Rock Stars Who Will Actually Take My Call (Including Some Who Won't Hang Up)
Music vet and New Times scribe Lee Zimmerman offers his insights, opinions, and observations about the local scene. This week: a little bit of bragging and a whole lot of chatter.
Before beginning, I'm giving fair warning. I'm gonna do a whole bunch of name dropping, here, and possibly even some bragging.
On the other hand, I make no apologies. One of the real perks of this gig is the opportunity to talk to my rock 'n' roll heroes, and in some cases, to actually make a bond, or friends. Or at least create enough of a personal impression to lead some to remember my name.
Some folks might find this silly stuff, and some people might consider me a kind of groupie as a consequence. So I'll confess. Being the total music obsessive that I am, I am indeed enamored of those that make music (#nohomo) But why not? Their art has made an indelible impression on my senses and sensibilities. Their music has become my passion. I live it, and I breathe it. So why would I not embrace those that make the music that brings me such joy? Even with a big, old man hug if prompted.
I've had the pleasure of meeting many of my heroes over the years -- Paul McCartney, the Stones, Rod Stewart, and several other visionaries of a certain vintage. But in recent years, my rock star encounters have increased exponentially. Just a few weeks ago, I was given opportunities to conduct half a dozen interviews over the course of a single week, among them Robert Lamm of Chicago, Justin Hayward of the Moody Blues, singer/songwriters Kim Richey and Tift Merritt, and blues singer Beth Hart. Granted, this was atypical, but nevertheless, it provided a free reign to my rock 'n' roll fantasies.
Even my wife Alisa was impressed. "Honey, what do you think of my rock star connections?" I asked her one evening as we were lounging on the coach. "There's five minutes left in Hawaii 5-0, she replied. "Can it wait?!"
Clearly, she was impressed!
That same week, I got to hang with a couple of actual musician friends, as well. First, there was Keaton Simons, an up and coming California singer/songwriter who was playing a private gig on Miami Beach, and promoting his wonderful new album, Beautiful Pain. The following weekend, we travelled to Sarasota and stayed with my new pal, John McEuen, the multi-instrumental mainstay of the Nitty Gritty Dirt Band, one of my favorite bands back in the day.
I had written Keaton's bio when he was signed to CBS Records, and we developed our friendship by phone. I met John through a phone interview I did for New Times in advance of a recent concert. We hit it off, and he brought me into a project he's involved in, and as a result, we were invited to a powwow at his place. He even played us a couple of songs on a vintage guitar, an unexpected treat to cap off our stay. In return, I offered to pay for the toilet we managed to clog up.
Okay, by now you might think that all this gushing is getting to be a bit much, and I would have to agree. When I spent a week at Todd Rundgren's rock 'n' roll summer camp last year, I never shook that awestruck feeling that I was in the presence of a legend, and one of my personal heroes to boot. When I interviewed Justin Hayward recently, I reminded him that we had spoken before and he seemed to acknowledge remembering me. (Well, he did address me by name anyway. That counts, right?) It was the same scenario last time I chatted with Ian Anderson of Jethro Tull, with whom I've tallied a total of three conversations. Whether or not he actually remembered me, I don't know. But I did point out to Mr. Anderson that I had hung out with his older brother at the Todd summer session, so that seemed to bring the bond even closer. ("Um, right, yeah, hmmm...")
On the other hand, when I interviewed the lovely and talented Tift Merritt a month or so ago, I was anxious to remind her that we had not over spoken over the phone before but had actually met in person on a Cayamo Cruise. She was as friendly as could be at that point, but this time around she didn't seem to remember me. Damn! And I thought we had bonded. As musicians gain fame, apparently too many hanger-ons tend to get in the way.
No worries though. I keep moving forward in attempting to make new friends. My recent conversation with Gene Cornish of the Rascals prompted him to invite us backstage when they play the Hard Rock. (Note to Hard Rock PR peeps; Please have those backstage passes awaiting!) Plus, I've made an impression with other members of the retro rock contingent as well. I recently reconnected with Howard Kaylan of the Turtles, when I sent him an email to congratulate him on his fascinating new book, Shell Shocked. Howard and I spent an afternoon at the hotel bar in Seattle several years back. I can tally up two Turtles actually, having met his singing partner Mark Volman at the aforementioned Todd Rundgren retreat. I also count my good buddy Steve Boone of the Lovin' Spoonful who currently lives upstate and with whom I'm in touch semi-regularly. He does know my name... Or at least he did last time we spoke.
I would add, Bob Dylan's son-in-law Peter Himmelman, a gifted singer/songwriter and all round renaissance man in his own right, to my list of musical pals. He actually called me the other day to share news on his latest project, a series of creative seminars called Big Muse. He wanted me to do an article about it, but regardless, that was kind of cool.
("So when Bob comes over to the house, what do you call him?" I asked. "Sir? Dad? Oh, much revered legend?" "Bob," he replied.)
I have a friend who tells me that the only reason these musicians are friendly with me is because they know that I can bring them publicity. That seems a somewhat cynical view to me. He says I'm in denial. But even if that's the case, I really don't care. All I know is that if I make I pick up the phone, I can get a real rock star to answer my call.
Did I mention I have Joe Cocker and Peter Frampton's cell numbers on my smart phone? That causes me to be giddy with delight. Imagine... "Hello Mr. Cocker, it's Lee Zimmerman. How are things with you?"
"Lee Zimmerman, who? How did you get my number?" Click.
Wow... Now that's a rock star connection!