have made many friends in and around the Marietta area since I started playing there way back in 1985. Although I have never lived there, it does not feel strange at all to feel quite at home when I am performing, relaxing at Hemingway’s, or just visiting the Marietta Square. It had been a few years since A1A had performed on the square and it felt lovely being able to play on such a great American Holiday.
This past weekend on August 30 we returned for the third year in a row to play The Rock N’ Rails Music Festival in Griffth, Indiana. The Rock N’ Rails music festival is a massive 4-day event in Griffth showcasing the very best Tribute Bands in the nation. I have to tell you that there are some SERIOUSLY good tribute bands out there. Some are better or just as good as the acts they are paying tribute too. While attending The Rock N’ Rails music festival, we have seen tribute acts to Elvis, Chicago, Led Zeppelin, Prince, Heart, Pink Floyd, Johnny Cash, and Simon and Garfunkle. All of these acts will leave you spellbound and speechless. They are THAT good. The Rock N’ Rails Music Festival is a very cool festival to be a part of, and we are very grateful to have been included in the lineup for the past three years. I have my fingers crossed that we can return next year.
On Sunday, September 1, we had the distinct opportunity to play the legendary Surf Ballroom in Clear Lake, Iowa. We were brought in by Bart Mason and The Isle of Iowa Parrot Head Club to headline their annual Labor Day Weekend Show. I have heard about The Surf Ballroom all of my life but have never given it a lot of thought since we do not play that part of the country very often. Although several years back, A1A did fly into the same airport where Buddy Holly’s plane crashed. We were in a tiny plane, and the weather was not that great, so it was a little surreal. Even though we were that close to The Surf Ballroom that day, we did not have a chance to visit. So this past Labor Day weekend was the first time that any of us have visited this historical and legendary rock and roll landmark. I have seen a lot of rooms like this across the country when I am on tour with Abba Mania. But the history of the dressing room and the venue hangs in the air. I knew that performing here was going to be cool. However, I was not prepared for the intense emotion and aura of rock and roll history I experienced while in this building and on this stage. The vast number of legendary and iconic performers who have gone before us at The Surf Ballroom since it reopened in its current location in 1948 is mind-blowing. The entire band felt this way. This extraordinary feeling, along with a full house and a very energetic audience made this a night we will always remember.
This coming Friday, September 6, we return to play our annual concert at Thrasher Park in Norcross, Georgia. I have lost count on exactly how many years in a row we have been playing this event. I know that it is well over 15 years. It is probably our most anticipated shows of the year and possibly our most well attended. Norcross has a stupendous summer concert series, and they bring us home to close it out every year. It is generally our last huge show of the season which makes it all the more memorable. Looking out over the crowd every year, I have so many memories of faces gone by that I can’t even begin to count them all. This park has special memories for which also date back before A1A even existed. One that stands out is when I used to bring my daughter to this park to swing and play in the playground when she was just a petite little girl. She even had her 3rd Birthday party here. So yea, lots of good times and memories here at Thrasher Park. To be closing out this season with this lineup of A1A along with the phenomenal Rhythm Jets is an excellent feeling and I am very grateful.
We have a couple of more A1A, and Abba Mania shows left in 2019, and I have some other solo shows too. If you get a chance to make one, I hope you will come up and say hello. If not, I have some other very cool stuff to write about which I did not get to in this blog, so stay tuned.
To me, the music of Tom Petty has always been like an old pair of my favorite Levi jeans. The kind I wore when I was a teenager and a young man. They always felt good, and the more you wore them, the better they felt. If you gained a little weight, then they would stretch with you. If you lost a pound or two, you could just tighten your belt and get on with the game. They never let you down. Of course, as time moved on, you might have taken them for granted when your Mom, Grandmother, girlfriend or wife had you try some brand new so-called designer Jeans. But you quickly learned the truth and went back to the real thing. As the good times and bad times moved on with life, they would hang right in there with you. A little worse for wear, showing some holes and a bit frayed at the bottom, but still fitting, hanging in there and keeping you cool. Or as cool as you thought you were, which was quite important, you know. They almost became a part of your body, a part of you. So much so that you could never dream of parting with them. You found comfort in knowing that you always had your favorite jeans to keep you comfortable through the day and that they would forever be there. Until one day either your Mom, Grandmother, girlfriend or wife throws them out, or they just finally fell apart with no warning. One day they are here. Next day they are gone. That is how I am feeling today about the sudden passing of Tom Petty.
A daily comfort that I thought would always be with us is now gone forever, unannounced. Tom gave us pure and intelligent heartland rock and roll. He always delivered. He never stopped. He liked to play in jeans. Tom rolled with the changes like the coolest dude in school, man. For many like myself, he was a large part of the soundtrack of our youth, even if it was only on the perimeter, he was always there kicking serious ass with serious coolness. I got turned onto Tom Petty in 1978 with the release of ‘You’re Gonna Get It,’ but it wasn’t until the release of ‘Damn The Torpedos’ in 1979 that his music hit me right between the eyes and I was forever hooked. I remained a huge fan ever since, and you know, I always thought he would be around. Hell, he’s Tom Petty. American and indestructible.
During my first year in college in 1979, I wore one pair of jeans all the time. In fact, I had them for years. I had a small promotional pin for ‘Damn The Torpedoes’ that for some reason I always pinned next to my left pocket right after I put them on. I still have the pin. I wish I still had those jeans, and I wish we still had Tom Petty.
“Maybe somewhere down the road aways, you’ll think of me and wonder where I am these days. Maybe somewhere down the road when somebody plays...Purple Haze...”
Another Labor Day Holiday Weekend is over, and I want to take a minute to thank everyone who came out and saw the band perform. We had three highly successful shows that were all extremely well attended. It was a fitting way to take out the season, although I am feeling a bit beat up today. The band played fantastic every night, and everyone had a great time. I have to say that after 26 years I am amazed at the huge number of people who continue to come to our shows and completely enjoy what we do. After so much time sometimes I forget just how much joy and happiness our performances give to so many people. I had a vast number of concert attendees talk to me this weekend. All of them expressing how long they have loved the band and how much our performances mean to them. It was quite humbling.
I am very thankful and appreciative of everyone who has been part of A1A for so many years, both past, and present. I cannot stress to you how blessed I am to be able to play with the extraordinarily talented and world class musicians that I do. They give so much and push me to rise above my limitations which always make for a better show and sometimes a lot of laughs as well. I probably never thank them enough, but I want every one of them to know that what they have brought to A1A this year means more to me than I can say and that I would not have the incredible band I do without them.
I would like to extend a massive thank you to Vance and Kelly Kelly for always opening their home up to the band for rehearsals, recording, fellowship and more. It has been a long and topsy turvy year for me, both personally and professionally; a lot of big ups and downs, not to mention all of the insanity that is enveloping our society and world today. We never know what is going to happen tomorrow or even if we will have it. The best we can do is to make the best of every moment and live as honest and authentic as we can. The rest, as they say, will take care of itself. With that said I continue to feel very blessed in knowing that A1A is still an active force and historic milestone in the Trop Rock Community. Knowing that we bring happiness and smiles to thousands of faces, even if only for a day is a wonderful feeling. I look forward to what the 2018 season brings. Thanks again to everyone who has touched my life and listened to me sing.
One warm spring evening in May of 1978, May 5 to be exact, I first heard the music of Dan Fogelberg. I was on tour with my high school choir attending a mixer in Mobile, Alabama and I was 16 years old. I still remember vividly the house, the room, the moment, the turntable and the emotion I felt after hearing my first Dan Fogelberg song. The song was ‘There’s A Place In The World For A Gambler’ from his 1974 album ‘Souvenirs’. I immediately forgot about the party and sat down in front of the turntable for the rest of the evening playing ‘Souvenirs’ over and over until someone insisted that it was time to put on ‘Born to Run’ by Bruce Springsteen. I succumbed to ‘The Boss.’ No worries I thought because by now my life had already been permanently altered and I was in another mind space and musical world. I had a new path and a new star to guide my way.
Music has been my lifeblood as far back as my parents, and I can remember. Those who know and understand me are aware of how many musical artists have strongly a!ected and changed my life. It is just a large part of who I am. Some are impressed, and some roll their eyes, but there is no denying that for better or for worse my soul is the amalgamation of many musical artists and styles. I could list dozens upon dozens of musicians whose music is ingrained in me forever, but very few have given me serious life changing moments that forever a!ected my path, music, soul, and spirit. For the sake of keeping this short, I will share with you today that Dan Fogelberg, Gino Vannelli, The Beatles, Alice Cooper and David Cassidy top the list.
When I returned home from that 1978 choir trip, I was a di!erent young man. My vision of the musician and artist I wanted to be had now completely changed, much like it had in 1975 when I first heard the music of Gino Vannelli. The very next day I went out and bought every Dan Fogelberg album, cassette and 8-Track I could get my hands on, and they immediately became my Bible. I asked my parents for an Ovation acoustic guitar for my Birthday that summer and my life changed forever.
The first of many times I had the opportunity to see Dan Fogelberg live was at The Fox Theater in Atlanta, Georgia in April of 1979. His performance that evening is one of my most cherished memories I have, and it completely cemented his permanent influence in my spirit and my original music. Like so many people his music went on to be a soundtrack to my life with many select memories only I can cherish. I cannot express in words how much Dan’s music, message, and life has influenced me. To this day it has never waned.
August 13, 2017 – Today is an extraordinary day for it would have been Dan’s 66th Birthday, and tonight at Fiddlers Green Amphitheater in Colorado, Dan Fogelberg, Joe Walsh, and Caribou Ranch will be inducted into the Colorado Music Hall of Fame. I am quite sad that I cannot be there in person to share in this long awaited celebration, but I will be there in spirit.
I ask you today to celebrate and enjoy the timeless music, message, magic and spirit that was Daniel Grayling Fogelberg.
Let it Shine....
I have returned from one of the most amazing musical, spiritual and life learning weeks of my life. For 5 days in a row, 7 hours a day I was part of a class of 5 hand picked students blessed enough to be personally taught voice and songwriting techniques by one of the !nest musicians, vocalist’s and songwriter’s of the past 40 years, Gino Vannelli. I will share more with my blog, photos and music in time. But this morning, I just wanted to let all who were interested know I was home, feeling, blessed, grateful, alive and in a very new and improved space.
Many personal thanks to Gino and Ross Vannelli, Phyllis and Ed at Brickhaven Bed and Breakfast, Kathy Mullen and Stephanie Ranker for help making this past week possible for me. Also, a very special tip of the hat to the good friends and memories I made this week with my new classmates.
On May 4, 1978 at an evening High School Mixer in Mobile, Alabama, at the ripe old age of 16 I first heard the music of Dan Fogelberg. There is no way I could have known that night what an effect this event would have on my music, my spirit and my path of life. From the very first song I felt like I had been hit by a ton of bricks. I promptly wondered, “Why have I not heard this mans music before?” and immediately took it upon myself to absorb every lyric, note and passage of every piece of music Mr. Fogelberg had released up to that point. That has never changed, and on days like today I miss his presence even more; and like many I mourn the music he could have made had he lived.
Music has been the driving force behind my life, heart and soul of my being ever since I can remember. From what I am told, pretty much ever since I came out of the womb; and while I greatly enjoy a wide variety of music, (My album collection can attest to this) the musicians and artists whom I admire, respect and hold in the very highest of esteem are few. Those who have impacted my life like Dan Fogelberg I can count on less than one hand. I had the pleasure of being in his presence for a short while back in 1991, but I never had the chance to meet the man and spend just a few short minutes thanking him – and that is really all I wanted to do. To thank him. Thank him for drastically changing my music, my heart, my life and my musical soul with class and grace for all eternity.
Happy Birthday Dan. If your spirit has not moved on, I am pretty sure you are having an amazing day.
"Ramblings From Jeff" - is a dedicated personal blog page within JeffPike.com written and posted by Jeff Pike.